One Of 3 Body Problem's Most Important Scenes Only Happened Thanks To Netflix

Very few people in show business have a better understanding of what it takes to spearhead a massive, multimillion dollar production on the scale of "3 Body Problem" than showrunners David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo. Benioff and Weiss guided "Game of Thrones" to eight total seasons, many of which included the most expensive installments of television ever committed to the small screen at the time, while Woo served as producer and writer on "True Blood." With so many moving parts to keep track of and so many urgent matters demanding attention at any given time, in all honesty, it's not terribly shocking that even this top creative team would have to scramble at the last minute to include a scene of utmost narrative importance.

The ambitious sci-fi adaptation made its debut on Netflix last week (you can read my full "3 Body Problem" review here) and for my money delivered one of the more impressive series premieres in recent memory. Based on Chinese author Liu Cixin's "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy of books, the early episodes of the season had to hit the ground running and introduce all sorts of high-minded concepts to viewers in a hurry. Mysterious suicides plaguing the scientific community and inexplicable countdowns impairing the vision of a main character are tough enough to keep track of for the uninitiated, but there's also the matter of communicating exactly how each of the five protagonists relate to one another.

One deceptively key moment early on established all of this and more, placing Eiza González's Auggie Salazar and Jess Hong's Jin Cheng in a bar as they attempt to make sense of the issues wreaking havoc on scientific experiments around the globe. But without some serious patience and understanding on Netflix's part, this scene never would've happened at all.

Solving a last-minute 3 Body Problem

Ever experience a very specific kind of tunnel vision while working on a creative project? Aspiring screenwriters and established veterans alike can certainly relate to the idea of losing sight of the forest for the trees while trapped in the thick of things, but that's precisely why the ability to improvise and adjust on the fly — along with correctly diagnosing potential issues — can oftentimes be an artist's best friend.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the "3 Body Problem" creators learned this the hard way while looking back at the season as a whole prior to release. Incredibly enough, the original plan was to debut the show back in mid-2023 ... until David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo had to make an incredibly hard call and acknowledge that something about the not-quite-finished product simply wasn't clicking. Although the events of the story were easy enough for passionate book-readers to follow, newbies likely needed an extra scene laying out the finer points of such a complex undertaking.

The solution: Introduce an additional sequence into the mix that addressed any potential questions before viewers even had them. The only obstacle, however, was that the dual SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes meant it would take months before they could actually film that extra moment. According to Weiss:

"We got the scene written the day before the strike. It was literally five pages, but we really thought it was worth doing. Netflix was great about it. It would have been very easy for them to be like, 'You have a finished show that is ready to air, for us to hold that [for a scene that's] five minutes of two people in a bar' ... that it took some fortitude for them to just say, 'Yeah.'"

Credit where it's due

To paraphrase a famous saying, writers make plans and the storytelling gods laugh. In a perfect world, writers would be able to account for every possible detail for an entire season of a television series well ahead of time and then simply shoot the scripts exactly as written. Reality never quite matches up to expectations, however, and the "3 Body Problem" showrunners ultimately found themselves at the mercy of a streaming juggernaut that is famous for churning out content (an unseemly word that I don't use lightly) as fast and efficiently as possible. With that in mind, it's quite noteworthy that Netflix made the right creative call and granted one of their biggest, most expensive productions ever the extra time to film a single additional scene.

The secret weapon working in the show's favor, as it turns out, was Netflix's head of scripted series, Peter Friedlander. A longtime fan of the original novels and the executive who first approached D.B. Weiss and David Benioff with a copy of "The Three-Body Problem" for them to read and adapt, he had a personal stake in seeing the material treated with the respect it deserves. As he told THR, it wasn't a particularly difficult decision to delay the release:

"I want to tell the best version of this story, and if there's a critical moment that the producers want to capture and we have the time and resources to do it, I want to figure it out with them. They were total professionals, total collaborators, and very clear what their vision is. I don't want the audiences to miss out on that. So it was not a hard decision for me."

For once, art won over capitalism! Huzzah! "3 Body Problem" is currently streaming on Netflix.