Santa Barbara's trip to "The Capwell Zone"

 BSusan Morse, Soap Opera Digest, 1989

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Over the past five years, Santa Barbara has earned the reputation for doing things a little bit differently - which was apparent the day an entire episode was devoted to Greg Hughes's visit to "The Capwell Zone". Years ago, C.C. Capwell had a one-night stand with Megan Richardson. Nine months later, she gave birth to a boy and named him Greg. She proceeded to raise him alone, telling him that his father had been killed in the war. Over the years, Megan became a successful writer. When she turned up in Santa Barbara, it was to pen a novel about the town's most powerful tycoon - C.C. Capwell. Certain that he wouldn't remember their past alliance, Megan took this opportunity to get to know the man who fathered her son. She didn't think she'd fall in love with C.C. but she did. This time, however, C.C. returned her feelings. When Greg showed up for a visit, C.C. took an instant liking to the boy - especially after learning that he was Greg's father. C.C. was sure that the rest of his family would welcome Greg with open arms.

Instead, Mason, Eden, Kelly and Ted reacted negatively to the news. Feeling like an outcast, Greg sat alone at the beach and contemplated ending it all. He was approached by Mason, who tried explaining the Capwells to him. His emotions getting the better of him, Greg grabbed a surfboard and ran into the ocean. Greg was pulled out of the water; unconscious. In this state, he dreamed that Julia and Mason were aliens. "We, Gregor, are Santa Barbs from the planet Montecito. We are a kind and helpful people, whose mission is to bring beauty, goodness, unconventional sex, occasional amnesia, general improbability and, overall, a certain polish to your dreary planet," said the aliens to a dumbfounded Greg by way of introduction. They took him to a new dimension, "The Capwell Zone", where he observed family members discussing the pros and cons of being a Capwell. When Greg asked to see into the future, he witnessed his own funeral. He heard C.C. talk about how Greg spent his whole life in a rage, never accepting the Capwells. Shaken, Greg asked Mason and Julia for another chance. Minutes later, Greg woke up, happy to be alive.

The day's episode was written by Patrick Mulcahey, who explains exactly what was involved : "Actually, the original idea came from Chuck Pratt, our head writer, but I put a new slant on it. There are those points in any story where - like in musicals, for example - people burst into song. Here we had a situation where a guy (Greg) finds out he's not who he thought he was. He was contemplating suicide and I felt that the movement of the episode had to show him coming to terms with things, i.e. : Does he want to go on ? What are his options ? And then discovering that there aren't any. The outcome of the episode was his decision to live. You know, during any dark time in your life, the only thing that gets you through it perhaps, is curiosity; a question of "What's next ?" Greg decided he wanted to be around to find out. We could have dealt with this the old soap way - with a lot of gnashing of teeth and tearing of curtains. Instead, we took a different route, which is typical of Santa Barbara."

"We created this science fiction world. I worked with Michael Gliona, the director, on different effects. I had to decide "How do aliens talk ?" Luckily, (the aliens) were being played by Lane Davies and Nancy Grahn, both of whom have a great facility for the English language. You can give them anything and it's no problem. So I really went crazy with the episode... writing dialogue in iambic pentameter. The result came out like Star Trek meets Our Town. I thought I'd meet with resistance but not only did (the producers) love it, they said "Why haven't we done it before ?" Thanks to Michael, the last forty minutes of the episode looked like nothing else I've ever seen on television. It had such a sense of sadness but, at the same time, beauty. The episode basically had these people take a journey through time in a sort of comic mode, which got darker and deeper and quieter - and so did the show visually. The ending was upbeat. Greg saw his future and it was painful; he would continue to be malcontent and alone, but he decided that was OK."

"I'm really glad that I work for a show that will let me do what I want," says Mulcahey. "Apparently, not all the viewers were as thrilled with this episode as we were; some want to see more of Cruz and Eden. But then we get criticized for putting Cruz and Eden front and center too often... (Santa Barbara) gave me the liberty to go with my instincts and, so, it's a very rewarding place to be a writer. The actors have respect for what you do, and they can pull off the wildest things you want to try."

 

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Nancy Lee Grahn and make-up man Carlos Yeaggy