Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Next Town


A place we hear about but never see, or that people depart to when written out of a series. Every soap opera has a Next Town, and it is used very frequently in almost all serials and most series at some point as well as in sequel films.

The Next Town concept is broader than a literal "town" however- the Next Town moment occurs when a character previously seen is gone for good out of a serial or series, usually with a quick exposition such as "they went back to the Air Force", "she moved to Yabbie Creek to work as a journalist", "he had to move to Metropolis when his parents moved there for work", and so on. Like all Otherworlds, if the map of a fictional universe expands, then the Next Town shifts as well. For example in Smallville the fictional city of Metropolis invaded the series to the extent that it was no longer possible for people to simply be exiled there. At that point in Smallville continuity one may notice the substitution of the name Metropolis with the phrase "state capital", ie people now vanish to the state capital as once they departed for Metropolis.

The proof that the Next Town is a mystical rather than a purely physical place in secondary worlds is that when a character leaves (presumptively permanently) they are assigned a fate, as well as just being written out or not used any further. To the extent that this fate is final, or in some sense a just dessert, this is a mild fictive form of the Last Judgement, Weighing of the Soul or Fairy Favours trope, and not just a simple wrapping up of loose ends.

The departure for the Next Town is as close to meaningful death as most fictional characters ever come, especially given how monotously often characters return from apparent physical death. This is because the Next Town plot device is almost always necessitated by real world events, whether it be bad ratings, new producers or the firing, resignation or death of a cast member. Thus the finality of death is more emotionally real and conveyed better (with less acting required) by the Next Town event than by the scripted death of a character. Departure for Next Town is a subtextual command to the audience to FORGET whereas scripted death is usually the opposite- the inclusion of a death for a character is almost always a command to REMEMBER.

Source: Next Town entry at the Manatee Mansion wiki