By Fred Topel
Warning: Spoilers follow
Kathy Reichs wrote the series of books on with the hit Fox show Bones is based. Her character, Temperence “Bones” Brennan leapt from Reich’s pages to TV screens in the form of actor Emily Deschanel. Reichs has her hands in the series as a producer but she got really hands on for this week’s episode, writing the script for “The Witch in the Wardrobe.” Here’s a hint about the case she specially crafted for her TV episode.
“Whenever I write a novel, I always bring different aspects of different cases together and blend them together into one story,” Reichs said in a conference call with the media. “So I’ve had cases where bodies were found covered in some kind of melted goop from a fire, so that kind of figured into it. I’ve had cases where bones were found in coffins or storage lockers or trunks that probably belonged to fraternities or things like that that were dressed in odd clothing or something. So, elements of that came into the story.”
Of course, the case of the week is only part of a Bones episode. Reichs also got to play with Bones and Booth (David Boreanaz)’s personal lives. “Well, they’re getting along pretty well right now I think,” Reichs said. “I mean, they’ve started dating other people, and I leave the character development pretty much to Hart [Hanson] and to the executive producers. I’ve got some interesting plot developments with some of the other characters in my story but not specifically Booth and Brennan.”
Angela, Hodgins, Sweets and Daisy may figure prominently in “The Witch in the Wardrobe.” “Well, Angela and Hodgins are getting along pretty well lately, too. I certainly am not going to give away spoilers about who it involves. We’ve got Sweets and Daisy, and we’ve got Angela and Hodgins, and we’ve got Booth and Brennan, and Cam has started dating her OB/GYN guy, so who knows?”
Reichs has written many books, but nowhere near the over 100 scripts that the Bones staff have created so far. Screenwriting was a new adventure for Reichs. “It’s really different from writing a novel. For one thing, when I write a novel, I do it alone. I give my idea to my editors and they say, ‘That’s splendid,’ and then I go ahead and I write the book and I send it to them. That’s not how writing a TV episode works. First you have to have your idea approved by the executive producers, your network, the studio, etc. Then you write a very lengthy outline, which I don’t usually do for my novels. Then when that’s approved up all the hierarchal levels, then you go and you break the story and it’s a collective experience. You do it with the other writers, which is very different for me. So, that’s what Hart was talking about. Breaking a story, I’m told, can take from one to three weeks, and yes, we finished in about 2 1/2 days.”
Not that she’s complaining. The new experience was good and Reichs is game to write more scripts forBones. “I loved working in the writers’ room. To have this brain trust, we’re all bouncing all these ideas off of each other and building on ideas. That was just really a lot of fun for me. Then you pitch it to Hart, in this case, and then he liked it and made a few suggestions and notes, I guess. Then I got sent back and wrote it, and then they change a lot of it, which is also a shock to me. So, it was a very positive experience but a very different experience from writing a novel. I really did have a good time. I learned a lot because it was the first one I had done, so I figure I shouldn’t waste all that newly acquired skill and maybe I should try my hand at a second one if they let me do it.”
One of those script notes involved a supporting character’s storyline. “That was pretty much formulated by the executive producers. I was told that we were going to be using Clark.”
Writing the TV version of Temperance wasn’t too big a stretch from the Temperance in the novels. Reichs came up with an explanation for their similarities and differences years ago. “I think of book Tempe and TV Tempe and I think of TV Tempe as an earlier point in book Tempe’s life. She’s 30-something rather than 40-something. She’s unmarried. She‘s living in Washington, which I find very appropriate because that’s where I started my career at the Smithsonian. It’s the very first place I ever worked with skeletons, so I think of TV Tempe as a prequel.”
Readers caught onto that pretty quickly in the show’s first season. “I think in season one I got quite a few e-mails or visits to the Website, saying, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t Tempe. This is different.’ But now, I tend to get, ‘Oh, initially I was resistant but I love it. I love both. It’s just like two different manifestations of this character that I like so much.’ So, I do think there was some reaction, maybe negative reaction, initially, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. People understand that we had a younger Tempe, a 30-something Tempe on TV, and we’re pretty vague about her age in the books. But they understand that that’s an older part of the character. Yet the science wasn’t that big a part of it as I recall. It was really more intuitive, and you’ve had that shift in the novels as well. Murder mysteries now are not so much intuitive and leg-work driven as science driven.”
In the books, Tempe’s relationship is with Andrew Ryan, not Booth, although the dynamic is pretty similar. Reichs is happy with the “will they/won’t they” tension that makes for great television. Even though her Tempe hasn’t ended up with Booth in the books, don’t count him out by the series finale of the show.
“We don’t know. My books are taking place like ten or more years later and somewhere in between, she’s gotten married and gotten unmarried to this guy Pete from Chicago. So, who knows what would’ve happened between? She could either end up with Booth and then separate or not end up with Booth, but my books pick up when Tempe is already well into her 40s. So, it gives a lot of freedom for what’s going to happen with the characters on the show.”
So now that Reichs has turned in her script and it’s airing this week, she can finish the next Bones novel. “The next book will be out in August, August 24th. It’s called Spider Bones and it draws on my experience. I consulted for years to our central lab in Honolulu for the identification of our war dead. It’s called JPAC, the Joint POW MIA Accounting Commission. All of our war dead from Southeast Asia, Korea, World War II are identified there. I acted as a consultant out there for years. So it’s going to draw on those experiences, and Tempe will be going to Honolulu to straighten out a mix-up in an ID back in ’68.”
Young readers can also get excited for a junior version of Bones that Reichs is planning. “The first in the series called Virals will be out in November, and it is going to follow 14-year-old Tori Brennan and her friends. Tori is the great niece of Temperance’s brother.”
TV’s Bones airs Thursdays on Fox.