When Bones returns for its seventh season on Nov. 3, the show will be moving into uncharted territory. After a six-season dance around and toward one another, Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) will be living as a couple, preparing for the birth of their first child. How will the show change without the will-they-won't-they romantic tension that's driven the story for so long? Although the show's Comic-Con panel was scrapped, TVGuide.com spoke with executive producer Stephen Nathan to seek answers to that very question. Plus: He talks about working around Deschanel's real-life pregnancy, a new long-term villain and seeing more of Booth and Brennan's families.
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Was making Brennan pregnant the plan before Emily revealed she was expecting?
Stephen Nathan: We'd actually been talking about it even before the pregnancy. We had something to deal with here that was a reality. There are two people that the audience ultimately knew had to get together. So, how do we get these two people together without falling victim to what everybody says is a Moonlighting curse? It seemed to us that this was a way to leapfrog that time in a relationship when it's all lovey-dovey [because] that's when it becomes uninteresting because the conflict disappears.
Do you have anything this season for those fans who might be angry that they didn't get to see the lovey-dovey scenes?
Nathan: We have seen those scenes in the past. I know there are some viewers who wanted to see them in bed, kissing and the lights go out and all that stuff. It just did not seem necessary to us. It seemed to us that what we saw in the penultimate episode — Brennan coming to Booth's bed — [was] them probably being as loving as two people can be. Whether we see them jumping around in the sack or not did not seem as important to us as the emotional evolution of the characters and the emotional acceptance of who they were to each other.
So how do we find them as a couple in the new season?
Nathan: They are a couple who have come together to have and raise this baby. How Booth and Brennan are a couple remains to be seen, because they're not changing who they are. Booth is the marrying kind; Brennan doesn't want to get married. So these are issues that are going to come up again and again and will be an integral part of their relationship.
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You're jumping the story ahead six months so that Brennan's pregnancy matches up with Emily's, right?
Nathan: We don't want to do that thing that so many shows do where Emily's hidden behind a desk or behind a bookshelf or behind a bush. Emily is going to be as pregnant as she is when we come back. We want to own that and enjoy that and also have the audience share in that as well.
The show is doing six episodes in the fall, and then taking an extended break for Emily's maternity leave. Will we see the baby born before the hiatus?
Nathan: I can't tell you. We are just trying to make this as surprising and sort of emotionally fraught as we possibly can, and that means not really being able to say when this baby's going to come. It's probably going to come at a time and in a way that no one expects. That's all we can hope for.
You're happy doing just six episodes in the fall?
Nathan: I actually think it's a terrific start date. Fox has given us a real gift with that start date, because if we had started earlier, we still would have had a limited number of episodes because of Emily's condition. [But] we would have been on the air and off the air and on the air and off the air. ... I think the best thing for the show always is to have a run of uninterrupted episodes so that the audience and the fans can really get involved. If it's off for two weeks or three weeks, people start to get confused, and they lose the thread of the show. We didn't want that, and I think Fox was incredibly smart in how they programmed us.
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What can you tell us about those six episodes?
Nathan: The first case is about a victim who had amnesia. So it's about finding out what memories are and how they affect us going forward. Those are going to be themes that I'm sure we'll explore throughout. Both [Brennan and Booth] had quite unique and difficult upbringings. That factors into how people behave now.
Does that mean we'll see more of their families?
Nathan: We'll be seeing Max (Ryan O'Neal) again, and we'll be dealing with an important aspect of Booth's family as well.
Anything else juicy from this batch of episodes?
Nathan: At the end of six, we want to leave with a real surprise for the audience from a plot point of view. I'm not necessarily talking about Booth and Brennan. I mean introducing some other nefarious character who we will follow for a little bit this season, and perhaps next. Someone who is an extremely odd and fearless foe.
This is a long-term villain like Gormogon or The Gravedigger?
Nathan: Yes. Only he's going to be much more of a 21st-century, tech-savvy foe.
Do you plan on introducing a new squintern to replace Vincent Nigel-Murray (Ryan Cartwright)?
Nathan: Yeah, we're going to be introducing a new intern probably in the second or third episode.
Between Angela and Hodgins' baby and a soon-to-be Baby Bones, might you also consider a full-time nanny?
Nathan: Well, there's already a full-time daycare at the Jeffersonian so, you know, the babies could conceivably be close. [Laughs] The show's not going to completely change what it is because there are children there. It's sort of like Everybody Loves Raymond. Raymond had kids, but you didn't see them all that much, but you knew they were a big presence in their lives.
Are you taking on more responsibility now that Bones creator Hart Hanson is also working on The Finder?
Nathan: Hart and I work the same way we've always worked. We see each other every day, we talk every day, we discuss everything that we want to happen. Nothing is done in a vacuum. Obviously his time is split a little bit more, so maybe I'll be here a little later some nights. But essentially the show is going to be the same.
Except that, after six seasons, your will-they-won't-they leads are together. Where will you draw conflict from without that romantic tension?
Nathan: It'll just be a new way to see them. It's going to be a new take on their relationship, because they're not going to change. These are two people who see the world in a fundamentally different way, and they're now going to have to find a way to live together and have a family ... They've always loved each other. The audience has always known that. But they have to negotiate all of the complexities of living together. We will see them already in the middle of this relationship. We don't want to see them buying flowers and candlelit dinners. That's not what the show is, and it's not really what most people's lives are, either.
Bones returns Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8/7c on Fox.