Archive for March, 2012

Show Notes for Season 2, Episode 4 “Apocalypse”

You learn a lot about yourself when working on a project at the scale of Mask of Inanna. I learned that, while I dream of ending a story just by stopping after a particular memorable and character-changing event, letting the ramifications just sit with the reader, I can’t do it. I tried it with “The B’Arkies”, which was mostly plotted and had a “kinda-ending”, and while the work I did on it was hugely satisfying, I just couldn’t finish it because the OCD parts of my brain demanded that I tie up all the character arcs and plot threads in a neat little bow. “Do this or I will haunt you as the specter of unfinished work,” this part of my brain said.

This is why Apocalypse ends all tied up in a neat little bow.

If you can’t tell, this was originally two episodes that I mashed together, mostly because script editor Vicki Bloom told me, in nicer words, “Get on with it!” The original So2E04 was called “A Horror of Rooms” and was a musical. It would have featured Jessie and Chris trapped in the Other Side of the Lighthouse, facing four singing demons, each representing an iconic horror character from the subsequent decades after the 1950′s, and would include:

  • (1960′s) Groovy Devil – based on Dark Shadows and Rosemary’s Baby
  • (1970′s) Glam Fae – based on Phantom of the Paradise and Rock Horror (“Don’t call me a fairy, sweetheart!”)
  • (1980′s) Slasher Billy – based on Halloween and Friday the 13th
  • (1990′s) Cosmic Creep – based on Event Horizon and Pitch Black (“I’m the Cosmic Creep, C’thulhu in Space!”)

I got through 3/4 of Groovy Devil’s song when I realized that I didn’t have the musical chops to pull off three more of these, and dropped the idea. “A Horror of Rooms” then became more of a story about Jessie and David putting away the Prayer and going back to their normal lives. Jessie’s original teacher, a spirit Fox based on Sitting Ghost in Maxine Hong Kingston’s book Woman Warrior, returns. Jessie first met Fox when she went into the abandoned After Dark studio in the 1950s, which was magically charged and thus the perfect home for Fox. In the present day, Fox asks Jessie to remember all she taught her, and in return, to clear out the lighthouse spirits so that Fox could live in the lighthouse as she had done in the studio. Jessie creates some spiritual constructs based on Rocky Horror, Friday the 13th and Manos, Hands of Fate to clear out the place, and sets them lose. Then, Chris shows up, pretty much as he does in Apocalypse, and he joins Jessie in bringing the mask back to the lighthouse. They fight Fox and the three constructs, and the final result is pretty much like the result of the Beetle fight in Apocalypse. It ended in Allen’s return. All in all, I kept about a third of “Horror of Rooms“, but I had to junk the whole “loving-tribute-to-where-horror-went-in-the-subsequent-decades” angle.

The introduction to this episode, which recounts all the major plot points backwards, brings the listener back in time to the very start of After Dark, where we learn how Allen was brought on board and how Bob Stroud was tempted to the dark side. This was inspired by the beginning of the final Season 5 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which presented the series’ plot points in chronological order. It does this much faster with increasingly short jump cuts until each plot point is barely a few frames – but you can’t get away with this in audio if you want the listeners to understand. We can recall a memory and its context from just one frame of visual data, but for audio, unless I had a unique and memorable sound for all the plot points, that wasn’t going to happen.

When first offered the After Dark job, Allen turns it down, as is the tradition of the epic hero – the refusal of the call. I wasn’t following Campbell directly (bleh), but I’ve always thought that the refusal part is a good way to de-trope your character and give them a chance to assert themselves over the story for a bit.

Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons is a real show that would have ended about the time Allen was set to direct – so it’s a good thing he didn’t take the job!

I had to include the bar scene because I wanted the listeners to revisit the early, uncomplicated days of After Dark, when it was just a bunch of friends having fun on a show. I needed to establish that in order to contrast how far they fell from that ideal in the subsequent years when everything went to hell.

Bob Stroud is tempted to go to Hollywood by Wynken and Blynken of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod fame. I was actually referring to them in their “gas-mask-wearing tricycle-riding villains” incarnation from the comic Doom Patrol.

The repeated scene from S01E01 in which Bob Stroud leaves actually has all new sound effects. Christ, the SFX were spartan in S01E01 and S01E02. I can’t believe I ever let those shows out with as few SFX as they have. (No, I’m not going to George Lucas them unless I can make a crapload of money from merchandising.)

Bob Stroud confronting the Speed Bump one last time was the last bit that James Scheffler recorded in Jan. 2011 before returning to the Marines and Afghanistan, and his voice was almost shredded to nothing by that point in the afternoon. We were incredibly lucky that he stayed on to record this bit. (By the way, he came back in January 2012, yay!)

The After Dark ending bit that Lewis reads is from one of the cut “After Dark” episodes, called “The Colorful Man”. That was actually the second After Dark I wrote, originally for S02E02. It has its moments but overall, I’m glad we cut it.

Even after I had a S02E04 script in 2010, I still did a ton of re-writes on entire scenes before we recorded them, and the scene with Chris, Scottie and Jessie in the tunnel went through a couple iterations before I got the balance right between the characters.

The Beetle sequence was a shortened re-write of the original Fox climax sequence, with the Beetle being an entirely different character. Originally, I planned to have more spirits shouting things like “Rah rah sis boom bah” and other similar sports-crowd noises – we actually recorded this. But it lightened the mood too much when I tried it so I axed the crowd. I was actually surprised how creepy the Beetle came out after I added all the effects – sometimes you never know what you’re going to get when you brew these little alchemical scenes!

If you’ve read my book Provincetown, Ho!, you’ll know there’s a similar scene in there. Yes, I steal from myself. I’m not ashamed. Yes, that’s me as the rude customer. I didn’t plan that – our actor for the role dropped out and I had to fill in at the last minute. Andy Lebrun (Allen) ran the recording equipment and can tell you how many takes of myself I recorded because I am a stickler and a perfectionist :P

Yes, and Scottie has her tuning fork exactly where Wolverine has his claws. This was not only intentional, but planned from the very start. Yes, I do populate this show with comic book references – why do you ask?

I originally had Allen have two visions of the soldiers in Iraq but I cut one for pacing purposes.

Most of the major plot points of the ending were planned out before I’d even written the first episode, including setting the car on fire while Allen was on the phone to the dispatchers.

The scenes between Chris and Scottie were recorded asynchronously as their schedules didn’t overlap. Brad Smith (Chris) was talking to me (though probably imagining he was talking to Mindy Klenoff) while Nellie Farrington (Scottie) was talking to Andy Lebrun. I was very impressed how well it came out – you can’t tell that they aren’t really talking to one another.

David Lewis can’t hear the Beetle because of his sin of Pride and because he views magic as a resource, not as something innately present in all things with various opinions of its own. You notice he suffers a distinctly ironic punishment for that – if he believes that magic is only a resource, then here’s some “resource” for the fire for him. When he is asked, “Do you want to save us? Or do you want us to be saved?,” he answers what makes sense to his driven, focused point of view. I want to save you, and on my terms. Wrong answer, bub. When we are in service to a deity, it’s vitally important to listen to what they have to say and to put aside one’s own pride and modesty for the sake of what we received. (Yes, a lot of this is a reflection on my own service time, which it is not my place to discuss here.)

The Golden Rescue of Sinbad, as with any other After Darks, was born from Turner Classic Movies, specifically The Golden Voyage of Sinbad which is notable as the villain is Tom Baker, the fourth and most popular Doctor Who. In fact, this movie convinced the Dr. Who producers that he was qualified for the job. It’s just… interesting to see him as the villain. Anyhow, I’ve always loved the Scheherazade tales growing up – they were pretty much the big budget spectacles of their day. Jamilah is actually Sinbad’s canon wife who he meets in his seventh voyage, although she is not named in that story. (BTW – the bird-men in that story being devils, from a writer’s POV, is a complete ass-pull from someone who had no idea where the story was going and was obviously making it up as they went along.) Anyhow, you’ll notice John Deschene from “I Was a Communist for the CIA” is back! And I love him for it. And Jenny Gutbezahl gives her final performance as Jamilah. Ah, swoon. Also, I had to speed their lines up about 20% for reasons I’ve stated before – lines delivered on stage are reaaaaallllyyyy sllloowwwww in the context of an action adventure serial.

Anyhow, the lands mentioned in this After Dark episode are references to other shows. The first land of Terrakhan is a reference to PMRP’s other live show/audio drama “Red Shift” and it’s episode “The Terror of Terror-Khan“. The second and third lands, Meeharkhan and Tzahnapurek respectively, are references to the other show who shares most of the same actors, “Second Shift”. “Meeharkhan” is a combination of the way that the society pronounces Mike Archer‘s first name as “Meek”, and Julia Lunetta’s character “Arkahn“. “Tzahnapurek ” is combination of the character “Zana” and Neil Marsh’s character “Porec”.

Back in the real world, I continue my lack of subtlety by having David Lewis see better with his eyes closed (o\~ Smoke gets in your eeeyyyeeeess… ~\o), supported by a pillar of smoke. We’re going full-on symbolic here. You might not have noticed, but your brain did. He’s now a full-on earth and air-bender who is brought to a standstill by a fire and water-bender. I don’t know what it’ll take you to believe me when I say that I never saw or had heard of the Nickelodeon show when I wrote this episode in 2009, but I will admit that I played a lot of Final Fantasy.

Also, regarding this episode’s After Dark show, I wonder what classic myth it’s retelling. This is where the Dance of the Seven Veils comes from – and you’re lucky I didn’t throw any Salome references in there too. Because with any “head of John the Baptist” references, I’d have to add references to C.S. Lewis’ “That Hideous Strength” and then to Grant Morrison’s “The Invisibles” who shamelessly rips off borrows the head from Lewis, etc. See what you nearly avoided!

I’ll avoid any notes about the final confrontation, but suffice it to say, it took a lot of balancing for Lewis to have not come out as the bad guy in it.

The final goodbye scene was completely scrapped and re-written four times, although the final line of the show remains the same in every draft. I only thought of it when I was writing the first draft, and I thought it was a great little tug on that pretty bow on which the show ends. Do not expect this from me in future shows – I will gladly slaughter my future casts if the show demands it. This show didn’t.

If you’ve read this far, you’re an incredible listener and I thank you for your generous time and attention to our little show. We simply couldn’t do this without folks like you enjoying the work we do. Thank you so much. Whether or not you feel it, you helped make this happen. You are so awesome :)