Characters, mission statements, and reasons for being…Posted: July 18, 2008
So I’m working away at a beat sheet for a spec script and I’ve discovered something. Or come to a realization. This hearkens back, a bit, to my earlier blog (found here: Dynamic Tension) about creating dynamic tension between characters.
If you were to ask me, what is Stargate SG-1 about, I could simply say, “It’s about this team of explorers who…” and carry on. Same for The X-Files; “It’s about Mulder, the believer, and Scully, the sceptic, as they…” As I write out my sheet for my SGA spec, I’m finding that I can’t easily define the show. The more I talked it out with my stepdaughter tonight, the more I fleshed out my thoughts.
SGA is an expedition. The expedition’s mission is to…go live on Atlantis? To…explore the Pegasus galaxy? To…what? That brings us to the team. What team? The scientists? The military? Both? On SG1 the mission was clear. SG1’s job was to go forth, collect materials, weapons, and technology to defend Earth. Other teams has the same objective, others were diplomatic teams, etc… Everybody had a clear objective. Add to that the character interaction, implied (and longed for) relationships, and you make for good drama.
On Atlantis, it’s not as clear to me. It seems from appearances that McKay’s job is to be obstinant, negative and obtrusive, but in the end, come up with a solution that can/will save the day. Sheppard’s job is less clear. According to the show canon, he is now the military commander of Atlantis city. He is, however, gone from the city an awful lot for the guy who’s supposed to be in charge of it. And what about his “team”? He’s got Ronan, the tall, brooding guy who’s good for heavy lifting and fighting; Teyla is the defacto anthropologist/linguist/diplomat and Wraith communicator; and the aforementioned McKay. There’s Keller, who seems to also just ‘hang out’ with the “team.” I put team in quotes because it’s not clear to me that they are, in fact, a team – as defined by mission statement.
Because I didn’t like McKay at the beginning I will admit to not having watched Atlantis from the word go. However, having said that, I have been doing marathon catch-ups (admittedly because Amanda Tapping/Col. Carter was on the show) and have noticed a trend. I’m thinking (and this is all purely my thinking, not based on anything but my own musings) that perhaps the official writers have encountered the same problem as have I.
Somewhere in the middle of season one it became apparent that we can’t just have folks coming to Atlantis to invade and our folks simply fight it out. That gets old. So, we (ie the ensemble) begins to make forays into the unknown. As the forays continue, a cohesive unit is being formed (McKay, Sheppard, Ronan and Teyla). We now have a core group of folks with whom the audience can attach themselves. Sort of. The “team,” per se, does not have a clearly defined mission as yet. We have no explanation as to why Sheppard, ie, the CO of Atlantis security, is off jaunting about the Pegasus galaxy. I get why the others go, they sort of ‘hang out’ wherever Sheppard goes. As the gaggle of folks who hang with Sheppard begin to do things as a unit, the ratings of the show improved. The audience had, as I say, a group upon which they could hang their emotional hats. It is also my impression that as the team was more defined, the ratings also grew.
So as I was writing tonight I encountered a bit of a stumbling block. I couldn’t figure out how to write, or more accurately, define Sheppard’s raison d’etre for (once again) leaving his command while he goes off to do whatever. And, in whose hands does he leave the security of the city? With the very capable Col. Carter gone (which sucks, but I love that AT devoted herself fully to her new show), who is the military CO of the city? Hammond (and later Landry) was CO of the SGC, you didn’t see him jetting off across the galaxy – he had people.
Now, I am certainly not saying that SGA (the show) is a mirror/extension/outpost of the SG1 (again, the show – although, organizationally it is). It is a different show. I am saying that as a writer with a pretty good knowledge of military structure and organizational comm, I just don’t get it.
And therin lies my dilemma. Do I care? Does anyone care? Do I simply shut up and write my script hoping that nobody will notice that once again Sheppard has abandoned his post? To borrow an acting term, “What’s his motivation?” Do I address that and write a new CO for the city? What to do, what to do?
One another note, someone emailed me and asked to see my prior blogs. To avoid confusion, I’ll simply say, go here and read them. The only ones truly noteworthy are the goodbye to Don Davis and the aforementioned “character” post. That’s my opinion, at least.
Tonight: writing, writing, pondering, writing.