The Dead Zone

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Name: The Dead Zone
Abbreviation(s): DZ
Creator: Michael Piller, Shawn Piller
Date(s): 2002-2007
Medium: tv series
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: IMDB


Official USA page
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Dead Zone is a TV series based on the novel by Stephen King, but makes several changes to the premise and eventually goes off in its own direction.

Johnny Smith, mild-mannered high-school biology teacher with a happy future ahead of him, is in a bad car accident one night, and wakes up six years later from a coma, to find that his entire world has changed. His mother has died; his fiancee Sarah has married another man, and they're raising a child together. As if that's not enough, Johnny woke up as a touch-psychic who has little to no control over his visions.

TPTB and the Fans

TPTB reached out to the fans from the get-go, offering downloadable copies of the Writer's Guides for each season (up to season four) and suggesting ways to write spec scripts and submit them through agents.[1]

As part of their episode guide, they also provided downloadable scripts for each episode through season five (they weren't offered for season six episodes), and sometimes a downloadable copy of the story treatment for the episode (as well as occasional extra material, such as a fictional article from the Bangor Daily News about happenings during the episode). Each episode listing also came with a photo gallery.

Michael Piller, the original driving force behind the show, knew that women were a big part of his audience:

We want stories that will appeal to women as well as men, and believe that can be best accomplished by clearly placing the franchise elements into an emotional and personal context.[2]

He stressed that emotion- and character-driven plots would be the key to the show:

While the plots we tell may be astonishing, it is his relationships with Bruce, Walt and Sarah that keeps Johnny human and real to audiences.[3]

Both those quotes appear in the Writer's Guides for each of the first four seasons.

In season four, everything started to change. Michael Piller fell gravely ill, and could no longer run the show as he used to. The scripts began to change, as did the relationships between the characters, and in some cases the characters themselves. Much of the fandom was confused and unhappy with the changes in the show, since they didn't know Piller was no longer involved. He passed away after a few months after fourth season finished airing, and the show never recovered.

The ratings for fourth season had been dropping; they were worse for "fifth" season (actually the back half of fourth season, filmed at the same time but aired months later). The network and new producers, determined to regain their audience, promised to return to the roots of the show, to give fans what they really wanted.

The result was so horribly the exact opposite of what the show had always been about that what few fans had hung on through season five began to fall away. (Trying to avoid spoilers here.) It was clear that the writers of sixth season had never read any of the writer's guides for the first four seasons. And that they'd never watched any of the early episodes.

The show was cancelled after sixth season.

Dead Zone fandom

The fandom has been small from the beginning, possibly too fragmented to ever really gel as fans found places in a variety of different forums -- the show started up as Livejournal-based fandom was taking off, and mailing lists and livejournal developed almost completely separate, small fandoms.

In second season, Television Without Pity began running recaps of the show, which sparked hope among some fans that the fanbase would start to expand. But the recapper never really got into the show -- she never even bothered to watch first season, to find out about the underlying relationships and situations -- and her recaps were mainly simple retellings of what was on screen, without the interesting asides and analysis that were TWoP's hallmarks. It wasn't enough to draw in readers, which also meant the forums were fairly stagnant, with a handful of core posters trying their best to keep interest levels up, but with zero momentum to work from. TWoP stopped covering the show after second season ended. (While the recaps still exist, the forums were purged at some point, so no trace remains of what little fannish discussion there was.) [4]

In mid-2005, Versaphile pulled together a masterlist of fanworks to that point in the fandom, here. This is outdated now, but is a good start, and there are a few further pointers in the comments.

Later that year, Versaphile wrote up a fandom overview on Crack Van, here.


The fanfic is as scattered as the fandom, mainly on personal sites and livejournals. The small Dead Zone Fanfic Archive is owned by astolat and is stable although not actively maintained. It uses the Automated Archive software.


Dead Zone slash has two main pairings, Johnny/Bruce and Johnny/Walt. Which you were likely to see depended on where you were: the mailing lists were heavily slanted toward Johnny/Bruce while Livejournal was heavily slanted toward Johnny/Walt.

Second season was a key season for both pairings; third season also had its pairing high points. By fourth season, many fans were growing unhappy with the direction the show was taking, and by sixth season, canon had utterly jossed both pairings. Most slash fans ignore sixth season completely.


The buddy connection between Johnny and Bruce, and the canonical hurt/comfort, appealed to a lot of slash fans.

Example fanfic:

Example meta:


The complicated relationship between Johnny and Walt, and the adult way they handled it, also appealed to a lot of fans, who saw more going on there than just a connection through Sarah.

Example fanfic:


The show provided a built-in threesome, Johnny/Sarah/Walt, which appealed to a lot of fans because of the complexity of the relationships between and among all three characters. The setup was deliberate on the part of TPTB:

As the series continues, the relationships between Sarah, Johnny and Walt (her husband, the sheriff of Penobscot County) will evolve in complex and unexpected ways. Sarah will be in love with both men. The guys will come to respect, even like and yet fear one another. In time, they may all decide to have the most unconventional three-way love affair ever seen in prime time.[5]

Example fanfic:



The fandom hasn't produced much in the way of zines, but at least one series of slash zines was published.

Physical Therapy 1-3, a Johnny/Bruce anthology series of zines (available through Neon Rainbow Press)

Mailing Lists

  • Dead Zone Slash And Chat "Dead Zone Slash And Chat". Archived from the original on 2003-10-27. Description: "Stephen King's Novel, "The Dead Zone" as been adapted into movie and now a television series with great slash possibilities. Come discuss the variations from novel, movie and television...Come share a slashy story. I'm gonna ask here that the authors remember to share with this list when you're sharing with others. We can only get pleasure from the sharing if something is posted to the list. And readers, play your part by feeding the authors. Its more important than you may realize. All the stories will be considered direct submissions to the multi-fandom/lists list archive, the WWOMB and as such be posted to the list archive unless they include a direct DO NOT ARCHIVE notation. Because this archive handles several hundred lists, I don't have time to notify each writer as their stories go up so I recommend you join the direct submissions/announcements list at if you want to be informed. I have neither the time or the inclination to moderate the posts for minor ears, joining tells the world you are over legal age. Be honest. Finally, if you spam the list I will remove it AND you without warning. We don't need spam in our files. I do however encourage chatter onlist. It tends to stimulate ficcies, and that's what we're here to inspire, aren't we. Oh yea, and its been requested that you include your couples in your posts, please do this. some readers would rather only read the pair they like and not wade through the rest. See ya on the flip, luvs..."
  • Dead Zone Slash Dead Zone Slash, Archived version Description: "This list is for slash (male/male relationship) and/or femslash (female/female relationship) discussion, fanfiction, or whatever else for the new show The Dead Zone.or slash (male/male relationship) and/or femslash (female/female relationship) discussion, fanfiction, or whatever else for the show The Dead Zone. Be aware that adult material (NC-17 fanfic) may be posted. If you're not supposed to read adult fic, don't. ;-) Slash (femslash) is a romantic and sometimes explicit (i.e. sexual) relationship between men (women) of a homosexual nature."