NBC’s original series “Emerald City” is not the typical story of Dorothy Gale who falls into the land of Oz with her faithful dog toto in an attempt to find good before evil reaches her.
Although there are many variations in Emerald City from the original L. Frank Baum stories, a few differences to highlight include the following. Dorothy appears older than the 20 year old girl portrayed in the books, and has established herself in her career as a nurse. Dorothy and her Aunty Em and Uncle Henry have Hispanic roots, as they shift between speaking English and Spanish to each other. The Munchkins, called the “Munjacan Village” also has their own culture native to their tribe.
The story of the witches is one of the biggest differences. In the pilot, the Witch of the West isn’t necessarily viewed as wicked. West gives off a sort of hippy personality in the beginning. Shw states that there is “too much love” to still have. West also appears to be very fragile, more concerned with emotions than with power.
Additionally, the witch Glinda is emotionally distraught over the death of her sister, the witch of the East, which deviates from the original tale. The only two witches that remain now are Glinda, the Witch of the North, and West. In the television series, the witch of the South is killed by a “beast” before the series begins. In Emerald City, this view of the witches presents a sisterhood of a coven of witches; rather than good witches attempting to defeat evil magic that “bad” witches possess.
Apart from the comparison to the original story, here are some highlights from NBC’s Emerald City. The pacing seemed appropriate for telling a story of this magnitude, with a story most of us already know. A story that many of us know and love, any characters that stand out on their own against the original story need to be explained in detail. I believe this was accomplished in the pilot of Emerald City.
The blurred line between good and evil among the witches and the Wizard of Oz presented an interesting theme. Everyone has their limits and everyone’s morality is placed on a spectrum.
Emerald City shows the reality of what it is like to be trapped in a foreign place, even if that foreign place appears to be in your own mind. This concept of the mind is shown through examples such as Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Lucas. Dorothy uses her cleverness and cunning edge of her modern tricks to kill the witch of the East.
Additionally, it is a clever idea to use the scarecrow’s memory loss, originating from Baum’s stories in which the scarecrow “doesn’t have a brain.” The scarecrow, also known as Lucas in Emerald City, implicates his possible identity through the violent actions that he takes. This is a great example of revealing a piece of the character that is not only to the audience; but also a discovery to the other characters in the story and even himself.
Tip’s story, a featured character in Emerald City, actually emanates from one of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum’s original stories, “The Marvelous Land of Oz.” By incorporating this piece of Baum’s vision, the story adds more than the two dimensional view of Dorothy, the witches, and the Wizard of Oz’s perspectives.
The story of Emerald City presents an interesting premise of making this world it’s own, rather than a re-telling of the original story. However, the story seemed to fall flat.
The story’s ability to grab the audience’s attention was average. The two hour special seemed to drag on. The focus on Dorothy’s mission is put on the back burner. There is a constant shift and division of the characters in the scenes in the first episode.
The plot twist at the end of the pilot is a concept originally presented in Baum’s “The Marvelous Land of Oz.” However, using this revelation to shock the audience at the end seems like a cheap way to bait viewers. The creator’s vision seems to be focus on audience appeal, rather than focusing on telling this story over time. Additionally, hinting at an intimate connection between the scarecrow and Dorothy distorts the nature of the original story in an attempt to draw viewers in. Especially considering this happened so early in the show’s establishment.
Overall, Emerald City’s pilot is not comparable to the original film adaptation of the Wizard of Oz. However, this mature version of the story highlights some of the original content used in Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum’s stories. Viewers shouldn’t expect Emerald City to be the same story of Dorothy Gale and the journey she takes to Oz. This is not the same story you grew up watching on a black and white screen transformed into color. Yet, because this story emanates from the original book series The Wizard of Oz, it’s difficult to imagine anything different.