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Stargate Showrunner Says Atlantis Will Shock You

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The SCI FI channel newswire service is reporting that returning series Stargate Atlantis will "surprise and shock" people when the second half of its third season debuts in a little over two weeks from now.

"The Replicator threat mounts over the course of this third season," Mallozzi said in an interview. "And there's a powerful, palpable loss in one episode in particular that I'm sure will shock the fans."

I'm very skeptical about this, if not just because of the nature of this show. Even when it was on Showtime, Stargate SG-1 never showed the slightest interest in surprising anyone about anything, much less shocking people. This is what sets Battlestar Galactica apart from the rest of the science fiction field -- it has no qualms about delving into the deeps of real human conflict and drama.

Scifi these days is more like soft action and comedy mixed together with a little smarter attitude towards life, but that's it. I have never once been moved emotionally by an episode of SG-1 or Atlantis, and as a writer, I found it really kind of limiting when writing a spec script. Take my own problem as an example of this.

I had a scene in my spec where every "puddle jumper" (think TNG shuttle craft) came flying through the Stargate to fight with a number of Wraith darts (more like fighters) in the skies above some ancient ruins that were very important to the main characters.

This would have represented a rather impressive and most importantly a useful aerial battle, something you haven't really seen yet on that show. There have been one sided fights, but nothing like this.

At one point, one puddle jumper is shot down and crashes right into the planets Stargate, taking out the only means of escape from the planet and killing the people in the jumper in the process. When I got to that part and wrote it, it was fantastic.

It would have been visually exciting, it was emotional, and the reality of conflict in a very personal and in-your-face way that neither series really did before, yet still served the story by trapping our guys on the planet that they desperately needed to get away from.

And of course it hit me right after I had written it: there is a reason neither series had done something like that before, and it didn't really matter why or what their justification was. It was an unwritten rule: don't do dark stuff.

In all likelihood had that spec ever made in to their desk, it would have been tossed away at that point or at the very least marked with a big X because that's not what they do on this show. Their first and only impression is that I didn't watch the show enough to see that coming, so I probably suck and wouldn't even be considered.

This isn't the standard extra-gets-shot-and-never-seen-again type scene mind you, this was protracted, visual, and a real big bummer to the main characters. You see, I actually made them care about the people they work for once.

I suppose that's another unwritten rule for shows of this type, but I don't really care. I may not be a pro, but I can still color within the lines.

For me in that situation it never ended up mattering. I never finished that spec, and even if I had, I caught the problem right after I made the mistake so it would have gotten fixed at some point anyway. But it serves the point: this show wants nothing to do with hard and dark drama. BSG yes, Stargate, not even close.

So what's the deal? How can it be shocking and surprising when this show has such a good-guy Macgyver personality and reputation? Either they've all had a change of heart, or it's not going to happen. I think that's really the case here, what they consider shocking and surprising are just big movements or upsets in the plot. Don't expect real drama anytime soon.

If you want a shock or a surprise, kill off a main character (or two) and blow up the damn city. You've done a great job at making the city an untouchable story element, so now turn it around on the audience and blow it to smithereens. Make the perennial good guy do something only bad guys do for once. Give them depth, give the story depth. Have some guts to go where Stargate has never gone before.

You'll thank me in the morning.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.