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Time to Ramble...
My three year old son Ben watched the opening titles for about the five hundredth time. On the one hand, he made the point that it was getting dull seeing this same opening. He wanted me to fast-forward to the actual story.
On the other hand, he spent the time reviewing "the rules". How the gargs turn to stone during the day. How Goliath is the leader. Etc.
One thing we always cheated on was how Fortress-2 landed. There it is on the ground awaiting it's maiden voyage, and I just don't see any landing gear.
Vogel is introduced. This is another thing where I had to carefully explain my long-term intent behind the screen in order to get a model for the character that really looked like Owen but wasn't his twin. I remember a lot of people on the Disney Afternoon mailing list reacting negatively to Preston in this episode. Like he was a feeble imitation of Owen. Like we didn't know how to do any other kind of executive assistant. I was simultaneously amused and annoyed by those kind of comments. So now I'm curious. What was your initial reaction to Vogel? And what do you think of him now?
As usual, Travis has old-school attitude when interviewing his subjects. I like that. Makes him more of a character and not just a reporter place-holder.
Fox in casual clothes. With a very casual, yet strangely intense attitude. "I know what happens next," Fox says to David.
My six year old daughter Erin asked, "Why is she watching [Travis' report] like that?" She could tell something was up there.
And in fact, like UPGRADE, this was another episode where we were intentionally trying to show that Fox was David's equal. We show it physically in their martial arts work out. And we show it by giving her a ruthless and complex plot to take Cyberbiotics. In fact, in this episode, when you add in the fact that David is clearly in the dark about her pregnancy test, she seems to be a little equaler than he is.
Fortress-2 takes off. And Goliath sends us into flashback. This is flat-out padding. For some reason, though the script is the same basic length as any of our scripts, this one timed out short after story-boarding was done. (Most of my stories time out too long.) So we added this flashback. I think it was a mistake. It kills the stories momentum, and we already had the sequence later where Renard shows all the important scenelets to Goliath. Those become incredibly redundant. When you add in the "Previously on Gargoyles" opening, it was just too much.
Elisa reveals the show's Hill Street Blues influence by telling Goliath to "be careful out there."
Goliath gets attacked by cybots. As noted, any individual cybot is no match for him. But they have strength in numbers. I wanted to show that Goliath can still kick some ass when motivated. So the cybots shoot at him. And his only response is "That. Stings." Very intense. Unfortunately, I think sound-wise the line gets buried.
And that's a general problem with the episode. On a technical level this just wasn't one of our best. The animation isn't awful, but it's mediocre. Goliath's size relationship gets screwed up here and there. (Particularly in the brig sequences.) The story's padded by flashbacks. Our normally great sound team, didn't do the most inspiring job on this one either. It just generally feels like one that got away from us.
I still think there's some great stuff in it. And the revelation of Fox's pregnancy actually makes it something of a landmark (both for our series and for animated series in general), but the execution never quite lived up to its potential. Oh, well.
CONTINUITY & INTRIGUE
Did anyone remember Cyberbiotics before this ep? Had you ever wondered who Xanatos was stealing from in the pilot? We knew that Cyberbiotics abandoned their underground base, which became the home of the Mutates. Now we were rebuilding the air fortress and revealing that the CYberbiotics Tower is still in business.
Also, Renard mentions Gen-U-Tech. And the revelation that Sevarius and Burnett used to work for Cyberbiotics. Of course, Renard thinks that Xanatos stole Sevarius and Owen away. We know better. We knew even then that Sevarius is much better suited to work for a man like Xanatos than Renard. And of course, now we know why Owen was Xanatos-bound as well. But what did you guys think of that minor revelation at the time?
Renard's opinion of Xanatos is probably colored by his relationship to his daughter: "And that's the least that viper has stolen from me." Did you stop at that moment to consider what that meant and what he meant by the "My Anastasia. My Janine." line? Did anyone (from Renard's name, if nothing else) guess that Fox was his daughter, before the tag? Who did you think Anastasia and Janine were at that time? Or did Goliath's follow up line, "My angel of the night." distract you from considering these questions?
At this point, just before the Janine line, Erin (who has seen these before, but not recently) remembered: "That's Fox's daddy!"
Goliath has some cool lines here too. "I belong to no one." "I serve no master."
And Renard (voiced by Robert Culp to perfection) has some great lines too: "Not my fault, not my fault. You sound like every human employee I've ever FIRED." and "Take some responsibility."
What was fun for me, although maybe for no one else, was (a) to get some hard thoughts about both the need and the difficulty of maintaining personal integrity up onto the screen and (b) doing that by lecturing to Goliath, arguably one of the most "integrous" characters I've ever written. (b) served (a), by showing that even Goliath can be prone to slipping.
The thing is that integrity really matters to me. And yet, I don't know how much of it I exercise in my own life. I really do try. But it's so hard. And not because I'm a dishonest person, but more because I'm lazy. It's easier to shift blame, to tell white lies, etc. The alternative takes effort and vigilance. I think the rewards are immense, even if the costs are too. But I ain't kidding myself about the difficulty.
The martial arts scene. Reminiscent of the scene from the Edge where Owen toppled David. Here we hinted even more strongly that Fox is Renard's daughter. David is basically giving her permission to back out of the plan, to save face and exit, BEFORE she destroys her father. It's not that David really cares about Halcyon. I think he's thinking about his relationship to his own father. David likes to believe (at this stage in the series) that he's evolved beyond the need for a parental relationship. But "Vows" sort of demonstrates that his relationship with Petros is much more complex than that. David still needs parental approval and is somewhat amazed (at least subconsciously) that Fox does not. Again, in this episode, Fox is more than his equal.
And now the doctor calls with test results. David shows legitimate fear here for a moment. He's not thinking pregnancy. He's worried maybe she's sick or something. She enjoys toying with him. Maybe she's just in a mood. But her armor is on in force in this ep. We won't really get INSIDE Fox until "The Gathering" two-parter.
Finally, Goliath acknowledges his crime: "I was wrong." Cary had this great line for Renard: "I'm glad you're gargoyle enough to admit it."
Robert Culp and Peter Scolari were an interesting pair as Renard and Vogel. Culp was tough in the booth. Very precise. Very clear ideas about how he wanted to play the character. Tougher on his performance than Jamie and I were. And the results show.
Peter was a dream to work with. We spent an hour talking after the recording (about Busom Buddies, mostly). He's an incredibly nice guy. And he picked up the character right away. Despite the fact that we didn't have Jeff Bennett there to do a little Owen for him. He just got it.
Until the end, Vogel really plays Renard in this. He knows how much Renard hates whining blame-shifters, so he's constantly saying things like "You can place the blame on me if you like." in order to defuse any of Renard's suspicions.
But in a more subtle way, Renard is unwittingly playing upon Vogel as well. He doesn't intrude on Vogel's phone calls. He treats him with respect and gives him credit ("You and I built this ship together"). Insists that Vogel save the people in the tower, even if it means Renard's own life. We can see that Vogel was willing to take Fox's money for a bit of corporate espionage. But Vogel is not a killer. (It's important to see that he views Goliath as a creature.) This partially explains his turnaround at the end. (Which some people complained about.) All along he's been trying to get Renard to GET OFF THE SHIP. But Renard forces his hand. And when push comes to shove, Vogel likes Renard too much to see him die. "Mr. Vogel, I knew you wouldn't let me down." "You have that effect on people." And then Goliath basically bluffs him at the end there into confessing, screwing up their relationship.
But Goliath fixes it again. His last discussion with Renard sets up the reconciliation between them that must have taken place before "Golem".
At any rate, it's also nice to see Goliath make a NEW friend. This was important, because that has always been Goliath's goals. To make friends with humans on his own terms. Every once in a while, we had to show it working. Couldn't just be ONLY Elisa forever.
Ben weighed in at this point and said, "Daddy, I love Xanatos. And I love Fox." Of course, Ben and Erin dressed up as David and Fox at the last Gathering. In fact they dressed up in the martial arts outfits from this episode. Thus the affinity. I once played Theseus in the play THE WARRIOR'S HUSBAND. And Edmund in KING LEAR. It gave me an on-going affinity for both characters and awakened my interest in "The Bastard" archetype.
Now the tag. I'm usually pretty proud of our tags. They often advance the overall story as much as the entire episode. But this is one of my favorites. "Hello, Janine." "Hello, daddy." Was anyone ready for that? And her attitude: "Almost got you that time, didn't I?" The whole sense that Fox is in all this just for kicks. She's not as acquisitive as her husband. He'd always take the path of LEAST resistance to a goal. If Renard would give Janine the company, X would suggest she ask for it. But she doesn't care about the company. ONLY the game. X likes the game. But he's about RESULTS. All established in one little scene.
And of course that slick little pregnancy revelation. I think that was one of the most revolutionary and flat-out subversive things we did on the whole show. Was anyone ready for that? We had hinted at it with the "genetically compatible" line in "Eye of the Beholder" and obvioulsy with "It's your doctor... with test results." But I think it was quite the shocker.
And Fox is so tough. Pregnant and back on the hang-glider. I love it.
Okay, I'm done. You're turn. Ramble away...