Robert J. Sawyer on His FlashForward Episode and Survival Chances

Digital Spy caught up with Robert J. Sawyer – author of the novel ABC’s FlashForward is based on – to ask him about tonight’s episode (which he wrote) and his view on the show’s survival chances.

Head past the jump where we have included a portion of the interview – contains some spoilers for tonight’s new episode.

You were originally due to write episode 17 but it’s now episode 19. Why the change?
“It’s not that the episode changed, it’s that as we started getting closer to the end of the season, the order in which events needed to happen was shuffled, so it made more sense for what happened in my episode to happen in 19. Also Alex Kingston who plays Fiona Banks, our Scotland Yard agent who was introduced in the pilot, figures in my episode. Because she’s a guest star, not a regular player, we had to work around her availability.”

Is your episode particularly significant in terms of story, then?
“I think so. The episode is called ‘Course Correction’. We’ve had eighteen hours of FlashForward with a variety of different approaches to what the question of fate and free will means. We even had a character recently say ‘It’s not fate versus free will, it’s fate and free will.’ As we home in on the story date of April 29, the date everybody saw in their flashforwards, I took the position that we really had to have a course correction. It’s time to make a statement about whether fate or free will really controls our destiny and make it clearer which side of the debate we were going to come down on in our concluding episodes. Also, this episode starts by flashing back to the day of the blackout at NALAT, our fictitious particle accelerator facility in California that was responsible for causing the blackout. In the sense of bringing the particle physicist characters, who were the main characters of my novel, front and center of the action for this episode it was obvious to David Goyer that that was where my talents would be most appropriately applied.”

It’s great that you’ve introduced more flashbacks recently…
“I totally agree with you. We had a staff writer who was very bright, very intelligent and wrote some of our best episodes but who was Mister Anti-flashback! He would argue vociferously in the writers room ‘No flashbacks – it’s confusing enough with flashforwards!’ He argued his point well but what Lost taught us is that an audience can very easily follow flashforwards, flashbackwards and flashsideways without getting hopelessly confused. But it was loggerheads amongst the writers over whether we would go back much to the events the day the global blackouts occurred or the events leading up to that date. Ultimately the sentiment that prevailed was that it’s a series about the non-linear nature of time and that gives us licence to go back and forth as the dramatic possibilities require. We’ve been doing more of that of late. We had a lovely moment a couple of weeks ago where we were able to bring back Agent Al Gough, who was the guy who had jumped off the FBI building and shown the future was malleable. To be able to bring him back in the flashback, even briefly – it was heartrending to see him alive again and that’s part of the beauty of being able to play with the nature of time.”

What are the chances of a second season at this point?
“It’s very interesting. Our numbers for the American marketplace are right on the cusp. If our ratings were a little bit better, another half million viewers – not a lot of people out of the 300 million people in the United States – I think we would be a clear renew for another season. If we were half a million less we would be a clear cancellation. But internationally we were the fastest-selling show in [ABC owner] Disney’s history. Over a hundred markets sold as soon as we went on. We’re very successful in a lot of international markets and that makes the show more profitable than its American numbers would make it seem at first blush. Also, because ABC Studios – a wholly owned division of Disney – makes the show for ABC network – another wholly owned division of Disney – there are certain economies there that wouldn’t be there if ABC the network was buying the show from another studio, so even though we’re a very expensive show our economic bottom line is better than it might appear at first glance. All of that is a preamble to saying I think it’s a coin toss. I think we’ve got a 50/50 shot of coming back next season.”

You can read Digital Spy’s entire ‘FlashForward‘ interview with Robert J. Sawyer here.

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