Thanks to MyrnaLynne for this. We must be on the same wavelength–I saw this issue in my store the other day and read the article and was getting ready to type it up for the site–thanks to her now I don’t have to.
“Starlog” #293 December 2001, pp. 38-41 (with 8 pictures)
“Days & Nights of Roswell” by Bill Florence
“It’s back to school as Ron Moore enrolls the teen aliens in a third year of human adventure.”
Despite the dramatic plot developments and behind-the-scenes uncertainty surrounding its final episodes last season, “Roswell” is back for a third year. Yet fans can hardly know what to expect this season, after “Roswell” switched gears between seasons one and two from being a teenage drama with science fiction trappings to a bona fide SF adventure with teen heroes.
Where is Roswell going this year? Pose that question to series writer and co-executive producer Ron Moore, and you get a simple, yet telling answer: “It’s going to UPN.”
“Roswell”‘s move from the WB to UPN is significant in several ways. First, UPN gave the series a full-season order of 22 episodes, which frees the cast and crew to relax a bit while exploring new, creative roads for teen aliens, Max, Michael and Isabel and their human friends Liz, Maria, Kyle, and Valenti.
Second, UPN is allowing “Roswell”‘s producers and writers to push the show more toward character relationships, while backing off last year’s plethora of SF plot threads. According to Moore, “The WB had decided they wanted the show to go in a more hard-core SF direction. We began playing that note at the end of the first season, and the second season was devoted to figuring out how comfortably the show could live in that environment. That’s why we tried to do so many long-running plotlines. Many more aliens came into the picture, and we had more special effects and bigger SF ideas. But ultimately, we realized last year that we prefer to do something SMALLER with “Roswell.”
“So,” he continues, “by the time we got to those last half-dozen episodes at the second season’s end, after Alex died, “Roswell” became all about the internal workings of these characters and their relationships to each other. That’s what we like to do, and that’s where we think the show lives best and most comfortably. Going to UPN gives us the chance to keep it there.”
The overriding theme this year, Moore says, is change. “That’s what the third season is all about. Last year ended with Tess getting into the granolith and leaving Earth, and basically closing off some plotlines – not to mention the kids’ way home,” Moore notes. “All the evil aliens that they battled through the course of the second season have been taken care of. They don’t have a reason to fight with them anymore. The kids are marooned here on Earth, and with that in mind, they must face the reality that they’re actually stuck here. What will they do with their lives? This sends them all in different directions.”
The change in networks also provides Moore and company with a way to unveil “Roswell” to new viewers, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m., now following “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “UPN is relaunching Buffy and Roswell as a night, together,” Moore explains. “That gives us the opportunity to introduce the show to a whole new audience. With that in mind, our opening episode this year is almost like a new pilot. It says, ‘Here are the characters, here’s where they are and here’s where they’re going.’ Then we will keep moving forward, revisiting plotlines from last year as little as possible. It’s not like we’ll be completely dropping things from last year, but we want to bring in a new audience and say, ‘You like Buffy? Stick around!’ Our demographics and Buffy’s are almost identical, so that show is the perfect lead-in for us. Their audience is bigger, and hopefully if their viewers stick around, they’ll enjoy our show as well.”
Written by executive producer Jason Katims and entitled, “Busted!,” the third season premiere begins typically enough, with Max and Liz sitting in a car outside a convenience store, making out. Then they reach into the back seat and pull out ski masks and guns, and proceed to hold up the store. The reason? Beneath the store is a secret government facility containing the original ship that the kids crashed in.
“At the end of the teaser, they’re busted by the police,” Moore grins, “The episode goes back and forth between the present, as they deal with the fallout of their actions, and the past, concerning what happened over the summer to bring Max and Liz to this point. They start this ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ storyline, where they’re ripping off things and stealing clues, leading them ultimately to the convenience store robbery.”
“By the episode’s end,” he adds, “the charges are dropped because they expose this government operation, and the government doesn’t want anybody to know what was REALLY down there. But Max and Liz are forbidden to see each other by their parents. So we introduce the element of families in conflict. It’s becoming more of a true ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing.”
Meanwhile, Michael decides he DOES want to graduate high school after all. “He’s struggling because he has been a complete slacker all his life, and now he’s like, ‘Oh, I really have to make a life here.'”
The greatest change of all has been saved for Isabel. She has been secretly seeing a lawyer, Jesse Ramirez (new cast member Adam Rodriguez), who works in her father’s firm, all summer long. Now she is engulfed in a torrid romance, which will blossom over the first six episodes, culminating in a major event for Isabel – who does NOT tell her boy friend that she’s an alien. “We sort of have ‘Bewitched’ in reverse,” Moore chuckles.
The writers had plenty of characters to choose from in deciding who should undergo the greatest development this year. Moore says they selected Isabel because “she’s the one who seemed to need it the most. We had done some interesting things with Katherine Heigl’s character, and we gave her a backstory on the other planet, but here in this world she wasn’t developing as much as we wanted her to. We graduated her from high school early, and then it became a question of, ‘What would be interesting? What would be the best thing to do for Isabel?’ And at some point in a writers’ meeting, someone said, ‘What if she gets married?’ And I replied, ‘Whoa! She doesn’t even have a boy friend yet!’ But that’s the cool part. Isabel is young and impetuous. She wants to firm up her life here on Earth, and she falls for this guy.”
In the second episode, Valenti – who lost his job as sheriff last year – starts hinting that he has a new way to make money. Kyle, who can’t wait to quit his job, presses his father to know what it is – and learns that Valenti has gotten his old band back together in hopes of becoming a country & western music star. “Kyle and his father are going in new directions as well,” Moore reveals. “Valenti has been doing nothing, watching TV and screwing around on the Internet. Kyle’s the one who has gone out and gotten a job, so it’s like the roles of parent and son have been reversed.”
Written by Moore himself, the episode’s main focus is on Michael. He gets a second job working as night watchman at a pharmaceutical plant outside of town, and his coworkers are “a bunch of idiots,” Moore describes. “They all get fired for stealing Snapple from the company, but Michael sneaks back to try to make it all right and discovers that the head of security is actually involved in corporate espionage. So, he gets the guys together and tries to bust their boss.” The show is called, “Michael, the Guys and the Great Snapple Caper.”
Clearly, the “Roswell” recipe for success has been modified to include more laughs this year. “Year, it’ll have a better sense of humor,” Moore promised. “We’re going to play things a little lighter in some instances. But the relationships are still going to carry forward, because they are the heart and soul of the show. The Liz-Max relationship is front and center, right from the first episode. The Michael-Maria relationship is ongoing, and Isabel has a whole new relationship to deal with.”
Fans of Colin Hanks will be treated to the actor’s ghostly return, as the tries to counsel Isabel through the romantic troubles in the third episode. “The apparition of Alex appears, and Isabel talks to him as the tries to figure out what to do with her new relationship,” Moore explains. “At first, Alex says, ‘You can’t go any further with this guy. You have to let it go, because everyone you get involved with dies!’ But she’s in love with Jesse.”
The exit of Alex and Tess at the end of last year will continue to impact the series, at least for a while. “Alex still haunts Isabel. She talks to him in her mind and in her dreams. He may make additional appearances later,” Moore offers. “As for Tess, she has Max’s baby, and that’s DEFINITELY on Max’s mind. We’ve talked about ways of seeing Tess before this season is over.”
Although Emilie de Ravin seemed to think she would be around for the third season as Tess (Starlog #287), Moore claims that her departure was “something that came up over the course of the second season. We started talking early on about the idea that she was actually working against the others. As the season went on, we started to think more seriously about how that would work and what the circumstances would be. It was not until we started focusing on Alex’s death as a catalyst for all those plotlines that we realized Max’s emotional upheaval would cause him to sleep with Tess.”
Viewer resentment of the Tess-Max relationship was strong, but Moore insists it was NOT a factor in the decision to part ways with Tess. “We know that people were up in arms about that relationship, and we were fine with that,” he maintains. “As long as people care enough to keep watching, that’s great! It wasn’t like we were writing Liz out of the show. We always knew we were going to bring [the core relationship] back to Liz and Max. But we decided to give them a season apart, and give them some problems, so that when they did hook up again, it wouldn’t be simple or easy. Their relationship will continue to be complicated.”
The Max-Liz connection works so well, as is so popular with “Roswell”‘s fans, because, in Moore’s opinion, “It’s very romantic in the classic sense of the word. Max is a young man from another planet, with secrets. He saved her life in the first episode, and they became soulmates across time and space. It’s a classic set-up. Beyond that, the appeal of their relationship has a great deal to do with the chemistry between Shiri Appleby and Jason Behr.”
Of all the episodes last year, Moore especially liked “The End of the World,” in which a future Max comes to Liz with a desperate plea, and “A Roswell Christmas Carol,” where Max heals a ward full of sick children. ” ‘The End of the World’ was an outstanding show. It presented the series as best as it could be done, and in many ways. It was a great science fiction idea married to a very strong character relationship story. The Christmas episode was really sweet and nice, too.” Among his own episodes, Moore feels “Cry Your Name” and “Ask Not” turned out best. “They were interesting shows,” he believes, “and they came off pretty well.”
One criticism leveled at “Roswell” last year was that the series became too complicated for anyone who didn’t tune in every week. Miss an episode, and suddenly you were lost. Moore admits that was a concern last season, which prompted the addition of Majandra Delfino’s explanatory introductions. Those won’t be back this year.
“We don’t want that perception to be out there, that we were too complicated,” Moore reasons. “That’s why we will make the episodes this season as accessible as possible to new viewers. The relationships will continue from episode to episode, because viewers expect that. On the other hand, plotlines will be more stand-alone. We will resolve them by the end of each episode.”
Melinda Metz, who created the original “Roswell High” concept in her series of novels, has joined the writing staff with her partner, Laura Burns. “They give us another voice, another perspective in the room,” says Moore. “They’re really talented and energetic young writers, and its’ nice to have them here.”
..snip .. [section about Moore’s previous involvement with Star Trek and his pilot “The Dragonrider’s of Pern” that fell through with the WB]
Given the whole Pern debacle, it’s easy to see that Moore is especially glad that “Roswell” is now on UPN. “It does help,” he laughs. “I wasn’t really looking forward to sticking around [on the WB].”
Right now, he IS looking forward to a third year of “Roswell.” “I can hardly wait to take these kids in new directions,” Ron Moore enthuses. “We closed some doors at the end of last season, and that means we have to open new ones. That’s an exciting thing. We have a really good, interesting show. If you tune in, you’ll be drawn into “Roswell.” We have a strong, likable cast, and if you give it a chance, you WILL fall in love with these kids the way we have.”