If you've ever watched a TV show and thought, "Wow, they're making it up as they go along," there's probably a voice in the back of your head that reminds you that TV shows are scripted well in advance so that the actors can learn lines, prop- and costume-people can get prepared and directors can start blocking out shots. Unless you work on Eureka, where network directives forced the season finale to be rewritten from scratch during shooting. And that's after three entirely different earlier drafts of the episode were written, submitted for network approval and then dismissed in the week prior to shooting. What went wrong?On the show's wonderful Eureka Unscripted blog, the somewhat unbelievable situation is explained:
It all began with Eva Thorne. All season we knew we had to pay off her storyline, including the revelation that she was much older than anyone suspected. But what kind of story could we crouch this revelation in? Tons of ideas were batted around. First we toyed with our old fear idea… that everyone’s past would come back to haunt them, trigged by what was essentially a “fear cloud.” This version of the story was working really well, so much so that it made it all the way through several actual script drafts. A week before shooting, we were in great shape. Then the Network told us that while our script was good, it wasn’t appropriate for a season finale. It was thrown out. Now we know what you’re thinking. Throwing out a script a week before production? That’s CRAZY. Well, actually it could have been… but then something cool happened. One Wednesday before shooting, the entire writing staff convened and re-broke 308 [the episode's production number] from the ground up in one, marathon late-night session. Then, we divided the script up and everyone wrote an act. It was a real team effort that was pretty darn exhilarating. The new 308 script arrives in Vancouver with a mere four days to go before shooting began, and was received with raves. Somehow, we’d pulled off a miracle. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Two days before production began… the Powers That Be pulled the plug AGAIN on the script. Major elements were deemed inappropriate for a season finale. There was an especially large disagreement about the final fate of Eva Thorne – what should happen, and how it should be handled. Should Eva live or die? Should there be a romantic subplot between her and Henry? Should the person she came back for in the bunker be her a) husband, b) son, or c) brother? Also, should Eva be immortal (our original concept) or merely very, very old? And what about Zoe? As a result of her contact with Element X (the purple liquid), should she remain immortal, or at least immune to diseases for the rest of her natural life? Answering all these questions meant re-conviening the writing staff ALONG with the Network Big Cheeses for perhaps the more important story conference call in Eureka history (so far!). On the line was this: we were to shoot in two days. Could we have an entirely new script in time? Yes, but after a second, page-one rewrite… it would probably be very weak, and this was our season finale. And if we couldn’t have a script in time, should we delay or “push” the production schedule… a move that would, literally, cost anywhere from $175,000 to half-a-million dollars? Well, for better or for worse… the decision was made to have us all rewrite 308 YET AGAIN at the eleventh hour. But there was no way such an important episode—our mid season finale—could get done AND be in awesome shape in just 48 hours. So what did we end up doing? We wrote the script as we went along. NO. That is not a typo. The staff literally wrote the next days’ pages (whatever scenes were shooting the next day) and turned them in the night before. This meant that our production team and actors were literally getting the story in the morning and shooting it several hours later.
Considering that the episode that resulted was more or less coherent, I'm pretty sure that the entire Eureka writing team - not to mention the actors and special effects team - deserve some kind of an award, even if it's only for patience. Here's hoping that the DVD will contain the scripts that we didn't get to see, if only so that we can find out why the SciFi Channel suits were so picky. By The Skin Of Our Teeth... [Eureka Unscripted]