Two key writer/producers from the original run of 'Twin Peaks', Harley Peyton and Bob Engels, reflect on their time working on the ground-breaking show, and the evolution of 'Twin Peaks' from cult series to the feature film 'Fire Walk With Me' and the long-awaited third season, 'The Return'.
More than two decades after 'Fire Walk With Me' met with an unkind reception from both critics and audiences, David Lynch and Mark Frost has news for 'Peaks' fans... a long-awaited third season was on the cards.
Engels, who had been intimately involved with the two previous iterations of 'Twin Peaks', was not exactly enthusiastic.
"I wasn't asked (to contribute to the new series)... but, it was a long time ago," he said.
"Had I been one of the creators, maybe I'd have a different feel for it.
"But it's hard to go home again.
"That said, I bet they (Lynch and Frost) had a blast doing it."
While Engels hasn't seen the new season, he maintains he'll get around to it.
"I want to do it all in one sitting," he said
Peyton, who had remained close friends with Mark Frost since 'Peaks' was cancelled, received a head's up from the show's co-creator shortly before the news went public. “Mark called to say he wanted me to know ahead of time that they had made this agreement to do this third season,” Peyton said.
“He said ‘Look, if anyone would write on this thing other than the two of us, it would be you. But the fact of the matter is that David and I are going to write the whole thing together and David's going to direct the whole thing.’
“How can you complain about that?"
Peyton’s reaction was one of surprise, mixed with fanboy happiness.
“It was almost like The Eagles reuniting… it took me by surprise, simply because it required the two of them to come back together to do it, and I didn’t see that happening.
“I thought their lives had moved on in different directions.”
One of his main observations of “The Return” was the more cinematic approach to the story, saying that if the original series was 60% Mark Frost and 40% David Lynch, the new season went the other way - with Lynch contributing 60%.
"David doesn’t really think in terms of television,” he said.
“(In the initial run) David wasn’t really thinking about what happened in the episode before, or the episode after.
“He doesn’t really think in that linear way - he’s much more about the inspiration of the moment.
“In season three, he had a ton of money,.. and I think that’s why there was this much more cinematic way of doing things.”
Peyton says the expanded budget gave Lynch and Frost the opportunity to paint on a far bigger canvas, offering new opportunities to experiment - citing the one of the new season’s more radical episodes, episode eight, as an example of what an expanded budget allowed for.
“It’s the completely crazy one about the atom bomb tests and all that stuff - that was so insane and so beautiful,” he said.
“To me, that was the two of them working in complete harmony… that was Mark’s idea. He had these concepts, and then David was able to take them and run with them on screen in a way that was really cool.
“That’s where all the money that they had went - there’s just no way we could’ve built or shot those sorts of things that they were able to shoot.”
Other highlights for Peyton included Kyle MacLachlan’s turn as seeming idiot savant Dougie Jones. “This is just a guess, but I’ll guarantee you that - as originally scripted and considered - Dougie was going to become Cooper a whole lot sooner than he ended up doing so in season three,” he said.
“This is a classic thing with David - if you can name that tune in two notes, he’ll name it in 15.
“He loves playing with time.
“It’s one of those things… the first thing you do is you notice it’s taking a little longer than expected. The second thing is you get really annoyed that it’s taking so much longer than expected. Then you reach this weird, Zen place where you just kind of accept it and go ‘Wait, this is actually pretty cool.’
“For anyone who grew up watching Antonioni movies, you’re familiar with that process.”
And while he’s overwhelmingly positive about the new show’s run, there were elements that didn’t land for him. “If there’s a scene where you have Miguel Ferrer and David Lynch playing two characters, I would prefer that Miguel had most of the dialogue,” he said.
“I like that character (Lynch’s hard-of-hearing FBI Director Gordon Cole), but I also think he’s best in small doses.”
He also cites the Audrey Horne subplot as an element that didn’t click.
“It was interesting and it was weird, but it just felt like this weird appendage,” he said.
“I’m sure there are very specific reasons why they did that… because who in the world wouldn’t want to see Cooper and Audrey in the same room?”
Ultimately, the biggest gap for Peyton was one that neither Lynch nor Frost could control - the absence of Michael Ontkean as the Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry Truman, a character often described as the Dr Watson to Agent Dale Cooper’s Sherlock Holmes.
“Forster did a great job, and I really liked that character,” he said.
“But Mike Ontkean and Kyle… their rhythm, their friendship was so important to the show.
“I understand there were no easy solutions to that, but that was something I really missed in season three.”
And then there’s the finale, which divided fans.
“It’s interesting… I feel like the last two hours were like solo albums,” he said.
“Mark’s solo album was the penultimate episode, and then David came in with his final hour… because if you really think about it, the two hours are telling a very similar story from completely different perspectives.
“I loved Mark’s hour… there was a certain amount of resolution, and there’s that great transition to the old footage… where you’re seeing those characters.
“That transition was fascinating and, to me, very moving… suddenly there’s Pete Martell… I thought that was really beautiful.
“The last hour felt like one of those crazy things David came up with at two in the morning and decided he wanted to do.
“There were some really cool things in it, but it wasn’t quite the trick he pulled off with the last episode of the second season, which was David running amok and making a brilliant, brilliant hour of television.”
Importantly, the new series provided Peyton with a new experience for the ‘Twin Peaks’ universe - the chance to watch a season of the show unfold as a consumer, rather than a contributor.
“Having spent a lot of time contributing to the stories and writing them, it’s weird to come at them as a consumer all of a sudden,” he said.
“You’re asking questions, you’re trying to figure out things… but after a while, you just give yourself over to the experience.”
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