Stargate Atlantis has undergone quite a few cast changes since it first appeared on our screens, and season five will prove to be no different. For one, Colonel Carter will be turning the City back over to civilian control in the dubious but familiar disguise of IOA member Richard Woolsey. For another – and this one is likely to be far more popular with characters and viewers alike – we’ll be seeing more of Doctor Carson Beckett after his reappearance at the end of season four.
Woolsey is a very different sort of character to any we’ve had on Atlantis so far. How will his introduction change the dynamic of the show?
Well, he affects things on the base, but off-world the team is still the team, and the dynamics in that respect haven’t changed. Not to give too much away, but his command style is certainly very different from Carter’s! We’re very excited about having Picardo on the show. He’s an actor who, much like Amanda [Tapping], makes the performers around him that much better. And his character is just very interesting. He’s come a long way from the pencil pusher that was introduced in ‘Heroes 1 & 2.’
He’s always been quite abrasive in the past. Will this provide an opportunity for conflict with the existing personnel?
Yes, definitely, right off the bat. In episode two, ‘The Seed,’ you’ll see that. The thing about Woolsey is that he’s always been a representative of the IOA, and the IOA have had their agenda. In some ways he’s been the rep for that particular agenda. But on the other hand, we’ve humanized him, to the point where I hope we like the guy and understand him and sympathize with his position and his willingness to at times realize that what the by-the-book situation calls for may not be the right decision. For example, in ‘The Seer,’ he goes back and presents a positive review of Carter’s handling of the situation – which was generally positive [anyway], but he left out some of the more damaging elements. And as far back as ‘Disclosure,’ he’s hired by Kinsey to basically cause trouble for the SGC. He does a little digging and realizes the truth, and rather than be a yes-man he goes behind Kinsey’s back to present evidence to the President. So that shows he has a conscience, and that’s the type of guy you want to write for. The type of character that will create conflict. He has an agenda – and it’s not even a hidden agenda, it’s right out there. You’ll butt heads with him but at the end of the day he’s a character you can sympathise with and understand.
Another major element to season five is that Carson Beckett is back in the City again. Was it always the intention to have the character back for multiple episodes following his return in ‘The Kindred pt 1&2′?
Well, to be perfectly honest, after he was killed off I came up with an idea of how to bring him back if we ever wanted to. I pitched that out to Martin [Gero] and Carl [Binder], and they loved it. And I said, “You know what, if we’re going to do this then we should plant the seed early on.â€ At the time Carl was doing a final polish on ‘Vengeance,’ and the line he put in was very subtle ¬– something to the effect of how amazing it is that Michael has been able to come so far in his use of the retro virus. He’s taken all our research and used it for his own ends. So that was the very subtle tip off that if you think about it, even if Michael was a great scientist, how could he have achieved so much in such a short period of time? The obvious answer is that he had help, and in ‘The Kindred pt 1′ that’s what he tells Teyla. Of course, by the end of the episode you see Beckett and put two and two together and realize exactly where that help came from. In part two we sort of explain Beckett’s time line, what he thinks happened to him, why he ended up assisting Michael, and it answers a good deal of the questions regarding his reappearance.
So we always had the door open, and we were really amazed by the fan reaction. The ‘Save Carson Beckett’ campaign was great, the way they demonstrated. And finally we thought, why not? So we did the two-parter at the end of season four. Then we were making plans for season five, discussing it with the Sci Fi Channel. I should mention Mark Stern, [the Executive Vice President of original programming for the network,] his contribution to this as well. He’s a guy who always gets a lot of flack – if the fans aren’t happy with any aspect of the show they blame it on him! But Mark was a very big supporter of the Carson Beckett character. It was one of the things we discussed during the off-season, and ultimately we said, “Why don’t we try to nail him down for a number of episodes?â€ So I gave Paul a call and asked him if he’d be interested, and he said he’d love to come back. So we’ve got him for five. And then, who knows what the future holds?
The season four episode ‘Be All My Sins Remember’d’ also hinted that there was an Elizabeth Weir clone still out there. Will we see more of that in season five?
Yeah. That story line we are going to follow through on – but we will not be seeing Torri [Higginson]. When last she was in town for ‘Be All My Sins Remember’d,’ it was a very short scene, and she was at the time very excited that we had left the door open for her character. So based on her response we wrote the script. But when we went out to her she ultimately elected to pass. Which is fine – we don’t want to force anyone to do the show! However, given the script, given the plot, it was possible to do the story without her. So Carl went back and did a rewrite and the story will go ahead. It’s unfortunate – the fans would have liked to have seen her for continuity’s sake, but at the end of the day it’s Torri’s decision and we respect that.
are you personally most excited about as far as season five is concerned?
I’m pretty excited about the script I’m writing now, ‘Whispers.’ We’ve never done a horror episode – we did ‘Vengeance,’ but that was a monster. I wanted to do an episode that just creeps people out. I’ve always been a fan of horror movies. So, I came up with this scenario. It takes place off world and there are two elements to the story. One is the horror element, which I think is going to be very kick ass, spooky and hopefully there will be a lot of very cool scares. Right now it looks as if Will Waring will be directing the episode, so I’m just going to stock him up on horror movies and make sure he gets a good running start at the sensibility that we want to capture. The other element is that we introduce a recurring character in ‘Search and Rescue,’ called Captain Vega. With Carter gone, I said to Martin during the hiatus that it would be good to introduce a female military character – like Lorne, a background character to use. So we introduced this character. In ‘Whispers,’ we end up meeting up with Captain Vega’s team, which happens to be an all-female team. One of the fun things about horror movies is that you never know who’s going to survive at the end! In this episode they’re not just ‘red shirts,’ they’re very interesting characters. I’m very excited about all four of them. Whoever survives the episode will be a great addition to the general roster of recurring characters!