Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Script to Screen: Castle Pilot

Last week I reviewed the script of the Castle pilot and did a breakdown of the structure. You know, for fun.

Today, for even more fun, I'd like to do a quick comparison of script vs. the aired episode and talk about what changed -- for better or worse. To make things even more exciting, I'm going to do it completely from memory (read: kind of half-ass).

First off, as I've already mentioned, Nathan Fillion's character in the script inexplicably changed names. Nick Castle became Richard Castle. Is this important? No. But I'm weird and liked Nick better than Richard for some reason, so now I've wasted portions of two posts discussing it. You're welcome.

The first big change I noticed to the pages happens quickly. While Act I as written was 13 pages of mostly smarmy Nick Castle hilarity, the episode took a machete to these character-developing scenes and chopped Act I down to a svelte 7 minutes. Actually, just under that, but I don't remember the exact time. I'm not sure the episode was better for it, exactly, but there certainly wasn't anything there that hurt the understanding of the characters or story. Mostly, we just lost some fun character interplay, which hurts, but is completely understandable.

Next cut I remember is a half page scene where Beckett tries to convince her boss not to let Castle help on the case. Nothing wrong with the scene as written, and it's followed up by a cute little moment of Castle making fun of Beckett for getting chewed out by her boss. The version that aired worked just fine, though, and was far more economical. Here's my possibly-not-exact recreation of the aired scene:

CAPTAIN: Castle's gonna work with you on this case.
BECKETT: (nodding toward Castle) Sir, can I talk to you about this?
CAPTAIN: (beat) No.

Works fine, right? And it's funny, too, because you know what the scene would have been.

A couple of changes that I really liked came later in the episode. After hearing a character's airtight alibi, Castle is defeated, unsure where to go next. Beckett, however, knows from her cop experience that the suspect is lying... and she's happy to poke fun at Castle for not catching on. Now, this scene is in the pages, but as written it seems like both Beckett and Castle know the suspect is lying. Having her realize something he doesn't is a much better decision.

Similarly, Castle has a line near the end of the aired pilot ("Tell me you saw that!") that makes him feel less superhero-like and more believable. Not so in the script. In fact, I wish that they'd cut another of his lines about a gun having its safety on to further his believability here. Or even better, given that line to Beckett, since it makes far more sense that the cop would notice this.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that the vast majority of changes either improve the episode or at least don't diminish it in any significant way.

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