RollBots Recap: 102 "Breakpoint"

MCMSaturday, February 14, 2009

Every week, I’m going to try and give you some inside information about episodes of RollBots, so you can see the things that went into producing each story. You should probably watch the episode first (probably won’t have a choice, since these posts won’t go live until after the episode airs).

"Breakpoint" is the last script we wrote, and the second episode broadcast, originally coded 101a because I was so used to calling the seventh episode "107" and didn't want to change (99% of the oddities in RollBots can be attributed to my laziness). We added this episode because our previous 102 ("Wipeout") was not quite actiony enough, and we were afraid we might lose the interest of the audience if it played second [note: 102 is now 103, and all is well]. "Breakpoint" nudged an episode called "Bad Penny" out of season 1, which is a shame because it was really good and laid some groundwork for season 2.

The episode was written by myself at Craig Young, the line producer for the show. One might think asking a producer to write an episode would be a bad idea, but Craig is really good at this stuff. When we were performing heavy surgery on the last third of the season (to be discussed later, when we arrive at such episodes), Craig was the one coming up with the best lines. So when I was asked to write 102, I dragged Craig along for the ride. He pretends he didn't do anything, but he's just being modest.

Our criteria for 102 was to make it action-packed, show some of the relationship between Pounder and Spin, and lay more of the groundwork for Vertex's plot (which was previously a lot more vague). I believe 102 is the first and only time we actually name the Dymex Key, the artifact that Vertex stole from the money canister in 101. That scene between the Zogen-sha and Vertex will give you context for the entire season: there are artifacts hidden, and they have to be recovered to form a weapon. Break out your notepads, kids, because its HARD to keep track of all those artifacts. TRUST ME.

Interesting trivia: in the original script, in the sequence where Spin flies the cargo ship down after the falling platform, he doesn't go UNDER it, he spins the ship around to match the rotation of the platform, and then carefully scoops it up. The first storyboard for the sequence came back totally different, so I tried to re-explain it... but only made it worse. In the end, the directors decided to do what's in the final episode, and I believe they added my email address to their spam filters. I aspire to be articulate and concise some day.

One thing that we never really explain in the series, but illustrate in 102, is the idea that rolling through the Hub regenerates a bot's power. The Hub provides the energy for the entire city, and it's powered itself as bots roll through it, but they also pick up some of that energy themselves. That's why Spin can boost himself by taking that detour.

Oh, and the scene where Manx and Spin are trying to grab at those little round indentations on each other's backs... those are called UpStream Ports... if you turn them, it releases all the energy in the bot at once. It's like the "off" switch, but with a bit more fiddling. UpStream Ports were designed early on so we could avoid having bots kicking and punching each other (concerns about violent content on TV)... instead, they'd be doing a kind of game of tag to try and power down their opponents. Then we added the punching and the kicking back in :)

And finally, I save the best for last...

When we were doing this episode, we had to give it a name besides 101a. Because it was a bit of an unexpected addition to the season, I thought it'd be funny to call it "Rickroll". I even added dialogue where Pounder said: "I'm never going to give you up, Spin!" and then later "Never going to let you down." The lines were cut because they were silly, but we got all the way to rough animation before anyone really noticed, and we were forced to change it to "Breakpoint". I wanted Rick Astley to play the Zogen-sha, but apparently he was busy.

102 ends on a happy note, even though there has been a lot of story arc material laid out. This episode probably lays out more hints per minute than any other episode before the 117 mark, so try and remember it. It'll come in handy later...

If you've got any questions about the episode or feel I'm pulling another Rotating Cargo Ship on you, let me know in the comments.

All content released under a Creative Commons BY-NC license except the contents of "TV" section, which belong to their respective owners.