Episode 1. Where it all began.
In many ways this is the most difficult episode to write about, in that it sets the format for the others, and there are so many firsts.
1-4, starting with “She came out of the store…” and ending with “… shriven of his humanity.”
The first-ever episode, this establishes the premise (reading from and attempting to understand snippets of Lord Foul’s Bane) and the format (Reading, Analysis, Fantasy Action Sequence, Expert, Outro) that would be the basis, with tweaks, for the rest of the episodes. It also introduces the environment—bed—that practically defines the show.
It makes clear early that the two hosts are quite bewildered by the text, and are approaching it with very little foreknowledge. At 06:00, there’s a subtitle that reads “Julie: Has read most of Lord Foul’s BANE.”, followed one minute later by another that reads “Heatherly: Has heard of Lord Foul’s BANE.” The viewer might well have picked up on the confusion prior to this, but the subtitles help make clear that the perplexity is entirely intentional.
VSE is not Covenant’s disease. The resistance to the idea that Covenant is a leper is critical to this episode. However, there are no colossal misunderstandings in this episode (as opposed to a general lack of understanding).
###Analysis of Pages
The attitude to the book is made clear very early, as Heatherly only gets as far as the end of the third paragraph, “Outcast unclean!” before starting to paraphrase. After Julie asks “What are you doing?” (03:58), Heatherly briefly resumes reading with page 2′s “He was nearing his destination, the goal of the affirmation or proclamation that he had so grimly undertaken.” before paraphrasing again.
Julie’s first question about why Covenant (still unnamed!) walks mechanically, 05:49, and Heatherly’s response about his nerve disorder, make clear that they don’t know Covenant is a leper.
The classic “He doesn’t have a penis!” “It’s metaphorical!” exchange happens in this episode, and goes a long way towards further establishing the tone of the show, as does Cameraman Steve’s response when queried for his opinion: “Did he have a penis or not?” “I think Kellogg was responsible for a lot of genital mutilation…” (08:33)
The first paragraph of Lord Foul’s Bane introduces the protagonist as a “grey, gaunt man” who walks “like a mechanical derelict”, and immediately casts him as someone who is unwelcome. Furthermore, it establishes that he is rather angry and bitter. Angry, bitter—and afflicted. Although his disease is not named until page 8, that he is suffering from some illness is apparent from the top of page two and the mention of his doctors.
The rest of the four pages further establish his status as a pariah in the community, the fear and disgust felt by the other people in that community, their attempts to prevent him from coming among them, and his resistance to those attempts. He is clearly alone, and has in some way lost his wife Joan and son Roger. The first four pages also establish (literal) first contact with “the man in the ocher robe”, a figure Donaldson would later state he regretted featuring so openly and so early.
The Fantasy Action Players are named as:
Man in Ocher Robe
The action sequence opens with Thomas Covenant (named by the credits, the first time that the novel’s protagonist is actually named on the show) walking in very mechanical fashion down the street. He encounters a “young child” eating a lollipop, and the child’s mother, who is desperate to keep the child at a distance from Covenant. He also leers at “teenage girls” in a storefront, before grimacing at his telephone bill and bumping into the “man in the ocher robe”, whose robe is not really ocher in the scene.
Apart from the child and mother being quite surrealistically attired, the teenage girls being in drag, and Covenant’s “mechanical” movements being ridiculously overdone, the action sequence doesn’t diverge that significantly from the text.
As I was the expert in this, I can state that I had no real warning of what the show was going to be like, and that I expected rather different questions that would be more concerned with thematic analysis of the book. As is clear from some of my slower answers, I had not read the book in quite some time at the time of the show.
The show provides no explanation for why I am wearing heavy eye makeup, and I cannot provide one either.
This episode more or less lays the groundwork for my playing straight man to Heatherly & Julie’s comedy acts, but I don’t manage it all the way through, as there are some points at which I’m just not able to keep a straight face, e.g. “…noisy or flappy?” (16:32). The supercilious aspects of my “expert” persona also come through clearly, as with Julie: “This is such an honor to have such an expert in bed with us.” Me: “Yes it is.” (21:06)
My third answer to the “things in common with Thomas Covenant” question is wrong—while I do like platinum, Covenant’s ring is (obviously) white gold.
I’m pretty sure that the way they “summon” me at the beginning is a nod to “I Dream of Jeannie”.
This episode also defines the structure that most expert scenes would follow: questions; diagram; ‘post-coital’; ‘favorite part’.
*Skeptic* (13:08): My definition of the word was edited out. My description of its origin is a terrible hedge, as I knew perfectly well that it came from a sect of Greek philosophers. I would define “skeptic” as “one who doubts”.
*Etymological* (17:05): I defined “etymology” here, “the study of the history of words”, but Julie actually asked for “etymological”.
*Ocher* (18:53): “A kind of reddish-brown.” There appear to be different kinds of ocher, including yellow, red, purple, and brown… other definitions I’ve seen claim it’s a kind of reddish yellow rather than brown, but I contend it’s clearly a brown.
*Abdication* (20:45) I defined “abdicate” here, “to relinquish or give up responsibility”, but technically Heatherly asked for “abdication”.
Heatherly & Julie, 00:00
Sighting of Lord Foul’s Bane (paperback, looks like 1997 U.S. edition) , 00:00
Guy with cleaver, Karotica, 00:35
Viking Girl, Adult Gladiator, 00:42
2 Swordsmen from credits, 01:13
Covenant? Berek? Covenant/Berek lookalike? 01:18
Welcome to the very first episode, 01:55
Introduction of Heatherly and Julie, 02:00
First mention of Steven R Donaldson, 02:07
First mention of Lord Foul’s Bane, 02:08
Parrots in the background, 02:03
FBH email address 02:42
Cameraman Steve, and Cameraman Steve’s voice “That’s harsh”, 06:27
Fantasy Action Players: 08:54
Covenant (still unnamed) 09:15
Covenant named by credits, 09:20
Child eating lollipop, 10:06
Child’s mother, 10:23
Teenage girls (in drag), 10:57
Man in “Ocher” robe, 11:18
My first appearance: 11:48
Expert jacket: 11:48
First expert line/First Tadhg line: “Good evening”, 11:52
First expert question: “How many times have you read it?”, 12:00
First diagram begins, 21:46
Post-expert/post-coital scene 24:56
First “favorite part” question, 25:09