Hello Interwebs! Five years ago, TPM released its last installment of Planet of the Beavers. This one happens to be my my favourite part of the story (currently released).
This is Part 4 of my PoB analysis series. If you haven’t checked out my first articles already (or if you want a refresher), begin with Part 1 here.
***Spoilers ahead for Planet of the Beavers: Forward From the Past***
Planet of the Beavers: Forward From the Past Behind-the-scenes Stories
PoB 4 was the first installment of the series where I (basically) took full creative control at every stage. Part 3 burnt Justin out so badly, he was happy to take a backseat. Was it more workload for me? A lot more, yeah. But I didn’t mind one bit. See, Justin’s a super-fan of The Matrix (which we loosely adapted for PoB 3), but Back to the Future is my favourite film (which was the core of PoB 4). So he got one for his fandom and I got one for mine. Funny enough, he still prefers Part 3 and I like Part 4.
I believe the elevator pitch for this installment was Terminator meets Back to the Future. I’ll get more into the details of our homages in my analysis section… Though Justin had little to do with the project by the time we filmed, he and I began brainstorming this story before Part 3 had even released. We actually worked on them concurrently (wrote #4 while filming/ Editing #3). Thanks to this pre-determined trajectory, we ended Part 3 dressed as Back to the Future characters and hit the ground running with Part 4. That’s why the transition from 3-4 is WAY more smooth than any of the other episodes.
I started the script in earnest sometime in mid-April, finishing in early May. But we didn’t get to filming for another few weeks. Justin and I took care to make this shoot considerably less stressful than PoB 3’s. Nobody wanted to go through another ordeal like that…
SHOOTING DAY 1
Our crew began its first day at Justin’s father’s house, 10 am. Of course we stalled out right away because Matteo was late to set… But that didn’t matter so much this time. We were taking it easier on ourselves! So Justin, Zach Crispo (Reese Kyle) and myself wandered to a nearby park and held violent Lightsaber battles with our new replica combat-models. I earned a bruised knee and elbow for failing to anticipate Crispo’s attacks… His blade was also heavier than mine, so that didn’t help.
We returned to Justin’s house after half an hour to meet Matteo. Then we filmed our first scene in the living room. Actually, most of our scenes from Shooting Day 1 were set in this living room. The highlights of our morning included Matteo’s “Rip on Derek” rant and when he stabbed that condom in the background. Both moments were improvised but killed the crew from laughter. I’ll explain WHY the condom thing mattered to the plot later…
Matteo’s Derek rant is a good place to mention why we re-cast Reese Kyle… We’d originally hired Derek because he was a good friend of Matteo and Justin’s, had free time and was willing to perform– but he wasn’t an actor. Derek’s level of talent was OK for PoB 3 where Reese played a bit role, though would have been problematic in Part 4 where Reese becomes a major supporting character. So we opted to recast the part with our Drama class friend, Zach Crispo.
Zach had never actually seen the PoB movies before that afternoon. We made sure to show him during one of our breaks (parts 2 and 3 because Matteo was self-conscious about his singing in Part 1, even though he nailed it). Zach’s enthusiasm and positive attitude were appreciated. He was a great crew member for the few days we had him!
Anyway– we finished up Zach’s scenes (anything with Reese and Doc together) and wrapped up early. Everyone decided to return to that park for more Lightsaber duels. I received a swollen knuckle, Zach sustained a swollen finger, Justin suffered a bloody finger and Matteo experienced some pain in his knuckles. But it was a tonne of fun! From here we took lunch and Zach left at 1:30.
Justin, Matteo and I filmed a few shots, played video games and chatted while we waited for Justin’s father to return with the car. ‘Twas 4:00 by the time we headed to town for our next sequence: the part where young Doc meets Alex. My script initially had this mundane sequence where the characters talk outside a movie theatre. Matteo improvised the epic chase sequence where he climbed a building. Justin and I had no clue what he was doing when he ran into that alley, but we kept rolling and went with it. Fantastic choice by Matteo there!
This sequence proved to our crew that having a dedicated camera-person was ideal. TPM’s films pre-PoB 4 were mainly shot with tripods out of necessity. One hazard of maintaining such a small crew is that the camera often stood neglected… When all hands are acting, we rarely have the luxury of an extra person to operate our equipment. Thankfully Agent Gorn was barely in PoB 4, so I got to dedicate myself to camera work. And that’s why PoB 4 remains the most dynamic film we’ve ever shot!
There wasn’t anything left for us to do till it got dark, so we returned to Justin’s neighbourhood and wandered the subdivision. It was here we happened upon an elementary school. Nobody was around by this time of day, so we were free to examine the place at leisure. Justin and Matteo found a spot whereby they could climb to the roof. They had to prop themselves up on a fence and pull up. Matteo made it. Justin did not.
Our hero hung on the ledge, dangling above tarmac. The safest option was to stretch his foot so it reached the top of the fence from which he climbed up in the first place. This he failed to do… Left with no other choice, Justin dropped nearly 8-12 feet onto concrete. Poor boy received a bone bruise (where a bone shifts and bruises muscles on the inside). He was on crutches within the week. Though he didn’t realize how badly he’d been hurt at the time. I mean, he complained about the pain for the remainder of the evening (and our entire second day of shooting) but he was still able to walk.
Justin, Matteo and I strolled over (or limped, in Justin’s case) to a nearby park and goofed around. We soon returned to Justin’s place. He and Matteo drove out to pick up Justin’s father from a neighbouring town while I stayed behind. They didn’t return till past 9:00.
At this time, we reviewed some of our dailies. Our favourite moment was Matteo and Justin’s chase through the alley. Matteo caught inspiration and made us play the clip again while he pulled up “Bad Boys” on his phone. All of a sudden, the scene was eerily similar to something from Cops. We decided in that moment to edit an official cut of this joke and release it as a trailer.
When it FINALLY became dark enough (9:30), we visited a parking lot to film PoB 4’s climax. Justin had lost enthusiasm by then because he was tired and his ankle hurt. Matteo and I were still OK though. For Justin’s sake, we sped through it and finished by 10:30. We then drove Matteo back home. I didn’t get back to my place till midnight.
SHOOTING DAY 2
I dedicated my morning to compiling last-minute props. My brother happened to get our old record player working, which inspired me to grab my mother’s old 80’s records! This gathering process made me late to set, though there wasn’t technically a rush.
Justin and Zach were both ready to go by the time I arrived (around noon)! Matteo earned the day off because we’d finished all his scenes. Unfortunately, nobody was at their best. I was frazzled from a rushed morning, Justin’s ankle still pained him, and Zach suffered a slight hangover from a party he attended the evening previous. His mind wasn’t fully present but he performed well.
First scene of the day: Zach drove us over to a local car wash. Alex and Reese were supposed to be in a barn, but we had none available, so the self-serve car wash was the best confined space we could find. From there we went to a dead-end road to shoot the part where they turn on the radio.
Next up was the montage sequence. Zach, Justin and I waltzed round Main Street in our 80’s attire, staging “shoplifts” in local stores with our props. We had an entire shopping cart full of old stuff while shooting in Walmart. The other customers must have been so confused what we were doing and where we obtained these things… But we lived in a small town where nobody cared to ask questions. A lot of people stared at us though.
TPM’s crew journeyed back to Justin’s at 2:30 for lunch. Our friend Jessica arrived by 3:30 to film her scenes. Why did we hire her? Well, she had some community theatre experience, was someone with whom we often socialized, and we’d worked with her previously (on PoB 2’s Tower Blitz sequence).
She was a shy person back then, and was nervous to work with us that afternoon. Jess put a lot of pressure on herself to make a good showing. I, for one, thought she did very well! She, like Zach, had a good attitude and turned in a solid performance!
Jess’ first scene with us was the town’s back alleys, where Gorn chased Reese. I wish Zach hadn’t vaulted that fence so flawlessly. Made my attempt look abysmal… But at least SOMEONE got to look cool.
We filmed Reese and Lorraine’s first meeting, then returned to Justin’s and relaxed. Everyone was tired out by this point… Zach, Jess and I rested on the couch, making up random musical rhythms and jamming out to kill the time.
Once again, we were forced to wait for sunset before we could return to work outside. So we shot the sequence where Lorraine meets Alex, then played video games. I remember having lots of fun with the crew here!
Just after sunset, we filmed the second-act fight between Reese and Gorn. There wasn’t much choreography to this sequence, so it went quickly. Zach left us soon after this. Jess, Justin and I finished up our work in the area (the scene where Gorn meets Lorraine) and went back to Justin’s.
With the onset of darkness, Jess, Justin and I visited the local bandshell for PoB 4’s second-to-last sequence: the Queen concert. I wrote this moment as both an homage to Back to the Future, and a bit of character/ fan service. If Alexander went back to the 1980’s and had a chance to see Queen live, he’d take it right? They’re his favourite band! In case it wasn’t obvious: our inclusion of “Never Gonna Give You Up” was an attempt at Rickrolling you watchers of the film…
Justin’s tiredness made him weird by this point in the evening. He memorably ran up and down a hill screaming random things. And his antics with a photograph and a shopping card are… best left to the imagination.
Our filming complete, we returned to Justin’s one last time. Then he drove Jess and I home and we called a wrap!
Maybe you’re wondering why we finished shooting in May but didn’t release PoB 4 till December? I’m placing 100% of the blame on Justin for that… I believe I mentioned in my PoB 3 breakdown how badly Justin burnt out while editing that film. So he kept pushing PoB 4’s post-production off. For the record: I bugged him about it on and off that entire summer.
He eventually conceded to give me the clips so I could do it myself (this was in October). My first cut was finished quickly. Only problem: Justin didn’t care for it. Thankfully he was able to cleaned things up and add special effects for good measure. This would basically be our working relationship for all TPM’s major films afterwards: I’d organize clips and do the rough cut while he’d clean it up and put on finishing touches.
PoB 4 Narrative/ Filmmaking Analysis
Like last time, I’m going to break up my analysis by character. Simple version of events though: Doc and Alex are doing a Back to the Future Homage; Reese, Lorraine and Gorn are doing Terminator; and both plotlines converge into a hybrid (where the assassin attacks the time-traveling protagonist who’s looking to get back to the future).
I want to address this point upfront: PoB 4 took the franchise in a direction people either love or hate. With the apocalypse behind us (or rather ahead), the “Planet of the Beavers” plotline became all but irrelevant by Part 4. Some might see that as a negative; I say it’s part of the fun! Not as if we ever learned much about the Beavers or saw them anyway (we even joke about their lacking presence). The Beavers were a vague villain to give our world flavour and a starting point, but never intended as the endgame boss.
PoB 4 derailed a straightforward “save the day” adventure quest in lieu of a reluctant hero’s journey to accept his life’s work. Once again: some may argue this is where PoB lost focus; I’d argue PoB NEVER had a clear focus. The plot reinvented itself with each new entry. Part 4 was no different. The “Chosen One” thing was Part 3’s driving force but, in true PoB fashion, Alexander seeks to find new purpose now that he’s in a new place.
That said: he’s inadvertently playing into his hero role. He just doesn’t realize that it’s followed him to the 1980’s. Alexander isn’t called “The Wanderer” for nothing. He’s meant to travel time and space, meeting new people, and learning new things about himself with each adventure. Part 1 he learns to survive; Part 2 he tries to form a new identity; Part 3 he makes a half-hearted attempt at being a hero (for the wrong reasons); and in Part 4 he decides heroism isn’t for him. Where does he go from here? You’ll see eventually.
But let’s explore what happens to him in PoB 4. In essence: he loses faith in both himself and his mission. This manifests in him running from his destiny and suffering bouts of post traumatic stress. He and Reese breaking the time machine is just the best excuse he has not to bother with the “hero” stuff anymore. In fact, he looks for any reason not to return home. And can you blame him? The 80’s would undoubtedly be more fun than a post-apocalyptic hell where everyone wears black leather, the skies are gray, and humans are either enslaved, stupid, or fighting a losing war against oppression. Oh yeah– and all the survivors place their hopes for salvation on his shoulders.
The only times Alex seems to “care” about his mission are when he talks to people he respects, like his mother and Doc. With Reese, he openly admits to his ambivalence about going home. Alex tells his mother he’s on a mission, both because he wants her to be impressed and because he wants an urgent-sounding excuse to get out of her bedroom. He later tells Doc that he wants to return to the future and stop the apocalypse. But that’s only because Alex’s perfect world is closing in on him and he doesn’t have the first clue where else to go– not because he WANTS to fulfill his destiny.
Speaking of his role as “The Wanderer”, Alex’s hesitancy towards his heroic role stems from 3 major factors: Doc, Serinity and Gorn. Doc belittles Alex multiple times throughout Part 4, giving him menial jobs and doubting his effectiveness. This damages Alex’s already bruised ego. And Alex only became a hero in the first place to impress Serinity. With her dead, there was no reason (in his mind) for him to return to a job he never wanted. Yet Alex’s fear of Gorn was his primary concern…
Alex still felt Gorn could be redeemed in PoB 3. Alex also felt that his “Wanderer” powers made him invincible. Gorn proved him wrong on both counts. He beat Alex to a pulp in their kung-fu fight (Alex only survived cause of a lucky shot), then murdered Doc in cold blood. Alex failed to stop Gorn in every encounter of theirs up to that point. Alex’s pent-up feelings nearly explode into a panic attack when Reese suggests Alex face Gorn again. Alex outright refuses, even though he’s technically their team’s best fighter (and the only one with superpowers).
So why does does he ultimately confront Gorn in the end at the Queen concert? I’ve got to chalk that up to adrenaline and bad decision-making, because his arc wasn’t naturally going that way. I admit we impeded our story just to do an homage. But we only realized that in hindsight. Although in our defense, Alex at least refrains from fighting Gorn one-on-one. And he does ultimately run away from the situation.
NOTE: I also don’t think Gorn would have cared about witnesses enough to let Alex go. Just suspend your disbelief EXTRA hard for that concert sequence, OK? The rest of the film’s story mostly works.
So what else happens to Alex in this film/ informs his character? Well, Alex clearly didn’t think highly of Reese Kyle in Part 3 (as evidenced by his unflattering description to Doc, off camera). There’s a scene we have yet to release which establishes Alex was jealous of Reese’s relationship to Serinity. He was convinced they were dating.
Speaking of Serinity: Alex is still obsessed with her. That whole plotline isn’t meant to be taken seriously, if you’re wondering. He knew her for a couple months, and she seemed to hate his guts. The fact that he still holds on to her picture as a keepsake is ridiculous. It’s also an intentional subversion of the “Memory of hero’s dead girlfriend inspires him” trope.
And of course, he nearly writes himself out of existence! But I’ll get into that with the other characters, ’cause it matters for them more than Alex (you wouldn’t think so, but it does).
In the end, Alex has little choice but to ditch Doc and drive the Delorean to who knows where? He aims the car at Gorn in one last-ditch attempt to kill his nemesis, but we don’t know yet what happened. Spoiler alert for the future: if a train couldn’t kill him, a car wouldn’t…
Speaking of Spoilers: they seem to be a chief concern of young Doc’s. He knows how much power knowledge of the future holds, so he simultaneously avoids said knowledge and tries to manipulate it. Notably: Doc forms the impression that he’s living the plot of Terminator and that Reese Kyle is Alex’s biological father (To be clear: Reese may not be the father. That’s just what Doc thinks). So he volunteers Reese to protect Lorraine, fully expecting Reese to be killed in the process. And he pops the condom to ensure Alex’s existence.
Keeping in mind Doc knows none of this information to be fact, that actually makes him a somewhat sinister figure. He manipulated a man into his death and tampered with birth control for “the greater good”. But can we really call him a hero after actions like that? This is the same guy who would go on to make a genocidal bio-weapon and seemed to know about the pre-apocalypse world of assassins. He also expected the Libyans to be after him for some reason– and I doubt it’s because he watched Back to the Future too many times.
Add this to multiple lies he tells: 1) His faux British accent doesn’t exist in his youth, so it was probably all an act; 2) He tells Alex and Reese that he invented time travel from hitting his head, when he actually just got it from watching BTTF; 3) Something evidently happened between part 4 and 1 to turn him ageless.
Also: Jack Kennaugh is apparently Doc’s real name and not just something he made up. This (among other clues, like the family heirloom) means he remembered more about his past than he let on. It was always obvious Doc suffered less memory loss than Alex, Gorn or The Resistance, but by this point it should be obvious he remembers almost EVERYTHING about his previous life. Why? A good question for another time.
For a serial liar, Doc is shown to be a very trusting person. How crazy was our world before the apocalypse that the idea of Armageddon and time travel barely phases him? You’d be surprised. We have a lot of lore planned for Doc’s backstory between PoB 4 and the apocalypse.
In the end– Doc throws a wrench into Alex’s loosely formed plans by joining him for a time travel adventure. It’s why Doc sets the T.A.R.D.I.S to visit the American old west. He specifically wanted to meet his ancestor (who we’ll come across in PoB 5). This is hinted by post-apocalyptic Doc (who is alive and well thanks to a Kevlar vest) pulling out his “ominous family heirloom” from PoB 2 and questioning its origin story.
NOTE: Doc’s noble “sacrifice” for Alex reminds me– one more piece of evidence that Doc is a creep: he admits to going in womens’ washrooms.
So– Doc completely misjudged Gorn’s motivations here. His mission was never to kill Lorraine (Terminator style). Gorn didn’t even know who she was. He traveled to 1985 so he could finish off Alex, and kill or capture Reese.
Like the Terminator, Gorn is apparently invulnerable now. The official story is that the Beavers “rebuilt” him. But that’s all hearsay– just like the notion they programmed his mission in the first place. We’ve never seen him with his supposed “masters” once. It’s perfectly plausible (based on this universe’s logic) that his skin’s been impervious from the story’s very start. He’d just never been hit by bullets before Part 4. I know that sounds like a retcon (’cause it kinda was at the time) but we do have a reason in mind for these powers.
Maybe you’re wondering: if he went full Terminator, why wouldn’t he kill Lorraine? And why did he go with her back to her house? As cold as Gorn is, he’s not a machine– just a programmed assassin. Jason Bourne had a conscience too. Gorn’s mission was to wipe out the Resistance. Lorraine was means to an end. She knew Reese– therefore she may have had contact with Alex as well. Once she agreed to lead Gorn to Alex, Gorn only had to play along.
Because it wasn’t clear: Gorn knocked out Freddie Mercury and Brian May (or otherwise incapacitated them so the show would be cancelled). Why wouldn’t he just stick with Lorraine and try to kill Alex when he showed up? And why would he let Alex perform? In the film he said something about “witnesses” but that’s frankly dumb. And I can say that ’cause I wrote it…
We wanted to do a reshoot on that sequence many years later with an action scene to replace that whole concert bit. But, alas, that will likely never happen. I can’t defend the concert scene. Just enjoy it for what it is.
Gorn’s most important moment of the film is when he hesitates to kill Doc again at the climax. Gorn hesitated the first time he was put in this position too (the end of PoB 3) yet this time he falters. Doc was his best friend in the world, afterall. Maybe killing Kennaugh hit Gorn harder than the audience or Alex realized. And this moment proves Gorn’s redemption might be possible.
Reese continues his role as dutiful soldier in PoB 4. But this time around, he actually has a personality. We learn he fully believes in “The Wanderer” prophecy, and he’s willing to die for those beliefs. We also learn that he’s kinda terrible at his job. Reese easily becomes distracted by 1980s excess. He immediately gravitates towards the fashions and music. Although his only memories are of a barren wasteland, so of course he’d gravitate towards this bright and shiny new world full of experiences he’s never had.
In addition: he becomes so fixated on Lorraine that he neglects to tell Alex about Gorn’s return for an entire day. I guess the possibility of dating this girl was too enticing for him to pass up. He even brags about his date to all the boys (once again letting his mind wander from the important information).
That said: he’s responsible enough to pick up Alex’s slack. He insists the time machine be fixed and that they return to the wasteland, decides to search for Doctor Kennaugh, and fights the battles Alex neglects. His death is arguably Alex’s fault. If “The Wanderer” had bothered to be useful, Reese wouldn’t have had to face an enemy like Gorn who (by this point in time) was WAY more powerful than him.
First things to know about Lorraine Connor: she’s a young woman who comes across innocent but isn’t afraid of risky behaviour (like hanging out with multiple strange men who have targets on their backs). She falls in love quickly, and may or may not have a penchant for seduction. Two examples: she has her number pre-written out before she even meets Reese, and she gives Alex her personal bed to rest in when he’s knocked unconscious. Although she may also be seen as somewhat predatory– like when she closes the door on Alex as he’s trying to escape her room.
The woman is also fearless! She survives multiple deadly encounters within a short time frame and barely bats an eye. If anything– she seems more confused than worried. Now we know where Alex gets his cockiness from.
Oh yeah– her name was meant to be a joke. “Lorraine” comes from Lorraine Baines (Marty McFly’s mother in BTTF) and “Connor” comes from Sarah Connor (John Connor’s mother in Terminator).
Speaking of names: her infatuation with Alexander may be a clue as to why Alex picks that name for himself in PoB 2. She may have named her son after the weird guy she met in 1985, or told him about the story enough times that the name stuck in his head– even after he lost most of his memories. Obviously those post-apocalyptic mind-wipes weren’t all or nothing. Alex, Doc and Gorn all remembered bits and pieces of the world before the apocalypse. Alexander may not have remembered his origins but he still knew who his mother was (if only instinctively). And I think she sorta felt a connection with him as well, though she mistook those feelings for romantic love.
A potentially important reveal after the climax: Lorraine tells Alex she had sex earlier that day, but she didn’t say with whom… We’re supposed to assume she meant with Reese, but their night was just beginning when Gorn attacked them. And Gorn DID go home with her. So we’ll leave Alex’s parenthood to your imagination. Although there IS a potential third option (which I’ll mention momentarily).
NOTE: I wish I’d given more for Lorraine to do than be a plot device but lack of time, and lack of skill as a writer both contributed to the character as she was. I didn’t make the same mistakes with Mona Dex in PoB Part 5.
OTHER WORLD-BUILDING ELEMENTS
-Donald Trump was president of the U.S when the apocalypse happened (we actually filmed that joke months BEFORE the election. Trump wasn’t even the Republican leader at that time!)
– “The Matteo” was officially coined for the bobbing-up-and-down dance Matteo did in the PoB 3 trailer.
– The Beavers allegedly possess technology to rebuild severely injured humans.
-Doc and Alexander are apparently from the same place. Coincidence, destiny… or biology?? (AKA: Is Doc the baby daddy?? Additional evidence: PoB 3 when he tells Alex “Bring it in to your father.”)
Our team learned many valuable lessons from its failures making PoB 3. This time we spread out the work over multiple days (and months) and generally took things easier. I’d say it paid off. PoB 4 remains the funniest installment of the franchise and features our best-written/ paced story, with the best supporting cast. We also let Matteo go wild with his improv this time, and he didn’t disappoint! Some of his material ranks among my favourite jokes in any TPM movie. I’m proud of our work on this one!
NOTE: PoB 5 has been in post-production hell for 4 years, but we’re getting there! We’ve recently made plans to finish it once and for all (though the jury’s still out on WHEN that’ll happen).
What’s your favourite joke from PoB 4? And who’s Alex’s father? If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,