HBO’s next big series Westworld ran into its share of problems last fall when the network halted production so that its writers could "get ahead of the writing." It turns out that "getting ahead" meant laying out a roadmap for the show’s next five years.
"It was about mapping out what the next 5 or 6 years are going to be"
Entertainment Weekly has helped clear up the picture surrounding the production. In a recent interview with the magazine, James Marsden revealed that the production halt came down to more than just finishing up the remaining strips for the season: "It wasn’t about getting the first 10 [episodes] done, it was about mapping out what the next 5 or 6 years are going to be," he told EW. "We wanted everything in line so that when the very last episode airs and we have our show finale, five or seven years down the line, we knew how it was going to end the first season."
While it is normal for showrunners to put together a longer vision for their shows when selling a show to a network, having an exact end in mind is less typical. The lack of planning sometimes means that writers paint themselves into a corner: just look at the final season of LOST or Battlestar Galactica.
Nolan reported that he didn’t want the show to become a rehash year after year, with new guests arriving at Westworld each season. "We wanted the story of the origin of a new species and how that would play out in its complexity."
'Babylon 5' was most famous for planning out its entire story from the start
Some science fiction shows have gone and plotted out exactly where they would end up. Babylon 5 was most famous for this, as the show’s creator and writer J. Michael Straczynski put clues to the end of the series in the first episode.
The recent trend of television adaptations of novels, such as with Game of Thrones, The Expanse, Outlander, and The Magicians, certainly helps showrunners envision the larger arc, splitting individual books or major arcs into television seasons with a previously defined end point. Based off of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie, Westworld appears to be charting its own ambitious path, which makes this planning all the more important.
Westworld will premiere on October 2nd on HBO.