Anyway, in the meantime, because it's January, I'm floundering in another JC fandom resurgence. I suspect half of the reason for this is completing the fanfic for Denise, "A Creekmas Carol", on New Year's Eve (a week late, actually), which resulted in not only a "director's cut" (one scene re-written with a different outcome, and a What Happened Next) but a load of other stuff, too: another post-ALTAF plotbunny, and an extension of an already-compelted series 3 tag. Consequently, I have a lot of loose ends to type up - and for every page or two I type up, I produce about twice as many by hand an hour later.
(A couple of nights ago I made a start on the JC/POTO crossover. I am officially doomed.)
So, anyway, last night on Tumblr someone posted an article under the JC tag - I have no idea where from - regarding the upcoming "series 5", i.e. the three new episodes. (Renwick fancies himself a bit Moffat/Gatiss-y. Pretty sure only Sherlock can get away with three-episode serieses. :P) Given the epic fail that was the Easter Special, I've been approaching these with some trepidation, not least because Sheridan Smith has quit due to conflicting priorities - and I'm still convinced Renwick threw a hissy fit and she walked out because of that. I simply can't fathom how the show can work now - Renwick deliberately set up new!Jonathan in such a way as to completely disregard his previous life, and the final scene with Joey really seemed like a heavy-handed attempt to force things back to how they were in anticipation of three new episodes. Like Renwick wrote a full-stop and the BCC turned it into a semi-colon. :P
So, the thing on Tumblr contained the barest murmur of Caroline Quentin expressing an interest in returning for one of the episodes.
That's good, right? That's what I've been moaning about and hoping would happen for the past 14 years?
In some respects, yes. But OH MY GOD, I am so conflicted about this. So obviously my LJ bears the brunt. (Some of what I say here may spill over into my upcoming J/M essay, or vice versa, because my headcanon is so ingrained now - and makes so much more sense than what's on screen - that I can't help but refer to it...)
I am going to have to number these because otherwise I'll just end up ranting in no discernible order. :P
- I do not trust David Renwick
There are fandoms, yeah, where things go horribly wrong. Characters die. Relationships break up, seemingly irredeemably. The universe teeters on the brink of destruction. These situations can go either way, depending on whether or not you trust the creators. Take Farscape. I'm pretty sure all of the above happened at least once, if not more. But it didn't matter, because we trusted Kemper&Co to make things right - a trust that was implicit even when SciFi were messing things about.
Likewise, I trusted Chris Carter. I trusted Joss Whedon. I think we all trusted JK Rowling eventually. :P
I do not trust David Renwick.
I know it's difficult, when you're one person and you have all this writing responsibility on your shoulders. But that is no excuse for shoddy workmanship. Renwick has absolutely zero investment any more in his creations - he's already said he thought "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb" would be a final one-off before the BBC said they wanted more episodes, and thus he attempted to retire his main character. In many respects I can understand his struggle to remain invested - the first three series are infinitely better because he had a cast dynamic that worked. Alan Davies shone through the audition process to get the title role, whilst the character of Maddy was written for Caroline Quentin. It's entirely understandable that he would be upset when she chose to leave, having expended all that creative energy into forming a character around her. (This also explains why there's a lot of Alan in Jonathan, at least latterly, and indeed a lot of Sheridan in Joey!)
Though, actually, perhaps because I'm old and embittered these days, I'm not sure if Caroline did choose to leave. She actually chose to take a break for a while to spend time with her family (she was pregnant in series 3) - it was Renwick who wrote out the character, presumably in response to her wanting to do other things in the interim period (and obviously, this being the BBC, there's never any guarantee of a new series of anything
unless it's Dr Who, so she was obviously just covering all her bases).
So we fast-forward to "Satan's Chimney", and then series 4, and the horrible forced dynamic of Jonathan and Carla where Renwick tried to recreate the same magic as in the earlier series, and failed - rather than find a new dynamic that worked (and actually, he could've done if he wanted), he tried to hammer the old one into place instead, in a short-sighted interpretation of "If it's not broke, don't fix it." It's actually a shame, because I really like some of the storylines in series 4, but I can't watch the series objectively any more because I abhor the Jonathan/Carla pairing with all of my being.
Then there was Joey. And with Joey came more magic, another dynamic that was actually different but still worked perfectly, and of course Renwick had to go and be a massive brat again. Joey's presence would have been the only redeeming feature of the new episodes to actually make me go back - once I found out she was leaving I was tempted to abandon the fandom as a lost cause. (I am but a weak fangirl, however, so I will doubtless watch anyway with big hopeful eyes whilst simultaneously peering through my fingers.)
Thus: if Caroline does come back, I have absolutely no faith in David Renwick to treat this event with the respect it so clearly deserves. In every Christmas/Easter Special since Maddy's departure (and also "Seer of the Sands" in series 4), he has dropped in a mention of her character - over the years these have become more and more veiled and cryptic, and he's used Jonathan as a vessel for his own feelings on the subject, whether it's logical for the character or not. I had hoped for some time that if Maddy ever did return, the relevant scenes would be outwardly aloof, perhaps even uneventful... but this is a show that holds up to re-watching scrutiny very well indeed, and I was convinced that there would be hidden layers, interpretations by Alan/Caroline that would make Renwick's half-arsed character observations shine that little bit brighter, just as it had always been - the little glances and subtle nuances and obvious chemistry which made the pairing so special to begin with.
Except now we have a Creekwife on the scene, and unless Renwick's going to do some serious finangling, I cannot see how a Jonathan/Maddy reunion would even work. In fact, the presence of Polly should be a brilliant excuse for some good old-fashioned snark / disbelief / angst (if I'm lucky). But given even Joey reacted out-of-character about that situation, I absolutely dread to think what would happen if Maddy were to become a factor. Jonathan has been turned into someone completely unrecognisable, and whilst I'd like to think Renwick knows that, and would write Maddy's reaction appropriately... as already stated, I simply don't trust him.
AND, if Maddy turns up I suspect that will be a very effective way for Renwick to "force" Jonathan back into the impossible crimes business, as he will not have any qualms about having Maddy randomly turn up to drag him off on a wild goose chase with no explanation, no repercussions, no conversations and no background history. I don't want that. I've invested too much energy into this fandom to be fobbed off with a typical writer-response, and even though my shipper heart yearns for it like burning, I am actually so terrified of the inevitable disappointment that I don't want to be there when it happens. :(
- Maddy and Joey
I don't think you appreciate quite how much I need Maddy and Joey to meet each other, get off on the wrong foot, become best friends and then constantly interfere in Jonathan's life. The characters are so similar that there was a danger of Joey replacing Maddy in all respects except the UST (which I'm pretty sure has only been quashed because of the age difference) - and it's for that reason that BOTH of them need to be around to make Jonathan's existence more interesting. ;)
Except basically, we now have a situation where Caroline might come back (though I'm very, very sceptical about that), but Sheridan has left, so this STILL WON'T HAPPEN, which makes me very sad. So much missed potential, there. :(
- Saving Renwick from His Own Mad Devices
There's a little part of me that wonders if Caroline saw the last Easter Special, reacted in much the same "WTF?!" fashion as the rest of us, and thus started making noises (again) about returning to the show just in order to beat some sense into its writer. I've reached the point where I just want to stage an intervention myself, to remove him from the proceedings entirely except as creator credit. :P (And maybe the brains behind the Impossible Mysteries. Just leave the characterisation to me, okay?)
Because seriously. How many times now have we heard either Renwick mention that he wants Caroline to return? How many times has she herself said she would return if asked? How bloody long have they simply not been communicating?? Just, stop dangling the carrot if you're never going to feed it to the donkey, right?
- This Should Have Happened Earlier, Or Not At All
There was so much wrong with "The Clue of the Savant's Thumb" that I no longer consider it part of canon. It's like some weird experimental bizarro-universe. I'm still waiting for someone to jump out of the shadows and claim it was an April Fools joke (especially given the air date), and the realisation that it wasn't is just... augh. That being said, in my headcanon "The Judas Tree" is now the end point. Everything beyond that is Renwick writing self-insert fanfiction and indulging his bloody God Complex. My headcanon is now law and nothing you say will convince me otherwise. :P (Now I just need to get the episode tags on FFN and convince everyone else, muahahaha.)
TCotST also didn't have a Maddy!mention as far as I can remember, which I suppose makes sense given that Jonathan has abandoned everything in his previous life. But here's the thing - if you're going to write out a character, then write them out. Don't send them off to America with some half-arsed explanation, occasionally allude to their existence in every single Christmas/Easter special following the event (especially in such a way as to pose even more sodding questions), and then decide that actually, no, Jonathan is finally over her despite the fact he quite clearly wasn't in TJT. I don't think I will ever forgive Renwick for deciding to give that issue a full stop now, after 13 years of thinly-veiled comments and projecting his own feelings onto Jonathan just to make a point. If he wanted to write Maddy out then he should have bloody well done it in the first place. YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. You cannot keep building our hopes up like that only to dash them to pieces like the proverbial potter's vessel. (I will now have that movement of Messiah in my head all night.)
If Maddy does miraculously turn up in one of the next episodes, I'll have to start acknowledging TCotST as canon. I'll have to rethink my entire, complex headcanon (complex because there's very little to go on) and try to fit all the fail into something resembling sense. In essence I already tried to do that, and it was so painful and heartbreaking that I wished I hadn't bothered. Because the new Jonathan isn't Jonathan, and Maddy would realise that within about three seconds, and that wonderful dynamic which came so naturally at the start will just... crumble under the pressure.
They can't have a happy ending, because Jonathan wouldn't leave his wife - not because he's content in that situation (because he's so clearly not) but because he's a decent person, and would probably view having to remain faithful as punishment for giving up after so many years of hanging on. Maddy wouldn't try and make him leave Polly, either, because after nearly 14 years of absence it's not her place to comment, and they both know it. Actually, I'd settle for something cruelly bittersweet that at least acknowledged all the history, that recognised the part that Maddy had to play in Jonathan becoming who he is now, and that brought them back together at least in the sense of knowing they can't literally be together... but I fear that won't happen either.
At this point, I have never wished more fervently for Caroline not to return. I honestly do not think my heart can handle the potential disappointment. For years I've watched the one-off episodes with baited breath, heart in my throat, hoping beyond hope for them to surprise us, for Maddy to just turn up out of the blue and everything to be fixed... Against my better judgement, I will be doing that for all of the new episodes, too, even though I'm dreading what might happen.
I would settle, I think, for her interest in returning to be reflected by Renwick in another mention - bonus points if it's prompted by Polly, in fact, because that would at least indicate some understanding of where Jonathan came from even if she doesn't know all of the intricacies. Even more bonus points if it causes some kind of friction in their lack-lustre, boring marriage of convenience. Something to remind Jonathan that he needs feisty women in his life, not just overbearing crusaders determined to save him from himself. :P
I'm sure I had more to say on this, but I think at this point I'd just be regurgitating stuff and running in circles whilst flailing.
Incidentally, I have no idea when the new episodes are airing, which is kind of a blessing as I won't be constantly counting down days in cold dread / inevitable excitement. Either way, I'm sure my LJ will be a minefield of brain-broken ranting. Consider this fair warning. :P
Okay, I'm going to post this before it gets any longer, and read / work on some fic to take my mind off it all. Over 'n' out.