Alone and afraid, Edward is contacted by the mysterious commander of the League: Dr. Tomorrow.
Episode six is hands down my favorite episode of the entire series. Through every step of filmmaking, I constantly imagine each scene and episode in my head. It's a mental picture of what I hope the scene will eventually feel like. Much of my work as a director is to communicate the "movie in my head" to the entire cast and crew, through the script, storyboards, etc. That vision serves both as a compass throughout production, but also as the standard I hope to reach. Most of the time, the imagined movie is WAY too high a bar to reach. While I think that forces us to be better than our time, talents, or resources would typically allow, it also means that we fall short of our goal a lot. Episode six however, comes incredibly close to feeling just as I had imagined. It never fails to give me goosebumps when I watch and it always makes me incredibly proud to have worked through the three years of this series.
The theme of this episode is that you are both more important and more capable than you think. It's summarized in Dr. Tomorrow's line "Great things are asked of you every day, whether you recognize them or not." Edward believes he is "nothing," but he holds a government job which asks him to help people every day. To Edward, filling out paperwork or answering questions may be mindnumbing, but to the customers, who may be struggling with things he's unaware of, that simple little form could be life changing. Dr. Tomorrow shares the story of the League as an illustration of how capable man, woman, and Edward Borman, truly are. And as the mysterious commander says, we share those same abilities. Like Edward, we are so often focused on our own goals, to-do lists, or just getting through the work of the day, that we may miss those small moments where we could help another, an act which is often disguised as the mundane but could be life changing. Can you think of a better task than to have helped the life of another human being? Truly, great things are asked of YOU every day, whether you recognize them or not.
Dr. Tomorrow was a sketch I made in while not paying attention in a college class. Over 10 years later I was finally able to turn him into a real character. The exact sketch appears below in Jack's Journal.
The television Dr. Tomorrow appears on actually had no tube, it's an empty plastic shell. The screen was added digitally.
The old-timey song featured in this episode "Turn Off Your Light Mr. Moon Man" is 100 years old.
While Edward is trying to use the walkie talkie to call for help, his shadow on the wall appears as if he is praying.
Here's the latest entries in Jack's Journal (click to view larger).
The ever popular brain-in-a-jar joins our blueprint series. Now you can adorn your office with a design of the evil mastermind of the Mercury Men. Or perhaps you can use the schematic to do some cranial preservation of your own...bwa ha ha ha!
Mere moments after deciding to create a retro black and white cliffhanger serial, one of the my very first thoughts was "it MUST have a brain-in-a-jar." It just wouldn't have that 1950's vibe without it. The key to a good brain is the VOICE, and actor Nathan Hollabaugh's cold and monotone delivery is spot on.
Indiana Jones fans may notice that Jack's slow approach to the brain sitting on the desk draws great inspiration from Indy approaching the fertility idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark. As a HUGE Indy fan, Curt Wootton was thrilled to pay homage to the character. (Click to view image on left larger.)
This episode also features the first mention of the Chief Designer, the villain behind the villain. The brain, known as 'The Battery,' has been sent to orchestrate the Chief Designer's plans. Much like Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin's brief mention of the Emperor in the first Star Wars, this secret villain will have a great impact on the future world of The Mercury Men.
Here's the new entry in Jack Yaeger's Journal (Click to view larger)
Now you can rot your teeth with Mercury Marshmallows Cereal! And there's even cut out masks on the back. Print them out and become a Mercury Engineer, Jack Yaeger, or even Edward Borman.
Separated from Jack, Edward is trapped in a descending elevator with a ruthless Mercury Engineer.
The elevator attack was inspired by a scene in the James Bond film, From Russia With Love. Towards the end of the film, Bond fights Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in a tiny train compartment. The fight is sloppy and desperate as opposed to the usual artful fight choreography we're accustomed to seeing in movies. I always loved the idea of trapping my hero in a tiny space with a dangerous enemy. It's compounded further by the fact that unlike James Bond, Edward has absolutely no fight skills or training. He simply has to do his best to survive.
This episode is another example of how the story's point-of-view sticks with Edward. Instead of showing Jack running down flights of stairs I decided to keep us in that elevator with Edward. Like Edward, we have no idea if Jack is going to be able to help.
The location of this episode was the 2nd floor of an office building we used throughout the shoot. For some reason that entire floor 1) was 30 degrees hotter than the rest of the building and 2) SMELLED AWFUL! No matter what time of day, it ALWAYS smelled of body odor. Any time it was announced that we'd be filming on that floor you'd hear a groan from the entire cast & crew. We jokingly called the Mercury Engineer a "baked potato" since he was wrapped in silver aluminum on an extremely hot set.
Behind-the-scenes trivia: the Mercury Engineers, or "containment suit invaders" as they were described in the script, were first created because I wanted to have at least one classic fight scene between the heroes and their enemies. That would have been impossible for me to do with the normal glowing invaders which are added in post-production. Once we knew there would be a special class of Mercury invader, I had to create a reason for their containment suits: to protect the Gravity Engine from their destructive energy. A small example of how ideas can generate in different ways from very practical reasons.
A special thanks to our costumer Ricky Lyle who created the great Mercury Engineer containment suits, modeled of course after the classic NASA Mercury and Gemini spacesuits. Ricky dreams of one day seeing a fan walking Comic Con in one of his creations :)
Here's the latest entries in Jack Yaeger's Journal (click to view larger).
Outnumbered and outmatched, Jack and Edward attempt to radio the League for help!
Part of my goal with this episode was to establish that Jack and Edward were alone in their quest. It also further highlights the clash of Edward's mundane life with Jack's fantastical world. Edward struggles to keep up and scrambles to understand Jack's conversation with the league, while headstrong Jack is too focused to stop and explain it all. And believe it or not there's actually a decent amount of DIALOGUE in this episode :)
This episode is also the first mention of an important figure in the Mercury Men world: Dr. Tomorrow.
Some behind-the-scenes trivia: After watching a rough cut of the episode, it was my DAD who suggested doing a shot of the bootprint on the moon. Also, it's tough to hear, but the famous Wilhelm Scream is used when the little green army man falls off the desk.
Here's the next entry in Jack Yaeger's Journal detailing the Gravity Engine (click to view larger).