Actor Michael Shanks
was interviewed by host Erich Landstrom for his radio talk show Sci Fi
Overdrive. During the interview, Shanks spoke a great deal about
the writing process in general, plus his experiences with Evolution and
Are you ever actually going to do, you mentioned doing a possible
episode about what you were doing when you were an Ancient one,
or has that sort of gone by the wayside cos of....
MS: No, it's
still a possibility. I'm hoping, um, I'm hoping that they'll wanna,
that they'll give me a chance to at least break the surface on a story
that sort of digs into that mythology a little bit. We are going to do
that closer to the end of Season 7. As we get closer we start to
realise what the Ancients were about, and I think the spin off of
Atlantis will be a little bit more, so maybe that's where they're gonna
save it for. I'd like to dig into it just to sort of have one of those,
um, you know, what he did when he was away and who he encountered,
without breaking the mythology too much, because sometimes what doesn't
happen or what's not seen onscreen is more interesting than what
is. It's in the imagination of the viewer.
EL: You can always plant the seeds for other spin-offs, other directions
to take. Maybe in the novelisations and fanfiction.
EL: And I mean, you do get to play God because you're a writer.
You did Ressurrection, which is episode 7.19.
Well, I would call it demi-god 'cos there are a lot of other gods
that have been doing it a lot longer than me and they kinda
ended up pushing a lot more buttons than I did at the end of
the day. But it was a lot of fun to play in that world for a
while, that's for sure.
Actually, let me take our listeners back. Evolution part two,
you wrote Evolution part one.
I actually didn't write it. It's listed in the TV Guide that
I co-wrote it, which isn't even true at all. What I did was
that at the beginning of the year I pitched a story for a completely
separate episode concept which I came up with which was sort
of a continuing saga of the Crystal Skull episode we did in
the third season.
Oh, with your uncle. The foster father.
Nick the grandfather, who ends up going off with the aliens.
I wanted to continue that story and sort of, you know, end up
in another mythological quest, which is, you know, the quest
for the fountain of youth. So they liked the idea and um, and
they thought that instead of having a stand alone unit, they
thought it could be incorporated into an episode that was already
being fleshed out. So that's what ended up happening with Evolution
1 and 2.
Well that sort of brings up the next question though. With Ressurrection,
which you actually did get to write, Nirrti, to get into the
mythology for a moment. Niirti all this time is trying to create
a super human, a super Tau'ri to serve as the Goa'uld host. So
what is it that happens in Ressurrection where the NID apparently
succeed in this goal in creating the human hybrid.
Well it's actually, and this is something, I sort of like to
delve into this. You watch a couple of good movies like Raiders
Of The Lost Ark and the Last Crusade and you start to realise
why you like Stargate, the original concept in the first place.
Which is tying in science fiction to the mysteries of our mythological
past and all that speculation we do on our history and the pyramids
and whatever. And the way Nirrti worked, she was always doing
these DNA experiments to create the super race or whatnot and
there's a very interesting concept, especially given the notion
of, you know, the powers that certain aliens have and in our
universe and whatnot.
interesting to be able to play with our DNA and figure out what we can
create and make it more like science fact than it is like science
fiction. All I did was take an idea which was based on, you know, the
Riddle of the Sphinx, which is where I sort of started from. A lot of
this won't even end up on the screen in terms of being backstory. The
backstory I'm giving right now is the back story that is never actually
going to be spoken on camera, 'cos I think the exposition took up too
much time but...
EL: The backstory for the backstory.
The backstory for the backstory, exactly. There's a chamber
at the back of the Sphinx of course and, you know, a couple
of hundred years prior Napoleon had gone there and dug up, done
an excavation of this thing. So I just thought wouldn't it be
interesting, you know, instead of continuing the mystery of
it, he actually found something there and what he found was
something that relates to our, you know.. panthenon of gods.
It relates into our universe so once again tying in the mythology
that leads to the pyramids.
All I said that he basically found
a canopic jar, which basically had the remains of a dead Goa'uld
inside of it, and it got passed along to friends and it went
back to the museum and ended up getting handed to the Nazis
and they started experimenting with it and came up with something
special that we have a group of people called the NID, which
is a rogue group that we use all the time to.. they're basically
the American bad guys whose hearts are in the right place but
their methods are a little bit off.
And they get ahold of it
and start doing some experiments with it and start bringing
to life something that ended up being a little bit too much
like Species, but I think that we shie away from it enough to
make it original on its own. That's kind of the concept and
it's called Resurrection because it relates to alien resurrections
as well but it's really a Goa'uld hybrid, it's just an interesting
story about the.. using our history to point fingers at our
pantheon in terms of the Stargate universe so.. I decided to try
that out for size. It ended up being part of that but most of
that backstory ended up coming by the wayside.
EL: Do a lot of these ideas really start off with the mythology,
or do most of these writing ideas come from say... what if we
had Daniel do this?
EL: Yeah, I was thinking about that because I was listening to Joseph
Campbell, hero of a thousand faces and I was wondering does
Mike Shanks listen to this stuff and then say, 'ah, I wonder how
I can incorporate that into Daniel Jackson's character?'
I think absolutely, what I was really fascinated by or what
I started to do just by getting into the writer mode onto our
show, you know, sometimes our writers look around and go 'God
I can't think of any ideas.' And then you go back to the original
idea which is once again using our mythology from our human
civilisation, and our gods, and our notion of gods and the unexplainable.
Putting it into, you know, putting it into our concept and seeing
it work. If you watch some of the specials on Imhotep and Isis
and all the myths of the Egyptian realm, you know, just for
beginners, on National Geographic Channel or the Learning Channel,
you start to get into it.
You can grab tidbits of stuff and
go oohh, this is a big mystery. You know like the crystal skull
was exactly that, the Aztec myth. And it's just taking that concept
and going 'it's unknown, it's a big question mark'. So what if
we say it happened this way, and this is what it's capable of
and all that kind of thing. That sometimes happens. But sometimes,
I think everybody has a different way of getting the writing
process and I think sometimes it can be, some writers like to
continue their own stories and they like to thread them together
from season to season. An episode from season four they continue
by adding another layer to it in season five, that happens.
From my point of view it's always difficult because I'm stepping
into it for the first time. And as anybody is when they step
into a room for the first time, you're low on the totem pole and
you have to get in line with the bosses and that's fine, that's
what learning is all about. But what I found was, what happens
a lot of the time is that the idea gets passed around the room
and what your original linear idea was, ends up having a few
jagged edges because everybody adds different things that they
think are really cool to it.
And not everybody thinks alike
and not everybody's on the same page that way. So sometimes
it can get a little bent and twisted and at the end of the day
it's the head writers job and the show runners job to finally
approve or disapprove of the concept in it's entirety based
on what everybody's imput is. So it can be a little bit odd,
it can be a little bit political, but it's also very exciting
to watch everybody in the room get excited about something you
created and actually watch it come to a screen, that's pretty
exciting as well.