Behind The Scenes – The Last Man

It’s hard to believe that here we are, talking about the fourth season finale of Stargate Atlantis. It seems only yesterday that we were anticipating the airdate of the season opener, ‘Adrift’.

“Last year just went by so fast,” agrees Joseph Mallozzi, “and I’m sure it’s going to be the same for this year, which is kind of scary!”

And indeed, here we are, having just experienced the show’s most stunning year ender yet. Action-packed from start to scintillating finish, ‘The Last Man’, was written by Mallozzi and writing partner Paul Mullie, and gives fans a tantalizing glimpse of what may lie ahead in the Atlantis crew’s future.

The Stargate franchise has always handled ‘time travel’ in a highly original way. Take Stargate SG-1’s ‘1969′, for example, which saw the team catapulted back in time thanks to an rogue sunspot; or ‘Moebius’, which forced them to live out their lives after becoming stranded in Ancient Egypt, at least until their other selves could right the balance. Stargate Atlantis has also had its own share of out-of-time encounters – ‘Before I Sleep’ for one, which saw Doctor Weir have a strange experience with an older self.

For Mallozzi, what’s great about the idea of doing a time travel episode is the potential. He feels that it gives the characters a chance to, in a sense, live beyond their natural life span – or the life span of the series – by visiting both the far and not so far future.

“One of the things I loved about the episode was showing how things turned out for our characters. It’s something that my favourite episode of all time did so well, [Stargate SG-1’s] ‘2010,’ written by Brad Wright,” he explains. “I just love those types of stories, where you find out, given the way the situation is progressing and taking things to their logical conclusion, that this is how things will end up.”

Of course, the tragedy of ‘The Last Man’ is that “the logical conclusion” is a pretty dire state of affairs for our brave team. Naturally, another advantage of this sort of episode is that the writers can kill off all their major characters in one fell swoop. And the beauty of doing this at the end of the season is that the story doesn’t need to lose any of its jeopardy. The viewer can watch it and genuinely wonder whether there’s a possibility that someone won’t make it back for the following season. It’s an uncertainty that generally can’t be sustained in a mid-season episode, but it worked brilliantly for ‘The Last Man’.

“It was seeing the self-sacrifice,” Mallozzi says, of why the episode is so effective. “Carter sacrificing herself, Ronon sacrificing himself. Keller eventually dying of the disease she was trying to help cure…”

It also encourages the viewer to think ahead to the next year, to wonder what twists and turns might be ahead. Keller finding happiness with McKay? Surely not! And yet – there was a hint of it earlier in the season, with their drink at the end of ‘Trio’ that may make the viewer perhaps think twice. Which makes one wonder what other clues the episode holds. ‘The Last Man’ may paint a future that is in many ways ‘wrong’, but perhaps there are a few hints as to what we can expect to see in season five, too.

“In a way it makes you think about the big picture,” Mallozzi continues, “because ultimately it’s a sad ending for all of us! It’s touching to see it happen to some of our favourite characters, on screen. And it’s such a huge relief to see it undone!”

Yes – this existing within the magic of television, fans can have their cake and eat it too! But of course, in the case of ‘The Last Man’, even when those tragic ends are undone, there is still another classic cliffhanger ending to agonize over. And sadly, with this one viewers will have to wait a little longer to discover the outcome.

“Hopefully, the fans won’t have to wait long for season five,” Mallozzi says, suggesting that the network may choose to air the fifth series early this year. “I don’t think they’ll have to wait as late as September. It’ll be up to SCI FI to decide, but hopefully we’ll be up sooner than later.”

Interview Courtesy of The Official Stargate Web Site