Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Story logic

In yesterday's post I mentioned the internal logic required of stories, and this evening I watched the new BBC cop show Paradox where images of a future event arrive and must be interpreted to find out where a disaster or crime will happen in order to prevent it.

The BBC's version of FlashForward, sort of. Funny how these things happen since both shows must have been in development at the same time. Spooky.

Anyway, back to logic: The following contains spoilers for the end of the first episode, so don't read it if you don't want to know what happens.

I really mean it, this is all about the actual climax of the show - because up to that point this was very nicely put together. Don't read any further if you don't want to know why it annoyed me.

Okay, you have been warned.

The police are rushing to intercept the inflammable-gas tanker that's going to explode and take out a train carriage killing lots of people.

The police car is zooming along the road from one direction, the lorry is heading towards the bridge from the other direction. About 50 yards from the bridge (when they know they have only seconds to spare) the police car stops, the police-persons get out and start waving their arms and shouting at the lorry driver that they have previously deduced is incapable of noticing he's heading for a low bridge. (Plus he's really not going to hear a shout, is he?)

So the lorry hits the bridge, explodes and kills 70-odd people.

The question is: Why did the police stop when the logical action is to keep going, get under the bridge and intercept the tanker? Even if it means giving up their own lives to save the people on the train which, of course, any normal hero would have done.

Most people will say "bad writing" but we know better, don't we?

I imagine the original script had them do just that, run the tanker off the road. I could also imagine that the guy on the train, who knew something was up, deciding to get people off the train and hence become a hero - and not lose his job after all.

But the producer and/or director (or some pen pusher) decided that for this first episode they needed to have the police fail, because that builds the stakes for future episodes.

I don't object to this in principle - but having the police stop, get out of their car, wave their arms and shout? Give me a break. Why not just have them arrive moments too late? That would have been a simple and logical alternative.

What we saw was, in my opinion, utter stupidity and ruined a perfectly good show.

Oh well.

Today I have managed to do some more detailed planning on the web series Winter and come up with a little idea that will make the opening episode a little juicier. Audience superiority (when the audience knows more than the protagonist) builds tension so I've added a smidge of that.

What's on the turntable? "The Echoing Green" by Gordon Giltrap from "Visionary"


Eleanor said...

Agreed. Either get them under the bridge and honking the car's horn, to avert it.
Or maybe they die too and are part of the cause of the explosion, alternatively, as you say have them get there late ...

The way it played did rather annoy me.
I also went "Huh?" when the officer who still has "a spare set of keys from before (we split up?)" turns up in her flat for a post drama shag. And she went with it?
Is she really that insecure? No. She didn't strike me as being the type of person that would go back.
That annoyed me almost as much as the car stopping.

Sorry. Rant over.

Anonymous said...

Or they could've called ANOTHER CAR closer to the scene to set up a road block - they do still have police radios don't they? That would've made more sense to me.

It did seem to take a loooong time for them to get to the scene, especially considering during the rest of the episode everyone was at their destination in seconds, but I would've preferred them just not to make it than what we got.

Adaddinsane said...

Not just me then :-)

Juliet: You could just about get away with the "no radio" because of the scrambling of electronics due to the solar flare. But they should have tried.

Eleanor: I somehow got lost on the shagging bit. Maybe I was in the loo when the earlier reference to it occurred. But yes it was a bit rubbish if that was the situation. A case of "oooh, can we have two characters involved to make it more interesting?".

Eleanor said...

There was no earlier reference, it was just very heavily implied during that end scene ... so the fact that he was in her flat at all felt wrong as it hadn't been set up.

Juliet: Yeah, that 'get another car there' thing crossed my mind too.
If the phones are working (which they were) get the local copshop to send out a jamjar.

Philip Palmer said...

Or here's a thought...they could have telephoned the local police and asked them to put up a road block. Surely the solar flares wouldn't afffect landlines?

A friend of mine, Mark Greig, wrote the Paradox episode that's on the week after next.