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Time to ramble...
Chapter LVI: "Future Tense"
Story Editor: Michael Reaves
Writers: Marty Isenberg & Bob Skir
Director: Bob Kline
This episode is/was so jam-packed with stuff that I literally couldn't take notes fast enough. I'm bound to have missed a ton of stuff that I might have wished to comment on. So this ramble is going to be far from comprehensive.
I think the title was Michael's, by the way.
GOLIATH ON THE SKIFF
Take this opening scene for example. In less than a couple minutes, Goliath mentions the Gathering (setting up Puck's eventual motivation), wishes to be back home, longs to "see the Trio and Hudson" again and says he would "give much" to return home (all of which invites and allows Puck to interfere in mortal affairs)... and THEN gets hit by lightning.
I wonder how many of you remembered that odd lightning hit. Our hope was that with all that was going on in the ep, you'd forget about it.
PLANET OF THE APES & THE X-MEN
Hard to show the Statue of Liberty in ruins without summoning up that classic moment from the Heston film... a definite influence. Another influence, clearly, was the Claremont/Byrne run on X-Men in the eighties. That first time they sent the Kitty Pride from the future to the present and showed us some horrifying scenes in that alternate future stuck in my memory. Later, of course, I thought all that stuff got WAY out of control in X-Men. It wasn't one story. It became a source of endless regurgitated characters and over-grim (but no longer shocking) situations. It was tiresome to me. But the visceral shock of that first story was a clear inspiration for Future Tense.
Of course, Gargoyles has MUCH stricter time-travel rules than X-Men has.
Again, I wonder what you guys were thinking as shock after shock SMACKS Goliath and the audience. Starting with the explosion of the skiff. When the "face" of the skiff sinks away, I thought it was a chilling start to the festivities.
THE NEW STEEL CLAN
Putting the face of Xanatos on this new Steel Clan was Frank's idea, I believe. It seemed both odd and appropriate to the "new" Xanatos we were presenting.
Did you buy it? Even for a moment? We tried to ramp up the shocks gradually, to suck you in. Claw without wings. An old Matt. The Talan Commandos. Chavez'sdaughter. (I love the baby crying symbolically as she looks at the picture of her mom Maria.) Xanatopia. ("They have better things to be afraid of.) The destruction of the Clock Tower. The late Hudson memorialized in bronze (so it was clear that it was just a statue of him and not him frozen in stone, as in "The Price".) Xanatos having achieved immortality. A Grown-up and Hostile Brooklyn. A grown-up and blind Broadway. The reported deaths of Maggie, Talan and Coldstone. Sevarius and the Ultra-Pack. The last free humans turned into mutates?
All this revealed in a matter of minutes. The idea of course is to try to keep both Goliath and you guys off balance for as long as possible. How many of you just went along for the ride? How many spent the half hour balking?
THE PHOENYX GATE
Step by careful step. When Brooklyn brings up the gate the first time, our hope was that it wouldn't come across as -- 'Hey, this is what this whole episode is really about?', but simply as a logical question that needed to be refuted by Goliath's great line: "Solutions lie not in the past, but in the present."
We wanted to play fair, but we still wanted to fool you.
Demona is introduced -- as Brooklyn's mate, no less. And for the first time it is Puck who is caught off guard, unaware that Demona and Thailog have hooked up. His Brooklyn is forced to vamp that Thailog was killed in the "Clone Wars". (I like to think that it was Puck who spur of the moment stole that reference from George Lucas as opposed to us.) And to justify it, he later shows the Thailog Shock Troops.
(Note that both the Talan Commandoes and the Thailog Shock Troops are cybernetically disfigured -- with a full hemisphere of their brains replaced.)
AND THE SHOCKS KEEP COMING...
A cybernetic Lexington, clearly influenced by Hyena & Jackal. (And as it turned out, more influenced than we knew.)
Fox not being Fox. But being F&X's son, Alexander, a.k.a. Fox 2.0. I love that VERY anime battle scene between them. Isn't that kick-ass animation. And Xanatos killing his own son because he no longer "required an heir"... woo.
Goliath: "...but to destroy his own son..."
This was ALSO us playing fair... on two levels. The Xanatos we all knew would NEVER murder his own son. So this must NOT be the real Xanatos. And it isn't. Not within Puck's vision (where this Xanatos is just a computer program with delusions of grandeur and the LACK of self-awareness necessary to be blind to the fact that Lex was actually calling the shocks) and not really AT ALL (as the whole thing was just an illusion of Puck's).
When Brooklyn says: "We better get out of here before Xanatos nukes the place," we were hoping that by this point the audience wouldn't be sure whether or not to take Brooklyn's statement/fear literally.
DEATH & CONSEQUENCES
I love Broadway's Sonar collar.
I love Demona's appeal to Goliath to save their daughter by sending her back in time with the Gate. If not to change history, at least to live out her natural life in a better era in safety.
The shocks AND hints proceed to escalate rapidly. Next up is the deaths of Claw, Matt and Bronx.
The death of Bronx, I feel is in some ways the biggest shock/clue of all. With all the other deaths up to that point, both those announced (Hudson, Maggie, etc.), implied (Chavez) and depicted (Claw, Matt), we may still see them as part of a future that we somehow hope to avoid. But Bronx is a rider on the skiff. If he dies, isn't he REALLY dead?
Then comes the abduction of Lex. Again, we were hoping that SO MUCH would follow this (especially the immediate death of Broadway) that you'd all forget about Lex until we were ready to reveal him as the big villain (of Puck's vision).
Then the death of Broadway. As I've said many times, we had a WONDERFUL S&P person with Adrienne Bello. But we still had a fight here. Showing these deaths -- or even talking about them -- would DEFINITELY be out in today's environment. The fact that eventually it was all revealed as an illusion would not stop today's S&P from K.O.ing the ENTIRE NOTION.
But even Adrienne balked at the death scene. She thought it would be too painful for our audience. My point, and I was adamant about it, was that we had to make it painful. That a violent death is painful and that the audience had to feel, really feel, the consequences -- the horrible consequences -- of that death. So Broadway and Bill Faggerbakke get that wonderful death scene. The most potent moment perhaps in the entire series (at least IN the moment, if not in hindsight -- given that it was all part of the illusion). The music there is just heart-breaking too. And the sun that never comes...
CYBER-DEATH & CONSEQUENCES
Tron is another influence of course. Digitized into the cyber-world, our last trio of heroes is immediately trapped. We learn that Xanatos is in fact DEAD.
I love Goliath's line: "You're not immortal. You're not even Xanatos."
Angela dies. Brooklyn dies. Demona is transformed to human. (Another clue: Puck can't resist praising his own handiwork.) Then she dies.
And then Goliath awakens while STILL in stone form. And Xanatos goes to work on him in a way that would make Jackal envious. I love the juxtaposition of Shakespeare and Monty Python...
"Alas Poor Goliath, I knew him well." and "What are you going to do? Bite my kneecaps off?"
And then I love how Goliath's floating stone debris SWALLOWS the Xanatos program whole.
The cyber-world dissolves and all Goliath can do is save Elisa. His last tie to this world. He is nearly back to the state he was in after the Wyvern massacre. Alone in a world that contains only horror and tragedy.
I think he was fairly effective and chilling as the ultimate villain here. Goliath KILLS him personally, which I thought was also quite chilling... The Eyrie "Pyramid" explodes and again, all Goliath can do is protect Elisa.
But now Goliath lies, broken on the ground. Elisa again asks for the Phoenix gate. And he cannot even muster the strength to deny it to her. But Puck has overplayed his hand. Goliath is so weak, he cannot hand it to her. And the more Elisa begs, the more suspicious Goliath gets. And the more suspicious he gets, the more Puck's hold weakens. And the more Puck's hold weakens, the stronger Goliath gets. I know it sounds complicated, but I think it plays.
I love how not just Elisa, but the entire world (or BG anyway) is sucked together and transformed into Puck.
I love how Puck created this entire horrible torture device just to get Goliath to "fork over" the Gate, and that the only reason for that was so that Puck could have something to bribe Oberon with, so that he could skip out on the Gathering.
I love how Puck still torments Goliath with the "dream or prophesy" line. And I love how that line has similarly tormented the fans. Much has and still will come true from that "prophesy" and yet much already has not.
I remember we stuck in that line about Goliath falling into the water. I remember that we had a play-fair reason for putting that line in. But for the life of me, I cannot remember what that reason was.
I like how Goliath dispatches the Phoenix Gate and how it seems to rain a bit of magic on them all. (This was also the set up/inspiration for the TimeDancer spin-off.) The idea that the Gate would be "forever lost in time".
And finally, Goliath explains: "I had a nightmare, Elisa. And now we must make sure it does not come true."
Did you guys sense that the World Tour was FINALLY coming to an end?
And overall, what did you think? We wanted the episode to really effect you. We wanted to play fair. We didn't want you to walk away feeling cheated because the whole thing was a trick of Puck's (and ours).
Anyway, that's my ramble. Where's yours...?