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Interview: Stargate Writer-Producer Joseph Mallozzi

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Interview: Stargate Writer-Producer Joseph Mallozzi

Joe Mallozzi with Andy Mikita and Amanda Tapping on “Enemy at the Gate.”

MGM

You've written or co-written a lot of classic Stargate, including favorites like "Moebius" [SG-1 8x19 and 8x20]. Some days would you rather just be a writer and not deal with the headaches of a producer?

As a writer on Stargate you're pretty much producing in any case. You're running the meetings, or you have approval over costumes or casting. As show-runners there's other things you have to do with the studio, the network, the budgets, and actor issues. I'll be honest with you, I really enjoyed being in charge with Paul those past two years, but there are some elements I definitely will not miss. Being just a consultant on Universe is somewhat of a relief. I'll be able to work on other things, relax a bit -- sleep in more.

So your official title on Universe is consultant.

Paul and I are Consulting Producers.

Talking of Universe, you've said it's going to "blaze a bold, new path for the franchise." Given the constraints of studios and network TV, what does that mean exactly?

The nice thing about MGM is, I wouldn't say they've been hands-off but they've let them do their thing. And while the network has been a little more involved in the show's creative development they've pretty much left it up to Brad and Robert -- Robert honed the original vision. I don't want to say too much because I don't want to step on them. On the one hand it's something that fans of the Stargate franchise will enjoy, because there are all those familiar elements for them, there's still going to be adventure.

But on the other hand, it's going to be a little bit more -- I don't want to use the word "space opera," but it is more relationship-based, it is more arc-driven, it's less monster- or situation-of-the-week. We're focusing less on -- in fact, we're not even focusing at all on going to the planets and meeting the humanoid, English-speaking aliens. It's less that focus on Our Hero and more on an ensemble cast. The past month or so have just been watching endless, endless auditions trying to cast these parts. We're almost there -- at this point we're casting a dozen or more major roles. It's exciting, introducing new characters, and starting something in a sense similar, but fresh as well.

More arc-driven, but I imagine you're bearing in mind shows that were so arc-driven that newcomers were deflected away.

That's one of the things that Stargate did well in the past, and even though we still will be arc-driven, we will always take pains to ensure that first-time viewers will always be able to jump on at a certain point and get caught up fairly quickly, and be able to enjoy the show from there.

I want to liken it to something on TV, but I can't really -- I guess you can liken it to Battlestar Galactica, in that it's science-fiction and it's more arc-driven, but in terms of tone, in terms of situation, in fact in terms of the story it is very unlike Battlestar. I'd say it's more Lost than Battlestar, but even then I'm reluctant to make that comparison.

Did the fan backlash to the early news about Universe surprise you? Did you expect the level of concern that was voiced by fans?

I actually did not, I did not at all. In fact, actually, I thought it was great. I would say Paul and I, and [Universe executive producer] Carl [Binder] at the time were taken frankly by surprise. I mean, going into season 5 [of Atlantis] we knew the odds were stacked against us, but the ratings were on an uptick and things were progressing. We thought that chances looked good for a pickup [for a sixth season of Atlantis]. But ultimately that didn't happen. We were disappointed, and I just knew that the fans would flip. And sure enough, they did.

So the fans' anger over Atlantis bled over onto the tiny tidbits we were hearing about Universe.

You know what, that was I think understandable. The timing of the Universe announcement was on the heels of the Atlantis cancellation -- certainly that did Universe no favors. The fans made the connection that they canceled Atlantis for Universe, and whether that's fair is arguable, but fans are passionate. Fans in general are passionate, sci-fi fans in particular, and what can I say? Good for them.

Were you and the writers conscious of that reaction as you were spinning stories for Universe?

Not really. At that point it was really an Atlantis issue. It didn't really affect Universe. In terms of Atlantis, it put a little bit more pressure on Paul and I to create a story [for the Atlantis movie] that would really appeal to fans of the show who have obviously gone through so much in the last few months with the cancellation, something that would be a really nice payoff for them, and I think we've got that story.

Can you talk about how Dr. Rush came to be added as a major character?

That's really more of a question for Brad and Robert. They're the ones who created the character, and they're the ones who went through all the casting and ended up getting Robert Carlyle, who's actually coming in for his costume fitting very soon.

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