Saturday, March 20, 2010

War of the Worlds Virtual Season Thoughts

After reading the excellent reviews of my beloved War of the Worlds at Disciples of Boltax , I went back and looked at my old War of the Worlds website and must say Jim Sorenson's episode recaps and analysis are far superior to anything I put on my site (so, whenever I can, I try to offer him as much tidbits about the show that I can provide). But, I also browsed all the virtual season episodes I did for the site (I did the virtual second season and was almost done with the virtual third season before I was detoured from finishing it).

Generally, the term "fan fiction" makes me cringe, because it makes me think of a sect of wannabe writers who shouldn't be writers to begin with- writing with reckless, talentless abandon. And trust me, I've read enough bad X-Files, Forever Knight, Buffy (you name it) fan fiction for twelve lifetimes, but- I preferred to call what I was doing a "virtual season". Mainly, because I was so impressed with the work of Dan Owen and Matt Asendorf, who were at the front of the superb, Millennium Virtual Fourth Season. Instead of churning out a short story or two, they made actual episodes in script format. And when you read them, it was so visual and tense. Plus, they also enhanced the show's mythology and tied things together.

I wanted to do the same thing for War of the Worlds. I felt the first season had so much mythology laid out to be explored. After starting the website, I soon learned much of the planned future seasons and storylines of the show via creative consultant/writer, Herb Wright- but even with the info he gave me, I still wanted to do my own spin of WOTW (without pissing on the first season beforehand).

My agenda was:

  • Peel back more of the layers with our established four leads in the Blackwood group- Harrison Blackwood, Suzanne McCullough, Norton Drake and Lt. Colonel Paul Ironhorse. I wanted to delve more into the characters and play up the human drama. To do that, I had Suzanne go through perhaps the toughest character arc in having her lose her daughter at the end of the second season viral plague. I knew a casualty had to happen at the end of the season, and quite frankly, the death of Debi would put Suzanne in a very interesting (although admittedly, heartbreaking) position. Which was more important- getting vengeance on those responsible for her daughter's fate- or saving the future for the entire world? That dilemma appealed to me and I tried to add as much foreshadowing as I could for that crushing end.
  • Show more of the aliens. Year One did a great job having the human side established but the aliens were still very mysterious. I wanted to explore more of their social caste system and strategies. The Advocacy were always favorite characters of mine and I made a point to give them more scenes in my virtual seasons. Instead of Advocate #1, #2 & #3, I went by the names they were referred to in the series pilot novelization (Horek, Oshar and Xana)- and I admittedly gave Xana plenty of the best lines and development (mainly because Ilse Von Glatz was so wonderfully eerie as that Advocate).
  • Play up the wild cards- Quinn and Sylvia Van Buren. Quinn became the alien Iago/Caesar of WOTW with his maneuvers and power plays. When the virtual second season rolled around, I wanted to show that Quinn already knew that fellow aliens would not just accept him as leader over the Advocacy. So, Quinn had to make things happen- by working with members of the shadow government and also various government leaders, wealthy men, etc- who will fund and assist him in his goals of world domination. By the end of the second season Quinn becomes the most dangerous character in the series. He manages to steal a virus from Project 9 (a shadow government organization introduced in "The Raising of Lazarus"- who get plenty of development in the virtual seasons), strikes a deal with the Advocacy to give them the virus, in order for him to be granted amnesty.

Then, we find out he's playing everyone against each other- as he beds the Project 9
member, Lauren Oliphant- who is conspiring with him for his goal of recreating this planet in his image. At the end of the season finale, he also kidnaps Norton Drake- and experiments on him in order to see if he will be immune from the inevitable alien apocalypse. Meanwhile, Sylvia's descent into madness continues- but she still is a valuable ally of the Blackwood team. In many ways, she's an unofficial member. Her exposure to the irradiated alien tissue has made her incredibly unhinged but incredibly special- sort of a seer and prophet.

The future plans were:

  • I was going to try to wrap the entire virtual season arc by the end of the fourth virtual season (or possibly fifth). I was going to have the 3 million alien colonists arrive on Earth in the middle of complete turmoil on the planet. The much referenced but very unseen Council of Mor-Tax would be thrown in the forefront. And the humans would all be on the run from the alien threat. However, Quinn would still very much be a part of this whole invasion as he has many aces up his sleeve- one being Katara, the Qar'To Synth, whom he destroyed earlier in an early virtual season episode- but later gathered the remains and reprogrammed (and successfully manipulated). Along with that, he has also tried to amass a means of defense against his own kind for the colonization of Earth. But, in the end, Quinn's master plan (other than global domination) was about saving himself. He planned for an "Adam and Eve" program based around his prototypes, Paul Ironhorse and Lauren Oliphant- but the plan fell through over Lauren's death (at Quinn's hands) and Ironhorse's resistance to Quinn's temptations (which begins the rivalry between the two). In the end, Quinn is wounded by Ironhorse and upon seeing his blood spill, sees that he is more human than alien now, as he bleeds human blood. It becomes a flip side to the whole Pinocchio story, where being a human is the absolute WORST thing that could ever happen to Quinn. He survives but lives in isolation as an artist. And he spends the remainder of his time-alone and trapped with his bitterness.
  • Several new characters created for the virtual seasons received proper story arcs. Lauren Oliphant, the Mata-Hari- inspired informant of Harrison's, continues to play all sides. She relays information to Harrison at Quinn's behest, she betrays Quinn by assisting the Advocacy as a source of information, and also works for Project 9 and then, betrays them by giving their classified data to Quinn (and who knows how many others). She sleeps with Quinn and is enamored with her- but she intends to survive by covering all of her bases. She also is the prototype female for Quinn's "Adam and Eve" program but her plans fall apart with a botched auction where Quinn and the aliens (with their representative, the Supreme Commander of the alien army, Vassily) bid against one another- with neither party realizing who the other bidder would be until the last minute. Once the aliens recognize Oliphant, the cat is out of the bag, and Oliphant is held at gun-point by both Quinn and Vassily. The two enemies have a moment of teamwork when they turn their guns on the person who has deceived them both. Before she dies, Oliphant tries to talk her way out of her predicament, but this time, she was unable to lie her way out.
  • Vassily, the alien Supreme Commander, maintains his status and serves the Advocacy without question and remains vital to their invasion campaign. He meets his former leader, Quinn, at the auction and the two men join forces to take down a common foe in Lauren Oliphant. However, both men promise that they will kill each other the next time they meet. Vassily carries out the Advocacy's will without question and is involved until the end of the virtual seasons. He will die shortly before things fall apart.
  • Mr. Garvey, the head of the Project 9 organization (seen in "The Raising of Lazarus") continues his plans for using alien technology to try to subvert the impending alien arrival but is thwarted by former minion, Michael Kendall, who kills him via poisoning. Michael Kendall at this point of the story is a rogue agent let loose- killing hitmen sent after him and trying to attain as much power as he can. He fights his way to meeting with Garvey, and poisons his tea. With no Garvey, Project 9 collapses- since he was instrumental in building the group. Michael Kendall goes back on the run after killing Garvey, steals some alien technology, and goes on the lam (after backstabbing the alien Greys that were featured in the virtual seasons)

  • Norton would be the guinea pig experimented on by Quinn that proved successful. He would be immune to all viral threats, and has heightened senses- along with (as the end of the virtual third season would reveal), the ability to walk. Norton, is irate about being used in such a manner- but he continues to fight the war alongside Harrison, Suzanne and Ironhorse’s side (all of whom survive in the end).

  • The team were going to find the aliens underground cavern at the end of the third season as well, but the aliens (knowing who is involved in the resistance against them)- are thinking ahead, and evacuate beforehand to a new location, and rig the place to explode. Fortunately, Katara also happens to be there, and manages through her powers to stop the explosion from destroying them and spreading a cloud of radiation into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the aliens finally get their means to conquer Earth’s bacteria by simply building up a tolerance to it. The aliens now could possess bodies forever, and the Advocacy have clones developed that they will use as host bodies (the Advocates have the design of the clones created to their specifications- while the other aliens just possess humans).

  • The aliens would fall eventually, but that ending was going to honor the premise behind the original H.G. Wells novel. After everything man had done, it was going to be something already established in the universe that would knock the aliens out. I didn’t want it to be inter-alien politics or a teenager with a gun (what the hell were you thinking Frank Mancuso, Jr.?!!)

    And I went back and read some of the episodes of the virtual seasons. It was a mixed bag. I felt the virtual season 2 opener (“They Fall Upon the Swords”) had a good idea but I don’t think I told the story in the most coherent or proper manner. I felt the pace was a bit too slapdash with characters being thrown all over the place until I kill off General Wilson. I don’t know, I think I could’ve written it (and General Wilson’s death especially- I don’t think he would be the type to quote Tennyson) a lot better in hindsight. I did like the second episode of the virtual second season (“Children of God”) a lot better mainly because the premise of the aliens experimenting on children receiving what they believe are allergy shots- with alien DNA is creepy to me.

    The third episode of the virtual second season (“The Three Wise Men”), is something I can’t defend. Perhaps, it’s a good scene here and there but the premise is just something that unraveled on me (alien supersoldiers losing their minds on the drugs they’re being pumped up with? Ehhh, I could’ve done better). I don’t think I got a good grasp of things until episode 7 of the virtual second season (“Sodom and Gomorrah”) with the aliens using a Neo-Nazi group to incite an open race war. Everything seemed to flow in that episode, the black humor, the story and I love the ending with Vassily in the body of a black man, scaring the bejesus out of the Neo-Nazi and gift-wrapping him to be slaughtered in the communities he terrorized. Very poetic. “For He Cometh In With Vanity” (episode 9 of the virtual second season) is my absolute favorite episode I wrote in the entire run because to me it’s an absolute black comedy laced with sadness (my attempts to channel my inner Darin Morgan or Charlie Kaufman…although, I have nothing on the genius of those two). To say that Walter Parks mirrors me in ways would be an understatement. I consider this to be the best of the virtual seasons because you have an absolute parody of the ugliness of Hollywood and something truly sad, a man whose only dream is to make something great. But broken hearted that his dream is taken away and shitted on by studio bigwigs. It’s my favorite.

    After that, the episodes seemed to be consistently better in my opinion. “Leviathan” (episode 10 of the virtual second season) worked well and seemed to be well-received, as the aliens completely outwitted the team. And following that, I think the episodes got very entrenched in the mythology but were plotted very well. I’m proud of the work I did for the virtual seasons overall (along with the occasional guest-writer I worked along with or who wanted to write an episode).

    All in all, I’m very proud of my work. As a writer, sometimes you feel disconnected with what you right before, but this time, I look back on these episodes with fondness. I feel like a proud father of a child that had some problems in the beginning, but came along beautifully after the first few missteps.


Ann said...

Is there any way we can still access your virtual seasons?

Being such a huge fan of the show, particularly season 1, I can't believe I missed this! Thanks a lot, Google!!!

Eric North said...

Please get in touch with me. I'm extremely interested in reading your Virtual Seasons, and I also would DIE to know where Herbert Wright intended the series to go if Frank The Butcher hadn't gotten his greasy hands on it!

-Eric North