Martin Wood on the past and future of the ‘Stargate’ franchise
This is the second in a series of articles based on interviews we conducted at Gatecon, the annual gathering of ‘Stargate’ fans, stars, and behind-the-scenes creatives that took place last month in Vancouver. Click here to read our Gatecon interview with Simone Bailly.
On the surface, When Calls the Heart and Stargate SG-1 don’t appear to have all that much in common.
Sure, they’re both television series – locally shot in the GVRD – but one is a historical family drama, and the other was pure science fiction.
In the former, the action is concentrated in an early 20th century frontier town; in the latter, the action took its characters – and viewers – all over the galaxy.
But there are some key overlaps between the two wildly different series. For starters, they share a number of actors, including (but not limited to) Kavan Smith, Pascale Hutton, Johannah Newmarch, Martin Cummins, and Hrothgar Mathews.
They also overlap in directors – and Martin Wood is chief among them.
Until recently, Wood was almost exclusively a director of episodic sci-fi television. He directed 47 episodes of Stargate SG-1, 29 episodes of Stargate: Atlantis, and multiple episodes of Primeval New World, Sanctuary (for which he was also one of its executive producers), Andromeda, and Earth: Final Conflict.
The family dramas are a more recent addition to Wood’s filmography, and include When Calls the Heart, Chesapeake Shores, Cedar Cove, and an increasing number of Hallmark television movies.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising that Wood is working in the realm of family dramas. Hallmark has grown to be something of a juggernaut in the Vancouver screen scene, and it makes sense that a veteran director like Wood would be crossing over from sci-fi to work in this busy segment of the industry.
What is somewhat surprising, however, is an observation that Wood made within the first minute of our Gatecon interview: that his work in and around and through the Stargate informs his recent work on When Calls the Heart (not to mention on Chesapeake Shores, and every other Hallmark show he’s directed).
Directing sci-fi has impacted the way that Wood frames moments in his Hallmark shows. In science fiction, says Wood, “you invent a world, and because you invent a world, you think way outside the frame of your camera, whereas with a drama, you tend to think just inside the frame of the camera.”
And because of Stargate, “in everything I do, it’s easy for me to turn around and say, ‘We need a train station? Let’s not build it. Let’s take this shot like this, and do extensions,’” says Wood. “When Calls the Heart needed a train station and I said, ‘You just do this and stack these things up in front of a green screen.’”
Green screen is “part of a set, as far as I’m concerned,” adds Wood. “It’s always been the most liberating thing I can do.”
And really, when it comes down to it, Stargate SG-1 was, like family dramas, about people.
“The base of it is four characters that people love,” says Wood. “It builds from there, and it very quickly becomes six and eight and 10 and 12 and 15 characters, but there are four characters that we love.”
There’s also “a sense of humour that goes into the tragedy of these things, and the fact that we could make fun of things while we were still working through them,” he says. “The jeopardy is always there, but the fact that you can laugh at it hadn’t been done before. People were not doing that, and when you see the evolution of some of these movies, when you look at the Ant-Mans and the Deadpools of the world, you see that it’s built on that humour, and they realize that, in the face of all that tragedy, that sense of humour really plays, and it’s the characters and the story and it really has nothing to do with a Stargate. It really has nothing to do with the fantastic ability to be able to do this. It’s about the people, and the story that’s being told.”
Wood isn’t the only director from the Stargate ’verse to helm a family drama or two; Andy Mikita and Peter DeLuise have both directed for Hallmark – as has Amanda Tapping, who played Sam Carter on multiple incarnations of Stargate and has since directed more than 50 episodes of television in an array of genres.
“Amanda has a genuine kindness, and that’s something that you don’t get in a lot of directors,” says Wood. “Directors are made to be alphas. They don’t understand kindness very well sometimes. She also has an understanding of the craft of filmmaking that is beyond most people.”
Wood and sci-fi go way back. He recounts watching Star Trek, Time Tunnel, and Lost in Space as a child, and devouring sci-fi tomes by Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein at a young age.
Even though Wood is currently immersed in the world of Hallmark family dramas, he’s supportive of efforts to bring an in-canon version of Stargate back to broadcast television.
“I want it to come back, and I want to see another version of it that honours the version that we have,” says Wood. “What I don’t want to see is something that takes the series and puts it on the shelf. I want to see something that is an actual legacy for the series. The movie was one thing, but the series is Stargate for virtually everyone on the planet.”
Incidentally, Stargate SG-1 and When Calls the Heart have one other thing in common, besides Wood and the aforementioned actors.
They’re also connected by a piece of furniture.
“I walked into the boardroom of the office that we prep When Calls the Heart in, and it’s the boardroom table from SG-1,” chuckles Wood. “It’s sitting in there, and that’s where I do my meetings now: at the SG-1 table. It’s so incredible. It’s just sitting there in the office. I was the one that split the table in half so we could do moves through the table. It was really something to see that again.”
Top photo by Jeff Weddell