Season four has so far seen plenty of Wraith activity to keep the Atlantis team on their toes, and none more so than in ‘Spoils of War’. Not only was there a particularly nasty Wraith Queen to deal with, the team also witnessed the ‘birth’ of a new Wraith warrior – just one among thousands of clones quietly maturing.
The episode was also very striking from a visual standpoint, with much of the action set in Wraith interiors rarely seen in detail before. For production designer James Robbins, ‘Spoils of War’ meant for some very engaging challenges. Though the Stargate Atlantis crew have a ‘standing’ or permanent Wraith set on one of their stages, this episode called for a completely new Wraith environment.
“We had two episodes that were very heavy in the Wraith set, and we did a lot of revamping of the interiors to create a new environment in there, as well as creating some new physical pieces to use,â€ says Robbins. “In this particular episode the cloning pods were the real new thing – we find out that in fact that’s how the Wraith pro-create. They don’t do it the old fashioned way, they just go to the factory, plug in a few and pop them out,â€ he laughs.
It was an element that the production had known would be introduced since earlier in the season, so Robbins wasn’t surprised when he got the script. In fact, he’d already begun work on designing just what the cloning pouches would look like.
“I had actually gotten a bit of a heads up earlier in the season that we were going to be needing those, so I had done some drawings much earlier in the year,â€ he reveals. “I found those and developed them once the script came in, so that they spoke directly to what was required from the script. We actually built three different pods with various stages of cloned growth in the pods. Of course, the last stage was with a live actor, who was in the process of being ‘birthed’.â€
The scene in which the Wraith soldier is taken out of the pod is also the first time the audience has seen what they look like beneath their strange bone-masks. The answer is: pretty darn creepy!
“I did a bit of a rendering for [special effects make-up artist] Todd Masters to produce the actual prosthetic for the gentleman that was playing our warrior,â€ Robbins explains. “It was nice because these guys are [usually] big and huge and bulky and the gentleman who was in the build was anything but – he was very slight and slim. So it’s assumed that there’s still a little more growth to go. They’re kind of eyeless, and their features aren’t formed – the mouth is more a maw than a perfectly formed mouth. And it was all wonderfully horrible and gooey! I was very pleased with the way the pieces worked out and with the way it was shot.â€
‘Spoils of War’ also gave viewers a good look at the Hive ship’s bridge. Though various such bridges have been seen before, there has never been an episode that set so many scenes in such a room. The directions in the script meant Robbins and his team needed to come up with a few extra pieces to make the action work.
“We had reconfigured that environment For ‘Reunion,’â€ says Robbins. “What we had first established for the bridge was actually not achievable in the time frame that we had, because we needed to have it work for a bunch of different areas. So that gave us the opportunity to tweak the pieces and rearrange them to create a new look for the bridge, which was very successful. It was more an issue of requirements than sitting down and going, ‘Okay, we’ve got to make the bridge look different.’ It rose out of the shooting schedule and just the physicality of trying to put things together in the time we had.â€
One aspect of the script that required particular time and attention was the Wraith queen’s throne. Since she was linked to the cloning operation, it looked very different to any example of a Wraith throne that we had seen previously.
“She’s literally hooked in to the throne, so there’s a plethora of ‘umbilicals’ that lead off from her,â€ the designer explains. “We built some physical pieces to attach to her and changed out the Wraith throne that we’d used in the past. When our actress who plays the queen Wraith [Andee Frizzell] came in, we did a fitting with her and laid these pieces over her arms so it looks like she’s literally melded into the chair. Vis effects added a whole bunch more, so that when the time comes she is able to retract these things. With the help of vis, they all just sucked back into the chair. So it was quite successful and that was a bit of a combination between wardrobe and the model shop, bringing that particular gag off.
“I thought Val [Halverson, costume designer] did an absolutely wonderful job,â€ Robbins concludes. “I came to all the fittings so I could see how it was proceeding, and didn’t have to say a word. She a very talented lady and did a great job on it.â€
News Article Courtesy of Mgm