Christy Marx developed the story for HYPERNAUTS. She also wrote First Contact, The Star Ranger and The Challenge (Parts 1 & 2).
Q How were you brought into the Hypernauts?
A I had already worked with the creative people behind HYPERNAUTS on other
projects, going all the way back to working on CAPTAIN POWER, for which Ron
Thornton did some of the first CGI characters on TV. From working with J.
Michael Straczynski on CAPTAIN POWER, I had the opportunity to write for
BABYLON 5 ("Grail", first season) and came to know the other producers,
Doug Netter and John Copeland. I also got to know Ron and the Foundation
Imaging gang a lot better. So when it came time to hire a development
writer, I was known to everyone involved and was delighted to be called in.
Q Ron Thornton created the Hypernauts, but you were in charge of developing
the story. What all does that entail?
A Ron had come up with the concept, a set of characters (5 cadets), the basic
structure and essence of the show, then he created a 5-minute trailer using
actors and CGI to demonstrate the look and feel of the series. He used
this to sell the series to ABC.
I was brought in to rewrite the bible, rework the characters, write the
pilot and be the story editor. I took Ron's primary material and worked
from that. ABC wanted to boil the 5 characters down to 3, which I did. At
first, ABC wanted the kids to behave like "Three Musketeers", but there was
a change of execs and I had to rewrite the bible yet again to make the kids
strangers who have to learn how to work together. I recrafted, expanded
and deepened what Ron had created. I used some of his story ideas later in
the series, but the pilot and second episode are my original work. Ron
was wonderful to work with and never interfered with the writing end of
things, but he always had great ideas to share.
Q Part of the strength of the Hypernauts series was it's well developed
characters. Did you find it difficult to develop good story plots and
develop the characters with only a half hour to work in?
A Not at all. Certainly, there are restrictions and parameters that limit
what you can do with the story in only 20 to 21 minutes of air time. But
anything can have good story and good characters...even a one minute
commercial. Think about some of the most effective TV commercials you've
ever seen and you'll be amazed how much story (and even character) can be
packed into a single minute. The trick is to be thorough up front. You
have to think about where and how a character can have depth, how he or she
can change or grow, what directions they can go in. And good story is just
good story. Elegantly simple, yet often so difficult to achieve.
Q What went into getting the story line ready to start the series? [what was
presented to the directors, writers, etc.]
A Most show bibles follow the same general format, with variations here and
there. You have a basic description of what the show is (what it's about,
tone, feel, visuals, what makes it unique); descriptions of the main
characters with short paragraphs on how the main characters relate to one
another; descriptions of secondary characters; description of other key
elements (e.g. locations, maps, vehicles, weapons); and examples of story
ideas (usually 6 or more, a short paragraph each). If this is the detailed
bible that goes to the writers, I try to include additional info, such as
what kind of stories I want to see or don't want to see, things to avoid
(what might be out of budget, for example), or anything else that would be
useful to a writer, either technically or in story direction.
Q Do you have a favorite episode from the Hypernauts?
A Story-wise, I like'em all. For stunning visuals, though, I'd have to say
Q How did the actors in the series help define the characters of the show?
A Each actor infuses new life into a character that existed only on a
page. They will bring their thoughts and quirks and influences. Watching
how actors do can affect how you write the character further down the
road. Ron Campbell, as Paiyin, was just great at coming up with new bits
of "business" for his character. He invented a Pyran swear word I included
in my list of alien words. And Carrie Dobro as Kulai was a gem. She's
just so much fun and is bursting with vitality and personality. She added
a lot of puckish mischief and humor to Kulai.
Q Now that a time has passed and you can look back at the finished product, is
there anything you would have changed on the show?
A Probably nothing that was within my scope. I thought we had an excellent
creative team and crew. But I sure wish the show could have run on Fox or
somewhere it would have been more appreciated.
Q I know that you have a love of cats; was the creation of the Gloose in any
way effected by that?
A The Gloose existed as a concept in Ron's original material, but I filled
him out as a character, and I suppose my love of cats had some influence on
that. Nothing I could point at and say, "There, that's a cat trait." I
don't see him as a particularly cat-like creature. If anything, he has
more in common with a pack rat, but I think the series was yanked before
you got to see the episode showing that.
Q Do you keep in contact with the other people who worked on the Hypernauts and/or have you worked with them on other projects since?
A Oh, yes. I stay in touch with Ron Thornton. I've been in touch fairly
often with the B5 and Netter people because I spent the past couple of
years doing design and writing on a B5 computer game. And all the writers
are good friends and acquaintances. We often work on shows together, or
give work to one another whenever possible. The people I haven't had
regular contact with are the actors, directors, and crew. Crew goes off
all over the place. Directors I only tend to see during shoots. I did run
into Carrie when she was doing CRUSADE and it was great to see her again.
Q Can you give a quick idea of what goes into developing an episode from
concept to filming?
A A *quick* idea? You don't ask for much. [grin] Each show works
differently. No two are the same experience. On HYPERNAUTS, it went
something like this: writer pitches story idea, story idea goes through
approval process with producers and network, writer does outline, it goes
through the same approval process, writer does script, which not only goes
through the same approval process, but is then ripped to shreds by the
network censor...oops, I mean Standards & Practices. We scream, moan,
whine and do the rewrites.
Script goes to everyone involved: actors, director, make-up, wardrobe,
special effects, set construction, etc. who set to work at the pace of
rabid weasels since we have a tight shooting schedule and even tighter
budget. There are two teams of First Asst. Director and Second Asst.
Director so that Team A could be working with one director on one show in
progress, while Team B works on prep for the next episode. Regular
meetings are held with the director, line producer, and heads of the
departments. I'm there when I can manage. Every element of the script is
broken down, discussed and covered for what is needed or what has to be
changed. If necessary, I'm up late into the night doing last-minute
rewrites for the next day's shoot. Repeat process 13 times.
As best I can recall, we shot an episode in 3 days, which means there was
no time to spare, no time for mistakes, no time for things to go seriously
wrong. We had a well-oiled crew.
Q The series was designed to be a Saturday morning show for a younger
audience, and yet the writing, acting and special effects could rival most
prime time series. Even though it was obviously a family show, did you ever
feel like you were working on a more mature show than most Saturday morning
A Yes and no. It was aimed at a slightly older range of kids. But I don't
believe in writing down to kids. I don't do it. Kids get more than adults
think they do, to begin with. Secondly, they can enjoy other levels of the
show even if certain things go over their heads. Why shouldn't material
written for kids challenge them? It should. It should raise them up, not
hold them down. As I said before, a good story is a good story, and if it
works, it works for anyone. Age is irrelevant.
Q With the live actors and incredible special effects, what was it like to see
your story brought to life each week?
A Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I love development, but I love being on
a set every bit as much. I enjoy the crazy creative process and I love the
energy of a well-run and happy production. I love the whole magic of it.
Q Did you know the series was being cancelled and did you attempt to bring the
story line to a conclusion?
A We knew we had 13 episodes. Beyond that, there was no way to predict. We
did try to bring the series to a quasi-resolution of sorts with the 13th
episode. I wish to hell someone would run the whole series. We got into a
lot more background on Kulai, and really turned up the heat in the final
two-parter. It's such a shame no one has been able to see those last five
We were already well into development on the next batch of scripts for a
second season when the series was cancelled. We had some *great* stories
coming up, and Ron was going to tackle some pretty amazing visual ideas.
To Christy Marx -- thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
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