‘The Kindred’ is an epic adventure for the Atlantis crew, picking up on the story of Teyla’s lost people, her unborn baby and another of the team’s arch-enemies, Michael. It’s an episode that sees much of its action take place away from the City in a range of new places.
For the first episode in the two-part extravaganza, production designer James Robbins had several new environments to carry the story. There, was, for example, the facility in which Michael has been conducting his experiments, and the village Teyla’s visions lead them to.
Michael’s laboratory complex was less complicated than might be expected. Robbins reports that he and his team had a head start, helped out by another Stargate production that fans won’t have a chance to see for a few months yet.
“That was a set that was built at our Norco stages,â€ he explains, referring to an annex studio built inside a former bicycle factory that the production has been using for the past few years. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on in there – a little bit of a fire fight. They wanted Earth-based architecture, which made it a little more straight forward for me. We had an existing set that had played in Continuum on that stage. So I tore down parts and put up some new walls to create the rooms hey required, one room for the fight with the hybrids and the other where they find Beckett at the end of the episode. It went together quickly and I think it was a pretty successful little set.â€
Though there would be more location filming in the episode’s second part than its first, the script called for two scenes that needed to look as if the team were outside. One build – in which the crew would have to simulate a large fire – definitely needed to be done on location, though local conditions almost meant this was impossible.
“The beginning dream sequence that Teyla has, with Kanan on the funeral pyre – we built this pyre, and at the time that we were intending to do this, it was tinder dry outside,â€ Robbins recalls. “So we were getting a lot of ‘humming’ and ‘harring’ from the fire department as to whether or not we were going to be able to do this. We were going to have [something like] 15 fire trucks standing by so that we didn’t burn down the lower mainland!â€
That sort of interference would have caused significant issues for the production. But what the fire department hadn’t realised was that thanks to the magic of television and the talents of the design and special effects departments, the production wouldn’t actually have to set the pile of wood alight.
“We had to reassure them that the actual pyre build itself had been fire-proofed and nothing in it would burn,â€ Robbins explains. “It’s a controlled propane thing, it only looks like it’s burning… I think N. John Smith, one of our executive producers, stepped in and chatted with the fire department and got them to see reason so we were able to do that on location – and it worked exactly as planned on the day.â€
One of Robbins’ biggest tasks for the episode was creating the artisan village that Teyla leads the team to following her visions of Kanan. This time the set would have to be created in standing sets on the Bridge Studios lot, rather than on location. The only suitable choice was the already-standing village set. To make it appropriate for the style of the story, considerable alterations were required.
“That set I was quite pleased with,â€ says the production designer. “I changed out the village quite a bit and quite honestly, more than you see on camera. That’s often the case – I can build as much as I want to but there’s certain scenes and action that has to take place. I’m seldom there when the director is framing his shots. My note after the fact would have been ‘a little wider to include the faux ceiling’, which is this structure that plays over the entire village courtyard. It was slatted wood – very, very rough boards. Those were laid over the entire area. When I viewed the episode, there are only really a couple of scenes where you really get a feel that that’s the case. It’s all part of the game, and that’s fine. Sometimes they’ll shoot the world because they’ll have the time and sometimes they’re behind or the action is such that they need to get in and cover a lot of dialogue in tightly, and if they don’t happen to tilt up enough, you don’t see the stuff. But what was there was spectacular. Set-dec changed it out remarkably.â€
Because the standing set is built to resemble a collection of stone structures, Robbins’ team needed to change the fundamental look of the village.
“We did cover a lot of the existing structures with some wood framing as well to try to make it a little more rustic, and less like the stone medieval village – it’s just a series of market stalls in the central area, with a little pub at one end with people sitting outside having beverages of choice! They had the little chase scene, so the stunt men were in there trying to coordinate their moves and shots to happen properly when Teyla appears at the end. Kavan and Teyla go from there to one of the interiors where they’re sweating the vendor out by soaking the set in water. The interior was in the village set, and it was called for in the script that the room be very empty, very sparse. In there the only change-out I had them do was continue this rustic wood theme by covering over the windows with a myriad of boards, all arranged at a criss-cross and then we just put a little light through there. So hopefully it felt a little different!â€