From The Writers' Room Featuring The Witch Who Came In From the Cold

Ian Tregillis on writing The Witch Who Came In From The Cold – Ep 5: “The Golem”

No one can stand between Ian and his Golem.

Cold Witch ep 5“The Golem, or, What Happens in Cairo…”

 

Have you ever been at a birthday party, politely waiting for the host to hand out slices of cake, when some jerk barges through the crowd, elbowing others aside in his haste to get a piece of cake right bloody now?  I have a sinking suspicion that if you asked the other writers on this team, and if they were perfectly candid with you, they’d admit that working with me this season was just a little bit like that.

 

When Lindsay sent the series bible for ColdWitch out to the writing team, she might as well have been a party host handing out pieces of cake.  The setting of our story — Cold War era Prague — is rife with so many delicious real-world details that it’s a wonder we succumb to sugar comas.  It was obvious from the very beginning that Prague was the ideal place to situate our tale of intertwined tradecraft and witchcraft.  (Legend says the city was founded by a witch, for crying out loud!  For a writer of the fantastical, there’s nothing more delightful than when real life practically hands you a detail so perfect you couldn’t have imagined it yourself.)

 

But then I read about the Golem of Prague.  And I became that pushy jerk with the sharp elbows: I just had to put the golem in one of my episodes.  I’d heard the legend before, but never in the light of such a perfectly suited story.  I mean, how could we not feature the Golem of Prague in our inaugural season?  By the time I was ready to pitch the idea to the team, I could see the opening scene so clearly it might as well have been on television:  “We start with a cold open.  We pan across a foggy moonlit graveyard, silent but for the crunch of shovels and a faint panting, and then we come across our heroes robbing a grave.  We get a little scene setting, a little badinage, and then an inhuman hand bursts from the earth to grab Gabe.”

 

Honestly, at the writing summit I fell just short of raising my hand and bouncing up and down in my seat while uttering, “Ooh!  Ooh!  Pick me!  Pick me!  Golem!  Let me write a golem episode!  OOOH!”  And the rest of the team, consummate professionals all, let me do it.  Even though it meant that after four episodes of their carefully laying down the storylines for the season, I would come along and drop a golem-shaped bomb to complicate everything.

 

They got me back, though.

 

Because as we started to plot out the season arc, it quickly became clear to us that episode five would also be the logical place to pay off a narrative debt incurred by the preceding episodes.  So I got my way with the golem, but at the price of unraveling a major piece of backstory.  I had to figure out just what, exactly, had happened to Gabe Pritchard back in Cairo.  I put a nice dent in my forehead trying to crack that nut until I realized that the timing would have put Gabe in Egypt roughly a year after the Six-Day War.  Bingo.

Then, of course, I had to connect Gabe’s misadventure in Cairo to my irrational determination to shoehorn the Golem of Prague into our season…  In the end, we figured it out.  And writing the resulting episode was a hell of a lot of fun.

 

(Of course, it wasn’t until months later when Max asked, casually, “Hey, did we ever wrap up Ian’s golem storyline?”  But that’s another story.)

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