Thursday, 9 January 2020

From draft to final, the story editing process: Cosmic Rust

In the last article we looked at the process of submitting a draft script.  Now we will look at the process of story editing using one of the most recent additions to the archive: The Transformers episode Cosmic Rust.

The story editors for the Transformers main series from 700-01 Transport To Oblivion to 700-64 B.O.T were Bryce Malek and Dick Robbins.  After which, they were tasked by Marvel Productions to relaunch and be story editors for the stalled production of Defenders Of The Earth.  A 65-episode series produced on behalf of King Features Entertainment.

From 700-02 Roll For It until at least 700-42 Make Tracks, they were assisted by Ron Friedman who was credited as providing "Additional Dialogue".  In practice, this meant Friedman largely re-writing every line of dialogue and the story editors accepting most of what he gave them.  Whilst there has not yet been any paper verification beyond the scripts that Friedman himself has sold off, it seems likely that his involvement with the series ended in March 1985 due to him being needed to finish writing The Transformers The Movie, then writing the third G.I Joe miniseries and then beginning work on G.I Joe: The Movie.

Cosmic Rust (originally title Rust In Peace) was completed by series' production co-ordinator Paul Davids on 10th September 1985.  While the archive does not have the finalised copy of the script, it does have the full storyboards and dialogue script, which were drawn up using the version of the script that was passed out of story editing.

First draft script:

Full storyboards (with final revisions made by producer George Singer):

Full dialogue script:

I know you are, but what am I?
The opening exchange between Rumble and Astrotrain is changed to be more adversarial.


RUMBLE: Hey, Astrotrain, look out for those asteroids!

ASTROTRAIN (VO): Relax, Rumble!  Do you always have to be a back-seat driver?

ASTROTRAIN (CONT): Well, fry my heat shield!  Get a load of that -- the Autobot symbol!


RUMBLE: Astrotrain!  Look out for those asteroids!

ASTROTRAIN: Quiet, pipsqueak! You're bothering me!

ASTROTRAIN (CONT): Well, fry my heatshields!

RUMBLE: I'll do more than that if you call me pipsqueak again!

ASTROTRAIN: Get a load of that, pipsqueak - the Autobot symbol!

Sadly, while the storyboard scenes are left intact, this added joke was deleted from the soundtrack.  Sometimes dialogue would be cut from scenes where the visuals were retained, in order to better pace out the amount of dialogue.

Till All Are One
By September 1985, the major details for The Transformers The Movie were locked in as production of the movie went full steam ahead.  As such, there was a drive to drop in early references in order to set up for the movie.  Such as bringing in female Transformers in The Search For Alpha Trion or generally dialling up the violence level in the last dozen or so episodes of the season.  One such reference was inserted by the editors when Starscream laments that none of them can read Ancient Autobot, Megatron intercedes:

MEGATRON:  I do, you illiterate clod!  I am fluent in every planetary language!

(CONT): It says the Thirteenth Legion of Autobots arrived here the first millennium after Autobots were first created.....

(CONT): -- which would make it about five hundred thousand years before we Decepticons left for Earth!

In the final edit, the second line is changed to say "...the first millennium after the creation of the Autobot Matrix."  The third line was then given to Starscream.  This early attempt to introduce the Matrix was cut in the final storyboard revision.

A MacGuffin by any other name:
The draft script refers to Perceptor's rust-proofing agent as the Ultra Compound.  This was changed to Corrostop in the final version.  Often a device or other plot-relevant item might have it's name changed in order to make the dialogue flow more easily.  For instance, the weather core in the previous episode Trans-Europe Express was originally titled The Pearl Of Jehuddin.  This was changed to Bahoudin for better dialogue flow.

Always picked last
During the G1 35th Anniversary Reuinion at TFCon in 2019, Paul Davids made his collection of production material available to view for the attendees.  One item was the edited outline for this episode.  One key change between outline and script was that Paul intended for Shockwave to be on the mission to Antilla.  A handwritten note states "No, leave him on Cybertron".
It is likely that many of the scenes featuring Starscream throughout the first act, including those of him providing medical care to Megatron, were originally meant for Shockwave.

Action! Action! Action!
Originally the cliffhanger to Act 1 was for the Aerialbots to pursue Blitzwing into New York City, with Silverbolt opting to fly above.  The last line before Fade Out being Skydive's "Keep your wings tucked back, guys-- It looks like trouble!"
The editors must not have felt this to be a sufficiently exciting cliffhanger, so an insert scene was added where Blitzwing banks around a skyscraper and opens fire on the Aerialbots.  We go to break with the explosion caused by his laser blasts filling the screen.  We return from break to find that the Aerialbots have dodged the blasts unharmed, Fireflight commenting "Lucky that guy can't aim straight!"
The entire scene was cut, along with a lot of material from the subsequent chase through the city, in the final storyboard revisions.  The act break was moved up to Perceptor being shoved into Blitzwing's hold by Breakdown, fading out on Dead End's line of "You've got an appointment with Megatron"

2 for 1 special
The scene of Blaster riding aboard Cosmos through space, lamenting their inability to find the secret ingredient, was shortly followed by them arriving at Autobot HQ to report their news to Prime.  The information the audience needed from the second scene was added to the first and the second scene deleted in the story edit.  Originally, Blaster reports the more plausible explanation that they have searched the entire solar system (Playing on past story given that Cosmos was making a return trip from near Titan in The God Gambit).  This was changed to the more vague line from Cosmos of "There is no more Ingredient X - anywhere!"

You're on your own.....or are you?
Once the Autobots realise that Megatron is frying their headquarters with the heat ray, Prime calls the Aerialbots for support, their response?

SKYDIVE: (noncommittal) It's unfortunate that you are under siege.  However, it's very inadvisable that we expose ourselves to Cosmic Rust!"

SLINGSHOT: Yeah!  We don't wanna catch your disease!

SILVERBOLT: Sorry, Optimus -- you're on your own!

*Aerialbots fly out, screen fades out*

OPTIMUS PRIME: (softly) Then we are doomed.

Megatron and Rumble then fly off carrying the lightning bug, with Megatron proclaiming "Another hour or so, and there will be nothing left of Prime and the Autobots!"

This subplot of the Aerialbots walking out on the Autobots in their time of need somewhat plays on plot elements from The Key To Vector Sigma, part 2.  During the battle on Liberty Island, the Aerialbots return to attack Menasor with the following exchange:

OPTIMUS PRIME: came back!

SILVERBOLT (VO): You didn't think we'd really leave you in the lurch, did you?

SLINGSHOT (VO): What d'ya think we are?....cowards?!

Perhaps due to it's nature as a recycled story point, this entire subplot was deleted in the final edit.

That's all for our look at story editing.  Next up: A look at the storyboarding and slugging process.