Joe Flanigan contributes to this commentary of Season 2 opening episode (The Siege III), together with David Hewlett, Martin Wood and Martin Gero. Martin Gero is extremely talkative, so Joe’s interventions are rather rare and quite brief. Consequently, this transcript is not complete, since we’ve focused mainly on the parts where Joe can be actually heard, or the conversation is meaningful for the filming process. The overlooked comments are indicated by [...]
The lines in italic blue font indicate moments when the commentary is silent and the actual performance is heard. Some screencaps were added for better understanding of the references.
MG: Hi, my name is Martin Gero
DH: And I’m David Hewlett
MW: I’m Martin Wood
JF: I am Joe Flanigan
MW: …and this is Siege, part III. We’ve done a lot of three parters before on Stargate, but we never called them one, two and three. It seems like this is bigger, since it’s “part III”. Generally, if we do a two parter, closer, then we do a pick up afterwards. Still, there’s something about this that makes it a bigger episode.
MG: The difficulty in this episode is that Siege 1 was a fairly big episode, then Siege 2 was one of the bigger episodes we’ve ever done, and by naming it Siege 3 we really felt like we had to go all out and pull of the stuff.
MW: Did you plan to have three parts?
MG: Yes, we always knew we were going to do a twoparter with a cliffhanger, that was always Brad’s idea, and then move into a part three. It’s our own failing, because we couldn’t think of a better name. I wanted to call it “Dawn of the Daedalus”
JF: I was going to call it Rocky III
MF: Can I just mention that [the Wraith] didn’t have a seam on his hand, the feeding part of his hand wasn’t there, because it’s the wrong hand
MG: Oh, no.
[Major Sheppard, decloak your jumper immediately]
MW: There’s something else, Joe you know this, but most people don’t.
MW: Look at the “previously-on” and then look at that shot that we just saw and you’ll notice that the bomb is different. It’s changed, because we shot it over four months apart.
DH: We’ve upgraded the bomb?
JF: I didn’t know that until just now.
MG: Someone’s gonna get fired [laughs]
MW: Until I saw the cut I didn’t realize it was lit differently, and so when you look at it…
DH: You’ve ruined it for the kids at home[…]
MW: When you do a three parter like this, and you go back and pick up everything… This scene was shot three months after we shot the last one.
JF: This was the first thing after the hiatus, right?
MG: There you go, Mitch Pileggi, surprisingly sexy, “People’s” surprisingly sexy.
DH: And he made the mistake of mentioning that, and since then I have been teasing him mercilessly.[…]
JF: This is one of our weapons’ guy[…]
MW: The guy that ‘s holding the ZPM there, he’s actually Ron, he’s our armorer.
JF: And he knows his armory.[…]
MG: This is a great shot, the big first reveal of Daedalus, and then the hive, the cruisers. James Tichenor came on this year, he was of course a long time visual effects supervisor on SG1, took a year off to do some other things, and so he wasn’t a part of season 1.
MG: I don’t to say that visual effects in season 1 were bad, they were very good, but he came on board and they are markedly better this year. He has done a phenomenal job and also for the first time in the franchise history we have our own in-house department. It’s useful for us be able to just walk across the studio and discuss shots.
JF: This is the old main title.
MG: We made the choice to keep the old main title for the first two, I think maybe three episodes, because Ronon shouldn’t be in this one, and also Rainbow’s still in these episodes, so we didn’t want to hint that Rainbow was about to go too.
JF: The battle scene in Siege 2 is fantastic. Actually we shot this in Siege 2.
MW: We shot this during Siege 2. The inserts of the hand weren’t done, we just moved them from Siege 2 into Siege 3.
MG: This is the most visual effects that we have done in a single one hour episode. …and the puppet!
JF: Oh, man…
MG: Ellie Harvie is great!
DH: We were watching this and I was killing myself laughing, she’s just genius.[…]
MG: There was a lot of fighting whether an Asgard should be pissy or not…
JF: But when did it take a turn? When did…
DH: Joe did not like the puppet.
JF: I don’t like it. I’ve tried to kill him a number of times [laughs]
DH: And you did refer to him as Hemorrhoid…
MW: This is interesting: we have now a new operator on the show, steady cam (meaning the camera that float like this), and he was the same one who shot the pilot with us, we’ve actually swiped him from SG1.
JF: A guy named Nathaniel Massey.
MW: Most people don’t realize how complicate this shot is.
JF: The grandson of Raymond Massey, the famous actor.
MW: Great grandson of Vincent Massey.
MG: And future great grandfather of Norton Massey, inventor of the teleporter. [laughs]
JF: Chuck has just been patient as hell.
MW: Chuck is David’s stand-in, actually, and we have upgraded him to the “chucknition”. He’s a very good actor.
DH: A well deserved upgrade, the guy really is a consummate professional.
MW: He likes to do “chucknition” as a robot.
MW: This kind of scene is difficult, because […] it’s difficult to have reflected surfaces like that in the back that look so great and have explosions going on outside. Often we’d use actual flames to do it. In this case we couldn’t.
JF: There is Ron again.
DH: Ron is the scariest man I’ve ever met.
MW: Ron Blecker.
DH: He’s great, but you just don’t goof around with him.
JF: He’s an actual veteran of the Black Hawk group. He was one of the guys in Somalia.[…]
MW: We’re on location shooting “Runner” right now when this was happening.
DH: And a frantic shoot I might add. This was like “We gotta get this in ten minutes!”
MW: And I came back and I’d blocked this shot out for Peter and he did a great job of moving it around and getting it.
MG: You guys really know how each other shoots though. It’s funny to watch you adopt each other’s style when you step in.
DH: It’s like impersonation. Martin makes dirty jokes.
JF: That’s a oner, too. A long oner.
MW: I really like that sound, it’s the only sound you ever hear that drones make.
JF: I think one of the coolest things about the franchise is that we have just present day weaponry. Most times you go to Space, all these scifi shows have super sophisticated weaponry.
MG: Now this is the beginning of a kind of an interesting fan laugh back… They felt like in the early part, up until Duet, that we were making Rodney kind of a stupid oaf, that he was being too comic-book-ish. I don’t know, I mean…
JF: …more in line with his real character. And you know, he’s a good actor.
MG: I just try to write him closer to David, and more oafish and… [laughs]
MW: That gag was, originally, a gun-jammed, because it’s more visual, if the clip drops.
DH: It’s incredibly hard to do. I don’t understand how you’d do that by mistake.
MW: It was physically very difficult for you to get it.
DH: I got grumpy, because my thumb couldn’t reach…
JF: It’s very hard to do it.
DH: That’s the point, that’s why such things don’t happen.[…]
DH: She does just a fantastic job, I’m in awe!
DH: Great shot!
MG: This is one of the first shots we saw for the new year. James did this and I was like: Oh man! We are in for a treat, we are gonna take them for a ride! A lot of this comes from the success of the show, because with the success you have a little more money to do bigger things.
JF: Right. I actually get three meals a day this season.
DH: You’re so lucky!
JF: That’s another interesting thing we have been talking about, which is window reflection. Are we finding that the window reflection, where we’re putting it, does it help?
MW: We’re working more and more and trying to get it. Again, it’s an expensive thing, but what’s missing … When you put something up against a window, it’s difficult to tell it’s a window, because you have no reflection. The light in the window is always missing. It’s much more expensive to do that, but we’ve been pushing for a lot.
[Sheppard: Better get the damn shield up.
Weir: How much time do we have?
Zelenka: Forty five seconds
Weir: Rodney, we need the shield up in 40 seconds or we’re dead.
McKay: What, are you kidding me?
McKay: Because I can’t help but think you’re trying to determine the point when I completely snap.
McKay: That should do it. Fire it up.]
MW: This is my favorite line! The Okay, snap! line.
MG: It’s Brad Wright’s. Brad’s not doing full drafts of my scripts, but he always does a polish, cleans it up, makes some cuts, adds some stuff, and without fail, he always adds the two funniest lines in the show. People are like: that’s my favorite line, and I’m yeah, that was Brad’s, I didn’t do that.
MW: We’ve talked about a number of times, this speed-speed-speed-speed, stop. Speed-speed-speed-speed, stop. To give impact to the impact, you have to have that beat before the shield comes up. It’s running along, running along, and then it comes up.
[Weir: We’re still here, that’s our status.
Sheppard: Don’t scare me like that.]
MW: The thing about Siege 3, and I say it every time anybody asks me, it’s such a roller coaster. It goes up-up-up, ok that threat’s gone, and then up-up-up-up. In order to go through the hour…
JF: Ok, can you be quiet now, I’m trying to watch the show? [laughs]
MW: We’re fourteen minutes into it right now and… “we did it! Now what’s gonna happen?”
MG: From all the episodes that I wrote this year, it was the absolute hardest, logistic wise, because you had to do so much, you had to tie up all of last year, keep an episode going – we wanted essentially three major set action sequences, and then the B plot that essentially launched the arch of the first three episodes.
DH: This is nice, now we see actually for the first time like a physical contact thing.
JF: I found this one of hardest episodes to shoot because we came back from the hiatus and we were supposed to just pick up and I had completely forgotten. I remembered the name of the show and that of my character [laughs] It was confusing.
MW: That scene, it’s the first time we see physical contact, because we cut the sex scenes out of Siege 2…
MG: I love that stuff though, although there’s a whole kind of fan-division who doesn’t like what they call “shipping”, relationshipping, relationships on the show…
JF: Is that what they mean by shipping?
MG: …yeah, they think it’s kind of a cheap soap opera. In reality a hug is a hug, she is just happy to see him, she though he was dead, he though she was dead, you know, it’s nice that you can acknowledge… it speaks to a type of emotional turmoil that you don’t really get a chance to explain because of all the action and plot and stuff like that. So just doing a simple gesture, like a hug, says that these are people that care about each other and… the end [laughs]
MW: We took the incident with Joe’s hand out…
MG: Yeah, that was a little inappropriate… [laughs]
MG: This scene, we thought about maybe cutting…
DH: The grandpa scene?
MW: He does a great job.
JF: You know, it’s funny, because we did this and I was like whatever, and Brad really really loved this scene.
MW: This salute that you do here, is such a nice…
JF: I was actually saluting the chocolate tray off camera.
MW: You did a really good job of containing the emotion there but it still feels like Oh man, something is on.
MG: Not only this, but also the Robert Patrick thing, it’s like a full circle. That’s why this episode has tied up so much stuff.
JF: We had Robert Patrick on the show, and he’s dead! Oh, we’re scifi, we can have him back.
MG: It’s also the last show that has those blast.
MW: That’s right, we’re fixing them after that. Interestingly enough, we came from the beginning of this shot, we came from outside the set, and we had to paint the inside of those doors. But, just a tidbit, it’s an area of the set that originally, when we designed the set, was supposed to be used. And I’m forcing us to do it, and what the audience won’t know, is that there’s a spiral staircase that I’m hoping we get to use.
JF: The set looks nice when it’s half lit.
MW: In the twilight light.
JF: It’s a good dark kind of color.
MW: And Michael Blundell does such a nice job! We walked through, before we started to shoot and he said we have got to have more shadows cast.
MG: I love Hermiod: Are you seeing this?!? I have you to thank, on two occasions: I remember when we did Siege part 2, and you were coordinating various people in peril in the end of the episode, and you put Ford surrounded by ten Wraith guys on either side, I remember looking at that and going: oh crap, how the hell are we getting him put of there? And you were kind of like: good luck, have fun! You actually said: he’s on a bridge, we can have him jump off the bridge!
MW: It was mostly because I did it to show it wasn’t just guys we could shoot off.
MG: No, absolutely, it was great insofar Siege part 2, but then sitting down to write Siege part 3, I was like alrighty…
MW: Actually, it kicks it into high gear with him. This scene started with a steady cam right on top of them, that rolled over his face and then you guys decided not to show his eye.
MG: No, it’s because this scene was underexposed. Slightly. We were having problems with the cameras, and you actually couldn’t see any detail, so it didn’t feel like it was much of a reveal.
MW: The reveal of Ford, in Weir’s office, is much more effective.
MG: It was one of those happy accidents.
MW: And here we go again: this is now taking us to the second roller coaster hill. I think this is great, Martin, a really nice way of doing this.
MG: I’ve said before, as much as I would like to take all these lovely compliments, with doing this “banner” episodes, it really is a team effort. All the writers sit down at the beginning of a new year, it’s all seven of us in the room, figuring out how to… These episodes are much bigger than just one writer and it’s a privilege to write them, and I really have to give a shout out to the props and the other writers, I’m so street! [laughs]
MW: I was just about to say, you are so street!
MW: David screwed up his line, and we left it in.
DH: What did I screw up?
MW: It’s just the way that you… [laughs]
MG: Let’s point out other ways David made mistakes in this episode!
DH: We’re not on me now, because it was all one big mistake. [laughs]
MG: This was very important, Brad really wanted to… we had been on the defensive all of last season and he felt like Sheppard would, and rightfully so, be like: you know what, screw this, let’s take the fight to them!
[Sheppard: …we have the capacity and the will to go kick their asses for a change.]
JF: This part had to be changed in looping, it was vey bizarre.
MW: And this is when David does his favorite thing: slide around the material.
MG: This is my favorite… it’s just a pause, when he’s like…
MW: Right here.
MG: I love that [laughs] he’s like: seriously, c’mon. That’s McKay in a nutshell. What’s great too, it’s like a lot of the times, just because we can’t afford to do three big action sequences in a show, there’s gonna be a bunch of scenes in between and then getting ready, let’s cut to Daedalus coming out of hyperspace.
MW: Yeah, and you’re climbing up that second hill. Just so you know, this is the re-dressed Prometheus. Much more updated and a way cooler set as the Deadalus.
MG: The puppeteer getting that thing to walk, is really hard.
JF: I have to admit something that may be truly embarrassing: when we shot Siege 3 and they mention Hermiod, and you notice that Hermiod and I are never in a scene together, I didn’t know who Hermiod was, until two more episodes, when I had a scene with him, and I realized he was a puppet. I wanted to kill him. And I wanted to kill everybody else for doing this to me.
MW: This is the reveal. Even this shot isn’t as effective.
DH: There’s something on your face [laughs]
MG: This was actually a lot of Rainbow’s doing. He really wanted to have some sort of physical mal-normality.
MW: Yeah, we talked about it a lot. We went through a lot of different… originally it was a white eye, and we’ve changed that because that was the way the Priors would look like.
DH: What about the giant nose?
MG: Again, if you have the chance to see the show in HD, this sequence in phenomenal.
MG: These were the first sequences that were in-house made, so we were like: thank god![…]
MW: This is one of my favorite shot. Look at that!
DH: They’re sweeping off…
JF: And the shield.
MW: It’s hard to show size, because speed is so difficult. When you have a ship that big moving, it can’t move fast.
DH: It’s almost like a sailing boat.
MW: She grabs her and throughs her away [laughs]
MG: We did that a lot in the second season. McKay did that a couple of times in that season.
DH: It’s an homage, right? [laughs] I’ve been pushing people for years.
MG: I don’t want to argue, I think it looks great, but apparently the Daedalus is steam-powered.
MW: Yeah! [laughs] […]
MW: That trick, when he lifts up Paul…
JF: Apple box!
MW: …it’s actually a dolly.
JF: Oh really?
MW: He’s on a dolly, it’s one that we push camera around. We have a platform built in front of it and all we did was just have him there. We were all around with Ford and then lift him up, and then just let him down slowly. Rainbow did a great job on this one, with the transition in and out.
DH: He’s like you’re kidding me. And McGillion, with his many chins. [laughs]
MG: He’s gonna love you for that.
DH: He already does!
MG: He’s got some pretty hard core fans, they will come after you.
JF: They will. I’m hopeful.
[Weir: Sedate him, if you have to.
MW: This was a difficult thing for me: how do you… Rainbow kept falling asleep during the scene… I’m honestly holding on to his toe, and when I want him to open his eyes, I squeeze his toe and he comes awake. That’s the truth: he is actually asleep before that.
MW: I always had trouble with the super-hearing. It’s hard to show.
MG: It kinda worked though. I gotta say, on the record, those glasses are silly! [laughs]
MW: Because the laser isn’t working across them […] I put the same glasses when the blast comes out.
MG: This is, by the way, the most expensive shot, and no one knows: right now they pass a green screen that shows a view of the city. And no one can tell. It’s so quick.
MW: That was me in the background. Okay, this is cool.
MG: This is a CG cup.
MG: Yeah, it would have been too dangerous to…
DH: But, surely, one man’s life is cheaper than CG.
MG: You know what? You’re not wrong! As a producer now. [laughs]
MW: As we’ve got into this scene, I felt like it needed more than the threat of the shot. Originally it was scripted that he just holds a gun to the doctor. We felt like it needed more jeopardy, to somebody other than Beckett.
JF: The hard part about the scene is that that guy was actually expendable.
MG: Beckett’s like go ahead!
MW: We took out the sound of the gun shot, because he actually does kill him. [laughs]
DH: So that’s a bag of enzyme.
[Ford: Is that all of it?
Beckett: I promise you.
Ford: Toss it over. Toss it!]
MW: That scene ended differently than it ends here. It ended with Beckett turning and saying everything is okay, but we felt there was no immediate action to stop, and so it makes more sense the way we cut it there.
JF: McKay pushes another guy away.
DH: It’s all about pushing.
MW: This is very cool.
JF: These are like little mosquitos on the windshield.[…]
MW: I leanrt something from that shot, Joe, that I’ll never do that again: that camera rotation, that up-down rotation.
MW: From up left to down on the right side. It doesn’t “end” the act as well.
JF: As opposed to?
MW: As opposed to a push-in. It was just a rotation around.
DH: I like that staying on the balcony.
MW: So do I. Both of us did and we actually fought a lot TPTB to keep that, because originally it was just looking up, cut back to them, they walk in.
MG: One of the great things James Tichenor, the visual effects supervisor, wanted to do was the ability to track camera moves using tracking points, which are big X’s that you put everywhere and there’s a piece of software that can extrapolate how the camera’s moving in tridimensional space. The ability to do that quickly and cheaply, well, it’s not cheap, but cheaper than it was even last season, it’s that we have to move the camera for effect shots, as much as possible.
MW: It’s organic, and this is the whole thing for me. We do the shot down in the hallway, and when you look past, you see the exteriors. If you don’t do things that are organic, and if you stop the camera from moving, you “point” to the viz effect and say: “there’s a viz effect behind us”, and then you’re in trouble. But if people walk through with active puddles on, or people walk past windows…
MG: It really brings the whole thing alive.
MW: It really does.
[Zelenka: Okay, what about the hard part?
Sheppard: Hard part?]
JF: That’s an interesting shot. You see it’s an over the shoulder, although you have no idea whose shoulder it is.
MW: It’s over Zelenka’s shoulder. And there’s an option here, whether it’s pushed in past the shoulder or not.
JF: Just in general though, I think the camera moving certainly aids. When, as a director, do you decide when you’re going to move the camera or you’re not going to move the camera? And how do you do it?
MW: Generally, the problem with moving camera in a still scene, like this, is that it reminds people there’s a camera there. If people are in motion, or something is happening that allows the camera to move innocuously, that’s when you do it. But if it’s a static scene, or people are sitting in the same spots all the time, then moving the camera draws attention to the camera.
MG: That’s also the end of the Teyla arc, her ability to connect and sense with the Wraith.
MW: Watch the floor, watch the floor, watch the floor, there’s a yellow mark right in front of her…
JF: Damn, did she hit it!
MW: We use those marks to tell the actors where to stop.
JF: Damn, did she hit it!
DH: And then we remove them.
MW: But this one we didn’t.
MG: Still a good show!
DH: It ruined it for me!
MW: When I saw the show finished, I saw that mark on the floor and I was like that’s gonna take people out of… Most people don’t realize it, but on the DVD it’s visible.
MG: It’s pretty cheap to fix.
DH: All I’m doing is looking at the floor now.
MW: Well, you should, we’re relying on this.
MG: Here we go, another montage.
DH: You know what they say, the montage is helping the story.
MW: It takes the production a long time to shoot.
DH: Nobody loves the montage sequences.
MG: Martin, I’ve said this before, you really use the standing set better than anybody else, you really do make them look like much bigger.
MW: That’s nice.
MG: Fantastic. It’s great because for the first time we see the city all lit up, we have a ZPM finally.
MW: Joe, I want to go back to what we were talking before. One of the things that happen in HD TV rather than in film is that if you have something in front, it stops it from being very flat. HD TV (high definition television) is very very flat, so I’m going to keep moving all the time, so I’m going through things in the foreground, because that gives the three dimensions.
MG: Was that the first time we used the new puddle jumper dash board? Nobody liked the puddle jumper dashboard last year, so we’ve blew those up and came up with some new ones.
MW: Hey, I love the pop up! “I’m hiding, and no one can see me”
DH: He loves his hidings. [laughs]
MW: I love doing it as a director.
DH: “Where did Martin go?” “I’m right here”
MW: See, like this, when the camera can keep moving all the way through, cut with something where the camera can’t move.
MG: This shot was reused from The Gift.
MW: Yeah, because it’s difficult to dress that many Wraiths.
MG: Originally, there was one shot that we almost taught ourselves into, I wanted to do a shot of a Wraith walking down the hall, when the big nuke got beamed in, and he was looking and then blowing up.
MG: This is my favorite shot in the whole show.
JF: So beautiful.
MW: It’s very cool.
MG: It tells the story so well.
MW: I had no idea they would put a sunset there.
MG: They love their sunsets, the Rainmaker.
DH: And for good reasons.
MW: I love this, and I love doing it to David. [laughs]
DH: This was my audition for Batman. “I am the Supervillain?!?”
MW: Amazing! And you don’t realize they’ve changed the axis of the shot.
MG: This is funny, I don’t know how other people write, but when I write dialogue, I actually improvise it and talk it out loud as I do it, and play all the characters, and so…
JF: You should use Simpsons characters…
MG: That’s Joe Mallozzi… and so, as I was typing David’s dialogue, I was whispering, and I was like what the hell am I doing?, it’s ridiculous, and then I had Weir calling him here “Why are we whispering?”
[Ford: I could have shot you a couple of times by now]
MG: Such a fourteen year old kid thing to say.
DH: “You’re totally dead”.
[Sheppard: Well, I'm glad you didn't]
JF: That’s such a grown up thing to say.
MW: This was, originally, a very cool shot, all one-shot, where he runs in, Joe shoots him and then he disappears, but in order to keep the action going, we couldn’t have it in one shot. What happens here is that Rainbow gets in and steps aside. We cut to that, but this all one shot, when Joe runs towards the transporter, and Rainbow is actually at his left, right there.
JF: Yes, he is.
MW: And Rainbow’s waiving at him [laughs]
JF: But I’m ACTING!
MW: Acting like he’s not [waiving at him]!
MG: It’s for the first time we have two puddle jumpers in the same shot.
MW: I took the “traveling puddle jumper”, that normally goes outside and put it beside the other one.
DH: That jumper looks way better, I have to say.
JF: Yes, this season the jumper definitely looks better.
MW: This was a really tough scene to block. With Joe getting down there…
JF: And getting in front of it…
MG: Great score, by the way. One of my favorite pieces of score this year.
MW: Actually Ford is in the co-pilot seat, he’s not flying it.
MG: One onliner explained how he did, because people were freaking out: Ford doesn’t have the gene, Ford can’t fly the puddle jumper.
MW: Well, he doesn’t, he’s sitting on the other side.
MG: The DHD can be activated by anyone.
[editor's note: the fact "the DHD can be activated by anyone" still doesn't answer the question how does Ford FLY the jumper, does it? Wrong question, Mr. Gero!]
JF: Could we have ever stood in front of the puddle jumper? In front of the screen? Or would it have costed too much?
MW: No, it wouldn’t have costed too much.
DH: We could have been stuck to it, like on a windshield [laughs] “Noooo…”
MG: Hoping he didn’t dial a space gate.
MW: Every show ends with Joe in jeopardy. “Is he coming back next time?”
MG: Great score.
MW: I like this, this is one of my favorite endings to a show. We did all the stuff, up and down, up and down, and the way that you guys play this… Joe and Torri decided to play it at this level, they just decided to play it so down, that I thought, okay, we’ll do it in one shot.
MG: Seriously guys, we’re awesome! I would actually watch the show. Can you see David in the background, trying to steal the show?
DH: They keep moving the camera to avoid me.
MG: That was a Rob Cooper thing at the last minute, because we couldn’t afford to shot the city turning off, he was like we need to see it coming back on, which is a great idea, and is a very late addition by the Image Engine people who were thankfully able to do that.
MW: Nice show.
DH: Thank you for watching.
MG: Enjoy the rest of the season everybody.