The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TGS - A Regretful Retrospect


Note: This entry is about "The Gargoyles Saga" fanfiction project. Not "The Goliath Chronicles" and not the original series.

First of all, let me preface this by saying, I have a huge amount of respect for most people who worked on "The Gargoyles Saga"... well, not for Sobotka or Revor. It's very hard to write by committee, and for the most part, with a few exceptions here and there, it was cohesive well hashed out.

But I was recently reflecting on the first two seasons of TGS, and felt there were still a lot of flaws. No one's fault really.

It was very ambitious, and I'm surprised TGS has lasted as long as it has. I know some are still trying to keep it going, and more power to them. But they've been saying this for over five years now, and I'll admit, even if they ever do materialize, I won't be taking a look at it.

But anyway, looking back, there are things I think should have been done differently, or not at all. Let's see.

I'm only going to handle the first two seasons here. Season three was a train wreck with some of us pulling the season in one direction, and Sobotka pulling it in another. Some of us wanted to give TGS a pair of testicles like the original cartoon had, and Sobotka was saying things like "You can't have Thailog do that, it's mean!" I wanted to delve into the conflict between Angela and Demona, while Sobotka wanted the gargoyles to fight robot ninjas. You can see the behind the scenes tug of war as you read those stories. But, since more people are familiar with the first two seasons, the first two seasons are what I shall cover.

The Disbanding of the Quarrymen: I just thought it was too easy. The Ku Klux Klan has been around for over a hundred years, and we know Greg planned to keep the Quarrymen around well into 2198. And then we replaced them with these terrorists... I think they were called Phoenix Rising, which only lasted two episodes before we realized they were dull. But, the Quarrymen played an important part in the gargoyle/human dynamic. Once they were taken down, all that was left was PIT really. It was between PIT and people who didn't care either way. Too easy, too simple.

And, I have to point the finger at one individual here. This writer had a massive ego, and it shines through when their pet characters, the Harrison brothers are the main players in the downfall of the Quarrymen. John Castaway is reduced to being a supporting character in the story, and Jason Canmore has a half a page cameo, if at that.

Okay, George and Richard Harrison are brothers who join the Quarrymen, one realises gargoyles aren't bad, and goes up against his brother who is a hardcore gargoyle hater and Quarryman... sound familiar? This should have been Castaway and Jason's story. Seriously.

By God I hated the way the Quarrymen were used, playing second fiddle to some geek and his half fairy brother. Then they get wiped out and replaced with a bland, generic rip off. And when they were used, they were every bit the same as "The Goliath Chronicles" Thugs R Us... and Castaway was a raving lunatic. Just like in TGC. TGS made no attempt to get away from that, even though getting away from TGC was one of the original mission statements of the series.

And hey, the Quarrymen were all about protecting humanity from the demons and the monsters, from their twisted point of view anyway. They should have taken part in fighting the Unseelie Court as well... not teamed up with the gargoyles though. That would never have happened.

At the end of that short story arc, the police disbanded the Quarrymen and wouldn't allow them to reform... because the authorities have every right in the world to disband organizations they don't like, regardless of Constitutional rights. That's exactly the same reason why Barack Obama had the Tea Party disbanded and outlawed... remember when that happened?

Counselor Demona Troi: Ah, the controversial one. I'm sorry, but I do not believe for even a second that Demona would stop plotting against humanity just because Angela yelled and waved a finger in her face. I just don't. Demona is too fanatical in her hatred of humans, blaming them for her misery, she's too far gone at this point. She loves Angela yes, but Demona has always been her own worst enemy. It's a fundamental part of her character. She's more likely to use Angela's very existence to justify further plots against humanity. Protecting her daughter from them. Hell, the existence of the Quarrymen proves her point in a lot of ways... oh wait, they were removed after only a month or so... how nice, that makes everything much more convenient. Oh, and she suddenly became a chocoholic too... gee, I wonder where that idea came from.

I mean, it wasn't half way through season one, and she's sitting down with the Manhattan Clan to join them in their Christmas feast. Um... I don't think so. On the timeline, this is maybe two months after she tried to commit mass genocide. And why? Because Angela in TGS was a stupid see-you-next-Tuesday and threw a fit to have her there.

For better or worse, Demona is easily the character who has the most variety in fan interpretations. Check out most fics, everyone has their own, very different take on Demona... honestly, I don't think some of these people quite get the character. But, for a series that truly wanted to carry on the spirit of the TV series, you can't de-fang your greatest antagonist, replace her with an evil fairy card-carrying villain, and have her befriend a hippie, lesbian artist and tell her "I love you."

I really never get the logic behind this fast track redemption. Even the newer flashbacks were added just to show "hey, look, she's not so bad. She was friends with Nostradamus!" It's about a hair's width away from "Springtime for Hitler" played straight.

When I became Head of Edits, halfway through production on the third season, I slammed down the gauntlet and said "we are making Demona the primary antagonist again!" and believe me, I did not allow that to be put up to a vote (I would have lost if I had). Had things gone differently, and season four and five of TGS been written, you would have seen a Demona more in line with the actual canon Demona.

Is it too extreme to say "The Goliath Chronicles" did better with Demona than TGS did? Because I think I will say that.

The Unseelie War: A great idea on paper. I just think it could have been executed better. The material in the first season, particularly Nicholas Maddox's "friendship" with Lexington and how he used and manipulated and mutilated him, was pure gold. There was a lot of promise in the second season. But well, we were all amateur writers.

First and foremost, Madoc Morfryn was not Goliath's enemy. He was an adversary. But look at Goliath's conflict with Demona, or Xanatos,or Thailog, or the Hunters. Madoc doesn't even compare. The only reason he wanted to kill Goliath and Elisa was because he was afraid of a prophesy saying a union between gargoyle and human would one day destroy him. It was not personal. It had no drama. Yes, Madoc had a great conflict with Merlin, that was personal. And his conflict with Oberon was okay, even if not touched on often.

Also, Madoc was as powerful as Oberon, and his legions of followers could have overwhelmed the world easily, but they just sat around a lot. Yeah, there was nothing stopping him from just appearing at the Eyrie Building and going Dragonball Z on the place during the day. They just didn't feel like it.

Honestly, Madoc's powers should have returned slowly, and the entire Unseelie Court should not have gathered all at once. There should have been a slower build up. Let the Unseelie slowly come out of hiding, they are waiting for their powers to fully return, and then, when the armies are finally gathered, when Madoc's power is at its peak, then he'd attack the world.

I think "The Darkest Hour" and "The Rising" should have been one single event.

And Jesus Christ, there should have been a major casualty. It was a war. Greg Weisman killed off the Magus cause he felt the events of "Avalon" were a war. And war has a cost, and that cost has to be painful. But no, it ended with a broken arm, and new clan members.

I'll admit, I was gung-ho about the Unseelie War when the ideas were proposed and we began producing it. Then it got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger... and then Madoc became the main character of TGS altogether.

Gargoyle Culture: It just seems to me like the gargoyles lost their culture. They were picking up more and more human customs. In the future they were raising their hatchlings like humans, instead of communally like gargoyles. But, alas, a lot of the writers didn't much understand what they were writing about.

But then again, I have noticed that a lot of fans seem to want to "Christianize and civilize" gargoyles in their fics. More often than not, they are turned into what I have dubbed: "Humans With Wings." To be fair, this isn't just a problem with TGS. Just about every single fan writer and fan artist has been guilty of this.

It's kind of creepy, because it smacks of a different kind of prejudice. Looking different is okay, but thinking fundamentally different is not.

Brooklyn's Kids: Ah, the twins. Graeme and Ariana. I hated them. They were annoying stereotypes. Hated Sata too, I thought she was beyond dull. That being said, I enjoyed our first glimpse of Katana, Nashville and eventually Tachi in the actual canon, and hope to see more.

The names there made no sense. "Sata" is not Japanese for one thing. It would be "Seta"... and that is not a real word anyway. The closest translation to English would be "Was." And the names Graeme and Ariana? Those are human names! Not gargoyle names... and there was no thought put into them. Where did the names come from? Back in 1997, when this project was being considered and discussed for the first time, someone who didn't even become a TGS staffer threw those names out there at random in the Station Eight Comment Room, and someone on TGS liked those names and stuck them in TGS.

Keep in mind, this was before Greg Weisman revealed the names Katana, Nashville, Tachi and Fu-Dog. But he did reveal them months before the TGS stories went live, and there was time to change them. While I understand TGS wanting it's own identity, and won't begrudge them that for new characters... I thought the pot shots that first story took at the name "Fu-Dog" were completely disrespectful towards the man who created all this in the first place.

"I still like 'Fu-dog,'" Ariana said, coming a little closer, looking shyly at Hudson. "It's cute."

Graeme snorted. "And I still say it sounds like it came from a really cheap Japanese cartoon."

"You LIKE cheap Japanese cartoons!"

"Yeah, but --"


How disrespectful is that? That quotation was from the TGS story, "Out of Joint Part Two."

Oh, what did TGS call the gargoyle beast? Nudnik. That's right... Nudnik. Why? I don't know. Yeah... that's so much better than Fu-Dog. I can only conclude that certain people did not know what a Fu-Dog was.

Nashville? Well, when we saw him in the canon, he was wearing a United States Navy t-shirt. Considering his father is named Brooklyn and if you know anything about the navy, especially in the Pacific Theater, you can figure this out. Tachi? Consider the name Katana.

Oh yeah, and in TGS, there was that one time that "Graeme" defeated Sekhmet, the Egyptian Goddess of War with... bubblegum. You can thank Stephen "You can't have Thailog do that, it's mean!" Sobotka for that one.

"Requiem:" First off, this was a beautiful story in concept. Unfortunately, it gave way too much away, and tied a lot of hands. Angela and Broadway still alive well, well into the future. Random lines thrown out, and characters we needed to shoehorn into seasons four of "TimeDancer" and even season five (when we were planning it). It also cemented the notion that gargoyles would start having nuclear families, and I've already gone on about that. Why? To add some very contrived tragedy to Demona and Macbeth choosing to commit suicide (because her latest mate, Blandy McBlandbland died), because she would be leaving behind a young hatchling she had been raising.  Angela was dying, so she insisted on Demona raising an orphaned hatchling... Demona had no daughter, this hatchling had no parents. Um... gee, you would think this is why gargoyles had communal parenting to begin with? But what do I know, I only watched the show.

David "Mr. Sappy Good Guy" Xanatos: This was "The Goliath Chronicles" version of the character... to the core. In fact, the reason I left TGS... well, there were a lot of reasons, but the final straw came when there seemed to be a full on staff uprising because I decided to depict Xanatos as an amoral, manipulative schemer. I did not typo. Portraying him the way the show did was bad, but having him throwing barbeques for the gargoyles while wearing an apron that says "MONEY TO BURN" is good. Okay, okay, that apron is kind of funny, but you know what I mean. Wait... no it's not. Let's just say I felt extremely vindicated when Xanatos appeared in the comics, and was being portrayed as... an amoral, manipulative schemer who did sic Coldsteel, Coyote, and Steel and Iron Clan robots on the gargoyles. Extremely vindicated.

The Wrong Focus: Goliath ceased to be the main character entirely. While he did get some focus, most of it centered on Brooklyn and Angela. Brooklyn had just returned with Not-Katana and the two really annoying twins so I get why they were explored, but they shouldn't have dominated. Angela became who everyone wanted to kidnap, plus her overnight reform of Demona Troi. But really, and especially in the second season, the Unseelie Court became the villain protagonists of the series in all but name. They dominated. Goliath went from being the main character to a supporting character, albeit an important one, but still. In retrospect, I contributed to this one back in the day because I liked Goliath a lot less than I do now. I loved Demona even if, back then, I hated what had been done with her. I was a big fan of Brooklyn also. I'd rather not step on any toes, but before I left TGS, there was a story being planned (or at least talked about) that would have been about the passing of the Gargoyles Minority Protection Act. Yes, I wrote a story about that years after the fact, but it was not that story. For starters, in the TGS one, Demona was still a good guy (this might have been changed had my plan for her in season four and five gone as I wanted), and Goliath didn't sacrifice his life.

Lack of Shakespeare: A lot of TGS staff members didn't know Shakespeare all that well. Some did, a little bit more was brought in, but just as much was shut out or shut down. There was also a desire among some staff members to bring in Prospero from Shakespeare's "The Tempest", and he almost was... then those staff members left, and the ones who remained on staff de-Shakespeared Prospero... they removed his magic, his immortality, Ariel and Caliban, and made his "alias" his real name because they couldn't be bothered to read the play or watch a production due to lack of interest.

Don't get me wrong. I liked a lot of what was in the first two seasons. Just looking back in retrospect, it could have been done better, and that is without factoring in what Greg revealed and what was in the comics. That and I just like Greg Weisman's take on things much better.

5 comments:

  1. I don't like TGS either. I just found that, for something that was supposed to carry on the show's legacy, it took far too many liberties. And what the heck did they do to Demona? And Thailog? It just baffles me.

    And I hate, HATE Andrea. Andrea needs to go away, forever.

    You know that's better than TGS? The GTT! Gargoyles Twitter/Formspring Theater. Now that's good quality fanfiction!

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  2. You pretty much articulated most of my main problems with TGS.

    Though in Madoc's defence, I still think he was a pretty neat character in concept. The problem came when TGS started to become "The Madoc Mofryn Show". Ithink he would have worked better as a mainly Pendragon villian who occasionally crossed over to the main series.

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  3. Let me preface this with the fact that I've never read a word of TGS and have absolutely no intention of doing so.

    That being said, I DO love the Gargoyles/SpecSpidey Formspring scene, which some might call TGS' spiritual (and far higher quality) successor. Certainly, they have somewhat similar goals. But reading back on this post, I think I can see where the key difference lies:

    Respect. The Formspring players, without exception, have extraordinary reverence for Greg Weisman and follow his canon-in-training info to the letter. Needless to say, based on your words here, that was not the case for much of TGS.

    While I have my complaints about the Formspring storyline (principally, that Mab and her Court went down far too quickly once the momentum started rolling), it never loses sight of itself or the creator it's cribbing from, and for that I am quite grateful.

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  4. gxb - I think one more story should be added to that list of stories that should not have been written: Games Without Frontiers. I sincerely believe what I said about the people trying to continue tgs.

    I view tgs as a grand experiment . . an experiment that should have been ended a few years ago . . politely.

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  5. I don't think there's any chance it is being continued.

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