Monday, January 19, 2009

Plots that turn your heroes into idiots

I once wrote a rather bad Doctor Who novel called The Domino Effect. [Actually, I wrote it four times in an arse-about-face kind of way, but that's another story.] It had some good stuff in it, some well researched moments and the central premise was interesting. But the plot required one of my heroes to act like an idiot, stumbling about in stupid ways to enable events to incur as and when I wanted. This was a mistake and the book sucked as a consequence.

At the weekend I watch an episode of TV drama that did much the same thing. Two heroes got lured into an incredibly slow death trap, believing it to be the location of their enemy. Why did they go there? The mentor character wanted revenge against an enemy who killed the mentor's beloved years earlier. Once trapped, the villain stood on a grille directly above the heroes and monologued at them for a while. [Did the writers not see The Incredibles?]

All through the scene, the heroes make no attempt to hurt the villain. Who goes on a revenge trip, hunting their mortal enemy, and doesn't take a gun? Idiots, that's who. Meanwhile the villain has left a time bomb at the heroes' secret HQ - and set the countdown to 50 minutes. 50 minutes! Why not ten minutes? 25? Having done that, the villain walks out - leaving the HQ front door open. Why? So the young hero's best mate can get inside later.

She arrives with 13 minutes still left on the countdown. Does she evacuate the HQ? No. Does she carry the bomb to the nearby Thames and drop it in the river? No. She reads books, looking for a page on defusing bombs. As you do. The good news is she defused the bomb with two seconds to spare, and found time to help rescue the others heroes from the incredibly slow death trap. And I resisted the urge to throw my remote through the TV screen.

This episode did have something to say. It was all about the nature of heroism, the sacrifices you must make to follow the right path. It was about balance the needs of those you love and doing the right thing. All good thematic material, but buried under a plot that propelled logic through the nearest window. Having done the same thing myself, I know how easy it is to write this kind of story - and how frustrating the results.


Adaddinsane said...

You saw it too then. I also wrote a blog about it. I was slightly more scathing and named names.

There goes my career in TV.

DraconianOne said...

Glad you named it, Aladdin. Didn't see it but might do now just for educational reasons.

DraconianOne said...

D'oh! Adaddin*

mark said...

I always think the most frustrating dereliction of logic in TV drama is where one character withholds a piece of information, or an emotional truth, from the other. Continuing drama often does this, often stringing out long storylines for days or weeks. I rewatched series six of The Shield the other week - brilliant stuff, and all of it propelled forward by characters telling each other exactly what they think.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say I watched it after watching the previous week, in some vain hope things may improve.

Hmm...dynamite, electronic timer, shall I just pull the fuse out? No, where's that complicated book on a subject of which I have no prior knowledge?