Highlander star Adrian Paul has often been compared to a young Sean Connery, and we put that challenge to the test on the cover of RetroVision #2 in which Paul, in character as Immortal Duncan MacLeod, stands next to Connery in a classic James Bond pose.
These images represent our stories on, respectively, season two of Highlander: The Series (written by Scott Thomas) and the early James Bond thrillers, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger (declassified by Tom Soter). Look to the lower left of the cover, and you'll see a classic of a different sort: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. The actress is interviewed in Herbie J Pilato's retrospective devoted to the '70s series that co-starred Lyle Waggoner.
Associate Editor Ronald Dale Garmon takes a look back at Hammer's heyday with laserdisc reviews of some of their classic films; Edward Gross and Ron Magid continue their exploration of the big-screen Star Trek films, this time focusing on the fifth entry, The Final Frontier; Historical Photo Editor Tom Rogers provides an exclusive look at Star Trek outtakes, focusing on sequences shot for the first three films in the series but ultimately edited out from their theatrical releases; Stacy Meyn travels from the '70s through the '90s with her career profile of Jackie Brown's Pam Grier; Fred Szebin goes behind-the-scenes of the classic thriller Capricorn One and it all comes to a close with an interview with producer Deborah Joy Levine regarding her '90s take on Wonder Woman.
There are still limited quantities of RetroVision #2 available. Those interested can order via credit card (see ordering information on the RetroVision home page) or by sending a check or money order for $5.95 plus $2.00 postage to RetroVision, 1036A Park Blvd., Suite 103, Massapequa Park, New York 11762.
RetroVision #2 Excerpts
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Note: The following article on Star Trek V is excerpted from the 15,000 word piece that runs in RetroVision #2.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was both a critical and commercial success that achieved its goal of being the much sought after "crossover film;" a Trek entry that appealed to the mainstream audience. As such, it was a hard act to follow, a fact that no one could deny, let alone William Shatner. The actor had made a point in his contract for the fourth film in the series of being given the opportunity to direct number five. After all, Leonard Nimoy had twice been given that chance and Shatner knew that he was contractually entitled to the same thing.
In the pages of Captain's Log, Shatner stated, "Somewhere along the line, Leonard's lawyers and my lawyers had gotten together and drawn up a favored nations clause, which meant everything he got, I got and vice versa. Well, in the beginning, I was commanding more money, so that any raises I was getting, Leonard would get also. So I made Leonard a great deal of money on my lawyers by bringing him up to the salary I was getting. We used to joke about that, how that clause had benefitted him so much. But in the end, the fact that Leonard directed a picture, which meant that I would get to direct one, was by far the most important consequence of that clause."
"Directing has been a lifelong dream," Shatner enthused elsewhere. "My business is to entertain people, and to communicate my feelings to them, so I find the best way is to direct. Directing is the pinnacle of our business. A really good director has a point of view on his film and all his other skills emanate from that spine. I've always wanted to entertain, and I think I can do that with my point of view, so I'm under the impression that I can gather all my skills around me to make people laugh and cry. I wanted to do more. I haven't done it to the extent that I wanted to. I think the movies have matured beyond the series and we have to give our audience that maturity. I'd like to think that's what I've done."
No sooner had production been completed on Star Trek IV, then Shatner began thinking of the next chapter in the ongoing saga.
In terms of his goals, in the early stages of development he stated, "I have two things that I'd like to see. They're contrasted and yet unified. One is that I'd like to see romance in the stories again. The second is that I would like to see gritty realism. You know, with hand-held cameras, dirt under the fingernails and real steel clanging doors. I hope that the end result will reflect certain life experiences that I am going through, because as we take the characters through the aging process, there are certain inevitable questions one asks oneself through each passage, each decade that we pass through, roughly. We ask ourselves questions which are universal that don't occur when you're younger [and] so I hope that the end result will reflect some of these questions that I want the characters to ask. It is our hope that this film, like Star Trek IV, will appeal to a larger audience than just the aficionados of Star Trek. With the humor and action/adventure the film has, it is my fervent wish that that will come true."
Shatner definitely had his storyline in mind, beginning with the fascination he had always held for television evangelists who claim that God is speaking through them, rather than someone else. "I took the TV evangelist persona and created a holy man who thought God had spoken to him," said Shatner. "He believed God had told him, 'I need many followers, and I need a vehicle to spread my word throughout the universe.' That vehicle he needed became a starship [the Enterprise] which the holy man would capture when it came to rescuing some hostages he had taken....Finally the Enterprise arrives at the planet where God supposedly resides, in the center of the universe....Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the holy man are beamed down to the planet. It's like the drawings of Dante's Inferno, like a flaming hell. When God appears, he seems like God....but gradually, in a conversation between God and the holy man, Kirk perceives that something is wrong and begins to challenge God. God gets angrier and angrier, and begins to show his true colors, which are those of the devil....So essentially that was my story: that man conceives of God in his own image, but those images change from generation to generation, therefore he appears in all these different guises as man-made Gods. But in essence, if the devil exists, God exists by inference. This is the lesson that the Star Trek group learns. The lesson being that God is within our hearts, not something we conjure up, invent and then worship."
To turn his story into a screenplay, Shatner went to Ninja author Eric Von Lustbader, whose work he felt had the right touches of mood and mystery that would be perfectly suited to the premise of Star Trek V. Unfortunately, Lustbader reportedly wanted a cool million for his services, which Paramount Pictures refused to pay. While Shatner threatened--albeit briefly--to quit the project, he ultimately came to his senses. Both he and the studio decided that they wanted Harve Bennett to serve as producer, but Bennett, who, as discussed last issue, felt that he had been abused on Star Trek IV, was not too taken with the idea. However, he and Shatner had an extremely long and intense meeting and ultimately decided to work together. Upon coming aboard, Bennett's major problem was that he didn't like the basic thrust of the story.
"The real problem with V," Bennett told Cinefantastique, "was that the premise was faulty. You pick up a TV Guide and you read the log line which says, 'Tonight on Trek, the crew goes to find God.' Automatically, and unconsciously, you know we're not going to find God because no one has and no one will, and no one would be so arrogant to say what they're depicting on screen is actually God, because others will say, 'No it's not.' So we know we're going to face an anticlimax, a trick. The nature of the trick is the only suspense in the story. But you'd say this to Bill and he's say, 'No, no, it's the greatest adventure of all time,' and I'd say, 'No, it's not an adventure because everyone is ahead of you. So what we have to do is make getting there as interesting as possible."
THE FINAL SCREENPLAY....?
"I would say that the trilogy probably stands because of its centering on the life, death, resurrection of Spock and his refulfillment," stated Harve Bennett to The Official Star Trek Fan Club Magazine (#64). "This film is continuous only in the sense of time. What we are trying to do in each picture is explore other angles and other undiscovered depths of these very legendary and familiar characters. And that's not too easy because you reach a point where you say, 'How much more can we explore these people?' But remember, these people are also aging, which they did not do in the series. So as they age, they are revealing more and more of their back and foreground stories. That's where the challenge is for me: to try to keep mining these relationships. [Star Trek V also] has with it an imperative of going back to deep space. Star Trek II, III and IV were all, to some extent, manageable in terms of budget, shooting time and scope. With Star Trek V, we have now come to the space imperative and we have some very, very difficult appetites: planetary and construction appetites -- things you have to show and places you have to go, and an alien here and there. All these things make the cost and complexity of the film more difficult."
To make things a bit easier, both Bennett and Shatner began an intensive search for the proper screenwriter to bring this vision to the screen. Who they found was David Loughery, the writer behind Dreamscape.
"I sold an original screenplay to Paramount called Flashback," said Loughery. "Based on the merits of that script, Paramount offered me an overall deal, which I accepted, and one of the executives at that time asked me if I had any interest in working on Star Trek V. I said, 'Sure,' thinking that would be the last I ever heard of it. A couple of weeks later, they put me together with Harve Bennett. We talked and got along real well, and then we met Bill Shatner, who had already written an outline which he had turned into Paramount."
That outline, subtitled "An Act of Love," dealt with the Enterprise being commandeered by a rogue Vulcan named Sybok (as is the case in the final film), and being led to a world beyond the Great Barrier where they encounter God, who turns out to be the Devil.
"Paramount liked Bill's outline," said Loughery, "but they thought that it was a little too dark. After the success of Star Trek IV, they wanted to make sure that we retained as much humor and fun as possible, because they felt that was one of the reasons for the big success of that film. They wanted us to inject a spirit of fun and adventure into the story. I think they just wanted a balance between the darker elements and some of the lighter stuff. That was never really a specific edict. It was something we'd always wanted to do from the beginning. But when you're writing an outline, it's kind of hard to work in elements of humor. Those are the things that come out in the screenplay or the execution and the style of how you do it. There was an effort, but not one to make the film as funny as Star Trek IV. I think everybody felt they'd sort of had their romp and now they were getting a little more serious again, but let's keep that spark alive. So it really became one of those skull session three weeks, where Harve, Bill and I sat in a room and came up with a storyline that Paramount approved, and then I went ahead and wrote the screenplay which went through many, many rewrites before it was finished, as these things often do.
"One particular change was in the character of Sybok. Originally, he was a very messianic, possessed kind of figure who was willing to trample anyone who got in his way, but he began to remind us too much of Khan and we had to take him in a different direction. It would have been easy to write Sybok as a black-hat or a crazed Mohammed, but that was too much Khan.
"The idea of God and the Devil was reflected in the script's earlier drafts. Those drafts were much cleaner and more comprehensible in terms of the idea that you think you're going to Heaven, but you turn out to have found Hell. We weren't literally saying Heaven and Hell, but we were suggesting the idea that it was like, 'Wait a minute, is this God or the Devil?', without saying specifically that it's either, but instead is an alien entity that has tapped into our perceptions about where they're going. We did, however, run into some problems, one with Gene Roddenberry."
Roddenberry rejected the notion of the Enterprise encountering God, believing that Star Trek should avoid such specific religious themes.
"I didn't object to it being an alien claiming to be God," Roddenberry said in Captain's Log, "but there was too much in it that an audience could have thought was really God or really the devil, and I very strongly resist believing in either. I do not perceive this as a universe that's divided between good and evil. I see it as a universe that is divided between many ideas of what is."
This stance seemed particularly ironic, since in 1975, Roddenberry himself penned a proposed Star Trek movie script entitled The God Thing, which dealt with similar themes.
"Maybe Gene turned around and figured that it didn't work, and wouldn't work the way we were doing it either," Loughery mused. "I just don't know. I think we managed to pull off something that is able to tread the line. I don't think it was too controversial and I don't think anyone was too radically upset by what we did, although it seems to me that Star Trek was always meeting God in some way or another. That idea permeated many of the old episodes, and it certainly played a part in the first movie."
The writer quickly added that as fascinating as the theme of "meeting God" may be, it was the exploration of the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy that appealed to him the most.
"To me, God was never the most important part of the script," he explained. "Yes, it was part of the story, but my focus and concentration was on the relationships. The whole God idea was almost a subplot. We had to tread a fine line, because we could really become very pretentious and pretend that we're saying something infinitely important. What I think we're really saying is something that's very simple, which is that if there is a God, he's not a place you go to in terms of outer space. He's a place you go to inside yourself. We also wanted to challenge the audience's imagination and expectations when they realized that this is what Sybok's divine mission was. We really wanted the audience to stir around, look at each other and say, 'Are they serious? Can they possibly mean that we're going to see God?' Because, for me, Star Trek is probably the only arena in which you might actually try to do that. Star Trek has always been big enough to encompass almost any kind of concept, so we thought when we dropped the bomb and said, 'Oh, by the way, we're going to see God,' it would be something the audience would be excited about and say, 'Gee, maybe they will....who knows?'
"In terms of the Kirk, Spock and McCoy relationship, one of the things that occurred to me," he stated, "is that if you look at Star Trek, you see these three men who are in middle age, and their lives have been spent in space. They're not married, they don't have families, so their relationship is with each other. They represent a family to each other, maybe without always acknowledging it. That, to me, was the most attractive thing, saying, 'What is family?' If it's not three people who care about each other, I don't know what it is."
Interestingly, Loughery wasn't much of a Star Trek fan as he was growing up.
"Like any kid who grew up in the sixties," he smiled, "I watched Star Trek, but to me it was just another show and it probably wasn't until years later, when I was in college and caught the episodes in syndication, that I kind of began to see that there might be something special there. I guess I was never a Trekkie or Trekker."
Nonetheless, his screenplay does seem to capture the true essence of the characters. "I was really familiar with the show," explained Loughery. "It's just one of those things that whether or not you studied Star Trek, it doesn't really matter. It's kind of something you've accumulated without really knowing it. I think you could say the same thing about other shows you saw when you were younger that were popular at the same time. If somebody told me they wanted me to write a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or The Wild Wild West , or something like that, I could probably sit down and do it based on a kind of collective memory from watching those programs. So the characters were fairly clear to me, and also, to prepare, I watched the previous movies and some of the episodes. I write at night a lot, and usually at 11p.m. they would run Star Trek, so if I wanted to take a break, sometimes I'd go over and turn on the TV and that would sort of give me a feeling of the characters. But, really, there comes a point where you have to throw away that continuity and knowledge, and kind of sit down and make it your own. The continuity of Star Trek is that there are 78 episodes, 22 animated episodes, at that point five motion pictures, and I don't know how many paperbacks, comic books and all that stuff. The trick is to find something fresh."
THE MAKING OF
HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES
Note: This second season overview of Highlander: The Series is an excerpt from the 17,000 word article that appears in #2 of RetroVision.
"After the first year, which was very difficult" explains creative consultant and guiding force David Abramowtiz, "I think I began to get a handle on the show and understood that it had to be about more than the evil badguy who is coming around with his sword. I began to think of the moral and ethical dilemmas of being Immortal and asking questions like, 'What would it really be like on the human soul for someone to live five hundred or a thousand years? What would they have gone through and how would that change that person? What are the age-old questions? What does an Immortal think of God? Is redemption possible? We did an episode where a guy was evil for 200 year and the last 50 years he found whatever he found within himself and has been living an exemplary life for the past 50 years. MacLeod only knew him when he was dark and evil, but now he's good. The question is: what price does he have to pay for the time when he murdered someone a hundred years ago? What happens to that person? What is the justice for that victim? That's why I like Highlander."
Those issues of character is what appeals to Adrian Paul as well, though he admits that in the beginning the path wasn't an easy one. "I feel that the show went one way the first season, another way the second seaon and then found its feet," he explains. "In the first season it was more a relationship beteen three people [Duncan, Tessa and Richie] and good guy meets bad guys and see who wins. The point we arrived at in the seventh or eighth show in the second season is the sheer number of fights we wre doing in those first few shows. I suddenly said, 'This is not working. Highlander is not a B-rated Chinese movie.' What happened is they realized I did martial arts and had a certain skill for it, so they started writing more and more fights, thinking that's where we should take it. I sat down with the producers and said, 'I think there's much more to this character and this show than we're exploring.'"
Abramowitz had already come to the same conclusion and grew determined to turn MacLeod into a three-dimensional human being. "There is an absolute evolution to the character," he says, "yet he still remains the man he is. He is still his core. We maintain that what you are as a child, even though you live to be five thousand years old, part of you is still that. That part of him is Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod born and bred to be a clan leader and be responsible. That's why he agonizes over things and why he believes it is his responsibility to sometimes be judge, jury and executioner. It's not his right, it's his obligation. That gives you a complex, different kind of character that makes it interesting for everyone."
Gillian Horvath, who joined the show as a script coordinator in year two and ultimately became the "Associate Creative Consultant", feels that the show began to make a turn for the better with season one's "Band of Brothers."
"I think it was then that David Abramowitz's voice really started to be heard on the show," she offers. "Also, the arrival of [MacLeod's friend] Darius, aside from bringing in a great character, represented the first time that someone questioned the basic premise of the show. The basic premise is that this guy's a hero and he goes around kicking the ass of the badguys. Now you have this character in Darius who shows up and says, "Yes, but is it actually a good goal to kick the ass of the badguys?' Even though Mac has to be a good guy who has to fight the bad guys, you set up this scenario where one of his closest friends has questioned whether beating up bad guys makes you a good guy or whether you should be a man of peace. For the rest of the series, Duncan is caught in that dilemma of doing what he feels has to be done, but always having this doubt of whether it really does have to be done or if he's acting out of pride or arrogance. He questions a little bit whether being an action hero is a good thing to be. That underlying question shaped the whole rest of the series."
Also shaping MacLeod was a pivitol event of season two: the death of his lover, Tessa Noel (Alexandra Vandernoot). When the French actress decided that she was not enjoying the series grind and did not want to spend so much time each year in Canada, she asked for, and was granted, release from her contract. The producers took this potential negative and turned it into a dramatic positive in the episode "The Darkness", in which MacLeod rescues Tessa from danger only to lose her to a random act of violence as a carjacker shoot both her and pal Richie Ryan. Tessa died and Richie discovered that he was Immortal.
"The beginning of season two was fraught with change because of Tessa and Richie," Horvath explains. "The first few episodes were very similar to season one in that MacLeod was with Tessa in the antique store. A lot of people get the impression watching reruns of the show on the USA network that the first episode of season two was 'The Darkness', because the first three episodes of season two are basically very similar to season one. The real change in the premise of the show comes in 'The Darkness'. The thing about Tessa's death, having her killed by a regular, mortal punk in a regular carjacking having nothing to do with MacLeod's immortality or the Game, was to try and bring it to a level of 'this could happen to you.' That losing a loved one to a random act of violence isn't something that only happens to TV action heroes or Immortals or people in another type of life, it happens in the real world too -- totally unexpectedly, at a moment that makes no sense dramatically. You're at the end of the show, she's been rescued and then she gets killed. Dramatically, it fits no formula. That's not how stories are told. The point of it is that in real life things don't happen when they make sense or when they're expected, they come out of the blue when you least expect it. It was as much a shock for MacLeod as it was for the viewer. You're in that moment of relief thinking the story is over, everything's fine, and then, wham, your world is turned upside down."
For his part, Adrian Paul supported the way the character met her end. "A lot of people said that a major character being killed off like that was horrible," says the actor. "Well, yes and no, because the idea was that it was supposed to shock. Like you're driving down the street, you get in a car crash and you lose your arm. That's the kind of impact it was supposed to have. Obviously it did have that impact. People say, 'Well you could have dealt with it another way.' How would you have dealt with it? We would like to have seen suggestions on that. It's reality. On Highlander, although we're dealing with a fantasy-based character or concept, we also deal with a lot of reality-based issues, which is why it was treated that way. Sometimes I'm pretty detached from what the show has, and I was pretty detached from the real relationship between MacLeod and Tessa on screen. Looking back at it, it was a good relationship. Looking at the first year again about a year and a half later, I was sad to see it go."
And there really was no choice. Vandernoot was leaving the show and to have the couple break up on screen in any way other than her dying would have been untrue of the depth of the relationship as established between them. "There was no way," Horvath illustrates, "to have a scene where she said, 'Okay, I'm going to go to Paris without you. Nice knowing you, MacLeod.' It couldn't happen. The result was that it changed the tone of the show. It made Highlander the show where you couldn't be positive that the characters were safe because they were in the credits. In most shows, if someone's in the head credits you know they'll get out of any situation they're in. Over the years, long before Richie actually did die [season five's 'Archangel'], there were a number of times where it looked as if he were going to die. As a viewer you couldn't just sit on your couch going, 'I'm not afraid because I know they won't kill him.' Having killed Tessa, then Fitz and then Darius, people couldn't be sure. If someone had a sword to Richie's throat, you were on the edge of your seat wondering if he was actually going to live or die. That was exciting to have set that precedent that you couldn't trust us to protect the main characters."
IN GORD WE TRUST
Probably one of the biggest influences in the show's second season was the addition of producer Ken Gord. While David Abramowitz is credited with the the creative direction of the show, everyone -- incuding Abramowitz himself -- emphasizes that Gord is the physical presence that guides the show through all stages of production whether it's shooting in Vancouver or Paris (the two locales that the series, contractually, must shoot in over the course of a season).
"Ken is a line producer and more than a line producer," he offers. "He really has a tremendous amount of responsibility. It's not esay going to Paris when you don't really speak French and oversee a French show, knowing when to put your foot down and when not to. And then, on top of that, to have to deal with scripts where you have to deliver production values that are beyond what you can do in comparison to other shows on television."
"It is a tough show to pull off on a weekly basis," Gord concurs. "Just doing a cops and robbers show where you have a police station or a lawyer's office or something in a contemporary setting is tough. But we're doing all the flashbacks, all the swordfights, all the stunts, all the special effects and we like to go for better actors than most syndicated series -- all of which takes time and we've only got seven days to prep each show. I've been in this business for twenty years and this is one of the toughest shows I've worked."
Interestingly, when he first joined the show Gord's only previous Highlander experience had been watching the first Lambert film. He had never even seen an episode of the series. "Once I started," Gord explains, "I watched twenty-two episodes, the whole first year, in about four days. My impression of the first twenty-two was that it was a show that had great possibilities, great potential. I thought Adrian Paul was a very charismatic hero, but I also thought he was a little too serious. The first thing I said to him when I called him up was, 'I think if you're 400 years old, you'd have a better sense of humor.' He said he absolutely agreed with me, that MacLeod was too somber. Everything was too heavy and the show felt too heavy-handed. The dialogue scenes were like four or five pages each. Those are like death! And they're very hard to watch. I suggested that instead of doing five page scenes they do two or two-and-a-half page scenes. Move it better and quicker.
"The strength of the show," he continues, "was the rules and the Immortal world. The weakness of the show was the rules and the Immortal world. For a viewer who wants more than Hercules -- and I'm not knocking Hercules -- and want to think about morality and right and wrong rather than cleavage -- and I'm not knocking cleavage -- it's a great show because it's a thinking man's action show. At the same time, it's very hard to watch. Anybody who sort of just tunes in doesn't understand what the fuck is going on. Sometimes you can watch five or six shows and still not know what's going on. You have to talk to other people or really immerse yourself in the show. That's a liability, it's not user-friendly. Hercules is a user-friendly show. You can tune in halfway through the show, watch for thirty seconds and you know exactly where you are and you can sit back and start enjoying it. I thought, 'We can't do much about the stories because that's what the world is,' and like I said, that's a strength and a weakness, but we could certainly help the viewer out. I felt that the sets were complicated, the antique store from the first year had all these snakes and ladders -- as I called it -- staircases and walkways. The place that he lived was connected to the place where he worked and it wasn't like anything anybody had ever really seen before. It just struck me as complicated."
And it was an area that he felt he could make adjustments to. "When we did new sets in year two, we took on MacLeod's dojo and loft," he says. "I wanted to get rid of those snakes and ladders, and I had some pretty bloody fights with the production designer because he loved them. Everytime I took out a staircase of walkway, he would cry because we were simplifying his complicated sets. Basically I just wanted four bare walls. So one of th ereasons we switched to a dojo was to change things. The other was because Tessa was leaving the show. I felt that if the audience could get grounded at least visually in a space that they could understand, they could then move from there so that when he takes you through his strange world you've got a starting point. It's just a real simple starting point for the viewers."
It was also believed that by having MacLeod more involved in mortal affairs -- as discussed earlier -- it would also help ground the show. "In the second year," Gord notes, "half the shows were about the Immortals and half the shows were about mortals. The mortal ones were never as good as the others. The best shows, I think, are the gray shows where the guest star is not good, not bad, just a guy who's committed, like the Jonathan Banks character of Mako in 'Under Color of Authority'. He's not really bad because he's working for the law, but he's really ruthless and single-minded. those are the best shows and the hardest shows to write."
Adds Gillian Horvath, "We found that the pendulum had swung a little too far in the mortal direction in season two. There were a bunch of episodes in ar ow that had MacLeod involved in regular world affairs with no Immortals. If I could go back and change things, I would change the order of the episodes so that they were interspersed. There were like five episodes in a row with no Immortals and no Quickenings. You kind of wondered what makes it Highlander if they're not having a sword fight. Some of them had Immortals in them, but in 'Eye for An Eye' the guest Immortal doesn't get killed, so there's no Quickening. In 'Return of Amanda' it's Amanda so there's no swordfight and no Quickening; and in 'Run For Your Life' Carl Robinson is a friend of MacLeod's and the bad guy is not an Immortal so there's no sword fight and no Quickening. By the time of 'Epithet for Tommy' came along, which was not one of our best episodes, but it had a great Quickening, people were desperate for a Quickening. They felt it was the best episode of the year because the sword fight and the Quickening were back. I think in later seasons we got the balance better."
Indeed, Highlander as a whole would continually prove that it was that rarest of television commodities: a show that could consistently outdo itself, generally improving from season to season. Muses David Abramowitz, "You know how a physician's first rule is try to do no harm? Well our first rule is try to not do anything stupid. Everything we do may not be great, but let's try not to make it stupid."
THE RETURN OF WONDER WOMAN
It seems pretty safe to assume that an entire generation of males spent a fair amount of their spare time in the 1970s "contemplating" Lynda Carter in her Wonder Woman outfit. Frankly, for many of those thoughtful fellows there probably isn't much they remember about the series beyond that and, perhaps, the show's rockin' theme song. Nonetheless, there's something pleasantly exciting about the news that Wonder Woman will be returning to television in a brand new TV movie and potential series with a new actress in the lead role.
Particularly encouraging about this news is the fact that the new Wonder Woman has been developed by Deborah Joy Levine, the creative voice behind the most recent live-action updating of the Man of Steel, Lois & Clark: The New Adventure of Superman. As she proved with L&C, Levine most definitely has a knack for updating classic heroes for modern times. What follows is a brief interview that was conductedh between casting calls for the new lady in red, white and blue.
Q: So, what is it with you and super heroes?
A: I guess I'm back. I didn't mean to come back, but I came back to Warner Bros. after working for some time at Columbia Sony Tri-Star. And, just as I arrived at Warner Bros., they purchased the rights to do Wonder Woman from D.C. Comics. I was here, they looked at me and they looked at DC Comics, and the rest is history. It was the same kind of deal: "come up with a new take on Wonder Woman." I think I've managed to do that.
At least I hope it's a new take, because I never saw the old series and I decided I didn't want to watch it for the same reason I didn't want to read a lot of comic books: so I wouldn't be influenced. I guess my new take on Wonder Woman is that she is a Greek history professor, a young and very bright woman having a hard time juggling her personal life with her work. In this case, of course, her real work is being an Amazon warrior. It's like, "I'll save the world, come home, pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven and watch the soaps I taped this afternoon." In many ways, she's like a real woman, a real person. There's a lot less holier than thou, out to fight for truth and justice and more or less the fact that she's here, she did come from Paradise Island, she was sent by her mother who the gods spoke to and said you have to send an emissary. So she came here and that's sort of what she's supposed to do as Wonder Woman, but she's trying to live a normal life as Diana Prince, Greek history professor, as well.
Q: In Lois & Clark the super heroics were very much a backseat to the relationship. Where does that stand in Wonder Woman?
A: I think about the same. There's more concentration on her personal life, her love life. I think that she tries to live a normal life but she will kick ass when she has to. That will probably happen in episodes a couple of times because she does, of course, get herself into situations that she shouldn't. I think this is not a show that's totally about her fighting bad guys, and certainly not as it was in the comic books where she has to fight monsters. No monsters here.
Q: Was there any lesson from Lois & Clark that you think you're bringing to this show?
A: I think what worked on Lois & Clark is that it was really 50/50 or 60/40 relationship and stuff going on between them and versus the bad guys they had to deal with. The problem with Lois & Clark in the later years is that there was less emphasis, when I left the show, on relationship, or very sort of hurried relationship to try and serve the plotline of the bad guys. I sort of think people want both. I guess if you were to compare this to something it would have to be Ally McBeal meets Xena. She can be like Xena and beat a group of people if she has to, but the traumas of her life as a single woman living in Los Angeles is probably the priority here.