EPISODE NOTES 207 – “A Necessary Death”
With this episode, the various strands of the season start to properly interweave and propel us to the season endgame. Poly and Constant collide with Empire. Hober Mallow collides with Bel and Glawen, etc.
I mentioned on Reddit that we sometimes write more narration than we use. We leaned on it more in Season 1 because there was so much world-building. But even so, we tried to include it not just to convey additional exposition, but to tease future storylines and/or provide a thematic commentary on a given episode. (204 is a good example of the narration providing commentary, rather than exposition).
That said, there are times in the editing process where we decide the narration is no longer additive to the episode. For 207, we ultimately dropped the narration. Here’s a snippet:
INT. IMPERIAL PALACE – MEMORY AUDIT PRISON – DAY (TRANTOR)
A FLAT GREEN BEAM OF LIGHT sweeps across the ceiling of a glass-walled room, WHINING like a housefly. It reaches the edge, changes its axis and whines off downward…
Everyone has a breaking point.
CONSTANT paces around this gleaming high-tech glass cell.
And… Now it’s going downward.
The BEAM SWEEPS DOWN THE CELL from ceiling to floor. We follow it to where POLY sits on the floor, head on his knees.
Perhaps your life has become about anticipating that moment, when what is inside you will insist on coming out. You can spend decades braced for your own explosion.
He looks up. He looks like he wants a drink.
It’s slicing us, virtually. Scanning our bodies for spyware, checking our vitals in case one of us commits suicide by means of boredom.
The WHINING LIGHT is back again, this time the beam is VERTICAL, sweeping the cell left to right.
If that were possible, would any of us still draw breath?
[NOTE: astute viewers will realize Constant’s demeanor is unusually mature and composed. But Poly’s in his own head.]
Another interesting note in the script above is the aside to the actor/director that Constant’s demeanor slips in and out of her usual personality. We also did a moment like this in Episode 206. This is a subtle clue to the viewer that something is “off” with her – i.e. that she is being possessed by a sliver of Dr. Seldon and his personality is starting to creep through.
Here’s that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from 206:
Constant is overwhelmed, her eyes glistening with tears.
Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d lay eyes on this sight again…
Poly looks at Constant, curious. She blinks, as if waking from a trance, laughs at herself—
Sorry, that sounds strange. I imagined this, when I was a child.
Poly and Constant step onto a slideway leading to a BORDER SCANNING PORTAL and are confronted by—
The first italicized line is Dr. Seldon speaking. He never imagined he would lay eyes on Trantor again. The second, underlined line is Constant recovering.
Our use of “digital possession” was influenced by the works of Gene Wolfe, specifically, The Book of the Long Sun. In Long Sun, various characters are possessed by Typhon and other “gods” – who have uploaded their consciousnesses into a generation ship’s mainframe. (Awe-inspiring reading, btw).
From Poly and Constant, we shift to Sareth and Rue – and here, Demerzel starts to lay down the “Laws”. This is the first time in the show we’ve directly referenced Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and start to explain whether or not these laws still apply to Demerzel.
From Trantor, we pivot to the fishing village on Ignis. The coastal scenes were filmed on Lanzarote, in the Canaries, whereas the interior of the village was filmed in the Czech Republic.
Grading the color to match, along with a liberal use of set decoration allows the two locations to be fused together.
For the various scenes between Gaal and Salvor, viewers should listen to what our characters are saying and keep that in mind when we revisit these conversations in 210.
We also touch on this interesting idea as to whether one can telepathically connect with one’s food and whether or not plants feel pain. Well, not exactly, according to science – but there are some interesting notions about how they react to threats in their environment – via chemical signals and whatnot.
What we tried to do with Tellem was reveal that she is villainous fairly early on – but also make her likable and seemingly reasonable.
We had to re-shoot a good deal of Hober amidst the spacer swarm, for a variety of reasons. The point here was to show, in earnest, that Hober is good at selling. Viewers would do well to remember what is said in this scene as well.
Here’s me with Dimitri Leonidas (Hober) and Brucella Newman-Persaud, who plays the Spacer “Queen” She-Is-Center. Poor Brucella had to spend most of the shoot suspended from wires and it was distinctly uncomfortable. The final look of the Spacers in S2 is about 70% digital and 30% “real” (as opposed to the fully digital approach we took in S1). One thing I lament is the fact that we didn’t have enough shots of She-Is-Center that showcase the negative space in their abdomen, where various human organs have been removed.
The scene where Bel and Glawen argue after giving their report to Day is one of my favorites. As a viewer, I’m always clamoring for scenes like this – with the character breaking down why they feel they can’t perform a particular action. Here, we tried to list all the various reasons why Bel feels trapped between the chain of command and his own morality.
The scene between Day and Sareth at the gardens was filmed in Tenerife. By design, it’s the exact same play where Day 13 unleashed his horrific punishment upon Azura. Hoping the audience gets very squeamish here as to what Sareth’s fate will turn out to be.
Then we have the confrontation between Day and digital Dr. Seldon in the throne room. Empire and Seldon haven’t faced each other since episode 101 and we were deliberately trying to echo that first scene, with Seldon himself quoting things he had said over a century ago. “You called us grapes, remember?”
Later on in the episode, Sareth meets with Dawn in the heat sinks (which is where Raych’s father worked). This was actually shot in an access tunnel leading to the subway system beneath Prague. What was tricky about this sequence, because of the “facial scramblers” (another story element discussed in S1 but not seen) was that we had to shoot everything twice – we shot every angle with Cassian Bilton and Ella-Rae Smith, then we shot every again with the two local actors that Dawn and Sareth are masking themselves as. This allowed us to toggle back and forth between Dawn & Sareth and their disguised selves at will, whenever we determined it made sense to in the editing process.
Finally, Salvor retraces Hari’s fateful journey back at the drowning rocks and makes a fateful discovery. As I mentioned earlier, this location was on the tiny island of La Gomera, which has a population of about 20,000. Believe it or not, this spectacular location is actually a tide-fed public swimming pool! But because of global warming, we had a once-in-a-century super swell that swept our set completely out to sea. We were only able to shoot aerial drone footage of the pool and a few angles of Salvor and Tellem back against the rock wall.
Everything else had to be recreated in a parking lot in Prague. This was the last thing we shot in Season 2 and I ended up directing these scenes as the prior director had already departed. For all of the wide overhead shots, all the people moving about (including Hari and Salvor) are actually purely digital doubles.
In any event, my last day of filming on Season 2 was recreating Salvor’s moments in the pool. Oddly fitting as our first day of filming on Season 1 also involved Leah Harvey.