Fans of Bones and of the book series FOX’s drama is loosely based upon will want to circle May 6 on the calendar, because next week’s episode was written by none other than Kathy Reichs. Reichs created the character of Temperance Brennan for her ongoing popular mystery series about a forensic anthropologist and she is also currently a producer on Bones, the show inspired by her novels. “The Witch In The Wardrobe” is her first foray into writing for the show and she spoke to the press about the challenge of writing for such a different medium.
Like Temperance Brennan in her novels, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, dividing her time between Charlotte, North Carolina and Montreal, Quebec. She’s written twelve Temperance books to date, with a thirteenth (Spider Bones) coming out in August. Asked to compare novel writing and TV writing, Reichs said they were very different experiences, noting:
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 when that happens you write a very lengthy outline, which I don’t usually do for my novels. When that’s approved up all the hierarchical 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.
Despite the difference, the author loved the collaborative process, particularly working in the writers’ room and bouncing ideas off the other writers. Although she was a bit shocked at how many changes are made to the script on the way to production, Reichs said she would jump at the chance to write another, noting, “I really did have a good time. I learned a lot, because it was the first one I had done. 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.”
Television scriptwriting isn’t the only new skill Reichs has gained from her association with the show. She also appeared in the “Judas On a Pole” episode in 2006. Asked about the possibility of doing another guest spot, Reichs responded, “I was initially kind of reluctant to appear on camera and Hart said, ‘Well I’ll write a part and if you don’t want to do it, we’ll cast it.’ I was still fairly reluctant and then he told me David Duchovny was directing, so I said, ‘Oh yes, I’m on board.’ And I turned out to have a really good time, so yeah, I would like to do another one. They may have created a monster when they let me go in front of the camera.”
Switching back to her writer’s hat, Reichs said she didn’t base “The Witch In The Wardrobe” on any one case, noting:
It came from a combination of different things. Whenever I write a novel, I always bring different aspects of different cases together and blend them together into one story. 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—they were dressed in odd clothing or something—so elements of that came into the story.
Bones has a revolving cast of interns and Reichs said the executive producers made the choice to feature Clark Edison in her episode. She deftly sidestepped questions about Booth’s (David Boreanaz) and Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) romantic relationship, saying, “I leave their character development pretty much to Hart 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.”
Fans of the show are divided on whether Booth and Brennan should consummate their relationship and Reichs admitted to some personal trepidation at the idea. She expIained, “I just think when you do the deed, you’re done. If we look at other shows, like X-Files or Moonlighting, to me that speaks the beginning of the end … From the day Emily auditioned, the chemistry between them has been so good that I think it’s better to keep that simmering.”
However, the author said she does not influence that aspect of the show, noting:
When I agreed to do the series and met with Barry Josephson and Hart Hanson, they convinced me that they would really handle the character development and the story development in a way that was compatible with me and they would leave the science end of it to me, and that’s been our working relationship. And obviously what they’ve done, especially Hart, has been very successful and people have grown to love these characters, so who am I to question what he does with their future relationships?
Reichs' primary job as a producer on the show is to advise the writers on the science. She explained, ”They come up with the ideas on their own and I just kind of thumbs up, thumbs down on the accuracy or feasibility of it.” The author feels a lot of the science and technology featured on the show is pretty good, but what really impresses her are the different arenas the writers find to set the stories, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to urban spelunking. She admitted, “When I see that, sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, I need to be more creative in my settings.’”
Transferring a story from one medium to another is challenging, as the new form’s storytelling needs often demand changes to the source material. The changes can be a sore point with fans and Reichs was asked whether she’d heard from disgruntled fans about changes to Tempe’s character. She replied, “In season one I got quite a few emails 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 them both. It’s just like two different manifestations of this character I like so much.’”
Reichs herself has no issue with the different interpretation of her character. She said, “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) … so I think of TV Tempe as the prequel.”
Bones recently celebrated its 100th episode and Reichs was asked how many she thought the show should make. With a laugh, she said, “I think we should go to 1000 episodes! … Everything I hear is that we’re going strong. We’ve been picked up for the sixth season, of course, and hopefully we can go several more beyond that.”
Check out Reichs’ spellbinding “The Witch In The Wardrobe” Thursday May 6 at 8:00 PM (ET/PT). Investigating the bodies of a modern day witch and one from the Salem Witch Trials, Booth and Brennan explore the world of Wicca as they hunt a killer.