The Emissary: The Exposition

Well, that was all sorts of uncomfortable.

The episode started with a giant spoiler that wouldn’t have been a spoiler if I had been a little smarter about my publication schedule. Whoops. Then, the exposition (information detailing the initial situation of the story) which should have been limited to the whole spoiler situation just kept going. And going. And going.

Exposition is the number one killer of a story. Too much and your story drags on. Too little and you throw your audience into a sink or swim situation which – depending on the circumstances of your main character and your choice of narrative voice – can actually be a good thing. (The Greeks named that in media res.)

Consider how many books have prologues and how many prologues you’ve started reading and then skipped. The art of writing comes in what we edit. Prologues and lengthy exposition are easily dropped.

If someone complains, there’s nothing like a little tasteful back-story flashback to help your audience course correct. This whole episode, however, is a prologue. They would have been better served to take a page from TOS’s book and not have aired this pilot in its current form, but saved it and split it into a multi-episode arc with a frame story to help cut all the drudgery of the episode.

The trouble with every prologue I have ever seen – even those parading as first chapters / pilot episodes which happen to have too much exposition – is they don’t know which detail to focus on themselves to help focus the audience’s attention when setting the tone of the story, so they focus in on every detail in turn and then jump from one to another whack-a-mole style until you get to the last sentence which would be better served as the first sentence of the greater story.

Actually, I take that back. The trouble with every prologue I have ever seen is that their authors are so attached to the words they contain that their authors can’t bear to set them aside for the greater good of the story, and only diving back into them if abso-f*cking-lutely necessary.