Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been making vague references to a total of SEVEN different projects I’m currently work on, all in varying stages of development. There’s that comic book adaptation and that horror novel adaptation and my (formerly) Untitled Awesome Project and that small-town horror and that BIG comic project and that other original comic book series and the near-future sci-fi.
Well, today, I can actually start referring to the first three by name as they were mentioned in a recent article for Playback magazine authored by the amazing Kelly Townsend, a piece that profiles former Dark Matter/Lost Girl Producer Vanessa Piazza’s upcoming development slate. Among the projects are no less than THREE with yours truly…
That comic book adaptation…
Crosswind by Gail Simone and Cat Staggs
A slick and ruthless Chicago hitman. A smart but downtrodden Seattle housewife. When an inexplicable event strikes these two random strangers, their bodies, souls, and lives are switched—to potentially deadly effect.
As a longtime fan of Gail Simone, I was positively thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to collaborate with her on this, one of my very favorite of her originals. It’s a terrific high-concept, character-driven series that offers not only suspense, action, and humor, but a provocative and thought-provoking narrative.
A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins, colloquially known as “the Englishman”—is hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway. But shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. There are stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—and above all else, the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust soon grip the settlement. Escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral toward madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. All present here are now forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is marshaling its power—and it wants them all…
Five years ago, I picked up a novel called The Troop because I liked the cover blurb. I started reading and was immediately drawn in. The writing was exceptional. So exceptional, in fact, that I was confused. This random horror novel I’d picked up, written by an author I’d never even heard of, had no business being this good. I’m talking Top 10 horror novels of all time good. So I went ahead, did a little research, and discovered Nick Cutter is actually a pseudonym for award-winning Canadian author Craig Davidson.
I read and loved his (Cutter’s) next book, The Deep, and the one after that, Little Heaven. The latter, I thought, would make a great series along the lines of The Haunting of Hill House or Castle Rock. So I reached out to Craig and, over a beer or two, gauged his interest in collaborating on an adaptation. Approximately one year later, here we are.
And finally, my (formerly) Untitled Awesome Project that actually now HAS a title…
Yes! In the spirit of the time travel-themed episodes I have written (SG-1‘s Window of Opportunity and Moebius Part 1, SGA‘s The Last Man, and Dark Matter‘s All the Time in the World and Isn’t That A Paradox?) comes this series which, a lot like Stargate and Dark Matter (and, quite frankly, Star Trek, Farscape, and Guardians of the Galaxy) is – at it’s heart – all about camaraderie, friendship, and family. And, also, VERY colorful characters.
It’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets Dr. Whoby way of Back To The Future.
And an insane amount of sci-fi fun.
So, there you have it.
I’ll hopefully have more details on these, and the other projects I’ve been working on, in the coming months.
T.V. shows from the 60’s hold a special place in my heart, and none more than the ’66-’68 Batman series with its gloriously colorful, over-the-top villains. Apparently, doing a guest spot on the show was such a blast that producers had big name actors lining up for a shot to chew up the scenery. Over the course of its three season run, the show featured roughly three dozen villains (and variations thereof including three version of Mr. Freeze, three Catwomans [if you count the movie], and two and a half Riddlera [I say a half because in addition to Frank Gorshin and John Astin’s portrayals, stage veteran Maurice Evans was brought in to play the role of the suspiciously similar Puzzler following Gorshin’s departure].
Anyway, this is one of those classic shows that you can still re-watch and enjoy, this time as an adult with a whole new level of appreciation. There’s so much to love, from Adam West’s gloriously straight-laced Batman to that insanely convenient utility belt to those incredibly manic villains.
These were my Top 10 Favorites…
#10 – Shame (Cliff Robertson)
I ain’t all bad. Just mostly.
Unlike most of Batman’s villains, Shame was a bit of an imbecile and that, I suppose, is what made him somewhat sympathetic. Decades later, Robertson would return to the world of comics, playing Peter Parker’s uncle Ben in one of the innumerable big screen features.
#9 – Bookworm (Roddy McDowall)
“Now the fact is that our bats have flown the belfry, unaccountably still squeaking.”
Not only was he a literary-themed villain, but he was played by Roddy McDowall, star of my favorite film series at the time, The Planet of Apes. You get the sense McDowall truly relished his delightfully low-key performance (Well, certainly restrained in comparison to many of the other big screen greats who graced the Bat set).
#8 – Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger)
“Batman, but–but you were supposed to be a famous frostie freezie by now!”
Sure, the series boasted a slew of outlandish casting coups, from Liberace to Tallulah Bankhead, but one of the wildest was famed director Otto Preminger who positively revels in the role of the villainous Mr. Freeze (changed from the originally conceived Mr. Zero). Rumor has it, however, that his demanding nature made the behind-the-scenes interactions with co-stars a little…chilly.
#7. Catwoman (Earth Kitt)
“Karate isn’t effective unless accompanied by yelling. Let him howl until he springs a vocal cord, then get him!”
While she wasn’t the first actress to play the feline-themed seductress, she certainly sunk her claws into the role and made it her own. Some southern affiliates objected to the casting and threatened not to broadcast her episodes to which the producers responded: “We don’t care.”
#6 – Egghead (Vincent Price)
“Please, please, Miss Bacon. All of you are approximately the right age, in your early thirties, but I have eliminated you, Mr. Tyler, because you are lefthanded. No, the Caped Crusader is not portsider, and you, Mr. Savage, are out because of your accent. So aside from a couple of aging rock-and-roll singers, you, Mr. Wayne, are the only Gotham city millionaire who is athletically inclined with eggsessive agility. Therefore, you must be Batman!”
As someone who grew up on Hammer horror films, seeing Vincent Price guest on my favorite t.v. show was a real treat. Yet another actor who really makes the most of his onscreen presence, Price was said to have loved the series which he considered well ahead of its time.
#5 – Penguin (Burgess Meredith)
“Politics is wonderful! I can use all my lowest, slurpiest tricks, but now they’re legal! I should have been a politician years ago!”
Meredith (who took on the role after both Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy turned it down) holds the record for most villainous appearances in the series at a whopping 20 episodes. The actor freely admitted his bird imitation was decidedly more duck than penguin (due to the fact that the smoke from his “prop” cigarette irritated his throat), but that trademark Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! became as essential a part of his character as his umbrella.
#4 – King Tut (Victor Buono)
“It isn’t that I love you any less, Batman, simply that I love me more.”
Buono delivers a tour de force performance as the Professor-turned-King-of-Egypt going from zero to one hundred and back multiple times over multiple scenes. I imagine filming his episodes must have been a hell of a lot of fun. According to Buono: “Batman allowed me to do what actors are taught never to do, overact”.
#3 – Catwoman (Julie Newmar)
“If you pick the right door, I’m yours, Batman. If you pick the wrong door, you’re mine. So which is it, Batman? The lady or the tiger?”
My first true t.v. crush. She always struck me as one of Batman’s most formidable villains. The fact she could wield a whip certainly helped cement that impression. According to Newmar, she was going to turn down the role only to have her brother, and his friends from Harvard, convince her to take it because it was their favorite show.
#2 – Joker (Cesar Romero)
“Uh, Susie, Sweetie. A special extra bonus. A half pint bottle of the most exquisite Canadian perfume.”
Yeah, yeah. Many other actors have portrayed the clown prince of crime on the big and small screen, but nostalgia makes it hard for me to love anyone else in the role. Apparently, Frank Sinatra loved the character so much that he threw his hat in the ring in the event Romero ever grew tired of playing the Joker. Still, as much as I loved Romero, his decision NOT to shave his mustache for the role (requiring a heavy application of make-up that never really held up in close-ups) kept his character from taking top spot.
#1 – Riddler (Frank Gorshin)
With money, who needs friends?
Gorshin left the show after its first season due to a contract dispute, but returned for its third, garnering an Emmy nomination for his memorable performance and turning a relatively (at the time) obscure comic book villain into a formidable Bat-foe. He apparently developed his character’s high-pitched laugh at Hollywood parties – and that laugh was won him the role.
Agree? Disagree? Weigh in with your opinions, Bat-readers!
A bittersweet trip back to the site of my previous series, Dark Matter, today as we start early prep on this new show. I have, to the best of my ability, sought to reassemble the same behind-the-scenes team that made DM such a great experience. If all goes as planned, I’ll be moving back into my old office and those 65+ bottles of whiskey will be adorning the shelves once again. But FIRST – we have a lot of work to do. 9 of the first season’s 10 scripts are in play (Yours truly will be doing the honors on the finale, but only after those first nine are in solid shape), and all of the pieces of the production puzzle are slowly coming together.
On this day, we did a walk-thru of the stages with Production Designer Ian Brock and Rick Fernandez, Construction…
Awww. I missed these three: Production Manager Kathy Lang, Rick, and Ian.
These phone and lamp collections have coming along nicely since we vacated the offices.
Hard to believe this space once held the infirmary, mess hall, and training room.
Production Designer Ian Brock has a plan.
This area feels so cavernous and empty without The Raza.
I had very mixed feelings about this visit. It’ll be nice to be back in production with familiar faces and on familiar ground, but I won’t be satisfied until we return to shoot that proper Dark Matter finale.
I came across this interesting Screen Rant article today by Toby Symonds which offers up his take on what he felt were ridiculous plot twists (and a few that weren’t) on shows that aired on syfy. Among the culprits was the decision NOT to kill of Ronon Dex in the Atlantis finale and the decision to reveal SIX as the mole at the conclusion of Dark Matter’s first season.
I love nothing more than a discussion or heated debate about the creative decisions made on a production I was a part of. And, while I appreciate Toby taking the time write the article and point out what didn’t work for him, I can’t help but disagree with a few of his points and weigh in –
My response –
First off, thanks for taking the time to feature the series. We didn’t have a lot of money to make the show, nor did we receive a lot of support from TPTB while we were making it, but we had a great cast and crew, and an even greater fanbase that’s still very active online.
Second, I wanted to respond to your take that: a) SIX lacked motivation and b) was an illogical choice to be the traitor.
I started developing Dark Matter way back when I was working on Stargate: Atlantis. The plan was to complete the final season of Atlantis and segue smoothly into the first season of Dark Matter. As it turned out, however, we had two seasons of Stargate: Universe and about a year of development work before Dark Matter finally saw the light of a t.v. screen. Between that gap and the years I spent developing DM while working on SGA, I had a good five years to develop the show. As a result, going into the writers’ room for that first season, I had all of the character and major story arcs mapped out, along with a five-year plan. I approached each season like an installment in a book series, with a beginning, middle, and end. And so, season 1 kicks off with the revelation that our characters are wanted criminals and ends, appropriately enough, with them being hauled off to prison (In season 2, our character come together, finally united, in common purpose – to redeem themselves and do the right thing…only to have it blow up in their faces – quite literally – with the destruction of EOS-7 which ignites a galaxy-wide corporate war).
Before I even sat down to write the pilot, I already knew how season 1 would end – with their capture and the reveal that one of them was a traitor and former mole/agent for the Galactic Authority. And I also knew that character would have to be SIX. It really couldn’t be anyone else given their respective backstories. More importantly, one of the central themes of the series was the nature vs. nurture debate. Are you born bad or are you a product of your environment? Dark Matter, like much of the research that has been done on the subject (check out the excellent Three Strangers) posits the answer is: a little of both. SIX is the crew’s moral center (although you could argue FIVE parallels these values). He is/was a principled law enforcement officer tasked with bringing in this galaxy’s most wanted and, despite the mind wipe, demonstrates these honest and right-minded outlooks throughout the show’s first season. Although he possesses no memories of his past, aspects of who he was inform who he is post-mindwipe (In the same way we see these post-mindwipe characteristics bleed through in, say, TWO’s brutal takedown of the casino staff in Episode 4, and execution of Wexler at the end of Episode 11).
One of the great things about having a detailed game plan going in is the opportunities it affords you to seed in clues that pay off later on down the line. Like the Android’s strange but seemingly innocuous comment to TWO prior to her space walk in Episode 3, a comment that hints at TWO’s reveal as a bio-engineered construct (hinted at in more obvious fashion, two episodes later, when her wound miraculously heals). In Episode 8, SIX flashes back to his past and receives the truth about who he is via an undercover Lieutenant Anders. In one of the episode’s final moments, an overwhelmed SIX sits alone amidst the destruction only to have Anders get the drop on him. In the next scene, ONE and FOUR arrive on the scene – but Anders is long gone. Why did he leave and let SIX go? What happened off-screen? It’s a huge red flag.
In the ensuing episodes, we see a sudden shift in SIX’s character, culminating in his emotional plea to FIVE to leave the ship. At this point, he knows that it’s going to end badly. And, after the delivery of the white hole bomb that ends up destroying the Mikkei facility and the planet, claiming thousands of lives, he finally makes the call on the decision he has been mulling over since Episode 8. These people are dangerous and he has to bring them in. And so he sets his plan in motion…
A second important theme in this series was the notion of redemption. Throughout the show’s first season, we peel the onion on the crews’ histories and they must come to terms with their past lives, their past actions, and look to start fresh, be better. In season 2, this theme is studied in another light, through the prism of SIX who seeks redemption for his betrayal. While the rest of the crew is looking to turn over a new leaf and “do the right thing” (spearheaded by TWO), SIX seeks to regain the trust of his former friends. And it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes theentirety of the show’s second season for the crew to accept SIX back into the fold. In short, like most of the character developments and reveals on Dark Matter, I wanted it to feel earned.
Anyway, all this to say that, perhaps despite appearances, we were never making it up as we went along. There was always a good reason (at least so far as I was concerned) that we did what we did. Every narrative decision was tied to character or thematically linked. As for that Ronon decision on Stargate: Atlantis…
My response –
The only thing I can say to this is that Enemy at the Gate was never intended as a series finale. In retrospect, yes, we could have killed off Ronon, perhaps even destroyed Atlantis itself, but the plan had always been to come back for a sixth season. Had we done so, AND killed off the Ronon character, the show would have been poorer for it.
Just a few nitpicks –
Regarding SG-1 – The plan was not to have the show bow out after two seasons. The show had a two season order but the plan was always to go the full five. When Paul and I joined the show’s writing staff in season 4, it was with the understanding that the show would go one more year and conclude with its fifth and final season.
Also, the creative dream was not to end the show after season 7 either. We were simply under the assumption that season 7 would be SG-1’s last – but, in all fairness, we made the same assumption for season 4, 6, 8, and 9. The show’s tenth season, ironically, was the only one I felt confident would NOT be its last – so, of course, it was.
And finally, on a show I never worked on – but watched the hell out of and loved…
Could let this one go without putting in my two cents –
Regarding the critique of the final moments of the Farscape finale (a show on this list that I was not a part of but I watched and loved) – in all fairness, I’m sure it didn’t seem like such a gamble at the time because, from what I understand, they had already been informed they’d been picked up for another season…only to have the pick-up rescinded.
Check out the article. There are takes on other productions as well: SGU, Wynonna Earp, and BSG to name a few.
Well, this past Thursday afternoon, we pitched Untitled Awesome Project to a broadcaster. As you may (or may not) know, I’m especially excited about this one as it’s a notion that (like Dark Matter) was many years in the making. And by “many years in the making” I mean that, like Dark Matter, I came up with the concept and main characters quite some time ago and put them on the back burner, allowing them to bubble and stew while I focused on the projects at hand. In the case of Dark Matter, it was almost seven years between the time I first came up with the idea (while working on Stargate) to when the show finally got that elusive green light. In the case of UAP, a show I first conceived while working on the first season of Dark Matter, the timeline may (just MAY) be a little shorter. I received word late last night that the pitch went over well and, should the right dominos fall between now and end of next week, I may soon be starting work on a pilot script. Of course we’re talking development, still a ways from a green light, but it’s a crucial step in a positive direction.
Expecting notes on the preliminary series overview of that comic book adaptation later this week as well. I have much love and respect of the series writer and artist and am looking forward to their feedback.
And, also this week, I’ll be getting together with one of my very favorite horror authors to start the wheels turning on our adaptation of one of his novels. This one’s going to be a lot of fun. And very, very unsettling. I started describing the project to Akemi who was so freaked out she asked me to stop. She bemoans the fact she won’t have the nerve to watch it when the time comes.
Finally, I’m just putting the finishing touches on the Episode #3 script for UF which I hope to deliver Monday or Tuesday after which I can set my screenwriting software on standby until it comes time for me to write the Episode #10, season finale.
Oh, hey, the results are in on our Which Vegetable Would You Excise From Your Diet For The Rest Of Your Life? poll and the winner is…
With 28.89% of the vote, edging out surprising second-place mushrooms at 20.44%, is – zucchini! Congratulation, courgette. Now get the hell out!
Perhaps equally not unsurprising is the fact that potatoes received the fewest votes at a mere 3.11% of the total tally.
So, last night, I had dinner at THE BEST place for fried chicken in Toronto: Home of Hot Taste, aka Buldak. There, we enjoyed five fantastic varieties of fried chicken – and a spicy squid platter for Akemi.
Fried chicken with green onions, Snow Chicken (with powdered cheese), five spice, garlic, and sweet and spicy wings.
I’ve been doing my research, putting in the long hours and trust me, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better fried chicken experience in this city.
When Dark Matter was cancelled a little over a year ago, I was left somewhat frustrated, kind of annoyed, a more than a little pissed. For various reasons. I was frustrated because I wouldn’t be able to complete the story I’d mapped out, annoyed by what I felt was a petty and vindictive decision, and more than a little pissed at how it all went down. In the end, it was a Clueless Exec Sucker Punch to the show’s cast, crew and, chiefest of all, its fans who had supported the series for three seasons.
An ensuing online campaign to save the show proved ultimately (frankly, surprisingly) unsuccessful and so I redirected focus to other projects. Whenever fans have asked me about the prospect of a Dark Matterrevival, I’ve been honest with them. It’s unlikely, but I still hold out hope for a mini-series that would allow me to wrap up as many of those narrative loose ends as possible and, hopefully, offer fans some closure. That, I honestly felt, was the best case scenario.
Until today after my conversation with a very determined individual with connections to a group of equally determined, forward-thinking individuals who have proposed an atypical but very intriguing approach to getting it done. And the more they talk about it, the more convinced I become that, maybe, the odds of a fourth and fifth season of Dark Matter may not be as long as I’d initially assumed.
Ambiguous, no? Alas, for now, all I’ll say is that the wheels on a resurrection are – surprisingly – in motion again. There is, of course, no guarantee that anything will come of this, but the strategy is crazy-brilliant and certainly worth pursuing.
Anyway, I followed up this afternoon’s call with an email outlining the game plan, the questions we needed to answer, and my proposal for a schedule moving forward. Conversations to follow.
Let’s just file this one away for now but I’ll leave you with this. Prior to this afternoon, Magic 8 Ball said “Outlook not so good”. After my chat, it had revised it’s prognostication to: “Ask again later”. Read into that what you will.
Yep. That’s a wrap. Now, we all go our separate ways to pursue other assignments. For Courtney and I, it’s writing the pilot and episode 2. For Nicole, it’s Hollywood-bound to pitch her original new series. For Alejandro, Andrew and Natalia, it’s off to parts unknown to help stage a military coup with their fellow soldiers of fortune. Still, we made the most of our last day, one marked by much hilarity, desserts, and booze punctuated by occasional show discussion.
So, what was the verdict on the outline for our big season finale?
The second week of the writers’ room has drawn to a close and not only have we made great progress, but we’re picking up steam. Following a week of world building, we started talking stories and managed to get the first three episodes broken. I’m trying to complete all three outlines for Monday (two revisions and one first pass), but find myself struggling with a short fourth act. It’s always the way: You distribute an outline, receive great notes, then sit down to implement them only discover your fourth act is now short.
And it’s ALWAYS the fourth act!
So, I’ve been pretty cryptic about this new series to date simply because we’re in the early stages, the production company has yet to establish a social media campaign, and, admittedly, I like to maintain an air of mystery. But today, it gives me great pleasure to reveal the man behind the show: director, writer, producer, and just one of the smartest, most collaborative, good-natured individuals you could ever hope to work with on a new science fiction series: R.T. Thorne.
Always grasping for that ever-elusive je ne sais quoi. Call it inspiration, ethereal epiphanies, or floating ghost marshmallows. He will NOT be denied.
And it turns out we have a mutual friend – none other than Writer/Executive Producer (Stargates SG-1, Atlantis, Universe, L.A. Complex, Bored to Death, Blindspot, etc.) Golden Boy Martin Gero. Small world!
Anyway, just a good, good guy – and a major part of what drew me to this project. Can’t wait for you to get to know him.
In the meantime, head on over to twitter and follow him: @directedbyRT
Who knows? Maybe he’ll offer a few hints on what we’ve been working on…
Over the course of my almost 12 years of blogging, I’ve often made references to “the writers’ room” as it’s a crucial part of the production process. But what, you may ask, is the purpose of “the writers’ room”? What goes on in this storied chamber? Read more
That’s a wrap on our first week of the writers’ room for this new sci-fi series and I do love the way thing are coming along. We’ve completed our world building discussions and characters arcs and can now look forward to four weeks of spinning and breaking. I’m curious to see how quickly things move from here. Read more