By Joseph Mallozzi
Writer and Executive Producer, Stargate SG-1
Late last year, Damian Kindler pitched out a story in which Carter is stranded off-world, struggling to survive, while the rest of the team mounts a desperate bid to rescue her. As we began to prepare for Season Eight, it was felt that we had already done a fair amount of Sam stories and so, to redress the balance, "Get Carter" became "English Patient Daniel." The writing department broke the story in November and, over the hiatus, Damian wrote what turned out to be, in my opinion, his best script for SG-1 (for his best Atlantis script, check out an episode called "Poisoning the Well").
Okay, but why do they all speak English? The short answer is: Because if they didn't, it would make for some pretty dull episodes. But, in my mind, the Ancients foresaw the problems associated with gate travel and ensured straight-forward communication between worlds by building a default into the gate system itself. Every time a traveler goes through the gate, he or she acquires "conversion nanites" that allow them to understand and be understood wherever they go. Of course, certain symbiote-related physiologies may resist the process ...
All this to say that you have to walk that fine line. In "Beneath the Surface," for instance, a scene called for the workers to be hammering. Despite my writing partner Paul's assertion that "a hammer is a hammer" regardless of where you are in the universe, props came up with an "alien hammer" for the episode. Similarly, we had to come up with "alien fruit" for a later scene (remember those red spray-painted kiwis we referred to in "Wormhole X-Treme!"?). Some things, like colloquial-speak, seem too bizarre for an alien world context and are nixed at the script stage while other borderline objects like ties or, in the case of this episode, a hat rack, get by.
Fair enough, but I must draw the line at the smoke detector clearly present when Daniel tries to convince Kane to mount an attack on the bunker. Of course, it isn't a smoke detector at all. It's an alien air purifier.
Hand signals and love ... truly the universal languages.