Talk about making a splash: Surface, NBC's freshman sea-creature feature, signed off last Monday with a finale filled with lots of tidal waves and slithery beasties if not satisfying answers about what exactly is going on. TVGuide.com had the pleasure of picking the brain of series cocreator Josh Pate by hitting him with some burning questions (including, yes, "Will Surface be back in the fall?")
TVGuide.com: Was it always the plan to have all the principals finally unite in the first-season finale?
Josh Pate: Yes. Yes it was. We always wanted to 'cross the streams.'" At first NBC gave us a full pickup, and then they gave us this weird 15 [episode] order, so where the finale fell was changed around, but we always wanted the characters to start to interact in the culmination of Season 1.
TVGuide.com: The multiple-tsunamis: scientific fact or just fascinating TV-show fiction?
Pate: One of the guys on the staff wrote that scene so I'm sure he dug it up somewhere, but... we always call it "Crichton science," meaning that as long as you stay in the kind of Michael Crichton, getting-dinosaur-DNA-from-amber world, you're OK.
TVGuide.com: Were the sea monsters responsible for the catastrophic tsunami, or were they just taking advantage of some totally tubular waves?
Pate: Their digging weakened the mantle of the earth's crust, so that's what made it slip. There was an intention behind releasing the creatures into the ocean, but the creatures themselves are just like termites they just do what they do.
TVGuide.com: Regarding "Iderdex," which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, is it official: have all the good-sounding corporate names been trademarked by real-life companies?
Pate: Yes. You get these lists of names that are acceptable to the legal department, and after you come up with your cool thing, it gets blown up by lawyers, whoever they are. Iderdex is the best that was available.
TVGuide.com: Where are all the monorails going?
Pate: To the bottom of the ocean, Marianas Trench.
TVGuide.com: Is Martha Plimpton's character really dead? TVGuide.com hearts her!
Pate: I have some ideas about where I could take the character, but it's still in the formulation stage. But she is definitely not in a good place. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: On a 1-to-10 scale, how satisfied were you with the CGI effects for Nimrod? He's certainly a milestone TV character.
Pate: I was satisfied to a 10 with the special effects, but every time we had one, it'd be kind of abandoned because we'd run out of time. There was never any consideration given to the fact that were not Law & Order or Ally McBeal in that no one ever said, "Wow, this show is almost animated in places, we need to give them more time in post[production]" to get the effects exactly where we want them. But as the season went on, we built a bigger and bigger library of Nim's movements. At first, one Nim shot would take two weeks; by the end, they could churn it out in 24 hours. The sad thing is that we always wanted to show more of Nim, but [there is a conflict of opinions with the network].
TVGuide.com: Is there a firm or semifirm plan in your mind for a second season, should NBC decide to pick you up? Things seem to have finished up at a breakneck pace. Is there any steam left?
Pate: Definitely. We're just getting started. To me, this was the epilogue to the ongoing story. We kind of hinted at Kessler, the guy behind all of this stuff, and his emergence is the centerpiece of Year 2. With genetic engineering, you can pretty much engineer anything you want. We have a lot of options and there are a lot of things we want to play, for sure.
TVGuide.com: Were you appreciative to last the season, albeit a shortened one, while so many other new series Threshold included got the hook so speedily?
Pate: Well, I feel like we had the ratings to do it. We were never really on the bubble in the sense of "Will we get pulled?" It was more, "Will we get renewed? Will we get a pickup?" It never got radioactive, like, "Oh my god, they might not air the last five episodes."
TVGuide.com: As our Watercooler editor put it: "For the love of all that is holy, what has become of the talking monkey girl?"
Pate: She's still out there, and I just hope she can swim!
TVGuide.com: Are there any developments regarding the second-season pickup?
Pate: That's not until May. The ratings built the last three episodes and I think that happened because... NBC didn't schedule us like a serial, sequentially, like how Fox runs 24 and Prison Break all in a row. After a five-week break, we came back on January 2, then they aired two, we got preempted by the Golden Globes, and then they aired three and we were done.
TVGuide.com: If you are picked up, is there a chance NBC might bring you back earlier than the fall?
Pate: I don't know. Maybe if we get picked up, they'll run us in repeats as a summer series to kind of reset for next year.... That's possible. We got their attention with the numbers on the finale, and NBC doesn't have a lot of 8 o'clock shows in development, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.
TVGuide.com: What about a juicy tease for Season 2?
Pate: Really, there is this kind of uberbad guy to the whole piece that has only made, like, fleeting appearances, and his presence is something we have always seen [as central to the story]. We've always viewed this series almost like a big sci-fi novel, when the main thing that the novel's about really starts to emerge in Year 2.
Additional reporting by Chana Shwadlenak