We would be hard-pressed to say that Martin Gero hasn’t been good to us. In the four years since GateWorld has known him he as granted us an extensive interview every year. Now with Season Five coming to a close we are happy to be back with him to go even deeper into the franchise and beyond.
In our latest piece Martin talks about the success of his film YPF, working with the likes of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson in the recent episode “Brain Storm,” and he even addresses some of the viewer criticisms of his episode. We also explore the McKay–Keller relationship and dip our toes in the waters of Stargate Universe.
GateWorld’s interview with Martin runs over 43 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the GateWorld Interviews podcast on iTunes! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I am David Read, and I am on the telephone with Atlantis Executive Producer, and a man I am proud to call my friend, Mr. Martin Gero! Martin, thanks for being with us once again sir!
Martin Gero: Good to be here in “on the telephone.”
GW:: Yes, on the phone!
MG:: Good to be here where I already was, I guess.
GW:: I want to start off with YPF first of all.
GW:: It’s come out on DVD.
MG:: It has.
GW:: How have the sales been? How’s reaction to the film been, now that it’s on DVD? How did the theatrical run do?
MG:: The theatrical run did really extraordinarily well in Canada and some other territories. It [did] less well for a bunch of reasons here in the States, but it’s on DVD now. People can see it, or as they have been doing downloading it illegally from the Internet, which you know, sure, that happens.
But if you get the chance, the one that’s most loaded with special features and stuff is the Canadian Blu-Ray edition. There’s a whole bunch of different editions of the DVD out there — collect them all! — But the Canadian Blu-Ray DVD one is a pretty good one.
GW:: Really? Anything in particular on that one that you care for? That you want us to look for?
MG:: It’s got some cast auditions, and behind the scenes featurette. It’s got the commentary. It’s just a good DVD.
GW:: Blu-Ray, all of us want to see Sonja Bennett’s pores, so I guess the Blu-Ray edition is going to be …
MG:: It comes across extraordinarily well. It was a film designed to be on a big screen in the theater. I agree it’s kind of an odd choice for Blu-Ray. Usually you think, “Well, it’s going to be an action-adventure” or something, but I think it’s a pretty good-looking movie, so it actually does translate pretty well.
GW:: The theatrical release wasn’t as wide as something you’d get for “Wall-E,” or one of these other big American …
MG:: Well, it was in Canada. In Canada it got a full wide release. It was in, I think, 20 or so cities and was, by the end of it, on about 100 screens, which is a lot for Canada — we’re small. So no, we did quite well up there, and DVD sales have been going so well that we’re talking potentially about a sequel, doing a two and a three.
GW:: Wow, OK. Wow, that’s incredible. Like with new casts, or new ideas?
MG:: We haven’t figured out what the hell those are going to be. It’s just very successful, and everyone would like to continue making money. We’ve got to figure out how to do that. I would not write or direct them, but I have some people in mind, and would definitely keep my hand in there.
GW:: You’d probably hold on to producing rights?
GW:: OK. Yeah, I will not hide the fact [that] I’ve seen this movie and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It surprised me in some ways. I think it’s safe to say that two of the five story lines have sad endings. Was that your intent from the beginning?
Did you and Aaron start at the beginning saying to yourselves “OK, this is exactly how I want these characters to end by the end of this movie,” or did you find yourselves organically drawn to those directions? I mean, I’m not sure [of] the names …
MG:: Well, I mean, we had — without getting too specific for people who haven’t seen the movie — there are some that make sense to end unhappy, and it would just be untrue to that situation.
A good thing about doing a movie that has five stories in it is that you can kind of be true to the situation. I know in romantic comedies occasionally they won’t get together at the end and you’ll be like, “Well, it’s realistic.”
You’re going, “Yeah, but we’re at a movie, and now I’m walking out of a romantic comedy bummed! Way to go, guys!” So, we got to be true to the situation, because you could have a couple that turned out great, and you could have some that turned out bad, but in all it would feel like a full end.
GW:: I remember when you first contacted me telling me that you were working on this. You know me, I’m going to give you my opinion. I still think that the title cheapens the film a little, because I know the reason — one of the reasons that I’m sure that you picked it was so that you would obviously get a little bit more of a buzz about it.
People obviously were talking about it. It was all over ET Canada for instance. Do you think at the end of the day that the title of the movie is still justified, or do you think that going back and doing it again maybe you would have picked a little less abrasive title, because it really is an outrageous title!
MG:: No, I would never have done that! I don’t regret the title for a second, in fact. The title has given me a feature career. So, a lot of people were like, “Well, the title’s very, just, attention getting.”
And I’m like, “Well, yeah, but that’s what a title is!” That’s why we title things, otherwise it would just be “Movie 1,” “Movie 2,” “Movie 3.” That title did everything it was supposed to do. It’s not like it’s called “Young People F******” and then it’s about something else, like we just did that as a trick. It’s a fair representation of what the movie is.
GW:: Right, but it’s not what it really is about.
MG:: Well no, it is, I think, Dave. I mean think what it is about is it’s about five sets of couples who think all they want to do that night is ****, and what the movie is about is how trying to remove that from love is impossible, and really difficult.
I used to make the joke that it would not have been successful if we’d called it “Bedtime Stories,” and now there actually making a movie called “Bedtime Stories” so we would have been screwed! But good luck to them! But, no, I don’t regret the title for a second.
Look, it’s better, to be honest, to be upfront about the subject matter. Did as many people in their sixties go to see the movies than would of if the movie had not been called that? Maybe, I’m not sure those people would have gone to see it anyway. It’s certainly opened many more doors than it closed.
GW:: Right, I can see your perspective on that. But had I not known you, and known who you were, and heard the title I would not have seen this film. But had I seen the trailer without seeing the title I would have been one of the first people in the door, because it’s such a central and …it’s a movie for our time. It’s really talking about something that we don’t talk about nearly enough.
MG:: I don’t know that that’s true by the way. The life of a movie is very long. You kind of have to be true to it, so you maybe wouldn’t have seen it if you hadn’t have known me, but maybe in 10 years from now you thought you’d see an actor that’s in that movie that’s in another movie, or maybe I make another movie, or whatever, and you go back and you go “What else have they done?”
Movies get seen. I’m certainly not saying everyone in the world will see this movie. I’ll just even go right down to this. IMDb, which is a big Internet movie database, a lot of people know about it. It’s kind of an industry standard, and they track buzz for movies, basically. Not only on their site, and they have this thing called the Movie Meter.
So, our little movie, our little tiny Canadian movie, the second it got a DVD rip was one of the most downloaded films that week, period. Now, that’s given its name. And we shot to number 11 on IMDb. We were ahead of giant movies that were out in the theater.
GW:: You were number 11, Martin?! I didn’t know that.
MG:: Yeah, we were number 11 on IMDb.
GW:: That’s extraordinary!
MG:: The title is the reason all those people saw that movie. Now, whether they watched the first ten minutes and just turned it off, that’s my fault. But that title got them to the movie, and it was, I think, a lot of them watched it.
Our message boards just exploded. Listen, I’d rather do something that people had an opinion about than no opinion at all, so there are people that hate it, and think it’s crass and don’t think we should be making movies about sex, then fine. But at the end of the day I stick by the title.
GW:: But at least they care. They certainly didn’t have to. Have you always wanted to direct, or was this something that you told yourself, “Look, if I never do this I’ll always regret it,” and you found that you loved it? How did this work out for you?
MG:: No, I always wanted to direct. That’s kind of why I got into everything. I mean, I originally started out — when I was a kid and I thought I wanted to be an actor, and let that go.
GW:: Yeah, we saw what that looks like in the Stargate special feature!
MG:: Yes, exactly! I’m not very good! I get very uncomfortable. I’m a fine actor, I think. I can do a very limited area of “fine.” But at the end of the day the whole “being out of control your entire life” is just not something that appeals to me in any way. So I started directing when I was in high school — plays — and then I thought, “Well, I’d like to obviously be a movie director. How do I do that? I don’t know anyone who will write me a movie.”
So I just started writing, and by pure coincidence — it’s a lot easier to take a risk on someone as a writer than it is to take a risk on someone as a director. I was just fortunate enough to have the crew that I’ve had, which has been all because of writing. But at the end of the day, producing/directing is kind of what gets me up in the morning.
GW:: Some writers feel, and I’ve talked with a couple about this, feel that directing should be left specifically to trained directors. Do you ever get the feeling that some of the directors, not necessarily at Stargate, but directors that you’ve met are saying to themselves, “Uh oh, here comes another producer to take my job.” Because everyone wants to direct. I’ve directed, and I love it, man. [Laughter]
MG:: Everyone does want to direct, but all that means is everyone wants to be in charge. Which is fair! [Laughter] I think really good directors, and I hope I’m one of these — learning from guys like Andy and Will and Martin — they’re very much in charge but it’s a team effort, and the whole team feels like they are playing an integral role. They’re not just a cog in the director’s wheel.
I’ve been dealing in metaphors. The best ship captain in the world can’t win the America’s Cup if they haven’t got a crew that’s motivated and feel like it’s their boat too. That’s, by the way, my first professional sailing — that’s the first time I’ve used professional sailing in a metaphor!
GW:: [Laughter] First time for everything!
MG:: Just saw the movie “Wind.” Good one. Anyway, go ahead.
GW:: OK, you told us a while back about your Atlantis directing debut. You told us “Slot 16, be on the lookout for it!” So, we’ve been looking forward to “Brain Storm” for some time.
MG:: It was probably a tremendous let down … [Laughter]
GW:: Oh, hey, just stay away from podcast 20, that’s all I’m gonna say!
MG:: Alright, will do now.
GW:: No! No. There were things about it that I loved, and things about it that I didn’t like, but I think that’s pretty fair. What started you off on the idea for this episode? Did you create a story you specifically wanted to direct or was it simply that you found yourself directing one of your own stories, and it just fell into that slot?
MG:: No, I knew I was going to write the one that I directed only out of the kindness to my other writer friends. I did not want to screw up one of their episodes. [Laughter] I felt like if was going to screw one up it may as well be mine, and then no one would be, “That’s not how it should have been!”
So no. I really wanted to do something with Jewel and David, because they are two of my favorites, socially outside as well as professionally.
I wanted to do something that potentially was Earth based, but I didn’t know. I had a[n] inkling that this would be my last episode as I was thinking about it. Whether the show was going to get picked up or not, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to come back. I wanted to do something in my never-ending quest to flesh out McKay’s character, I wanted to see him with his friends, or old buddies.
I always picture him as a lonely guy, but that couldn’t have been true forever. He must have had college buddies and stuff. [I was] Just thinking about that and then I was like, “Well, I don’t want to do a reunion, because we did that already in ‘Bounty,’ and it wasn’t such a great episode.”
So I just kind of shelved it, I didn’t know necessarily what it was going to be, and then this whole thing came out where we had to do an episode about the environment. We were like, “Well, how the s**t are we going to do that? We’re on another planet!”
GW:: Wait, there was a discussion about doing an episode about the environment?
MG:: We had to do one.
GW:: You had to? What do you mean?
MG:: All the NBC/Universal shows last week had something to do with the environment. Or so I’ve been told, I didn’t watch them. It was “Green Week” at NBC/Universal.
The directive came down that, if we could, could we do an episode about the environment, or the environmental cause. Joe was going to write one that was very, very metaphorically about the environment, and then I came up with this thing which was a weather device that used the McKay Bridge to channel heat into another dimension, and blah blah blah. Basically, work around thermal dynamics.
So we say, “Well, look. OK, we’ll do it on Earth and then it will be an Earth-based episode and we can do it about the environment.” I know people hate Earth episodes, but I don’t.
GW: Not everyone, Martin. Not everyone hates them. They’re just so different.
MG: A lot of people do, and I understand it. People like the show they like. They give us a lot of leeway, I think, to try new things. But historically they haven’t loved Earth shows. I, however, like them a great deal. Unfortunately I am under the employ, so I get to do something that I like every now and again. Not that I don’t like them all.
So I did it with a heavy heart. I was like, “Ah, this is going to be a tough one to have people like.” Plus I knew it was going to be a really shippy episode. That was, again, strike two up here in the back of my head. “Not right.”
Because I felt it was going to be my last episode with McKay I really wanted to give him that. To have that relationship actually happen as opposed to us skate around it with innuendo and “maybes,” you know? Because I don’t think Keller necessarily would do that. I think Keller is stronger than that and would not limp around for years on flirting and whispers. He needed a close before she decides, “Well, I’ve given him six months.”
GW: Yeah. Well, this is a woman who has done six years of medical school who, obviously to get herself to Atlantis, has fought for things that she wants. It does not make sense that she would not do the same when it came down to a relationship.
MG: Yeah, exactly. And there is some hesitation — why would Keller like him? But for Jewel and I, at least, it’s kind of a no-brainer. He’s incredibly funny and smart, and underneath it all he’s actually a really warm guy. You just need to call him on his BS all the time which, I think, she does.
Also, I think what I tried to bring out in this episode, too, is the sarcastic side of Keller. Jewel and David, they just sit there and make fun of everybody all day. So I thought, “That’s kind of what that Keller/McKay relationship was probably a little bit about, too.” It all came together like that.
With Bill Nye being really good friends with Bob Picardo I knew that he was interested in doing the show. I really wanted to get Neil deGrasse Tyson, because of the “Trio” reference. We tried to get Brian Green as well but Brian Green was unavailable. I thought it would be funny to have both of them there.
GW: I was wondering if you were going for Stephen Hawking and you couldn’t get him so you just filmed his back.
MG: Stephen Hawking — he lives in the UK. That’s a bigger deal.
I’m a pretty big nerd, so it was a lot of fun. Before I even wrote the script I went to New York. I went to the American Natural History museum to convince Dr. Tyson to do it. I originally wanted him to be side-by-side with them the whole way quite like Bill Nye is.
He’s an important — not that Bill Nye isn’t important — Dr. Tyson runs the Hayden Planetarium and advises the presidents and whatnot. So he’s busy. And he’s not a provincial actor. He felt like he’d always wanted to do a cameo and this was perfect. That’s where that came out of.
And then Bill was just a delight from beginning to end. One of the best things that has happened in the five years I’ve been on that show is the friendship that I’ve developed with Bill.
It was great. Then of course bringing in Dave Foley. He’s a superstar here in Canada, and should be to a certain extent down in the States. He was of course on Kids in the Hall and News Radio. He owned the nineties, basically. So that was great. I thought he was excellent.
And bringing in Marshall Bell, who is one of those spectacular character actors that has been in every movie ever. He’s the funniest guy to have a talk about movies, because if he wasn’t in that movie he was in a movie by everyone who made that movie.
It felt like a real odd field trip that we got to take. The whole crew had a great deal of fun. We were in this amazing high school and we were just away from it all. We were a long drive away from sets. Not that there ever is, but it felt like we were just doing our little side project that had a bunch of Atlantis characters in it.
GW: I think that’s the root of one of the bigger criticisms of the episode. Darren brought this up. It felt like a very, very different show with a couple actors that we know in it.
MG: Tonally, I don’t feel like it was that different from other episodes that I’ve done on Stargate, quite honestly. That’s open to everyone’s interpretation. Tonally I don’t think it’s that different. But I do think texturally, it feels very different just by not being in Atlantis or a forest.
GW: Right. How different do you think the episode would have been had the request not come down for a “Green Week” of NBC/Universal shows?
MG: I probably still would have done it on Earth, to be honest. I don’t know if it would’ve been a weather device, but I probably would’ve still done it on Earth, again so we could’ve had Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Bringing all of those people to Atlantis feels like a bit of a stretch, and also the whole MacGuffin of the episode was that he’s going to watch a presentation that turns out to be his science. That’s something he would’ve realized way before.
Thematically, it’s kind of about [McKay] being out of his element. That’s something that he really wanted, is to be a guy in front of the audience. By the end of the episode I think he realizes maybe that’s not the most important thing in the world.
GW: That was one of the things for me — I don’t read spoilers. I don’t care for them. I read the one-sentence logline. That’s it. I don’t even watch the Sci Fi Channel previews.
MG: No, they give everything away.
GW: Uh! My word, yes. So coming in and watching this, the second pass through it, it dawned on me just how much this reveals about McKay. That was one of the things about this episode that I think was very well achieved.
Not to go against what you were saying like you tried to steer away from “Bounty.” But it really did feel to me that it was some of the best aspects of “Bounty,” because this was a reunion of sorts. Not necessarily a high school reunion. But this is his team and these are the people whom we didn’t even know that he knew. He was obviously in the same league in terms of how intelligent he is, but we didn’t know where he really came from.
All we knew is that he was working for Area 51, he went off to Russia. So that really brought in a great deal of back-story to that character. One of the more interesting things that I brought up in the podcast as well, that I wasn’t expecting is that McKay is always wrong when he analyzes how someone is approaching him and how people interact with him, but when it came down to his fellow scientists that he’d worked with before, he was exactly right.
MG: I don’t know that he’s always wrong. I think Sheppard’s better at that than he is. But I get what you’re saying. Yeah.
GW: He thinks people are blowing him off or not appreciating him as much and they’re like, “No, that wasn’t it at all.” And Jennifer was like, “You know [Malcolm’s] got us a private jet.” McKay’s like, “You’ve got it all wrong.”
MG: It certainly shows why he’s not very trustful in people.
GW: Exactly right. Because in his playing field he’s right. He knows who he’s dealing with and they’re all so jealous of him.
MG: Well they’re jealous of him. There used to be a guy in the Atlantis writing room who would always say, “Oh yeah, I was just thinking that.” And we would make fun of him for that. We busted his chops but we knew he wasn’t a bad guy.
I think that’s kind of how it is with Neil and Bill. They’re basically saying, “That’s not a good quality you have. You realize that, right? It’s really annoying every time someone says a good idea, and ‘I was just thinking that.'”
GW: Thank you for bringing in Bill Nye. I grew up with the man, and when I saw he was going to be in the episode, I was like, “Please tell me he’s playing himself,” and by golly he was.
MG: Yeah. He was such a sport about it, too.
GW: That’s one of the things that I want to ask you, because these are real life people you’re bringing in. Did either of them, or any of them, come to you and say “Is this really how you perceive me? Is this how I look to people? I don’t act like that!”
MG: No, well, they knew they were playing a heightened characterized version of themselves. Obviously Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are more than that scene. Neil had a couple of — the only suggestions he had were just some wording to make it closer to his natural cadence, which I always accommodate for whomever — any actor.
And Bill, I had known a lot about Bill. Bill was like, “What if we said this here?” Bill comes from a sketch comedy and improv background back on the days on Almost Live. He was really just throwing stuff in and was very patient with me. The great thing a bout that, you want everyone saying that, but they’ve got to understand that you’re going to say No eight times out of ten.
A lot of some of the great stuff in there was words he came up with or changed. No, they didn’t come up to me and were like, “You’ve got me wrong.” In fact a lot of the times Bill Nye would do something and I’d go up to him and I was like, “I don’t think Bill Nye would do that. Bill Nye would play that differently.”
GW: When he’s talking about the Plutoids I could see Bill in his lab coat on the show: “It’s cool! It’s science!” It was captured perfectly.
MG: Yeah, no it was great. That was his line.
GW: Oh that was his? Yeah, exactly.
MG: They were both incredibly gracious with the science, too. They were both like, “This was not a bad idea.” They’re like, “This would work. Some of the mechanics are science fiction, but the principle, in theory, is actually quite fun. ”
GW: Well that’s a tip of the hat.
MG: No that was great, man. When I went to New York to talk to Neil deGrasse Tyson. He had not really seen the show. I was like, “This is going to be great. I’m going to ask him all these science questions.” Most of the time I would try to explain Stargate science to him. Which is, trust me, a lot of fun.
[Gero:] “Well, you know, basically a Stargate creates artificial wormholes.”
[Tyson:] “Those don’t exist.”
[Gero:] “I know, but if they did, it creates artificial wormholes and it dials gates within our galaxy, and you can go to those planets.”
He’s like, “Habitable planets within our galaxy?”
And I’m like, “Yeah.”
He’s like, “No, that’s impossible.”
[Gero:] “No, I know it’s impossible.”
GW: It’s a show, dude. Get over it.
MG: “It’s a show. They have similar environments and ecosystems. Then we get there and …”
[Tyson:] “Wait, sorry, there’s people on them? There’s people on these planets?
[Gero:] “Yes. And also they speak English. But let’s try to get past all that.”
GW: [Laughter] “Would you do the show?” [Laughter]
MG: Yeah, exactly. He was like, “OK, fine, fine.”
GW: I was pretty critical of the episode when I first saw it, and the second time I watched it, it really was better. The whole “freeze lightning” thing sounds like “explosive tumors” to me.
MG: That was me and my wacky science. There’s a whole line in there about how freeze lightning is a terrible name. I remember when we were shooting the scene where the guy got frozen.
GW: Yes! What happened to him? Did he live or die?
MG: Oh no, I’m sure he’s fine. Um … He probably died. [Laughter] But Michael Blundell came up and was like, “He should drop his glass. Smash.” I was like, “I don’t know, it’s pretty broad man.” He just looked at me, and I was like, “You’re right. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. We’re doing a show with freeze lightning.” “Hey, drop the glass when you get frozen!”
We’re not making “Schindler’s List” here.
GW: Well, I think my point is that over the years I think I’m going to enjoy it much more. This was your big directorial debut. I loved YPF, and so it was like, “OK, here we go. I’ve been “X”ing out the days until this one and … Whoa, OK then! Next one!” No, it was good. It was good.
MG: No, I understand. And I think there’s an undue pressure on it was well because a lot of people are like, “These are the only episodes of Atlantis we have left.”
GW: So they’d all better be damn good.
MG: “They’d all better be great and better be pure Atlantis” and blah, blah, blah.
I think what’s been so great about our audience is that they allow us to do these left-field shows every now and again and that’s kind of what’s made the series full. At the end of the day, for me at least, when I look back on shows that I loved those were always my favorite episodes, even if they weren’t right away.
Again for me, just to speak very personally, this show has been a huge part of my life. This is the longest story I’ve ever been a part of telling. By coincidence the last scene that we shot was when Keller tells McKay that she loves him, and echoes back those words from “The Shrine.”
The last shot I did, really my last professional obligation on the show, was shooting David’s coverage hearing that Keller loves him. It struck me for a moment. I got very emotional. By that point everyone knew that the show was over. This was my last little bit. They had to go off and make another five shows. He kind of reacts and just doesn’t know what to say and just kind of softens in a way.
For me, that certainly isn’t my character, but it’s a character I feel has been my alter ego within the series, certainly, I think.
GW: You and Rodney have been very close.
MG: Yes, we’ve been very close. For me this episode brings closure to the series for that character, in a sense that that’s really all he’s wanted for five years. For someone to say, “I love you,” and mean it. That’s really all that we want. And a lot of his narcissism and arrogance and general unpleasantness has really come from the fact that he’s never really, truly, been unconditionally loved in that way.
I kind of had a closure moment with that character. I was like, “OK, we’ve left you a better character than you were when we started.”
GW: That’s exactly right. He’s grown up a little bit.
MG: Yeah, and in a really great and positive way. In a way that I think, in his imaginary life after the show, he’s going to be a lot happier. I really think, for me, that was a great last show. So although kind of atypical and certainly not designed in any way to be a fan favorite like “First Contact” and “Lost Tribe,” it’s a very different personal episode that holds a lot of value for me for just sentimental reasons.
GW: To my knowledge this is only the second time in Stargate history — I may be wrong — that two main cast members have expressed intimate feelings for each other. You had Jack O’Neill and Sam, and then you had these two, Rodney and Keller. Did this happen because you guys knew Atlantis was concluding, or did you specifically want these characters to grow in this way?
Because it’s kind of a risk. The whole fan fiction people are like, “Leave the romance and everything as very suggestive so we can play with that.” Where did this come from?
MG: I don’t think we should leave all of the fun to the fan fic people. Certainly some of us on the show need to have some fun as well. Look, for me, I’ve said this probably to you personally a thousand times over the five years. To me it’s about the characters. Who those characters love and love back is a big part of that to me. It’s a big part of who we all are. To say that that doesn’t have a place on a character-based show, I take issue with that.
Certainly you don’t want to have them all dating each other.
GW: Yeah, it’s not As the Stargate Turns.
MG: No. We played around with a little love triangle. But of course it was never going to go Keller/Ronon. They’re not right for each other, those two … Well, I don’t want to give too much away. In “Prodigal” he meets someone like Amelia. He’s got a little heat there with Amelia. That makes sense, the whole kickboxing thing.
GW: She’s tough.
MG: Yeah, she’s tough. Not that Keller’s not tough, but in different ways. Those two have always made a lot of sense to me. I’ve been trying to get them together since “Trio” for Christ sake, laying the groundwork.
GW: I’m going to take your guys’ side for a minute here. I don’t understand this open hatred of the Keller character that has come from so much of the fandom. Certainly GateWorld. I cringe when Jewel comes to our Web site. And I will openly say this — she’s not my favorite character. But I like her. I don’t understand where this resentment is coming from.
MG: I do. It’s pretty clear, man.
GW: You think it’s Beckett?
MG: Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
GW: You think that’s all it?
MG: I think it’s a lot it.
GW: Well besides Rodney, Beckett was my favorite character on the show. I love Beckett. And I don’t begrudge Jewel’s character, nor Jewel herself, for that. It’s not her decision. She’s coming in and playing —
MG: It’s a weird thing. Jewel and I have obviously talked about it. She always finds it weird, because people love Jewel.
GW: Oh yeah! They bend over backwards for that poor engineer on sci fi.
MG: She is Sci fi royalty after Firefly. Me and her hanging out at Comic-Con is like hanging around with Angelina Jolie. It is nuts. She gets really angry because people keep coming up to her and being like, “I wish they’d just write you better.” And she’s like, “I really like Keller. Please stop saying that.” You know what I mean?
I don’t know. Because there is that weird thing. It’s not that they don’t like Jewel. They just don’t like the character. And I don’t understand that. I think the character is really likable.
GW: I remember “Missing” last year and being really open-minded about the fact that, “OK, we’ve got a gal coming in here who is obviously Teyla’s opposite, hates eating the stuff that Teyla catches for her,” and all that stuff. And at that point I was willing to accept the fact that the show might need a little bit of innocence. And I enjoyed it. But still, she’s not my favorite. Let me put it that way.
MG: Listen that’s fair. I just feel like people never gave her a fair shake. Whatever. At the end of the day it’s a really difficult thing dealing with fandom to a certain extent, because it’s really hard to distill. When the show first started I was on the message boards a lot. I read them a lot because I thought it would be helpful. But at at the end of the day I don’t know that it is.
Listen, heaven forbid I start a fire storm here. I think they are well within their rights to say whatever they want. That’s the great thing about the Internet and interacting that way. My feeling is, I’m not talking about Keller in specifics. in general the negative votes tend to be more vocal towards whatever issue it is than the positive votes. The positive votes just get tired. You get those exhausted posts where people are just like, “Stop watching the show if you hate it so much.”
That’s what I don’t really understand. There is such vitriol and hatred on that board, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand why they watch every week. They’re like, “Oh, they did it again!”
GW: Well people are vocal about what they want changed and keep their mouths shut about what they love. So if they’re pecking at that one issue over and over again, if it’s that one issue, then everything else by and large must be pretty good.
MG: Exactly. I’ve been painted a lot of times in interviews that are not with GateWorld, or whomever, where people say “God, he’s so arrogant and doesn’t listen to the fans anymore.” It’s not that I don’t listen. I don’t know a way to listen effectively. We have millions of fans around the world and I don’t know that they are represented on those message boards, those ten million fans, I guess is what I’m saying. I don’t know how to distil what they’re saying down to making something work better or not work better.
At the end of the day, and this is not an arrogance thing — it’s a necessity thing — we the writers have to make the show that we and the fans would want to see and hope that that’s the show that they’d want to make. We think very highly of our fans and that’s why I think it’s OK to challenge them every now and again with an episode that we’re not a hundred percent sure that they will like. That’s a great gift that they’ve been able to give us, is to take risks.
I think moving on to this next show … Having been on Atlantis when Atlantis launched, no one was particularly excited about Atlantis, and now no one is particularly excited about Stargate Universe. Having worked on the show now for a couple of months and sitting in that room and figuring out what those first ten stories are going to be I’m very excited about it.
I didn’t want to see Atlantis go maybe more than anyone. I really thought we had some neat ideas on where to take it in Season Six. If we can get the cast right on Universe this has a chance of being as good, if not better, than both of the shows. It’s a much more character-based show without sabotaging what I think has made the franchise so successful.
I think the reason that the show has been so successful is we love the show. We watch the show more than most people. I would never say more than you, David. I would never say more than you. I’d say more than most.
We have to watch that show five or six times before it makes it to air. We have to watch those special effects shots dozens of times before they’re approved. We read four or five versions of every script and mixes upon mixes and cuts upon cuts. If we’re not passionate for the show that we’re making then it’s difficult.
I don’t take offense to someone saying, “I hate Martin Gero’s scripts! They’re the worst!” That’s fair! They’re probably right, for you. But hey, I like Martin Gero’s scripts. I’m a big fan of them. I like Carl Binder’s scripts a lot. I like Rob Cooper, Joe Mallozzi, Allan McCullough, Brad Wright. All the way down. Everybody. Paul and Joe. Did I name everyone? Phew!
I like the show that we make. I think 99 percent of fans like the show, which is kind of a crazy thing to say. There’s a very vocal one percent that don’t. Maybe my math is way off! Our ratings are not that different all the time. It’s not like a Keller episode, for instance, the ratings don’t suddenly drop 50 percent.
GW: Yeah. They’re dropping across the board but it’s not because of Keller. [Laughter]
MG: Exactly, but that’s just television.
GW: You told me that the evil Asgard were going to get a name and it didn’t make the cut. And so we’re all asking ourselves, “What the hell are they called?
MG: Yeah. The evil Asgard are not going to get a name, unfortunately. I don’t remember saying that they were going to have a name, to be honest.
GW: Oh, OK. I bet a long time ago that it was going to be “Vanir.” A lot of people on the Web pages were thinking the same thing but that’s too bad because I don’t like “Evil Asgard.” [Laughter]
MG: OK, sure, the Vanir. Done.
GW: So you’re helping to spin stories for Stargate Universe. Is there a sense of invigoration on the team? How different are the stories from past seasons and series of Stargate?
MG: You know the basic premise of the show. Imagine Atlantis without having any trading partners in that first year. Without having the Athosians. Without even having the Wraith, necessarily.
It is, I think, a truly interesting construct that I have not seen yet as a continuing series, and it’s certainly really good Sci fi. Again, those character breakdowns — ah, well. I’m going to get carried away because I’m excited about it and I don’t want to give stuff away that I’m not supposed to. It’s taking the franchise in, what I think, is an applaudable direction and is going to allow for Stargate stories in a whole new way.
GW: OK. Please tell me that this is not Battlestar Galactica meets Lost.
MG: No, I don’t think it’s that at all. We’re incapable of doing those shows. It’s going to have a texture that is familiar and welcome to fans. It’s a Stargate show. If you like Stargate you’re going to like this.
GW: Does the Destiny have a gate? Let’s put it that way. [Laughter]
MG: Oh absolutely. That’s the center of the ship. Absolutely. And it plays a critical role. I’d love to tell you but you’re going to have to wait and tune in. It’s a really, really exciting show. I can’t wait to start talking publically about some of the cast that we might get. It’s definitely going to be a show that I think new viewers will find really easy to come into and old viewers will feel like they’re home again.
GW: Just a yes or no, have you found your lead?
MG: It’s really tough to say, because I don’t believe there is one.
GW: I know you guys were wanting to get a name actor. Have you found the name actor that you want?
MG: We’re in talks. But it’s very much an ensemble show. More than, I think, any Stargate has been.
GW: OK. Are the chevrons purple?
MG: You know, I don’t know? I don’t think they are. That’s a good question. The gate dials in an awesome way. That’s all I’m going to say.
GW: OK. Cool. What has been the secret of your success? How did you go from Starbucks to Stargate? What was it that did it? Was it a look from an agent who said, “You’ve got the right stuff.” For people who are trying to get into this biz?
MG: Those questions … I get asked them when I go to schools, “How do I do that? How do I do what you do?” And unfortunately it’s a thousand little things. It’s not like, “Eat ketchup every day.” If it was that’d be awesome because all I’d have to do is to eat ketchup all the time to be at some level of employment opportunity.
I don’t know. I’ve just been incredibly lucky. As a writer I’m pretty quick. This is a show that, I think, benefited … the other writers thought that my sensibilities could help the show and jive with the show in the right way. I really don’t know.
GW: I know it’s an ensemble writing staff. I know that. But I know some of your ideas, and I’ve heard you speak. I know your cadence, and I think the show has received a little bit of humor that wouldn’t have been there without it.
MG: Well that’s very kind of you to say. I don’t know if I’d agree but again I’ll take the compliment!