Following my recent review of the new BBC animated detective series Meta4orce, the series production team have kindly answered some questions about the genesis and future of the series.
I’ll be publishing these in three parts, kicking-off with series writer Peter Milligan. Starting his comic career in the 80s with 2000AD, he has since gone on to work on a number of high-profile projects including The X-Men.
Jonathan Melville: How did the idea for Meta4orce come about? Did you come up with the story before deciding on the animated format?
Peter Milligan: I come from a comic book background, and wanted to draw on some of that peculiar comic book sensibility – bodies that are altered, identities changed, regular people becoming extraordinary – and ally it to a futuristic detective story.
I knew from the outset that this was going to be an animated format, but it could be that some germs of the idea had been floating around, with a view to them being used in a comic.
Was their ever any discussion of the series being live-action?
As the idea developed, and we all became excited by what we saw as the idea’s potential, there was talk about live action.
Were you given free range with the script?
Up to a point. Within the parameters of a story that the BBC agreed to, and the constraints on a story aimed at teens and to be shown in the afternoon on BBC Two, there was quite a bit of freedom for character development and plot twists.
How different is writing for animation compared to comics and films?
Not as different as you might imagine. The characters have to be three dimensional and seem to have a life outside of the story. The plot has to make sense, and hopefully surprise, and say something about your characters.
How far into the backstory of each character have you gone? Are they fully fleshed out?
The characters are completely fleshed out, with more backstory than we’ll ever possibly need.
The BBC Switch audience is a younger one – did you have to tone down any ideas for the timeslot?
Well, as we always knew what audience we’d be going for, the story was planned with that in mind. In my own head our viewer is at the top end of our age range: smart, cool, and certainly not someone you need to dumb down to. But this same viewer is also one who might have feverish nightmares if he or she witnessed a carotid artery being ripped open.
Interactive games are a big part of the web episodes – did you have to tailor your script to allow for these additions?
I was adamant that the story came first. After that there was a bit of liaising, and slight re-jigging of a few scenes to encompass some games. Though in fact, because I knew how the games would fit in from the outset, some of these seemed to naturally fall into place.
The series has shades of both X-Men and Torchwood – were you inspired by either series?
It was a general comic book sensibility and potential, rather than any one comic book, like X-Men. And I can honestly say that Torchwood was never an inspiration.
What can you tell us about your plans and hopes for the future of Meta4orce?
We have a whole new series of storylines worked out that delves much deeper into the murky machinations of Mako, and explores the lives of these fascinating, tough yet vulnerable characters.
Peter Milligan, thanks for your time.
For more information on Meta4orce and to watch – and live! – the series, visit the official BBC website. Watch the Meta4orce trailer on YouTube: