Espenson drafts - Earshot

This is the next instalment of my series of drafts to scripts by Jane Espenson during her time at Mutant Enemy.

'Earshot' is one of the most controversial episodes of Buffy due to its coincidental scheduling in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre. The CEO of the WB (the network that aired the show at that time), Jamie Keller announced that, 'the episodes ‘Earshot’ (3.18) and ‘Graduation Day II’ (3.22) would be postponed out ‘of sympathy for the people in those […]’. The seeming acceptance that media violence is more of an issue in relation to attacks such as these than, for example, gun control, mental health, inequalities etc. etc prompted Sarah Michelle Gellar to issue a statement that said, ‘By cancelling intelligent programming like Buffy, corporate entertainment is not addressing the problem’.

Whedon, in typically acerbic fashion said the following on a Bronze post:
On the inevitable subject, as far as pre-empting the ep, I agreed with the decision and when you see it you’ll agree, I think, that it was just badly timed. But it WILL air. I’m proud of it. It comments on that type of sitch, and obviously we come down AGAINST massacring people, but ANY comment after so desperate a tragedy would be offensively trite. Needless to type, this BLAME THE MEDIA thing makes me crazy. Remember when Dan Quayle blamed the LA riots on Murphy Brown? Everybody laffed, but NOBODY TALKED ABOUT THE RIOTS ANYMORE. It’s just a way of avoiding the subject -- and of making sense of something to ugly to deal with by latching onto a scapegoat. Sigh. (But it is Marilyn Manson’s fault.)

Back at the writing of the episode, the difference between the outline and two drafts is a fascinating insight into how a writer has to develop and shift ideas, scenes, dialogue; how a short scene can grow into a much longer one; how a character mentioned in passing can become a physical presence in the next draft. And then we can see the developments from draft 2 to the actual episode as aired. Who’d be a TV writer, huh?

Click on for  Outline
And for First Draft

In the sequence of emails that we shared during the WGA strike, and which will appear in my forthcoming book (due out spring / summer 2018), Jane Espenson made the following observations with regard to this episode:

Here is ‘Earshot’. It appears I only did 2 drafts. Differences between the second draft and the aired version reflect Jossian rewrites - for example the replacement of my ‘Catcher in the Rye’ classroom scene with Joss's ‘Othello’ classroom scene.

You'll see that we reformulated how Buffy's mind-reading would be presented between the 2 drafts. Originally, all thoughts were to be in her own voice (to protect the identity of the killer), but we changed that when it became clear it was cumbersome.


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