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In anticipation of watching "Outfoxed" anyday now, I'm going to go ahead and post the memo I wrote to Cary Bates, after he turned in his outline for that episode, originally titled, "After the Fox".
Notes on "After the Fox" Outline...
Well, one of the advantages of having you as one of my story editors is that I can be brutally honest. We got some problems here. The main one being that the story doesn't get going in earnest until the last scene of Act Two. We're horribly padded here. Normally, I would give this back to you for a second draft outline, but -- my fault -- I didn't read it in time. So I'll beat it out here.
FOX vs. RENARD
First off, let's make Renard the last name. I know I said it was o.k. to make Renard the first name, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn't want Fox's only connection to the Renard/Fox name to be that it was her father's first name. I don't think she could admit to herself that she was borrowing anything from him. So let's make her given name Janine Renard. He still calls her Janine. She rejects that and has her name legally changed to her nom de guerre: Fox. (Like Cher or Madonna, it's just the one word. Remember, she was a performer.) The "Fox" is the part of herself that she believes in. The irony, of course, is that the name did come from her father.
I don't think Fox consciously hates her father. I don't think she consciously admits to having feelings that could cloud her judgment. There's no vengeance kick here. No line of dialogue where she says she wants to see him suffer or that she only saved his life so she can continue to torture him. That all may be subconsciously true, but if so, she doesn't realize it. Remember, she's Xanatos' perfect mate. Neither her nor her husband get that emotional. They enjoy the game for its own sake. Playing it against her father may give it a special tang, but from her point of view, there's only one reason to do this: Cyberbiotics. She wants it, so she decides to take it. If it wasn't worth having, she wouldn't have bothered.
The investor scenario doesn't work. Just because the investors aren't killed, doesn't mean these five terrorized guys are now gonna invest. The damage is done. The stock price will still fall and Cyberbiotics will still belong to Fox by close of business tomorrow.
The solution, I believe, is to change the location. Renard has just rebuilt the CYBERBIOTICS AIR FORTRESS. He's determined to prove that it's safe and effective. It's a corporate icon, like the Good Year Blimp -- and the public does think it's really cool -- but it's still not the smartest investment. It's hybris. Worse... it's Euro-Disney. Renard's had to invest way too much to rebuild it. If it's destroyed so soon after it's reconstruction, Cyberbiotics will be bankrupt and easy prey for Fox. This'll tie in nicely with Goliath's growing sense that he owes Renard a debt. Goliath helped destroy the first Air Fortress. Now, he must save the second one. And if you save the ship, you save the company from Fox.
INTEGRITY: GARGOYLE vs. HUMAN
For once, this should not be an issue. Renard accuses Goliath of not having as much integrity as humans do. But Renard doesn't believe humans have very much integrity -- that's why he's automated his operations -- so we're arguing the wrong premise. Integrity is not the province of either race. Deep down, Goliath may have a vague prejudice that gargoyles are generally more honest than humans, but in his head he knows that his race does not have a monopoly on integrity. Thanks to the events of our pilot, Renard may have a general mistrust of gargoyles, but that's not the point he should be making. Renard firmly believes that integrity is an absolute. You have it. Or you don't. Cut and Dry. Black and White. He's got it. Most humans don't, including Xanatos and his daughter. Machines can be programmed with absolutes. People can't. So he's populating his world with machines. His assumption is that Goliath is no better than Xanatos and that all of the creature's protestations about being duped are nothing more than whining excuses. Will Goliath take responsibility for his actions or won't he? Let's not distract this important theme, with issues of race.
Though I loved the line: "You're gargoyle enough to admit it."
Who is this guy exactly? Security man? Computer programmer? Born-again? Was he hired on a project basis to complete the automation? Is he helping Fox because he knew Renard was going to fire him? Has Vogel automated all of Renard's operations or just the security? If it's just the security, than what are they securing? Why does he repent? Basically, the character is coming across as very vague and contradictory. We have to clean this up.
Let's also make sure we fit Vogel into our theme. He is corrupted by Fox. Ultimately, Renard will use Vogel as another example of why humans cannot be trusted. But Goliath will point out that the cybots were just as corruptible, while incapable of experiencing a change of heart, as Goliath has had.
"After the Fox"... I don't get it. Am I missing something?
1. Open quietly with FOX at the EYRIE BUILDING. She turns on the evening news. TRAVIS MARSHALL is on the air, reporting from JFK or LaGuardia or wherever. It is the Maiden Voyage of FORTRESS-2, the CYBERBIOTICS airship. Marshall had hoped to get an interview with the reclusive head of Cyberbiotics, HALCYON RENARD, but has to settle for Renard's right-hand man VOGEL. Fox watches all this with some interest.
2. Out at the airfield, Marshall, a tough journalist, questions the wisdom and expense of Fortress-2, particularly since FORTRESS-ONE crashed into the river last year. Vogel counters that the cause of that crash was an act of corporate espionage that was only successful thanks to human error on the part of Fortress-One's crew. Fortress-2 is fully automated, run by patented CYBOTS. Human error is not possible. No humans aboard at all? After this test flight, human scientists will occupy it's laboratories to research new wonders, but there is no human crew, except for Vogel and Mr. Renard, himself. Marshall asks if it's true that Renard has invested all of his personal fortune into Fortress-2, and that if it doesn't perform both he and Cyberbiotics will be ruined. Vogel has no comment on that, and heads inside the ship.
3. We follow Vogel, as he heads for the command center. Everything is automated, and there are little Cybots everywhere. All with very specific functions. No waste. At the command center, Vogel contacts Renard in his private office, elsewhere on board. Cut briefly to a shadowed Renard hovering in his ultra-chair, watching Vogel on a vid-screen. Renard gives permission to launch.
4. Fortress-2 launches. Huge turbines and compressors roar. And GOLIATH and ELISA watch from a nearby roof or hilltop. Goliath claims to be here because he is concerned that XANATOS might attempt to attack this ship, just as he tricked Goliath into attacking the first one. But Elisa probably knows that the air fortress is a symbol of Goliath's own guilt -- a guilt that Goliath has yet to come to terms with. Goliath decides to follow the airship, just to be safe.
5. In the air above Manhattan, a cybot alerts Vogel to their pursuer [Goliath]. Vogel informs Renard. Renard says Vogel knows what to do. (It doesn't hurt if we briefly misdirect the audience into thinking that Renard is a villain.)
6. Goliath glides a short distance behind the airship. Suddenly, flying cybots swarm out of a Fortress-2 hold. There're not very big, and they have very simple attack programming. They fire medium strength stun bolts and they miss more often than they hit. Goliath can swat them away easily. Clearly, these cybots don't seem to be on a par with Xanatos' STEEL CLAN. But if results are what counts, they turn out to be superior. There are just too many of the little things. No matter how many Goliath trashes, there are more coming at him. They hover, which Goliath can't do. And eventually, the stun beams add up. Finally, he gets hit with a barrage of them and passes out. Two larger cybots are waiting to catch him and bring him into the airship. (Let's consistently depict the cybots as mono-functional. Each model capable of doing only one thing.)
7. Inside the airship, Goliath regains consciousness in the brig. The bars on the cell might be bendable for Goliath, but he is forced back by Cybot guards with built-in cattle prods. Vogel is there, and a large metal pneumatic door slides open to finally reveal Halcyon Renard. He floats in on his hover chair. He has silver hair and a very sharp mind -- but he is definitely not "robust and vital".
Renard hovers around Goliath, sizing him up. "So this is what the boys at Gen-U-Tech have been up to. Xanatos must be very proud." Goliath responds that he is neither Gen-U-Tech's creation nor Xanatos'. Renard laughs. Goliath demands to know why he is being held prisoner. "Because if you're my prisoner, than I know you can't destroy Fortress-2 for your master." Goliath: "I have no master." "No? Then why did you do this?" Renard flicks a remote button on his chair, and the walls slide back to reveal a large screen. Another button, and video clips from "Awakening, Parts IV and V" show Goliath's participation in the destruction of Fortress-One. Chastened, Goliath tries to explain that he had been duped by Xanatos: "It wasn't my fault." But Renard doesn't let up: "It's not my fault. It's not my fault. You sound like all my human employees. My former human employees. Crush them all together and you couldn't squeeze an ounce of personal integrity from the lot of them. Don't make excuses, creature! Take responsibility for your actions! Stop whining!"
"I DO NOT WHINE," says Goliath, as he rips the bars off his cell and uses them to smash his cybot guards. But Renard doesn't even flinch. "You don't whine, but you also don't hesitate to destroy more of my personal property." He presses another button, and two stun cannons on his chair blast at Goliath until he is knocked out again.
Vogel apologizes. "All my fault, sir. I'll make sure he can't get out of the next cell." We see that Renard respects Vogel for taking the blame. A cybot informs Vogel that he has an incoming personal call. Renard exits, not wanting to impose on Vogel's privacy.
As Cybots drag the unconscious Goliath away, Vogel turns to a vid-screen and activates it. Reveal Fox on the other end. Is it safe to talk? Mr. Renard always respects my privacy. Is Vogel ready to sabotage Fortress-2? He is if the money's been deposited in his Swiss Bank Account. All taken care of. Vogel: "Then we're ready. And the good news is..." He looks at Goliath. "We've got a perfect candidate to take the blame."
8. A short time later, Goliath awakens shackled to a wall in a new cell, with MUCH thicker bars, and even more cybot guards. Renard is there in his hover chair, brooding. If only Goliath could make him understand that Xanatos is to blame. But Renard: "Oh, I have no doubt of that. You aren't the first poor soul Xanatos has corrupted. Owen Burnett. Anton Sevarius. They both were Cyberbiotics employees... and they're the least of what that viper has stolen from me. I've no doubt he was behind the attack and no reason to doubt that he tricked you into participating." But if that's so, than why does Renard hold Goliath responsible? "Someone has to. And you obviously don't." It doesn't matter to Renard whose idea it was. It doesn't matter whether Goliath believed he was doing the right thing. Now he knows the truth. What's he going to do about it? Goliath grimly rattles his chains, then says, "I think a better question might be, what are you going to do about it."
9. Xanatos and Fox are working on their Kung Fu at the Eyrie Building. Make a point of showing that they are evenly matched. While they fight, they talk casually. Xanatos: "Weren't you mounting a hostile take-over of Cyberbiotics today? Your not having second thoughts about taking it from old man Renard?" Before she can answer, OWEN enters to alert Fox of a phone call from her physician. When Xanatos looks concern, she misinterprets and tells him not to worry: Cyberbiotics will be hers before morning. And as she says hello into the phone, we cut...
10. In the command center, Vogel instructs a random cybot to shut down for repairs. When it does, he opens it up and installs a chip into it's programming matrix. Then he reactivates the cybot, but when it turns on, an arc of electricity flashes around it, briefly. Vogel taps it on the head. Off you go.
11. Goliath and Renard are still talking practical philosophy. Renard has been brooding over the question of what to do with Goliath. He's trying to decide what the honorable thing would be. He'll probably just turn him over to the authorities. Goliath is aghast. "Look at me, human. Is that an equitable punishment? Was my crime against you heinous enough to justify turning me into a laboratory specimen?" Renard smiles. "Well, we're making progress. You've finally acknowledged that you committed a crime."
12. Elsewhere on the ship, the first cybot that Vogel infected passes another cybot. The same arc of electricity shoots out of the second 'bot. Then both 'bots move off and infect two more...and so on... and so on... and so on...
On Vogel's read-out screen, the percentage of cybots infected keeps rising. 13%... 27%... 32%...
13. Goliath eyes Renard. Almost despite himself, Goliath is beginning to regard the man with a grudging respect. "All right. I've admitted I was wrong. No more excuses. Now what?" But Renard doesn't have any easy answers for him. "Integrity is not easy. It is a daily struggle. A costly struggle. If you only knew what it cost me. My Anastasia. My Janine." Goliath lowers his head, "...my angel..." Renard looks at him closely. "So you do know." Goliath speaks slowly: "I know I owe you a great debt for what I did a year ago. And a greater debt for the education I received tonight. If the text was not new to me, it was at least... worth revisiting."
Now during this entire conversation, a cybot enters and approaches a guard cybot by the door. The guard cybot is infected, and approaches the other cybot by the door and infects it. Neither Goliath nor Renard notice until the cybots flanking Goliath's cell are infected and the arcing electricity catches the attention of both.
14. On Vogel's screen the percentage goes up from 99% to 100%, and "Right on cue" he gets a vid-call from Renard. He affects panic. Somehow that creature in the brig has infected every cybot on board with a computer virus. Renard says, "Nonsense. I've been sitting here talking with him the whole time." Vogel doesn't know how Goliath did it. But the Cybots are not responding to commands. They've set Fortress-2 on a collision course with the CYBERBIOTICS TOWER. They must abandon ship and activate the emergency self-destruct mechanism or both installations will be destroyed, and Cyberbiotics will be history. Renard is beside himself: If Fortress-2 is destroyed than Cyberbiotics is ruined anyway. Vogel shakes his head, flips a switch and a 10 minute time counter appears on the vid-screen. "I'm sorry, sir. You can place the blame on me if you must, but now we have no choice. At our present rate of speed we will hit the tower in ten minutes. You have nine minutes to meet me at the escape pod. After that I will jettison, and use my access code to destroy Fortress-2."
15. Goliath offers to help Renard try to save the ship. Renard is so furious, he's half ready to believe that Goliath was responsible. But Goliath knows that Renard doesn't really believe that. Goliath helped destroy Fortress-One. "Let me help to save Fortress-2." Renard agrees and presses a button on his chair which releases Goliath. The Cybot guards interpret this as an escape attempt. Renard cannot override them. But between Goliath and Renard's hover-chair, they manage to destroy the cybot guards. They leave the brig. The seconds tick away.
16. Vogel monitors them from the comfortable escape pod. He can't believe the old fool is going to try to save the ship. Why doesn't he just admit defeat and head for the escape pod? Vogel's made sure that route is clear of cybots. He'll just have to discourage anymore heroics. He orders all the cybots to kill the creature and drive Renard toward the pod. (Note: he does NOT want to kill Renard.)
17. Now every cybot on the ship is against Goliath and Renard. The little flying ones that knocked Goliath out in the first place. The big ones that carried him inside. More cattle-prod guard 'bots. Zippy little messenger 'bots. Maintenance 'bots. All of them. The good news is that in the airship's small corridors, there are only so many that can go at our heroes at once. But the situation is intolerable. They can't destroy the 'bots one at a time. They need to cut off power to all the cybots at once. And it's possible. There's a power station at the center of the ship that transmits power to all the cybots. But if they destroy that then they destroy the cybots that pilot the ship. There won't be time to get to the power station, shut it off and then go to the bridge. They have to split up. And time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
18. Intercut between Goliath fighting his way to the power station; Renard fighting his way to the bridge, and Vogel getting very nervous in the escape pod. [Turns out that even Vogel didn't know how much the old guy had grown on him. Destroying his empire is one thing. But Vogel is no killer. He doesn't want Renard's death on his conscience. And/or he had explicit instructions from Fox that Renard not be killed.] And time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
19. Goliath gets to the power station and destroys it. All the 'bots shut down. But time is ticking away. And the Tower gets closer and closer.
20. With the cybots down, Renard is able to zoom the rest of the way to the bridge quickly. He puts Fortress-2 on manual override, but time has passed the nine minute mark. The tower looms right in front of him and navigation and the helm are located on two different consoles. At the last second, Vogel appears and between the two of them, they are able to turn the ship away from the tower and save it.
21. Aftermath between Renard and Goliath. At first, Renard is bitter. Vogel has confessed his betrayal. Further proof that the human species is devoid of integrity. But Goliath disagrees. Vogel's example hardly proves the wisdom of putting one's trust in single-minded automatons. Automatons are tools. They know nothing of honor or betrayal. They do what they are programmed to do. But a living being knows nothing of programming. A living being must choose. And, ultimately, Vogel chose honor.
Renard lets all that sink in. He's got a lot to think about, but one thing he knows is that Goliath has paid his debt. A ship for a ship. Renard: "We are even." But Goliath: "No... We are friends."
22. Goliath soars off into the night. And he doesn't notice a small hang-glider land on the now defenseless airship behind him. The newcomer abandons the glider and tosses a cloudy ball against the metal hull. The ball shatters and a corrosive substance is released that quickly burns a hole in the hull. The stranger enters the airship, and as she does, we finally get a look at her. It is Fox.
23. Back in Renard's office. He sits in his chair. Quietly. Fox enters behind him, and for a moment we think she's there as an assassin. But he seems to be expecting her. "Hello, Janine," he says. "Hello, Daddy," she replies. "I almost got you that time." "Yes, but why? I built this company for you. I'd have given it to you by now if you hadn't married that villain Xanatos. I'd still probably give it to you if you just stood up and asked me for it honestly." "Oh, Daddy. You and your integrity. Asking for it wouldn't be any fun at all." Renard: "And fun is more important to you than honor. I can't understand that." Fox: "Well, maybe you'll have better luck with the next generation." Renard: "What?" Fox: "That's right, Daddy. You're going to be a grandfather."