A few weeks into filming Season 5 of Stargate Atlantis, Writer/Producer Martin Gero gave a long interview to Gateworld, which has just been published. In the interview he made his most revealing statements so far about how Jewel Staite came to replace Paul McGillion as the regular cast member playing the chief medical officer on Atlantis.
From the interview:
Look man, I’m a big Jewel Staite fan. I was one of the people that suggested her in the first place to come in and be the doctor. It was something that we realized very quickly that we needed to do in “First Strike.” Obviously [“Adrift”] and “Lifeline” were going to be lost in space so it would feel weird to introduce a doctor in those. It was a type of thing where I was like, “Listen, we’ve got to do this quick and here’s who I think it should be.”
While the production has always denied there was any connection between Paul McGillion’s removal and Jewel Staite’s hiring, it’s hard to imagine Gero and the other producers were not thinking along those lines as they authorized and wrote “Sunday.” It would only have been a couple of months at most between filming “Sunday” and casting for “First Strike,” after all. Gero goes on to say:
We’d been trying to find a place for Jewel ever since “Instinct.” The only reason we really used her in “Instinct” was because we knew we could use her again. The cast fell in love with her. She lives here in Vancouver so she actually developed a friendship with a lot of people on the show, outside of the show. Sadly, she’s probably closest to Paul McGillion [“Carson Beckett”]. That’s uncomfortable.
Here Gero admits Jewel’s friendly connections to the production were a factor in her being hired, and acknowledges hiring a friend to replace him must have been uncomfortable for Paul. Very sensitive of him.
But Gero also shows a change in attitude in the Gateworld interview. A year ago, Gero insisted fans would love the character of Jennifer Keller. From this interview before Season 4 aired:
… and as for Jewel, if anyone had any doubt, if not gone, will be completely gone after an episode called “Missing”. She is phenomenal. I could not be more excited to have Jewel on the show.
…I have friends that have just started watching the show in season 4 and they love her and people that are expecting “Beckett” are slower to embrace her, but again I have zero concerns and in the next couple of episodes, everyone’s going to be “Keller” fans, regardless of your thoughts on “Beckett”.
Needless to say, his predictions were wrong, as there was widespread negative reaction to Keller’s behavior in “Missing” in on-line fan communities and reviews. Many viewers found Keller too weak and whiny to be believable. From IGN.com:
Who knew Keller was so whiney? She’s worse than McKay’s most pathetic moments (but at least he’s funny-pathetic; Keller is eyes-rolling-pathetic). She came off as very much a spoiled kid.
There were no glowing reviews of Keller after “Missing”. In fact, we aren’t aware of glowing reviews of Keller in general.
In the new interview, Gero admits Keller is not universally loved, but blames it on Carson fans who refuse to accept a new character:
She’s fantastic. I know she definitely has her detractors still, because of the whole Carson thing. If that had never existed I think she would be a universally admired character.
Now this is a truly arrogant, insulting comment. Gero needs to give fans credit for being able to judge Keller on her own merits and not only through the filter of fondness for Carson.
Gero’s reasoning exactly mirrors the production’s reaction to criticism of Jonas Quinn as a replacement for Daniel Jackson in SG-1’s Season 6. The writers didn’t want to see their creation as a failure, so they refused to accept that Jonas wasn’t a successful character regardless of how fans felt about Daniel Jackson. The same is happening here. The simple truth is Keller has not been embraced by fans anywhere near as much as Carson was from the pilot episode on.
Sadly, things seem to only be headed in the wrong direction for Keller’s character in Season 5 as she becomes the center of an “unlikely love triangle” and, based on early viewings of “Search and Rescue,” continues to display indecisiveness and unbelievability as a physician and surgeon.
The bottom line is Mr. Gero should stop attributing all opinion about Keller to disgruntled Beckett fans. Or even better, listen to the fans and either address the criticisms or bring Carson back full-time. We know which one we’d choose!