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Behind the Scenes

Video | Brad Wright talks Travelers, Screenwriting, and New Stargate

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Whether you missed the opportunity to take part in the original AMA Livestream, or you want to revisit this incredible world-first, we’ve put together this all-singing, all-dancing Hollywood edit exclusively for our members to enjoy.

Over nearly 90 packed minutes, the co-creator of Stargate SG1, Atlantis and Universe, and showrunner of Netflix’s Travelers, talks about his writing process, his favorite sci-fi books, and, of course, the eagerly anticipated fourth Stargate series. He also takes questions from two very special guests, executive producer of The Expanse and veteran of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Naren Shankar, and Dark Matter creator and Stargate producer Joseph Mallozzi.

Other subjects covered include:

  • SF author John Scalzi’s contributions to Stargate
  • The influence of Steven Spielberg and Frank Capra
  • Stargate director Andy Mikita
  • Writing the Travelers pilot episode
  • Running a writer’s room on Stargate
  • Faster than light travel
  • Returning to the Aschen and the Nox
  • Black Mirror and sci-fi anthologies
  • Writing for Richard Dean Anderson
  • Alien biology in Stargate
  • Visual effects in The Mandalorian
  • The Atlantis DHD design
  • Shooting TV quickly and cost-effectively
  • Stargate’s planet of the mimes
  • Amanda Tapping’s skydiving episode of Travelers
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time
  • Ronon Dex vs Teal’c

Watch the AMA video now and share your favorite moments in the comments below:

If you’re hungry for more, don’t forget to check the Stargate Feed to see what you might have missed.

Click here to expand the full transcript

Lawrence Kao: Good morning to some, good evening to others. Thanks so much for joining. Obviously we have Brad here. He needs no introduction. You can ask him anything; tips on writing, producing Stargate, Travelers, Outer Limits, early career. You can even ask him about other films and shows cause he’s a huge sci-fi fan.

He’s been in the business for three decades and yeah, the only rule – there’s only one rule – please don’t spam. Spam is great for a plate, but bad for a chat forum. We’ll get to as many questions as possible. And in the meantime, as you guys start asking questions now, actually lots of members have started, like, emailing a couple of days ago and also when they registered.

So we’ll get through some of those questions first. But Brad first…

Brad Wright: Can I say something that I know was going to be a question. I just want to say that I know a lot of people are gonna ask about a new Stargate project and the fact is, I just want everybody to know that MGM and I are working on something it’s just too early to talk about.

And it’s partly too early because there’s a pandemic going on. And that’s kind of ground a few things to a halt. But we are working on something that’s very exciting. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while now. And I love it. I’m excited to have the possibility of making it someday soon or someday – period.

I’ll say this much, I’ll say that it exists in the universe that you already know. It’s not a reboot. It’s not a completely new thing. It’s a continuation and I’ll leave it at that. I’m not allowed to say…

Lawrence Kao: …we want to hear, we want to hear.

Brad Wright: Good. Good. Everybody’s just going offline though, right?

Yeah. That’s all we’ve 

Lawrence Kao: We’ve done the job. Thanks guys. Oh, wow. That’s exciting. It’s exciting. I don’t know if I’m going to see if there’s any, you know, what’s going on in the chat here, but hopefully, okay. Go ahead or love that. I’m seeing lots of ‘Wooo’. Lots of ‘Ooh’, claps, ‘Thank yous’, ‘Well dones’, ‘We need more Stargates’.

Brad Wright:  That’s what’s happening? That’s awesome. Oh, great news. What a way to kick off the AMA. All right. 

Lawrence Kao: So yeah, let’s get to some, let’s get to some questions now. It’s like, okay. Now the first question comes from Krzysztof Kolata and it’s just a simple one. What are some of your favorite  sci-fi books?

Brad Wright: Favorite  sci-fi books. Oh, wow. I started reading sci-fi when I was in my early teens and I read all of Isaac Asimov. I read as much Fred Saberhagan as I could get my hands on. And it was funny because at the  time, I just thought there would be an infinite amount of classic sci-fi out there, but there isn’t, you know, there’s a ton of it, but, but the stuff that’s magnificent you can kind of burn through it and in a life.

 And so now I love [John] Scalzi. John is a great writer. We’re kind of cut from the same cloth of not being able to write something that doesn’t have humor in it, but I love hard science fiction. I love the hardcore stuff. If you read my essay, I love fantasy too. Lord of the Rings was epic when I was 12 years old.

And I read that, you know, all three volumes. You know, I cried when Gandalf fell and my brother at dinner said, ‘Don’t worry about it. He’s going to be okay.’ And I got really mad at him for the spoiler. Mainly I love sci-fi and I love space opera. I love military sci-fi. I love writing military sci-fi. I don’t know why.

It well predated Stargate SG-1 that I had this affection for military fiction too. Not that I’m, you know, hugely into war. It’s just that it has such an impact on humanity and on the creation of civilization that it’s impossible to ignore as a thing that happens in the world and that has always happened in humanity. It’s just what happens when people stop talking, you know, and and, and I love science fiction set in the distant future. I’m trying to remember the name of the book that I just read, British author, brilliant spot spiders, that evolved, meeting humans for the first time – it is brilliant. And somebody should tell me, somebody remember it and tell me, yeah. ‘Cause it’s really popular.

[It’s Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky]

Lawrence Kao: If you remember, we’ll tweet it out later.

Brad Wright: Okay. Good idea. 

Lawrence Kao: Well actually, speaking of Scalzi, one of the other members that asked Ian Zainea, he was asking what role did John Scalzi play and what are some of his notable contributions to Stargate?

Brad Wright: Okay, so what he did was… he was at home and when I met him, we met him once, we flew him out, we had a meeting, but what he did was he would read a script once I thought it was in good enough shape to share. And he read it from a science perspective because with SG, we were trying to be more accurate, you know, my penchant for trying to be a little more accurate in terms of science and science fiction was getting more serious. And John is a smart man and his, and his knowledge is encyclopedic. I mean, he would read the scripts and say, you know, ‘You can’t possibly do that in that much time’. If we were talking about, you know, a flight at a certain speed. He’s just smart, but also he’s very creative.

So he would talk about character as well, but mainly he was our science fiction consultant. And I loved getting his insights and it’s funny – I said in my essay too – I’m always just a little bit embarrassed when I talk to real scientists about science fiction, especially my science fiction, because, you know, you start talking – and it happened with John – you start talking about a structure that was visible after the Big Bang that indicated that something happened before the Big Bang. Evidence of life before life was possible to exist. And I remember getting the email and him going, ‘Wow, heady stuff, man’. And thinking to myself… and being a little bit embarrassed because I knew that he understood this stuff much more than I do, but he completely got it and completely helped us form that part of the story. It was great.

Lawrence Kao: We’ve got another question. This one came from a Twitter member SGCGate and they wanted to know who are your heroes in the field of writing, acting, directing, and how do they influence your career? So it kind of maybe even related to the last question as well. 

Brad Wright: I don’t have any immediate heroes. Like, I mean, I have filmmakers that I love. I mean, who doesn’t love Steven Spielberg, you know? And I loved early [George] Lucas. I worry about that. You know, having heroes, because people’s careers ebb and flow. 

I think Aaron Sorkin is among the greatest writers ever. And he doesn’t do science fiction but his dialogue is so believable and so captures real people. I lean toward that kind of thing. I could go way back to Frank Capra. I love Frank Capra stuff. And it’s this old, incredibly old stuff, but capturing humanity… films and actors and writers and directors who can capture – I’m not inventing this term – something with heart, something that has an element of heart in it.

And it could be, you know, It could be It’s a Wonderful Life. It could be Aliens, you know. It’s got that great ‘Stay away from her, you bitch’ moment that is, that is technical and incredible and powerful, but it’s driven by heart, this protective instinct. So I would have to include Aliens in that – it’s that film that when it’s on TV, I can’t not watch it and every scene is perfect to me. 

Lawrence Kao: Yeah, I call those ‘take you along for the ride films’, where you accidentally get into the channel and it takes you on for a ride and then you’re on it. 

Brad Wright: Yeah, Groundhog Day is like that. You know, you’re watching TV and ‘Oh, Jesus, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I have to watch a few minutes of this’ and you know, no matter where you are in the movie… ‘I gotta go to bed’. You turn it off. But yeah, it’s you know, it’s funny ‘cause sometimes I’ll be in my little gym doing my lamish sort of exercises and and, and I’ll be flipping and there’ll be an episode of Stargate and it’ll be, ‘Oh God, yeah, I remember doing that. I remember when Andy shot that and, Oh man’. And it’s funny because most people watch the episode. I watched that part of my life when I see that episode – where I was, where the director was in his or her career. 

Lawrence Kao: So it actually takes you back to the set and takes you back to that moment rather than seeing the story on screen.

Brad Wright: Yes, it does. Great example; ‘2010’ [SG-1 – S4, Ep16], Andy Makita directed it. The last act of that episode came out of my computer. I felt like I typed it in real time. And it didn’t change at all. I mean, basically what I wrote at that moment and Andy came in with this amazing way of shooting it and concept of shooting it.

And it was, if not his first episode that he directed, it was one of them. And it just made me go, ‘Oh man, that was a great decision hiring Andy as a director.’ Because he had worked with us for so many years as a production manager and then a producer and as a first AD early in Stargate. And so when he took off and directed ‘2010’ as well as he did it, it blew me away. 

And, you know, like music cues. I can’t not watch the ending of SGU – well, the last episode is not really an ending, although to me, it feels like it now – but Joel [Goldsmith]’s final piece is the final piece of music that he wrote for that episode. It’s just so good. 

Lawrence Kao: Another question I guess, on, on writing. This is from LeslieAnn Kao. What is your usual writing process look like? Are you an outline guy? Do you write sequentially? Do you just tackle each scene as you’re ready for it?

Brad Wright: I don’t recommend my writing process to anyone. Of course, I used to outline because you had to. When I was newer and younger, people had to see your outline. But honestly, for me, the outline process takes as long as the script process. And, it’s less informative to me as a writer. I’m not a plotter.

I don’t think of the whole story ahead of time. I mean, I have, and I do when I’ve had to, but I am much better as a writer when I’m in a scene. I know what the scene should feel like. I know what the characters’ goals and intentions are, but I don’t really know what the scene is going to be until l I get at it, until the one character says something and then I go, ‘Oh, this person has to say this’. And for me, the process of discovery is way, way better. To give you an example, in the pilot of Travelers – I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler, if you haven’t seen Travelers, then you should – but in the pilot of Travelers, I hadn’t decided if the cop character was going to die.

I thought he might end up being a recurring character. And in that scene, as I was typing, as he chases Phillip down the alley, I thought, geez, what if he has a heart attack right in that moment? And Phillip knows what’s going to happen. He just didn’t know who was going to be there for the heart attack or that he was going to be the cause of that heart attack.

And that, and I thought, was a perfect way of encapsulating the protocol, not just don’t take a life, but don’t save life, which is protocol… something… three! And so Gower’s chasing Phillip down this alleyway and in that moment, I decided that was the scene and it, and it ended up being way more powerful. And I ended up discovering that by writing the script. And I don’t think I would have got there in an outline. I think because I wasn’t in the moment with the characters, I would have, the outline would have just achieved the story beat I was trying to achieve and I would have moved on and, and Gower may not have died in that moment, which I think was one of the best scenes in the episode and, and that, and so, but having said that you can’t run a show that way.

And so in our writer’s room on Stargate and in Travelers and every writers’ room I’ve ever been in, the way I like to do it is to put up a big whiteboard and put the beats on that. ‘Cause somebody always comes in with a core idea. ‘What if this happens?’

For an example of what if; What if Destiny is hurtling toward a star and you think, ‘Oh shit, we’re all going to die because it’s powered down and it’s out of power and, oh, that was a bad thing to happen’. But what if that’s how Destiny gets its power. What if it’s truly solar power? Because I was realizing that if it was on a journey, as long as it is, it had to replenish its power. There’s no such thing as an infinite power source. In that moment, you come in with that idea and what do you do with everybody else? And so you put the beats on the whiteboard and then all of you, as a writing team, sit down and you fill in the holes. Like you put five acts of story and you put in the beats. 

Hopefully, you have an idea of how it’s going to end. You put that down. You have an idea of what the tease is going to be, how the show opens. You put that down and you basically fill in the blanks as a group, throwing out ideas, building on what is already on the whiteboard. Sometimes taking the eraser and wiping it away again, which is important. And then realizing, ‘Oh, that doesn’t get to that’ or ‘This doesn’t make sense at all’, but, but, but that’s what a writer’s room is.

The writer’s room is beyond just the original spinning and spitballing and throwing ideas around, it’s putting it up on the whiteboard. I’ll do that. I do that for my own stuff too but I, but what I really like to do is, is to, is to be minimal, to at least give myself – this is when you’re making a show – an idea of structure without committing to it completely. When I’m creating a new show, when I’m writing a pilot,I just start writing and, and I don’t recommend that to anybody. I’ve written so many hours of television, that’s the way it works for me.

Lawrence Kao: Was there actually a moment maybe where… I mean you’re obviously a huge veteran, so you probably have structure and ideas down pat, but maybe for younger writers or maybe when you were a younger self, maybe there was a moment you crossed over.

Brad Wright: I guess. When I’m the showrunner in that, and I’ve only been the showrunner lately – for the last 20 years or so. And I have that privilege, but I can’t just tell any new young writer, ‘No, just go write it’ unless there’s an enormous amount of time and they want to try that process.

What it sets you up for though is the knowledge that somebody may have a big note that changes everything. And you may just have to throw away a giant chunk of what you’ve written especially like at the, at the high level, if you’ve written something and they go, ‘We love this and love this, but this, this whole ending, it’s just not where we think it should go’.

Oh, well, ‘I didn’t do an outline. I’ll just do a very heavy, second draft and a big rewrite’. And that’s just, you know, par for the course when you do it that way. And then the other thing that happens if you have a lot of time, is I’ll write a version of a draft and I’ll finish it and it’s just for me. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to send it to anybody at that point and I’ll wait like a weekend or, or five, six days, and I’ll read it again. And I’ll go, ‘What the hell was he thinking!?’ And immediately see what the solution is or sometimes to see what the solution is.

But my other thing that I do and I’m not sure many people do this – and I don’t think a novelist could – but I start on page one every time. So when I’m writing, sometimes I’ll come up with a bunch of pages the next day I go back to page one and I read it and read it and read it. And because sometimes what you’ve written informs stuff earlier, and you can sneak ideas in and it makes you seem much smarter than you actually are. But no, I start on page one every time, which is why there are always more typos on the last page, but also because when I’m in production, if I type the end, I immediately want somebody to read it and tell me whether it’s as good as I think it is or not. So I hold off on that moment as long as possible. I have a unique process and again, I don’t recommend it, especially for young writers, because structure is really important.

Lawrence Kao: When you wrote the Rules of Sci-Fi for us. Did you use the same process where you start at paragraph one and then write and then kind of go back?

Or was it a different process? 

Brad Wright: Absolutely. That’s a great example. When I wrote that essay, I just started at the beginning and that would change it. It would be very fluid and a little joke or thing that I thought was great yesterday, I would think ‘How stupid is that?’ today.

That’s definitely how I do it. And then when you get to the end you have to do another draft, you get notes from people, and sometimes it’s notes you have to do, sometimes it’s notes that are just suggestions. And you have to, you have to take those notes – and you generally have 55 pages of script – and you have to somehow make that work without adding more material because you can’t write a 65-page script. You can’t shoot 65 pages of script because every 10 pages, every eight, seven pages an entire shooting day, which is 80, 100, $120,000 worth of production.

So when you write 10 pages that you have to cut out, you’ve just pissed away a lot of money. The goal is to write a script that is just long enough that in the editing room, when you’re done, you have 2, 3, 4 minutes tops that you can shave off the episode to reach your program like, or – which was the beauty of working for Netflix – you can shrink it or expand it to the size you want. But it was always for me around 44 minutes of screen time for an episode. And that in page count is around 51 pages, 52 pages for me. So when you address somebody’s note, which sometimes means adding something, you have to find stuff to take away, you have to get rid of stuff.

I actually had a writer, I won’t say his name, who I said, ‘You’re too long’. And he went away –  and this really happened – he went away and he came back. And I went, ‘Okay, I don’t hate it. That was fast’. And I read it again. And I said, ‘I don’t see what you cut out’. And he said, ‘No, I just changed the margins.

Lawrence Kao: Yeah. I thought you were gonna say, I just deleted all the ‘the’!

Brad Wright: Well, no, that would be hard to read, but he just changed. He altered the margins and I… Anyway.

Lawrence Kao: @ArcticGoddess1 from Twitter asks what Ancient technology do you wish was real and that we could use in our daily lives now?

Brad Wright: I think faster than light travel would solve an enormous amount of problems. Yeah,it really would, but with that would come anti-gravity. I mean, Ancient technology, as you know, in spaceships would be great. I think it would be wonderful. I think it would be really, really great if humanity could figure out a way to travel faster than light and go to other worlds.

That would be wonderful. There’s a lot of stumbling blocks to that. There’s a lot in the way in terms of real science. You can’t just go faster… You know, you actually have to come up with a way of changing a fundamental law of the universe or altering it in a way that we haven’t come up with yet.

And even then you have to  figure out how that gets around things like time dilation and you have to come up with a power source for that. I mean, even if you came up with a science, to me, it happened like, like the Alcubierre Drive – like Warp Drive, basically – I don’t think there’s a dilithium crystal around that’s going to do it. You know what I mean? So that would be great, but it’s a real big challenge and I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime. It’s a dream though. It would be pretty cool. 

 Lawrence Kao: All right. Another Stargatey kind of question from Hunter Faulk-Burgess: Out of all the characters, worlds and stories that we got to see in the Stargate franchise, which ones would you want to revisit and why? 

Brad Wright: This is kind of funny. I always wanted to do another Aschen story. I liked the Aschen – again, ‘2010’. I thought that their plan was so insidious, but [co-creator] Rob Cooper used to tease me about it because he felt that the long game that the Aschen played was undramatic, inherently undramatic. Which is why it ended up playing well. It’s a time travel story because by the time we realized what their plan was, it was already too late and the only solution was to find a way to send a message back and not meet them. Obviously I have a thing for time travel, but yeah, I think Rob’s joke was ‘Oh my God. They stopped us from being able to grow corn’, which was pretty funny. At least it was for me at the time, I killed myself.

But I thought I could come up with another long game type story. I just, there was something interesting about a culture that had that sense of superiority and sense of the long game of, ‘Well, we’ll win, it’ll just take a hundred years’. I just thought that was so insidious.

 And I only got two episodes in that world and but you know, there might’ve been a third right there. Yeah, I’ll stick with that answer. 

Lawrence Kao: Oh yeah, no, great.

Brad Wright: I loved the Nox. I thought the Nox were fun. They were so great, but again, who they ultimately were in that episode [Stargate SG-1, ‘The Nox’ – S1, Ep8] kind of precluded our ever seeing them again, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re so young to us’. Like, ’You’re not ready. You’re just so not ready to be our friends.’

Lawrence Kao: We’re going to try one more layer. We have a special guest for you, Brad, an old friend who couldn’t make it and wanted to ask you a question as well. So we’re going to queue that up right now.

Brad Wright: Okay. Okay. A special guest. Okay.

Naren Shankar: Hey Brad. It’s Naren Shankar, blast from your past. I got a question for you, man: Despite the enduring popularity of shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits – which I worked on with you many years ago – with few exceptions, you know, maybe notably Black Mirror, it seems like successful anthology series are few and far between these days.

Do you think there’s a place for anthologies in the current landscape of, you know, more novelistic television? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Brad Wright: I love that guy, Naren. I think the reason anthology can come back and, and has in the form of Black Mirror is because you’re not dependent on the last episode to be able to air the next one.

I think regular broadcast television made it difficult. And I think one of the only reasons The Outer Limits managed to go as long as it did was it was set up with literally a business relationship between MGM and Showtime. It was part of a larger deal. To get access to the MGM library, Showtime also had X number of hours of shows like The Outer Limits and which Naren and I had a great time working on together. It was so much fun, but I think he’s right, that now might be the best time. And I would do that again in a heartbeat, as hard as it is to do an anthology.

And it really is because it’s like doing a pilot every week. You’re you when we were doing 22 episodes of The Outer Limits, we were casting 22 separate pilots – essentially 22 separate shows. Everybody who came in to be in that episode, had to be cast. So you didn’t have recurring characters and every set had to be new.

There was no such thing as a standing set, so it was bloody difficult, but it’s also so rewarding when you do an anthology episode that stands alone and is fun and, and is solid. And you have your dogs [bad episodes], it’s inevitable, you don’t have a recurring cast to fall back on.

You don’t have a through line or backbone of that is the reason the show got bought in the first place like an O’Neill, a Carter, a Teal’c, a Daniel, that you can depend [on] to hold it together because of their own strengths as characters and as actors. So it’s risky.

And I think that’s part of the reason anthology has struggled and, I think, networks tend to be risk averse, especially broadcast networks. Because if you don’t get an audience in your time slot for consecutive weeks, because the last one sucked and the next one wasn’t that much better. Well, the next one is fabulous, but if you don’t get the eyeballs on it, you’re screwed.

Whereas Black Mirror it all, it all went up at once on Netflix. Everybody had the ability to, if they didn’t like it, watch the next one. I watched them all. I thought it was terrific. I thought it was very, very solid, incredibly well written. And, and I, and I think proved a point that anthologies like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone proved to a certain extent.

And that is that you can grasp the theme and make that the throughline as opposed to sets and actors and characters. So that in a way the audience is getting the same show because it is, like Black Mirror is a perfect example, it was a side of technology, of this technology – the black mirror. Took me like an episode or two to figure it out. So yeah, hey, Naren, if you want to do an anthology at some point, let’s do it. 

I’d do The Outer Limits again, it was so much fun. Although I have to say this too, we did stuff on The Outer Limits in terms of sets and stuff in general, in terms of visual effects, that you could not get away with now in terms of sophistication of the audience.

I did a show, ‘Light Brigade’, which was like Season Two, almost a sequel to another episode that I had written in Season One called ‘A Quality of Mercy’, which was a bottle show. One set, two actors – save a lot of money. Directed by Brad Turner – fabulous job, and the Nicola de Boer’s in it. And Robert Patrick. Anyway, so I wanted to do a sequel of that, in that universe, essentially. So at least I didn’t have to build a whole new universe again, but it required the building of a spaceship. And because it was anthology, our per episode budget for sets was not super huge. But Steve Geaghan, the production designer at the time, and I… what we used to do is I would write – and I do this  to this day – before I write a story, before I commit to a story, I have conversations with the artist. ‘Hey, can we do this? Can I build this, what do you think? What stages should we put it in? How would we achieve this?’ And so you can come up with ways of solving problems with your department, put it into your script and it sounds like you’re smart right off the top. But Steve had some shortcuts. And so the hatches, the actual hatches in the tunnels, which were gigantic cardboard Sono tubes that we painted the inside of and put ladders in, the hatches were actually garbage can lids, literal garbage can lids that were spray painted, which in a standard definition, 4×;3 look fine in HD, you’d go, ‘Is that a garbage can lid?’ Same with visual effects, you know, you could do a matte painting or you could do an optical and you couldn’t tell it was a model, but in modern a 16×;9 with 4k yeah, you would say ‘That looks like a model’ or ‘That looks like crap’.

And so the level of sophistication will have to go up. I think Black Mirror achieved that. I think that the [robot] dogs in that episode were amazing – I can’t remember the name of it, the black and white episode [‘Metalhead’ – S4, Ep5]. That is the bar. I mean, you have to be really good in terms of your visual effects. And so embracing an anthology, especially the way we… I mean, we were writing scripts and we were shooting them weeks later, building the sets as we went along.

That’s a breakneck speed that we operated at for The Outer Limits, but yeah, I do it again, because it was so much fun and so rewarding. And, you know, you meet actors who want to do television because they don’t have to commit to a whole series or multiple seasons, they get to do a character for one episode.

We got some pretty, some pretty decent folks to be in that show. I mean I got to meet some great, great talent and it was great to work with them. So, yes, Naren, I think it’s possible. Let’s do it together. He’s a really smart guy. He’s so smart. 

Lawrence Kao: So throw Scalzi into the mix as well.

Brad Wright: I think John did anthology.

Lawrence Kao: Yeah, he did some of Love, Death & Robots, I think, on Netflix.

Brad Wright: Yeah, there were his stories. It’s funny, it’s very different… screenwriting and writing novels is a very different animal and you know, characters on a page have to exist more complete on a page and a novel whereas screenwriting, it’s a marriage of the writing and the performer. A character is not ever complete in a screenplay. That last step, that really important step is when an actor breathes life into the character you’ve written and it becomes a partnership going forward.

Brad Wright: So when I write a pilot, sometimes it’s a favorite actor. Sometimes it’s just, you know, a random voice I’ve generated in my own head. But as soon as you cast it, as soon as that role is a real person, that voice takes over as you’re typing the character. And I think that’s another huge difference between writing for screenplay and writing for a novel.

I am writing Eric McCormack’s voice for Travelers. I’m writing Richard Dean Anderson’s voice for Stargate, Amanda Tapping… you know their cadence, you know what they sound like, you know their rhythms. And so once that partnership gets good and, and once you’ve hit the ground running, they read the script and it sounds like their character to them.

You know, they go, ‘Oh, this is me and I know how to say this’. Part of that is in a read through, if they have a hard time – like Rick, he hated long speeches, he had kind of a ‘two finger rule’ and it’s not because he didn’t memorize them. He just felt more real when he had shorter things to say.

And he was a consummate professional, but he just didn’t think O’Neill should do long speeches. And so, that burden went to other people obviously, but as far as Travelers was concerned, I actually wrote with Eric McCormack’s voice in my head for the character, hoping that I might be able to get him because I knew he was Canadian and I wanted this to be a Canadian show. And because I’d worked with him before [on The Outer Limits, ‘Tempests’ – S3, Ep9], but I didn’t really think I’d be able to.

It might be because I wrote it with him in my head though, that I did get him because he read the script and went ‘Wow, this is something I could do – this speaks to me’. Patrick Gilmore [Dale Volker in Stargate Universe] who plays David, I actually literally wrote the part for him knowing I could get him into audition.

And so during the auditions, he went straight to callbacks during the auditions. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, like five or six years actually. And he was sitting in his car as I walked out of mine to go into the casting studio with Morgan Webb, who was a brilliant casting director.

And so he sees me and waves and he rolls down the window, I go, ‘Hey, Patrick, how’s it going?’ He goes, ‘Hey, Brad, long time, no see’. And I said, ‘By the way, I have to go in, but just so you know, I wrote this part for you, so don’t fuck it up’. And he went, ‘You wrote it for me!?’ And I went, ‘Yeah, you can’t really screw this up, I promise’. And sure enough he hit it on the park, as I knew he would. 

Lawrence Kao: All right. There’s a lot of comments coming. It’s not even a question, but it’s a lot of comments in the chat box and they’re wondering what’s going on? Who are the cats in the background? And maybe describe your office.

Brad Wright: So this is Lulu. This is a cat that we got for my daughter, Kayla, when she was like five, and Lulu just passed a few years ago. And she was a lovely cat and actually went off to live with my daughter when my daughter went off to university, this is – nope, where is it? Over the other way? – this is Napanee, our first cat. And then in the middle, I’ll get out of the way, in the middle that’s Baloo, that was our dog, golden retriever lab cross who was with us for 15 years and has been gone for about five, but my wife for a few Christmases in a row had those made for me and I just love them, so I put them up in my office. 

Lawrence Kao: Very cool. Very cool. I’m going to quickly scroll through… 

Brad Wright: It’s so funny that the cat picture behind me. It’s it’s they’re great. I love them. 

Lawrence Kao: Oh, here’s an interesting question from a wordsrmagic2me1, the question is: as a professional biologist, I’m curious how much thought and research goes into the biology of planets and aliens that appear in the shows.

Brad Wright: Well, as a biologist, you are well aware that most planets we would go to we would probably die. We, I mean, I started making jokes in SG-1 where there were so many trees and so many planets. It was like Johnny Appleseed went out into the universe, but we have to shoot on Earth and so that’s our limitation. 

I think the tougher question is why is everyone speaking English, which, you know, at least Star Trek had the Universal Translator, which was their answer. For Stargate, we knew it would be such a barrier. We just hoped that the audience would accept it as a conceit, just like they accept gravity on spaceships, because it’s very difficult to do anti-gravity.

The only person, I think, who did it… Ron Howard did it in Apollo 13 by building a set inside the Vomit Comet, which is a DC 10. He built a set inside of DC 10, and they did parabolas. But back to the biology question, it is true that all the planets we go to seem to have perfectly breathable air, but maybe that’s why the Ancients put Stargates there. That was our answer. And sometimes we got story out of it, for example, the Iratus bug in the Pegasus Galaxy is a creature that… ultimately we wanted to plant something that was fundamental to what the Wraith became, but it was also a bit of a barrier because of course there would be indigenous life.

We did an episode called ‘Bane’ [Stargate SG-1 S2, Ep10] that Robert wrote that was essentially about an indigenous life form that almost killed Teal’c. Changing the biology of a planet or going to a foreign planet, unless that was about the story, it was incredibly difficult from a technical perspective. We tried things, we tried to change, like the color of planets, just in color correct. I mean, Star Trek just made the sky red because it was a cyc [cyclorama, a curved backdrop that creates an illusion of infinite scale], right. It was the back wall of the studio and lit red. And we just never found or rarely did we find creatures or things that… unless it became an take them to the story.

For example, I did an episode called ‘Cloverdale’ [Ep5] in Season Two, yeah, I think it’s a Season Two episode of SGU. And I realized I couldn’t afford in a million years to do the whole episode in the end, the defending the gate aspect of the story, because those creatures, those plants essentially, were so expensive because every, every frame of those scenes where they existed were CG. And so I think maybe it would be easier now to create planets where there was a different biology. Especially since the shooting world has changed. An alien planet 20 years ago in Stargate was driving out into the forest.

You know, the big problem was we couldn’t see buildings. We couldn’t see power lines. We shot in a lot of gravel pits, but now the city has grown so much that you’d have to go out of the zone, which is like a place where you can legally and morally ask a crew member to drive in their car to a location within you know, a shooting day, otherwise you’re really risking people’s lives by making them work 12 hours and then drive an hour and a half on the other side. And so since the city has grown so beyond the zone alien planets have to be in studio in green screen, so that kind of thing, that kind of storytelling about different biologies would be more available to us if we get to do it again. 

Lawrence Kao: Yeah. Speaking of that, there was a couple of comments I’m seeing here. It wasn’t necessarily directly related to green screens, but I’m going to find them here. It was more around the volume walls, like in The Mandalorian. Effectively those giant LEDs. What do you think about those? 

Brad Wright: I would love to… oh, I mean, as soon as I read about those, I sent the link to a couple of friends, like Carrie Mudd, my producing partner on Travelers. I said ‘We need to do that. We need these. We need to shoot something on these.’ [Stargate writer/producer and Dark Matter creator] Joe Mallazzi has said the same thing. You have to do it all beforehand. I mean, all the CG, the world, has to be created beforehand, but the benefits of being able to shoot actors in front of an environment that looks photo real, to be able to light them without worrying about green spill, for them to be able to see the thing that we’re reacting to…

I mean, it’s telling an actor that’s actually responding to a little silver ball on the end of a stick that a visual effects coordinator’s holding up and that’s the Monster’s head. Depending on the actor, they go ‘Really?’ Or they’re looking out the window of their spaceship and they’re firing weapons and they’re banking left and right and there ain’t nothing out there. There’s the guy holding a little ball saying, ‘This is where your eyeline should go’. What The Mandalorian has, is the ability for the actor in real time to see, ‘Oh my God, like, that’s what I’m responding to’. It’s funny, when you do science fiction and you break and you do a screening – and I like to do that, I like to do just screen episodes for the cast.

If you’re lucky enough to be finished an episode or two before you wrap and say, ‘You know what, let’s get a little gathering and, and watch one of these. You should all be very proud of it’. We did it for every one of our pilots. We’d have the whole crew in and do a screening for them. And for the actors to see finally, what that visual effect is that they were imagining three months earlier or four months earlier… That would be the huge advantage to The Mandalorian style. All that LED wall, I can only imagine though that they’re really expensive right now, and you would need to have a lot of faith that your show is going to go a very long time in order to make that kind of investment.

I don’t even know if anything like that exists in Canada yet. I’m fairly confident though that it will soon and it’s the way to go. And I would also suggest that it’s probably not going to be, you know, the way it is for everything. I mean, if you look at Endgame, the Avengers movie, I mean, there was so much CG in that. There’s so much scope to it, I don’t think an LED wall could even work for something like that. But I don’t know. I would love to have one of those to play with 

Lawrence Kao: There’s another question, Ian Zeania: I’ve seen some cool concept art for an Atlantis DHD that was quite different from the SG-1-style DHD.

And what was the ultimate reason for going with that, which is essentially like a same DHD offworld for the offworld Gates while keeping the decidedly cooler DHD for Atlantis control room and the Puddle Jumpers?

Brad Wright: It becomes an art department thing. It becomes a design aesthetic. The one thing that I wanted – I don’t know, ‘decidedly cooler’ – we wanted the Puddle Jumper to have its own DHD. Right. So it had to be part of that control panel. I really wanted, always, in SG-1, Atlantis, SGU, and going forward for there to be a unique Stargate as well. I think that the Atlantis Gate has a digital quality and so it seems more advanced. Keep in mind that Atlantis could have existed and evolved and grown long after it left. But we wanted it to have a different look, a different color, so that just by looking at the icon of the Stargate, ‘Oh, this is an Atlantis episode’. ‘Oh, this is SGU’. And the design of Destiny itself, we struggled with that and it’s literally one of those drawings on a napkin. Literally, I was sketching shapes and I was looking at a chevron and kind of elongated it and sent literally that chevron shape to James [C.D. Robbins], our designer and, and he made it real from there.

But Destiny itself is an evolution of the Stargate shape, we just wanted each show to have a visual template all of its own, a unique twist, and that’s really the core reason for that. 

Lawrence Kao: I’ve got another technical question from Ebrahim Said, he asked: What are some of the strategies that you use to stage scenes and fast moving productions.

But before you answer, a quick side note: when we spoke to the VFX supervisor, John Gajdecki, he told us that he would previs everything with Fisher Price figures. Is that also right? 

Brad Wright: Yeah. John used sometimes little LEGO guys too in previs and I mean, previs is in fact what they do in The Mandalorian. It’s just that they take the previs all away to, to photo real. And then they projected. I mean, that’s basically what you’re doing. You’re doing something before you even shoot the thing. 

John’s figures were sometimes hilarious, cause he would write the name on their little LEGO chest so you knew who was who, but it helps with things like axes. Like which direction is the ship flying? If they’re coming through the Stargate left to right, then, on that CG shot, they have to come out of it, left to right.

Stuff like that. Otherwise it crosses the axis and we were much more in those days concerned with stuff like that than we are now. But again, I’ve already sort of said some of it in terms of dealing with the art department, I’m a big, big, big believer in prep. You hear horror stories about shows where the production doesn’t get the script until way late and the actors, they get new pages the night before shooting and they’re building props and sets, you know, that the paint is still wet when they step on stage. And that to me is unfair to the crew –  it burns money and it’s just inefficient.

And so the more planning you can have in advance the better. This started happening with The Outer Limits, and then with Richard Hudolin on Stargate and with every production designer in our department that I’ve worked with, especially in science fiction. What’s the line… like when one of my builders said, ‘There’s no drywall in space’, which means that all of the shapes that these designers come up with, they’re all unique.

There’s very rarely a square room in a spaceship that is, you know, just simple. They all have angles, they all have structure. They have depth and the more of that, usually the better. So when you build a swing set, which is a set, that’s only going to appear in one episode or two really nice when you can use it over and over again. In SG-1, we had this benefit of having the available to us what… it’s gone now, but it was at the time, the largest soundstage in North America. Oh, it wasn’t a soundstage, it was an effect stage, meaning that whenever a train went by, you could hear it and you’d have to stop. And so poor actors were probably… you get a scene where Amanda Tapping or Jewel Staite or anybody’s doing this great scene that’s rich and emotional. And, you know, the sound guy goes, ‘Pause for a sec’, and you hear a train go by and they’re holding your emotion and they have to keep acting. That people don’t think acting is really hard, they should see somebody in that situation. 

But we had this, we had this gigantic effect stage and we built a village. We built an entire village that could… because as I said, even then we were losing places that we could go to and turn around and make it look like it could be an alien thing, you know. And because there always seem to be humans, wherever we went, we were building these sets and using them once, like Richard built this fabulous thing for an episode called ‘Spirits’ [Stargate SG-1 – S2, Ep13]. And it was just hugely expensive and it was used in one episode. So we started coming up with ways where we could use a set multiple times, multiple ways. And of course that village was almost a failed experiment because I thought I was being really smart, but what I didn’t realize is how expensive it was gonna be to light the damn thing because you build something that big and you build it indoors and if you want to try to do daylight, you have to bring in so much light. We made our show look more expensive than our budget really had by knowing we were going to be there a long time. I mean, before the end of Season One, we knew we were doing 88 episodes.

And before the end of Season Two, we were doing five seasons that allowed us to invest in stuff that you would not otherwise do as a television show, because you might get canceled in two weeks. So you rent everything. And that doesn’t suggest that we bought lights because that doesn’t make any sense either because you’re really buying the bulbs and those things are the real price and so you rent stuff like that. 

But you know, you build things that you’re going to use again and again. Talk about efficiencies, at one point we were producing Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis in the same offices with the same writing staff with the same production design team – one designer, two art directors working out of the same office.

And that made sense so that we could have those efficiencies, so that we could use our nine sound stages and build something that was going to be X in one episode for SG-1 and Y in Atlantis and because our designers were so good, you rarely saw… I could see, but at least there was a difference between planet A and planet B.

 And, then Joe [Mallozzi] did a really smart thing in that village. He did an episode called ‘Whispers’ [Stargate Atlantis – S5, Ep7]  and we fogged the whole damn thing up. And you couldn’t see the structure and it, it was terrific. It was like another use of that place that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. 

 Lawrence Kao: Speaking of Joe, but he’s going to be our second special guest and he’s actually here right now and he’s been waiting in this virtual backstage. So we’re going to see if we can actually bring him out…

Joseph Mallozzi: Hello. I was listening to you talk about the efficiencies of producing Stargate and frankly, you know, you sound like me or I sound like you because whenever I do an interview, I talk about Dark Matter and the fact that you hear horror stories about other productions writing outlines on napkins or getting scripts the night before. And I always tell people the reason Dark Matter was such a pleasant set and everyone was happy to be there was because we prepared. And the reason we were able to prepare is because I learned it from you and Rob on Stargate.

The fact that, you know, if you’re efficient it just makes life easier on everyone and the money ends up on screen. Just listening to you talk about that made me smile. So you know, I remember you visiting the Dark Matter set, and I introduced you as my mentor, and I remembered you laughing it off, but it is true.

I mean, the reason Dark Matter turned out as great as it was and it has its fanbase is because of everything I learned working under you on Stargate

Brad Wright: Well, that’s great, Joe, and, and it’s great that Dark Matter did so great and looked great, by the way. It was a great show. It’s a shame, it didn’t continue. We both got the three season curse out.

Joseph Mallozzi: I came on with two questions. Now forgive me, I’m late to the chats so in case someone has asked it I’ll move on, but, you know, I would like to know what was- 

Brad Wright: Brief. 

Joseph Mallozzi: Okay. So basically I only have one question then. What was the most challenging episode to produce and why, in the span of your career?

Brad Wright: Okay. I can think of two and I don’t mean challenging, but just downright bloody scary. Do you remember the episode on the planet with the Cirque de Solei mimes? 

Joseph Mallozzi: That was before my time. That was Season Two I think that was. [Stargate SG-1, ‘One False Step’ – S2, Ep19]

Brad Wright: What we realized was that in the end, where we shot at, which was out in a place called a Stokes Pit – which is gone now, by the way, it’s just buildings which I’m sure you lament, Joe – we were putting these people that were dressed in virtually nothing but makeup outside in temperatures that were pretty much zero and asking them to act and act in an alien sort of way, speaking back to the biological question. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to kill somebody. They’re going to freeze to death’. And one of them happened to be a friend of mine who I had gone to university with, so we had all these heaters set up, but it ended up the sun came out and it didn’t rain.

And I thought the other makeup would have run off too, if it had rained. It was so scary. Anyway, the other one was one, a Travelers episode in Season Two [‘17 Minutes’ – S2, Ep17], I think where I had decided, like a madman, to shoot a skydiving scene and literally devoted a whole section to the episode in the sky shot. I went to our producer’s office and ‘We can do this, right?’ and ‘I think we can do this… GoPros’. So the concept of the episode was a Traveler was riding into the body of a skydiver. They didn’t succeed in their mission. And so we went back in time until just after that Traveler and over and over and over again, while the Traveler was falling through the sky and basically sent new Travelers into their host body.

And so Amanda Tapping read the script and – she directed the episode – and she came into my office and I’d never seen an actor or director so frightened before, because she was saying, ‘So Brad, do you want me to direct this episode in the sky?’ and she said ‘Okay, okay, just wanna make sure’. And it ended up working really, really well because of her amazing planning. And because we found an actor who looked just like the stunt person, but one of the reasons I was so scared and it was so stressful and so risky was we shot it in the Spring.

And as you may know, Joe, it rains a little here, and you can’t jump out of the sky in the rain, it has to be sunny. And we were losing our lead actor to a pilot that she had got with a much larger show. And it was Friday and we needed her to shoot the scenes and we had to tie the skydiving stuff to her.

And thank God on our last available day, the weather opened up and we were able to shoot the skydiving scenes and they ended up being magnificent because the sky was beautiful and I will never do that again. The funny part is people kept… so go ahead. 

Joseph Mallozzi: No, I was just going to ask, so you said the final date, do you mean that you would schedule it for that week and the weather was bad and you had to push, keep pushing or, and then you just happened to get it on the last day she was available? Holy smokes, that is a yes.

Brad Wright: In terms of windows of opportunity and the last window… otherwise, I don’t know what we would’ve done. I really don’t know what we would’ve done. So don’t do that, Joe, on your next show. 

Joseph Mallozzi: Suffice it to say, I don’t think I would do any skydiving or acrobatic scenes.

Brad Wright: And what was your second question?

Joseph Mallozzi: You being practically the only guy I know who reads as much sci-fi as myself. I want to throw out a question basically, if you were given the opportunity to adapt any, I won’t even say sci-fi novel, any novel to the big screen, what would it be? You have carte blanche.

Brad Wright: I do know. I do know I have carte blanche. It’s called Legacy of Heorot. I think I made you read it

Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah. I love it. 

Brad Wright:  Jerry Pournelle [with Larry Niven and Steven Barnes]. And it’s a great novel and it’s dated, but I think it’s just got this fabulous twist in the middle of it that I love. Legacy of Heorot. Joe, you were the one who turned me on to that – what’s the novel about the spiders’ children? 

Joseph Mallozzi: Children of Time. Adrian Tchaikovsky.

Brad Wright: Adrian Tchaikovsky. There. I was trying to remember that earlier, before you came on. Oh yeah. Now there’s a great example of a book that I loved that I don’t think would make a very good film because of the time jumping and because of you, I don’t know, you could anthropomorphize spiders as well as he does just by hearing their thoughts.

Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah. That’s a good point. And a great answer. I thank you, sir. What I’m going to do is I’m going to log off so that it won’t eat up your bandwidth, and I’m going to join the chat and talk about you behind your back. So, thank you very much.

Brad Wright: Good to see you, buddy.

Lawrence Kao: If he can stay on for one more minute, there’s actually a question for both of you from someone named Yoshida Babies, which is, I always wondered this: How do you keep the scripts of the character for time when there are multiple writers?

Joseph Mallozzi: To be honest with you, on Dark Matter, I tended to do a pass on everything and it’s the same thing you did when we first joined Stargate. I mean, for several seasons all the writers were all getting in the room and we would break the stories together. The outlines would go through all the writers, particularly Brad and Robert who would give their notes.

And then we would go through the various drafts and when the scripts were, we thought perfect, then they would go to Brad and Robert, and Brad and Robert would do their passes on the scripts too, to ensure essentially quality control. It’s the same thing. When I was on Dark Matter, I was a showrunner and all the scripts went through me. 

Brad Wright: Okay. So that’s true. Except when you have the ability and the good fortune that we did for as many years as we did, eventually you all start hearing and reading the same voice, right? So yes, I did. I would do a pass on scripts early on, but by the time Paul and Joe were writing shows for you know, a year or whenever, the voice that came out of their typewriter was virtually the same as the one that came out of mine. You know what I mean? O’Neill sounded like O’Neill, Carter sounded like Carter. At the very beginning, it’s impossible for the showrunner not to do a big pass.

It’s impossible.I don’t care how good a writer you are. You need… it’s quality control is a good way of putting it, but it’s also for the actor so that the actor picks up a script and knows, ‘Yeah, that’s my character’. As opposed to, ‘I wouldn’t say that’. And, and they might’ve said that had the show been created by somebody else, but it wasn’t.

On Travelers, I can only name like three or four scripts that I didn’t do a dialogue pass on. And, of course, the longer you go with writers the closer they’re going to get, because they can see the episodes. They can see the performer performing those scenes and they hear the voice, they hear the character voice and it would have happened by the way.

Had I written on Dark Matter, the same thing would have happened. 

Joseph Mallozzi: Well, I tried to get you to write on Dark Matter. Both seasons, but you were too busy, so you know, maybe next shot. 

Lawrence Kao: Joe, thank you so much. 

Joseph Mallozzi: All right. See you guys later.

Brad Wright: See you, Joe.

Lawrence Kao: All right, Brad. So we’re going to go now into some quickfire questions.

I hope you’re ready, whatever springs to mind. HThese will be kind of snappy. There’s 10 of them coming your way. Number one, what show should we all be watching right now? 

Brad Wright: Ooh, great, great question. Not science fiction at all. Ted Lasso. So good. So, so moving, so funny, so modern. Fabulous writing. I just loved that. I absolutely loved it. The Crown – if you want to see money happening on a screen, watch The Crown. It’s also brilliantly acted and written. Travelers, you should watch Travelers if you haven’t.

Lawrence Kao: Most bingeable series on Netflix. So if you couldn’t write, what else would you do?

Brad Wright: Well, I started out as an actor and then I realized I was a far better writer. But I was in a theater company for years in my twenties with Debbie, who’s my wife and has been ever since we were in a touring theater company and you know, we wrote social action theater and, and we acted in our little place and it was it was fun and funny and, and I kind of miss the performance aspect of, of being on stage.

I would be drawn to science. I wish I could be… it’s the math. The math just was too hard for me. So I ended up being able to, you know, write science fiction television, which was very lucky. 

Lawrence Kao: Alright, five dinner guests dead or alive. Who do you invite?

Brad Wright: Oh that’s too tough. Do I have to have five? I don’t know. Well, I’d like to meet Barack Obama. I just think he would be great. You know what? My perfect foursome, I don’t even know if they all golf: Jake Tapper, Barack Obama. Just just those guys. I just think they’re so fun and so smart.

And I’d like to have dinner with Scalzi. I’ve never had dinner with him. He’s a funny, smart guy, but that’s one I could actually possibly do sometime when the pandemic is over. I don’t have a lot of a fantasy about stuff like that. I’m a little more practical. I can tell you the five golf courses I would like to play: I would love to play Augusta. I’d love to play Cyprus….

Lawrence Kao: No problem. Here’s a silly one. Pineapple on pizza?

Brad Wright: Oh no. What’s wrong with you? Why would you even ask that question? No. 

Lawrence Kao: Okay. Who won the fight? Ronon or Teal’c?

Brad Wright: Oh, they’re still at it. They’re still at it. They’re like one gets knocked down and the other one turns to the other, one gets up again and does one of these [beckons]. I’d like to write that. No, they’re there, they’re there. 

Lawrence Kao: Yeah. If you write it will animate it. No problem. He put it up. If the world is going to end in 24 hours for the only one who knows this, what’s the first thing you do?

Brad Wright: I don’t know. That’s a good… I mean, the only thing I think of when you say that is I wrote that I wrote I wrote an an episode of The Outer Limits called ‘Inconstant Moon’, but it was actually a Larry Niven short story that I read where… and this isn’t an answer to your question, but I’m going to answer it this way.

So anyway I just read it and it was so moving. It was about a guy who looks at a moon – “inconstant moon”, It’s a line from Romeo and Juliet. And he sees that it is so bright and it’s brilliantly bright, and he goes, ‘Wow. Look at that’. And he phones somebody he knows who he kind of likes and as sort of flirting with and then it sinks in, ‘Oh my God, if there’s only one light source in the solar system, and if the moon is brighter, it’s reflecting off the sun, the sun, must’ve gone Nova and they’re on the dark side’. So when the Earth rotates back around again, they’re doomed. And so he asks her out and he takes her on a date and then they end up fighting for their lives because it wasn’t, it wasn’t a nova, it was just a severe flare. What a beautiful story.

I had to write it. I had to turn it into an Outer Limits episode. I actually got to ask Larry Niven about it. I changed it in ways I didn’t want to, but again, the network and the studio, I was new, so I had to do what they said, but yeah, that’s my answer to that. 

 Lawrence Kao: Thoughts on the Lost season finale?

Brad Wright: Carl Binder, who I’ve known for 30 years and who… he and I were the only writers on a show called Neon Rider, way, way back – my very first job. He’s not a sci-fi guy, but I knew he would be able to bring the heart element of writing into the show. So I brought him into Stargate I think in Season Four or Five. And he wrote all the way into Universe. So he ended up being with us in a writers room and an executive producer on the show.

And he’s a showrunner in his own right, of course. And then ended up writing, I think, the best SGU that we made, ‘Epilogue’ [S2, Ep18]. But he loved Lost. He loved the series. And I watched the pilot and a couple of episodes and I said to him, ‘You know…’ –  you have lunch at the writer’s room – ‘This show, there’s no plan. They’re just making shit up. I’m telling you right now.’ And he went ‘No, no, no, no, no. You can see that it’s like a jigsaw puzzle’ – ‘There’s just pieces everywhere, there’s no puzzle’. And so I didn’t watch the finale, but I remember the day he watched the finale and I remember the day he walked in and I said, ‘Well?’ and he said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.

I apparently was right. There was no plan. I do love that music here though. When I’m writing. I listen to soundtracks and, and that final music cue from Lost is beautiful. It’s just very, very good. 

Lawrence Kao: Here’s another show: thoughts on the sad cancellation of Firefly?

Brad Wright: There’s an example of people at a network not seeing what they have. I kind of understand what they were afraid of because I watched the first episode that they put up: ‘How was that a pilot? I don’t get it’. It turns out it wasn’t, they aired them out of order. I didn’t realize that until afterwards. And then I think it was Robert or Paul or Joe or both or all and they said, ‘Brad, give it a chance. It’s really good’. And then I ended up watching them all one summer, I think, after it was canceled. And it’s so good. The acting is so great. It’s a shame, it should have had multiple seasons. 

That’s how lucky we were. I don’t think if we were in the same position, in a million years, would we have gotten past episode five or six. I think fondly of the season as a whole, but we’ve had some dogs in there early on. And you know, if we were under the same broadcast network microscope that Firefly was under I think we would have been in trouble.

So, you know, obscurity can give you a long life.

Not that we, you know, we ultimately ultimately ended up being a pretty big hit, but, but I, you know what I’m saying? It was a shame, Firefly was great. 

Lawrence Kao: Okay. Last quick fire question. Who would you like to see at our next AMA, but whoever you say you gotta help us get them?

Brad Wright: Joe, Naren, John Scalzi – there’s lots of folks who would be better at this than me but you know who would be really fun cause she’s so witty and charming and lovely – Amanda Tapping.

And I will ask her, she’s great to, to, to an AMA with Amanda. Be really nice to her or I’ll kill you.


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