Comments by Jeff Melvoin
on episode 5.18 "Fish Story"

(Ver analisis del capítulo, por Urtian)


Nikita Fleischman:

Fish Story (5.18). I watched it while I was reading Symbols of transformation by Jung. He speaks about Leo Frobenius who said that the hero is gobbled up by a marine monster. During the journey he makes a fire inside monster´s belly, takes a piece of the stomach of the monster and begins a journey inside the monster.

Joel travels inside the monster, too. He does it by underground. He recognizes he´s in NY, so he feels at home... The belly of the monster is a symbol of a maternal and familiar place to him.
Jung, resuming Frobenius, shows the next scheme:

Gobble Up ------------------------------ -Escape//-Landing.

From WEST ------ Journey by the sea ----------- to EAST.

As a writer you decided to call the Lake: EAST LOON LAKE... Lake = Wate r= Symbol of the mother = the unconscious. Loon = a water bird. Birds are images of souls. East = the direction of the nocturnal journey by the sea. So, EAST LOON LAKE can be the unconscious of the soul. Joel goes inside himself because he has a religious conflict with his relationship with Maggie. It´s a journey to the self.

What do you think about all this symbolic reading of Joel´s story in this episode? Did you think about it while you were writing it or it´s just a surprise for you that someone makes this reading of Fish Story? Maybe you only thought about Pinocchio fairy tale :-) My friends and I have also discussed about Ruth Anne and Holling´s experiences in this episode. Joel is the water story, Ruth Anne the earth one and Holling the fire one. But I´m making my research project about Joel´s character so, that´s why I only ask you about him.


Jeff Melvoin:

Unfortunately, I've been out of town for four days and have to run off to work this a.m. Briefly, however, the idea for "Fish Story" came from a rather lengthy story list that we had compiled (and constantly updated) as a staff. Robin Green's brother is a doctor in New Hampshire, I believe. He told her a story, apocryphal no doubt, about a "36-hour" fish, a fish that took some fisherman 36 hours to land. Now, as a fisherman myself (trout fishing in Idaho and Montana, largely), as I've indicated, I found that literally incredible, but thought the story notion was amusing. . That one line, "36-hour fish," stayed on our story sheet for some time. One day, looking for ideas for my next episode, I asked Robin if she'd mind if I took it. She said no (generally, the understanding was that the story list was community property, as it were, but courtesy was still appreciated).

So I set about trying to create a story around the notion that there was some legendary fish out there and that Joel hooks it. I believe we did some research into Alaskan legends about fish. Regardless, as was our tendency, we managed to create a myth of our own. The idea of building a special seat, having the community attend to Joel during his struggle, was entirely our own invention, as I remember. As far as the religious theme that emerged, the dream sequence and so forth, my recollections are pretty fuzzy.

Likely it was Josh Brand who would drop in a simple suggestion or two about what the episode might be about and I'd go back to my desk and try to work with that. Certainly, I recall going back to the bible, reading about Jonah, thinking about what that story says, the idea of ultimately not being able to run away from your troubles, fears, obligations. You can run, but you cannot hide. That sort of of thing. Once you start thinking like that, you ask yourself, okay, what could Joel be running away from? Answers could include: from Maggie, from commitment, from inarticulate but deeply felt concerns about conflicts over religion, not just between two people but within one's own heart and mind.

So, you've got these constructs and thoughts running around your brain and you've got this basic situation of Joel catching this fish and maybe getting swallowed and having a dream sequence, add a dash of "Twilight Zone," (I forget exactly what the physical evidence was in the episode, but we indicate that perhaps the whole thing was not a dream, don't we? Bit of a cheap thrill, a common device, but effective, I'd like to believe under the circumstances), and you've got the rudiments for what became that episode.

I forget what other stories we ran through that episode (my scripts and tapes are stored away in an office I rent, but barely visit).

So there wasn't much conscious thought of what larger cultural/literary allusions might be involved other than the bible. But certainly a writer is always influenced by his environment, including influences the writer might not be fully aware of. Once you're into the bible, you are naturally plugged into a huge pool of collective mythology and unconscious but powerful streams.

Anyway, got to run off this morning. Hope this was of some help. One of my problems as a correspondent is that I don't like just dashing off things. I like to be able to give considered responses. That's not always possible. Your questions are intelligent and provocative. To answer them fully would require me to go back to the scripts and do some deep remembering. Not much opportunity for that at present, but I'll try to get to my answers as time permits.

Best of luck in your travels. Hope this reaches you in time.

Have fun.

Jeff Melvoin

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