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Feature: Stargate Atlantis

Radekal Science

David Nykl as Dr Radek Zelenka

David Nykl looks at the development of Dr Radek Zelenka, from occasional bantering colleague to fully-fledged character

When you’re living in the Pegasus Galaxy, more (scientific) heads are definitely better than one, especially if you’re dealing with Wraith, Human-form Replicators and other assorted alien nasties that also share that same region of space. So thank goodness for Dr Radek Zelenka. Since his début in the first season Stargate Atlantis episode Thirty-Eight Minutes, the Czech-born scientist has been a key player in helping the Atlantis team stay one step ahead of the bad guys as well as solving some of its most perplexing scientific conundrums, and his work is not done yet. The character, and the actor who plays him, David Nykl, is back again for a fourth season of adventures on Atlantis.

“It’s been another great year for me and my character,” enthuses Nykl. “It’s a funny thing because I don’t know in advance just how many episodes I’m going to be asked to do. The first year I was in, I think, 10 out of 20, and it was the same the following season. Last year it was something like 14 out of 20, and in Season Four it’s going to be around 10 again, so Zelenka’s in pretty much every other episode, which is fantastic for a recurring character.

“Of course, we hit the ground running once again this year. The fourth season opener, Adrift, is a whizz-bang, fantastic episode. I worked quite a lot with Joe Flanigan [Colonel John Sheppard] in that one. The two of us did a spacewalk wearing EVA [Extra Vehicular Activity] suits, and that was a blast. We had on these $35,000 exact replicas of NASA suits built by the very talented guys and gals at our great special effects shop on Atlantis. They got all the pictures and plans off the Internet, right down to the fine details, including a little flip-up mirror on your wrist where you can look and see all the buttons and switches on the chest panel of your suit. They’re labelled backwards, which enables you to read them in the mirror so you know what you’re turning on and off.

“We wore F-1 race cooling vests to keep our body temperature down because it’s so hot in the EVA suits. Then you slip into this cast iron ring which has these hoops on it, and the suit goes over that. When it came time to shoot, they would hook wires to the hoops and basically hoist you up like a big marionette,” chuckles the actor. “The wires were attached to this sort of human-sized crane, and four guys would then push it along these tracks and get you to your mark on set. It was tough to find a day where both Joe and I could come in because it was a very technical shoot and all the equipment needed to be ready for it too. When we finally got around to doing it though, it was pretty cool. The scene itself has these micro asteroids whizzing around that Sheppard and Zelenka have to be careful of. That’s just a little taste of what’s to come this year,” teases Nykl.

by Steven Earmo

Read the full interview and more on Stargate in
Cult Times Special #45

Photo © The Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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