Stargate Atlantis without Martin Gero would have been a very different show. The young writer’s style fitted perfectly with the franchise’s established wit, and his ability to add banter to his scripts apparently ad infinitum leant the series some of its funniest moments. Gero has always confessed to a particular affinity with McKay, and so it was supremely fitting that his last script for the series, ‘Brain Storm’, ended up being a McKay-centric story, rounding out one of the on-going arcs for the character – his rather unexpected love story with Jennifer Keller.
For Gero, ‘Brain Storm’ was doubly memorable, since besides being the last script he would write for Stargate Atlantis in series, it would also be his first experience directing a full episode of the show.
“I was given the opportunity [to direct] in season four, after I directed my feature film (YPF) and everybody liked it,â€ he explains. “There were even 10 seconds where I was going to direct ‘Be All My Sins Remember’d’. But it felt like a two-parter, and we thought well, we could save a lot of money if Andy [Mikita] directed it all, and I was so busy finishing the feature film… So it was really just down to schedule. This year, we didn’t have two movies to worry about and we were always going to write four scripts each, so I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll direct the last one and it’ll work out perfectly.’ Being a writer/producer eats up an enormous amount of time, so I waited until the last one, when I was finished writing and I could just focus on the direction.â€
At the time of making that decision, of course, the producers didn’t know that Atlantis would be wrapping for good at the end of season five.
“As I was finishing ‘The Lost Tribe’, we were starting to get the first shimmers that we were probably going to wind it down, and then I knew when I was writing ‘Brain Storm’ that that was probably going to be my last Atlantis. And I knew I was going to direct that one, too, so I always wanted to tailor it for me to direct, and to have a good time directing. It just all turned very bittersweet, because ‘Brain Storm’ was, professionally, the most fun I’ve ever had. The crew and the cast didn’t know [about the cancellation], and I did. It actually came out on our last day of ‘Brain Storm’. We told everybody, and it was an emotional day.â€
The shoot itself, Gero says, was the most fun he’d had on the Stargate Atlantis set. Besides simply being at the helm of the episode, the producer was also able to bring in some fantastic guest stars, namely Bill Nye, Dave Foley and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“It felt very care free,â€ he reveals of the experience. “I felt like I was very protected – there were a lot of people there to help me if I made a terrible decision. Thankfully, I didn’t do that! It was all the fun of directing without any of the pressure, and working with Bill Nye, Dave Foley and Neil deGrasse Tyson was just a dream come true. Dave Foley’s a guy for whom I’ve had a tremendous amount of respect for a very long time, and Bill Nye I loved as a kid.
So I was in a situation where I was on set directing Bill Nye and Dave Foley in a scene and I was like, ‘Aw, man – this is awesome!’ Marshall Bell as well – he’s a phenomenal character actor who’s literally been in every movie. You talk movies with the guy and he’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I was in that’. So it was just a real high. Plus, it was really the first time that I had got to work with Jewel [Staite] on a daily basis, and she is the absolute best. She’s as good as David Hewlett and not as cranky, so she wins,â€ he laughs.
Though it wasn’t planned, Gero reveals that the last scene he directed for the series turned out to be a perfectly poignant way to end his own work on the show.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that the character I latched on to the most is McKay,â€ he says frankly. “I have a great fondness for that character. And the last shot of my last day on Atlantis as a writer, as a director, and for all intents and purposes as a producer, was shooting the scene where Keller finally tells him that she loves him. And David’s face [as McKay] warmed up, and he was so happy… It was a weird thing, because it felt like closure to me. For five years, we didn’t even know it, but all that guy wanted was for someone to tell him that they loved him in an unconditional way. It explains a lot about McKay! It was this beautiful moment, and I got very emotional.
It just felt like I’d taken this guy on quite a trip – we all have, as writers – and to a certain extent he’s now a better human being. He’s got love in his life, and at the end of the day, that’s the quest that all of us are going after. We go about it in lots of different ways – some of us fight bad guys and hope the Universe will love us, and some of us are less extravagant in our pursuits! But for McKay, I really think he just needed to be loved.â€ Gero laughs, “It’s a weird touchy-feely thing to say about a show that’s so tongue in cheek and doesn’t take itself seriously, but it was a nice moment to end what for me, personally, has been an extraordinary five year run.â€
News article courtesy of the official Stargate Website