Directing Stargate SG-1 brought plenty of fun challenges for Martin Wood, who racked up a whopping 47 episodes of the show over ten years. But Wood says that one of the toughest things he did on the show wasn’t blowing things up in a season finale, or dealing with tricky gravity in “Abyss,” or enduring freezing temperatures in “Solitudes.”
It was finding interesting ways to start those familiar briefing room scenes in episode after episode after episode.
“The thing for me about boardroom scenes was consisting trying to find another way to do a boardroom scene,” Wood said. “Because I had done hundreds of them. And there’s only so many places that you can shoot in that one room — there’s only so many ways you can look at it. And it culminated for me in one scene I did …”
In this conversation with “Dial the Gate” Wood talks about what he did to make these scenes more visually interesting … and more challenging for the crew.
“I had the carpentry crew cut the table in half and put latches on it,” Wood revealed. “The table is pulled apart and I go through the part that’s open with the camera, and then the camera turns around and goes the other way. And while that’s happening Set Dec and Props are pushing this back together and clipping it.”
We did some digging and found the scene that Martin was remembering: it’s actually in Season Seven’s “Avenger 2.0,” when Hammond, Carter, and Dr. Jay Felger enter the briefing room from the adjoining corridor. In a single shot the cameraman seems to move through center of the table and back around to the other side of the characters, showing the full table where he just walked.
Look for it in the episode around the 05:00 mark. Property master Kenny Gibbs is the airman in uniform in the background, with his back to the camera — trying to look busy after he just pushed the table back together.
There is another trick shot that made use of the split table in the episode “Fallout,” with guest star Corin Nemec returning as Jonas Quinn. After Jonas arrives and begins briefing the team at the start of the episode, the camera rises up seemingly through the middle of the table, and then slowly pulls back to reveal the full table in place (pictured above).
There are several objects on the table to help obscure the cut line. That’s at 00:34 into the episode.
It’s an incredible visual that the casual viewer might not even notice. But once you notice that there is nowhere for that camera to have come from, the ordinary briefing room scene becomes a marvel of production ingenuity.
Look closely at previous episodes and you’ll see that the table was one single piece through the first six years of the show.
“[I was] trying to always think of something fun to do in there that was different,” Wood said. “Like in ‘Upgrades,’ pushing Dan Shea off the stairs. That was another one that was more difficult than it seems, but it’s hilarious when you do it.”