Lucas & the Rifles That Never Fired

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Until a couple of hours or so ago, this was one of my down days (after falling asleep sometime after 5 a.m. this morning).  No new posts, no responding to comments or visiting other blogs, no new artwork, no writing, just—rest.  And thinking about aspects of my novel.

I am continuing to enjoy reading Wired for Story on my Kindle—so much excellent advice and food for thought for someone writing fiction.

As a fiction writer, you want to give your reader a sense of place and time. In the case of my novel, that is England, and to a lesser extent, France in the mid-18th century.

I do wrestle with things such how much detail to inject into certain scenes. What to put in and what to leave out.  How much information does the reader need about this particular character, this bedchamber, this locale at this point in the story?

This particular quote from Wired for Writing really struck me tonight:

~Each thing you add to your story is like a drop of paint falling into a bowl of clear water. It spreads and colors everything.

As with life, new information causes us to reevaluate the meaning and emotional weight of all that preceded it, and to see the future with fresh eyes.  In a story, it influences how we interpret every single thing that happens—how we read every nuance—and in so doing raises specific expectations about what might occur in the future . . .

Chekov once said in a note to S. Shchukin, “If you say in the first chapter a rifle is hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”~

Excellent advice, methinks. And this leads me to think of some of the metaphorical rifles that have been hung on the walls but have never truly, properly gone off for an Armitage character.

Specifically, MI-5 agent Lucas North.

Lucas. Such a fascinating and enigmatic character.  So much that piqued my curiosity from the moment he came stumbling out of that car boot.. Those Russian prison tattoos. His affection for William Blake. The failed marriage to a woman he obviously still cared for deeply.

Our first glimpse of Lucas–disheveled, thin, with haunted eyes. I fell in love right then and there.

The damage done by all the torture and deprivation experienced during those eight years in prison—surely a case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?–and how he coped with it.

We got glimpses into those horrific times, brief references to his earlier years.

Unfortunately, almost everything that had been established about Lucas by the writers of series 7 and to a lesser extent, series 8, was completely thrown out the window by the writers of series 9.  He literally became a different person.

I know that Spooks was an ensemble show and that storylines couldn’t solely focus on one character, and I understand that.

But a huge chunk of S9 was devoted to the downfall of Lucas, Plenty of time was spent deconstructing the character that might have otherwise been utilized to create a “Lucas breaks down” storyline that was more plausible but still compelling.  I never thought Lucas was free of flaws or demons; I just didn’t see him as a greedy, mass-murdering immature git.

Now, I know there are those of you who believe the entire John Bateman story was simply “classic Spooks” and perfectly acceptable in the context of this particular production.

I am not going to try to change your mind, any more than you would be able to change my own.

However, in terms of crafting a good story that showed continuity in terms of what had been previously established, I have to say it was a major failure.

S9  displayed outlandish potboiler writing more suited to a soap opera than an “intelligent and stylish” production.  Richard’s performance was amazing, kudos for him from keeping this series from being a total farce. However, as a writer, I thought the material stank to high heaven, frankly.

And dammit, they didn’t give Lucas that “elegant death” that RA had hoped for. Just a long, sad, cowardly dive off a tall building to an ignominious demise.

I don’t think I will ever quite forgive them for that.  I kept wanting Ros to show up, alive and kicking (arse)  and say: “Get a grip, people! This isn’t Lucas, just some dodgy imitation. Where have you hidden him? And where’s the hidden camera, because this is all obviously a really bad joke . . .”

An awful lot of rifles were hanging on that wall that just didn’t get fired, y’all.

Ah, the good old days. The dynamic duo.

11 responses »

  1. Thank you Angie for writing so eloquently on this subject! I am SO with you on the whole Lucas North/John Bateman story line. I think the writers totally dropped the ball on this one. Yes, I know the whole series was pretty well focused on him and his “downfall” and I know that Richard turned in a spectacular performance, but I truly believe that they trashed his character in the most unforgivable way. I also know that it was only because of his superb acting that we could bring ourselves to watch it in the first place.

    I recently re-watched all of S7 and right from the beginning he convinced me that he had never forgotten his ex-wife and that he was still deeply in love with her. You just have to see the pain written on his face when she walks away from him on the street. THAT is the love that kept him going through those eight years of what can only be described as hell and I’m sorry but I could never buy the Maya character. They completely ignored the back-story they MUST have known he had created for himself (as he always does). He has explained how he used the metaphor of “planting a garden” so that in his mind he could go back and feed on it again as required. To my mind there were dozens of story lines they could have come up with to let him die an honourable death and end the series so that he was still someone you could care for, not someone who could kill in cold blood! Sorry but that was NOT the Lucas North we came to know and love and whose death we still mourn. Yes, it was only a TV series, but like his other characters Richard Armitage brought him to life in a way no other actor could have done and he became real to us. It is such a relief to be able to think of his SND status! 🙂

    • Honestly, and I mean no offense to the other Spooks actors, but if it had been anybody else playing that role of LuJohn, I am sure I would have given up on that ninth series and never watched it all the way through due to the sheer ludicrous nature of it all.

      I mean, I really enjoyed the show in the past, but for me, they just jumped the shark with the whole Bateman storyline and the supposed “love of his life,” Maya. There have been other TV series that I stopped watching when the quality level really dropped, and I would have been the same with Spooks sans Richard. Frankly, I don’t feel any obligation to waste my time watching something I find virtually unwatchable. Life is too short!

      They didn’t just ignore any backstory RA had created, they trashed basically everything written by the scriptors of the earlier series regarding Lucas. I remember Richard saying, “He’s not who you thought he was. He’s not who I thought he was!” Bless his heart. But you know, no matter what crap they throw at him, he manages to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear in terms of his performance. So glad he finally got a chance to work with someone top-drawer like Sir Peter. Can’t wait to see what he does with Thorin. 😀

  2. The writers of Spooks nine did drop the ball. The whole John Bateman storyline made no sense when you think of Spooks 7 and 8 where Lucas is so full of principle and works for the good guys. Lucas was not selfish and cared about people How could Lucas have been they way if he was really this John Bateman character? The show didn’t last long after that.

    I will check out Wire for Story.

  3. I like your analysis of series 9 very much. So true that “the rifles never went off”! That succinctly explains what bothered me so much about the series.
    Bless him for being able to make it work anyway! A lesser actor could never have succeeded!

    • Yeah, I totally give him kudos (but no kudos to Kudos 😦 ) for giving such a masterful performance under those circumstances. And knowing everything was not shot in sequence–so that he might be Lucas in one scene, Bateman in the next, and then LuJohn (the character in the morphing process) and then back to Lucas, for example–makes me appreciate even more what he managed. In the hands of a lesser actor, it truly would have been shambolic. I really LOVED that Chekhov quote. How true that is!!

  4. Whenever this topic comes up I am always totally in agreement with what you say so articulately, angie. I love the approach from the perspective of “rifles that never fired”, it sums things up perfectly. Did the writers not even see the “rifles on the wall”? Or did they and just chose to ignore them? 😦

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