What might have been…

So, I’m a Heroes fan. 

I’ve spent the last day or so watching Season 2 of this great show, which is unfortunately rather short, thanks to the writers strike in America. I’ve really enjoyed both this season and Season 1, which are both full of great characters, plot twists, and plenty of moral ambiguity. But in  both cases, what really sticks in the mind after watching the seasons on DVD is what might have been. 

The extras to Season 1 include the original pilot episode, which has this amazing terrorism plotline that never made it on air. Basically a bunch of Arabs are trying to set of a nuclear bomb, one of which happens to have the ability to emit radiation (basically Ted’s character, but with darker skin, more morally grey, and less redneck). The plot line was ‘too dark’ for the proposed broadcast slot for the series, so never got past pilot stage. 

The extras in Season 2 show where the story was going had the writes not gone on strike and filming been curtailed. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t watched the season yet, but it’s basically this: virus, quarantine, and lots of death in Odessa. 

The unfortunate commonality to these two abandoned plotlines is that famous word touted about the sequels to popular films: darker. 

Heroes has proved a very interesting watch. Not perfect; there is a tendency to shoehorn in too many characters, and lose the tension as a result. But a series that takes that old comic book staple, superpowers, and create a plotline around people who are torn by the choices they have to make, dealing with powerful abilities in a complex, morally grey (if not grotty), world. 

I can’t help thinking though, how much more interesting these two seasons would have been if only the writers original intention had been preserved. The pilot plotline would have resulted in a story that was even less comic book than the current one, giving us all some sense of our current realities, and how we all need people to stand up and be heroes. 

The alternative storyline from Season 2 sure plays on fears about infections (SARS, bird flu etc), as well as compounding the idea of the theme ‘Generations’, that the current generation of Heroes would have to decide how and if they would work for the ‘greater good’, perhaps compromising themselves in the way that their parents had.  

I guess writers strike, and TV executives cut shows (another of my favourite shows, Firefly, never made it to the end of its first season), and this just serves to show the realities of how programmes are made. Which is, I guess, a good lesson for me, as someone who would like to try and write scripts one day. But it also makes you wonder… I think the best thing about Heroes is that it doesn’t try to be black and white, in the way that comic books normally are. That moral ambiguity and flexibility is the shows best feature. How much better would that have been, if it had been darker?

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