DR ROBERT FORD

It’s West­world’s very own Steven Mof­fat — or is it Ge­orge Lu­cas?

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen - Stephen Kelly

More think-piece than TV show, West­world is the drama of our times; an ob­ses­sively self-analysing, post-post­mod­ern dis­sec­tion of TV and the dis­cus­sion of TV – a HBO show about HBO shows. Which makes Dr Robert Ford, the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the world’s most elab­o­rate LARP, an al­le­gory for the mod­ern showrun­ner.

Frus­trated, world-weary and wise, An­thony Hopkins’s Ford could be any big-time cre­ative in tele­vi­sion. He could be Steven Mof­fat. He could be Bryan Fuller. He could be David Be­nioff and DB Weiss. He is the rea­son why West­world works, be­cause he “gets” it in a way oth­ers can’t. You see this early in the se­ries, when “nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor” Lee pitches Ford a new sto­ry­line – an out­ra­geous ad­ven­ture filled with cheap shocks and thrills. Ford savages it. “The guests don’t re­turn for the ob­vi­ous things we do,” he says, “they come back be­cause of the sub­tleties.” He then un­veils a huge sto­ry­line of his own.

This is where Ford gets fascinating; as West­world be­gins to ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship be­tween cre­ator and cor­po­rate. For Ford’s new idea is weird and ex­pen­sive, and the board (the net­work) is wor­ried. He has a meet­ing with Theresa, the park’s op­er­a­tions leader (med­dling exec), who tells him their con­cern. Ford re­mains stub­born, reaf­firm­ing his cre­ative con­trol by dra­mat­i­cally stop­ping all near-by hosts.

It’s the story we’ve heard be­fore: an old, beloved cre­ator – the rea­son for a fran­chise’s suc­cess – ei­ther fall­ing foul of cor­po­rate in­ter­ests or, as may be the case with Ford, los­ing touch with what made their cre­ation so spe­cial in the first place. In the real world he could be Gene Rod­den­berry. He could be Ge­orge Lu­cas.

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