The Fox series Sleepy Hollow, which premieres tonight, has Ichabod Crane chillin' with George Washington, fighting the Headless Horseman (who is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) in the modern day, dealing with the fact that his wife is a witch. And that's only the beginning. But it all makes sense to co-creator Roberto Orci.
"It is a historical fact that George Washington was indeed a Freemason," said Orci, who co-created the show with Alex Kurtzman, Len Wiseman, and Phillip Iscove, in an interview last month. So, the show is "using idea that he was part of a secret society, which is a fact, to play with the idea that he is fighting two wars. One was political and one was biblical."
The show starts with Ichabod Crane, who fought in George Washington's army, waking up from a spell placed on him by his wife. He joins up with a Westchester County cop (that she's black female is doubly disconcerting for a man from the 18th Century) to solve a string of beheading murders that were caused by his legendary foe, who is back to bring about the end of the world.
With all this talk of Freemasons and the apocalypse, you should know that Orci, a prolific writer who has had a hand in the most recent Star Trek films, has a reputation as a conspiracy theorist. (He called conspiracy theorists "conspiracy realists.") Frequent collaborator Damon Lindelof once told StarTrek.com that "it's impossible to know Bob Orci and not get involved in those conversations." His Twitter account—deleted last week following a nasty spat with Star Trek fans—used to be an outlet for his various wild ideas, including 9/11 trutherism and general discussion of conspiracies. So how do his predilections manifest itself in the overtly fantastical show?
"The idea of the alternate history that’s not always talked about in textbooks to me is a very interesting thing," he said. "And that doesn’t mean, politically, the show is not about my bringing my conspiratorial views to it, it’s about trying to uncover, as much as we can, about what may have actually happened and also have fun with it and also, like you were saying, mix it with the Bible. Certainly I can’t deny that the idea that shattering a couple of historical myths and telling the truth is certainly an interest for me." Those myths include, according to Orci, the Washington-secret society connection and the "idea that, though we are known to have very much victimized the Native Americans, there is much evidence that Native Americans very much informed Jefferson and Washington about how to run a democracy."
But the concept that originally brought Orci and Kurtzman to Sleepy Hollow was a desire to work on a "man out of time" idea. Iscove floated the idea of a modern day Sleepy Hollow. Orci explained to us that the biblical, supernatural, and historical elements got mashed together as he and his co-writers tried to find a way to expand Washington Irving's original short story, which is, y'know, pretty short. The disparate elements of the show came together via a sort of stream of consciousness. "So when we were studying and looking at the story of, okay, this man getting chased by the horseman, so we thought well what if this horseman is one of four horsemen, one of four horsemen of the apocalypse," he said. "It’s funny when we started running that by our friends and family, none of them were sure if that was part of the original Washington Irving short story." That worked with the Revolutionary War based on their thinking that, well, that the devil wouldn't want democracy. (Seriously.)
It all makes for a particularly wild show, the enjoyability level of which is predicated on whether or not you choose to buy into it. And, of course, how you feel about witches.