Stargate: Universe’s producers were tasked with a somewhat unorthodox mission: reach outside of the Stargate franchise’s existing fan-base and bring in viewers who had never watched a single episode of ‘Gate. In order to accomplish that, the SGU story had to quickly get these viewers up to speed and make them feel at home in the Stargate universe. Enter David Blue’s Eli. The character of Eli, a brainy gamer who unknowingly cracks an alien code embedded in an MMO and is drafted into the Stargate program, is not only a vital member of the SGU story, he is also the voice for Stargate newbies within the SGU universe. Chances are, if you have a question Eli is going to ask it; if you are puzzled by the audacity of the Stargate rules, Eli will emote your frustration. However, don’t dismiss Blue’s Eli as purely a utility character. Eli is also often the moral compass of the show, and the first to break the cold logical hyperbole of Dr. Rush by twanging the human core of SGU’s storylines.
I had the chance to speak with David Blue a few weeks ago about where Stargate: Universe is going, and where Eli is headed along the way.
Let me just say upfront that I was not a Stargate fan going into Universe and if Eli were not there for me to relate to, and to sort of ease me into it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the show. Does Eli continue to be this ‘Gateway’ character as we get deeper into SGU?.
Absolutely. First of all, thank you for the compliment because that’s exactly what we were going for. My parents and my brothers weren’t really big sci-fi fans, so any time I look at the episode, I look at it as a litmus test because they are the first people to call me, literally within seconds after an episode airs, and ask me questions. If they can understand it, I feel like that’s what’s going to suck everybody in, and what we want to do is expend the audience to the non-sci-fi fans and have everyone be part of it.
It’s important to me, the way Brad and Robert first talked to me about the character of Eli, to always look at things from a fresh perspective. This is nothing against the actors, but in Atlantis, they kind of became superheroes. They got so used to gates opening, wormholes, puddles, and all of that, that anytime it happened it was like oh, okay, another day at work. It made sense for their characters, but for me, Eli not being part of this world and always hoping that it exists, it’s always with fresh eyes and excitement that he sees this, and that happens to all of these new things we discover this season: planets, technologies, people, and relationships on the ship. It’s always new to him and it is most definitely written that way. I make a point to try to continue it that way, the way I play it as well.
How far ahead of us are you now in production, as far as episode numbers?
Would you believe that we’re shooting the season finale right now? Yes. Really, it sucks because, as I said, my family members are fans of the show, and not just because I’m on it now, but they call me all the time. Like with the end of Air part three, they immediately called and said, “What was that thing that flew off on the back of the ship?” And I said, “I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to ruin it for you because you’re not going to find out until next year.” Which to me sucks, honestly. I wish you guys were where we are at right now because I want to talk to you about the season finale. I want to talk to you about episode 17, and I can’t. It’s kind of frustrating for me to have you guys wait.
Without spoiling anything about it, as the season goes on, are people going to be surprised with where Stargate: Universe goes, or have we pretty much seen the template at this point?
Oh no, you’ll be surprised with everything that happens, not only from plot development and technologies, but there are some really intelligently written plots coming up. My favorite part about the show is the characters. As the season goes on, some of the characters that people are upset about because they are not a strong character, or angry about because they don’t like what they are doing, grow and change so much, and with any ensemble drama the focus shifts.
For example, with Lost, you have to shift to different characters as the storylines regress, as you reveal more little tidbits about everyone. Some of my favorite characters throughout the season are ones that you guys have barely gotten to know. T.J. quickly became one of my favorites, Wray has some beautiful stuff coming up, there is great development with Chloe and what she means to the show, and then from a personal perspective, there is really great emotional stuff coming up throughout the season where you get to see Eli as more than just the plucky comic relief.
I love them all, but some of my favorite episodes are Time, Life, and Human. You get to see some really great reveals about characters, their pasts, and how they relate to each other on the ship that I don’t think people are expecting. On top of that, there is some really great action too. There is a lot of fun stuff we’ve been shooting for the past few months that I think will blow people out of the water, and I haven’t even seen the finished special effects yet.
I think people will be happy to hear that. There are two complaints. One you answered there, the lack of action, and the other I thought was completely premature when I heard somebody say it: that the female characters are not as strong as they should be. I’m interested to get your point of view on that from where you are at now.
I heard that. Being on Twitter, you tend to get a lot of stuff, and it really honestly upset me. There is not a lot that upsets me that I read. Usually the answer is to wait a week. A lot of people ask me, “How is Eli’s iPhone still working? That’s bull crap.” I tell them to wait until Friday. Then Friday comes and they see, oh, that’s how. That’s how I feel about the female characters.
I think everyone dealt with it at Comic-Con when that one question was asked, and it was like every character, every female, and this is a strong, intelligent woman. We’ve only shown you four episodes, but those four episodes have been a day or two days in the life of these characters, so you need to let a little bit of time come up. You’ve barely seen Telford, you’ve barely seen Wray, and you’ve barely seen T.J. These people are still getting used to their situation, and then as that progresses, you can start learning more about the character.
Even going away from the main cast, like Lieutenant James (Julia Benson); she is such a strong woman and such a strong character, and has some really interesting moments throughout the season. It’s funny to see how people react to her character. Oh, look why she was hired. Yes, she’s a gorgeous woman, but she was hired because she’s an amazing actress. All I can do is sit back quietly and wait for you guys to see those episodes and learn it yourself, but again, that goes back to my frustration. I wish you guys were where we’re at now because you wouldn’t have these questions anymore.
I know people who have seen as many episodes as I’ve seen, that are completed, and when they heard that comment, when they heard people say these characters are useless, they said, “Are you kidding me?” They immediately said the same things that I said, so it’s not just me being involved in it that thinks this. People who have seen the episodes that are being completed as we go, agree with me and that just shows me that all you have to do is wait to see. I think the fans are intelligent. I think they’ll wait and see for themselves. I just wish that I could evade their fears now.
Not only do you have Ming-Na, who is a brilliant actress and wouldn’t sign on to play a role that is useless and boring, but on top of that you have writers who in the past have written strong women like Carter on SG1. They are really good at speaking in those voices and you have these great new situations that are just going to lend themselves to that.
Specifically, Ming-Na (Camile Wray) has some amazingly jaw dropping beautiful scenes coming up in the next couple of episodes that floored me. Having read it, knowing her, and knowing what she’s capable of, I still wasn’t expecting it to be as beautiful as it was. I can’t wait for everyone to see it because I feel like once those come out, then people will change their minds.
It’s kind of like the show was not to be too verbose. In the beginning everyone was thinking, oh, it’s going to be dark, horrible, and depressing, and then they watched it and said, “Oh, never mind.” “How do they recharge everything?” “Oh, never mind.” All I’m waiting for is that never mind moment with this.
I thought the female characters were great, but that’s just me. All of the characters, at worst, are compelling enough to make you want to know more.
Yes, you’re still getting to know everybody. How much do you know about any single character? No one knows anything yet about Rush, no one really knows much about where Young is coming from, where Scott is coming from, Greer. The most you know about is Eli’s background because of Air’s part one and two, but even then you don’t really know much about where it’s going. It’s the beginning of a show and that’s what a show does, especially in ensemble dramas. It introduces you to the characters and lets you learn about them as you learn about the situation they’re in. I don ‘t want to say it requires patience because that makes it sound like you have to boringly wait, but if you’re enjoying the ride, then enjoy the ride and see where it goes before you worry about how it’s going to end.
Being a big science fiction fan, I see a lot of qualities in Eli that are of the great boy genius-type characters like Wesley Crusher and Will Robinson. How will Eli’s evolution differ from those sorts of characters.
No offense to Wil Wheaton or anything, being a huge Next Generation fan, but no, I don’t really see Eli as Crusher or even as Will Robinson because with Crusher, he grew up in that world. He grew up in a world where Starfleet existed, his mother was a doctor, he was around that all the time, and Picard kind of took him under his wing, but he knew what he was up for. The same thing with Will Robinson.
I don’t view Eli as a child, really. He is in his 20s. He went to MIT. He has had some rough experiences in his life with his mother, his life in general, and money. He is grown up, he just happens to have a child-like curiosity, but his humor is very intelligent. For someone who helped raise himself with TV and movies, which I can relate to loving the TV and movies part, and he didn’t know the Stargate program existed.
I kind of look at him like any of us right now, where as far as we know, NASA just sent up something, trying to put a new space station up. I don’t know how that’s going. I just read today that they may have discovered some extra orbit planets outside of our galaxy, and as far as we know, that’s it, that’s the height of our technology. What if one day, all of a sudden on Independence Day or something, a UFO lands or we come to find out that there is a whole war going on in space that we had no idea about, with other people who are way beyond where we are technology-wise. It would just be this huge wakeup call, and that’s how I look at Eli. He’s not a kid who is forced into a situation. He is not somebody who shouldn’t be there, specifically.
I think if Eli knew about the Stargate program, he would be working toward being part of it because it’s fascinating, but instead he just kind of gets sucked in and has no choice but to learn as quickly as possible. To me it’s very different. Maybe it’s just a personal thing, but in a strange way, I look at him more like James Spader as Jackson from the original Stargate movie. Somebody who has all these ideas and is kind of looked down upon by other people, and then all of the sudden finds out that all of his dreams exist, and how is he now going to cope with that? And how is he going to find his place in this new world that exists that he never dreamed would?
What is your favorite thing about Stargate: Universe?
My favorite thing about the show is when you’re stuck in these situations, you need to forge relationships that you wouldn’t expect because you need a friend, someone to laugh with, someone to lean on, someone to hug, someone to be angry at and vent off of. I think this heightens that a lot more. People need to make connections because they’re scared and people need to forgive things because there is no reason to hold onto them. I think that those really will draw people into the characters and into the situation more.
Stargate: Universe “Earth” Airs This Friday at 9pm est on SyFy