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The World's Finest Presents

Interviews - The World's Finest talks to Series Creator, Robert Goodman

In the finale frames, a hand emerged from the water. With that single hand, The Zeta Project fans were left with a doozy of a cliffhanger. Did that hand belong to Dr. Selig, Zeta's creator?

But that was only one theory, and the most popular one. Creator and writer Robert Goodman waited for the ratings to come back in on the finale, hoping it would be enough to convince the network executive at WB to greenlight more episodes. The future of The Zeta Project seemed to be just out of the grasp of that mysterious hand, the last thing fans of The Zeta Project would ever see on the series.

"Selig a synthoid?!" jokes Goodman. "Who ever said Selig was a synthoid?"

So why write a cliffhanger for the series when there was large chance that the show would not get picked up? Simple. It was an order.

"In the midst of our valiant efforts," says Goodman. "Came a mandate from the network: If we wanted any hope of getting a renewal, we were to end the season on a cliffhanger."

This came from a well-intended and probably accurate belief that cliffhangers are exciting, incite conversation about the series during its hiatus, and ultimately boost ratings upon its return. The network believed this would be the ultimate test for the show.

"We were told what the cliffhanger had to be - we had to appear to kill Dr. Selig," says Goodman. "This was not negotiable."

To the network's credit, it did work. The message boards lit up with speculation about what happened and ideas on how this could be spun in future seasons. Fans of the series had a huge question plopped in their lap, and they couldn't wait to find out the answer.

But that answer would never come. The network opted not to pick up the series, despite good ratings and a solid fan-base. With this decision, fans were left wondering just where the series was going to go. So what's the answer to this question fans are dieing to know the answer to?

"The hand belonged to Andrea Donoso, Selig's assistant," says Goodman. "She's the synthoid, not him; and she was charged with the solitary job of protecting him, keeping him alive."

Goodman admits that Donoso didn't do the best of job, such as in "Absolute Zero" when she let herself get locked on the other side of a door while he was presumably being attacked, but she made up for past failings here at the end of "Hologram Man."

What fans didn't see was Donoso keeping her boss alive, and pulling him to the surface, as her own damaged flesh regrew itself.

Goodman says hints were placed along the way to this revelation. Specific points were laid out so that if a fan put together all of what Selig was doing, one could come up with Selig's overall goal.

"He was interested in cryogenically freezing living tissue, without damaging it," says Goodman. "He was interested in the regenerative properties of starfish."

Put it all together and what is he working on? Synthoids far more advanced than Zeta.

"Self-regenerating cyborgs, who can heal themselves." says Goodman. "Synthoids made at least in part of living flesh, that's what you saw being made in the lab at the Knossos."

Goodman clarifies that Andrea Donoso herself was a prototype, who received upgrades as they became available.

Goodman adds that The Zeta Project was at an odd place with the network when the finale was written. The creative knew the show was "on the bubble," network-speak for "we're not sure if we want you back yet." With this lingering over their heads, Goodman was unsure of where to take the series.

"I also knew that if we did come back, the network wanted to take the show in directions I didn't want to go," he says. "So even personally, I was wondering if it wouldn't be best to let the curtain go down right then and there."

This resulted in Goodman and Joe Kuhr, a writer for the series, feverishly writing an episode that could be a satisfying place to leave the series, but would also provide a starting point if the series was given the greenlight.

The end result of the episode came from Goodman wanting to wrap up a lot of stuff in a short amount of time, and answer a lot of questions but not all of them.

"Most important to me was to let Zee hear that Dr. Selig intentionally gave him a conscience, but don't let Dr. Selig hear that Zee is Zeta," he adds. "That, I figured, was the big, happy compromise - a place where I thought the fans could leave the series satisfied, but where there was still story to tell if we got the chance."

After coming up with a satisfying conclusion, the mandate handed down from the network executives became a problem for the series.

"Joe [Kuhr], Liz Holzman (Writer, Director) and I were all very upset about this," says Goodman. "We knew it was likely going to be the last episode, and there was no way we were willing to leave our fans hanging on such a dismal note. So back to the drawing board with the story."

A compromise would be reached that both the creative team could live with and would satisfy the networks. The resulting compromise is the final episode that fans saw.

"I was allowed to add the final voiceover, leaving Zee and Ro on a note of hope," says Goodman. "That was really important to me too."

Goodman believes that there is a chance to someday revisit all of this. That through all the struggles to find a way to be mindful of the audience, while adhering to the demands of the network in whose hands the future of the series lay

"But Pollyanna as this may sound, there's always hope," he adds.

As Goodman sees it, Zee and Ro are still frozen in that moment in time; Andrea Donoso has saved Selig's life, only for him to go even deeper into hiding than before; Bennet has just heard Selig's speech and we don't know whether he's going to believe it or not

"Okay, I know if Bennet believes Selig or not," adds Goodman. "I've just decided not to tell in case we ever do get to continue the story."

The chance to re-wind the key and start the story going again is always there. Goodman says if that day ever comes, we would get to see Zeta eventually finding Dr. Selig again. Because of this, Selig would have a new plan for Zeta, with important work for Zeta.

But if you're wondering, Goodman is also saving that little secret just incase. However, he is specific about one thing he knows would never happen.

Ro and Zee would not fall in love.

"They already love each other plenty," says Goodman. "It's the kind of love that's between two close friends, or even more to the point, between siblings."

Goodman continues to explain the family dynamic of the two main characters.

"To me, on one level, the show was always about family," he says. "Zee was searching for his father. If we'd gotten to develop it further, Ro's search was going to focus on her mother.

"And Zee and Ro, figuratively speaking, were brother and sister," he continues. "It was really never my intention that they be anything more than that."

"Sorry to disappoint, 'shippers."

Fans have seen their hope for future Zeta adventures rekindled recently when Zeta robots popped up in the first season of Justice League Unlimited, prompting many fans to wonder if we'll be seeing closure to these character's storylines after all. Goodman was honored to have his character appear and while he would love to see his characters return in such a high-profile series, it's not his decision.

"All this would have to be put to Bruce," he says. "That show's his baby, and not my place to say."

"And unfortunately, as far as I know, JLU has already wrapped up the final scripts for its current order," he adds. "I have no idea whether there will be more episodes ordered after that - or if the guys on the show even know yet."

Goodman also adds that he currently does not know if there are any DVD plans, or if the show will rerun on Cartoon Network sometime in the future.

"I wish I could just load 'em up for you all to rip, but I'd get in trouble with Warners, and I might want to get hired by them again someday," he jokes.

As for now, Goodman hopes he'll one day have the chance to revisit Zeta and Ro down the future. He still has a lot of stories to tell and knows the audience is there, waiting.

For more from Robert Goodman, check out Robert Goodman on 'Ro's Reunion' and 'The Wrong Morph'.

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