In today’s class, one of the topics we discussed was the Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell. From this discussion arose the topic of story arcs and how they can be applied in single episodes or seasons of a television series.
I disagree with a story arc being in a single episode. And episode can be a component of the story arc which covers multiple episodes. Each episode may have a rise and fall in drama, a conflict or three that may or may not be resolved, but a story arc should have multiple parts of the story. The best example I know of is the Babylon 5 series. In five-year series, each season had a theme to it which added to the entire story arc of the series.
And excellent blog (yes, I’m recommending a blog) post about Babylon 5 comes from io9.
Long story arcs like Babylon 5 are exceedingly rare. Partly because most shows don’t know how long they are going to last. Some might be like Firefly and don’t last a season (You done FOXed up, son!) or they might last far, far too long (I’m looking at you Honey Boo Boo and American Idol). However, many BBC shows have intentionally limited runs. Some series will only be about 8 episodes where the entire story arc is played out. Why this doesn’t work here on this side of the Pond (no, not you, Amy!) , I have my suspicions.