Author: lamardeuse and brooklinegirl
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
I was first re-introduced to TAT in 2002, when a local cable station ran an A-Team marathon. As a teenager I’d watched the show off and on, semi-ashamed of the fact I enjoyed the show even though it was goofy, chauvinistic and way too violent (yeah, I was one of those annoyingly principled teenagers). Of course, it had the attractions of “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), who I suspect was Jim Carrey’s early inspiration and who I loved in a purely platonic way, and the dangerously nummy Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), who I loved in a rather less platonic way—hey, puberty is a mofo.
This time around, I found The A-Team to be goofy, chauvinistic and way too violent—but I also found that it was a show aware it was all these things. On one level, TAT is a spoof of the action genre, and a much more subtle one than people give it credit for. Sure, there’s the painful Mr. T factor, but even that can be used to generate some (intentioned) laughs. Look at it this way: any show in which George Peppard dresses up like the Queen Mother and fusses about “exposed” wiring has got to have its tongue firmly planted in cheek. What intrigued me, though, were the times when you were reminded these men were ex-Special Forces and Vietnam veterans, with all the demons and regrets that entails. And while they didn’t always get it right or delve into it as deeply as I might have liked, the concept of these men as fucked-up adrenaline junkies was right on target. And I was hooked.
When I first wrote TAT not long after my re-discovery, I wrote het. And when I started reading more A-Team fic and seeing the, ah, moments between Face and Murdock, I started wondering if I, too, could write slash. Purely as an academic exercise, of course…
Well. Two years later, it’s all I write. And it’s all Face and Murdock’s fault.
I remember not being allowed to watch The A-Team when it was first on because it was "too violent." When I got back into it, I gently pointed out to my parents that it's extremely rare that anyone ever dies in the A-Team (even when they fly into the side of a mountain in a helicopter), and that, wow, for a crack commando unit, these guys couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. But still, yes, my defense of the A-Team is that it's funny, doesn't take itself too seriously, and that the backgrounds of these characters are seriously interesting, and something that begs be expanded upon in fiction. They give you just enough canon on the show to leave it free to the fic writers to give the background some context.
“Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz) was the chopper pilot who flew the A-Team (and presumably other Green Beret A-Teams) to their various missions in Vietnam. There are few details about Murdock’s early life, though canon states he was raised by his grandparents in Texas. For the first four seasons of the show, Murdock is institutionalized at the VA hospital, and must be “busted out” in new and creative ways by one of the Team (almost exclusively Face) when they need him for missions. It’s not entirely clear how Murdock ends up committed to a mental institution, but fanon often speculates it has something to do with the time the Team spent in a Viet Cong prison camp during the war. It’s often hinted that Murdock isn’t nearly so crazy as he appears, but there’s never any solid evidence one way or another. Fanfic writers can play it either way without contradicting canon.
Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict) is the conman and unofficial quartermaster of the A-Team; his good looks and charm ensure they have whatever they need—from aircraft to explosives—when the time comes. We know more about Face’s early life than any of the other team members. He’s an orphan who never knew his parents, and his college sweetheart left him to (he later discovers) become a nun, thus precipitating his enlistment in the Army. In Vietnam, he was the Team’s sniper—a very difficult and stressful job, as snipers were able to see their victims “up close and personal”. As a member of the present-day A-Team, he’s vain, whiny and is constantly in search of the good life—and the next pretty girl. There are two points during the run of the show in which he decides to leave the Team—but he always comes back. Despite his high-roller façade, he is nevertheless as much of a crusader for the underdog as the rest of them.
Why They Work Together
Face and Murdock’s most important bond is the shared experience of the war. And as anyone who has been through that experience will tell you, that’s enough. The two men would clearly sacrifice their lives for the other, and they have a connection that only the other members of their team can understand.
Of the three other team members, Murdock is closest to Face, and vice versa. Face is the one who calms Murdock, who listens to him, who is the most patient with his antics. Murdock is the only one who messes with Face’s suave disguise, who tries to poke holes in his perfect composure. Murdock and Face pair up frequently to perpetrate Face’s scams, donning costumes and (frequently) fake accents to procure something the Team needs for a mission.
In terms of subtext, there is first and foremost a great deal of chemistry between the two actors. There are (no doubt unscripted) looks, touches, smiles and hugs, pointing to an easy camaraderie that shine through their scenes together. Moreover, there are established F/M “bits” that stand out for slash fans. The biggest of these is the fifth season episode “Family Reunion”, in which Murdock finds out the man they are protecting is Face’s long-lost father. The man begs Murdock to remain silent until he can summon the courage to speak to his son, but dies before Face is told. When Murdock finally tells Face the truth, they have an emotional confrontation that brings the house down—and almost destroys their own friendship. There’s a great deal of “what if” that slash writers can bring to the relationship, building upon the groundwork laid down in canon.
Why I Ship Them
I was initially drawn to writing TAT by the military/historical angle; my first story involved Hannibal and a guest character who had served as an Army doctor in Vietnam. It was a wonderful way to delve into women’s experiences in Vietnam, and I had a lot of fun doing it. When I began writing Face/Murdock, the motivations were similar: I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of the Special Forces in war, whether Green Berets, SAS, etc. They are the elite, the men who do both the most loudly applauded and the most secretive and distasteful jobs of the war. The best of them are more than a little crazy to begin with, and their experiences of war tend to exacerbate that tendency. The respective and shared demons that Face and Murdock carry around with them—as can be extrapolated from canon and from a knowledge of history—can fill a football stadium. There’s nothing easy about writing these two—except when they’re together. Because they’re the only ones who truly understand the hell they’ve been through. And even that gets complicated during the events of the fifth season, when the positions of Murdock and the Team are strangely reversed: Murdock is free for the first time since Vietnam, and the Team are trapped in a high-rent prison constructed by a shadowy covert arm of the US government. While the Team do all they can to subvert the missions on which they’re sent, there’s nevertheless an angsty tension to the last season that provides even more grist for the fanfic mill.
It's mostly what I said before: those little references in canon that beg to be explored. Face with his girlfriend of the week, who keeps coming up with new ways to break Murdock out of the VA and keep him as part of his life. Face doesn’t have a lot of definites in his life - the Team is pretty much it. He looks to Hannibal as a father figure, and BA as a friend, and Murdock as - something more. Face has more walls and masks than anyone I've ever seen: he uses his good looks as a front to hide all the things he doesn't want you to see, he plays the conman, putting on other people's lives as a way to try out all the things he can't be.
Murdock does something similar with his craziness: it's like a front, but it gives him an excuse to act anyway he wants, to get away with a lot he wouldn’t if he were sane. I think that draws Face to him - Murdock asks for what he wants, because there are no lines when you're crazy. Face likes that, wants to see how that works, wants to see how very real Murdock is, because I think that maybe Face has forgotten who his true self really is.
Murdock is drawn to Face because he can see through all of Face's masks to who Face really is. He loves Face, loves him and understands him and sees how he's damaged and doesn't draw away. Face has never had anyone love him like that - he's the love-em-and-leave-em type, if only b/c he doesn't want to give anyone the chance to leave him first. Murdock won't let Face drive him away, and that's the best example of love Face has ever, ever seen.
Why Follow This Pairing?
On a purely surface level, they’re pretty. Face is almost unspeakably so, and Murdock has brown eyes and a honey drawl that tend to melt your insides at the most inopportune moments. But beyond that, the chemistry between the actors/characters is just plain fun to watch. They goof around together, they look out for one another, they are comrades in arms in the best sense. Like most slash pairs, neither of them seems to find the “right” woman to put up with them. There’s something for everyone in the Face/Murdock pairing—you can go for comedy, or angst, or romance without deviating from canon too much.
Also, it's the pairing that lets you see what's there in canon and look past it, develop it into something more. Face is the pretty-boy conman, Murdock is the crazy guy. But both of them are more than that: you catch glimpses of it in canon. It doesn't have to be all serious, at all, but it does give you the chance to show a little of what goes on behind each of their masks when the bedroom door closes.
And - what lamardeuse said. They are so, so very pretty together. And both of them? When they drop those masks in canon? Are people you really like - that you want to look closer at, be friends with, get to know.
is the place to begin. Our recommendations include Stompy, Elizabeth Kent, Cathay and the incomparable emmastark, who unfortunately is no longer writing in the fandom, and has left several WIPs that are nevertheless better than most people’s completed stories.
And because we’re shameless hussies, you can also check out our work here:
Thanks for reading!