DR ROBERT FORD
It’s Westworld’s very own Steven Moffat — or is it George Lucas?
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.