For Cryin’ Out Loud is GateWorld’s weekly editor’s column! If you have questions or suggestions about what you’d like us to talk about, e-mail the editors now.
There’s one Stargate-related story in the news that we occasionally get news tips and questions about, but which we haven’t chosen to cover much. Many fans of the Stargate franchise will have seen the headlines about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s financial problems these past several months, leading to extensions in money owed to shareholders, accepting bids to purchase the whole studio, and rumors that the company might declare bankruptcy to deal with its estimated $3.7 billion in debt.
We haven’t reported on it much because, as far as Stargate goes, there is nothing new to report. MGM has received lower-than-hoped bids from Time Warner, Access Industries, and Lions Gate Entertainment. It doesn’t look like it’s going to accept any of the offers, with shareholders instead pushing for a bankruptcy restructuring of the company as a stand-alone entity.
And the big question for fans: What does this mean for Stargate? Earlier this month the producers of MGM’s stalwart James Bond film franchise issued a statement that production on the next film in the series is on hold indefinitely, “due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio.” And our friends at Airlock Alpha, citing an anonymous source inside to the Stargate Universe production, speculated in a recent story that SGU‘s future could be in jeopardy because of MGM’s money trouble.
Let’s set one thing straight: Television and film work on different models, both for financing production and for seeing profits. In the world of film the studio fronts all the money needed to make, distribute, and market a movie like Quantum of Solace or Hot Tub Time Machine. Sometimes they’ll bring in outside investors — or, in the case of The Hobbit, even another studio — to help foot the bill and, in turn, share in any profits.
Every film is a roll of the dice. A film can make big bucks, or break even, or flop. When the movie comes out it’s up to the audience to decide if it is a success. The box office receipts are tallied and then … it’s all over. The studio moves on to the next project, either taking its loss or — hopefully — celebrating a big win. For a single film, it’s not a long-term game.
Television is different in oh-so-many ways, and generally speaking it’s a lower-risk endeavor. TV shows don’t have a make-or-break opening weekend. They roll out slowly over the course of the year, with ratings trending up and then back down again. The network strategizes its programming schedule and how the show fits on this night and in that time slot. They make changes. They ask the show to do some creative retooling. In the famous case of Star Trek: Enterprise‘s fourth and final season, production studio Paramount convinced UPN to buy another year’s worth of episodes in spite of flagging ratings by drastically lowering the network’s cost — expecting to recoup the loss in syndication, DVD sales, and the general lift given to Star Trek merchandise sales by having new Trek on the air.
But the biggest difference between television and film? In television, the studio gets paid ahead of time by the network. MGM charges Syfy Channel (and other broadcasters around the world) a licensing fee for the right to air Stargate Universe, and so its production is not threatened week-to-week by MGM’s own lack of money. It would be like movie theaters paying the studio a fixed amount ahead of time for the right to show the movie. A television network is a built-in partner who shares the investment risk.
So Season Two of SGU is now filming and is locked in at 20 episodes because that’s what Syfy ordered and agreed to pay for; and Season Three will be locked in if Syfy wants to pay for it, regardless of who owns MGM or even if the studio is in bankruptcy court.
Of course, there’s no reason to assume that Syfy’s licensing fee covers the entire production budget, but with money coming in from SPACE in Canada, Sky1 in the U.K., SCI FI Channel in Australia, and other networks in other countries, MGM doesn’t have to come up with millions of dollars to keep the cameras rolling each week.
Now those SG-1 and Atlantis movies everyone is clamouring for news on? Film model. With Stargate: Continuum and The Ark of Truth MGM put up the entire production and marketing budgets, and licensed them for broadcast only after they had been released on DVD. That’s why I’ve been saying that these movies aren’t dead, even though there has been no news on them for a year. Obviously another James Bond movie is going to get made. But it won’t happen while the studio doesn’t have any money to fund it. The next Stargate movies are in the same boat as ol’ 007: When MGM has dealt with its crippling debt and has some money to start spending again, the movies on its slate will finally begin to move forward.
But as for Stargate Universe? The sky is not falling, Chicken Little.
I was just wondering if you are ever going to bring back the Friday Five. I really enjoyed reading it. (Steph)
My Friday “Top 5” countdowns were a lot of fun and also a lot of work to do, so I decided early on to make it a special “summer series.” Hopefully this summer I’ll recover a little more of my time for GateWorld and be able to bring it back! Glad to know people enjoy ’em.
Let me start off by saying that I loved “Space,” and I thought the aliens were damn cool. And I appreciated that they didn’t speak English. But I remember The Powers That Be saying that the aliens would be “completely ALIEN.” To me, that means creatures that don’t have two eyes, two arms, two feet, a mouth, and a clear oral communication. What gives? (Race Car)
To be fair, we have seen that degree of “completely alien” on the show already, in the living sandstorm. But when the producers talked about wanting to do very alien aliens, unlike anything we’ve seen on previous Stargate series, I never expected them to rule out two eyes, two legs, and a mouth. I think the point of the statements was that they would not be more displaced humans or actors with a little forehead prosthetics — not that they wouldn’t be bipedal.
The “Space” aliens are fantastic, but for my money they don’t even need to be that alien (and thus expensive). I loved heavy prosthetic species like the Serrakin and the Unas, which could be played by actors in costume and be on screen a whole lot more. I think that if we’re going to continue to do alien encounters on SGU, that sort of species is inevitably necessary. You can’t give a CG character sufficient screen time or emotive presence on a television budget to have him or her be a truly fleshed-out character who is part of the drama, rather than a walking prop.
In an earlier Stargate Universe episode we saw a control chair with an interface device. Dr. Rush believed this to be similar to that of Atlantis. In Atlantis, the Ancients instituted the gene recognition technology to interface with the controls. What do you think was the purpose of the device that tried to burrow into that scientist’s temple in the Destiny‘s control chair? Could it be an Ancient version of a neural interface? Do you also think that we will see more focus on the Ancient mythology as we seen in Stargate Atlantis? (Michael A.)
We saw more of Destiny’s control interface chair in last week’s episode, “Human.” At first I thought it was an earlier prototype of Atlantis’s control chair — but while it may be related technology, in fact it’s the prototype for the “face-hugger” library of knowledge that nearly killed Jack O’Neill (twice — see “The Fifth Race” and “Lost City”). So it seems that its purpose is more about accessing information (such as the ship’s control access code) than flying the ship, as on Atlantis.
I expect that we’ll learn plenty about the Ancients and their history in the new series, but a very different part of that history than Atlantis gave us. Atlantis focused on the Pegasus Galaxy, which seems to be millions upon millions of years after the launch of Destiny. Destiny and the ships that went ahead of it to seed Stargates and send back sensor data, would have been a massive undertaking for the Ancients. Why did they never follow up on it? Why did they (apparently) never gate to Destiny — when the very Stargates themselves have a ninth chevron always pointing to it?
I haven’t seen any mention on the site about Teryl Rothery having a recurring role on Caprica as the character Evelyn, a friend and colleague of the Joseph Adama character. She’s appeared in the episodes “Reins of a Waterfall,” “Know Thy Enemy,” and “End of the Line.” I bet we’ll see more of her character when the rest of the season airs in the fall. You can watch “Know thy Enemy” and “End of the Line” on Hulu. (Heather)
Thanks, Heather! You heard her, everyone … definitely check out Teryl (SG-1’s Dr. Fraiser) on Caprica if you (like me) haven’t seen those episodes yet. I did spot her recently on Smallville while playing catch-up on past episodes, but I think that was from last season.
This is also a good place to give a shout-out and thanks to Morjana Coffman, who assembles our new DVR Alerts! column. Every Monday you can check in and see where familiar Stargate faces will be appearing on television for the week.
Why has Ben Browder yet to make a cameo on SGU? Do you guys know whether or not he will in the future? Along with that if, praying to the gods, the next SG-1 movie is made do you believe they’d kill off a main character for good — since we obviously won’t be having many more movies with the SG-1 characters? And do you think that it would be Browder’s character, in order to bring O’Neill full circle and back into the team (being that the producers said it was an O’Neill-centered story)? (Patrick)
Lots of questions, Patrick! Thanks for that. The goal with launching SGU does seem to have been to use those most familiar faces and most iconic characters from Stargate history to tie in the new show with what has come before. It would (pleasantly) surprise me if characters like Mitchell, Vala, or Jonas ever appeared on the series. It would be a nice nod to those who loved SG-1 later years in particular, but I think the writers would want to find a really good reason for having Mitchell in a story, rather than starting with “Hey, we outta have Ben on the show.”
As for Stargate: Revolution, you may be on to something there. I wouldn’t assume that it’s going to be the last SG-1 movie ever, but time is certainly flying by and the cast are gaining greater distance from Stargate. I don’t know if you can ever kill off characters like Jack O’Neill and Daniel Jackson — but hey, that’s what they said about Kirk and Spock, and that’s what helped make The Wrath of Khan such a moving film. Mitchell, though? When you’re only making one movie every few years and you don’t know for sure if more will happen, I don’t think the character is quite so sacrosanct.
(SGU Spoiler Warning!) I get the feeling from the trailer for the second half of the first season of SGU that Telford will successfully gate into the Destiny but die soon afterwards, maybe killed by a member of the Lucian Alliance. Any thoughts on that? (Michael S.)
Ol’ Telford certainly isn’t looking too good in that shot from the trailer, which appears to take place on board Destiny. It has the same awesome vibe as Daniel’s line “They’re coming!” at the end of SG-1 Season One’s “There But For the Grace of God.” My first question is whether it’s really Telford, or whether it is his mind in someone else’s body (via communication stone).
I’d love to see Telford make it onto the ship and then survive, to be honest. Colonel Young is really the obvious leader of the refugee crew because of his rank; Telford holds the same rank and was supposed to be in charge of that mission. When he’s come on board in the past (e.g. “Earth”) his authority is always suspect because he’s not really there, in the flesh. But maybe it’s too much to hope for. I’d bet real money that someone is going to be killed off before the credits roll on Season One, and as a prominent face who isn’t a member of the main cast …
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