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Stargate SG-1 Crew Interviews: Joseph Mallozzi

Stargate's Galaxy: SG-1 writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi clues us in to future plot twists, the Jack/Samantha romance, and his treatment for Pizza Man: 2110.
IGN, 26 September 2000

It's no exaggeration to say that Stargate SG-1 is threatening to break the recent runs of Star Trek series -- while all three Trek spin-offs were set for seven years, SG-1 could conceivably air for a decade without running out of planets in the galaxy to visit. Now in the middle of its fourth season on Showtime, SG-1 uses the mythological foundation from the hit film Stargate and expands it. The show continues to tell unique stories, which explore the multitude of planets and alien races connected by the vast Stargate system. When Stargate SG-1 writer/producer Joseph Mallozzi agreed to exchange a series of emails with IGN Sci-Fi poster boy (and SG-1 reviewer) Ross Brooks, a wormhole opened and questions and answers flew across space and time. Here is their conversation.

IGN Sci-Fi: Stargate SG-1 is one of the more intelligent sci-fi shows out there. It never caters to the lowest common denominator and almost always offers a challenge to the viewer. Does this make writing an episode more difficult than, say, one of your more average sci-fi shows?

Joseph: Oooh, that's a loaded question. I don't know if I'd say it's more intelligent than the other shows out there. It's different -- for a number of reasons. To begin with, unlike Star Trek, Stargate SG-1 takes place in our contemporary world. As a result, we have to be mindful of remaining as scientifically accurate as possible (though, I'll admit, we do take dramatic license every so often). Unlike Star Trek, where characters from the future are able to make use of "future science" to resolve situations, our protagonists are 21st century people limited by present-day knowledge. We have to remain grounded in the here and now -- and, often, that's a very difficult thing to do when you're writing sci-fi. Furthermore, there's always the temptation to acquire offworld alien technology and incorporate it into the show. Cool, yes, but problematic in the long run. There's a definite feeling that by giving the SGC alien technology, we run the risk of taking our team out of our contemporary setting. All this to say, yes, SG-1 is a challenge to write. But I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it's more difficult to write for than another sci-fi show. Then again, I've never written for any of the other sci-fi shows out there. For what it's worth, I appreciate the differences between Stargate SG-1 and, say, Star Trek. I enjoy both shows. And at the risk of sounding disloyal to the many die-hard SG-1 fans out there -- I'm a BIG Voyager fan as well.

No, that is not a wormhole.

IGN Sci-Fi: Fair enough -- and I must say a very politically correct answer, too. Personally, I think your show kicks Voyager's butt. But I digress... I see from your recent SG-1 credits that you write with a gentleman named Paul Mullie. Are you two partners in that you only write together or do you from time to time write episodes on your own? Also, how do you break the writing responsibilities up? Do you both work on structure together and then write scenes individually or do you write every word together as a unit?

Joseph: Paul and I have been writing partners for quite a while. We met in a creative writing course college (believe it or not) way back when and remained good friends. I approached him with the idea of writing a feature, which we eventually did (Pizza Man 2110: If He's Not There in Thirty Minutes, He's Dead). It never got produced but has served as a terrific writing sample that has gotten us plenty of work. We both got our professional start writing for animation. I was developing, story-editing, and writing for a couple of years, then brought him on board. We wrote animation separately for a while, then resumed writing together when we started to work on live action (namely youth-oriented programming -- i.e., Big Wolf on Campus, Student Bodies). We did a bit of work on Lost World, Paramount's Largo Winch, and ended up here on Stargate for season 4. They seem to like us. We wrote seven of this season's 22 episodes and have just finished work on the big season finale. As for how we work -- well, it depends. Often, we'll be in the same room. One paces, the other writes. I find it helps to bounce ideas (particularly dialogue) off one another. When crunch time comes, we'll take turns bringing the script home and working individually. For instance, Paul will go ahead and write a scene, then email it to me. I'll revise it and write the next scene, then email it back. He'll re-revise (i.e.. change the scene back to what he had originally written) and move on. This applies to everything from pitches to scripts.

IGN Sci-Fi: Pizza Man 2110? I love that. Sounds delicious AND kind of freaky. Maybe it'll be made in one hundred and ten years when Hollywood has caught up with its title. I can't help noticing that you mentioned the big season finale. Without giving it all away (which you probably wouldn't do anyway), can you tell us anything about the cliffhanger? Does Apophis stomp into our neighborhood for a little visit? Any more clashes with the Tok'ra? Please don't tell us those replicator spiders return for another bite...

Joseph: Yessiree, Apophis does return -- but he won't be stomping into our neighborhood. In fact, he'll be stomping into someone else's neighborhood and we're going to have to lend a hand. Yes, we'll see the Tok'ra. Teal'c will try and tie up a loose end he's been looking to deal with since "Crossroads." No replicator bugs, but a bevy of special effects will have us go out with a big bang. And I mean that literally.

Oh, Sam...will you ever get romantic with MacGyver?

IGN Sci-Fi: Wow. I think I love you for telling me all that. Not love as I'm gonna start buying you flowers or anything, but love as in I really appreciate you sharing all that cool story info with us. Hmm. I don't think Barbara Walters reveals this much of herself when she interviews people. Maybe I should pull back. So... Apophis, Teal'c, big bang. Very interesting. "Crossroads," huh? That was the episode where Teal'c lost his lady love to the snake heads. Which has got nothing to do with my next question -- Any idea whether or not MacGyver and Samantha will ever drop their cool facades and just jump on each other?

Joseph.: As we all know, military regulations strictly forbid that sort of fraternization. There are no plans to build on a potential relationship. Of course, judging from some of the online posts, we are doing just that. As I'm sure you've noticed, there has been a lot of venting on the S&J (Samantha & Jack) relationship. The admission in D&C ("Divide & Conquer") seems to have effected certain fans so deeply that it has tainted their viewing of subsequent episodes. For instance, in "Scorched Earth," certain fans were livid when Jack initiated the countdown sequence that would destroy the ship. Why were they upset? Not because he was about to blow up Daniel, but because, according to them -- "if Sam was on that ship, Jack would have never initiated the countdown." In "Point of No Return," fans focused on the scene where Jack and Teal'c enter the warehouse at the episode's end and find Sam and Daniel tied up. Daniel is unconscious. Sam stirs. Jack asks Sam if she is alright. JACK ASKS SAM IF SHE IS ALRIGHT?!!! Fans immediately jumped on the fact that Jack asks Sam if she is okay, but doesn't ask Daniel -- in their minds, proof positive that the team dynamics have been forever changed. You could argue that the fact that Sam is conscious -- and that Jack is being cautious lest they be walking into an ambush -- could have something to do with it. All this to say - you can please some of the people some of the time... So, of course, by keeping Jack and Sam from acting on their feelings, we're trying to walk that line of pleasing none of the people none of the time (kidding).

IGN Sci-Fi: While I'm trying to regain my professional journalistic balance here, any idea how much longer you and the rest of the creative team will continue to churn out new episodes? Cause right now what you're doing is fresh and full of life. Is there darkness at the end of the tunnel or can we expect many more seasons to come?

Joseph: Paul and I have signed on for season 5 and have already started plotting out the first episode. The creative team will remain intact - and by creative team, I'm referring to our writing department (Brad Wright, the show's co-creator and exec. producer who scripted "The Other Side," "2010" [one of my top 3 faves of this season] and did uncredited rewrites on many others; Robert Cooper, our co- exec. producer and endless well of ideas; Peter DeLuise the show's creative consultant, director extraordinaire, and oracle on all things Stargate; and Paul and I).

IGN Sci-Fi: It sounds from your resume that you've dabbled in sci-fi for a while now. What were/are the shows and movies that inspired you, Joseph?

Joseph: I used to read a fair amount of sci-fi when I was younger (Asimov, Bradbury, Turtledove to name a few) but, as I grew busier, I found I had less and less time for novels. Paul, my writing partner, still makes the time. His reading tastes are fairly eclectic, everything from Philip K. Dick to Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. When I read now (I reserve a couple of hours every night before I go to sleep), it's usually magazines (Scientific America, Popular Science, and, my fave, New Scientist) and comic books (overlooked and underappreciated). As for other influences -- I've always enjoyed sci-fi television and horror, but never to the extent everyone else in the writing department does. We'll be sitting in a story meeting and I'll pitch something out -- at which point Brad or Robert or Paul or Peter will draw parallels between that idea and a given episode of Star Trek: TNG or DS9. I was familiar with both series, but obviously not as familiar as everyone else on the show (i.e.. "That's somewhat reminiscent of TNG's fourth season episode 'Brothers' in which Data finally gets to meet Dr. Soong..."). It finally reached the point where I said "Enough's enough" and started purchasing the entire TNG and DS9 run. I also watch and enjoy Voyager (my wife's personal fave). Another series I'd like to check out is Babylon 5. I've been reading J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars and think it's terrific. I've picked up most of the B5 videos available -- seasons 1 and 5, and half of seasons 2 and 4 -- but am unable to track down the missing episodes. Apparently, they were never released, so the tapes are sitting on the shelf, still in their wrappings. I can't bring myself to start watching until I get the complete set.

Daniel Jackson: sometimes, nerds are cool, too.

IGN Sci-Fi: Yeah, I understand about wanting the complete set before beginning to watch any series. Otherwise you're setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Now that you're part of a successful and critically acclaimed series, do you have any plans to create one of your own? If so, would you and Paul remain in the sci-fi genre? Please don't say you're going to do a show about sexy young doctors living over a coffee shop in a fashionable area of New York city.

Joseph: Actually, they're sexy young lawyers living over a Big and Tall shop in a fashionable area of New York city. Lots of angst, ennui, and characters breaking into annoying musical numbers. If you liked Cop Rock, you won't mind Singing with Sharks (tentative title). I really feel there aren't enough cop, lawyer, and doctor shows out there. Setting up our own show is at least two or three years away (well, hopefully). We're going to be up to our eyeballs with SG-1 next year -- and if the show gets picked up for a sixth season, who knows. Paul and I love the show, love the people we work with, and we love Vancouver. We're in no rush to move on. Of course, when the time comes, we'd love to be running our own show. I don't know if it would necessarily be sci -fi. We love the genre, but it's easy to get pigeonholed as a writer. Then again, if we come up with an absolutely brilliant sci-fi concept that the powers that be just can't say no to... Who would we be to argue with destiny?

IGN Sci-Fi: This is completely unprofessional, but since I haven't given you any reason to expect any more from me... I've got the perfect concept for you, Joseph. Picture this -- a brash, sexy, savagely handsome critic/reporter who one day, while defragging his computer, is struck by lightning. He's magically transported inside his computer and onto the 'net. No longer at the whim of demanding, unforgiving editors and readers who write amazing amounts of hate mail, our hero is now "The Cyberspace King." Along the way he meets the most downloaded woman on the Internet and together they battle cyber pirates and spawn several well-behaved children. Think you could get Showtime to give you four or five years for that?

Joseph: I love it. We could get Bruce Boxleitner to play the lead. Or, barring that, maybe Gary Burghoff. I hear he is looking for a project. We'd need a creative consultant. Someone who knows the life of a 'net critic/reporter. Maybe the guy who does the comic book reviews for your site?

IGN Sci-Fi: But I don't write comic book reviews, Joseph. Don't you mean -- Oh, I get it. You Hollywood-by-way-of-Vancouver guys are so smart, aren't you? Aw, to heck with it. Take my idea and run with it. I'd be able to get a free T-shirt out of this, right? Returning, if I may, to Stargate SG-1 -- there's one thing I've always been curious about but haven't completely understood. How long will it take for Teal'c's Goa'uld larval symbiote to mature?

Joseph: It takes seven years for a larval symbiote to mature.

IGN Sci-Fi: When it does, will Teal'c have to give it up and catch common colds like the rest of us? Seven years, eh?

Joseph: Theoretically yes. But practically, no. Once the symbiote has matured, it finds a cozy new home in someone's head. Teal'c (or any Jaffa for that matter) will be given a new symbiote from the larval pool and receive another seven years of above average constitution and strength. However, keep in mind that without a symbiote, a Jaffa cannot last long. Remember the episode "Bane?" (What am I saying? Of course you do.)

IGN Sci-Fi: Oh, yes. "Bane." Second season. Where Teal'c befriends a cute pre-teen runaway. Without his bug, the Jaffa's in bad shape. So if the show runs longer than seven years....?

Joseph: Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

IGN Sci-Fi: Comprende, mon ami. And in the meantime, we'll look forward to the big screen treatment for Pizza Man: 2110. Coming to a front door near you within the next century.

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