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Episode 2x04 [A Lighthouse in a Sea of Time]

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Episode 2x04 [A Lighthouse in a Sea of Time]

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[misc] books are love
Today’s discussion post covers one of the most – in my opinion, at least – thought provoking episodes in the series: A Lighthouse in a Sea of Time. Never afraid of tackling big issues, and having already covered gun crime in Deadly Force, the writers moved on to illiteracy here.

If you have any problems or any questions, let one of the moderators know. You can leave a comment on this post, or you can contact us via PM or our Bronx-guarded mailbox if you want a bit more privacy. In the meantime, enjoy the discussion!

A Lighthouse in a Sea of Time has a rather unusual opening. Instead of seeing a familiar friend or a familiar villain, we see two strangers – archeologists, it seems – climbing through a cave. When I first watched the episode, I wasn’t particularly gripped by this – typically, I wanted to know where the clan was! – but, as an adult, I appreciate it a lot more. I like the tension, I like the lyre and I definitely like the point about the “seeker of knowledge”.

In fact, now I think about it, I distinctly remember being under-whelmed by the entire episode. Not because it felt preachy – on the contrary, the message about reading seemed so natural to me that I didn’t realise it even needed to be said – but because I don’t think it quite clicked. Fortunately, that’s what rewatchs are for.

Points of Interest

(As usual, I’m just pointing out a handful of things. Feel free to give your opinions on what I’ve said or add points of your own. Or, better yet, both!)


“The written word is all that stands between memory and oblivion. Without books as our anchors we are cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning. They are windows on the past, mirrors on the present and prisms reflecting all possible futures. Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time.”

I really love that quote.

In his memo for the episode, Greg stresses that the episode isn’t about teaching Hudson and Broadway to read. It’s about making them – and, through them, the audience – want to read.

When the episode opens, we see two very different takes on illiteracy. Hudson is ashamed because thinks he should have learned already, which is, as Greg’s memo points out, the main cause of continued illiteracy among adults. The opportunity to learn is there, but they’re too ashamed to take it. Broadway, on the other hand, can’t see the point of reading. He lives an exciting life and, in the dull moments, he had television and the world of cinema to fall back on. Reading, to him, is something utterly irrelevant. Since there is a ‘rent the movie rather than read the book’ mentally among a lot of people – my little brother, who is always astonished to discover that that the books of films he’s enjoyed are actually exciting, is a case in point – I think this is something an unfortunate number of teenagers would probably agree with.

At first, I get the impression that Broadway is trying a little too hard to convince the rest of the clan – and himself – that reading is pointless. Hudson is eager to stay quiet, but I think there is a definite sense of desperation when it comes to Broadway. It makes his transformation all the better. I love that Hudson and Broadway don’t merely resolve to read the scrolls. They resolve to read them themselves.


“You were there?”
“I’m old, but I’m not that old!”

Be honest, was Macbeth an expected or an unexpected bad guy? Did you, like the gargoyles, automatically assume that Xanatos was behind the theft? (Which is a fair assumption to make, I think. He does seem to have a hand in everything else going on in their world. Although, as Greg points out in his ramble, the ‘previously’ recap does spoils things and give the game away.)

At this point in the series, Macbeth is still an unknown entity. His motives are unclear and Greg’s episode note refers to his code of honour. Do you think he has one? In one moment, he’s preparing to use the spells on Broadway. The next, he’s letting the gargoyles take the scrolls and go. He calls the Goliath a “monster” when he’s angry, but, before that, he congratulates Broadway on his spirit. In short, he’s nothing if not conflicted.

I also have to draw attention to the ‘Macbeth Theme’ in the soundtrack. It’s brilliantly atmospheric, isn’t it?

Hudson and Robbins

“Something about your voice made me think you were a soldier once.”

Although he doesn’t appear very often, Robbins is a very important character. This is, really, the first time we see Hudson striking out on his own. He’s always struggled to adjust to his new time – especially when compared to the rest of the clan – and I was very happy to see him making a friend.

Apparently, his original role was going to be very different. The memo dubs him ‘St Jeffrey’, and he was going to be an Arthurian expert and one of Goliath’s favourite authors. I’m very glad he was toned down. It allowed for a perfectly natural friendship between him and Hudson, and made his talks about reading seem less … staged, I suppose.

(Another thing that struck me during the rewatch was the nature of their introduction. Hudson feels the need to explain his name. A way of showing that he still finds this time – and the conventions the clan have had to adopt – a bit confusing?)

Episode Roundup

Gargoyles Defying the Laws of Physics: 4
Star Trek Voices: 1
Dramatic Awakening Scenes: 1
New Minor Returning Characters:
- Macbeth’s Henchpeople
- Lydia Duane
- Arthur Morwood-Smith
- Jeffrey Robbins
- Gilly

Feel free to let me know if you think of any other categories I should add!

Handy Links

- GargWiki
- Greg’s Episode Ramble
- The Metamorphosis Memo
  • Broadway

    He doesn‘t know how to read. He’s proud of his illiteracy. He considers it a waste of time. He thinks his life is too exciting to need books. His capture by MacBeth changed this attitude.
  • (no subject) -
    • The comment definitely suggested that there was a lot more to him. I'm afraid I can't remember what I thought, either. I was about the same age when I watched it for the first time, and there are a lot of aspects of the show that you only really appreciate as an adult viewer.
      • For me the music was a cue that there was something odd about him. Not that I realized it until I was older, but I've always been sensitive to soundtrack cues, even just subconsciously. The Bagpipes of Epicness made me think he was a Scottish lord, only modern--like Xanatos with a funny accent and a 'Sir' in front of his name. (Needless to say, I was not very good at current affairs.)
        • That's a good point. A character doesn't get a theme without a very good reason.

          Well, your theory was almost correct, anyway!
  • I always liked Jeffrey, even if he didn't get near enough screentime. Realistically speaking, each gargoyle has about seven people in the whole world they can talk to at this point: four fellow gargoyles and three humans. One of the three is a mortal enemy and the other is his enemy's valet. I dunno about you, but I'd go nuts living without conversation. Looking at Jeffrey's house now... he's got a really nice place for a disabled writer. TV has such peculiar notions of appropriate incomes for characters.

    My older brother thinks Macbeth is the coolest guy in shoe leather, so this was one of his favorite episodes--even if he thinks the reading message was a bit heavy-handed. I disagree. Like you said, it wasn't exactly about teaching them to read. It was about that something book-pushers forget to talk about: making reading interesting to people who don't see the point. That self-same brother I mentioned used to loathe reading, in part because most everything he was ever assigned was either dull or forced at him. He's got a contrary nature, and so must be approached carefully. Rather like certain gargoyles mentioned, who can't just be told "Books are good!" and have libraries shoved at them... not that I'd ever tell Brother Dearest, to be sure. Good work on the part of the script people.

    Note of interest for those who don't want to poke through the GargWiki: Lydia Duane and Arthur Morwood-Smith are named for a married pair of writers who have written for Gargoyles, Star Trek, and a whole host of comics and show scripts. (Also some Gargoyles writers named Lydia Something and Arthur Something-Else, but I don't know jack about them.) Diane Duane and Peter Morwood also have a lot of their own books that don't get near the appreciation they deserve.
    • Good point. As much as I love my family, I don't think I could cope with having nobody else to talk to. I don't blame the clan for being cautious, of course, but it's always nice to see them making new friends.

      I completely agree. Telling someone they should read is one thing, but actually making them want to read is another, and much harder to achieve. It was a difficult episode to pull off, but I think the writers did it.

      That is pretty interesting. I like that so many names in the show have a meaning or a dedication of some kind.
  • Oh I loved this episode! I loved Macbeth making another appearance here. My favorite thing about this episode was it's message about reading but that's because of my dad. The first book we read together was the Hobbit and then we went on to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Another favorite bit was the hint of Macbeth the Professor here. When he reads the scroll, his voice or the way he reads the scroll makes it come alive for Broadway and that's the most fun for me when I read to people which isn't very often is watching the characters come alive for them so that they too can have adventures with Bilbo or any other fictional character you'd care to name. Crediting Xanatos for the theft does seem natural but on the rewatch I found myself asking what would Xanatos do with scrolls about Merlin? Even if they had magic spells in them I've never seen Xanatos as the magic man (forgive the bad pun) he seemed to me to deal more with science or guns not magic. Now I could have seen Demona stealing them maybe because given their history only she, Macbeth or maybe Goliath could appreciate them. As for Macbeth's code of honor, I think he has one but he's seen so much and had so much happen to him that he's sort of in a grey area you were right in saying that he's still very much conflicted at this point. I think his calling Goliath a monster was anger at the destruction of his library the first time Goliath came to call but I could be wrong. I too loved Macbeth's Theme but then I've been a sucker for bagpipes all my life.
    • That's a great way to start reading. (I did something similar, but it was The Hobbit with my Mum and Narnia with my grandfather.) It's easy to take reading for granted when you've grown up with it, so it's nice that this episode looked at the subject on a different level.

      I didn't think of that. Although, at this point, Demona and Xanatos are still allies, aren't they? I don't think their partnership dissolves until City of Stone. If you were really paying attention - and, I must confess, I probably wasn't - you could always assume he was stealing it for something they'd concocted together?

      Yes, I'm fairly certain that's the only time he uses the word. For the most part, he treats the gargoyles as noble adversaries. Occasional foes, yes, but foes with courage and worthy of respect He doesn't go out to hunt them, now he's realised they're not connected to Demona.
    • As far as Xanatos and magic go I could see him going after the scrolls. After all he had the Grimorum Arcanorum in his possession at the start of the series. Also he has shown a willingness to work with others who use magic even if they can't be trusted (Demona). He could see the scrolls as a back up in case his technology fails or use them as an enhancement for when tech falls short of his needs.

      Of course when I think of it now he also had the Phoenix Gate and The Eye of Odin.
  • i kinda did think that the episode was preachy but that they made it work cuz in a historical context the characters not knowing how to read would be more comon
    also i liked Jeffery Robbins he made all the obvious moral message part interesting (even though the blind friend of someone who looks difrent is kinda cliché)

    now i feel like i dised the episode and i actually really like it
    • Ha, no, it's fine. The honesty is appreciated - it doesn't mean you liked the episode any less, after all, just that you cared enough to pay attention.

      Illiteracy is surprisingly common in this time period as well. I think the episode saw Broadway and Hudson opening their eyes to what it could offer as much as to the opportunities presented by the new time period.

      Cliche or not, I think Hudson deserves a friend.
  • I love this episode, because I love reading, and deep down inside, I still believe in that after-school special bit about books being able to take you to another world.

    So maybe it was a little preachy, but the good kind of preachy.
  • Reading
    I found it interesting that both Broadway and Hudson couldn't read; but part of me found it a bit stereotypical for it to be them and not one of the other's. Although maybe because they were the only two that were avalible for this sort of thing? With Hudson though, he is the oldest gargoyle, and I'm guessing very few gargoyles back in the day could actually read, Demona learned, Goliath probably learned from her; Brooklyn and Lexington probably learned at some stage from one of their elders - or even Demona herself? To be honest, I don't fully know why Hudson would be a shamed at not knowing how to read; again because back in his time not many people COULD read, by people I do mean humans and thus why would gargoyles really need to know how to read?

    In later ep's we see more of his code of honour; and while he does contradict himself, you can see why - again later ep's explain this a bit more clearly. He is still bitter about Demona, he respects the gargoyles as they are, but I would guess he can't get past Demona and what she did to him. Betrayal is a hard thing to get over, even if you are around for a long time.

    Hudson and Robbins
    I like Robbins, I like the fact he's a blind character who becomes Hudson's friend. It gives him a bit more depth to him, and Hudson has his own human friend; which I think is rather cute. The fact that he's the one who gives Hudson an incentive to reading; when he reads the 'bumps' on the book.
    • I think it boils down to the fact that they needed someone to represent illiterate adults and someone to represent illiterate teenagers. As choices go, I think they did quite well. I don't think Brooklyn or Lexington could have pulled off any of Broadway's lines in support of TV over books, for a start. And you're right. Most humans didn't read at that time. Gargoyles would probably have had even less time for it.

      Definitely! I don't blame him for it ... in fact, it's very poignant, especially when we see later episodes and see what he used to be like.
  • Personally I kinda liked the fact we have such charcaters that are illerate. It's a realistic flaw considering the time period which BW and Hudson came from.

    Now if I was gonna be quirky about it. I woulld probably make Hudson semi-literate in Gaelic. Why? Well being 994 Scotland It makes a little more sense.
    • Definitely, given the time period they came from.

      Haha, an interesting idea. I can't pretend it has ever crossed my mind before. Probably a bit too quirky for Disney, though.
  • late again ah. hmm, personally this is one of my least favorite episodes. I must admit, I find it somewhat preachy, even more so than deadly force. I think the reading issue would have come off a lot better if it were addressed gradually throughout the episodes instead of shoved into one episode, like the show did with the gargoyles needing to leave the castle. Though after this episode, we see Broadway and Hudson engaging in reading several times, which is nice and very natural, I think.

    I guess that just proves how great a show this is though. Most "lessons" we learn through the characters are taught throughout the show's run in several episodes and addressed in a realistic way. Most shows tend to stick their lessons into a "very Special Episode" and then forget it ever happened. This episode just sticks out as a VSE more than any others-but compared to other shows-even good shows-it's not very bad at all.

    Part of the reason I don't like the lesson here is probably because I have ADHD (Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). I actually like to read, and read very well, but I tend to lose interest in books very easily. (same with writing. I"m already getting bored and thinking of doing other things lol.) No matter how cool someone makes a book sound to me, I probably won't read it for fear I'll lose interest halfway and it would be a waste of time. Of course, I don't blame the writers for not addressing this, as it doesn't affect the general public-and I'm glad to see that it actually did affect people positively, even if it didn't do so for me.

    I do love the scenes with Robbins and Hudson, however. Goliath had Elisa, and the trio had each other, but Hudson didn't have anyone he could really connect with, so it's nice that he got a friend (Not that he couldn't connect with the others, but sometimes it's nice to have someone your own age to talk to.) Robbins is such a great character too-we get so much from him from just a few appearances. He also comes off as a very lonely man, I wish we got more of his story. Hopefully the comic will continue someday and we can see more of him.
    • And I'm a little late in replying, so I guess we're both as bad as each other. Don't worry about it!

      Strangely enough, seeing it referred to beforehand wasn't something that has ever occurred to me. I was just happy to see the continuity afterwards. (As you point out, it's a very rare thing in television shows, no matter what their target audience is.) You're right, though. It would have been nice. Even if it had just been something small in the background. Although that would have opened a can of worms regarding why their lessons didn't start then.

      I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for that as well. More of his story would be brilliant. Living in a huge house with only Gilly for company must be lonely.
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