SEPTEMBER 16, 2007
THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD
by Amy Berg
First off, I just want to thank everyone for their kind words. I'm really glad you've enjoyed the blogs. Our last day on the show was way back in July and I've since moved on to other projects (until we find out whether we've been picked up), so finding the time to write them has been difficult. But even if only one of you gets a kick out of them, it's worth the effort.
Thanks also for all the support you guys have given our little show. Speaking for the entire cast and crew, we really appreciate it. A special shout-out to Bubba who, based on my limited message board perusing, is clearly one of our biggest fans. Thanks Bubba!
I promised to answer some fan questions for the blog, so here goes. There were a few I couldn't answer, for reasons previously stated. And there were a few others I just didn't have time to get to, so I hope you'll forgive me.
Amy, can somebody on your end PLEASE update Jordan's information so that his promicin ability will be clearly stated?
Done and done. Although that's not something that happens on my end, per se. I don't maintain the website, nor does anyone else who works on the show. The site is run out of New York by a bunch of really awesome NBC Universal folks (Colleen Mohan, Mark Griffey, Brendan McGovern, and Juli McLaurin, to name a few). My participation is limited to supervising Maia's Diary and Kyle's Journal, and doing the writer's blogs. I just email stuff to them and they do all the dirty work. Thanks for all your help, guys!! It's an amazing site and you've done a fantastic job.
Rockingmule, part deux:
I'm still hoping to find out if Jordan's ability is only to remove other abilities, or if he has a Promicin Manipulation Ability. Shawn doesn't have a healing ability-he has a Life Manipulation Ability. He can heal or kill with the same ability, by manipulating the life force. I think that Jordan has an ability like that-something that could be used in a couple of different ways, and that he can temporarily affect a person's promicin ability, to shield himself from it, or permanently negate a person's promicin ability and take it away forever...
Collier can extract promicin from an extra crispy, permanently taking away their ability. If it was a promicin manipulation ability, it stands to reason it would work the same way Shawn's ability works. He'd be able to give promicin to people as well as take it away. And if he was able to do that you'd probably have already seen him use it by now, don't you think? We're usually uber-specific with abilities. Most promicin positives can only do one thing with their ability (or that one thing and it's opposite, ala Shawn). The kind of manipulation you're talking about is giving Jordan too many abilities in one... and it makes him too invulnerable (from a writer's standpoint).
My question is: Who are the elite - the Marked or Borg lady's faction?
Well, if you believe Jordan Collier, the Marked are most definitely the elite. And if you don't trust Collier, trust yourselves. After all, you've met three members of the Marked (Matthew/Tom, Imroth, and Parrish). Didn't they seem a little elitist to you?
Amy, you state in your blog: the last few decades have seen tremendous strides by women in this traditionally male-dominated industry. However, imho the character of Isabelle was way dialed back from her aggression in Season 3, but almost stripped of personality in an attempt to "redeem" her and have her fit in this season. Was there much reflection and discussion from the females on staff about what to do with her character this season?
Hey Chewy! I think I remember your screen name from last season. Glad to have you back.
I'm not sure why you've quoted me here, since the one has little to do with the other. I was talking about female professionals who work in the entertainment industry and the opportunities they have (or don't have) in trying to break into the business. So I don't quite get what that has to do with the arc of a malevolent television character. Yes, it's true that women work twice as hard to get the same respect as their male counterparts and sometimes that can lead to them being seen as "aggressive," but I wouldn't compare them to a vicious, uncompromising killer (which, let's face it, is what Isabelle Tyler ultimately became last season).
As far as dialing Isabelle back, yes, there was a lot of discussion about this in the writers room at the beginning of the season. The arc of every character is talked about extensively and with fervor. Our basic thought re: Isabelle was that last year she felt a little one-note. And that's something we wanted to change. Also, considering where we left her off -- nearly massacring a room full of school children as well as her own father -- there was really nowhere else to take evil Isabelle. Do we keep going down the same path we're headed? Or do we take her in a new and interesting direction? Frankly, it was a pretty easy decision. We wanted to further explore the character, to give her more layers. Stripped of her powers and locked away in a tiny cell with lots of time to reflect, this was the perfect opportunity to do it. Her path to redemption was a slow one. But every step of it was earned. More importantly, this is where the story took us. Sometime you guide the characters, and other times the characters guide you. Isabelle's progression felt very organic to us.
As the only female writer on staff, I was extremely pleased with what we did with Isabelle this season. She went from being a one-note queen bitch to a multi-dimensional character who was forced to confront her demons and establish an identity for herself. Her life was high-jacked by the future, and we got to watch Isabelle win it back. Kudos to Megalyn Echikunwoke. She did a fantastic job and we couldn't be more proud.
It concerns Danny's ability. I started thinking (as I'm sure a lot of people have) that Danny's ability is to give people Promicin. My thought was this: Since the Marked will be using Jordan Collier to "rid the world of Promicin" could it be possible that Danny's ability will be able to help in the fight. Collier takes away Promicin away but Danny will be able to give Promicin back. Can you shed any light on this little theory I have going on?
Ding! Ding! Bonus points for Ronnie! As you've now seen, your theory was on point. Danny's ability was to infect people with promicin. But it wasn't something he had control over, so technically he wasn't "giving" it away. Although the transmission was unintentional, it did serve to further Jordan's cause. And as I'm sure you've all pointed out, Danny's ability was a painfully ironic counterpoint to that of his brother. One giveth life, one taketh away.
And to answer a question no one asked, but I'm sure you're all wondering after watching the finale: why doesn't Shawn take Danny to Jordan Collier to have his ability extracted? Well, Jordan Collier is missing. As a viewer, you know where he is, but Shawn and Danny do not. Kyle has announced that he's been kidnapped by enemies of the movement. So Shawn has no idea if Collier is alive or dead or if he'll ever be seen again. Meanwhile, Danny is in excruciating pain. He refuses to be taken off the inhibitor for fear of what might happen (having seen how quickly the infection spreads, he's not willing to risk it). To Danny, there is only one option. Shawn would love to find another way out, but there simply isn't one. So he grants his brother's dying wish.
Amy, I know this sounds like a stupid question but can you tell me what month did every single episode on the 4400 take place in the 4400 universe? When I read a book, movie, or tv show I like to know as much background information as possible and I mainly like to know when the story takes place. It gives me a sense of realism to something when I know the date. Also could you explain Maia's age? During the Pilot episode Diana says she's eight. On her diary this season she says she's thirteen when she should be eleven.
I apologize, but there's just no way I can answer your first question. I don't have the time it would take to try and figure it out, and even if I did, it wouldn't be accurate. We don't keep detailed records for that kind of thing. As far as Maia's age goes, making her thirteen wasn't a mistake on our part. It's inaccurate, yes, but not a mistake. She turned nine the year she was returned in 2004. It's now three years later, which means technically she should be turning 12. But we purposely added a year onto Maia's age because of the growth of the actress who plays her, Conchita Campbell. She grew up like crazy in-between seasons, and we just didn't buy her as any younger than 13. Plus it allowed us to tell more grown-up stories with her this year, stories befitting someone on the verge of being a teenager.
...I find myself sweating the small stuff but, at the same time, wondering if the dedicated fans often over-think or micro-analyze shows too much? In other words, is it possible for the 4400's creative staff to live up to the expectations that some of us place on you? Obviously, you have to pay attention to the big things, but is there a quality control effort to try to maintain as much consistency as possible? Should we just focus on each individual season and forget about what might have been presented in seasons past because it is too hard to tie things together when you don't know if there will be another season until long after the current one has been written? We wring our hands over things like lost plot lines, unexplained inconsistencies, and possible misdirection. We see the trailers attempt to deceive us about what will happen next week, and we think the writers are doing the same thing...
This is a serialized, mythology-based television series. Every episode feeds into the other in some way. Realistically, it's impossible to do this kind of show without ANY inconsistencies. We do our best, obviously. But sometimes the demand to tell a good story outweighs the demand to adhere to a specific bit of canon. However, I think if you look back at the macro mythology that Ira and Craig have created, you'll find that everything adds up. It's only the micro details that occasionally slip through the cracks. But trust me, when it happens, it's on purpose. So if there is an occasional inconsistency, there's a reason behind it.
As I think you guys know, we have nothing to do with the trailers and promos that air for this show. Apologies if you feel deceived or mislead by them, but I assure you it's not us doing it. As for the writing, you have to keep in mind that we have LONG arcs on The 4400. Not just multi-episode arcs or season-long arcs, but also multi-season arcs and series-long arcs. Which means things that might seem inconsistent or unanswered now will likely be paid off later. For example, for a long time many of you were wondering if we were going to ever explain who Matthew Ross was. Some of you were probably ticked off, thinking we'd just dropped the storyline altogether. But then this year you got your answer, and it played a pivotal role in the Marked arc this season. Same goes for Diana receiving promicin injections from Kevin last year. Bet you guys thought we'd never pay that off either. And Shawn's cigar visions from" Starzl Mutation"? Events in the finale seemed awfully similar to what we saw in one of them, didn't it?
Basically my answer is this: you guys just have to trust us. Feel free to micro-analyze or over-think all you want. We don't pay attention to it anyway. We have a job to do, and that's our only focus. And I think that once this series is over and done with and you sit down and watch the seasons back-to-back on DVD, you will see that we actually did know what we were doing. And it actually does make sense. And the action actually does unfold really quickly. And you actually do get answers.
Bahmo, part deux:
So, we have all sorts of threads about what really happened to Alana; whether Shawn is still running for office; whether the people from the future changed their mind about the ripple effect and decided to go with a P+ world solution; what happened to Ryland; what happened to Nina; why did the super soldiers in season 3 have to go through so much to get their abilities when Isabelle's promicin this season required only one shot; who or what possessed Kyle previously if not the Marked, and how was it done; how can an ability (Cassie) have its own agenda; is there anything left of the Nova group; if the goal was to give everyone Promicin and, as seen with Sara, the people from the future can return on their own, why did they need the 4400; when was Matthew marked, and why would he need to run primitive 21st century tests on her when he created her; who brought the nanites back in time and why did Curtis say that the Marked had a one-way trip to the past when it now appears that they are just encoded personalities; and on and on and on.
I think a lot of these questions have actually been answered. You know what happened to Alana. As for the why...Isabelle might be a tough source to believe, but she had no reason to lie. Although personally I find it intriguing that the painting of Alana was dated 1885, and the White Light prophecy book was written circa 1918. But that's probably just a coincidence.
Yes, Shawn is still running for office. At least he was, until Jordan Collier's takeover of Seattle made his bid irrelevant. If you notice, he's staring at his campaign posters in that final scene.
As for the ripple effect, Sara explained to Tom last season that it wasn't working. So perhaps they had to take a drastic new tact. And she's just a communication device, not a soldier, so exactly what can she do to change the world?
In this thread, two of your fellow fans already explained the one-way trip for the Marked. They're both right. As for when Matthew Ross was turned...well, if you go back and watch the DVDs you could probably make an educated guess and hit the mark (no pun intended). As for his primitive testing methods, I imagine that if you're stuck in the 21st century you've got to make due with what you've got.
As for your other questions, some are the result of production issues beyond our control. What happened to Ryland? Well, Ryland got a serious smackdown from Isabelle Tyler at the end of season three and is likely reconsidering his position on a lot of different things. Why haven't you seen him? Because we can't afford Peter Coyote. If you guys only knew what little budget we have and the restrictions it places on us (particularly with casting), I think you'd really be impressed what we've been able to do with this series.
I'm a tennis fan as well. Who were you pulling for?
James Blake. After everything he's been through and as many times he's had to come back from injury, to still be out there playing great tennis is quite an accomplishment.
In season 3, why did the future send Maia back in time knowing that she would die without making a contribution unlike her other comrades.... did the good future people know that Tom would be marked, and if so, why didn't they prevent it from happening?
I know you're not about to get me started talking about time paradoxes. Let's put it this way, they didn't know she would die when they made the decision to send her back. Her future hadn't started to unfold yet, therefore they wouldn't know the end result. Not everything happens the way you intend it to, even for future people. As for Tom... I think the finale gave you the answer to that. Clearly they're not averse to putting people (particularly Tom) through egregiously tough situations, as long as they get the end result they desire. Earlier in the season, when confronted with whether to take the shot, it was a black-and-white decision for Tom. But now, after everything that's happened? Who knows...
Who is Cassie? Most of the 4400 abilities were genderless so what was the significant of making a female ability for Kyle? What was the framework or idea that went behind creating Cassie? Does she work for the good, bad future or the Marked? Why did she want Isabelle's powers back and Jordan captured? Why did she mislead Kyle in so many ways?
The finale answered a lot of these questions for you, I imagine. If you have any lingering ones, I suggest you consult Olandir's post from Sunday night. Well thought-out and concisely worded, Olandir definitely got it right. As for Cassie being a woman, initially I'd pitched out the idea that Kyle's ability could manifest itself in a number of different incarnations. But we nixed that in favor of consistency. Plus we really love the actress who plays Cassie, Tristin Leffler. As for why Cassie is a woman, it was chosen for all the reasons you can imagine. But mostly it was designed to help throw the audience off the reveal. If there was a hint of sexual tension, it might take you longer than it would otherwise to figure out she was actually his ability.
Why was Kyle so eager to put so much faith in an unknown ability (Cassie) but not in his father or Shawn?
Kyle never lost faith in Tom or Shawn. He just found something new to believe in, something that gave him a purpose. And when you're a person who's lacking direction, that can be very appealing.
So my question is one that has already been asked a hundred times. Who's on the right side? I would've sworn Jordan to be wrong, but he's against the Marked and I highly doubt those guys are saints. Are there any good guys now, or is it Past: good and Future--all of it--bad?
Black and white is too easy a distinction. And it makes for boring television. Who's right and who's wrong? As in life, sometimes there really isn't a good option. But don't just look at the methods. You have to consider intent also. And although his methods may be deplorable to some, Jordan Collier's intentions, to me at least, seem rather noble. After all, he's seen what the future has in store for us if the elite ruled the world.
Jordan Collier wants to build a rectangular enclosure of domed orange lights for Promise City. He only has $45,000 to spend on the lights and wants to cover the most land for his money. He has the restored river on the outskirts, so he does not have to put lights on that side. The side of the city parallel to the other side will cost $5 per foot to put in, whereas the side perpendicular to the river will cost $3 per foot. What dimensions should he choose?
Undoubtedly, he should choose the fourth and fifth dimensions. That way he has infinite time and space in which to build the enclosure.
Which sci-fi shows or movies have 4400 writers been influenced by when writing episodes?
To be honest, we don't really cull from other sci-fi series. (Unlike other shows who will remain nameless.) We are, however, extremely influenced by movies as well as books. I can't speak to specific episodes, but I can tell you that Ira is a huge fan of Westerns. Sam Peckinpah's work in particular. I have a feeling there's a story or two from our show that was inspired by his movies. Also, Ira and I are both big-time admirers of science fiction author Philip K. Dick.
Loved the season 3 bloopers and hope there are more on the season 4 dvds.
Don't tell the other writers and producers, but the post production department was nice enough to burn me a copy of the gag reel from this season. Really hilarious stuff. Our editors do a terrific job of putting it all together. Our cast is comprised of a bunch of clowns, so they have quite a daunting task. And yes, I can pretty much guarantee that the reel will make it onto the Season Four DVDs.
How do you write your episodes? Do you sit down and keep writing until the entire episode is done, going back afterwards and polishing it all up? Or, do you sit down and write piecemeal?
Every writer approaches a script differently. I usually opt for a direct approach. Write the whole thing out, beginning to end, and then go back and turn it into something that makes sense. But unlike other writers, I usually labor longer on individual scenes. I have an OCD trait that makes it difficult to move onto the next scene if I'm not happy with the previous one.
What would have been Lily Tyler's ability had the contract issues with Laura Allen been successfully resolved? Would it have been related to Isabelle's powers in anyway, or was that added to try and explain the rapid aging?
I wish I could answer this question, but I've only been on the show since Season Three (the first one sans Laura Allen). If Ira and Craig had an ability in mind for Lily, they've never revealed it to me. I can tell you, though, that it's not something you ever saw. Her ability hadn't yet manifested itself prior to her untimely demise.
Is it frustrating for the writers when you learn that certain actors won't be there for entire seasons, or big chunk of seasons?
Big time. But I think you already knew the answer to that. So thanks for sympathizing, promicinjunkie! Oftentimes we're simply "informed" that we no longer have a regular cast member. And that just throws a wrench in the whole works, as you can imagine. That's what happened with Laura Allen (a significant part of season three was mapped out before we were told we didn't have her). And losing Billy Campbell for over a year was certainly a tough loss to adjust to. We also don't have much choice when it comes to how many episodes a regular cast member is in. For example, this season we only had Billy and Conchita for 10 of the 13 episodes, so we had to write around their absences.
How are the Writers like or unlike the Geeks in the NTAC Theory Room?
We dress just as poorly. But they're way smarter.
Do any of the actors browse these boards, or are they advised against it, in case there might be hurtful, offensive, or objectionable material posted about the actor?
From what I've heard, none of the actors browse the message boards. Because of the micro-analysis that goes on, it can be difficult to read sometimes. Perhaps if they knew the writers get raked over the coals way more than they do, they'd be enticed to take a peek. I'm sure some of them react to scripts and question certain things just like you guys do.
Is there anything we can do to get more episodes a season? Thirteen just doesn't seem enough to fully understand the mysteries that are the 4400.
We're happy they let us do thirteen! Any second we get to work on this show is a joy. Although we'd love to have more episodes to tell our stories, we feel blessed that we get to do any at all.
Tom and Kyle have both had a rough time with being pushed around with future entities, poor Kyle more than once. What is it about the Baldwin boys that makes them such unlucky targets?
Haha!! This might be my favorite question. Yes, they do seem to be unlucky, don't they? But they're also resilient. Perhaps that's why the future chose them. As for why we chose them, it's pretty obvious. They're great actors who can pull off just about anything. Why not let their characters get pushed around a little and see what they do with it.
Are we ever going to see a stable lasting non-vague romantic relationship?
I'm not quite sure what you mean by non-vague. But with regards to the couples on the show, obviously we've had some bad luck. Losing Laura Allen was probably the most difficult hurdle. The relationship between Lily and Richard was our anchor for the first two seasons. And we also lost Karina Lombard (Alana). But there are still a number of great relationships on this series. Kevin and Tess are probably my favorite. I don't think there is anything vague about that relationship. Tom and Meghan's relationship seems pretty clear-cut to me, too. And that's something we'd explore next season, obviously.
Question for Amy: As of the last episode, approximately how many vials of promicin are out there? Are they most all in Seattle, or have they spread all over the world, so that anyone anywhere who wants one can pretty much find a shot if they look hard enough? In Season 3, Jordan stole 17,432 units of promicin from the warehouse, which to me, didn't sound like a whole lot. I never quite understood why they didn't just run out of promicin, until the episode in Season 4 which showed the machine that people could use to "donate" promicin. When was that machine built, and are there many like it all around the country/world?
"Promicin is available to anyone who wants it," Jordan Collier announced to the world. The vials stolen from Ryland's warehouse was just to get things kick-started. The second wave began with the promicin extractor we first saw in the episode, "Try the Pie." And you've gotta believe it's not the only one out there. Supply has never been Collier's problem. It's the demand (or lack thereof) that's always given him trouble. How do you convince people to take something that has a 50% chance of killing you?
I noticed that this season virtually all of the music on the show has been composed. Was this because of the "composed music is better" thread that was on this board, or was it for budgetary or some other reason?
Nothing against whoever started the "composed music is better" thread, but none of us read or heard about that. So, no, that didn't play a part. It wasn't really budgetary, either. I think it was mostly because there was less opportunity for it. I did the majority of the music spotting this season (which is where a writer/producer sits down with the music supervisor, composer, and editor to discuss each episode), and I simply didn't find that many "spots" where source music felt appropriate. Obviously there were exceptions, like the episode "Daddy's Little Girl," for which I hand-picked all the 50's-themed songs for the Kevin/Tess diner storyline. And also the finale, which contained perhaps my favorite song of all time ("Where is My Mind" by The Pixies). But that song was specifically chosen for the episode by Ira and Craig, who wrote it into the script. So, to answer your question, it wasn't really a conscious thing going into the season. The decisions were made on an episode-to-episode basis, depending on what felt right for the story.
Amy, I know that you do not wish to give away any of the storyline but one last question. It is understood that the catastrophe was to effect the human race in a detrimental way but is the unnamed catastrophe beginning now?
For more answers re: future people and the catastrophe, you should check out Ira and Craig's video commentary for "Tiny Machines" and "Great Leap Forward."
Alright everyone, I think that's going to put a lid on the blog for the year. Thanks for tuning in this season. Hope you enjoyed watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!
Best wishes to all of you.