Script Spotlight 18: “Radar’s Report”

Typically I try to choose a script that is related to an event or holiday that is coming up. However, there isn’t much happening in March besides St. Patrick’s Day and the beginning of spring. So this week I decided to pick a random script from the collection to review. The episode that I selected was “Radar’s Report” (02×03). This is a great early episode that stands out in my mind for several reasons. It blends comedy and drama well. The episode guest stars Joan Van Ark as Lt. Erika Johnson, and it marks the first appearance of Allan Arbus as Major Freedman, although his name changed a few times. Let’s dig in to the script, then take a look at the final episode!

The Script

The script is a final draft of the episode dated August 1, 1973. There are some handwritten notes throughout, but we will discuss a few of those notes later. The writing credits for this episode are interesting. We see two names. Sheldon Keller is given a “story by” credit while Laurence Marks is given a “teleplay by” credit. What this essentially means is that Keller either wrote the early draft or came up with the story, but it was Marks who wrote the final script. This makes sense as Marks was the script consultant in the early episodes.

This script has a number of revised pages throughout it. The first set of revised pages are concentrated on the episode’s tag. They are dated August 2, 1973, and are on blue pages. Then, there are revisions from August 3 on pink pages. Revisions from August 6 are on green pages, and revisions from August 7 are on yellow. Finally, we see another set of revisions from August 13 on dark yellow (gold) pages. Unfortunately, none of the pages these revisions replaced are still in the script. Cast and crew were instructed to discard the old pages and replace them with the new, and most followed those directions. There are some changes between these revised pages and the final episode, however. Sadly, I can’t tell whether the scene as it was performed may have come from an earlier draft of the script.

As I mentioned, there are a few handwritten notes in this script. They are in pencil, and they are on three or four pages. But one of the revisions is to Major Freedman’s name. Of course, we know him as Major Sidney Freedman in later episodes. In this episode, however, he is introduced as Major Milton Freedman. In the script, Freedman’s first name is written in as “Milton,” but it was originally written as “Robert.” In season two, Major Freedman’s name went from “Robert” to “Milton” and finally to “Sidney” in “Deal Me Out” (02×13). It is interesting to see how his name evolved over time.

Another interesting observation from this script is a random page at the back. It isn’t numbered, but it is given a letter “A.” On it, it lists only one line that is deems a “Wild Line” for Scene 19. This is the scene in which Hawkeye confirms that Erika is not married, and as they are kissing, the lights begin to flicker. We hear a P.A. announcement that the generator is having issues. This line is not on the page of the script with the rest of Hawkeye’s and Erika’s lines, but it was added later. Much later, in fact, as the revised page is dated August 29. Since the P.A. announcement is a voiceover, it would would not have been difficult to add it into the existing scene where it made the most sense.

In this script, we see the most revisions I think I have ever seen with six different revision dates. There are handwritten notes, name changes, and a “wild line” added to a scene. And yet, the changes and additions made the episode even better for the viewer. All of the aspects of production we see in this one script provide a look into the production process of the series.

The Final Episode

In the episode, we see Radar writing the Weekly Activity Report and Personnel Record for October 17 – 22, 1951 (which looking at a calendar for 1951 is Wednesday through Monday). He recounts the events of the week in which they work in the O.R. and a POW attacks a nurse and interferes with Trapper’s surgery. Klinger is given a psych evaluation by Major (Milton) Freedman. While Hawkeye takes care of the injured nurse, Erika, he falls in love her only to have her throw cold water on his idea of their married future. Meanwhile, Trapper’s patient dies as a result of the actions of the POW, who is recovering from his wound. In the final scene, we see Henry reading the report before signing it and remarking, “Well, every week can’t be exciting.”

Season two is my favorite, and this episode is one of the highlights of the season! It is funny, shows the horrors and unfairness of war, and spotlights several of the characters (Hawkeye, Trapper, and Klinger). This is a very well balanced episode. Nevertheless, there are some changes between the script and what aired on CBS in 1974. The opening scene in which we meet Erika is longer in the script (pages 2 – 3). The scene in which the POW cuts Erika and affects Trapper’s surgery has several differences (page 6). But one of the most dramatic scene changes was when Trapper goes to the POW after his patient dies (pages 24 – 25). We get the impression that Trapper is going to harm him like he harmed his patient. In the script, Trapper punches the wall in pre-op before going to where the POW is being held. Then, he dismisses a nurse who is overseeing the POW. The scene is much darker as written, and I am sure that is why it was pulled back some for the episode. Trapper is angry and is seeking “justice” in his anger, but he is stopped by Hawkeye.

This is a classic, early episode that set up what made M*A*S*H great. There is balance between comedy and drama. The reality of war once again enters with the death of Trapper’s patient. The morality of the role of a doctor as Trapper is angry over the role the POW had in the death of his patient. Those points are countered with the humor and lightheartedness of the brief romance of Hawkeye and Erika and Klinger’s attempt at getting a Section 8. The brilliance of the writing and the talent of the actors both shine through in this episode, and it was a great random pick for the week!

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