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June 10 2010

In Praise of Seat of the Pants Storytelling. io9 posts a rant quoting Joss, and using Buffy specifically as an example, for why stories shouldn't be meticulously planned out.

So, if I read this properly, there is a plan but there is no plan?
There need to be a plan, but there need not to be a too much of a plan :)
Just like the Cylons, make up The Plan as you go along.
Make a plan but be willing to change the plan if that's what the story or the characters need...
So how much planning should go into not planning too meticulously ? Cos it doesn't sound like the sort of thing you should just rush into.

I think the article sort of misses the point - Joss had the major plot elements planned out and used them, in his word, as "anchors". That's not making it up as you go along, that's flexibility and being open to organic developments. I doubt many people take issue with that sort of looseness, it's when the creators clearly don't have those anchors in place that the whole show feels adrift. Likewise, with episodic TV it doesn't matter too much. The problem is with shows that clearly set themselves up as intertwined serial stories and then turn out to be unplanned.

And books and movies are also oranges to the serial TV apple - the book is finished by the time you read it, you don't (usually, these days) read it as the author creates it so there is at least some kind of coherence to it (a mate's a writer and often talks about an organic development late in a book that he can then go back and weave through the story from page one if it suits) and a movie is two hours of your time compared to (potentially) tens or even hundreds of hours viewing (and maybe considerably longer thinking and discussing) for a TV show - if a film doesn't hang together you haven't lost much.
It's the tao of plot planning.

[ edited by Ildeth on 2010-06-10 17:56 ]
I'd also bring up Babylon 5 as the counter-argument. That show had a 5 year plan, and although he made some adjustments along the way (notably speeding up the conclusion to year 4 when he thought the show was ending), it mainly followed through and delivered.

But that is an outlier, a rarity. I like the middle-ground approach that Joss takes. You can tell he has a loose plan, a structure for the show in general, but each individual episode and where the characters themselves go is much more organic.
One of the elements of Joss shows I really like is the flying-by-the-seats-of-their-pants nature of things. It makes it feel dynamic. The best example I can give is something like The Senior Partners in ANGEL. Here's a surprise: they didn't know what those guys were. Here's why it worked: the plot was never about the end game of discovering things about the Partners. The Senior Partners discovered things about the characters, just by being.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-06-10 18:39 ]
The Doctor Who pic illustrates a case in point. The whole "New Doctor ever few years" thing was forced on the writers when William Hartnell became ill and left. And that seems to have worked out okay...
The key to producing good television is to know what you want to say but to leave enough wiggle room in the actual implementation
therein so that the many other collaborators involved in the medium (such as the actors) are best able to contribute their own brand of creative inspiration to the project. That's how you end up with the "more than the sum of its parts" effect which is what tends to set the creations of people like Joss Whedon apart from the rest.
The problem with the Cylons' plan is that not only did they not have a plan, they didn't have a clue.

Which became all too obvious as the storyline drifted all to hell and never came back.
Was lesbian Willow not planned? Were all those early hints not actually hints?

It does seem to be the easy go to criticism for many people when a programme with a mystery at the centre of its tale goes on for a little while to complain that the writers don't know what will happen. The simple fact is that it is almost impossible to actually fully craft a storyline from start to finish that is supposed to fill a series spreading across many years. There are just too many variables that could effect someone successfully telling this story, which will ultimately force them to fudge something along the way.

What I feel a writer should do though, is attempt to craft a world that seems to have those answers, but is not ready to reveal them. Too many programmes that try to create mystery fail to really convince viewers that there is actually an answer to the mysteries they are seeing (such as The X-Files, Lost or Battlstar Galactica.) Instead, the writers attempt to place mystery on top of mystery to a point where no answer would actually satisfactorily conclude the show without leaving some elements left unexplained or making no sense.

The middle ground is definitely the right way to go and, once again, we have to say it seems to be the path Joss takes. He seems to often establish some storylines long before they actually occur, giving the sense to the viewer that everything is finely crafted. Yet he doesn't put anything in stone until it is ready. Most importantly, your characters need to be so fully formed that any event you can throw at them will naturally produce a reaction we can expect. Making sure your characters stay true to themselves is definitely the most important part to creating something that people will stick with and won't lose faith in.

Also, is Babylon 5 still worth watching? I recently added the first disc of season 1 to my Love Film list and was contemplating getting the full set at some point, although I don't really no anything about it besides hearing it is very good. From what I hear, it would definitely seem to be a good counter argument to this article. Any particular show you can compare it to?

@barboo

I just watched The Plan last night (which was much better than I was expecting after hearing other peoples' comments,) and what really struck me was the fact that not even in that did they seem to have a plan. It really was a big mistake by the creators to put that at the front of every episode. Still, a fantastic programme from start to finish and just goes to show that it doesn't matter whether you map everything out or not.
I think flying-by-the-seat works well with flexibility of character growth. The characters grow in ways natural to them. It's organic. But this isn't good in terms of worldbuilding and plot. Witness the mess that is BtVS Season 7. Sometimes you need to make decisions, make rules, and simply stick to them. Plans dictated by availability of an actor are different than plans worked on in your own head.

So for Whedon's work in which character is paramount, yes, this makes sense. For great worldbuilding and great plot? Not so much. Continuity also--an internal logic to a story that's maintained (I found this to be the case for the end of BSG Season 3 and all of 4--a great tonal shift that altered the nature of the story).

Rob Thomas had a plan for the first year of Veronica Mars. It was tightly plotted and kicked ass (while the later seasons floundered a bit). Having a tight and logical plot doesn't negate the magic of character. Rather, you have imposed limitations on yourself that require you be more creative in how to free your characters. Pressure creates diamonds.

I think it's more important to have a plan, but be flexible enough to change it when needed. Creativity to me isn't leaving the canvass blank until you can fill in the lines, but typing away and editing when needed, being flexible enough to change direction. Actually having a plan for the First would've made the First a better villain, created better continuity for its powers and presence. Ideally, you want clarity--to be clear when you mean to be clear, to be ambiguous when you mean to be ambiguous. And clarity comes from knowing where you're headed in your own writing.

gossi, they never knew what the Senior Partners were physically, but they understood them in nature. And W&H were clearly defined, the physical presence of the Senior Partners. That degree of ambiguity is good. It works there. But in other areas like the First, it's problematic. Or in BSG when the Plan was built up and delivered in a nonsensical manner. Having a TV show bible isn't a bad thing in genre TV.

I recently compared this aspect of writing to horseback riding. You don't want to choke up on the reins and hurt the horse, but you don't want the reins too loose or the horse will run wild. You need to find that balance between planning and spontaneity.

As for Whedon flying-by-the-seat, it becomes a problem when a lot of people notice that's what you're doing, especially when people notice because it... doesn't make sense. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. If the audience can tell you're making it up as you go along (and they notice 'cause it's clear not much thought was put into the development), you've lost the audience's faith and broken suspension of disbelief.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-06-10 20:21 ]
As a writer you need to leave yourself some wiggle room to explore. Characters often have their own ideas about what they want to do in your story, if you listen to them. In television that's magnified by the fact that it's a collaborative medium and you will of course begin to write to the strengths of your actors. I would think, though, that a solid, detailed outline is simply an idea that works for some writers and not others, rather than something we can definitively say is a positive thing or a negative thing. Joss likes to play it loose; J Michael Straczynski likes his stuff fairly meticulously planned. Whatever works. I do think, however, that if you're writing a story you must know your ending. Joss treated each Buffy season like a novel with a beginning, middle and end, and he always knew his endings. I don't think BSG knew where the hell it was going in the end.
@Vandelay - Babylon 5 is absolutely worth watching. Just bear in mind that it hits its stride in season 2. Season 1 is about establishing the universe, and the episodes are largely stand-alone (with a few notable exceptions near the end of the season). They vary in quality but are fairly mediocre. (And some are totally skippable, such as the horrid "Infection"). But a lot of important seeds are sown in this year that pay off down the line - some several years later. It would be hard to jump in and skip this entire season.

Babylon 5 gets a lot better, and I'd put season 3 up as the best single season of any series ever. There is some amazing storytelling at work, and the most impressive thing about Babylon 5 is that the series managed to last on air long enough for everything to pay off in the end. It's an incredible journey, especially when you look at the character growth of such characters as Londo and G'Kar. (In season 1, Londo is very much a comic relief character - but so much happens - and I won't spoil it for you).

It's a tale that is about people, politics, war, peace, and everything plays out on both a smaller scale (the characters we know on the space station) and a far more epic level (involving tons of well-realized alien races across the galaxy). I cannot give a higher recommendation. Babylon 5 is in my top 3 shows - along with Firefly and Farscape (which, side-note, is a good example of well-done seat-of-the-pants storytelling).
Also worth noting, re: Babylon 5, that you should start with the telefilm "The Gathering". Was aired and takes place before Season 1 of the series. If you're viewing by way of DVD, can be found as Disc 1 of the Babylon 5: The Movies set (after that, you don't need to worry about fitting any more TV-movies in between episodes until Season 3).
Babylon 5 also has much terrible, terrible writing at times. Great overall plot, though. If you exclude season 5, in my mind.
They vary in quality but are fairly mediocre. (And some are totally skippable, such as the horrid "Infection"). But a lot of important seeds are sown in this year that pay off down the line - some several years later. It would be hard to jump in and skip this entire season.

I'll say, the first 6-8 are fairly excruciating IMO, mainly because the guy who played Sinclair, the original commander of Babylon 5, delivers Every ! Single ! Line ! like it's one of the ten commandments (how often can you say Bruce Boxleitner totally raised the standard of acting on a show ? Not often i'd wager but he does here, B5 really starts to blossom when he arrives though that's obviously partly because of the plot/character seeds laid in season 1). A lot of the dialogue is also pretty clunky and though that improves over the seasons it was never JMS' strong suit.

But give it a chance because the story and characters develop and deepen and become well worth experiencing, particularly, as AnotherFireflyfan mentions, the Londo/G'kar thread. It also made use of its intensely arcy nature in some pretty satisfying ways (call-backs/forwards etc.), you can level many complaints at "Babylon 5" but "It didn't know where it was going" certainly isn't one of them.

(only thing, I haven't seen it since first broadcast and so have my doubts about how well the effects will have held up, might need a certain amount of "looking past")
The only reason Boxleitner appeared in the show is because the guy who played Sinclair left after the first season unexpectedly...
I remember a few good moments from some of the first few episodes, but yeah, looking at the synopses for Season 1 just now, you don't get into any genuinely good (if not pretty great, IMO) episodes until "Deathwalker" and "Believers" (I like the moral dilemma eps). Can't remember what other decent eps are contained in Season 1 aside from "Babylon Squared" (the one about the Babylon 4 station that doesn't get paid off until Season 3).

I really didn't enjoy Bruce Boxleitner's performance (a moment here and there...that episode in Season 4 that more or less happens in real time when he's interrogated somehow provoked him into excellence) and I'm not sure his acting was a ton better than Michael O'Hare's...but maybe I just liked Sinclair's character and arc (what little we got of it) better. Sheridan was way too happy-go-lucky when we first met him and that thing with him loving oranges/orange juice in the first season he appeared in was just kinda painful to watch/listen to. Luckily the bulk of the supporting cast more than made up for the weaknesses of the show's two leads, plus the story.

The effects are sometimes really weak, but I've got a pretty good memory of how a lot of the space battles and ships looked and they still hold up. That they used real images of space from Hubble for some of the backdrops really enhanced the feel of the outside-the-station/outside-the-ships feel, at times.
Ah, so I really should see 'The Gathering' first then. I decided to go straight for the first season, as I heard the original pilot was pretty bad. I will amend my Love Film list.

The starting off bad is one of the things I have been hearing a lot, which makes deciding whether to actually buy it that much harder. It sounds as if watching the early episodes won't give me much confidants in the later quality, but if I do find I enjoy the start of the series I at least know that it will get even better.

It's one of the reason why I wish we had a true Netflix service here in the UK. Getting DVDs via post is fine for watching films, but is not very practical for watching a TV series and the Love Film online service doesn't have very much in the way of TV yet that is not already available from other places (often freely - such as 4OD.)
I've said before and I'll say it again: My dream show would be one with a JMS-penned multi-year arc, with Joss doing characters and dialogue.

Babylon 5 made a lot of things possible; it was the first sci fi TV show that decidedly succeeded in making a serial format work: the combination of coming in at the right time in the VCR revolution and having that elaborate plot with such fascinating payoffs *seasons* later.

If I would wish one thing for the Buffyverse, it would be a website equivalent to The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, with all its fascinating non-spoilery analysis. It's like a snapshot in time of the BBS (!) discussion boards' analysis of each issue--so fun to see what people were thinking at the time, and be a vicarious observer after the fact.
Have to say, I've never been able to push on through repeated mediocre to awful episodes of a show in the hope (or on the assurance of friends) that it gets better, is worth it, etc. Because, you know, maybe it never will, *for me*. The most I ever did was nine or ten episodes of Veronica Mars because so many folks whose opinion I respect here said it was worth it. But meh. Four or five of Farscape. Feh. Three or four of Alias. Eh. Don't know how you guys do it, to be honest. (Not criticism; I'm genuinely interested.)

So, drifting marginally back OT, I don't really care if a show is more seat-of-the-pants or more closely structured, so long as it's emotionally compelling and inspires me. (Doesn't have to be out of the gate bam-bam-bam, just gotta be something that hooks me.) I'm unable to watch a show with the long run view in mind. Because, y'know, in the long run, said Keynes, we are all dead.
Did you make it through Dollhouse, SNT?
Watched S1, gossi. Waiting for the S2 DVD release (I did watch the first ep of S2 on Hulu, but didn't love it, so decided to wait and watch it all on the trot).
To be fair, SoddingNancyTribe, we often urge people to push through the first 6 episodes of Dollhouse too. ;-) And Buffy season 1 was nowhere near the greatness that the series would find in year 2 and on.

TV shows frequently take some time to find their footing (part of what made Firefly so spectacular was that it was great off the bat).

And season 1 of Babylon 5 isn't all bad. It has some great character moments, some pretty cool plotlines, and it's basically about a UN in space with different alien nations, and the aliens are all very well developed societies - unlike most bumpy-head-of-the-week characters you see on the various Star Treks.
My mind reels at the thought of someone watching the first nine or ten eps of Veronica Mars and thinking "feh". I thought that show hit the ground running like a Porsche. I don't think it even had a single mis-step that first year. It was 22 very nearly perfect hours of television.
See, the thing is, AFf, I loved BtVS from the first five minutes I saw of it ("The Puppet Show"). Loved it. Didn't love it with equal consistency throughout, of course not, but it didn't matter by then: I was truly in love with it. Agree about Firefly. That was a quick seduction indeed. (And, yeah, Dollhouse . . . well, I'm still looking for that passion.)

HMG: surprised me too, actually. I love Kristen Bell. Love Enrico Colantani. Don't mind shows set in high schools, obviously. Yet didn't care for VM at all, which left me completely unmoved. Clearly, it was well-made but, to me, emotionally inert.

And with that, I should probably stop derailing the thread topic. :-)
[ETA:] Low down dirty derailer ! ;)

(this is more like coasting down a branch line, which is to say, i'd already typed it ;) [/ETA]

It has some great character moments, some pretty cool plotlines, and it's basically about a UN in space with different alien nations...

They had cool ships too and I liked that they made some effort with the science. Also, it has to be said, sci-fi TV options were much more limited back then so there was an element of sticking with it because it was what we had (well, it and "Deep Space 9" obviously ;).

The most I ever did was nine or ten episodes of Veronica Mars because so many folks whose opinion I respect here said it was worth it. But meh. Four or five of Farscape. Feh. Three or four of Alias. Eh. Don't know how you guys do it, to be honest. (Not criticism; I'm genuinely interested.)

Well, for me it's about moments SNT, what i've seen some people call "gleamings". If there's something that grabs me initially about the series AND each of the early episodes has at least one moment that makes me laugh or think or that's just an original take on an old idea then i'll stick with it. I can honestly say in fact that I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes of TV that i've watched from start to finish and got absolutely nothing from, there's almost always something IMO (e.g. 'Veronica Mars' has a pun about her dog, 'Backup' in the pilot that I liked though I pretty much enjoyed VM from the start, 'Farscape' has a great moment where Crichton - who up to then has been very realistically portrayed as basically knowing nothing, of being a fish dangerously out of water - finds the one thing that he can help the crew of Moya with and, exciting though the sequence is, it's maths ;) - the big beefy leading man action hero type guy ends up writing equations on the floor of the spaceship he's stranded on with a marker pen or a bit of chalk or something and that's what saves the day which was unexpected enough for me to keep watching past the "Muppets in Spaaaaaccccee", 'Alias' seemed happy to burn through plot early on which I liked and also the techy character Marshall was an early favourite and there's a bit near the end of - I think - the pilot where Jennifer Garner breaks down that worked quite well).

That said, in the case of 'Babylon 5' I actually didn't stick with it (I stopped watching part way through season 1 and then came back to it after a mate with similar tastes told me it had got better, was worth another shot - between repeats and videos and so on i've probably seen all of them by now BUT I actually wouldn't be amazed if there're still a couple of season 1 episodes i've missed).

[ edited by Saje on 2010-06-10 22:11 ]
I like the notion of "gleamings." I think I'm a lot crankier than most. If the amount of irritation caused by watching a show > the amount of pleasure I get from those moments, I'll likely stop watching. Each of the shows I mentioned irritated in some way (no need to get into that, old news now), so . . . (and, to be honest, there're still a few episodes from S1 of Angel that I've never watched - because I really didn't care for it that much. So there's an example of a show that I did persevere with despite my initial dislike and, by and large, it did pay off. But then, I was already obsessed with that world, so it was a easier dose to swallow.)

Seat of the pants or meticulous planning? Indeed. ;-)
Seat of the pants storytelling is what allows series to improve in their second seasons. The writers discover what works, and what doesn't, and steer the series toward it's strengths, while dropping the weaknesses. Many of the shows we mentioned improve in that way. There, back on topic.

(Although B5 improved in season 2 because JMS finally kicked his plan into motion. Hey, some writers just do better with a plan. But even then - seat-of-the-pants brought in a new captain when the old one wasn't working).
All, I am about half way through Babylon 5 Season 1 having decided to watch it after a friend of mine (also a huge firefly fan) recommended it to me.

It's great to read the interesting comments on it here (I trust your opinions), for starters it confirms an accidental spoiler my friend gave me (Sinclair not being around for long) - which although I am generally spoiler adverse, I can't say I mind knowing - he's a bit wooden.

Also, Saje's comments agree with my assessment so far of Season 1 of the plot being good and interesting but some of the dialogue being quite clunky, but I think even that has already improved considerably.

And I also liked Believers and Deathwalker Kris.

And the "And the Sky Full of Stars" episode, where Sinclair was captured so they could find out about the Earth-Minbari wars- that was exciting, although the fight scenes involving people have been hilariously bad! (Quite obviously they aren't hitting each other - lots of air punches, I can see why Buffy has been praised for its fight scenes!)

As for the special effects involving the ships - yes, they are dated, but then I expected that so it's fine. And the backgrounds are cool - it's nice to know they're from the hubble.


On topic (Shock! horror!) -

I think what Scott Allie has said on the matter is quite interesting - the general idea being (IIRC) that while fans like to know it's all been meticulously planned and that everything is self-consistent, and sometimes ask the creative team for clarification on finer details, some of the better storytelling happens if it's a bit looser, open-ended, and not defined until there's a storytelling reason for the details to be defined. He gave the example of doing some sort of HellBoy book which gave a lot of previously unknown details about the Hellboy-verse and they really regretted it, because it reduced the flexiblity of what they could do later on. I found the idea of what the fans wanted not gelling with what was best from the creative side of things interesting.
I think Kim Werker's interview with Joss captured the idea of give and take between planning and making best.
Interesting side note about JMS, is that he actually had to juggle more exiting-returning cast members then I think Joss did. Most of the exits and entrances were due to actor issues, not so much that he wanted them gone.

But according to JMS, those weren't seat of the pants either. He has stated that he had contingency plans for everyone which I think he called "outs" or something like that. So he he started with his bible, and each charecter had a backstory and an out in case something happened.

Everything I've read on Michael O'Hare is that he "left" the show on his own, but he was going to be replaced anyway. He and a few of the cast members did not get along. Jerry Doyle certainly didn't mince words with what he thought of him. Of course he's paid to have political opinions these days.

Removed B5 spoilers
[ edited by azzers on 2010-06-11 02:52 ]

[ edited by azzers on 2010-06-11 02:53 ]
I didn't know that about JMS' "outs" for each character but it fits - 5 years is a long time in TV land (as he almost found out with B5) and people come and go as a matter of course, nevermind unexpected deaths etc. Makes sense he'd plan around something he had to know could/would happen (although arguably not with his leading man).

Considering the article's thesis I was wondering about shows that've suffered from being too planned. If it's that limiting creatively you'd think there might be some but none spring to mind (right enough, it might be hard to pick out as a specific cause - how do you tell if a show would've been better with less planning, particularly when we don't usually know how much planning went into it anyway ? - and maybe very few shows do it, even now, because of the realities of US TV i.e. the axe hanging over their heads and the casual way most viewers watch). In B5's case it was certainly a plus though, not a minus.

(in Buffy's case I suppose we can just look at what we'd have missed if Joss had stuck to original intentions - a much reduced Spike, less Tara and no Willow/Tara etc.)

...he's a bit wooden.

Heh, in the same way that Everest is "quite high" ;-).
There are exceptions. I agree with the article as far as character development, and plot in some ways, but this isn't true 100% of the time. For example, The X-Files got terrible when it became obvious Chris Carter didn't know where the story was going.
When I say story, I mean the central mythos, the arc. When a TV show is based on many mysteries, such as The X-Files, Fringe, Lost, or Twin Peaks it's fine for the story or characters to not be planned 3 years ahead constantly, but the mysteries themselves must have answers. The mythology. As was said in the comments of io9, every question posed must have an answer.
For example, in early to mid X-Files many things happen that say Fox Mulder's sister is still alive throughout the series, and then it's revealed she's not, she's been dead for tens of years before the show starts.. Just like that. Without explaining why aliens (multiple aliens, at different points in the series, all of who have no reason given or hinted at as to why to lie) say his sister's still alive, or why his dead father (who he spoke to through Navajo rituals) says she's not where he is.
Unless an 14 year old girl went to hell or something, or the talking to his dead father wasn't real (Weirder things happened on the show, he also spoke to Scully in a coma and we know that was real and if he wasn't actually talking to his father that brings up more questions, it's basically canon he was.)
In fact, a recent tissue sample is found of her in 1995. Everything points to her being alive, and not like a mystery novel, there's no explanation as to how she couldn't be alive. Then it's revealed she died in 1979, randomly.
I suppose there are ways she could be dead, but they'd be very contrived, and no explanation is given! They'd need to explain why multiple aliens lied,Cassandra Spender lied, how they got a tissue sample, if it was from a clone why it was needed (It's complicated but a clones wouldn't make sense in comtext of the show) why Samantha and her father are in different places (Who's in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory, or does it not work like that, etc.) and they didn't. Even if it seemed contrived, I'd be okay if it were explained, even badly. But it's not.
Just an example of how you need to know the answers to basic questions ahead of time. Also, I think that having an entire season planned out perfectly (Like Breaking Bad season 2) can work really well. And this is coming from a fan of The X-Files
Joining in the B5 love.

Ah, so I really should see 'The Gathering' first then.
Vandelay | June 10, 21:27 CET


Definitely! However .... IMO, The Gathering doesn't give you a real feel for how excellent the entire series is going to be. Kinda like Buffy season 1 - there are hints of the goodness to come, but it isn't completely formed yet.

As for season 1, it is still weaker than what's to come, but there are some great moments, even a few really excellent eps. And watching it is totally necessary, in order to follow the plot for the rest of the series.

I have a deep love for this show and it is groundbreaking in so many ways, for TV SciFi. I may do a re-watch myself, during the summer TV doldrums.
Saje - LOL. Fair point. ;-)

DeezyG - sounds to me like that X-files mystery really bugs you. I don't follow X-files, but from the way you depict the mystery in your post I can understand the frustration!

I think you make a good point though, if there is a mystery running all the way through something I think it should pay off and make sense when they finally answer it.

One of the things I like about the later seasons of Lost (season 3 on) is that they started answering some of the mysteries rather than just adding new ones, and that these answers made sense (or at least of what I remembered happened in past seasons, I don't have a great memory so if there were continuity errors I didn't notice!).

The second season of Lost really annoyed me because there just seemed to be mythology on top of mystery on top of more mythology and no answers. I've heard that what changed in the 3rd season was that they gave themselves (or were given?) a deadline for the series to end - and this seems to have resulted in much tighter plotting. I like that they started to answer some mysteries, left some mysteries unanswered and actually started some new ones - it felt much more satisfactory to watch.

Having said all that I don't know how it all pays out in the last season though, since I haven't watched it!

[So if others comment on Lost in this thread I'd personally really appreciate spoiler free comments or invisi-text. And thanks azzers for editing your post to remove spoilers, I appreciate it!]
What Emmie said way above. I haven't watched any of the other shows you guys are talking about except Veronica Mars ( which SNT didn't like!! gasp!! ;)) which really was exceptionally well-planned and plotted. All downhill from there, alas.

But the whole seat-of-the-pants thing is one of my biggest (only?) complaints about Buffy. There were minor examples, like how Darla is no big deal in S1 and then a very big deal later on, and it's a shame that there's that discrepancy but whatever, and Very Annoying things like how the UberVamps are nearly impossible to kill until there's a whole army of them and then they're getting dusted left and right by inexperienced newly empowered slayers or why didn't a new slayer get called when Buffy died at the end of S5, or... etc. The plots could be kind of awkward.

When people are talking about how it's more dynamic when writers stay open to new directions or whatever, I think that's how the early drafts of any piece of writing go. If someone is writing a novel, then generally they would start with an outline, an idea of where the story is going, and then let characters and new ideas appear, reject things that aren't working, go with what is working. And then go back over the whole thing and make sure it has a kind of unity, maybe drop some clues early on to things that come up later, etc. TV writers don't have the luxury of doing that kind of after-the-fact polishing, so they are basically putting their early drafts out there and doing their best to make sure the story-line works as it progresses. But I have no doubt we'd get better TV if they could make the whole season, then go over it and revise it, and then put it out. That's just not the way TV works. It's sort of seat-of-the-pants by necessity, no?

If the article is saying, be flexible, don't be rigid and stick to a preconceived idea that isn't working, then obviously that's good advice for any writer. But if it's saying, it's not a good idea to have a detailed plan, I think that's kind of shitty advice.

Interestingly, what I'd consider two of the most "successful" seasons of Buffy in many ways are S3 and S5. S5 was pretty obviously meticulously plotted out, and I really appreciate how polished it feels, story-wise, compared to other seasons. S3 I suspect was far more improvised, because I don't think Faith was going to be as big a deal as she became until Eliza Dushku rocked the role so much they had to hang on to her. Also thought the finale of Angel was an amazing example of great work under pressure, but obviously it would have been nice if we'd EVER HEARD OF that Evil Group (forget the name... something Thorn?) before.

I gave up on Lost in S2, Bluey, and just let my honey, who kept watching, give me confusing summaries.
why didn't a new slayer get called when Buffy died at the end of S5


Well that one seemed pretty obvious to me. A new slayer was already called when Buffy died at the end of S1. The torch was already passed. A new slayer wouldn't be called unless Faith died.
I find it odd how there isn't anyone else who felt like SNT about VM. I thought there would have been more. I'm a huge fan of the show, and it never fails to keep me entertained but for the majority of the first season of the show, as great as it is, it did keep me cold. It's initially quite overwhelming and structured so the character stuff can easily get lost in the mix - it was only apparent to me on a rewatch. The first season I didn't mind Veronica (and towards the end, could emphasize with her, for obvious reasons) but the more flexible second season makes me like her and by the third (even if its technically not as good) is filled to the brim with fantastic fantastic memorable character moments that made me love her.

I think The Wire does a similar thing. The world is established in such detail at the beginning, it takes a little bit to understand, then love and by the time a rewatch or something pops along its the Best. Thing. Ever. Firefly is the only show I can think of that knows itself so well and truly right from the get-go it doesn't take any time to get used to it.
Wellington said that he made his battle plans out of string, while his opponents normally made theirs out of wire. So, he was able to consistently beat better generals than himself. If that's really what the article is saying, and I'm unclear on that.

Vandelay: The supposed hints of Willow's bisexuality that are claimed to exist in earlier seasons;s eparate topic I could go on and on about but won't here.

SoddingNancyTribe: I got my firstt aste of Tru Calling a few weeks ago when I got the S-2 DVD at a good rpice. I watched 2 episodes and gave up. As oppsoed to Doolhouse where I enjoyed almost all the epsidoes btu hate the S-1 arc. Will buy S-2 for compelteness's sake mainly.
"But the whole seat-of-the-pants thing is one of my biggest (only?) complaints about Buffy. There were minor examples, like how Darla is no big deal in S1 and then a very big deal later on, and it's a shame that there's that discrepancy but whatever, and Very Annoying things like how the UberVamps are nearly impossible to kill until there's a whole army of them and then they're getting dusted left and right by inexperienced newly empowered slayers or why didn't a new slayer get called when Buffy died at the end of S5, or... etc. The plots could be kind of awkward."

None of those things ever really bothered me that much (and AnotherFireflyfan answered your last problem,) but the one that does always stand out for me is the fact that Spike says to Angel "You were my sire, man," in School Hard, when we later find out it was actually Drusilla. Obviously, he could actually mean that Angel was his guide and teacher when he first became a vampire (something that doesn't really show during the flashbacks, at least not in a way that Spike would use that term for him,) but it is so clear what the intention of that line was.

As for The X-Files, the arc element of the show did become increasingly ridiculous. I actually probably have a slightly different opinion on the show to the majority, as I only started watching it much later in its run. Except for the odd very early episodes I had seen late night showings of and the film I saw over at friends house, the first time I actually watched The X-Files was when they started showing season 8, right when Doggett and Reyes became the leads. The mythology episodes didn't make much sense to me (or anyone else apparently,) but I did love the stand alone episodes. They were probably the first time I had really watched horror aimed at adults and I loved getting creeped out by them. Since then, I have watched the early ones and the arc heavy episodes are significantly better. Watching the show on DVD, you can see them steadily declining as the show goes on, with them really going off the deep end by about season 6. Yet, I still love the stand alone episodes. I particular enjoyed the running theme of entering a mundane working life that made up a lot of the episodes in season 6 and the added humour that seemed to be lacking from much of the earlier episodes.

It seemed quite odd to me when the recent 'I Want To Believe' was released and the only complaint the reviews had on the film was "where are the aliens and the conspiracies? That is what The X-Files is about," because that is never what The X-Files was about to me. It was about two FBI agents investigating the supernatural. It wasn't a Sci-Fi show, it was horror. The new film focused on that and still maintained the ongoing theme of faith that ran all the way through the series. It was like a good stand alone episode of the series; nothing special, but certainly capturing what I remembered The X-Files for.

I still haven't watched the last two seasons again since originally seeing them back on television 8 years ago and they remain the only seasons I don't own in my collection. I will be buying them at some point, but I worry that my memories of first finding the show may be destroyed when I actually see the quality.
Just skimmed the thread, but I want to chime in that, for me, Lost was a prime example of too much seat-of-the-pantsing in the mix. I've read in interviews the creators basically saying "If someone in the writers' room said, 'wouldn't it be cool if...' and it was cool, we did it!" For me, the best balance comes when shows manage to accommodate spur-of-the-moment coolness as it can be worked into the long-term structure. So much more satisfying.
Well that one seemed pretty obvious to me. A new slayer was already called when Buffy died at the end of S1. The torch was already passed. A new slayer wouldn't be called unless Faith died.


AnotherFireflyfan! I feel like somebody just scratched an itch I thought was unreachable! In retrospect, of course that's obvious, and I don't know why I've been so bothered by it for years. But I feel much better now :).
The problem with the whole "new Slayer being called" dynamics is that the idea of the line going through Faith now is a fanwank that the show never acknowledged. Buffy and Giles always acted like the line still went through her.

And as for seat of the pants writing in Buffy generally: I can live with Joss changing his plans based on what he's getting from certain actors (Faith's role was expanded because Eliza stole all her scenes, Spike was expanded for the same reason) but I have an issue with seat of the pants plotting within episodes. Plotting was often sloppy, contrivances were a standard part of the Buffy writers toolbox, and some of the worst offenses are in Joss-penned episodes. The show's nuts and bolts storytelling just didn't always stand up to scrutiny.
catherine, glad I could scratch your unreachable itch. Err... that sounds wrong.

We definitely know that the line goes through Faith, because Faith is the second new slayer called after Buffy's season 1 death. Why would the line suddenly revert back to Buffy now? I don't consider it a fanwank at all. :-)
Plotting was often sloppy, contrivances were a standard part of the Buffy writers toolbox, and some of the worst offenses are in Joss-penned episodes. The show's nuts and bolts storytelling just didn't always stand up to scrutiny.


Hmm. None of that rings true to me at all. You may well be able to point to specific examples but, since I didn't register many, if any, complaints the first seven or more times I watched the show, I'm thinking that, if there were such faults, they didn't matter to me. (I admit, I don't focus on "plotting" as such, unless it's so obviously contrived or collapsing as to call attention to itself.) I thought, and think, that the storytelling was marvellous.
SNT, three random examples from Joss-penned Buffy eps of the kind of plot holes and contrivances that I find tend crop up in his writing:

From The Harvest:
Buffy defeats Luke by throwing a microphone stand through a window behind him, revealing light which is really just a light bulb, but which Buffy convinces Luke is actually the sunrise. Luke and his vamp buddies had gone to the Bronze shortly after the sun went down that day. They weren’t there very long at all before Buffy and the gang arrived and started beating on them. Luke really thought he had been there twelve hours? Really?

From When She Was Bad:
Cordy is kidnapped by the Anointed One's band of vampires, and a rock is later thrown though the window of the school library instructing Buffy to come to the Bronze to save her. The vampires want Buffy at the Bronze so they can kidnap the rest of the gang while she’s away, as they need the rest of the gang for the spell to revive the Master. But they leave one vampire at the Bronze to laugh at Buffy about it, and Buffy has Angel guard the vamp while she runs back to the library to be bitched out by Xander, who has been smacked around by the vampires who took Willow and Giles (and Jenny, previously) while Buffy was gone. It sure was lucky for Buffy that the bad guys decided to leave one vampire at the Bronze. One vampire who, of course, knows where the ceremony to revive the Master is taking place and can be conveniently interrogated about it. There was of course no reason that vampire had to be at the Bronze. The vampire is there because the plot needs someone to tell Buffy where the ceremony is taking place.

From Chosen, we not only have the Uber-Vamps suddenly being massively de-powered for the convenience of the script, but we also have the deus ex machina contrivance of Angel's magic "Kill All the Vamps" necklace that he just happened to find in the nick of time for Buffy's last episode.

I'm not saying any of these things make the show less fun, and I didn't mind them the first time I watched. They're just sloppy, contrived writing, that's all. I think Joss prefers to go for the cool character moment and even when he knows he's creating story problems when doing it, he's willing to cut that corner. No character could possibly be stupid enough to think a couple hours was twelve hours and therefore it was the next day, but Joss really liked his Buffy moment with the lightbulb so he put it in. The Ubervamps had obviously been massively nerfed but Joss wanted his triumphant moments of the Slayer girls and Anya and Xander managing to kill the Uber Vamps, so he didn't really sweat the massive plot hole. And before anyone accuses me of pretending to read his mind, he said that when asked about the episode in an interview. To paraphrase Joss, he wanted the empowerment, and to him it was more important than the "continuity" (a word I quibble with because it belittles the importance of plotting--plotting is much more than just continuity.) But I think a good story should have both: not just cool character moments but a fully functioning plot to deliver them. Yes, the show is set on a Hellmouth, which trained the audience to accept just about any contrivance and dismiss it as "magic", but you can't blame "magic" for every sin of the script. And I shouldn't even single out Joss--every Buffy writer was guilty of this kind of sloppiness at one time or another, because, I can only assume, tight plotting simply wasn't a high priority in that writers room, and there are many, many examples I could cite from the non-Joss penned epiodes as well. The Buffy philosophy seemed to be character character character all the time, but often the story vehicles that took the characters from point A to point B were fairly rickety contraptions.
but the one that does always stand out for me is the fact that Spike says to Angel "You were my sire, man," in School Hard, when we later find out it was actually Drusilla. Obviously, he could actually mean that Angel was his guide and teacher when he first became a vampire (something that doesn't really show during the flashbacks, at least not in a way that Spike would use that term for him,) but it is so clear what the intention of that line was.

Vandelay: Actually, this one was not a mistake. It used to bother me too until I recently came across the explanation as I was reading through Joss's old posts at the Bronze (they're fascinating, by the way - lots of trivia and they gives a great sense of what it would have been like watching the show back then and interacting with the writers online). Shortly after 'School Hard' aired Joss explained that 'sire' as the show uses the term does not necessarily mean the vampire that turns someone. It's a term that refers to the vampire that turned them, the vampire that turned that vampire and so. So Spike's sires are Drusilla, Angel, Darla, The Master, whoever turned The Master (if anyone) etc.

That sounds like a retcon and it would have been easy to write if off as one if Joss had said it after the show established that it was Drusilla that turned Spike. But the important point is that Joss said it way back in early season 2. I hope that helps - I know I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered this :)

[ edited by Let Down on 2010-06-12 04:53 ]
The Buffy philosophy seemed to be character character character all the time, but often the story vehicles that took the characters from point A to point B were fairly rickety contraptions.

Yeah, David Fury says in a commentary that perhaps the most important thing he learned from working with Joss is that whenever you have a choice between an emotional moment and the plot making sense go for the emotional moment. Probably not the best thing to learn ...

We definitely know that the line goes through Faith, because Faith is the second new slayer called after Buffy's season 1 death. Why would the line suddenly revert back to Buffy now? I don't consider it a fanwank at all. :-)

I don't know about 'definitely'. How do you explain characters saying in season 7 that if Buffy dies one of the potentials will be called? I'm all for justifying plot holes in Buffy but the 'slayer line' explanation seems like fanwank to me

From The Harvest:
Buffy defeats Luke by throwing a microphone stand through a window behind him, revealing light which is really just a light bulb, but which Buffy convinces Luke is actually the sunrise. Luke and his vamp buddies had gone to the Bronze shortly after the sun went down that day. They weren’t there very long at all before Buffy and the gang arrived and started beating on them. Luke really thought he had been there twelve hours? Really?


This, on the other hand, doesn't bother me. Luke doesn't have time to give it rational thought. He didn't think it had been twelve hours. It was just an immediate reaction to a bright light and someone telling him there was sunlight. I buy it. (That said, I don't think the joke is funny).
From The Harvest:
Buffy defeats Luke by throwing a microphone stand through a window behind him, revealing light which is really just a light bulb, but which Buffy convinces Luke is actually the sunrise. Luke and his vamp buddies had gone to the Bronze shortly after the sun went down that day. They weren’t there very long at all before Buffy and the gang arrived and started beating on them. Luke really thought he had been there twelve hours? Really?


This example demonstrates how much mileage varies for Joss scripts based on how much one values the internal consistency of the storyworld and how much one likes stories-about-stories. I'll give you, for example, the Ubervamps, who were a plot detail Joss steamrolled over to get to his message. I don't think this was a tradeoff moment for Joss at all though. It's about the difference between the worlds Luke and Buffy live in: they both live in an apparent B-horror movie backdrop, but Luke revels in the world, whereas Buffy transcends it. Luke believes Buffy because he lives in a B-horror world where there is basically no plot consistency; Buffy is smart enough and savvy enough to break out of that. Luke symbolizes the genre Buffy is transcending.

I think it's not only a matter of Joss caring more about the symbolism than about Luke acting in a believable manner--Luke has to act in an unbelievable manner, for the symbolism to work. There's lots of little bits and pieces where the show doesn't quite have internal consistency because it's at the boundary of several different genre conventions, and some characters are more aware of it than others. I think it's pretty nearly impossible to deconstruct stories and keep them entirely internally consistent, and so I don't see it as a flaw when Joss gives up a little of the latter in order to accomplish the former. But again, mileage varies....
I thought, and think, that the storytelling was marvelous.
SoddingNancyTribe | June 11, 21:41 CET


Totally agree. They call it "suspension of disbelief" for a reason. And when you're dealing with SciFi or fantasy, it becomes a much more valid concept. Going for the emotion and character development, if it's done well, means so much more to me than minor plot inconsistencies, it's just no contest.
You can have the tightest, most consistent plotting possible, and if the show has no soul or emotional connection, I will be bored to death, and not stick around.
Isn't the problem with that though that actual "suspension of disbelief" is such a moving target? In my experience, it only works as much as someone already loves the show.

So going for the "emotional" scene rather than the "logical" scene is something that only an already loved show can do. And if you do it too often, it stops working because the fans have started to notice. For examples: Buffy, Lost, BSG, etc.

Although I'd be curious if we can come up with a list of tight, consistent plotting that has no soul. I'm not being silly, but most of those shows I would think were boring and cancelled in season 1. And most shows don't get really crazy with their plotting until later seasons, often because they lack established mythology to contradict.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-06-12 18:51 ]
Hellmouthguy AnotherFireflyFan Let Down: The "the line goes thru Faith" isn't a fanwank; Joss himself said it after "The Gift."
In "Enemies" in S-3 when the Mayor says he doesn't want Buffy killed too soon, maybe Joss hadn't thought that part thru yet. Or maybe it's...

Buffy in "Grave" telling Giles another Slayer would repalce her, or the Potentials in S-7 saying buffy's death could call one of them, the only plausible explanation is that they are all in the Buffyverse. They don't, can't have Joss telling them things.
DaddyCat: At the end of the day I think you have to judge by what's on the screen. If Giles and Buffy both think, in season 7, that her death will call another Slayer then it's open to debate what the Slayer "rules" are. I don't actually care about the Slayer rules though. I wasn't talking about world-building stuff in my previous post, but rather sloppy plotting within episodes. It doesn't bother me one iota that Spike called Angel his sire or that the Slayer rules are arbitrary (or that every single ancient magical artifact can be found in Sunnydale or that the town has its own airport and college campus, or a million other nonsensical things); I understand budget constraints and the idea of a necessary suspension of disbelief, and I also understand that world-building is a process and sometimes a better idea comes along so you make changes to certain pre-existing notions. Television shows should evolve. Buffy was built upon a contrived premise and you just have to run with it or stop watching, and I get that. The "sire" thing is pocket change, so are the rules about Slayers. Neither of them invalidate any stories and they can all be easily reasoned away.

What I object to is stories that depend on contrivances and plot-holes to actually work, especially when the writer willingly chooses to let that stuff slide. That's producing a sloppy product. LetDown mentioned above that David Fury said, "whenever you have a choice between an emotional moment and the plot making sense go for the emotional moment." That's lazy writing. What a good writer should do is not accept the choice at all. Find a way to have the emotional moment and a plot that makes sense. So you have to do some extra work. Well, do the work. If the Ubervamps can suddenly be weak enough for Anya to kill, if Angel can suddenly find an amulet that just so happens to destroy them all, why not just give Buffy heat vision and call it a day? Where do you draw the line? That's what drives me crazy; the lack of effort. Mailing it in and saying, "this is good enough, so what if it doesn't really make sense."
I can understand where the annoyance can come from, particular in a show like Buffy (although it isn't the worst culprit - Doctor Who would probably have to be pretty high on that list.) Personally, there hasn't really been anything in Buffy that has really made me stop and go "hang on a minute," to the extent that it has made me think any less of the actual story.

Another great one I often think goes a bit unnoticed, is during 'Earshot'. We see Jonathon going up to the top of the clock tower, slowly preparing his rifle by fixing a large scope on it, whilst Buffy rushes against time to reach him.

Okay, first off, a rifle wouldn't be the best choice of weapon to kill yourself with. That can be explained away quite easily though, it was just the only weapon he had to hand. But why is he fitting a scope to it?

It did take a few watches to actually notice, but it does make the scene quite silly now.
The Buffy philosophy seemed to be character character character all the time, but often the story vehicles that took the characters from point A to point B were fairly rickety contraptions.


That's a good way of putting it and I basically agree with you. The first example you mention (the vampire in the Bronze thinking it might be daylight) didn't bother me and still doesn't (it was so silly, and made me laugh), whereas the UberVamp thing bugged me no end. Kind of random, I guess, what we can overlook and what we can't. Part of it may have been that S1 was a much "sillier" season, whereas by S7 it had become so epic that my standards re. plot were much higher. I do wish the plots were tighter and that some sloppy stuff had been taken care of within individual episodes, but it's not a really big thing for me. Still my favorite show evah :). As for the lazy writing, I'm willing to accept that they were churning out a massive number of episodes per year and perfectionism just wasn't an option. Emotionally, for me at least, the show almost never missed a beat over the first six seasons, which is pretty amazing. (S7 left me kind of flatter).

Luke believes Buffy because he lives in a B-horror world where there is basically no plot consistency; Buffy is smart enough and savvy enough to break out of that. Luke symbolizes the genre Buffy is transcending.


Love this, WilliamTheB.

But why is he fitting a scope to it?


Ha ha! I never noticed that before...
Hellmouthguy: I definitely agree with you on principle; Fury's statement is less than ideal craftsmanship.
Example, one we Buffans ahve discussed already at length, "the Wish." I imagine either the writer working alone or hashing out dialogue in the writing room and having Giles say "Destroying the amulet reverses the wish," then thinking, N"ah, it'll sound more dramatic if I have him say 'It will reverse all the wishes,' who cares, we'll never go back to this story."
Egotistical apragraph follows:That's oen reason I have a Self-insertion character in my fanfiction; he doesn't actually know things the on-screen characters don't, but he *thinks* like a fanboy, just one who follows an in-his-world real hero instead of a movie or show. So he accepts s-3 Angel solely on buffy's say-so :-).
I have read comments on multiple occasions from writing staff confirming that Buffy had used up her one and only passing on of "chosen one" status via death, so that one is pretty settled in my own mind. Any characters on the show thinking otherwise just indicates to me that those characters had a misconception which never happened to get dispelled before "everyone who can be chosen... will be chosen". (And I even have the feeling someone on the show mentioned the idea that the line might run through Faith now, but I doubt I'll have the chance to check on that before this thread falls far off the front page...)

I'd also heard about the broad definition of "sire" before - though not, I don't think, that Joss expressed such so early - so thanks for the info, Let Down! (And the Bronze posts are still out there, eh?) It also helps that Spike goes on to say "my Yoda" - as someone named Luke, I certainly know that it wasn't Yoda who told young Skywalker "No... I am your father!" [Well, for one thing, he would have said "No... your father am I!" ;)], but was instead a teacher/mentor figure.

As far as the Ubervamps, I decided a while ago that, as the First was "growing" its army and it was only "almost" ready, these were newly-spawned Turok-han, and not yet at full power/damage-resistance. (Maybe the one Buffy went Thunderdomey on was their daddy?) But, since I haven't seen this idea really mentioned by anyone on staff, this one, I suppose, might qualify as "fanwank" ;)
(And the Bronze posts are still out there, eh?)

Yep, to find them google 'The Bronze archive' and it's the first result. To get the older archives click on 'Past Archives' on the bottom right corner

For anyone who's interested, this is what Joss said about the whole 'sire' issue way back in 1998:

joss says:
(Fri Jan 2 18:51:36 PST 1998 ww-tl04.proxy.aol.com)
Angel was Dru's Sire -- he made her -- and she made Spike. But SIRE doesn't just mean guy who made you, it mean's you come from their line. Angel is like a grandfather to spike.

Ah. Found and favorited!

Thanks again, Let Down [that's seeming like an ironic handle at the moment]!
The one thing you should do when you have a mystery show.
Payoff.
But payoff in a way that asks as many new questions as it answers about the original mystery.

Or you lose the thing that makes your show good.
But why is he fitting a scope to it?

Well, it is Jonathan, i'm willing to believe he's really that bad a shot ;-).

In my experience, it only works as much as someone already loves the show.

Yep, agreed azzers. The thing about plot inconsistencies is, if the show's working for you they don't matter, if the show's not working for you they matter way more than they actually matter (if that makes sense). With Buffy (among others) I more or less didn't notice any plot holes (or just didn't see them as plot holes - Luke not keeping track of the time is one of those to me, he flinches reflexively and momentarily which makes sense to me and in fact doesn't Buffy even "hang a lantern" on his lack of time-sense with a quip afterwards ? Though granted, there's a fine line between "hanging a lantern" and just plain cheating). I loved the show and you tend to overlook faults in that which you love (and magnify them disproportionately in that which you dislike) whether it's TV shows or people.

(the Ubervamps did leap out at me though - aaarggghhh ;) - just because such a big issue was made of the first one beating seven bells out of Buffy earlier in the season and then suddenly they dust just like any other vamp, pretty glaring that one. We can fan-wank it away of course but then we can fan-wank most things away, cos we're, y'know, fans ;)

[ETA]If the Ubervamps can suddenly be weak enough for Anya to kill, if Angel can suddenly find an amulet that just so happens to destroy them all, why not just give Buffy heat vision and call it a day? Where do you draw the line?

Just to add, I agree with this 100%, it seems like I just don't necessarily agree with where you actually do draw the line i.e. it's arbitrary and it's in a different place for me than it seems to be for you Hellmouthguy but I still agree there is a line. If you pay NO attention to plot then it doesn't matter how much you pay to character, you still end up with a worthless story (and vice versa).[/ETA]

[ edited by Saje on 2010-06-13 19:20 ]
Saje, I think what it boils down to for me is that Buffy is a great--historically great in fact--show and Joss is a great writer (with some bad habits) and it annoys me when Buffy and Joss mail it in. It's like the Sopranos finale. It didn't annoy me to such a great degree just because it was a cop-out, but becuase it was The Sopranos copping out and the show is better than that. A Buffy story shouldn't be hacked out. It's Buffy, not some 80's cop show, and Buffy is better than that.
Really? You thought the Sopranos finale was a cop-out? How so? I really liked it, and I was a huge fan of the show. It seemed... I don't know, perfect somehow.

Well, it is Jonathan, i'm willing to believe he's really that bad a shot ;-).

Ha!

As far as the Ubervamps, I decided a while ago that, as the First was "growing" its army and it was only "almost" ready, these were newly-spawned Turok-han, and not yet at full power/damage-resistance.

I thought of that too, and I guess what bugs me is that it would have been pretty easy to insert that into the story. They aren't "ready" yet, they aren't "done" they aren't "cookies" whatever, something along those lines would have somewhat (though not completely because it's still a bit lame) appeased me, but they didn't even bother.
First Caleb does make a point of saying that "every day our (ubervamp) numbers swell" so the idea that the army hasn't finished growing is textual. As is the idea that the first ubie came ready-baked (since before the bug walked).

The weakness of the later ubervamps never bothered me though because I thought the whole point of the Bring On the Night-Showtime arc was that the first one was never quite the threat they initially assumed. Buffy actually staked it almost immediately when they first met but, having not slept for days, was fazed by the stake not resulting in a dusting. Once she got her (mental) act together, she killed it in hand to hand combat after a fight not much longer than a standard patrol fight. The main weapon the First and all its creatures had was fear, the ability to exploit psychological weaknesses in its opponents.

[ edited by hayes62 on 2010-06-13 23:11 ]
Sure but that was orchestrated and it was one Ubervamp, Buffy wasn't outnumbered, what, 100 to 1 ? And even then she found it more difficult than staking a normal vamp. And we don't know if ubervamps pop out as hard as the first one or not - assuming they develop power over time is applying the same rules to them as for normal vamps when we know they're not like normal vamps. Still, as I say, there're plenty of fan-wanks or generous interpretations, as there are with almost all the plot holes I reckon and folk applying them as they like doesn't bother me in the least (cos the line is arbitrary).

Saje, I think what it boils down to for me is that Buffy is a great--historically great in fact--show and Joss is a great writer (with some bad habits) and it annoys me when Buffy and Joss mail it in.

Yeah, it'd be nice if every single one was as close to perfect as you get in this life but whaddya do, the ME peeps are only human. I can understand that sort of frustration though, when you know a show is great, the times it's less great sometimes hit even harder than for a show that's merely average cos there's further to "fall".

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