Interview with Joseph Mallozzi (Stargate)

For some Sci-Fi fans, the Stargate series was the greatest of all the Sci-Space dramas.

Captivating us for more than 10 years, the Stargate franchise had it all, and behind all of it,  was Joseph Mallozzi, (born October 16, 1965 in Canada) A well known writer and producer.  Most noted for his contributions to the Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, and Stargate Universe television series.  Working together with partner Paul Mullie, Joseph spent 11 years as writer and executive producer for all three series.

NERD TREK had the great honor and distinction to conduct the following interview with Joseph Mallozzi.

 

Q. Joseph, How did you first become involved with the Stargate series as a writer/producer?

A. My agent informed us Stargate SG-1 was looking for staff writers for the show’s fourth season.  We auditioned with five pitches. One in particular caught the attention of Executive Producers Brad Wright and Robert Cooper.  After some initial story conversations, we were hired to write the script.

Based on quality of that first draft (for an episode titled Scorched Earth), we were hired.  In retrospect, I assume the quality was good enough. I don’t know. I never asked.

 

 

Q. Where did your writing team draw inspiration for the storylines of the various shows,
and what was a typical brainstorming session like for you and the other writers?

A. After every season wrapped, the writers would reconvene for two weeks to pitch out and spin stories.

Often, the ideas came from unresolved storylines (and given how long the franchise ran, there were a lot of them) although there were plenty of originals as well. Someone would throw out an idea and we, as a group, would spin those ideas,
bouncing notions off each other as we fleshed out the basic narrative structure. From there, whoever was writing that particular episode  would take a couple of days to allow the story to percolate and then come back to the writers’ room
where we would all participate in breaking the story down into a five act structure with their individual scenes and significant narrative beats. What was it like? A hell of a lot of fun. Those writers’ room sessions are one of the thing I miss the most.

 

 

Q. In the latter years of Stargate SG-1, the show had evolved to the point were several new characters were introduced as permanent additions.

Was there a sense that the writing would become more difficult at this point?

A. Quite the opposite actually. The introduction of characters like Mitchell, Vala, and Landry offered more creative opportunities and allowed for a greater range of stories. Vala, in particular, was a character I really grew to love – and still miss writing for.

Q. Stargate Atlantis was so distinctively different than SG-1, yet you seemed to connect the storylines together with such ease.


What were some of the challenges of writing for several shows at the same time?  Were there any concerns between the writers over continuity issues?

A. For a couple of years, we produced two shows (SG-1 and Atlantis) simultaneously – that was 40 episodes a year.

Looking back, it was a damn impressive accomplishment but, at the time, it just seemed like business as usual.  After producing 20 episodes a season for so long, the prospect of doubling our output seemed daunting and yet, although it was a challenge,  we managed to adjust to the new workload and deliver some great television.  At the time, there were never any major concerns between the writers over continuity issues because two of the writers in the room,  Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, had been with the franchise from the very beginning and knew all the answers.

Well, most of the answers. If we were ever uncertain, there was always Gateworld, that source of infinite Stargate wisdom.

Q. Some fans say that Stargate Universe was the most realistic of the franchise and felt that the show wasn’t given a chance to gain a stronger foothold.

Had you already developed plots and/or storylines to carry show through several more seasons?  Did you have to rewrite a new and different ending for the show to accommodate the cancellation of the series?

A. Even though we’d discussed possible storylines for SGU’s third season in the vaguest of terms, we hadn’t actually fleshed out any of the ideas.  Brad and Robert did have an ending in the mind for the series but, sadly, never got the chance to write it.  As for the Stargate: Universe’s final episode, Gauntlet – no, we didn’t rewrite that episode in any way to accommodate the series cancellation
simply because we didn’t know we were cancelled at the time.  We knew there was a possibility we wouldn’t be coming back which was why my writing/producing partner, Paul,  hedged his bets by scripting that final montage in which the camera descends through Destiny as the ship shuts down, a visual that harkens back to the series premiere.

Q. Can you share any additional details of why you believed the show would not be returning for a third season?
Did Paul see a way to reunite the crew back with Destiny?  Had the show been renewed?

A. To be honest, we were cautiously optimistic that the show WOULD be back for a third season.  We’d heard as much from several sources, the only stipend being that it would be a third and FINAL season.
Given the show’s ratings, however, Paul thought it best to hedge our bets.  As for how we planned to reunite the crew if that third season had been given the green light –  we’d discussed a number of possibilities (that I covered in a past blog entry: May 12, 2011: Stargate: Universe, Beyond Season 2! What Might Have Been!),  but the one that had the most traction involved the crew being rescued/captured by a fleet of militaristic descendants with designs on Destiny.

Q. Several fans have asked:


Of all the shows from the series that you wrote and produced over the incredibly lengthy run, what was your favorite episode to be a part of, and why?

A. Hmmmmm. Tough to say. From a script standpoint, I’m very proud of episodes like Ripple Effect (SG-1), Remnants (Atlantis), and Gauntlet (Universe) that juggled various stories and themes yet managed to have them dovetail nicely before the closing credits.  From a production standpoint, and referring to scripts we didn’t write, I’m very proud to be associated with episodes like Time (Universe/written by Robert Cooper), 2010 (SG-1/written by Brad Wright), and Epilogue (2010/Carl Binder) because they were some of the very best episodes the franchise produced, episodes I can still watch and rewatch.

Q. Did you feel that the DVD releases of Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008) and Stargate: Continuum (2008)that followed the SG-1 series
tied up loose ends enough to satisfy the fans and adequately answer many of the lingering questions that fans might have had?

A. I think both DVD releases did a great job of answering the major questions but, let’s face it, after 10 years of television, you’re going to have a few loose ends.  The plan had been to tie up even more of those loose ends in a third DVD release, Stargate: Revolution, but, alas, that now seems highly unlikely.

Q. With the last of the Stargate films being shelved, what future do you see if any for the Stargate franchise?


If there is a future for the series, would you like to be a part of that future?

A. The Stargate franchise is a valuable asset to the studio and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they bring it back.  As to exactly what form it would take, I have no idea.
While I’d love to see them revisit some of the familiar faces fans have grown to know and love over the franchise’s record run, I think that as more time passes the slimmer the chances of that happening.

Q. Lastly, I understand that you’ve got a NEW project in development.
I’m quite sure your many fans would be interested in hearing some details about it.

A. Paul and I are launching a new comic book series with Dark Horse Comics.
Dark Matter is an SF series that will follow in the Stargate tradition, offering action, adventure, exploration and humor on a grand cosmic scale.  Six crew members awaken aboard a derelict ship, dead in space, with no idea of who they are or how they got there.  Their search for answers will eventually lead them on a perilous intergalactic journey.  The plan is use the comic’s four-issue opening arc as a springboard to a scifi television series.  For those interested in checking it out, Dark Matter hits the shelves on January 11, 2012.

Q. Was it difficult transitioning from television to Comic book writing and had you done this type of writing before?

A. I wouldn’t say it was difficult to transition from television to comic book writing but those first two issues (of the opening four issue arc) were a challenge.

Dark Matter existed as a pilot script first and I had to find a way to tell the same story in comic book form – tightening up the story, breaking down the narrative over those first two issues, finding a way to tell the story on the page and through a succession of panels rather than thinking in terms of acts breaks and episode cliffhangers, conveying the story in comic book format. I’ve attached the Dark Matter’s opening in both formats (television script and comic book forms) for comparison.
The differences aren’t huge but it was a bit of a learning experience.

Q. Can you give fans a glimpse into the Dark Matter story, for example; in what year does the story take place?

A. Dark Matter takes place in a not too distant future in which multi-national corporations have colonized worlds, exploiting planetary resources and building galaxy-wide empire enforced by ships, private armies, technology, and wealth.
This colonized space is policed by a galactic authority of equally formidable strength.  Our heroes are the crew of an independent ship who awaken from stasis with no memories of who they are or how they got on board.  Their search for answers leads them on a journey that will put them in conflict with some dangerous galactic players…

Joseph, It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and having the opportunity to get the inside scoop on the past, present and future of Stargate and Dark Matter.
I’m sure like all Stargate fans out there, I can’t wait to read the Dark Matter series, and will be anxiously anticipating a coming television series in the not so distant future.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts . . . All the best!

As a follow-up note: Joseph Mallozzi was kind enough to share with us, his fans, a brief three page teaser from part of the pilot script for the Dark Matter Series.    The Dark Matter – teaser will follow this article on NERD TREK.

Marc Rosenthal
Nerd Trek

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46 Years Old. Born in Boston, Massachusetts. Artist, Writer, Poet and Sci-Fi Maniac . . . Making a living with Signs & Graphics and Electronic Access Control Systems. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music and play a smattering of instruments, but none well :-) Fanatical Movie watcher and the biggest DEXTER fan on the planet ! ! ! Pacific Northwest Resident since 1991...........