Martin Gero is a screenwriter and co-producer for the highly popular SCI FI Channel series “Stargate: Atlantis.” Born in Switzerland, this 30 year old writer/producer/director not only writes and supervises scripts for Atlantis but, also spent two full seasons as a writer and the story consultant for “Stargate: SG1,” America’s longest running SF show in television history.
In 2005 Martin was nominated for a Gemini Award in the category of Best Writing in a Dramatic Series for his work on “Stargate: Atlantis,” specifically for the episode titled “Brotherhood.”
Martin took time from his busy schedule to sit down with our Slice of SciFi reporter, Linda Craddock, for this special Thanksgiving Day interview. Enjoy.
Linda Craddock (SoSF): Hello Martin, how are you today? Happy Thanksgiving.
Martin Gero (MG): I’m fine Linda, and thank you.
SoSF: How did you get started with Stargate franchise?
MG: They were hiring new writers and they expanded to Atlantis and I was the guy that got hired.
SoSF: You have held a number of titles from staff writer, Story Editor , and now Executive Producer. What would you say was the most challenging position for you while working with the SGA project?
MG: Well, itâ€™s all the same job, itâ€™s just a question of seniority. Producer does the same work as the Supervising Producer and the Co- Executive Producer. Itâ€™s slightly more responsibility as you work your way up the chain
SoSF: You were nominated for Best Writing in a Dramatic Series for â€œThe Brotherhoodâ€ in Season 1. Talk about the growth and transitions the show has made from that time to now 5 episodes into season 4.
MG: Any show has to get better every year to stay on the air and in season 1 — season 1 is always about trying to find out what your show is, what works best, you know and what characters are going to pop and also finding the voices, finding what kind of stories you want to tell. Season 1 for us was kind of a buck shot of stories and enhancements and themes and you kind of see what works and go with it and as shows evolve, weâ€™ve become more serialized every year and the characters get deeper and richer.
SoSF: In the episode â€œCommon Groundâ€ the writers introduced the concept of the Wraith giving back life after 2 seasons of being life sucking aliens that rained-down terror in the Pegasus Galaxy. What was the thought process that went into this revelation?
MG: Well, again, as with our lead characters you have to explore new parts of them and deepen our knowledge of them. You never [allow] the audience to think they know everything about your enemies or your characters and the second everybody knows everything, thatâ€™s the time to wrap up shop and youâ€™ve done all your story telling so that was definitely part of it. It was something weâ€™d always kind of discussed and Brad had in the back of his mind for a little while and so this was the perfect story. It was a way to age and have Sheppard tortured and not have a 78 year old lead for the rest of the series and with that revelation comes, or allows us, to do even more stories, namely â€œReunionâ€.
SoSF: Many fans have expressed their dismay regarding closure for Rainbow Franckâ€™s character â€œLt Ford? How would you comment about the subject?
MG: All I can say to the fans of Rainbow, with closure comes closing of the door of/for him being able to be in the show and I certainly donâ€™t want to do that yet.
SoSF: Jason Momoa joined the cast in the beginning of season 2. Describe the impact his arrival has had over the last two seasons, especially from fan feedback with respect to his character and what he brings to the team?
MG: Jason [has] brought so much to the show. We really needed that very strong, physical presence that Jason brought. It wasnâ€™t Rainbowâ€™s fault that we moved on but the character wasnâ€™t right with the team as well as the â€œRononâ€ character does and heâ€™s also just incredible, imposing and charismatic and [a] sexy, sexy guy, if I do say so myself (laughter) and I think the fanâ€™s response has been excellent.
SoSF: Moving forward, will there be a better balance of character driven stories for season 4?
MG: A better balance, what do you mean?
SoSF: Character stories and development — season 1 through 3, not so much, and in 3 there was a lot of â€œRodneyâ€ and â€œSheppardâ€.
MG: Right, I see what youâ€™re saying. I think that was not the case in season 3. In season 3 we did a â€œWeirâ€ story, we did a â€œRononâ€ story and â€œMcKayâ€ story and so season 4 kind of follows that format with a combination of team based episodes and then you take one off with like a â€œTeylaâ€ story or â€œMcKayâ€ story or a â€œSheppardâ€ story and of course season 4 has a spectacular story arc heavily featuring â€œTeylaâ€ and the missing â€œAthosiansâ€ — and I think itâ€™s a huge arc and itâ€™s the first time we really get to see â€œTeylaâ€ have an arc of her own in episodes overall. One of my favorite episodes in the 1st ten is an episode called â€œMissingâ€ with â€œTeylaâ€ and â€œDr. Kellerâ€ on the run and itâ€™s really great.
SoSF: This new season now has Amanda Tapping and Jewel Staite. Describe the elements of the change in cast that has or will change the dynamics in terms of fan perception.
MG: Thatâ€™s a tough question to answer; I mean I think Jewel and Amanda are amazing. For whatever reason weâ€™ve had to change over a lot of cast members of the show and I think Amanda and Jewel bring a tremendous amount to it. They are not replacements but continuations. Weâ€™re not trying to replace â€œWeirâ€, and weâ€™re not trying to replace â€œBeckettâ€. Weâ€™re trying to continue the story in a new and unique way this season and getting new and unique characters really helps expand the universe, expand the type of stories we can tell. Obviously Amandaâ€™s not a new character but sheâ€™s so perfect in the role as leader of Atlantis. We have an episode called â€œThe Seerâ€ coming up and â€œTabula Rasaâ€ and â€œReunionâ€, sheâ€™s made for that role and as for Jewel, if anyone had any doubt, if not gone, will be completely gone after an episode called â€œMissingâ€. She is phenomenal. I could not be more excited to have Jewel on the show.
SoSF: We know â€œDr. Kellerâ€™sâ€ character is much different from the role â€œBeckettâ€ played. Fans cannot help compare one character to another in the same role. What direction will the writing take â€œKellerâ€™sâ€ character development?
MG: Weâ€™re going to develop her character like we would every character and as the season goes you learn more and more about those characters. Like I said thereâ€™s an episode called â€œMissingâ€ where we really get to know a lot about her back story and we have an episode coming up in â€œTrioâ€. Itâ€™s nothing as calculated as we have to sit down and figure out how to separate her character from â€œBeckettâ€™sâ€. Itâ€™s not really a concern. Comparisons are going to be made, absolutely, Iâ€™m not looking for her to be better than â€œBeckettâ€ or worse than â€œBeckettâ€. When weâ€™re breaking forward, itâ€™s got to make sense for her to be in episodes and sheâ€™s got to deliver and Jewelâ€™s a consummate professional and the warmth and brains that she brings to the show and I think sheâ€™s an awesome role model for young girls. I have friends that have just started watching the show in season 4 and they love her and people that are expecting â€œBeckettâ€ are slower to embrace her, but again I have zero concerns and in the next couple of episodes, everyoneâ€™s going to be â€œKellerâ€ fans, regardless of your thoughts on â€œBeckettâ€
SoSF: Everyone wants to know about â€œTeylaâ€™sâ€ pregnancy and how the presence of a baby in Atlantis will work going forward?
MG: Well, itâ€™s nothing we had to worry about in season 4 since it takes 9 months to have a baby. She doesnâ€™t have her baby in this season. Let me put it that way.
SoSF: â€œTeylaâ€™sâ€ character is portrayed as a leader, a warrior, a diplomat in every sense. Why would the writing bring forth a secret beau rather than develop a budding romance with someone on screen prior to announcing sheâ€™s with child?
MG: Uh, no. (laughter) itâ€™s not a concern. Itâ€™s going to be dealt with. You know we donâ€™t get a lot of time with these characters and their personal lives. One of the reasons I wanted to write the story â€œSundayâ€ was kind of see them off mission and â€œTeylaâ€™sâ€ not a chatty Cathy who would let people know who she was dating even if she was, let alone members of the team. None of the team is the father, if thatâ€™s what the question is. Itâ€™s all explained. It is doled out very slowly and very controlled which is something weâ€™ve planned very early on and really focused it into the season.
SoSF: In the episode â€œLifeLineâ€, â€œDr. Weirâ€ will probably make another appearance. How many, if any, episodes will we see Torri throughout Season 4?
MG: Sheâ€™ll be in one more.
SoSF: We all know the fansâ€™ response to the show loosing Paulâ€™s character â€œDr. Beckettâ€. A lot of fans are a little disappointed in that transition but more so, wonder why you didnâ€™t reintroduce his character prior to the end of season 4 since based on the decision to bring him back?
MG: Well, these shows have an arc to them and you canâ€™t just bring him back and we wanted to do it in a way that would feel organic with what we were doing for the rest of the season and I donâ€™t really know what the hurry is. I think the fans would prefer that they be great episodes then they be right now. Theyâ€™ve waited this long, another couple of months isnâ€™t going to kill them. All Iâ€™m going to say is we planned how we were going to bring him back at the end of season 3 and no one caught it and thatâ€™s how we would like it to stay and that story doesnâ€™t come to a boil until the end of season 4 and thatâ€™s when weâ€™re going to bring him back.
SoSF: The show stayed true to form by introducing new uniforms, and a different look to the set. Talk a little about the transition from season to season.
MG: Well, you always try to refine and at the end of every year you look back and say what we can do better. The actors were not crazy even [with] the comfort of those clothes so we have a new costume designer. Val came on from SG1 this year and sheâ€™s trying to put her finger prints on the show and I think they look great, I think theyâ€™re much sleeker and much nicer and they make the guys look a lot better and they make the girls look a lot better. We have a joke about the old uniforms coming up in episode 10 that they did kind of bunch up under the arms. As for the set, itâ€™s really hard to build more Atlantis when weâ€™re shooting Atlantis. In the off season we just try to build another chunk to make it even bigger. In season 1 we had our foot print of what we called Atlantis and since the set has doubled so every year we get to kind of expand the city and give it a slightly different look here and there without affecting the core architecture, the gate room and surrounding rooms.
SoSF: With the news that the show has been picked up for a 5th season and I know you guys must be extremely delighted…..
SoSF: What do you hope to accomplish that will continue to nurture the Stargate franchise success?
MG: Well, you know, if people stop watching, weâ€™re out of a franchise so thatâ€™s what we do. For some reason thereâ€™s, I think, a vocal minority that has a sort of antagonistic relationship with the quote-unquote powers that be of the writers and they get all the air time because obviously they have beef, some legitimate, some not but for the most part all weâ€™re trying to do is make the best show possible for the fans. Whenever something awesome happens we think â€œah, the fans are going to love thisâ€ and there are times we do something when we know the fans are not going to be crazy about but, those are the production realities. Weâ€™ve never killed someone to just say well you know heâ€™s a jerk and you know the fans love him, and this will hurt them. Weâ€™ve never done that. We just want to keep telling stories that people are going to like.
I find this show to be very exciting. I think this is the best year weâ€™ve ever done. I think after 4 years weâ€™ve really found a nice pace to the show, weâ€™ve found a nice balance to the show on how to do kind of serialized episodes within episodes that seemingly stand on their own. I think thereâ€™s a balance thatâ€™s kind of rewarding those viewers that are going to watch episodes 1-20 and still being a fun show for a more casual viewer, you know. Itâ€™s a delicate balance to strike and I think weâ€™re sort of slowly figuring out getting better at doing that. I really do think that the showâ€™s gotten better every year and so going into season 5 weâ€™ll look at some of the mistakes we made in season 4 and all the knowledge we have from seasons 1-4 and forge ahead and try to put together a little 20 hour novel that we hope the fans will love.
SoSF: Moving forward, especially after the cancellation of SG1, what element do you think you need to bring forth, in your opinion for a long standing run, for SGA?
MG: Well, weâ€™re doing it. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s anything as tangible to say like â€œmore guns in the episodesâ€ you know, (laughter). Itâ€™s not a single thing that you can get your hands around. The show has got to grow and change organically and the landscape around it and who our viewers are and I think the show has legs. A lot of shows on television now are, especially a lot of the new shows, the question you ask yourself is â€œah, that first episode is awesome, how to you do 20 of those or 200 of thoseâ€. Rob and Brad have created yet another show that could run indefinitely and so itâ€™s really just about how long we can keep the show fresh and how long the viewers are interested and right now I donâ€™t see that ending anytime soon so hopefully weâ€™ll just keep doing more of the same.
SoSF: You were Creative Consultant on the SG1 series for 40 episodes. How difficult was it to juggle the between the two?
MG: Well, the writerâ€™s room, again those credits are kind of meaningless. Everyone does everything. If youâ€™re a writer on the show back when we were doing two shows, I wrote more episodes for Atlantis than I did for SG1, but I read every SG1 script, I watched every SG1 cuts, all the mixes, gave notes on everything and itâ€™s just what we all did so it was made manageable by, you know, working a lot and certainly in season 4 and season 5 we have the luxury of just focusing on Atlantis. For the first 3 years of Atlantis, everyone working on Atlantis had to put [their] focus on both Atlantis and SG1. Again, one of the reasons, I think that season 4 is so much better is we had the time to give it our full attention. We were used to doing 40 hours of television a year in this office and now weâ€™re only doing 20. It seems like almost a vacation. Itâ€™s a lot easier not being bogged down with volumes and volumes of work. Making one television show is enough work, making two is close to impossible.
SoSF: Can you offer any news on Stargate Universe?
MG: (sly smile) No, sorry.
SoSF: Martin, thank you for taking the time for this interview and I wish you guys continued success, I love the show, personally.
MG: Oh, thank you very much. Glad you do, really. What would you like to see, what is the one thing we could do better.
SoSF: Oh gosh, I would like to see, I love the chemistry between Jason and Rachel on screen,
SoSF: I really do. She just gets along with everyone on the team, â€œTeylaâ€ and thereâ€™s rumors about discord between â€œCarterâ€ and â€œTeylaâ€ I guess getting to know each other and I just donâ€™t want to see too much of that. I want to see a smooth transition because they are both professionals.
MG: Thatâ€™s what it is, they are both professionals and there are some really great â€œ
â€œTeylaâ€ and â€œRononâ€ moments coming up this season
SoSF: Great I am looking forward to it.
MG: Me too thanks a lot.