Robert Picardo and Joseph Mallozzi on season five of Stargate Atlantis
After a fairly brief hiatus (only 4 months) Stargate Atlantis returns to the SciFi channel with all new episodes starting on July 11th. Now entering its fifth season, the show is reaching a turning point thanks to a number of off-season cast changes. First and foremost in is the replacement of Amanda Tapping's Colonel Samantha Carter as administrator of Atlantis with Robert Picardo's Richard Woolsey. This is one year after Tapping replaced Tori Higginson on the show. It's an interesting turn of events since Woolsey has not been the most popular of characters in the entire Stargate franchise. And, as the character has never been a people person, there is bound to be some conflict between members of the Atlantis team and himself.
In order to hash this all out, Picardo and Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi got together with the press to answer some questions about Woolsey and Atlantis, the shows 100th episode, and how Picardo looks in a jumpsuit.
***Slight Spoilers Below***
The outlook for season 5: Now that the Wraith are weakened, season five is looking at the bigger picture that is the Pegasus galaxy. According to Mallozzi, a couple of new races will be introduced. They will be taking power in a big way as they begin to form into a galaxy-wide version of the United Nations and take Atlantis to task for all the trouble that they have caused. Mallozzi hopes to build on the momentum that season four had with the events that will take place in season five.
Episode specifics: The season premiere, "Search and Rescue", starts off where the season four finale left off. By the end of the episode Colonel Carter will be out and Richard Woolsey will be in. By the second episode Woolsey will learn that he can't always use the rule book to solve issues. It is a very dramatic role for Woolsey, said Picardo. In the third episode, "Broken Ties", Woolsey will learn a bit about the technology of Atlantis, which will lead to some unfortunate circumstances.
In addition to episodes focusing on Woolsey, Mallozzi said there will be a two-part, mid-season episode featuring Stargate SG-1 fan favorite Daniel Jackson in a team-up with Atlantis' own Rodney McKay. Joseph says that fans of both series should enjoy this two-parter because it features two of the fastest talkers of the Stargate universe. Another episode, "Whispers", will be a horror-based entry featuring Sheppard, Carson Beckett (who returns this season for several episodes) and an all-female expedition team. Mallozzi mentioned that this was the first horror-based show written for Atlantis.
Why an all-female team: Mallozzi wanted an all-female team added to the cast of Atlantis in order to balance out the cast after the loss of Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter). That, and they wanted a new set of characters for fans to invest in.
Picardo on Woolsey: The producers (of Stargate) have a tradition of using actors from the other franchise that "should remain nameless" (Star Trek) as stunt casting. They normally last from one to four episodes. Picardo managed to outlast them all, and it has been fun working with both casts.
They have really built the character from an officious blamer to someone who is developing leadership skills. Picardo said that there is something inherently interesting in seeing how Woolsey, who has second-guessed other leaders decisions, is now in the main seat. There will even be an episode where the person who replaced Woolsey in the IOA will be evaluating his skills as a leader. Picardo is interested in seeing how die-hard fans accept the new leader, "who isn't nearly as cute as the other two."
Concerns about filling the leadership shoes of Colonel Carter: Of course he's concerned about filling her shoes, both the actor and the character. Picardo said that it was very similar to his feelings when he was cast as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager. At that time he was concerned that fans were going to measure him against Brent Spiner's character of Data. Luckily, he was defined as differently as he could be from Data. Although it's daunting to replace such a popular character, Picardo's hoping the audience will eventually accept the character. He's also hoping to bring what Star Trek fans that haven't watched Stargate yet to come over and sample the show because it's a great time to come into the series since his character is starting out as the leader.
Bringing in new fans to the show: According to Mallozzi, it isn't as hard to bring new fans into the Stargate universe as people may think. Despite its mythology, Stargate isn't really a serial. There may be small connections to the past, but it's not a show that you have to watch previous seasons to know what is going on.
Stargate versus Star Trek: According to Picardo, Star Trek does some things well, but it doesn't have the successful formula that Stargate has. Stargate does action very well and also does humor well. Star Trek has to take itself very seriously, while Stargate has the ability let the audience in on the good humor that we know we're going to save the world every week. It's the combination of action and humor that makes Stargate so much fun.
Picardo's initial feelings on Woolsey: Early on, Robert thought of Woolsey as a bit of a jerk. But, by his second appearance, even though he rubbed people the wrong way, at least he was driven by a personal passion that was quite positive and ethical in order to prevent a rouge element from obtaining the Stargate technology. He meant well, and in subsequent appearances the writers gave the character a weird charm that, Picardo hopes, will continue during season five.
Woolsey's relationships with the crew of the Atlantis: Picardo said the relationships between Woolsey and the rest of the crew is what will make it interesting for the viewers. When he arrives he is unintentionally cold to Teyla; yet, her character is the first to reach out and be kind to him, which disarms Woolsey a bit. He then makes a connection with Sheppard as Woolsey wonders if he is going to be right as Atlantis leader. There has not been a breakthrough moment with McKay, but there is an episode where Woolsey catches Dr. McKay's attention with his actions.
A potential Screen Actors Guild strike: If a SAG strike occurs Mallozzi said it will definitely hurt the show since most of their players are members of the union. They are currently working on the back five episodes right now. There were no special considerations to film a bunch of episodes ahead of time. According to Mallozzi, with the tight filming schedule they had, they did the best they could getting 14 episodes in the can.
On Torri Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir): It is highly unlikely that Tori Higginson will be back on the show, said Mallozzi. While Higginson was excited about coming back on the Replicator storyline she wanted some closure for the character while the producers did not. Ultimately, she passed on the script that the writers prepared. "She's kind of move beyond this show and is looking elsewhere," said Mallozzi.
Prospects for the show's 100th episode: As much as the temptation is there to make the 100th episode of Atlantis as off the wall as the 200th episode of SG-1 was, it probably won't happen. The episode is going to fall on the season finale and they want to take it more seriously...more on the lines of last season's finale. Not so funny, but something that the fans will really enjoy. In addition, said Mallozzi, there are no plans to film an alternate ending just in case the series is canceled.
On the passing of Don S. Davis: "Don had a bigger heart and was even nicer than the role he played on SG-1", said Mallozzi. When he came to Stargate during season four, Davis warmly welcomed Joe to the set. Mallozzi added that he is proud to call Davis a true friend. and he will be missed by fans and anyone who worked with him.
How Picardo looks in the command uniform: Picardo said wearing the command uniform is a bit of a change for a character who has worn a business suit for the last 30 years. Saying that, he looks okay in the uniform. "It's good to have a trim butt in science fiction."