Westworld is one of those science fiction TV shows that have become development hell teases, almost on par with Preacher and Arrested Development. Over the years, the series has gone through considerable rewrites, production issues and delays starting all the way back in 2013, when HBO first ordered a pilot episode and the production of a complete season in 2014, only for it to be halted halfway through 2015, just when it was about to hit the small screen. HBO went ahead to attempt to make amends for the delay, promising that the series would finally air in early 2016.
But now, with 2016 well underway, it looks like we might have to curb our expectations…
For the few uninitiated, Westworld was a 1973 science fiction short directed by the grandpappy of ambiguous dinosaur cloning and iffy genetics technobabble, Michael Crichton. The film was about a Wild West themed futuristic holiday resort, where the space clerks and bored salarymen of the 2Xth Century could visit to enjoy a weekend of Mexican standoffs, lynchings and improptu bar brawls, through taking advantage of the advanced AI that populated the resort. The film was hailed as revolutionary at the time, as Michael Crichton used it to argue for the inherent vice in all human beings, the possibility of consciousness rising at random among thinking machines and to present such concepts as the computer virus (one year before the first actual computer virus even took place). Jonathan Nolan, one of the show’s executive producers, had this to say about the source material:
“Westworld goes from one f–king massive idea to the next. At one point in there, he references why the robots are misbehaving. He describes the concept of the computer virus. When they were shooting the film it was the same year, or the year before, the appearance of the first actual computer virus. This is why Crichton was so brilliant. He knew so much about the technologies that were about to emerge, spent so much time thinking about how they would actually work.“
HBO apparently wanted to follow in the source material’s footsteps, by creating a series that would be “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” In regular-speak, the development team was probably aiming to veer away from Terminator meets Jurassic Park and were intending to use the series as a long metaphor about the human condition. Apparently, that has proven to be one heck of a doozy, since the executive producer team (consisting of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy) have recently asked for a production time-out, so they can review the final four scripts in the running for the production of the show’s first season. According to a statement released by the network:
As we head into the final phase of production on Westworld, we’ve made the decision to take a brief hiatus in order to get ahead of the writing.
Yes, that statement is vague as flan, but we won’t hold it against the network. After all, they canceled Game Of Thrones four times at last count, before finally going ahead to unleash one of the most massively successful fantasy TV series of all time. But at least with GOT we had some concrete idea to go by. So far, Westworld has given us nothing but a vague teaser trailer and the promise that we’re going to get to see Anthony Hopkins kick the usual amounts of ass in his role as a robot. The show also lists Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Thandie Newton among its cast, but we’re damned if we even know what they will be doing or what to expect.
All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that it isn’t going to suck.