FEATURE ARTICLES

WHEN THE MAGIC HAPPENS

An Interview with Stargate's Director, Martin Wood


Martin Wood How'd they do that? It's one of the first questions that come to mind when watching an episode directed by Martin Wood. Creative camera angles, massive explosions, flawless transitions, they all contribute to a sense of wonder. Twice he has refrigerated a set to simulate the Antarctic, in Solitudes and Frozen. Twice he has turned the set on end to simulate altered laws of gravity, in A Matter of Time and Abyss. Yet throughout alternate realities and alien creatures, he ensures that the intimate character moments of a story remain in focus. Clearly, this is a man who loves a challenge.

"I like really difficult scripts," he declares. "I much prefer those. This year, in season seven, I've had a couple of fairly easy scripts to do, and I find myself really having to amp myself up for them. It's a good story, but still, it's not the kind of thing that I would normally do. When I was handed Revisions, what I ended up doing was taking a direction that the script didn't have it in, which was, I made it creepy. It sort of made your skin crawl a little bit when you went, 'What the hell is going on here?' It wasn't, 'Oh, we're on a planet where there's happy shining people, a Red Sky kind of feeling, where these people don't understand, and we have to convince them that this is real.' I wanted it to be a little weirder for SG-1. So when SG-1 got there, there was all this unease that they had. Certainly when Joel added the music to it, he went creepy on it. And that's the sense I got in Revisions. Revisions is a nice stand-alone story. Fallout is a nice stand-alone story. They weren't as challenging to me, after 40 shows, to find something new, except for finding a thread to go to. But something like Changeling, when it gets handed to you, or Abyss, when it gets handed to you, even Frozen, and especially when you get into the big two parters like Fallen and Homecoming, and Redemption, and even Full Circle, when you get into those scripts, there's a particular sound it makes when it hits your desk. And you go, now that's a tough script!" he laughs. "I like to hear that sound, when you know you're going to have to work."

The script for The Changeling had that special sound to it, especially because of the many transitions from scene to scene that were not clearly detailed in the script itself. "It was just a director's dream to do Changeling, working from one dream to another dream. You don't get to do that very often. You always have to go into reality eventually. But in this one you got to do dream-to-dream, which sort of opened the doors for anything to happen. Brad Wright came in here and he said, 'Oh, you're going to love this!' He had written two of the really good [transitions]. He had written the one with the curtain coming across and coming back, and he had written one other one. And he had light changes in the script. It said, 'Light goes down. Light comes back up.' I said, you know what? I'm going to really make these changes a big deal in here. 'Changeling…Changes,' you know? I don't want the audience to know where they are at any point until they figure out there's only one bit of reality and it happens way down in the script where we finally meet Bra'tac and Teal'c on the planet. You never knew when you were going to head into a transition, and I think that the light effect tips its hand. So, right from the very beginning where we sort of shadowed Teal'c, when he comes up, you don't really know you're not in the SGC. He goes into a bathroom. You don't really know you're not in the SGC unless you're really watching him, he stands up, and he doesn't have a tattoo on. That caught some people by surprise. When he's talking to Jonas, it's not really Teal'c's voice that's happening.

"That was part of the fun of Changeling, too, is just reminding the actors, 'Hey, how'd Teal'c get in here?' And then with Tony [Amendola], with Bra'tac, 'Hey, how did Bra'tac get in here? This is Brae.' They're so used to doing those characters with those characters around them. When he's talking to Chris, he's talking to Teal'c. And so, what I just kept prodding them with was, 'It's Brae and T. It's not Bra'tac and Teal'c.' And their voices change immediately, and the mannerisms change too, which was a lot of fun. I mean, they had done their homework, but we were switching scenes back and forth all the time. Especially Chris, he was running from one spot into another, and he would have to come into the scene as Teal'c, and then immediately change. Like when he walks into the hospital, he's Teal'c until you turn around and look at him and he realizes it's not Apophis, it's a room full of old men, and then in that same room he changes from Teal'c to T. He changes worlds. Certainly giving Chris a different character on Stargate is interesting too because he's surrounded by the same crew, so he automatically walks on set and as he delivers his lines, delivers them as Teal'c. I'm like, 'Hey! There's no Teal'c in this scene!' And lots of times we'd shoot the back end of the transition before we shot the front end of it. That was part of the Rubik's Cube. It would be, okay, how long is it going to take us to put his tattoo on? This much time. How long is it going to take to take it off? Less time. So we start with it on, and then we'll take it off. One of the big things we had at the beginning of Changeling was, Chris didn't want to use any makeup. And I said, Chris, you're dark. Teal'c's not. The audience doesn't know dark Chris Judge on camera. They know Teal'c. So if you're not gold with a little bit of eye makeup, then they don't know who they're looking at. And why would Teal'c change his color in his mind to a person we've never seen before? Why would he go to suddenly an African American man rather than a gold Jaffa? We actually had an argument about it because he said, this is what I had in mind. And I said it doesn't matter. We'll go down on the gold, and we'll go down on the eye makeup, but you have to be consistent all the way through. Again, I didn't want the audience to know. I didn't want to tip their hand every time you see, 'Oh, dark man, ah, we're in T-ville.' I wanted to be able to cut from his face in the firehouse world, to his face in the dream SGC and not know where we were until we pulled out and saw tattoo, or no tattoo. That was the big difference, no tattoo and no pouch. That was the fun of Changeling. We had a ball doing Changeling!"

The Changeling

Abyss

Abyss was another enormous challenge that took a great deal of preplanning. "Actually, I had sat in on a meeting with Brad [Wright] before we even started the season, and he said I've got this anti-gravity one," Martin recalls. "So, very early on, Bridget [McGuire, Production Designer] and Brad and I were working on what was going to happen with the sets. I said we'll need three of these rather than two, because we were originally going to make two sets. I said we need the one which will make the transition for me too, which is a huge expense, and we only used it a couple of times, but it really added to it, the feeling that the gravity was starting to work in the gimbaled set. And that one was another one of those jigsaw puzzles that you really spend a lot of time just sort of standing and rubbing your temples, looking at it going, how in the hell am I going to do this?" Conquering gravity wasn't his only challenge, as Richard Dean Anderson would need to take time off in the middle of the shooting schedule to participate in one of his environmental trips. "And then that's when all of the other stuff gets added in," he continues. "Like, 'By the way, did you know that you only have Rick for four days out of the seven in this thing?' And I went, 'What??' And they go, 'Oh yeah, he's going to Peru!' So I have to shoot everything with Rick, and it's a story about Rick. This was before this year's challenge of three days, so it wasn't written like that. It was written that he was in everything. So, between Alex Pappas, the 1st AD, and I, we had to figure out what set we're going to be in for each one, because every scene had three different sets in it. So we shoot Ba'al this direction with a double here because Rick's not going to be here when we have all those reverses. We put Bill Nikolai, his photo double, on the wall, and we shoot all that stuff. Then we have to shoot Rick from the top down so that his face falls the way gravity would make it fall. And then we've got to get him into that room, so we're going to put him in the gimbaled set, which is going to drop him into the room. And it was very funny. We actually sat there looking at it going, this is actually a much longer show than we normally shoot, because one scene, three sets!

"I loved Abyss. I loved the acting in Abyss with Michael and Richard together. It was some of the best stuff that the two of them have done since season one. There was actual drama written for them to deal with, and both of them rose to the occasion. There were two guys standing in a space the size of a very tiny bathroom, with cameras, and lights, and hot, and they couldn't get out of this place, because we had to put the walls in to keep them in, so they just sat there. And I think the confinement itself added to what was going on inside them. They built it up, and there were some great scenes in there. But getting to that point, where we actually got to sit down and film it, was the hard part. Once we sat down and filmed it, we put the plan into action that we had." It wasn't all smooth sailing, however, and the gentle hand of the director was at work drawing out the magnificent performances of the two actors. "Want to know a secret?" Martin asks. "It was late on a Friday night when we finally got to the place where we weren't shooting from the top down, and we weren't shooting from the gimbaled set where he drops into it, and we weren't getting Daniel into the set. We had Daniel in the set, and they started acting. And it was awful. It was terrible, and they both knew it. And I was sitting there outside the set, and I walked in and I said, okay, let's try this, and we tried something else. And Michael was struggling for a line, and then Rick would struggle for a line, and we couldn't get through a take. I shot the first scene, and I said, this is awful. Let's go home. And so we all took the weekend off. We just finished the night with that 'Let's go home.' We came back on Monday morning, and it was great! It had been so technical, and when you do that to actors, when you force them into these technical positions all the time it's like, 'you've got to move over here, you've got to do this because otherwise I'm not going to see you walk down into the set, or gravity is this way, you can't be over there,' that kind of stuff. When you're that technical an actor, you're thinking about moving from this mark to this mark, and not being able to go to this wall because of this, and you can't look here because this is what's going on, you've got to look up to be able to see somebody who's sitting there looking at you, and she's sitting in the corner. When you're that technical, the actors have to physically sit down and think, I have to concentrate on my lines right now. Even though they've done all their homework getting to you that day, it kind of takes some of the spark out of it. So the best thing I did on that show was to send them home that Friday night, and bring them back. And we sat down, and that's when the magic happened, on Monday."

Solitudes is another favorite of the director, and for similar reasons. "It's the kind of show I like to do, where I actually have two people in a situation that they can't get out of. And then it's the interaction. I love doing that kind of stuff! Believe it or not, even though I blow things up all the time, and have these big scope shows, I love to do those because it's very challenging for a director. How do you make this interesting, visually interesting? Because the script is generally interesting at that point. And how do you keep the consistency in there when you're watching a story? And Solitudes, of course, was my first show. It was the very first Stargate I ever directed, and it's still one of my favorites."

Because of the technical nature of many of Martin's episodes, he has developed a reputation as a gifted technical director. However, he offers an assessment of his style, and that of fellow director Peter DeLuise. "It's interesting, if you do the very general broad strokes kind of thing, the tendency is to look at Peter DeLuise and I and say Peter's an actor's director, Martin's a technical director. I think both of us have been trying to break that mold. Peter is a very very fine technical director. He knows what he wants to do. He visualizes things way on beyond what I can do sometimes. The technical part came easy to me. But I started out as an actor too, believe it or not. I was an actor when I was young. When I was a teenager, I was doing some fairly big productions that I didn't have the chops for, and was doing it for the wrong reasons. I kind of grew up in television. My dad had his own show on CBC, and so I spent a lot of time hanging out in the television stations, and learned how to shoot and learned how to edit, and did all that kind of stuff when I was very young. And I found that when I came to the precipice of, if I'm going to act, I'm going to dive off of here as an actor, and if I'm not going to act, I have to dive off behind the camera, I decided at that point that if I dove off as an actor I'd hit the ground pretty hard. And if I dove off as a technical person, I could find some wings there. And I feel like I made the right decision. I've never looked back on it. But I do still have some fairly formal training in acting that allows me to go up to the actors and say, I'd like to be able to do this, and this is what I'm seeing.

"The best thing that I can say about a director, for people who don't know what directors do, is the director has the big eyeball that sits over top of the whole show. And, more than producers, more than writers, more than cameramen, more than actors, this big eyeball looks down on top of the whole show, and is able to see a continuity that most people can't see at any time, except an editor when it gets into an editor's machine. So what I'm really doing is trying to give that editor the story that everybody had planned on being told, that the writers planned on, the producers planned on, the actors planned on for their performances, and the director planned on. The director's job is to bring all that stuff together and to make sure that it's the best possible storytelling that can happen, to go into the editor's editor, and have them work through it and go, okay, this cuts like butter, and comes together like that. And so when people talk about the differences between Peter's directing and mine, we have very very distinct styles. When I watch Peter's shows I always go, man, he can really shoot a show. And Peter's occasioned by and said, you know, that was a great show. I really like watching Peter's shows, and I hope he likes watching mine. I actually saw him throwing up after one of them, but I think it was morning sickness," he jokes as an aside. "But he and I have sort of been fighting the stereotype of "actor's director"/"technical director." Peter has a ball blowing stuff up. I mean, he did a two parter called Evolution this year, where he's got tons of stuff happening all over the place. And it's about time he got one of the big shows like that to do. A lot of times, Peter does his own shows, and when he writes them, he writes them for himself to be able to do that. I don't. I just sort of manipulate the writing to be that way," he laughs. "When I finally get a script on my desk I go, hey, can we do this? I'd really like to try this, I want to do this, and then eventually it sort of gets to that point. But the difference in the styles is just in the way that Peter sees through a camera and I see through a camera. That's really the difference. The pacing isn't that much different. It's still Stargate. There tends to be a real continuity to that, all the way through. Because we're both uberdirectors," he adds with a grin.

Martin Wood

Martin Wood

What kind of challenge, then, does an uberdirector find the most daunting? Without hesitation, he responds, "It's easy for me to say. Briefing room scenes! Blocking a briefing room scene. You have to have a certain zen to it that Peter has that I don't have. Peter says, okay, I know it's about the words, I'm going to shoot it like it's going to be about the words. But to me it's like, I've got to figure out a new way to get into the briefing room! There's probably a thousand briefing room scenes that we've both shot between us, and how different can you make one thing where you've got people sitting down every time? I just came up with one for Fallout. I did a new one that I've never tried before, where I'm actually between the two halves of the desk with the camera. It's on a special contraption that drops it down. I start the scene down here, come up like this, and then I pull back. Meanwhile, they're pushing the table together. So it actually pulls back over a full table, so that the shot is technically impossible. But I did the same thing in Fallen this year, at the beginning of the year, where we follow Hammond and Jonas and Carter into the briefing room, we go through the middle of the table with the camera, around the outside, and we end looking back at a table. Meanwhile, the table's been pushed together by Evil Kenny, [the crew's nickname for Kenny Gibbs], the props guy, and he's dressed in uniform, so you see him at the back of the briefing room. Somebody asked me, what's that guy doing back there? Well, he was pushing the table together as the camera went through it! But it's that kind of thing that I like to do because for me, it's not just another briefing room scene. It's a challenge! So, briefing room scenes, control rooms, and coming through the gate, are all challenging scenes to do because you've done them a million times."

Martin's early experience was quite removed from science fiction television serials. "I was trained as an actor to begin with. When I turned 18, I had spent a lot of time hanging around CBC studios, and had learned to shoot film, had learned to shoot videotape, had learned to edit at that point, went to school, to get into production, and started right away working for a television station shooting news. I shot news for a year, and then got a call from a television station out west saying, hey, would you like to come out and work out here? I said yep, went out there, and started right away into assistant directing, live action multi-camera, news, sports, things like that. From there, I got an offer to teach, and I taught school for 11 years. I taught film and television at the Institute of Technology in Edmonton, for 11 years. And in the between time, I would either spend the summers traveling and shooting documentaries, or working on established shows like Booker, and Jake and the Kid, and The Commish. I was the 1st AD on The Commish for a couple years. So I'd do that in the summertime for three months, then I'd go back and I'd teach, and I'd come back and I'd work putting documentaries together, and things like that. I have 8 or 9 documentaries that I've done. Then I was given a break by John Smith and Kim LeMasters, who used to head up CBS. They were doing a show called Two, and they said we're going to give you a shot at directing. And I haven't stopped! Which I love. I love directing. That's what I always wanted to do. When I decided to go into production and not act, I thought, if I can't be an astronaut, which is what I wanted to be my whole life, I'm going to do something where I get to push a lot of buttons and goof around with machinery and stuff like this. But you know what? I want control over it. So I figured, okay, I have to be a director!"

He continues to make documentaries, and finds the change of medium refreshing. "The documentaries that I've done start as a piece of paper in front of me that's blank. You've got tabula rasa happening right there. And what you're going to end up with is a lot of stuff that is from your own brain and your own hand. It's a completely different challenge than doing what I'm doing here. It's all about shooting and editing and finding those moments. Depending on what the subject matter is, there's so much stuff that comes in, and you sit there in the edit suite, and put it together. There's not as much prep, necessarily, as there is in this. It's more research beforehand, and then going to shoot it. We're doing the life and times of Alex Trebeck right now, a biography of Alex Trebeck. And it's great. You sit down and you read about Alex Trebeck, you know everything there is to know about him, and eventually it will be turned into a TV show. When you direct something like [Stargate], you have to sit down with a script that somebody else gives you, and then try and fit the pieces together inside that. And there's a huge challenge for all of that. Whenever you do episodic television, there's the green monster sitting behind you breathing down your neck all the time. And you hear it, tick tock, tick tock, all the time. There's not an episodic director on Earth that doesn't have a big watch, because you have to keep looking at it. You have this much time to get this show done. And, believe it or not, it has to fit into this much time, so you can't do big long tracking wide shots for everything, because you can't cut that together to fit 44 minutes and 19 seconds. So, they're completely different animals. I will often say to people, I do documentaries to remind me what it's about to do grassroots stuff, which is sort of the pat answer. But actually, it's to save my soul, because your soul gets lost very easily in episodic stuff. So, I go back to documentaries to just revive myself sometimes, and then come back to episodic and have a ball on that."

Martin and Richard Dean Anderson have already talked about collaborating on the River Project that Richard has begun in partnership with Earth River, to document the great rivers of the world. "Richard and I have been talking for a couple years now about when this finally finishes, going out and doing a show that takes him around the world, and takes me around the world as we shoot ecological stuff that he's dealing with. You know, it's interesting, when you have a conversation with somebody who's talking to you about episodic television, it's hard to say to them, 'I want to do something that actually has an impact,' because, what we do has an impact. But the impact of episodic television is a very soft impact. The potential for a documentary is a devastating impact. And I think both Richard and I love to shoot images of things. The most spectacular images are the ones where someone is expressive, not a landscape, but some thing, some person in there is expressing something, that when you look at the picture, you know what that's about. I think the two of us kind of want to make documentaries where that's important, when it's not acted. And I like that. I like that idea. It's something that we've actually made a little bit of movement on right now. Richard's doing the rivers of the world, and he's looking at these tapes and going, 'This is such a huge project!' And I've looked at the tapes too, and said, 'You're right, it is!' When do we have time to sit down and do this? While Stargate is going, I think that we probably don't. So when it's done, it would very easily consume the next year, putting together stuff like that. The process of putting a documentary together is in the edit suite. It's sitting down, looking at this footage, and going, 'Oy! What do we do now?' and finding the story inside. Finding a story inside 170 hours worth of tape is not easy. So that's what the next challenge for us is going to be, to find that story, or to be able to tell the story of what these river trips were all about."

Meanwhile, Stargate demands his full attention. In working on the stories week after week, Martin has been known to take advantage of the internet to gauge feedback from the audience. He smiles at some of the minute details that sometimes catch the fans' attention. "I remember doing a show called In the Line of Duty," he recalls, "where I realized at the time that Chris was holding his swipe card backwards, so there was a magnetic strip on the outside of the card, not on the inside. And I thought, I'm going to let this go, only because it doesn't matter that much. It's not worth going back and doing it again. And how many people are going to notice that? I thought, a couple." Indeed, a couple people did notice, but with the speed of the internet, the tiny error came to the attention of hundreds and became a topic of discussion. "I think that one person notices it, and a hundred people say I noticed that too," he continues. "But what's funny is, I did this when I was teaching, I used to take shows that had very serious continuity errors in them, and show them to my students. This is a group of forty people who are specifically looking for those continuity errors. Often about ten errors would go by and none of them noticed it. I used to use the movie Mr. Mom because you see that Teri Garr and Martin Mull are sitting on opposite sides of a table in an airplane, and in between them is a champagne bucket. And the bottle goes flip flip flip flip flip flip, it's empty, it's full, it's got ice, it doesn't have any, all the way through the whole scene, it's flipping back and forth! And people don't see it, because they're watching the movie. There's a saying on set that I use a lot, which is if they're looking at that, I'm not doing my job. If what's important to you the 70th time you watch the show is the fact that Chris is holding his swipe card backwards, that's not the point of the show. My feeling about the internet is that I love to get the feedback. I've invited feedback, actually, from some of the fans, saying, what did you think of this show? I've invited it, because what's interesting for me is that it reminds you that there are people who are watching things that you don't think about. A swipe card is something I thought about. That's my job is to look at that kind of stuff."

As a director and storyteller, Martin respects the many viewpoints of the internet population, and acknowledges, "For every message I get that says don't block your scenes like this, I get another one that says I loved this. Honestly, it doesn't affect us as much as they think it does. You take it with a grain of salt from both sides, and you say, our concentration is to tell the story the way that we've always been telling it, and do it where we're true to ourselves. Nobody knows this show better than we do. Not the people who watch it, because the people who watch it see things that happen that they interpret, you know? In Stargate, some things happen that Robert Cooper didn't write, or Damian didn't write, that on a day I'll sit there and say, hey this would be cool! Let's do this! That's how this works. It's a very organic thing. There are a lot of people who have input into what's going on. In Into the Fire, Sam sits up and she doesn't have any clothes on, and Jack goes…" he imitates O'Neill's barely subtle look of interest. "That happened. That moment happened because when we were blocking, Rick did that, and it was funny. And Rick said, you want to leave it in? I said yeah, let's do that. Right after that, they're out in the hall, and Carter bumps up against him. Rick, not Jack, Rick reacted to that. I said keep that in, just do that. It wasn't premeditated. It wasn't something that anybody thought about putting in there. And the same thing with Michael and Rick, they joke about having this sort of odd relationship with each other. The way I block Rick and Amanda together is a huge deal right now. 'Why is Carter out front in your blocking all the time?' She's short!" he laughs. "You can't see her behind Chris! That's what it's all about. When you're actually setting up a scene, you're just thinking, 'I can't see her if she's standing behind Chris Judge!' So that's how you put it together."

In general, story elements must remain fluid, and threads and arcs are constantly changing due to any number of circumstances. Martin uses the ambiguous conclusion of the sixth season finale as an example. "After Full Circle last year, people said, if this is the end of the series, it's a terrible way to end it. Well it wasn't [the end]. And most of us felt it wasn't going to be. So when we ended it, we ended it in a way that it was soft, so we could come back. And we were pretty sure it was going to. I mean, nobody at that time really felt there's not going to be a season seven. So that's why we ended it like that. And it's never in disregard to the way the fans feel about things." However, this means that future story arcs are not set in stone, and to those fans who insist on knowing the future, Martin can only respond, "You imbue us with powers of foresight we don't have! If you ask the writers, 'What's going to happen next year on this?' there is a vague thing floating around the ether for everybody right now. We all sit in the story room and we go, what about this, and what about that, and what about this? And nothing is there yet. When Anubis first showed up, was he going to be the worst thing you ever saw? Not if he didn't work! Not if people didn't think he was good. We'd kill him off and find somebody else. Other times there's characters that you wish you didn't kill, because they worked out so well, like Sokar. Oddly enough, our Anubis character, David Palffy, is Sokar too, and who knows, he may be another bad guy too. I like working with David, and because we like working with him, we decide, let's put him in as Anubis! He was a good Sokar, and we wished we hadn't killed off Sokar. Who knew Ronny Cox [Senator Kinsey] would be back after we first saw him? Who knew that David Hewlett [Dr. McKay] would be back after we first saw him? What happens is that you put a character into these things and you go, I like that character! Tomorrow you decide, I'm changing this, I want to do this. But that's what happens in a television episodic like this. It's not planned out to the nth degree. Now, having said that, I've also worked on Jeremiah, and I know that Joe Straczynski puts novels on television. He knows what's going to happen. If you said to Joe, 'What's going to happen with this?' he knows. I think if you say that to the writers here, thankfully they don't know, because it's so liquid. It keeps people on their toes, the audience, production people, actors, everybody, and allows it to be fresh. That's how you keep the show alive. That's how you go for eight years. Make them laugh, and keep them on their toes.

He voices his disappointment, however, with the proliferation of spoilers on the internet, which takes away some of the element of surprise on which a storyteller depends. "I think it's unfortunate that it comes out like that because part of the thing about doing this kind of show is that there is a surprise in the next act that I don't want you to know about. My feeling is that if you put spoilers out on the 'net before the show is in production, a lot of stuff changes, and people are reacting in a negative way or in a positive way to stuff that doesn't even exist yet. In series work, I think that you really need to kill off some of your major characters sometimes. But if everybody knows you're killing them off, then they're pre-disappointed through five shows. And they get upset. I'd rather you didn't know it was coming up, because then when you watch it, it's like, 'Oh my God! What happened there? I can't believe they did that!' But if you go into a show, and you know this character is not going to be alive at the end of the show, that's your focus. You're not watching the story that's being presented to you."

The episode Heroes began as a single episode, and evolved into a major mid-season two parter, yet internet spoilers led to vocal reactions from fans before the script was even complete. Martin feels the completed episode will speak for itself. It was directed by Andy Mikita, and Martin states flatly, "I'll tell you something, and I'd like to go on the record. Heroes is the best show we've ever made. Andy did an amazing job of it. Saul Rubinek did an incredible job. Our ensemble cast came together in that one in a magical way that I haven't seen before. I loved watching Heroes. I watched it with Amanda Tapping. Watching anything with Amanda is ridiculous," he jokes. "You can't watch a show with Amanda because she hates everything she does, and she just can't stand anything anybody else does when they're acting with her. She's just so self critical. In this one, she knows she did a good job. We were sitting there looking at it, and it ended, and both of us looked at each other afterward and went… Wow. That's a very powerful thing. You know what is the difference in Heroes from everything else we've done? Robert Cooper sat down, and came up with a story that was a dramatic story, inside what we normally do. Inside the show that we normally do, is an oasis of drama in Heroes, and it doesn't feel like anything that we've done before. Saul came in and acted his heart out, and Don Davis, the scenes with Don Davis in Heroes are incredible. Michael's great, Chris is great, Amanda's great, and Rick's great. It's really well done. It was a beautiful way of doing what they did. When you're going to take a major character, and take them out of the show, you have to do it that way, because it's the only way you can actually deal with that. And it is wonderful. The interesting thing is when we talk about spoilers, we're talking about a very tiny group of people that are on the internet. The majority of the people that watch our show are not on the internet. I mean, when you look at the number of people across the world that watch this show, the number that are actually on the internet reading those spoilers is very very tiny. But again, it's the kind of thing that, if people were watching this show, and didn't know [about the spoilers], what's going to happen when they watch Heroes is that most of the viewers are going to sit there and go, "Oh my God! What happened there?!" He recalls similar reactions after Meridian aired. "I had no idea! I didn't see it coming! I heard that about Meridian, when it happened. And people would say, he's a major guy! And you go, yep… And that's wonderful. I like that reaction because that's the reaction that people have when they see it for the first time. What you really want, or what you really need is, 'I can't wait for the next Stargate to come out,' and 'What are they going to do this time?'"

As he speaks, the script for Lost City, the season finale, is sitting before him on his desk. It is another two parter, and definitely makes that "special" sound when it hits the desk. It is only the first day of pre-production, and the first day of shooting is still nearly two weeks away, yet already feedback based on spoilers has been pouring into the studio. "With Lost City, I'm disappointed that it's out on the 'net right now the way that it is, because I think that this is the kind of story that when you watch it, and you have in mind what the spoilers have already told you, you're forecasting. 'Oh, well, I know there's no jeopardy here to these people because this is what happens.' That's my disappointment, that everybody's out there already pre-judging the show before it's even been made. And I think that it's not necessary, because this is a good show. It's chock-a-block full. There is some really huge stuff that's going on in the show." He chooses not to add to the spoilers by elaborating, but he does add with assurance, "The one thing I would tell you about it is, it's not the end of a show, and it's not a spin-off. It's the end of a season that's going to give you a few bits and pieces. It's going to answer a lot of questions. The Ancients, Anubis, all the stuff we've been setting up, it's going to deal with that, and I think in a good way. The best thing for me to do is to tell the story as best I can, being that's what I've been doing for 45 shows. And hopefully the story comes out there and everybody goes, 'Oh, that's what that's all about!'"

As with Heroes, he is confident the episode will speak for itself. And as with Heroes, it is the way that the cast and crew come together that turns a challenge into something wonderful. "That's why this year is so fun," he smiles. "The crew is happy, so, it's fun! We have an amazing cast. Chris is happy. Amanda's happy. Rick is happy. Michael's happy. And Don is happy. These people are happy people to be working, and we laugh more than any other set I've ever been on. And I've been on a lot of sci-fi sets. Nobody laughs as much as Stargate. This is a fun show to work on. I wish that people could understand that, from our standpoint, from being in the middle of this thing, day to day, for seven years. I wish they could see what happens behind the set. It's just so much fun to do this!" And that's when the magic happens.

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Ritter, Kate. "When the Magic Happens." July 25, 2003.


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