~ + ~ Q&A With Joe Mallozzi ~ + ~
In January 2002, Stargate SG-1 writer Joe Mallozzi agreed to answer questions from members of the SG1HC mailing list. Here they are, along with his responses. Please note that this contains major spoilers for season 5 and beyond.
1) My question relates to tag scenes. There was considerable uproar over Scorched Earth because no effort was made to show Jack and Daniel dealing with Jack's decision to blow up the ship. Similarly, many viewers were upset with the end of 2001, in which none of the team showed any concern for Carter when she was lying injured on the ramp. I'm wondering why Stargate so rarely gives us closure on emotional issues. A quick tag scene, such as the ones in Shades of Grey and Maternal Instinct, can make all the difference because it shows the bond among the team members, yet these scenes have been increasingly rare in seasons 4 and 5 and have diminished my enjoyment of the show. Is this aspect of the show no longer important?
A: As a rule, we only use tags when the story necessitates it (a la Shades of Grey and Maternal Instinct). In many cases, the tag would be superfluous, merely an extra scene that would take up screen time that could be better served within the body of the story proper. SE and 2001 are different instances. In the case of SE, the first draft did include an exchange between Jack and Daniel that brought some closure to their disagreement (anyone who says otherwise is mistaken). Why didnt the fans see it? Well, there are many reasons why a line or an exchange doesnt make it to the final cut: 1) The line is re-written and/or dropped (not the case here) 2) The director opts not to shoot it, 3) The actor chooses not to say it (shocking, no?), 4) It is cut at the editing stage. In the case of 2001, it wasnt a script issue either (I can assure you, the script did not read: "The rest of SG-1 ignore Carter lying on the ramp").
2) As a member of the young male demographic that advertisers like to target, do you feel your writing is geared to that audience, or do you write for a wider audience that includes women and other age groups? If so, how?
A: Our writing is not geared toward a specific demographic. The fact is, while, for instance, Star Treks core audience is males 14-35, our core audience appears to be women 30-45.
3) How did you get your job, that is how did you originally happen to make a pitch or submit a script to the show before becoming a staff writer?
A: Our agent contacted the show and asked if we could pitch. He was told to send in writing samples. After they read our writing samples, we were invited to pitch. We sent in five pitches. They liked three and gave us the go-ahead to write an outline. We did. They asked us to revise it. We did. They told us to write a first draft. We did. They liked it enough to bring us on staff.
4) Since Jack and Daniel were the main characters and their friendship was the central relationship from the movie through the first few seasons of the show, and was surely instrumental in making it a hit and developing a fan base, why was it decided (or was it decided) to shift focus away from that despite the well-known saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it?
A: There was no decision to shift focus away from any relationship. The stories will necessarily dictate what kind of relationship we will focus on in a given episode.
5) In an interview on Showtime at the beginning of season 2, Amanda Tapping said regarding a romance between Jack and Sam that she'd talked about it with RDA and with the producers and they felt it would really ruin the dynamic of the show and they didn't want to go there. Why was that decision reversed?
A: I cant say if a decision was reversed or not. I wasnt around for Amandas initial conversation with RDA and the producers.
6) Hi, I'd like to know how much input/involvement writers have during the actual filming/production of an SG episode?
A: Once the script leaves a writers hands, its in the more-than-capable hands of the director and actors.
7) What prompted the writers to kill off Daniel, instead of devising a more intricate plot in which he could leave the team alive (perhaps gravely injured, but cured afterwards, and then decide he wants to do more scientific pursuits)?
A: The manner of his departure leaves the door open for his possible return. It also opens up potential storylines directly related to threads that have been running through the show for the past three seasons.
8) Given that a lot of fans watch the show for the team and the team interactions (when they work together, each with a pivotal part within the episode), why have we not seen many of these? 48 Hours was a team episode, like Solitudes, but Fail Safe was a Sam-centered episode where the other three members of the team were just standing not doing much of anything.
A: We try to do a mix of stories, team and character-centered. What does and does not constitute a team episode seems to be quite subjective. For instance, Ive seen fans proclaim Fail Safe a team episode and insist 48 Hours was not because the team was split up.
9) Why are they not writing for the characters specifically, i.e. why are the characters being underutilized within the episodes? For instance, Teal'c is a former First Prime, Daniel is an archaeologist, Jack is former Covert Ops. We rarely see these aspects of the characters played out on the screen. Sam does get to spout technobabble in every episode. The only time Jack has been able to utilize his former skills is when he's teamed up with Maybourne to stop the now very boring NID conspiracy plotline (Chain Reaction).
A: Our characters will not get the opportunity to showcase their singular talents in every episode. Tealcs history as a former First Prime comes into play in episodes like Enemies, Threshold, and Warrior. Daniels background comes into play in episodes like The Tomb, Beast of Burden, and Summit/Last Stand. Jacks special ops training is highlighted in episodes like Fifth Man and Desperate Measures.
10) Why do the writers not use already established truths from previous episodes?
A: Could you be more specific?
11) Once a "science" is established in a previous episode, how is it possible to do the complete opposite of that "science" in later episodes? For instance, in Summit, it was stated that when a Goa'uld dies, it releases a poison that kills the host. If that were so, then why aren't Jack and Sam dead? They both had symbiotes die inside them.
A: When a symbiote dies, it releases a toxin, killing the host. It is a final, willful act of destruction. In Sams case, the symbiote made a conscious decision to save Sam by not releasing the toxin. In Jacks case, the symbiote was frozen so it could not release the toxin.
12) Why would the writers not adjust their storylines once they knew that one actor was leaving, another actor was only signing for 2/3's of the shows, and many of the fans weren't happy with current plotlines?
A: By the time MS chose to leave, we did adjust the storyline by writing Meridian.
13) Why did the production team and writers keep Michael Shanks' leaving the show a secret while the fans were campaigning for a 6th season -- the sixth season that we were campaigning for included the character Daniel Jackson.
A: MS didnt decide to leave the show until after the pick-up. No one was keeping anything secret from you.
14) I read that Daniel's storyline basically ended when Sha'uri died. I find that difficult to understand. The "reason" he joined the SGC in the first place was to find his wife and brother-in-law, but that wasn't the only reason. Daniel had not only discovered that all of his theories were correct and did in two weeks what the government couldn't do in 70 years, he is the one responsible for forming most of the alliances with other cultures, keeping the military from running roughshod over less advanced cultures and giving the SGC an air of humanity it wouldn't have otherwise. Given all the planets they can travel to, all the new discoveries that can be made, Daniel's storyline is just starting. How can the writers possibly run out of stories for him?
A: Where did you read that "Daniels storyline basically ended when Shauri died"? True, Daniels search for Shauri was an emotional driving force through most of the first three seasons, but it clearly wasnt the only thing keeping him on the team. As for running out of stories for him, Beast of Burden, Summit/Last Stand, Menace (and even Meridian) are all Daniel stories.
15) Have you seen all the episodes of Stargate?
A: Prior to our joining the staff, we screened the first 3 seasons.
16) I just watched "Summit" again, and saw something I've had a question about for years, and no one has been able to answer, so I thought I'd try again! I apologize in advance, as it is an inane question...
In the prolog of "Summit" as the SG teams leave, we see in the background two SGC personnel standing at two of those machines that stand up against the wall between the control room and the gate room. What are those machines? Are they ATMs? High tech Pachinko games? Every now and then you see someone at one of those machines, but we never know what they do.
A: Thats a question for the production design team. Ill pass it along and get back to you.
17) First of all, I want to take the time to thank everyone (but especially Robert C. Cooper) for the recent episode, "48 Hours." I've wondered ever since first season's, "Solitudes", if the series was ever going to follow up on Daniel's line about "if Sam and Jack were lost in the wormhole, then they're gone." It reminded me of Dr. McCoy's (Star Trek) line to Spock in "The Gamesters of Triskelion" about how long a person's pattern could retain integrity in the transporter buffer, and it took over 20 years for that question to be answered in Star Trek: The Next Generation's, "Relics." I didn't want to wait 20 years for another answer!
Are we (meaning the Royal We of the SGC and SG-1, of course) going to follow up on some hanging plot lines left over from previous seasons in season six, so that when the series ends, we can all sleep soundly at night again?
For example: 1) From "Show and Tell" - will we find out what happened to Charlie? Was the DNA that the Mother Reetou used to create Charlie - Jack's DNA? After all, she did like Jack! 2) What happened to Loran from "The Light"? 3) What happened to Nyan from "New Ground"?
Thank you! Take care and best wishes to all for a joyous holiday season.
A: We will try to tie up as many loose ends as possible between now and the end of season 6.
18) One of the things that attracted me to SG-1 was the concept of meeting new cultures and learning more about our differences. Why has the show moved away from the "meet and greet" format it started with to the fairly routine government conspiracy angle we see all over TV?
A: Check out my post on Starguide for the answer to first part of your question (the short answer: we decided to pursue other storylines in addition to the meet-and-greet stories). I dont see how you can say the conspiracy angle has taken over the show. It was a B plot in Fifth Man. Where else does it figure prominently in season 5?
19) Jack and Sam, Daniel and Sha're/some Gou'lded love he has to be searching for, Teal'c and well, poor Teal'c's personal life is pretty much ignored anyway. Why do you feel the need to "pair off" characters in romantic relationships? Why can't they just be professionals and friends who enjoy working together and doing their jobs?
A: Actually, no one was paired off. Daniel never was reunited with Sarah, and Jack and Sam cant be together because of military regulations.
20) Are there any new writers coming on board for season 6?
21) Whatever happened to Kathryn Powers?
A: Kathryn has been busy on other projects.
22) Are there any plans to bring back Jonathan Glassner in a more "hands on" capacity, now that Invisible Man has been cancelled?
A: No. Jonathan is off doing his own thing.
23) How many more times is Sam going to save the world this season? ;-)
A: Depends. What was the last episode you saw?
24) What influences your decision to actively incorporate a character in a give ep? The needs of the story? Your interest in the character? How you get along with the actor? The needs of the story arc/season?
A: We try to incorporate all of our characters in a given episode. However, it is the needs of the story that will dictate which character(s) will receive central focus.
25) When starting with a new series how important do you think it is to familiarize yourself with the existing episodes? What sort of things do you look for in them? How important is this relative to whatever new ideas you have for the characters?
A: If previous episodes contain information that would be useful to a story we are working on, we will re-watch it and incorporate whatever elements need to be included.
26) What do you aspect of a show's writing do you think affects the general viewing population? Die hard fans?
A: Im sorry. I dont understand the question.
27) What do you find most difficult to write? How do you overcome that difficulty?
A: See below.
28) Which character is hardest for you to write? Why?
A: Sam is always very tricky to write for because of her scientific background. She has to come up with the scientific explanation for otherworldly events that simply do not exist. The challenge is to come up with theory that not only explains a given scifi situation, but also sounds completely plausible.
29) What are the elements you see as most important in a good episode of Stargate? Why?
A: For lack of a better word, "watchability". The story has to grab you from the get-go and keep you interested through the full hour.
30) To whom do you as a writer owe the most allegiance - the story, the producers/network, the actors, the characters, the fans, yourself? Where do you see the series headed? Is it one that you like? Why?
A: The entire production is interconnected. We try to write for all of the above.
Before we pitch a story, we always ask: "Whats in it for the character?" Stories that hold an emotional stake (besides "I hope I dont get killed") are, in my opinion, the most interesting. The Curse, for instance, was one of my fave episodes of season 4 because it allowed us to explore a part of Daniel that hadnt been touched upon, namely the life he left behind when he joined the Stargate program. Chain Reaction and Desperate Measures were also fun episodes in that they allowed us to explore Jack through his relationship with Maybourne. Jack may find Maybourne to be a wholly repugnant character and yet, belying this outward hatred is a grudging respect for the guy. Truth is, given their respective backgrounds, both men have more in common than Jack would surely care to admit. Cool villains and the opportunity for humor are also a plus.
31) Why have chosen to shift away from the exploration and towards conspiracy? Have you rethought this shift towards conspiracy at all in light of the events of 9/11 since there seems to have been shift in the perception of the government in the US population as a whole? Have you had any feedback on if this shift is viewed as "Americanizing" the show and if so has it been affecting how the show is perceived in foreign markets?
A: Again, I have to point out that the "conspiracy angle" hasnt figured into season 5 in as big a way as you have been led to believe. Are you referring to Earth-based stories (like Desperate Measures) which include an NID sub-plot? The NID have been figuring into stories long before season 5. As for the events of 9/11 we were shooting episode 20 when the tragic events occurred.
32) In Meridian, Daniel Jackson will take highly proactive and selfless action (jump through a plate glass window into an area where no man who wants to live should go), in an effort to save the population of an alien planet from disaster, sacrificing his own life in the process. He will then be presented with choosing one of two options: dying from radiation poisoning, or ascending to a different plane of existence with the help of Oma DeSala.
Throughout the entire series, Daniel has been presented as a man with very strong loyalties and moral codes, who would gladly sacrifice himself for the benefit of others and in the protection of his friends and his planet (hopefully a listing of eps which support this is not necessary; if so I would happily provide it upon request).
Further, he is consistently presented as someone who not only values the safety and integrity of those of his own world, but also of other worlds. As well, he has always been presented as someone for whom acquiring new knowledge and experiencing / embracing the unknown is a priority. A true explorer in every sense of the word. >From the above it seems apparent that given the plot of Meridian being as it is, both the self-sacrificing action Daniel Jackson will take to save the planet, plus his choice of ascension over untimely death, are seemingly appropriate given the established and consistently presented characterisation of the Daniel Jackson character.
From the ep Ascension, we already know that Oma DeSala is basically out there more or less on her own (with or without Shifu is irrelevant here) and quite likely banished from her own kind -- as per Orlin -- for her activities involving helping "lesser beings" to ascend (those such activities as presented to us in Maternal Instinct, and her later protection of Shifu through facilitating his ascension). We also know, from three eps involving them, that the life forms which Oma DeSala, Shifu, and Orlin represent are very powerful beings capable of wielding great constructive and destructive energy in a variety of forms, at the drop of a hat. Even Shifu, who had not been long ascended, had great powers which were manifested in both psychic and physical form. And, with thanks to Orlin and Ascension, we are aware that these beings 'ascend' from a 'lower' or less evolved state to their higher state of being only in the presence of / with the assistance / intervention of other already ascended members, and that they can unilaterally 'descend'; at will without such presence /assistance / intervention.
32A) Brad Wright announced at Gatecon that DJ would "not be killed", and that he felt that viewers would "like" the manner in which his departure from SG1 was to be handled. He further stated that DJ was "not leaving the show, but just was leaving SG1". Do you believe that in dealing with the departure of the Daniel Jackson character in Meridian in the manner in which it is being done (as per Mr. Wright's statements as above and the plot of Meridian), that the Daniel Jackson character, while no longer on-screen, remains intact?
A: His character remains intact. Whether an ascended being or human being, he is still Daniel.
32B) Given the consistent characterisation of the DJ character as described above in the preamble to these questions (which description can be empirically supported), and given that such characterisation is what led him to take the action which makes his life forfeit in Meridian, what is your view (and if available, the view of Brad Wright and others involved in ultimate decisions on the direction and nature of the show) as to the likelihood of that character forgoing his loyalties, hard-fought for priorities, moral and ethical values, and concern for the lives of his friends and the safety of Earth, once having ascended?
A: Daniel can still maintain his loyalties, his moral and ethical values, and his concern for the lives of his friends as an ascended being.
32C) It has been established in canon that the beings represented by Oma DeSala (and, after Meridian, DJ) have the power to pretty much do as they please. To your knowledge, has there been any recognition of and / or any consideration given to the ramifications of the plotline of Meridian specifically with regards to the actual *deconstruction* of the well established Daniel Jackson character -- as hinted at in the previous question -- and are there any plans to address this in any way? Should you require clarification of this question, I shall be very pleased to re-word it upon request.
A: Some thought has been given to this, but the answer will have to wait until season 6.
32D) Has any consideration been given to exploiting the plot of Meridian and the resultant unfortunate dismemberment of the DJ character as a means of bringing Michael Shanks (not CGI floating cotton candy, but the full meal deal) back to the show as a regular cast member, as Daniel Jackson -- in the process bringing back the thousands of thoroughly alienated Daniel Jackson fans -- by using the events of Meridian as a launching point for an arc of episodes in which the DJ character can be reconstructed and Michael Shanks' need for screen time which is true to the nature and characterisation of the established Daniel Jackson character can be accomplished? I would be very pleased to elaborate should you wish.
A: No thought has been given to bringing MS back to the show as a regular member of the cast. He has opted to leave the show and we respect Michaels decision.
32E) There is a growing perception that the original premise and central foundation of Stargate SG-1 is purposefully being diluted in favour of preparation for Spin-Off Stargateland. Can you please comment on the degree to which the planned spin-off series is a determinant of the current and future direction and nature of plots and central focus for Stargate SG-1 in seasons 5 and 6?
A: The potential spin-off series does not and will not affect the show (until perhaps the last episode or two of the season.
33) Are you and/or your writing partner writing scripts including Daniel Jackson to present to Michael Shanks to get him to guest star, which he has stated he is prepared to do (and Brad Wright mentioned at Gatecon); if not, who is? 1b. If someone is writing a script, how far into the season are we talking? If someone is not, why not?
A: Weve just started writing scripts for season 6. We have discussed a possible story that would guest star Michael.
34) Although you didn't write this particular episode, I'm dying to know: Will Meridian focus on the emotional aspect of losing Daniel or rather on the introduction of the new character? If not, will future scripts deal with the emotional fallout? If its' impossible for Michael Shanks to appear due to schedule conflicts, how will the writers handle Daniel? Will he be mentioned in episodes? Gone but not forgotten?
A: The show will focus on the emotional aspect of losing Daniel as will subsequent episodes.
35) How can you justify finding derivations of relatively recent Earth civilizations (eg, in Red Sky and, in fact, Demons) when both of the Earth Stargates have been buried for at least thousands of years? The Egyptian gate was buried back when Egypt was a dominant civilization on Earth; the Antarctic gate was presumably buried no later than the last time Antarctica *didn't* have an arctic climate, which puts it in the "millions of years ago" club. Just how did the folks from Red Sky or Demons get taken from Earth?
A: Exactly why this is, what happened to the Ancients, and where the heck are the Furlings are questions well be answering in due time.
36) In a recent interview (Dreamwatch Magazine #85) you made the rather remarkable statement that "the bottom line is that there are no more original ideas in sci fi". Given that science fiction by it's very nature has probably the widest universe in which to play of any possible genre, particularly Stargate which has also been blessed with a backstory that allows the addition of ancient civilizations and mythologies to the mix, why do you feel that there is any point continuing for another season, a feature film and possibly a whole new show if all it is possible to do is to "try to make old ideas fresh for our characters"? And why do you wish to be writing in a genre that you obviously feel is all written out? Dreamwatch incidentally, featured a reader's letter refuting this claim as their prize winning letter in the next issue.
A: While Im pleased the aforementioned quote has engendered the animated discussion it has, I cant take credit for the quote. In fact, I cant take credit for anything I purportedly said in that article. Neither can my writing partner. The interviewer switched us, assuming I was Paul and he me. This is a question for him.
37) Mr. Malozzi, thank you sharing your time with us.
At Gatecon, Brad Wright and others on the production staff seemed uncertain that the movie project would be greenlighted. We've also heard that Season 6 will be written to build up to the planned movie, which in turn will lead into the second series. Are the staff still concerned that MGM might not put up the movie money? If the movie can't be worked out, will you conclude the series in another way, leave the series with the same ending you would have if there would have been a movie, or do a direct lead in to the second series (if that is approved)?
A: As far as I know, a movie is still in the cards. In the event we cant do a movie, then well wrap up SG-1 at the end of season 6.
38) Do you think interacting with the online fandom has helped or hurt your perception of the show? In what ways?
A: I enjoy coming online and checking out fan reaction, positive or negative. Of late, the fan has been more animated and that was to be expected what with Michaels departure. On occasion, I do come across the odd rude individual. In cases like these, I simply note their names and skip their subsequent posts. Overall, however, I still find it fun to interact with the fans.
39) What are your favorite moments/episodes in the show as a whole (all five seasons)? Why?
A: In no particular order
40) Do the online comments/critiques bother you? Do you expect them as a writer of a public work or do the comments spur you to in any way change what you do?
A: If I was bothered by the comments/critiques, I wouldnt bother coming online. I appreciate hearing from the fans, so long as they are respectful. Again, if they are rude, I simply ignore their subsequent posts.
41) Why does Stargate no longer have an active PR person available to handle so many of the questions now being directed to you because you are somewhat available? If there is such a person, where is he? Ive been trying to track him down for months.
A: Kim Cowan is our publicist.
42) Is there a writers bible for Stargate SG1?
A: Yes, there is. And, believe it or not, its even longer than the actual Bible.
43) With only one season left to go for our four main characters how would you like to see them all at the end of season six, character wise? This doesn't necessarily mean how they will actually end up, but what you as a writer would like to do with them."
A: How would I like to see them? Well, if it was up to me, Id be tempted to end things much the way the producers of Cheers ended their run: in the knowledge that our characters will continue to do the things weve grown to love them for. If I was told to "wrap things up", Id like to see Bratac pass on the mantel of leadership to Tealc. The Goauld finally defeated, Tealc will return to a free Chulak a hero. I wouldnt want to have either Jack or Sam leave the military but, if Jack decided to retire Id certainly like to see him and Sam living happily everafter. Daniel must make the ultimate sacrifice to save Sarah. Taking a page from Orlins book, he DE-scends, assuming human form. He and Sarah join Carter (the new team leader, while Jack is off fishing with the kids) to continue their off-world explorations.