A New Type of Rendition

By Paul Vanderveen

October 19, 1998

Copyright ©1998 by Paul Vanderveen

Occasional mention of the status of movie or television rights to Atlas Shrugged (e.g., Kirez Korgan, April 20) leads me to ask, Why not a new type of rendition, one that capitalizes on the novel's detective story aspects and vast intellectual integration?

Envision a television serial of limited duration--perhaps 10 episodes, each of which is both a complete dramatic unit itself and a distinct element in a wider dramatic unit, the entire serial taken as a whole. Dagny Taggart figures in the resolution of each episode's central conflict, but all the episodes taken together also make a dramatic unit, by providing in novel ways the "two or more" element which she needs increasingly for conceptualizing. In this type of program, the episodes do not fit the monotonous "situational" pattern of the typical weekly series nor the disjointed "continuing story" format of the serial, "mini-series" or long movie broken into parts. Rather, thematic material links discrete episodes, providing intellectual material for Dagny (and the viewer) to grasp. She tackles quite complex issues in the latter episodes, as these relate conceptually to issues raised in the earlier episodes. Viewers follow her progress through the episodes, "grasping relationships" between events, "drawing inferences ... and making deductions, ... reaching conclusions, asking new questions and discovering new answers," as Dagny expands her knowledge, based on her previous experiences (Ayn Rand discussing conceptualizing in "The Objectivist Ethics").

This type of programming would give viewers the opportunity to experience how Dagny thinks, as the connections linking past events to the present episode become evident to her. Weekly breaks between episodes would give viewers time to wonder how she will integrate the material and anticipate future events.

While every episode would have its own distinctive dramatic structure, a unique plot, the most important connection between the episodes would not be the concretes of plot, but the conceptual links of the theme: the thematic serial, as I call it, would highlight Dagny's capacity to think.

The various episodes would provide clues and insights to the underlying conflict in different ways. The first episode, for example, might give the mere hint of a wider problem, an uneasy feeling that there was something more to some struggle or victory (e.g., The John Galt Line). One episode might treat the broader conflict as it pertains to a special delimited area, again hinting at the broader issue while not yet identifying its exact nature (e.g., Hank Rearden and sexuality). A later episode might treat Dagny's discovery of one of the many steps necessary to her grasping the larger issue (e.g., Hank and the sanction of the victim). Another might do the same in a different area. One episode might focus on her interaction with another character who has been facing a similar issue. Another episode might project her growing vision of a world where the broad conflict is resolved (Dagny's crash in Galt's Gulch and decision to leave). The final episode with all the others behind it, would deal with the central conflict explicitly (Galt's speech and rescue). By then we would know Dagny and the others and the issues they have faced, having seen them struggle and move forward in their thinking.

Dagny's perspective would unify the episodes, with the concrete conflict of each episode entirely resolved in that episode (no "continuing stories" or long movie) and unique (not repeating a standard "situation") but conceptually related to the previous episodes, and the number of episodes would be limited, with the serial ending decisively.