‘Infection’ saw the crew of Stargate Atlantis facing one of their most challenging disasters to date as they found themselves trapped on a diseased and disintegrating Wraith Hive.
“We didn’t want to tip the hat straight away, we wanted to discover that along the course of the episode,â€ explains director Andy Mikita, of the ship’s condition. “So we tried to keep it fairly ambiguous in terms of the look of the ship – we did a couple of subtle things just in-camera. We played with gamma levels a little bit just to give it a little bit less color, and so from a visual cue for the audience that was probably the only thing that we did just to provide a little bit of something doesn’t seem exactly like every other Wraith ship.â€
For season five, the ‘Wraith set’ – housing the series’ standing Hive set – had been moved from the production’s annex at Norco to the show’s home at Bridge Studios. Moving the set had allowed the design and construction departments to make some changes to the internal layout of the Hive, and give the series directors a bit more leeway for shooting.
“We changed the layout quite a bit,â€ says Mikita. “It was always intentionally ambiguous in terms of the layout – we wanted to make it feel pretty big as much as possible, given that it’s always in a small studio. When we set it back up at Bridge, we had a little bit more space to deal with so we just tried to open it up. We provided some physically larger spaces where we could put in some set pieces to help divide the areas up. That worked really well, it gave us a little more elbow room from a working perspective, more room to move the camera around and to stage things ¬– it wasn’t so much just these little hallways here and there. The construction guys did a good, sensible layout that allowed for the most amount of flexibility. And with shows like ‘Infection’ it was good, because there was so much to do in there. Five or six days out of the seven would have been done out of that set, so having a little bit of extra room really made a big difference. And it’s such a modular environment as well, it’s pretty easy to move set pieces around to create new environments.â€
One of the scariest aspects of the episode was the concept of a starving Wraith – though perversely, this time the terror didn’t come from its feeding hand… but the fact that the creature could no longer use it.
Says Mikita, “We also have a couple of run-ins with monster-like creatures that are partially developed Wraith drones that, because they don’t have their feeding hand any more, have resorted to eating the old-fashioned way! So they’re attacking and feeding on people as though they are animals.â€
These scenes required the director to strike a careful balance between showing what had happened to the attacked personnel, and making sure the action was appropriate for Stargate Atlantis‘ timeslot.
“It’s got to be acceptable for family viewing,â€ Mikita explains, “so we try to use common sense with respect to how graphic we get. Sometimes we’ll shoot things a little bit more graphic and if we decide it’s too much there’s always options to cut back. But with this one, that very first attack, we thought just the shock value of having this creature suddenly appear in the lens and then we cut away to an arm quivering on the ground and a wide shot of him being pulled around the corner – you sort of get the idea that it wasn’t a good thing and the bad guy won,â€ he laughs. “Then we come across some shredded body parts that’s mostly just torn clothes and blood on the ground so we get a sense of it. Everything else is played off the actors’ looks.â€
For Mikita, though, ‘Infection’ was a particularly difficult episode to film. The problem wasn’t in the episode itself, but from the announcement that was made while the episode was being filmed – that Stargate Atlantis had not been renewed for a sixth season, and its 100th episode would be its last.
“It made an enormous impact,â€ Mikita explained. “I won’t lie to you. It made a huge impact on everybody, though more for the cast than the crew, because at the same time the show was cancelled it was also announced that we could look forward to Stargate Universe. So for the crew it was sort of exciting and sad at the same time, because this chapter was closing but the next one is about to begin.â€
News article courtesy of the official Stargate Website