|URL:||online: Three Deep, Archived version and Tea at the Ford, Archived version|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
- 1: Alley Oops by macha
- 2: (Hell is in the) Details by macha
- 3: Grrl Trouble by macha
- 4: Something Borrowed by macha
- 5: Roman Holiday by macha
- 6: Dead Ends by macha
(Usual caveats – this is my recollection only, and if you asked the other people on this project, you would most certainly get an entirely different take on events.)
ANYWAY. At one point, around… 2005-ish, I think? The site owner [of Tea at the Ford] floated the idea that we should do a virtual season. Several other groups had done that, some for AtS, some for BtVS. And the idea of that was, you got a bunch of writers together (or occasionally some ambitious soul tried to go it alone) and wrote 22 “episodes” continuing from where the show had left off. Some of these were in script format, some were regular prose. Most of them were never finished, for obvious reasons. Our virtual season, the site owner proposed, would be very ambitious: a massive AtS/BtVS crossover that would feature the entire cast of both shows and tie up all the loose ends. We would call it Three Deep, because (some deeply metaphorical reason that I don’t remember.)
We started out with about a dozen writers, artists, and editors. I was smart enough not to sign up to write the thing, but I did allow myself to get roped in as the arc plotter, mainly because no one else was dumb enough to volunteer. Now, other groups who had done virtual seasons usually had an editor in chief who coordinated the arc plot, and assigned episodes to different writers. Kind of the way the real TV series worked. But that was too easy for us! The site owner was determined that this would be a fully collaborative project, i.e. all decisions had to be made by consensus. No one, not even the site owner, had the authority to say to everyone, “No, we are not doing that. We are doing this.” So although it was my responsibility to cobble together a massive overaching plotline for the season, I had absolutely no way to get people to accept it, except to argue every decision into the ground until everyone either agreed with me or got sick of arguing about it and gave up. Every tiny little decision took days, weeks, MONTHS of argument. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. It was exhausting.
No two of us agreed on what story we should be telling. One person was a gen writer, and only really interested in writing Wesley hurt-comfort minus the comfort, and bureaucracy porn about Giles and Andrew building the perfect new Council. One writer was a Bitter Ex-Spuffy Shipper who hated Buffy with a rabid frothing hatred, and wanted to pair Spike with Anyone But Buffy. Several other writers were equally passionate Spuffy shippers who refused to participate unless they were guaranteed that Spike would end up with Buffy. The site owner was only interested in metaphor and symbolism – and writing Angel in a way that (IMO at the time) bordered on bashing. And there were a couple of people who weren’t actually on the project, but would cheerfully stick their oar in every now and then to tell us that we were doing it wrong. Everyone (and I include myself) had a pet plotline or character they wanted to include.
I tried my damnedest to come up with a good arc plot, and I think I actually succeeded there. It was going to be about the Immortal, who, I decided, was secretly an Old One in a human shell like Illyria. Because human shells couldn’t take the full power of an Old One, he’d come up with a plan to trick the Slayer Army into opening the Deeper Well, so that all the Old Ones interred there could have Slayer shells, which would be strong enough not to burn out. That was why he was cozying up to Buffy. I think that would have made a pretty decent story. And if we’d just had the sense to get Buffy and Spike together immediately and get all the shipping crap out of the way, I think things would have gone much better.
Buuuuut no. The site owner didn’t want this to be known as a Spuffy virtual season. They wanted people to see it as being above the ship wars. So we couldn’t get Spike and Buffy together immediately. This despite the fact that 90% of the writers were known Spuffy shippers and we had in fact promised several of them that there would be a Spuffy end game. So I wracked my brains to come up with some kind of an arc for them, and I mostly failed. Because as one of our pro-Spuffy writers said, honestly, the two of them were one good conversation away from getting together in S7, so pretty much anything I came up with was pointless misunderstandings and rehashed “character development” to keep them from having that one good conversation. One of the things on Spike’s part was that I decided that he had developed a fear of emotional commitment since he’d been burned so badly in his last couple of relationships, and he was going to have to overcome this, which is why the current comics storyline reminds me of it – it’s something that kind of makes sense if you’re desperate, but not really. It wasn’t organic. What I came up with for Buffy was temporarily getting back together with Angel (who, ironically, was the only one of the three I actually had a good solid emotional arc for.) There was going to be this terrible triangle-cum-cheating plot down the road, and believe me when I say you should all be grateful we never got that far. (I mean, I hope that if we had gotten that far, I would have come up with something better by that time, but WHAT IF I HADN’T?)
Anyway, once we actually started writing the thing, things went from bad to worse. We couldn’t have one person write an episode and then the rest of us edit and that same person rewrite, oh no. That would be too simple. Instead we assigned each scene in an episode to a different writer. I provided them with a scene by scene outline of each episode, and then, in theory, each writer would turn in a scene, get editing comments, revise as necessary, wash rinse repeat. In order to maintain a consistent style, we would then put all the scenes together and do a light final edit, which was my responsibility.
In practice, everyone went haring off on their own in every goddamn scene. No one knew how to write to an outline. No one seemed able to look at the episode as a whole, much less the series as a whole. Things like this would happen: Writer 1 would write vast extravagant battle scenes where Angel and Spike dispatched hundreds of Ubervamps without breaking a sweat, which lead into a scene by Writer 2 where Angel and Spike were had pressed to win a bar fight. I ended up having to re-write damned near every scene extensively – sometimes I had to scrap entire scenes and re-do them from scratch. And of course the writers of those scenes were Not Happy with me. I am sure that if you talked to the other writers on the project, they’d say I was an egotistical martinet, but from my POV, I was trying to herd ADD velociraptors with a flashlight. Buffy was a the biggest sticking point. None of us agreed on who she was or how to write her, and dear God, it showed.
And the ending. Oh, God, the ending. That was where the site owner got their way with all the metaphor and symbolism, so it was gonna be one of those last-episode-of-The-Prisoner-WTF things with Illyria hatching Yggdrasil and Buffy and Spike and Angel doing… something, I don’t know the hell what, but it was hella metaphorical, which defeated the Immortal. It makes my head hurt just to think about it. And then Cordelia shows up because why the hell not?
Mirabile dictu, we actually did write six episodes and got started on a seventh, and I believe that they were generally well-received. Behind the scenes, things were falling apart. We lost several writers, some because they hadn’t realized how much work this would be, others to interpersonal conflicts. Writers who wrote quickly sneered at those who wrote slowly for being slackers, and the writers who wrote slowly took jabs at the quality of the stuff produced by the fast writers. The anti-Spuffy writer had a screaming tantrum at a pro-Spuffy writer and was kicked off the project. Everyone was mad at me and I was mad at everyone else, though I really, really tried not to show it. As episode 7 got underway, I retired to my tent and told the site owner that if they produced a finished draft, I would edit it, but until then I was taking a break.
Thank God, I never got that call. The project died the death of a thousand quibbles. I was so burnt out. A few months ago a couple of the Fast Writers went rogue and slapped their revision of the unfinished seventh chapter up on AO3, along with the first six, without asking leave of the rest of us, (and put my name on it without asking me, probably because I am the only other person involved with an AO3 account) which occasioned some snarky commentary, but that’s probably where it will lie for the rest of eternity.And a good thing too. 
astrid-v: omg I remember that. I was actually invited to the TATF site and couldn’t figure out the layout at all, so I gave up after a while. There were plenty of forums in Buffy fandom where you didn’t have to stumble through a maze first to find the other people.
The less said about Angel’s arc in Three Deep, the better… I vaguely remember that he kinda died early on, or his mind did anyway, and he got a complete personality change. Getting him out of the way of the Spuffy. Which I was open for, but not like this.
It was interesting though to hear about the behind the scenes later from a friend. A lot of things suddenly started making sense.
Tagged: and afaik the character overwrite happened,because the showrunner hated the character, sound familiar?, character bashing of my fave character is my red hot button, I dropped the series like a hot potato, I feel sorry for the writers who got waltzed over by the whole thing, three deep sounded good in theory, but in practice it got smothered by Too Many Cooks syndrome,and an unemotional overintellectual approach, plus a bit of character bashing for the sake of a rival ship, imho, But if you’re looking for a great virtual season of Angel, go read, Angel: No Limits, that one’s fantastic, they had two showrunners and one writer per ep, and that worked.
- Nah, Angel didn’t die. He and Spike spent the first couple of episodes in a Hell dimension, the effect of which was supposed to be to merge the demon and human aspects of his personality so the curse wouldn’t be in effect any longer, hence how he and Buffy could get back together. And then he was supposed to have to deal with that throughout the season, and figure out a new balance without being able to resort to filing all his bad impulses under Angelus. How well we pulled that off is questionable; I don’t think we managed to convey what was happening well enough in those first few episodes, and then we were left trying to play catch-up.
- The site owner honestly saw Angel as someone who was doomed to repeat his past mistakes over and over again in ways that would destroy those around him. At the time I saw that as borderline bashy, and was constantly arguing with her about it. Ironically the actual comics season 8 pretty much made her interpretation canon, if you accept the comics as canon. :P There were a couple of people who just hated Angel and and couldn’t be trusted to write him objectively (those were some of the scenes I rewrote from scratch) but I wouldn’t call the site owner one of them.
- No Limits was a MUCH better organized web season, but it suffered from Slashworld Syndrome – mysteriously, almost every female character died or was written out as the season progressed, in favor of pairing up all the guys. And it’s not like AtS was all that well-supplied with female characters to begin with.