The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

I'm In The Mood For Dancing


Various things written by me are out now. Buy them!

Big Finish have released an audio adventure I wrote, Cobwebs, of which I shall blog later. Instead, this blog is to plug the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, The Guinness World Recording-Breaking journal of Adventures In Time And Space, and in particular, the comic strip contained within its pages, ‘Planet Bollywood!’ Artwork by Roger Langridge, who did such a marvellous job on 'Death To The Doctor!' you’d think he wouldn’t be able to surpass himself, but he has. It looks brilliant. I realise I say that about every comic strip - and oh, the next one looks brilliant, and the one after that too – but, well, that’s factual accuracy for you.

The idea for the story was to find a way of doing a Bollywood musical in comic strip form, with characters bursting into song and dance routines. I like to set myself near-impossible challenges. And as an added difficulty, I decided not to go down the ‘unreliable narrator’ route, which was my first thought, because it would be too easy and because my first idea, of having the Doctor starring in and directing a Bollywood version of one of his adventures, was complicated without being clever.

The main challenge – and the most fun part – of writing the story was the song lyrics, which are occasionally Bollywood-esque but most of the time, in order to get across the idea that they’re supposed to be song lyrics are sometimes more cod-Sondheim show tunes with multiple rhymes.

As a ‘taster’, here’s the script for page 1:

PAGE ONE (4 panels)

Panel 1 (big)

We open in outer space, where a small space freighter is being pursued by a massive battleship. The freighter is in good condition, functional and boxy, while the battleship is dirty, ugly, spiky, all engines and weaponry. Both ships leave jet streams in their wake – indicating that the space freighter has been swerving about while the battleship ploughs relentlessly ahead belching smoke and fire.

The battleship is firing a laser bolt, which is impacting with the freighter, causing a large, frame-ripping explosion – the laser bolt it has clearly been attempting to swerve to avoid.

Other ships are engaged in the battle – freighters fleeing, battleships chasing them.

This is taking place in low orbit above an Earth-like world; we can see the curve of the planet’s surface and its hazy blue atmosphere.

BOX: “WE’RE HIT!”

Panel 2

Inside the ship, which is veering wildly, out of control, and hence tilting at an angle. The flight deck, a cramped cockpit containing three or four crewmembers – the standard Star Trek arrangement of the captain in the middle, with navigators seated in front. All around are glittering hi-tech instrument panels, many of which are damaged or on fire.

The cockpit is bathed in the red glow of emergency lighting. The crew all wear elegant, decorated colonial suits, like servants from a Maharaja’s palace. They are all humanoid, with human eyes, ears and mouths, but with fur and elephant trunks for noses. They are all pale, jade blue in colour.

The Captain is grabbing onto a panel to prevent himself from falling and is shouting into a desk-mounted intercom. The Navigator is checking instruments and looking fearful.

CAPTAIN: THE CARGO, IS IT DAMAGED? REPORT! REPORT!

NAVIGATOR: NEVER MIND THE CARGO, SIR -- THEY’VE WIPED OUT OUR ENGINES! WE’RE DONE FOR!

Panel 3

The captain turns to look at the Navigator, and we have a reverse angle on the cockpit, so we can see the forward view screen – filled by the surface of the Earth-like planet and readings in an alien script indicating altitude, fuel and so forth. They’re heading towards its ‘night’ side, which is dotted with the lights of cities.

CAPTAIN: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘DONE FOR’?

NAVIGATOR: I MEAN, CAPTAIN, WITHOUT OUR ENGINES, THEN -

Panel 4 (big)

While the cockpit continues to burn and lurch, and remains lit by emergency lighting, the crew launch into a song-and-dance routine! They are all caught in Bollywood-style poses – the seated crewmembers raising their hands to point, palms-upward, up to the left, the standing crewmembers also pointing up to the left but leaning back as they do so, doing that exaggerated high-stepping walk. They are all facing towards us and smiling.

The Navigator is doing all the singing – he’s standing up, as though leading the routine.

NAVIGATOR 1: WE’RE GONNA CRASH INTO THAT PLANET, DAMNIT!
THERE’S NO WAY THAT WE CAN ALTER COURSE!
I ENVISION WITH PRECISION A QUITE IMMINENT COLLISION
WE’RE GONNA STRIKE IT WITH GREAT FORCE!

NAVIGATOR 2: WE’RE GONNA SMASH INTO THAT PLANET, DAMNIT!
THIS SHIP’S GONNA BE A TOTAL WRECK!
IT’S TOO LATE TO ABATE A CATASTROPHIC FATE
I WISH I WASN’T STOOD ON THIS FLIGHT DECK!

NAVIGATOR 3: WE’RE GONNA CRASH INTO THAT PLANET, DAMNIT!
ONE ONLY HAS TO CALCULATE THE ODDS!
IT’S A FACT THIS IMPACT WILL NOT LEAVE THIS SHIP INTACT
WHICH REMINDS ME -- WHAT ABOUT THE ESCAPE PODS?

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