Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blast from the Past #490: August 19, 2005: Re: FW: Serling stuff, and sketch designs for Serling head

Subj: Re: FW: Serling stuff
Date: Friday, August 19, 2005 2:11:22 PM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine


It's probably to the credit of those who have worked so far on the character of Serling that I have already established him in my mind as a real personality instead of just a goofy robot butler. That's a big part of the reason that I see the scenario of Cody reconfiguring and reprogramming (I would say "gutting", but you thinks that's too loaded) Serling in this fashion without getting his consent or even TELLING him that he's doing it as kind of "creepy".

Right now, as written, Serling shows a host of emotions -- fear, anger, humor, pride, sarcasm, affection, etc.. Outside of the obvious fact that he is made of metal, plastic, and other non-organic substances, he is, for all intents and purposes, a "living" character. To now start treating him like he's just another dumb appliance which can be used (and abused) with impunity is just wrong (at least in my opinion). To attempt to wrest humor out of a situation where a character like this is repeatedly forced to endure doing things he (or it, if you prefer) clearly doesn't want to do, and where the character is going to get the worst of every dangerous situation he get into (as opposed to Cody, who sits safe and protected inside Serling) is also wrong (in my opinion).

It would be one thing if you had introduced Serling as just another appliance, something that Cody could have referred to from the beginning as his "science project" or something, so that it would be perfectly fine for him to tweak/disassemble/reconfigure Serling to his heart's content. But you didn't. From the beginning, you made Serling a very "human" character (who seems to have even more personality than Cody, for that matter).

If you accept the premise that Serling is, by this point in our development of Season 6, a "human" character, then it is a very short leap -- actually more of a step -- to realizing the distasteful subtext inherent to the situation, i.e. that it is okay to manipulate another person in any way you want (in this case going so far as gross disfigurement) as long as you're having "fun". I don't think this is something we want to be encouraging.

Getting back to more practical matters: You know how, when you look under the hood of a modern automobile, there's not a whole lot of free space (as there would be in an older car) -- there are a lot of components tightly fit together. It makes working on them a pain, but it also saves a lot of room and allows the car itself to be made more compact.

I see this in a lot of different modern devices (try to find much free space inside your iPod!), and I also see it continuing into the future with robots like Serling. These devices would be made to be as compact as they need to be to carry out their purposes, and would likely be packed to the gills with whatever: servos, power cells, computer processors, redundant safety backup systems, com gear, etc.. With this in mind, I find it very hard to believe that (as currently portrayed in the scripts) Cody could remove enough of this gear to make a comfortable space for himself within Serling's body, and STILL have enough left in there for Serling to function as he should. And if you go a step further, logically Cody would need even MORE space for support of his body -- air supply, food and waste disposal (if he's inside Serling on a long mission), etc. And unless Cody is not claustrophobic in the LEAST, he's going to need some "elbow room" inside the robot.

Not only that, but in one script you have Cody yelling "Shazam" -- sorry, "Goongala" -- and Serling TRANSFORMS into Cody's Turtle-themed battle armor. That's a whole other set of stuff you have to find room for inside of Serling. It's getting pretty crowded in there.

There is also a clear implication in one of these scripts that Cody has done all this work to Serling -- surreptitiously, mind you -- in the time since the Turtles first arrived in the future. It's not stated clearly, but surely that can't be more than weeks at the most. That's a whole lot of work for Cody to accomplish in that short time. We're getting into "magic cartoon technology" territory here... something that makes me cringe.

I guess I don't see the great appeal of "Serling bitches/does running commentary about/while going into battle with Cody "piloting" him" as you do. To me, a little of that would go a very long way.

Part of the reason I made my suggestion that if Cody has to have his "transforming battle armor robot", he should do it with an OLDER (but visually very similar) version of Serling that he has kicking around -- a somewhat more primitive iteration, with less (or even NO) "human" personality -- is that if you think about it, unless Cody is a "perfect master" in what he is attempting to do, he runs a pretty good risk of screwing things up, badly. It's kind of like if you had one computer, and you got the great idea that it would be cool if you could turn it into a computer which also transforms into a coffee maker. Well, great... but what if you screw it up? Not only don't you have your coffee maker, you don't have your computer, either! As Serling obviously performs a lot of important tasks for Cody, I don't think the kid would risk messing him up in this way.

Setting aside the issues about Serling as a "person" as I described earlier, I think it would make a LOT more sense that Cody would try this with an older, currently-unused model.

I can also see a very interesting arc thread developing with this scenario: After Cody drags Serling 1.5 out of storage and starts working on him, our current Serling (maybe he's version 3.0, but for the sake of convenience, I'll just call him Serling) could make many acerbic comments and jabs at his "Neanderthal" relation (Serling 1.5), putting it down in various humorous ways. However, this haughty attitude could then -- as Cody perfects his "transforming battle armor" -- become tinged with jealousy as Serling starts to see that Cody has more fun/spends more time with this rebuilt version. Serling could even try to make himself be or act like the rebuilt Serling 1.5, blundering into various battle scenarios with disastrous/comic results.

There could even be a "head-to-head" confrontation between the two versions of Serling (I mentioned to you the old "Lost in Space" episode where the Robot met "Robbie the Robot" -- it was clear that the newer Robot was a direct design descendant of Robbie.) Serling could begin to feel like he is becoming less and less useful to Cody, and that makes him do some foolish things (maybe even toying with joining the "bad guys"!).

After talking with you yesterday, I thought about the whole issue some more, and while NONE of my previous objections and suggestions changed, it did occur to me that there could be an intriguing dovetailing of some of these concepts near the end of the season, to wit: Let's assume that Cody reworks old Serling 1.5 into his transforming battle armor, and further assume that Serling grows to be very jealous of this new version of himself, as described above. What if: We lead up to some catastrophic battle wherein the Serling 1.5 battle armor gets trashed. It's a bad scene... Cody's bumming... but then Serling steps up and offers himself to be transformed into Cody's battle suit. Cody's taken aback -- "I never thought you'd want to do that!" Serling responds, "You never asked me, Master Cody."

Then -- with Don and Starlee's help, the Transcendental Lathe, whatever other crazy stuff we've come up with during the season which might be applicable, etc. -- Serling is reworked, and becomes Cody's battle armor. BUT... because of (fill in the blank here -- recent discoveries/advances in robotic technology, some invention of Don's that shrinks circuits, whatever), they are able to accomplish the goal of making Serling into what you wanted him to be (without the creepy "unwilling slave" part, of course).

-- PL


Subj: sketch designs for Serling head
Date: Friday, August 19, 2005 11:32:25 PM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine


I did a little doodling of some ideas for Serling's head. Not sure if any of them will be helpful, but I'm send them anyway, two files attached to two separate emails. Here's the first one.

-- Pete


Subj: sketch designs for Serling head 2
Date: Friday, August 19, 2005 11:36:43 PM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine

And here's the second.

-- Pete


  1. Those are some really cool concept sketches!

  2. My favorite part of Serling's personality was how he and Don were constantly butting heads. But for the first half of the series, I found myself sympathizing more with him than the turtles. Stop breaking stuff, guys. Seriously.

    I suspect this is just because I'm old. ;-)