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Interview: Stargate Writer-Producer Joseph Mallozzi

The franchise mainstay ponders the end of 'Atlantis' and the dawn of 'Universe'

By

Joseph Mallozzi

Joseph Mallozzi

MGM

Joe Mallozzi and his producing/writing partner Paul Mullie have helped shape the Stargate franchise for the better part of a decade, rising to become jointly responsible for the production of the last two seasons of Stargate Atlantis. In this interview Mallozzi reflects on his years with Stargate, what he got to do -- and didn't get to do -- with Atlantis's fifth season and what his hopes were for a sixth, and the future of the franchise as he helps launch its third series, Stargate Universe.

You probably have the fewest secrets of the Stargate people, because you keep the most extensive blog.

It's at a point now where I can't miss a day, because I haven't missed a day in two and a half, almost three years. You have to find something to talk about, and since I work on Stargate, it's more often than not the topic of conversation.

You and Paul [Mullie] came onto Atlantis as show-runners for the fourth season.

Paul and I had come on board season 4 of SG-1, but we were quite involved in Atlantis. We'd join in the spin sessions and we would write maybe a couple of episodes a season, but our main focus was SG-1. And basically when SG-1 wrapped we shifted over to focusing full-time on Atlantis, then taking over season 4 and season 5 as show-runners. But even though Brad [Wright] and Robert [Cooper] took those last couple of years off, they were always involved in the stories and occasionally coming in to spin as well.

What were you interested in developing or evolving about Atlantis as you took the reins?

One of the things that I was doing with SG-1 was exploring the little moments between the characters. There was one scene in "Lockdown" [SG-1 episode 8x03] where Teal'c is getting an apartment and the rest of SG-1 is talking about coming over and having an apartment-warming party, they talk about moving day -- those little moments that may seem inconsequential but for the fans they really ground the series, and the characters, in terms of knowing that, even though they may head out as a team and professionally they work together, in their time off they're also friends. So that, along with some of the humor that we tried to inject in the show, it's a way of grounding these characters and their relationships.

And that's what we wanted to do when we took over Atlantis in season 4 as the show-runners. We felt that there was a bit of an imbalance in terms of the stories. So for example, everybody loved the McKay character, so there was a lot of emphasis on the McKay character. So that's one of the things that we wanted to try to address when we took over in season 4. We sat down and said, we want to do team episodes but we want to do character-focused episodes as well. Just to get started, in the front half of the season, let's dedicate one episode to each character. That's what we did, and that's pretty much what we did in season 5.

We had kind of an arc planned to Teyla. We felt she kind of disappeared in season 3, so we wanted to bring her back and develop her warrior side, something that was kind of lost. It was always challenging involving her and Ronon in certain stories, because they were more hand-to-hand fighters, they're not "tech" individuals. And whenever you'd get the big techie stories like "Be All My Sins Remember'd" [Atlantis 4x11] they would fade to the background. We wanted to find a way to explore different facets of their characters. We kind of did that with Ronon, with the Wraith-worshipper storyline, and regarding his past and his former friends.

And we wanted to pursue a kind of dark side with Teyla that was going to kick off with that episode where she's off-world with Keller ["Missing," Atlantis 4x07], and she demonstrates her warrior skills, and probably scares the hell out of Keller that Teyla could be so cold-blooded. And that was going to dovetail with the disappearance of her people. We really wanted to go dark with her. The thing was, at the beginning of the season Rachel [Luttrell] came into the office and announced she was pregnant, and that kind of scuttled that storyline. So we shifted gears and embraced the pregnancy, and that became the focus for her character that season, and continued to play into season 5.

But both storylines lead up to her final fight with Michael ["The Prodigal," Atlantis 5x14].

Yes. At the time we didn't know that we'd be canceled -- you never know -- but just given Michael's storyline, the way he'd progressed at that point, we felt that it was time that he had a final showdown. And if anyone was going to be the one to finish him off, it had to be Teyla, who'd suffered so much the most at his hands. They had this kind of weird relationship. Carl Binder wrote that episode and did a terrific job. The end of the Michael storyline was -- every season there's something. At the beginning of season 4 we felt we'd had enough of the human-form replicators, we thought they'd been played out. So we wanted to take care of them, so we got rid of them in the mid-season two-parter ["This Mortal Coil" and "Be All My Sins Remember'd," Atlantis 4x10 and 4x11].

In season 5 we wanted to address the balance of power, the way the enemies had been so severely weakened, that we could start to focus on potentially new, technologically advanced civilizations. Which we managed to do -- we introduced the kind of Pegasus Galactic U.N., and so on. So in season 5 we were shifting the balance of power, the status quo.

You made the Asgard into bad guys ["The Lost Tribe," Atlantis 5x11] -- that shocked a few people.

Yes, the Dark Asgard. And those are all elements that we introduced in season 5 that we were hoping to build on in season 6, but unfortunately -- well, we never got the chance.

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