Martin Gero: I’ve said from the beginning of working on these shows. I find it really difficult to write a show like this every week and not have people die. One of the things that I really admire about a show like The Sopranos or The Shield is that they are able to maintain a higher level of jeopardy in those shows because no one is safe. When I watch those shows, you can shoot the lead in that show and I will be, like, “They might kill him. He might die today! That’s amazing.” Obviously we’re not ever going to be a show like that, but I think it is important that on a show that has mortal jeopardy, every episode, for people that are close to us to die. I think it’s just a reality of the type of show.
Look, I watch The Amazing Race. I’m a big Amazing Race fan. I’m watching The Amazing Race All-Star at the moment. Rob and Amber got knocked out. I was basically like, “Well, forget it. I’m not watching this show anymore. love Rob and Amber!”
But I came to my senses because I like The Amazing Race, and I watched. Going downstairs and talking to the fans today, there was the big Save Carson Beckett demonstration, and they were all very polite and very kind, and just expressed a regret that I share. I really loved that character. But somebody had to go. And it is a shame that it was Paul.
It’s really difficult to talk about because it’s a much different situation than Rainbow. It’s a much more different situation than even Torri becoming a recurring thing. It was phenomenally complex and was a decision made on a lot of levels. It was the right thing to do at the time. And that being said, I think it was a great episode. So I feel good about “Sunday.” A lot of people, whether they didn’t like the episode or not, said it really affected them. It’s really hard to cry at the end of a Stargate episode and a lot of people cried at the end.
We showed it here and usually, when you show an episode here, especially at the director’s cut stage when we first get a chance to see a show all put together, all the writers and producers sit down in a room and we basically just make fun of it for 40 minutes. We tear the show to pieces. “That’s a dumb shot!” “That’s a dumb line-reading!” “I can’t believe they used that angle.” “This is too cutty.” “This scene is stupid.” “What does that even mean?”
And it seems brutal to the outside eye. To the outside eye they’re like, “Gee, why would they — come on, now! ” But it’s actually a very useful gauntlet to go through because after you watch it, whoever’s in charge of that episode — whatever writer or producer is in charge, has to go down and then do a final cut on it and bring it to time, lose things, expand others. So it’s good. It’s the most brutal audience testing ever.
We’re all pretty jaded at this point. It’s a tough room to make laugh, and it’s a tough room to make cry. So Will did such an amazing job with hs first cut. And Mike Banas, our editor. It started off with “Oh, you can cut that.” Because the episode was quite over. But the last two acts there is just silence. When the lights came up Brad was very, very emotional. For “Sunday,” people were very emotional about it. I think that was worth it alone.
We strike a deal with fans at the beginning of the year. I think. That’s kind of an unspoken thing. “OK, you’re still watching. So we’re going to do the episodes that we know you like. Fair. We’re going to do those at least half of the time. We’ll do the big ‘Adrifts’ and ‘First Strikes’ and all of those. And the team episodes. But you’ve got to give us three or four episodes a year where we’re just going to try. And, look, it might not stick.” That’s where I think some of our better episodes have come out. And unfortunately maybe we take that too far.
It was funny. We did some market testing last year, so we all sat in a room. These guys had been paid all this money to market-research how the show was doing with audiences and stuff like that. They said “OK. Their three favorite shows –” This was, I guess, Season Two. “– was ‘Allies,’ ‘Grace Under Pressure,’ and ‘Duet.’” I was like, “Oh, this is awesome! Great for me! That is awesome!” I was joking about wanting a raise and all that stuff.
Then they were like “The least favorite episodes are ‘Adrift,’ ‘Grace Under Pressure’ and ‘Duet.'” I had been privileged enough to do a lot of those. It’s not necessarily comforting, but just the way that things have come down, I’ve written the kinds of episodes that maybe are not the most “formatty,” and they’re the most divisive. So what are you going to do? You can please some of the people some of the time. That’s all, I guess, all I’m trying to do.
GateWorld: When you said “Adrift” did you mean “First Strike?”
MG: Sorry, “Allies.” Season Two.
So it was both a good and bad day for me.
GW: You were really excited about “First Strike.” Are you pleased with it coming out the other side?
MG: Yeah! Absolutely.
MG: Oof. A lot of effects. I owe a great debt of thanks to Mark Savela and, obviously, Brad Wright. I had already started production on [my] film when we were finishing up the shots. Brad’s a show-runner, he has a say over everything. But usually we all try to take as much burden as we can. He really came in and is responsible, I think, for that show looking as good as it did. Mark Savela is a genius and I don’t understand how we pull off the shots we do on the money we do. We’re very lucky to have him.
GW: Great. Season Three was very-much about building character foundations. Is that continuing this year?
MG: Absolutely. Like I said, we try to strike a balance between the bigger team-driven episodes and “This is a ‘Sheppard’ episode.” Or “This is a ‘McKay’ episode.” “This is a ‘Teyla’ episode.” It’s about 50/50 this year. They’re some of my favorite episodes.
GW: OK. The finale left Atlantis in deep-space. What kinds of story opportunities does that offer for you for this year? I mean, they may not stay in deep-space for very long, as you’ve alluded to. You just said it was a little bit too short.
MG: It’s not too short. It feels organic the way we’ve done it. Carl and I, and Joe, were really pushing to maybe spend the first ten lost in space, but for a number of incredibly valid reasons that wasn’t going to work.
GW: Right. You can’t get a lock on a Stargate …
MG: Well, you can always come up with stuff to get around that. Everyone decided the first two, first three, were about right. And so we’ve come up with a story that I don’t think feels rushed. All you’re looking for in a season finale — you’re teeing up another episode, yet you don’t really know what it’s about yet. And this year we had the privilege of knowing that we had the pick-up before [the last episode was written].
So we at least knew what we were going to do, casting-wise some stuff that was going to happen. I think it tees up the next two episodes perfectly. You can’t ask for more jeopardy than being lost in space with power dwindling and not knowing where you are and being unable to contact …
My favorite part about Season One was how isolated they were. We just wanted to recapture that a little bit. That’s what the first two episodes do. And it makes you do incredibly risky and stupid things. And that’s what “Lifeline” is about.
GW: How do you see Season Four as adding to the Atlantis and greater Stargate mythos?
MG: Mythos, well … See, he’s finished school. Now he can use mythos. I don’t know. That’s a great question. I watch TV because of characters. I just love characters. I happen to love the characters on this show. The show has a great sense of fun and adventure while, I hope, ever-gradually deepening those characters and their relationships with each other. I don’t know that we have a specific goal for what we want to do as a franchise with this season. I think for me, and everybody else here, I think we just dig hanging out with the characters and want to take them on cooler adventures and see what it does to them.
GW: How did you to come to the conclusion that leaving Lantia was the best course of growth for the show? Add a level of adventure to it or a level of insecurity? Because we’ve had this planet for so long and now we’re going to take off from it.
MG: I personally had a problem with — everyone in that galaxy knows where Atlantis is. Everyone. So if the only thing that comes out of this is we’re on a different planet that people can’t go to … We did the whole “invisible city” thing for a while. That was incredibly effective. But word got out again. Word will get out again, too, this time.
The season finales need to be cool. We’ve been on this planet for three years. We knew that thing was a space ship for three years. We saw it take off in the opening moments of the pilot. We kind of cheated with “Progeny” in getting the city into space. I thought, knowing the potential changes that we were going to make in the fourth season, I thought there would be a sense of roundness to it if we were to sink the city again and then have it take off. It’s all just cool stuff. At the end of the day this is going to be a really awesome thing to do.
GW: “It’s a city, not a yoyo,” Martin.
MG: Yes, I know, I know, I know. I’m haunted by that. But it was before the Lantians came and turned everything on. I just thought it was an exciting way to get into the next part of the season, and that’s what you’re always looking for. And it felt very organic, how we got to and got out of that problem. The trick is we try to develop ahead as much as possible but I think, realistically, at the end of the day …
Look, we’re developed into, I think, episode twelve. It’s right about now where we think “OK, how the hell are we going to end this year?” We’re only three weeks into production and we’re still starting to get nervous about how we end. How do we end great? And that was a good idea on how to end great and came organically out of the rest of the work that we had been doing that season. So hopefully we find something else like that this year.
GW: What is this season going to offer you as a writer?
MG: Well, like I mentioned, time, already. Which is really the most valuable asset. Writers, especially television writers, you tend to write with whatever bracket you have. So if you have five days the script won’t necessarily be better if you have 25 days. It’ll just take you longer to write. So I think the goal for me personally is to still try to write quickly so that I have time to perfect as opposed to … It’s hard looking here. “When do I have to have this episode? It preps in May.” And here we are barely at the end of March, and you’re like “Ah! I’ve got plenty of time to surf the [net]. I wonder what GateWorld’s up to!”