Translating Gatchaman to English provided the American production crew with an interesting challenge. Not only were they going to have to create the dialogue for the existing footage, but because of the editing that would be required, they also had to come up with a certain amount of original content per episode. The lines written to the existing footage had to be timed to exact measurements, while the original content could be written much looser and with more freedom.
When Sandy Frank purchased the rights to Gatchaman, Tatsunoko sent a complete set of one hundred five English scripts. However, these scripts were prepared in Japan and unfortunately only really useful for determining the basic idea of what was going on in the stories. They were filled with inconsistent terms for the people and machines, stilted and old-fashioned sounding English, and lines that didn't even attempt to match scene timing or lip movements. So they were almost completely worthless to the American production crew. But they did provide a starting point of sorts.
Once it was determined they would not be strictly following the original Japanese scripts and that a lot of editing was going to have to be done to the films, a method had to be set up to allow the production team a quick and streamlined way to go through every film to adapt it. To do that, the production needed to employ a stable of script writers. But they didn't end up being the traditional team used on most television productions. Jameson Brewer remembered, "I really didn't have writers. I was the writer. I did use writer friends of mine, writers that I had employed when I was a story editor and that I knew in the business, because I wanted somebody that had some writing background to be handling any part of these things. But I didn't actually have them as writers, per se."
"Originally I had about six people working on Movieolas," he continued, "I would give these people one of the Japanese films, they would run it on the Movieola and write down scene-for-scene what they saw in script form and leave the dialogue blank. When they were through with that, now I would have a script to look at and I could study it in script form. Then I would rearrange the script into a storyline I invented, I wouldn't write in all the dialogue, I would where I thought it was important, but when I had it pretty well set what that particular script was going to be, then I would call in one of my so-called 'writers' and give them the thing and say, 'This is the story, this is the way it's going to be, here's the script form. All you've got to do now is go through and put the dialogue in it.' They couldn't monkey with any of the scenes, they couldn't change those because I was going by the film."
Brewer concludes, "I had to time each of those speeches down to the split-second and when they brought back the dialogue, I had to test, in fact, I'd say I re-wrote around 50 - 75 percent of the dialogue every time. They would give me the lead at least it would be that much of a help for me. I was really just having somebody break these things down for me because I wouldn't have been able to handle the whole damn thing constantly. Most of it all came from my head and onto the paper."
The process of beginning an episode and seeing it through to final script typically took between six to seven working days. The first step in the process was viewing the film and the final step was always settling on the lengths for each 7-Zark-7 sequence. Since the Zark sequences were created by the American team, they allowed the most flexibility in scene run time. Broken down, the scripting process normally took about two days for each major step; two days to write all the action down, two for Brewer to look through do his edits and suggest some dialogue, and for the writer to plug in Brewer's dialogue and finally another two to three days for Brewer to complete everything and prepare the final scripts for distribution to the production staff and voice crew.
Other than Brewer, the listed series writers were Peter Germano, Jack Paritz, Harry Winkler, Sid Morse, William Bloom, Kevin Coates, Helen Sosin, Richard Shaw, Howard Post and Muriel Germano. All of these individuals were brought to the series by Brewer. Most were old friends or people he had worked with on productions in the past. Of this group, Helen Sosin (Brewer's wife), Richard Shaw, Howard Post and Muriel Germano were employed to view the films on Movieolas. Peter Germano, Jack Paritz, Harry Winkler and Sid Morse wrote dialogue from the breakdowns the first group prepared. William Bloom and Kevin Coates were the only two to do both jobs. According to Brewer, the people employed to watch the films were paid $1,000 a week for their efforts. The series writers got a considerable amount more. When writers are known for specific episodes, they are listed on the individual episode page. But here is a list with all known writer's credits one one page.
Two versions of each script were completed once all the dialogue was completed. The first, and more detailed was referred to as a "Broadcast" script, and it included all of the stage directions, shot descriptions, footage and frame timings for the specific Gatchaman print, dialogue and occasionally if very important, dialogue timing(s). These scripts were generally in the 40 page length range and were essentially the ones compiled by the Movieola viewers before being given to Jameson Brewer and other writers. The Broadcast scripts were the ones reviewed and and finalized by Brewer, David Hanson, Alan Dinehart and other production personnel. They were also the ones given to George Serban, Leonard Reeg and Winifred Treimer who provided notes to make things more accessible to children and for airing standards and practices purposes. Brewer does not recall ever having any run-ins over his scripts, "Never, no. Once it was done it was in the bag."
The second type of scripts, which were much shorter, were called "Recording" scripts. These versions included only the dialogue and exact timings for each line. These were the versions normally given to the cast.
And now, on to the recording....
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Note: One of the biggest curiosities to come to light from studying the production of Battle of the Planets was the fact that Harry Winkler scripted an entirely original episode. Whether this was done on his own, or at the direction of someone on the Battle of the Planets staff is unknown. But it was done very early into the production process. Revision drafts indicate it was completed August 17, 1978, before the first episode had ever been aired. Given the production number of 106 and entitled "Zark-Double-Zark," the episode centered on Zoltar hiring a voice mimic to impersonate 7-Zark-7. This was done to lure G-Force away on a fake mission. Once they were out of the way, Spectra made for its true goal on Earth. It really was a departure, since it called for a lot of action simply never seen in the regular series, such as 7-Zark-7 entering G-Force's Ready Room and interacting with them directly. Actress Janet Waldo had a copy of the script on which she had marked her lines. Since she rarely marked her scripts until she had read the lines, chances are very good this episode was indeed recorded. However, no audio tapes are known to exist. To see its cover, click here.
to Battle of the Planets producer Sandy Frank, head writer Jameson Brewer and actress Janet Waldo for their invaluable information and assistance.