If EERIE, INDIANA took place on a Hellmouth, it would probably be a lot like SPOOKSVILLE, The Hub’s supernatural mystery series based on the Christopher Pike novels of the same name. I was lucky enough to be able to ask head writer Jim Krieg a few questions about the mid-season premiere, the season’s trajectory, nerdy cameos, and UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects).
This is one of the episodes that isn’t based on one of the novels in some way. Do you have a lot of opportunities to stray off the beaten path, so to speak, or are you primarily sticking to the guidelines of the book series?
Actually, “Shell Shock” was inspired by the Spooksville book ATTACK OF THE KILLER CRABS which actually features giant crustaceans attacking the unlucky inhabitants of Springville. As you can imagine, nothing would make me happier than to do a kaiju-based SPOOKSVILLE episode, but for practicality’s sake, we had to downsize. Talking about it with writers Craig Phillips and Harold Hayes, we came up with the idea of possibly only seeing the eye-stalk and claw of ONE giant crab, with the rest of him being submerged. Then we combined that with the psychological trauma I experienced as a tween when my family joined our local yacht club… instant story! Then Tink, our brilliant production designer came up with the idea of making the crab half pirate, and then he and costume designer Rebekka Sorenson brought him to life.
For some people, “Shell Shock” will be their first time seeing the show. Was that a consideration when you were writing it?
It was. The temptation was to jump right into the big story arc of Adam’s mom and her battle with Madeline Templeton, but we decided it might be a little confusing for new viewers. Hopefully there were enough chills and laughs to bring them back for [Saturday's] “Flowers Of Evil”!
We got to meet Sally’s parents and see how other people react to her. She’s more honest than most and decidedly not up for pretending to be someone she’s not. Can you talk a little bit about your approach to her and why you went that route?
If you read the Spooksville books (and you should), you’ll find that all the characters have a very specific voice, but Sally just jumps off the page. The last thing she would want to do is fit in at the snobby Spooksville Yacht Club. Which, by the way, is not an indictment against all yacht clubs. I ended up loving it, FYI. It would be great to do a sailing Spooksville episode if it wasn’t so hard to shoot. I wonder if it would be difficult for the stunt man in that pirate crab costume to pilot a Sunfish?
The show headed into the mid-season break with some really big happenings. How important is it to balance huge reveals with more stand alone adventures?
Balance is exactly the right word. SPOOKSVILLE is one big story, a magic-fueled mystery with a definite solution, but every episode needs to have a beginning, middle and end. It needs to be enjoyable to both new fans and old. I hope we can pull it off!
Adam’s family has finally been reunited with the help of a spell cast by Ann Templeton and an alternate reality. Will there be any ripple affects?
That’s a good question: can you use magic (or Eldritch Energy, as Watch would say), even for good, without any consequences? Wait and see!
I’m assuming Mrs. Freeman’s fluctuating memories will be addressed soon but is this her mentally reacting to the displacement and/or a side effect to the spell and shifting back to “the real world”?
Well, the title “Shell Shock” has a double meaning. It means the giant pirate crab, of course, but it also refers to Laurel’s mental state as she finds herself back in her own, non-apocalyptic dimension. We’ll just have to wait and see how soon and how well she readjusts. Sorry!
I also got the feeling that Ann’s helping Adam came with additional ulterior motives beyond further gaining his trust. But then again I’m always extra suspicious of her. She’s kinda like the teen, TV version of Loki in that respect. What are the pros and cons of writing a character like her?
Loki is a good example of a villain who doesn’t see himself as villain. He feels totally justified in his actions and, even if we don’t agree with them, we understand his motivations. Ann Templeton is fun to write because we’re never quite sure what her motives are. It’s possible that sometimes she isn’t sure herself. I don’t think it’s revealing too much to say that Ann wants more than one thing at a time and it’s possible that those goals are at crossed purposes. And, like Loki, she would look great in that giant gold helmet with the horns. I wanted Ann to be kind of like the teenage girl version of Ben Linus from LOST. You know you can never trust her, but you also really want to take her to prom.
What I most appreciate about the show is how it plays on archetypes, something that a lot of series for kids and families don’t bother doing. How important is it to you to present well-rounded, diverse characters?
Thank you for saying so! I feel that Christopher Pike, the author of the Spooksville books, did a great job making these kids three-dimensional characters and [Executive Producer] Jane Startz and I certainly tried to bring that to the series. But once I saw Keean Johnson, Katie Douglas, Nick Purcha and Morgan Taylor Campbell on screen, the characters took on a life of their own. They each have a very specific point-of-view. In fact, if you were to ask Watch, Sally and Adam which one of them was the leader of the group, they would each say, “I am.”.
Have you gotten a lot of feedback from the Christmas episode which delved into Watch’s autism?
The reaction was really great! We’ve even had a few viewers who are on the autism spectrum themselves say that they suspected as much about Watch from the beginning. Of course, like all of us, Watch is much more than just a label and I think we can all see parts of ourselves in him. Watch is a delight to write for and Nick Purcha handles his challenging dialog with aplomb (which is itself a word Watch might use). I’ve gotten calls from the director saying that no on set knew how to pronounce certain words…and neither did I! Sometimes they’re words I’ve read, but never heard out loud.
Steve Bacic (Telemachus Rahade – ANDROMEDA, Dark Archer – SMALLVILLE, Colonel Belzen – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR) plays Adam’s father George and Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett – STARGATE: ATLANTIS) made a guest appearance in “Shell Shock”. Both are likely recognizable to the adults watching SPOOKSVILLE, especially the nerdy ones. Any plans on recruiting more recognizable actors to make cameos?
I would love to do as much geeky stunt casting as possible! But because of our budget and location, the guest stars need to be Canadian. Wait a minute! Isn’t William Shatner Canadian? He would be my dream “get”. Make it happen, internet!
I love the running gag of the “mystery meals” at the restaurant. Will we ever learn what’s really in any of those dishes?
I had an idea for an episode where we go on a hunting expedition with Brandon and his uncle and find out that everything served at the Holy Mackerel is fresh, free-range monster. But I have a feeling that one’s never going to get made.
Catch “Shell Shock” (See what I did there?) at 5pm ET/2pm PT and see new episodes of Spooksville at 5:30pm ET/2:30pm PT Saturdays on The Hub.