Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blast from the Past #398: April 21, 2004 Re: TMNT - 77 and 78 Premises

Subj: Re: TMNT - 77 and 78 Premises
Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004 12:12:45 AM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine


Here are my comments on Ep. 77 and 78 premises.

I'm somewhat disappointed with both of these premises, which have big logic holes and a whole lot of brainless noisy jumping around for the sake of noisy jumping around. There is potential here, but I fear it's going to take quite a bit of work to make these episodes come together.


comments on Ep. 77 premise

1.) The idea that the Shredder has a countdown going on which is somehow broadcasting a signal which is picked up -- apparently randomly -- by a computer in the Turtles' lair just seems really silly to me.
And the idea expressed later on in the outline -- that Karai sent them the signal -- is just as silly. Wouldn't it be detected by the Shredder's technicians? And if not, why doesn't she just send them a message telling them what the Shredder is up to, instead of a mysterious countdown?

2.) I'm also just NOT buying this "Shredder's going to destroy all life on Earth" bit. It's just pointlessly evil, and we've built up the Shredder as someone who is not like that. It just makes no sense. Why would he destroy a planet full of potential subjects and rich resources? Why not leave his lieutenants -- Hun and Karai -- in charge on Earth to maintain his empire in case he needs to come back? I don't even buy the idea that we need a bomb anyway -- why isn't the Shredder leaving in his own spaceship enough?

3.) I get the whole "loyal Hun" thing, but in these episodes he takes it to a truly IDIOTIC level. We are asked to believe that -- even after his Master is revealed to be an ALIEN (!) -- Hun is not only willing to sacrifice his own life but the lives of every other human being on Earth!? I find it hard -- make that impossible -- to believe that Hun's loyalty to the Shredder would extend this far. And is Hun TRULY that bereft of any other significant human contact or connection? What about the Purple Dragons? What about family? What about some loyalty to the freakin' HUMAN RACE?
The fact that in this episode Hun just blithely accepts that Saki is an Utrom -- one of the same race, remember, that Hun -- as an agent of the Shredder -- has been an ENEMY of all these years, is just one more indication that the writer has no clue how to treat these characters.  The more I think about it, this seems like such a GIGANTIC lie that I can't really see how even the legendary loyalty of Hun could survive this kind of reveal. 
Lloyd, I know you like the idea of Hun's absolute loyalty to the Shredder, and it HAS been a great element for the stories up until now, but I am really thinking that this might be the time to end it -- and start a new chapter of Hun as a character WITHOUT the Shredder. I'm not saying that he would turn into a "good guy" (though it might be fun and subversive to play with that idea), but he could certainly either feud with Karai to lead the Foot (which, we must remember, will remain a presence on Earth after these two episodes) or return to the Purple Dragons and turn them into a more viable and frightening threat (which could be cool).
Going in one of these directions would also allow us to point out a key difference between Hun and Karai: While he is appalled that Saki had deceived him all these years and that his Master was a stinkin' alien, Karai has not only fully accepted it, but AIDED Saki in his deception.
Actually, I just had a wild thought -- if Karai was the ONLY member of the Foot (at least currently) who knew that the Shredder was really an Utrom, what would the reaction be of all of the OTHER Foot when the secret is revealed? What if THEIR loyalty to the Shredder is thus broken -- and, by extension, any loyalty they would have to Karai? And what if the upshot of this is that Karai gets kicked out of the Foot, leaving Hun in charge... and Karai goes on to lead... the Purple Dragons??!!
Also, even though the character of Chaplin has never been terribly well-developed, I have not seen any indication in his past appearances that he is so pissed off at/detached from the rest of the human race that he would GLEEFULLY anticipate the deaths of everyone on the planet.

4.) Re: the following:

"The Shredder rises, smiling.  Soon he will finally be free of this miserable, backwater planet … his “prison” for centuries.  Soon he will return to space and his true destiny … and he will leave this planet absolutely dead … “My own gesture of gratitude for this pathetic rock’s ‘hospitality’!”"

I don't get what the Shredder is bitching about. While I can see his point that Earth is not his homeworld, he's actually done quite well on this "pathetic rock". Not to mention that if he HADN'T landed on this "pathetic rock", he'd likely long ago have suffered whatever punishment the Utroms would have chosen to visit on him for his previous crimes. Instead, he escaped his captivity, quickly gained power and followers, built a huge criminal empire, and lived for many centuries in luxury. Not bad for being in this "prison".

5.) Re: the following:

"SPACE:  A US GOVT. satellite in orbit around Earth suddenly LIGHTS UP.  It reconfigures, moving a CAMERA LENS and turning it from Russia to the United States.  Through the lens, we see it ZOOM IN, finding NEW YORK.  ZOOM IN to Manhattan.  ZOOM IN to Oroku Saki’s MANSION.  The camera switches to INFRARED, and the mansion is GLOWING."

It seems like just MINUTES after this, the Marines are invading the Shredder's mansion. Unless there was already some special force waiting on standby for exactly this mission, this seems TOTALLY ridiculous.

6.) Re: the following:

"Just as Hun catches up, there’s an explosion right by them, knocking Shredder back and revealing his UTROM form."

I know that we want to reveal the Shredder's alien nature to his allies in this two-parter, but this seems very silly, especially after many episodes where the Shredder gets run through the wringer in various battles, and his armor never pops open to reveal the Utrom within.

7.) Re: the following:

"Karai climbs aboard with Chaplain’s help – Shredder is at the controls now, and the rear hatch is closing…6 … 5 … 4 …

The Turtles and Splinter leap … 3 … 2 … 1 …

… just as inside the Shredder hits the ignition…

The REAR THRUSTERS IGNITE, filling the screen to BRIGHT WHITE, fusion energy filling the chamber – and incinerating the air where the Turtles and Splinter were."

As we discover in the following episode, the Turtles WEREN'T incinerated, even though this scene would lead you to think -- quite rightly, in my opinion -- that there was not only no way that they could escape the "fusion energy", but somehow find their way into the ship in the next episode. And isn't it kind of doofy to place the rear hatch of a spaceship in a spot which is so perilously close to the rocket exhaust?

8.) Re: the following:

"The fight between Leo, Raph and Splinter has moved out into the main chamber, containing the Shredder’s SHIP, as have Mikey and Don (and Honeycutt).  The Turtles and Splinter are exhausted, wounded, and things have never looked bleaker.  They’re surrounded by literally DOZENS of Foot as well as Karai and Hun, with no way out.  And suddenly they all stop."

I think it's quite a bit of hyperbole to say "things have never looked bleaker. The Turtles have been in tougher fights -- think back to their assault on the Shredder's tower HQ.

9.) Re: the following:

"A storage room.  Karai pulls away from Leo, and turns to see Raph and Master Splinter with him.  Karai is furious that Splinter is with them (Her loyalty to the Shredder sees Splinter as Shredder’s nemesis). "

This bit with Karai being "furious that Splinter is with them" seemed to me to come out of left field, and the explanation of WHY she is "furious" seemed quite weak.
Also, Karai seems to have left her brain in her other ninja outfit. First we have her betraying her beloved master, the Shredder, to warn the Turtles about the planet-killing bomb so that they can come and hopefully disarm it... and then when they get there she tries to kick their asses! How's THAT going to help save the planet?


Notes on Ep. 78 premise

1.) I'm still not clear how the Turtles and Splinter managed to get onto the Shredder's ship after the end of the last episode.

2.) Re: the following:

"… because Leo pulls a fast one and knocks Karai back into an escape pod … <launching> her off the ship and back towards earth.

Chaplin goes to try and save Karai … but, he’s too late.  Chaplin flies into a rage and charges at Leonardo … who puts Chaplin down with one punch and goes back to the fighting."

And this is the same Chaplin who cares so little about all of the people on Earth that he thought it was "cool" that the bomb was going to kill everybody? What's so special about Karai?

3.) Re: the following:

"Shredder comes on like a desperate, do-or-die, murderous alien in a big, nasty exo-suit!"

This seems very deja vu to me. Didn't we just do this exo-suit thing?

4.) Re: the following:

"… just then … waaaaa-hooooo!   Like Han Solo in Star Wars, the Utroms return via their transmat device!  Mortu’s leading them; they’re heavily armed and armored and have come to specifically kick the Shredder’s butt and take him into custody!"

While I am not above a big coincidence, this one just seems TOO big, a true "deus ex machina" solution to the problem of the Shredder. For this to work (at least for me), we need to do SOME foreshadowing of it, even something nonspecific like having the Shredder talking with Karai early in Episode 77 about why he is giving this starship project such high priority, and he could tell her that it is because he knows at some point the Utroms will very likely come back to Earth to try to recapture him... and he wants to be gone before that happens.

5.) Re: the following:

"Realizing that he’s outnumbered and has no hope of winning, the Shredder vows to never be taken alive!  He presses a button and …

Down on earth, Honeycutt has just stopped the timer!  “I’ve done it.  I’ve stopped it!”

But, the Shredder has pressed the failsafe, which has accelerated the device down to the last five minutes … and it’s ticking down."

I guess the Shredder forgot that he was in SPACE, and the bomb is back on EARTH. His button-pressing would therefore do NOTHING to keep him from being "taken alive".


I think there are a few MAJOR structural problems with these two episodes. I'll try to go through them and if possible suggest alternatives.

1.) The biggest problem is this "planet-killing" bomb idea. As I've mentioned above, it just seems totally over-the-top and out of character for our Shredder. It also causes serious logic problems for the motivations and actions of other characters, especially Hun.
My solution would be to get rid of the bomb completely, and turn the SHIP into the threat -- maybe not to the ENTIRE Earth, but to a large city (New York, perhaps). Here's how: The Shredder's ship lifts off with our heroes on board, battling desperately to try to stop the Shredder from escaping. The raging battle escalates to the point where key systems on board are damaged, and the ship begins a downward orbital spiral, doomed to impact somewhere on Earth -- and it will make a BIG crater (like the size of New York). Perhaps the battle with the Shredder gets to a point where the Saki Utrom is forced to abandon his armor... but at the last minute, he successfully gets into a long-range escape pod and blasts out of the doomed ship, cackling evilly as he rapidly rockets away from Earth and watches his foes' sure impending doom on his long-range sensors (or via internal monitoring devices inside the starship).
Suddenly the Utroms show up and beam our heroes off the ship... but it's not enough! The ship is still on a downward spiral and will crash on Earth, killing millions and spreading dangerous radioactive waste over thousands of square miles. Don suggest to the Utroms that they can beam it away from Earth and into the sun... to which the dismayed Utroms reply "No can do!" It turns out that their transmat beam cannot handle such huge objects all at once. Don gets another bright idea and asks if they can do it in pieces! The Utroms begin their race against time -- can they chip away at the ship fast enough to get rid of all of it before it crashes on Earth? (The tension could be heightened by the fact that targeting the transmat beam on this kind of rapidly moving object is VERY difficult.) We then have a cool series of visuals as the transmat carves/gouges huge same-shaped chunks, haphazardly, out of the carcass of the ship. It's getting down to the wire as the ship is whittled away, bit by bit... until finally, just before the last car-sized chunk is about to hit the Empire State Building (or something interesting), it is zapped away... except for a LITTLE piece, about the size of a slice of bread, which bounces off a sidewalk... and gets picked up by a bum.
Meanwhile, the Saki Utrom is cackling and gloating over his escape, and planning his future evil plans... when we hear the familiar sounds of a transmat beam, and we see his horrified expression as he realizes the Utroms have tracked and found his little escape pod, just before he dematerializes and is returned to their custody.

(Another idea which would work with the scenario I have outlined -- if we really want to have a bomb involved as a source of drama and tension -- would be to have the Shredder SAY that he has planted a bomb of some vast power [though perhaps not "planet-killing" scope] in his mansion or even at some other location, and one or more of the Turtles has to try to find it/disarm it while the others battle with the Shredder. To their shock, after much trouble finding/disarming it, they discover that it is a dummy -- only meant to distract them from the Shredder's real goal, which is to escape in his starship.)

2.) The arrival of the Marines, as I have noted above, is -- while visually cool and exciting -- really nonsensical. We need to find a way to get them there which makes more sense... that is, if we decide we even need to have them show up and join the fray.
Okay, now I'm going to shock you, and suggest that we bring into this battle -- BISHOP!!! Here's the idea: part of Bishop's black ops division, assigned to investigate the suspicious salvaging of alien technology left over from the Triceraton invasion of Earth, has been observing suspicious activity around the Shredder's mansion, as well as detecting and analyzing strange energy readings coming from that area. They are thus primed to respond IMMEDIATELY when the shit hits the fan, and a crack team of Bishop's "Marines", including his commandoes and maybe those mutant guys, and maybe even Touch and Go, assault the Shredder's mansion. It might even allow us to do a cool face-off between Bishop and the Shredder.

-- Pete


  1. I have to confess - I felt like changing the Shredder from Oroku Saki into some kind of alien was not one of the 4Kids' series better ideas. Did this originate with their writers, with you giving your approval? Or did you come up with the idea? (Apologies if this has been brought up before.)

    I enjoyed much of the first few seasons of this show, but at some point, it seemed like the writers were struggling for good ideas.

  2. "Miserable Dreamer said...
    I have to confess - I felt like changing the Shredder from Oroku Saki into some kind of alien was not one of the 4Kids' series better ideas. Did this originate with their writers, with you giving your approval? Or did you come up with the idea? (Apologies if this has been brought up before.)"

    We will have to agree to disagree on this one, I'm afraid. I do like the idea, and it is not just because it was my idea (according to Lloyd Goldfine, and I think he is right). I liked the way it drew together the disparate elements of the Turtles' origin story -- the sci-fi and ninja parts. And it worked really well for the show -- for example, I am pretty sure that we would never have gotten away with having Leonardo cut off the Shredder's head if we had not revealed later on that it was just part of a robot body.

    And it wasn't just "some kind of alien" -- it was an Utrom, and that species had a significant (albeit unintentional) role in the creation of the TMNT.

    And in a way, he still WAS Oroku Saki -- at least, that was the human identity he had taken on.

    "I enjoyed much of the first few seasons of this show, but at some point, it seemed like the writers were struggling for good ideas."

    I would agree that, in general, the early seasons were the best. But there was definitely a lot of good stuff in the later shows as well. -- PL

  3. In a way it felt like the whole show could have ended with Season 3's finale and it would have been excellent. That's not to say the show wasn't consistently good afterward, but this two part finale did have a "series finale" vibe to it. Ch'rell was abandoned on an ice asteroid, the Turtles/Splinter finally triumphed over the Foot Clan, Karai/Chaplain went to jail, etc.

    BTW, do you have any development notes from the Fast Forward episodes? It would be really interesting to read how the whole Fast Forward concept panned out, and what the early ideas were from the first episodes of it.

  4. "precita said...

    BTW, do you have any development notes from the Fast Forward episodes? It would be really interesting to read how the whole Fast Forward concept panned out, and what the early ideas were from the first episodes of it."

    Unless all my emails from that period have mysteriously disappeared, I should have all my comments on "Fast Forward". Maybe if I keep going with this, I will eventually get to them. -- PL

  5. Shredder invading the Utrom homeworld with the Foot would have been more interesting than the actual episodes.

    Hun's reaction to the reveal makes little sense after him hearing Shredder's line about having his head separated from his body.