When Stargate SG-1 co-creator Brad Wright first announced in 2008 that he was “re-doing ‘Children of the Gods,’” some of us wondered if he was about to pull a Lucas.
Children of the Gods: Final Cut has now been available for over a month, and critical and fan response for the product, not to mention DVD sales, have generally been positive. The film is roughly seven minutes shorter and includes new takes from dailies, continuity fixes and updated visual effects.
For those wondering why certain changes were made — not to mention those still not convinced to purchase the DVD — GateWorld wanted to sit down with Brad to discuss the root of his desire to “refine” the original SG-1 story.
This interview runs approximately 10 minutes and is available in audio. It’s also transcribed below!
GateWorld: You go into some detail on the interview and commentary on the Children of the Gods DVD but for those who haven’t picked up the disc yet or are deciding to, what prompted you to go in and make revisions?
Brad Wright: In the first place?
BW: It came out of a conversation between myself and an executive at MGM, Jim Packer, who was talking about going back to the beginning and looking for bloopers.
I said, “If we’re going to go back to the beginning let’s go and re-release “Children of the Gods” without that mash-up score between David Arnold’s theatrical release and Joel Goldsmith’s original score for us, which I thought was beautiful, and we basically got talked out of using by bosses at MGM.
And that happened because I watched my teenage daughter showing her boyfriend the show from the beginning of the series. And I’m walking by the family room where it’s playing and I’m just cringing at these music cues. I watched over their shoulders for some time and I thought, “Man, we could do way better than that now.”
GW: Now when MGM got the rights to Stargate they also secured the rights to the score?
BW: Yeah, and they basically said, “We’re kind of insisting that [you] use it.” They wanted to use all sorts of things from the feature.
It became a larger conversation. I said, “Look, if we’re going to go back to that score what I’d really love to do is go back to dailies.” It became this project of mine that was purely done out of a desire to do it. We weren’t given a lot of money to do it and I put every penny of it into the picture. We went back to dailies. We re-cut it. We redid a significant amount of the visual effects.
When we originally did Stargate all of the vendors were different. A puddle effect was very, very difficult twelve years ago — it’s still difficult. Now we’ve got it mastered. So we redid all of those. We did things that bothered me from the beginning, like some clunky, clunky dialogue that I tried to get excised the first time around.
Knowing too that it was only a stereo mix we could go digital 5.1. We could clarify some things that fit in the series. There were some extra scenes written for kind of “ticking clock” drama that I didn’t think were necessary for Hammond so I just took them out.
And we obviously got rid of the nudity as well, which I never believed belonged in Stargate because families gather around the television to watch this show. I’m not a prude, but anybody who has said “Oh yeah, I love Stargate! Let’s go back and watch from the beginning,” has gotten themselves a bit of a shock.
GW: You know I was talking with Darren when this was first proposed. And I said “You know what he’s going to do?” Darren was like, “What?” I said, “He’s going to cut out that sexual organs line. I know that that’s gone.”
I think you really went in there and shook that thing up. It’s a completely different film.
BW: It’s significantly different. It is the way I wished we had come out of the gate in the first place. Now hindsight is twenty-twenty and of course we wouldn’t have been able to do it exactly the way we did it because there’s a lot of technology that we have now that we couldn’t do then.
For example, we also spent a big chunk of money getting rid of a scratch that appeared down the middle of the screen during dailies that was fixed only in a few scenes literally by cut-and-paste methods as opposed to digital removal which is what we did this time around — like a wire removal.
But it was not cheap. We spent a big chunk of money to do that. But it was worth it. It allowed us to cut that scene the way it should’ve been cut.
The ending was also set up to continue a TV show as opposed to being a movie. Virtually everything that bugged me for 12 years is gone. I think that new viewers — I knew I was going to get s*** for it from fans. “Why are you changing something that doesn’t need to be changed?” Well I think because if you wanted to watch [SG-1] from the beginning this is where I would like you to start.” And that’s what I would say to a new viewer coming to the show.
GW: The Kawalsky implantation was one of the flags that was raised. Is it your intent that Kawalsky was still infected with the Goa’uld even though we don’t see that?
BW: Of course he was. But that was done with somewhat an intention that the Goa’uld snake would be doing that as a threat — could be a threat all the time. It happened in “[The] Enemy Within” but we’re going to say it was a freak occurrence as opposed to something that was likely to happen many times in the series that we hadn’t yet written at the time. [Laughter] And it didn’t happen and so I thought it was kind of extraneous.
GW: I think the real scene for me, after watching this, that really tells the tale of what you were doing was removing the line of dialogue of Kawalsky, where Kawalsky says, “We went through that entire mission together and I didn’t know that you had a son.” That only validates the show so much more because of all of those subsequent episodes where Kawalsky was involved and admitted that he was closer with Jack than that pilot let on.
BW: Yeah, of course he knew. All O’Neill had to say is, “He kind of reminded me of his son.” And I cut in a little reaction shot of Kawalsky going, “Oh, yeah, that’s heavy. I know what that means.” It changes everything.
And I would argue here’s the other big change in terms of character. In addition to re-voicing Christopher’s entire performance, we edited it in such a way that it allowed Teal’c’s change to be far more organic. You can see his misgivings as to the goings-on in Goa’uld world much, much sooner.
So it’s less of a shock when he throws O’Neill the staff weapon. It’s not such a deus ex machina. It’s “OK, this guy was sympathetic from the beginning.”
GW: It’s more fulfilling, too. “Threshold,” in Season Five, you deliberately go back in and explain how Teal’c went from where he grew out of his resentment for the Goa’uld, but it’s much clearer in this version of the pilot now that this makes more sense.
BW: I toyed with putting that scene that I wrote in “Threshold.”
GW: You know, I was wondering if that was going to go in!
BW: I toyed with it, but it’s not necessary. I wanted deliberately to see how — because it was something that Brad Rines and I talked about at the beginning of the editing process — I wanted to see how successful that was going to be and I thought it was successful enough. It didn’t need any further material.
In fact it’s a shorter movie. If I had a lot of money — and I didn’t [Laughter]. If I had a lot of money I would’ve completely rewritten the opening sequence and re-shot it. I mean, the idea of …
GW: … the poker players, yeah.
BW: I hated that. I was not a fan of it at the beginning. The beginning of your show shouldn’t feature a bunch of people who …
GW: … strangers.
BW: Yeah, exactly. But having said that, for what it is, I think I can now go, “Yeah, watch this. It’s pretty good.” Whereas I [previously] hesitated.
There was a lot of typey and argumentative dialogue between Hammond and O’Neill that we got rid of, too, that is just gone. You’d be hard-pressed to remember what it was. It was just back and forth on whether or not they should send the bomb. And it just went away.
GW: That’s one of the things that I wanted to ask you. Had Don still been alive, God rest his soul, would there have been any replacement dialogue that you would’ve done for him?
BW: No, because we found a way of putting together two scenes that were apart. There’s a scene where he steps forward, if you compare them, and finishes a sentence that wasn’t originally in his mouth. We just figured out a way to do it.
GW: The gate room scene at the ramp.
BW: Exactly. You’ve studied it. It was kind of hard to do but I think we pulled it off.
GW: I was delighted that you got Rick for the audio commentary. He really sounded like he was having a good time.
BW: He was! We had a good time. Rick and I are friends. It’s been a long time. I literally [just said], “Hey, you want to come in and do a commentary?” He had never done one before.
He went, “Oh, sure. I’ll do that.” And talk about fresh eyes. He hadn’t seen the original in so long. This is the first time he’d seen the final cut. It was probably not a very good commentary as far as commentaries go, but we had fun.
GW: Well you know, he got out there and he did it and it was an interesting discussion. And for someone who hopes that SG-1 eventually goes to Blu-ray, for those first three seasons that have no commentaries, maybe you guys will pick a few out that you like.
How has the DVD been selling so far? Do you know?
BW: It’s doing very well. It was never intended to be a blockbuster. It’s a 12-year-old movie. [Laughter] I’m not trying to redo Star Wars here. This was not something that MGM would devote an enormous amount of resources to. And I was delighted that they let me do it for what it was.
GW: It’s a nice valentine to fans, to those of us who want it.
BW: Well, for those of us who think of it that way — I’m getting mixed response. Some people are basically saying, “What the hell are you doing? Get your hands off it.” It’s an “ego” thing for me.
I don’t know why ego would come into it. What I’ve been sensing, a lot of people think I’m just doing it for self-gratification. And frankly it started at least as a desire to give Joel [Goldsmith] his due credit.
Interview by David Read