based on the episode "Livin' Large" by Mark Drop
Author's Note: This is not a fic in the usual sense. It is an exercise in creative criticism, a step beyond my usual commentary and nitpicking, an effort to test my skills and (perhaps) rescue an episode that had a great deal of potential. I make no claim to the story itself; "Livin' Large" is the work of Mark Drop. And of course, Danny Phantom itself was created by Butch Hartman.
When I first watched this episode I was full of hope. After several action-centered, fight-scene-heavy episodes featuring huge ghosts with apocalyptic power and no discernable personality, I was glad to see a story that had a human scale and a strong focus on character development. But the execution left me horribly disappointed.
When it came time to organize my thoughts to post a preliminary reaction to the episode (I still haven't written a full-length review) I kept coming back to the story elements that I would have changed if I could. The more I thought about the episode, the more ways I saw to improve it.
Eventually I remembered Firefury's Episode Rewrite Challenge (issued in January, 2007) to rewrite an episode, keeping the essential structure and plot elements, but improving the writing. At the time the challenge was issued I had not given it much thought, but suddenly I was intrigued. Could I fix the flaws I perceived in "Livin' Large"?
My goals are as follows:
1. To increase the number and depth of interactions among major characters. For example, Vlad will be home when Danny comes looking for his Portal.
2. To shift the episode's theme from "sudden wealth turns the Fentons into shallow jerks" to "sudden wealth can't make the Fentons any happier than they already were."
3. To improve continuity with the rest of the series.
The first few paragraphs of the story basically repeat what was seen on the show. Be patient with me; my revision diverts from the original very soon!
It had been a very quiet walk home. They didn't talk about going to the Nasty Burger, or heading over to Sam's for a movie, or hanging out at the Mall. No, not today. They just trudged straight towards FentonWorks, Danny in the lead, head-down and silent, his two best friends trailing behind with occasional sideward glances of shared concern for his obvious exhaustion. Once home, Danny dragged his feet up the stairs to the second floor, and walked right through his bedroom door as if it hadn't even been there. Sam and Tucker had to open the door to follow him in, just in time to see Danny collapse face-first onto his bed. Sam dropped into Danny's navy-blue beanbag chair, and Tucker sprawled in the chair beside the desk.
"I am so dead!" Danny's voice was muffled by his bedspread. "Who knew that learning stuff and groping for the approval of our peers could be so exhausting?"
"Seven-thirty to three thirty?" Tucker added sardonically. "School's like, an eight-hour day."
"And every day's a battle... especially when I have to battle something." Danny groaned and rolled over on one side, propping himself up on his elbow. Despite his melodramatic entrance, it was obvious that his energy level was rebounding, thanks no doubt to some mysterious combination of youthful resilience and latent ghost power. "Is this it, guys? Is the fun over? Is life just downhill from here?"
"No way!" Tucker answered. "Life'll get a heck of a lot better when someone pays us to work our butts off."
As if on cue, Jack Fenton chose that exact moment to burst into the room. "Hello, youngsters! How was school?"
"Well, it was pretty exhau—"
"That's super," Jack interrupted in a voice that made it clear he hadn't heard a word Danny said and didn't really care. He just kept talking, a jovial torrent of words. "Your mother and I need the help of three strong hands down in the lab. So, let's hop to!"
Inspired by Tucker's comment, Danny retorted, "How much are you paying?"
"Name your price, kids, the sky's the limit!"
He was out the door as abruptly as he had arrived, and in his wake the three kids glanced at each other with puzzlement. "Name your price?" Sam echoed skeptically.
"No way he means it," Danny replied. "He doesn't even pay me to mow the lawn."
"Well, apparently something's changed." Tucker, who was always on the lookout for the next great opportunity, jumped to his feet and pumped his fist in celebration. "The sky's the limit!" He was out the door like a shot. Sam and Danny shook off their existential weariness and followed as he scrambled down the stairs as fast as his feet could take him.
They stopped short at the foot of the stairs, mouths hanging open in shock. The lab looked like a tornado had hit it, the floor littered with boxes, canisters and crates, some empty, others already filled with components and spare parts and tools. Jack was struggling to shift a massive, six-foot-tall piece of equipment away from a wall, and Maddie was over by the Ghost Portal, using an acetylene torch on one of the control panels. Jazz was seated at a work bench in one shadowy corner, wrapping beakers and test tubes in newspaper before packing them away in an old cardboard box.
Sam slipped past Danny and sidled up to Jazz, leaning over and whispering, "What the heck...?"
Jazz rolled her eyes and shrugged, then answered loudly enough for her parents to hear. "What do I know? They haven't told me anything! As soon as I got home from school, they just put me to work packing up glassware. Do you have any idea how many Erlenmeyer flasks this family owns?"
"A hundred ninety-three!" Jack answered proudly.
Tucker nudged Danny in the ribs and muttered, "That's at least a hundred ninety more than Erlenmeyer ever had."
"We started out with an even two hundred, but seven of them were sacrificed last month in the Fenton Hyperdimensional Ecto-Liquifaction Project." Jack was off on a nostalgic journey. "Shattered into a million pieces from thermal shock. Boiling hot ectoplasm everywhere, like so much pink salt water taffy." He paused to wipe away a tear. "It was a tragedy, a genuine tragedy."
Maddie turned off her torch and slipped her goggles up onto her head. "Danny, Sweetie, please help your father dismantle the photon generator. Sam, grab a screwdriver and start disconnecting the cables to the satellite array. Don't worry, the power has been shut off. Tucker, why don't you pack up the oscilloscope." Marching orders given, she opened a panel on the wall and reached for a pair of wire cutters.
The kids just stared at her, dumbfounded, frozen in place. Even Jazz stopped working, and sat quietly rotating a beaker in her hands. Quarter turn. Quarter turn. Quarter turn. Danny balled up his hands into fists and took a deep breath, one that might have powered a ghostly wail if he had been in ghost form. Instead, it manifested as a demanding bellow.
"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!?"
There was a long pause during which nobody moved. Finally, Maddie smiled indulgently and pointed the wire cutters at Jack. "What did you father tell you, Sweetie?"
Sam answered quickly, "He didn't say anything, Mrs. Fenton, except that you guys needed our help."
Tucker quickly added, "And that we could name our own price. I'd like to name a hundred dollars, please. I'd like to call it 'Ben.'"
"Done!" said Jack, whipping out his wallet and handing Tucker a crisp $100 bill. "'Ben' it is!"
Maddie shook her head wearily, but never stopped smiling. "Danny, Jazz, your father and I got an incredible offer this morning for the house. The agent was acting on behalf of an anonymous deep-pockets investor, who wants to take possession of the building immediately. He was so committed to the purchase that he paid a great deal more than market value—"
Jack jumped in. "Several dozen times more!"
"—and also arranged for the simultaneous sale of a twenty-seven room Georgian-style mansion over in Porter Heights."
Jazz and Danny replied in indignant unison, "You sold our house!?"
"Yes, we did. And we have to be out by noon tomorrow. Anything we can't get out of the house by then becomes the property of the new owner. So we need to pack up as much of this equipment as we can, fast!"
"Just the lab?" Jazz protested. "What about our furniture, and clothes and stuff?"
"We'll just buy new!" Jack answered, as he whipped out a thick bundle of paper from his back pocket. He quickly unfolded what turned out to be a cashier's check the size of a small bath towel, and handed it over to Jazz, whose eyes grew wide with astonishment as she read it.
"Wow, that's a lot of zeroes!"
Maddie giggled like a little girl with a new toy. "I know! Isn't it amazing?"
Danny finally found his voice again. "Wait a minute!" he shouted indignantly. "What about the Fenton Portal? If you sell the house, how will I... uh, how will you access the Ghost Zone?"
Jazz marched over and handed the enormous check to her brother, then smiled triumphantly as he stared at it, slack jawed. Jack and Maddie beamed with pride. Danny finally managed to swallow and then whispered, "Wow... that's a lot of zeroes."
CUE OPENING CREDITS
At the end of each scene I'll point out the major changes and some of my reasons for making them. The biggest change in the teaser is that the Guys in White do not appear. The sale has already been made, and the buyer is anonymous. I will actually keep the buyer's identity secret for most of the first act, to add some mystery to the story.
I have also deleted any implication that the Fentons' equipment is shoddy. I considered that element of the original episode to be a major break with series continuity, so out it goes! They're going to take almost everything with them, leaving the new owners nothing to work with. They'll have to bring in their own shoddy equipment!
Since the Guys in White do not make an appearance in this scene, I moved the opening credits to the end. (In the original, the agents' arrival was the"cliffhanger" before the credits.) This means that Act I will begin with the Fentons' arrival at their new home.
Little things: Danny is not in ghost form when he arrives home. Jazz is down in the lab, helping with the packing. I slipped a mention of sticky pink goo into this scene; trust me, there's not going to be any sticky pink goo anywhere else in the story. Oh... and Danny did not lock the Portal. Because we all know that there have never been any honking big deadbolts on those doors, right?