The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Two Rooms At The End Of The World

Welcome back. Time for another blog. And more deleted scenes.


Back in 2011, I wrote a Doctor Who story called Protect & Survive. As I’m sure I’ve wittered on about elsewhere, the story started out as an idea for a Sapphire & Steel story, but I don’t think I ever submitted it. Around 2006 I reworked it as a comic strip, but that also went nowhere (I’ve included that outline at the end of this blog). Eventually in 2011 I was asked to come up with an idea for a seventh Doctor/Ace/Hex story. The brief was to write a story that would fit into ongoing storyline with Elder Gods, with the proviso that the Doctor should only appear in a small number of flashback scenes because Sylvester would be busy filming The Hobbit. And, after a couple of ideas had been knocked back, I pitched Protect & Survive as it seemed a good fit.

Here’s that pitch. It contains lots of spoilers so if you haven’t heard the story, please stop reading now and go away and listen to it! You can buy it here.

> Another idea. A sort of Waiting For Godot - Slaughterhouse 5 - When The Wind Blows - Bed-Sitting Room - Threads thing. Might need a third voice, as it's about a couple, in an ordinary house, who are subjected to the outbreak of a nuclear war (the third voice would be a radio announcer, the Protect & Survive man, so a very small role) on a daily basis. When Ace & Hex arrive, they discover that this dimension is one where time and space are jumbled up. The ordinary couple are being punished for something, and it turns out the Doctor imprisoned them in a pocket dimension as a punishment. 

> It then turns out that the couple are in fact aliens who were trying to create a timeline in which Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war, so in order to prevent that happening, and give the aliens a taste of their own medicine, the Doctor created a pocket dimension for that timeline and trapped the aliens in their 'human' bodies. He has promised the couple that eventually he will return and free them; they are not imprisoned there for eternity. But they've grown tired of waiting,so when Ace & Hex turn up, they think they can use them to escape.

> Something like that. All about the 'dark' Doctor's approach backfiring on him, and shaking Ace and Hex's faith in his methods/idea of justice. Because of all the nuclear war stuff, it will be absolutely terrifying; that whole Protect & Survive business still gives me nightmares, anyway. So it would have to be set in the 1980's, in the UK, but later on Ace & Hex can discover that the couple are actually living on the moon or in the time vortex.


My main memory of writing the story back in September 2011 was that after the first two episodes, I hit a bit of a block. The problem was that I was half-way through the story and only had enough plot left for one more episode. I contacted the script editor (Alan Barnes) who said that Sylvester’s availability was no longer a problem and suggested showing Albert and Peggy bringing about the end of the world in a series of scenes with the Doctor confronting them in their various guises; ‘Do Dr Strangelove in 12 and a half minutes’. So that’s what I did, recalling an old story idea I’d had as a teenager about the Doctor visiting the guy whose job it is to press the missile button and talking him out of doing so. I was making it up as I was going along but sometimes that’s the best way of writing (in terms of the end product; it’s the most stressful and exhausting way of writing from my point of view). The story went down pretty well (largely due to a fantastic cast and sound design) so I think I just about got away with it. My only quibble with the end result is that I wanted (and scripted) for the warning announcements to be preceded and followed by electronic-sting type jingles (like the genuine ones) and for some reason they weren’t included. But that’s a pretty minor quibble!


Anyway, as a result of these circumstances there aren’t that many deleted scenes, as I wasn’t coming from the position of having too much plot and cutting it down. But here’s a couple of bits that got cut from part four as I was editing it down to wordcount.

I probably cut this bit because the characters were telling each other stuff they (and we) already knew:

HEX:
Look, I just didn’t want to be burned alive, alright? While we’re still walking around and breathing, we’ve still got a chance of stopping them...

ACE:
How?

HEX:
I don’t know, I was hoping you might have some idea.

ACE:
You know, they were right about one thing. If only we did have some way of calling the Doctor.

HEX:
Ace, we’re just going to face it. The Doctor’s gone. He’s not going to come and rescue us. This is down to us.

ACE:
I know. But... (REALISING) Albert and Peggy, or whatever they are, they managed to drag the TARDIS here, right?

HEX:
(REALISING) Yeah. So -

ACE:
So maybe we can do it too?

HEX:
But how?

ACE:
I don’t know. But we’re not going to find out hanging around down here.

HEX:
The blast has passed, we’ve got a couple of minutes before the fall-out warning.

ACE:
Then come on then.

And I expect this next bit was cut down for the same reason; as I was rewriting the script I found the exposition had already been delivered elsewhere or wasn’t needed to understand the story, so it was reduced to just a couple of lines.

HEX:
And that’s why the Doctor didn’t tell them how long they’d be imprisoned here. Because he didn’t know how long it’d take.

ACE:
That’s typical of the Doctor. He can’t just build a prison, he has to build one that rehabilitates the bad guys and calls the TARDIS here when it’s time for them to be released.

HEX:
Except Albert and Peggy weren’t rehabilitated. They’d just been here so long they’d worked out how to control things. (BEAT) Supposing you’re right, though, how does that help us?

ACE:
Isn’t it obvious? If we go along with the pattern, and don’t try to resist, then this place will think we’ve learned what it’s like to be human – and summon the TARDIS.

HEX:
You mean we give up?

ACE:
Not give up. We have to make sure we get it exactly right in every detail.

As I wrote the second draft, I went through taking out anything which slowed things down or got in the way of the story i.e. this:

ACE:
We have a choice. Either we stay and wait for the TARDIS to blow up, or we land and get out of here before it blows up.

HEX:
Yeah, but what if we land somewhere with people, and the TARDIS blows up? This thing could take out half a planet.

And this was cut from part one for giving away too much too soon:

(FX: ACE AND HEX LEAVE)

ALBERT:
Wait too much longer? What did she mean by that?

PEGGY:
Oh, nothing love. But she was right. Now that they’ve come here, he can’t be far behind.

The end of this scene from part three was rewritten, because originally it just had the Doctor giving up.

ALBERT:
No, ma’am. Satellites show no signs of Soviet retreat.

(FX: PHONE RINGS. ALBERT ANSWERS IT)

ALBERT:
Ma’am, it’s the President.

(FX: PEGGY ANSWERS PHONE)

PEGGY:
General Mitchell speaking. Yes, sir... Will do, sir... Thank you, Mr President. And God bless America.

(FX: PHONE HUNG UP)

PEGGY:
Gentlemen. The President has authorized a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Commence missile launch.

ALBERT:
Yes, ma’am.

(FX: GENERALS BEGIN PREPARATIONS IN B/G, GIVING ORDERS)

PEGGY:
Hey, what happened to the little British guy?

ALBERT:
What little British guy?

PEGGY:
The one who was here a minute ago

This was cut because it’s waffle, repeating what people already know:

PEGGY:
You think he imprisoned us here on purpose?

ALBERT:
That all this was created just for us?

ACE:
Well you can hardly have ended up here by accident, can you?

HEX:
Well, we did.

ACE:
Did we? Maybe something forced the TARDIS to come here. Or someone.

ALBERT:
Someone?

ACE:
Someone who was getting a bit fed up waiting for the Doctor to come and release them?


And more waffle:

(FX: ACE AND HEX EMERGE, PUSHING SHELTER DOOR OPEN)

HEX:
I’m never going to get over this, seeing the whole place burned up.

ACE:
Just remember, if Albert and Peggy get out of here, it won’t just be this house, it’ll be the whole world.

HEX:
Hey, there’s no chance of me forgetting.

(FX: THEY ENTER LIVING ROOM)

The next bit was presumably cut as it undermines the seriousness of the situation, though it’s mildly amusing:

HEX:
Should it be dark already? The mushroom cloud... it’s filled up the whole sky...

(FX: RUMBLES OF THUNDER)

ACE:
Impressive. I used to be into explosions, but that one’s going to take some beating.

HEX:
You know, Ace, sometimes I think you’re not quite right in the head. And then I remember that I hang around with you, and I think that I’m the one who’s not quite right in the head.

ACE:
Who would you rather be stuck in a corner with? Someone who knows their way around a rocket launcher or someone who screams and twists their ankle?

HEX:
The first, I suppose.

(FX: STARTS PATTERING WITH RAIN)

The one other interesting thing (for me at least) is that the scene with the Doctor at the end where he asks Ace and Hex to choose who gets to live wasn’t in the first draft; originally it was just the fact that they repeated the routine which made the TARDIS appear. This was done at Alan Barnes’ suggestion, that Ace and Hex would have to prove their humanity in some way rather than just following instructions.

And finally, here’s the comic strip pitch from 2006.

Another Doctor Who idea:

Protect & Survive

The Doctor and Rose arrive in a sleepy, deserted Coventry street in the 1980’s. But, within seconds of their arrival, a siren sounds and the TARDIS vanishes. They are ushered into the house of an elderly, retired couple, Mr Jack Fletcher and his wife Pauline. The Doctor is surprised to find that Jack has been preparing a ‘fall out’ shelter in the living room, by propping a door against the wall, covering it with a matress and so forth. The radio is on, and the Doctor and Rose hear the announcer giving the ‘air attack’ warning. They take shelter, and then, to their amazement, a nuclear bomb hits.

After the first firestorm, the Doctor and Rose emerge, and they make out several mushroom clouds in the distance. But this is wrong – there wasn’t a nuclear war in the 1980s. It seems history has changed, because Thatcher isn’t the Prime Minister... instead it is somebody called David Fletcher. Jack and Pauline’s son.

The Doctor and Rose find that time in the Fletcher’s house has become twisted, and the year is, in fact, 1941. A parade of soldiers marches by, ready to go to war with Germany, and Jack and Pauline are a couple in their 20s, with a toddler son, David. An air siren sounds, and the Doctor saves David as a German bomb hits the street outside, reducing the surrounding buildings to rubble...

What has happened – as the Doctor and Rose discover over the course of a couple of episodes – is that some alien entity has offered Jack and Pauline a choice. According to history, their son should have died in 1941, but the alien has given them a chance to change that. In their grief for their dead son, Jack and Pauline agreed for their son to live... and it turns out that David will, 40 years later, bring about the apocalypse.

The alien entity, a sinister, little-seen creature that communicates via the radio but which resembles a half-cybernetic time-travelling giant woodlouse, wants Earth to become an irradiated wasteland because it likes planets that are irradiated wastelands; it has laid eggs in the walls of the house and its newly-hatched young will need radiation to survive.

The Doctor has to persuade the Jack and Pauline of 1940 to allow their son to die, to prevent the destruction of the human race.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading your deleted scenes. I often find myself writing scenes I know I'll have to cut because, while they amuse me, they don't fit the tone. It can be a little sad but at least I get a giggle :)

    ReplyDelete