Saturday, December 16, 2006

Claybourne: The Season That Never Was

In my previous post, I discussed the original radio and podcast drama Claybourne. Here are some further thoughts.

One of Claybourne's creators, Andrew Dubber, keeps a blog and in this post he explains that the 96 extant episodes of Claybourne were only the first half of a planned two-season story arc for the show. Regrettably, the money ran out, and the second season was never made. He provides a synopsis of the show for those who haven't heard it and a brief outline of the phantom second season, a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been.

He proposes many ideas I like and some I don't. In Season Two, we would have learned more about the origin and intentions of the taniwha (If you think the story is weird now, just wait. It gets weirder). The odious Frank Buchanan and his equally reptilian estranged son Philip reconcile to each other and find a measure of redemption as they sacrifice themselves to defeat the taniwha and save the town. Frank's proposed theme park, "Maoriworld," is never built. Clive Moody, a smooth talking computer expert addicted to creature comforts, goes mad and dumps all of his gadgets, from his espresso maker to his stereo system (perpetually playing cool jazz) out on his front lawn. So far, so good. Dubber's plans for Thompson and Karen, however, were positively perverse:

Karen's abusive husband finally turns up - only to be eaten by the taniwha... but not before threatening Karen with extreme violence. She ends up running away (after he threatens her, but before he gets eaten) and for some reason I can't entirely recall, she ends up in prison in Auckland.

You remember she took off with the money after Janine's death - well, most likely she was nabbed for passing counterfeit bills (though we toyed with the idea of credit card fraud). I don't think we ever finalised the details - but I know we wanted to subvert the lovers' happy ending at all costs.

Thompson takes her one phone call but dismisses it as another fraudulent Delilah trick. It was going to be cruel, surprising and very, very final. We just thought it was funny at the time and that seemed a good enough reason.

Thompson, of course, settles in Claybourne - probably, we thought, reunited with his wife (though she would have been fun to kill).
(Emphasis added).

I, for one, would have been infuriated with this ending. Call me an old-fashioned romantic, a sentimentalist at heart, but I thought Thompson and Karen deserved a break. These characters have been kidnapped, shot at, and buried in concrete up to their necks, and now they're NOT going to get together? Aw, c'mon! That's not transgressive, just twisted. What's especially disturbing is the evident glee with which these plot developments were contemplated. Sounds to me like some especially nasty postmodern cynicism breaking through, as if to say, "All that old-fashioned stuff about love, and courage, and justice? It's all bullshit." Yes, "real" life is often painful, cruel, and unjust. That's why I think, at least occasionally, happy endings are important in fiction. A steady diet of defeat in both fact and fiction leads not to "realism" but to despair.

All is not lost, however. Dubber concludes his post with this sentence that's practically a license to re-imagine the story as the listener sees fit:

"Likewise, feel free to embellish the story in your own imagination. It's all yours now."

I think I feel the urge for some Claybourne fan fiction coming on :-).

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