The ending to Gauntlet that aired was different from the one originally conceived. Before the script was written, hell, even before the writers sat down to spin the actual story, the original pitch had Young and Rush as the last two men standing. With one, lone serviceable pod remaining, they argue, then make the decision to let fate decide. They flip a coin. Winner makes the sacrifice and stays out; loser goes into stasis. The coin flip is made and, as it descends, we FADE OUT, not knowing the results.
One of the possibilities this particular ending set up was a season 3 opener which finds Rush, three years later, a little loopy from his time alone. As he goes through his daily maintenance of the ship’s systems, he converses with members of the crew who, it turns out, are hallucinations. Suddenly, the gate activates. A bewildered Rush hurries to the gate room in time to see Telford lead a rescue op through. Turns out, after several years, Earth finally acquired a means to dialing Destiny. Of course, the rescue turns out to be shortlived as it ends up being a hallucination as well when, in the episode’s final turn, we discover Rush in stasis (he was the one who lost the coin toss), evidently dreaming, while Young maintains the solitary existence as Destiny’s caretaker.
As cool as the idea was, it was problematic for a number of reasons. First – sure, someone might go a little batty after spending three years with no human contact, but Rush? Even though it does turn out to be “all in his headâ€, I have a hard time imagining our antisocial Rush minding all that much being alone to explore Destiny, free of outside interference. The second problem was that, essentially, the episode was one big stage-weight – the equivalent to the “It was all a dreamâ€ short stories your third grade teacher, Mrs. Haversham, used to love so much. A third problem presented itself in the simple fact that this was to be the third season premiere and, as season premieres went, it was lacking in action. We discussed moving the stasis reveal to the end of the second act, then, maybe, the end of the first act, but this story still wasn’t working until we finally found the solution – which was to not do the story at all and make Eli the one who stays awake. After all, who better than Eli, the embodiment of our fans and viewers, to make the sacrifice and leave us with that final sense and wonder?
So, that’s the way we wrote it. And now you want to know how we planned to write our way out of it. Does Eli fix the pod or does he somehow manage to access enough power to ensure his survival for the length of the jump? How long does the journey to the next galaxy end up taking? And what was in store for our crew after the jump?
Search me! Unlike that imagined season 6 of Atlantis that never came to fruition (check out the AU season that might have been here: September 30, 2008: An AU Season 6!), there were no inklings spun, no stories established, no ideas from the previous season that could be moved into the next. What we had, instead, were a few potential scenarios, vague notions of where we could go.
So, no definite answers for you (sorry) which, as I said in yesterday’s blog post, isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allows you, the viewer, to envision the ending you prefer. And, at the end of the day, the conclusion you come up with will be just as legitimate as anything I could throw at you.
But, realistically, there are more than a few of you who go to movies and watch television shows so that you don’t have to make up your own damn ending! Well, for those of you, this entry hopefully gets you one step closer. Like I said, it doesn’t provide any definite answers but, in allowing you some insight into the possible scenarios we were spinning, it hopefully makes it somewhat easier to choose your own adventure.
Eli fixes a pod
This was one scenario. Somehow, someway (sorry, don’t have the details but I’m sure the solution would have been all sorts of cool – right, Mr. Scalzi?) Eli manages to fix one of the damaged pods and joins the others in stasis. He awakens with the rest of the crew anywhere from three to one thousand years later. I jokingly pitched out a scenario in which the crew awakens from stasis with the horrible realization that Eli is not there to greet them and that the pods haven’t been fixed. As they mourn their friend, they unseal Chloe’s stasis pod only to discover both Eli and Chloe inside, spooning (Yes, I was kidding and, no, that wouldn’t fly)!
Eli taps some hitherto unexploited power reserve which allows him to extend life support for three years
Another potential scenario with no firm solution. Again, it would need to be something a little more clever than Eli awakening Rush three years later and informing him: “Yeah, I managed to reroute enough power to life support. How? Oh, I’ll tell you later.â€. In my mind, the solution rested with the lone remaining shuttle. Given its independent system, Eli could reroute all of Destiny’s power reserves to maintaining life support with the closed confines of the shuttle and, perhaps, the sealed-off antechamber to the ship where he could store enough food to last him three years.
Eli fails to fix the pods or extend life support, so he survives by sitting in the chair and uploading his consciousness to Destiny’s computer
Since this way-out solution would have Eli relinquishing his physical form (in essence, dying), it was an option reserved for a potential movie as we couldn’t imagine having our hero exist in this form for an entire season. It would allow him to reunite with Ginn (for another Eli/Ginn reunion scenario, read on) and allow the crew full control of the ship with Eli – who better? – as their eyes to all of Destiny’s systems.
Rescue comes in the form of some outside force
Another way to go but, potentially, not as satisfying as it takes the solution out of our hero’s hands. Maybe –
Over the course of three (+?) years, Earth finally finds a way to dial Destiny and launches a rescue op. The power source used could be something the combined brilliance of both Samantha Carter and Rodney McKay engineer (if the SGU movie had happened, they would have surely guested, boarding Destiny as part of the retrieval team) or, perhaps former leader Jonas Quinn comes out of early retirement and – again with Carter and McKay’s help – finds a safe way to dial Destiny from his planet. As for what other familiar faces from SG-1 and Atlantis would make an appearance – well, aside from the obvious (Daniel Jackson who certainly wouldn’t miss this opportunity), it was up in the air.
When Destiny comes up short and drops out of FTL hundreds of years from the next galaxy, rescue comes in the form of a branch of our descendants, an advanced military society that has mastered space flight and is now in possession of a massive armada. They save us but their motives turn out to be less than honorable as, it turns out, they have designs on Destiny. This was probably my favorite scenario as I loved the idea of a plausible human military force becoming our third season Big Bad.
Rescue comes in the form of some alien race, maybe remnants of the Ursini or, perhaps, the blueberry aliens who – now armed with the information they mined from Chloe in Deliverance – finally seize the opportunity to take Destiny, something they’ve been trying to do for some time (At one point, we tossed around the idea of our crew coming upon the desiccated remains of an advance alien scouting party in one of the ship’s unexplored sections but, ultimately, decided against it because we wanted to maintain the idea that, despite repeated attempts, the blueberry aliens were unable to penetrate Destiny’s automated defenses and gain entry). There was also talk of salvation coming in the form of a completely new alien species (Brad’s uber-cool idea), possibly an energy-based race we unwittingly picked up during a refueling stop at a star. Eli starts glimpsing these entities and assumes, after three years by his lonesome, he is going nuts and hallucinating. Eventually, the aliens reach out to him and, being energy based, are able to provide the power needed to ensure Destiny complete its journey.
And how long does the journey take?
Oh, anywhere from three to roughly one thousand years. Smart money was on the minimal three year journey which would have allowed our crew to touch base with a fairly unchanged Earth. A ten year journey would have been more interesting in that it would offer up some great story possibilities as our crew inevitably try to reconnect with loved ones following a decade’s absence. Are they still alive? How have they moved on? What has changed in their lives? There was even talk of returning to an Earth in the midst of a multi-year war with the Lucian Alliance. For my part, I preferred the idea that our characters don’t know how long they’ve been in stasis and, when they contact Earth, are horrified to discover it’s been 100+ years. Their loved ones are long-gone, the lives they led distant memories, and they must adjust to a world very different than the one they left behind.
And what was in store for our crew once the jump had been completed?
Again, a number of potential developments were floated. Initially, when we were thinking in terms of a third season, I very much liked the idea of Colonel Telford leading a resupply mission through the gate. Earth had finally secured a power source that would allow them to dial Destiny. Maybe it was a one-way trip because Destiny would still be ham-strung by the inability to dial Earth without explosive consequences or, on the other hand, Telford and co. bring the portable power source with them and allow some of the civilians to leave, establishing a stronger military presence on board.
Later, when it became clear that a third season wasn’t in the cards, Brad floated the idea of two movies: The first would focus on a rescue op that would see several familiar faces (Carter, McKay, Daniel Jackson among the first few mentioned) coming aboard Destiny and, ultimately, helping our crew fend off the advances of the previously mentioned human military race. The second would have been a solo adventure that would have seen our crew finally completing Destiny’s mission (Sorry. No details available on this one. Brad and Robert had a mind-blowing idea for the series/franchise wrap-up and, in deference to them, I’ll keep my mouth shut and allow them to one day reveal their master plan).
We probably would have found a cure for T.J.’s condition – but only eventually. I liked the idea of one of our main characters having to face her mortality, perhaps even exhibiting early signs of physical deterioration that forces their friends and loved ones to face the sad prospect as well. If we were going to cure her (and, again, that was the most likely scenario) I would have lobbied to play out T.J.’s battle with ALS over the course of a season at least.
In similar fashion, I would have preferred to keep Park blind for an extended stretch as well. It’s something you rarely see on television and something I really wanted to emphasize in Gauntlet (when she comes up with the idea of using the shuttle as a decoy), that despite the loss of her sight, she can continue to be a strong and productive member of the crew.
So who would T.J. have ended up with? Young or Varro? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think this would have ever been resolved. If it was up to me, she would have ended up with Varro. If it was up to Carl and most everyone else, she and Young would have lived happily ever after. In retrospect, it might have been better for the character if, in the end, she elected to say no to both and embrace her independence.
What about Ginn and Perry? Was Hope the last we’d ever see of them? Certainly not. At episode’s end, they were quarantined, not deleted from the database. At some point, Eli would have no doubt found a way to address any potential threat and re-upload them to Destiny’s mainframe. That was one possibility. Another deliciously diabolical idea Brad came up with would have been a huge game-changer. In this scenario, Eli goes to awaken the crew from stasis and discovers Chloe’s pod has been damaged. She is almost brain dead and fading fast. In a desperate, last ditch effort to save her, Eli downloads Ginn’s consciousness into her body. Would he tell the others what he has done or would Eli attempt to maintain the subterfuge? What effect will this have on the rest of the crew, especially Scott who has effectively lost Chloe but will always be reminded of what he had. And how will he react to the sight of the body of his former love, now permanently occupied by Ginn, re-establishing a relationship with Eli? This would have been huge and, I think, an awesome opportunity for the immensely talented Elyse Levesque to switch gears to play a completely different character.