The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited

To celebrate the recent resurgence in all things Viking, I thought I’d leap gracefully onto the longboat before it disappears into the sunset with my own Doctor Who Viking story, Space Vikings! which was beautifully illustrated by Rob Davis and INJ Culbard. The finished story was included in the excellent 2010 Doctor Who Storybook, still available, and the magnificent The Crimson Hand graphic novel, still available.


I previously blogged about it here. What follows is the complete, final, third draft of the comic strip script:

Doctor Who: Space Vikings!

Draft 3

PAGE ONE

Panel 1

BOX ONE:
THE YEAR 2810...

An Earth-like planet. A rural, rugged land. We’re looking down on two middle-aged colonists gawping up towards us in horror. They’re wearing medieval, rustic clothes. One man, bearded, and his wife. They’ve been out repairing dry stone walls.

FIRST COLONIST ONE:
IT’S THEM!

FIRST COLONIST TWO:
OH MY GOD! THEY’RE COMING! THEY’RE COMING!

BOX TWO:
...THE COLONY WORLD OF LINDIS...

Panel 2

BOX:
...ONE WET WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON...

Looking up into the sky, we see a spacecraft dropping down through a gap in the thunderclouds. It’s a vast, ugly, industrial warship, with dirty smoking engines. And yet, oddly, it resembles a VIKING LONGBOAT. The sections of the hull are angled in strips and painted as though made of wood. There are shields along the sides and a snarling dragon head at the prow. It should be terrifying, awe-inspiring, operatic. The sort of scene that would normally be accompanied by ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’! Behind it, two more longboats are descending through the storm. Lightning crackles.

Panel 3 (BIG)

A large introductory panel, as the LONGBOATS have landed and SPACE VIKINGS emerge to wreak havoc on the populace on the village. Some of the huts are alight. A hatch in the side of the longboat nearest to us has opened and SPACE VIKINGS are clambering out down a ramp. They’re armed with swords, axes and hammers. They’re dressed like traditional Vikings, but with futuristic battle armour, unkempt, burly, with beards. Snarling. They’re also all wearing helmets with horns on them. As the VIKINGS smash and swing at the villagers, the villagers scream and duck and collapse under the onslaught. Everywhere should be violence, mayhem and carnage.

BOX:
...THE DAY THE MARAUDERS CAME!

TITLE:
SPACE VIKINGS! 

PAGE TWO

Panel 1

The control room of the longboat spaceship should look, uncannily, like the deck of a longboat. At the far end of the chamber is the seat for the captain, draped in animal furs. It’s gloomy, but lit with braziers. And along either side, seated like oarsmen at their paddles, are the crew, seated at control panels.

They’re all Vikings, of assorted shapes, sizes and ages. Their leader is THORIR, a particularly large and gruesome sort. A Brian Blessed figure. He, like every member of his crew, is wearing a curiously hi-tech horned helmet. He’s eating a slab of meat and quaffing ale from a flagon made from a skull.

One of his crew, a younger, hungry-looking chap called SIGURD, is reporting to his commander.

SIGURD ONE:
LOOTING AND PILLAGING EXCURSION COMPLETED, LORD THORIR!

SIGURD TWO:
ALL THE SUITABLE SUBJECTS HAVE BEEN LOADED INTO THE HOLD!

THORIR ONE:
EXCELLENT!

Panel 2

The fleet of longboats are now blasting through the darkness of space, away from the misty blue pearl of Lindis and into a sinister, craggy asteroid belt. The engines are burning fiercely, leaving a trail of fire behind them.

BOX:
THEN LET US SET SAIL FOR ASGARD!”

Panel 3

A section of the hold, like a prison, gloomy and unkempt, where PEASANTS are held in manacles. Some standing, some sitting. All male, from late teens to early fifties. Some fearful, others regarding THORIR and SIGURD with hateful eyes. THORIR and SIGURD working their way along a line.

THORIR:
GOOD, GOOD... HEALTHY MALE SPECIMENS, STRONG OF BODY AND RESOLUTE OF WILL -

Panel 4

... Until THORIR and SIGURD arrive at the last of the manacled PEASANTS –
or rather, the DOCTOR, wearing their medieval garb over his normal clothes. He’s wearing his glasses, beaming cheekily with delight and excitement.

THORIR and SIGURD look respectively infuriated and nervous.

DOCTOR ONE:
‘ELLO THERE!

DOCTOR TWO:
LOVE THE HELMET, BY THE WAY. VERY... HORNY!

DOCTOR THREE:
FORGIVE ME FOR ASKING THIS, SILLY QUESTION, BUT HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF GOING TO A FANCY DRESS PARTY... AS A COW?

Panel 5

BOX:
THREE HOURS LATER...

The same hold – the DOCTOR is nursing his temple, sitting up from lying on the floor. His glasses are askew. He’s being looked over by BJORN, a young colonist, about thirty. The rest of the PRISONERS are sleeping or bored.

DOCTOR:
OW! WHAT HAPPENED? IT SUDDENLY ALL WENT DARK...

BJORN:
THORIR KNOCKED YOU UNCONSCIOUS! YOU’RE LUCKY HE DIDN’T JUST HAVE YOU THROWN OFF THE SHIP!

Panel 2

In the foreground: The DOCTOR has pulled himself to his feet, looking up and frowning, deep in thought. Behind him, we see BJORN squatting, talking.

BJORN:
OKAY, SO THAT’S PART ONE OF YOUR PLAN - GET CAPTURED AND TAKEN ON BOARD A VIKING BATTLESHIP! WHAT’S PART TWO?

DOCTOR ONE:
I’M STILL WORKING ON IT...

DOCTOR TWO:
TELL ME AGAIN, BJORN, ABOUT THESE VIKINGS OF YOURS...

PAGE THREE

Panel 1

A close up of BJORN, relating his tale of woe – and then using the rest of the panel as a flashback, showing the brutish VIKINGS forcing a line of chained peasants up a ramp and into the bowels of one of their longboats.

BJORN:
IT ALL BEGAN ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO... THEY STARTED RAIDING THE OUTER SETTLEMENTS...

BOX ONE:
“KIDNAPPING THE MEN, BUT LEAVING THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN UNHARMED!”

BOX TWO:
“A MONTH AGO, THEY TOOK MY BROTHER SVEN...”

Panel 2

We return to the hold. The DOCTOR’s using his sonic screwdriver to undo his manacles, while gazing curiously at BJORN. BJORN’s shrugging in reply.

DOCTOR ONE:
UNHARMED? DOESN’T SOUND VERY VIKING TO ME...

DOCTOR TWO:
WHAT ABOUT BEFORE THE ATTACKS? WHAT WERE THEY LIKE THEN?

BJORN:
BEFORE THE ATTACKS WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THERE WERE VIKINGS OUT HERE!

Panel 3

Our POV is high up but not overhead. BJORN and the DOCTOR are looking up, fearfully, having heard the sound. The PRISONERS are doing likewise.

SOUND EFFECT:
KLLLAAANG! VAWOOOSH!

BJORN:
WHAT’S THAT?

DOCTOR ONE:
RETRO-ROCKETS! WE’RE COMING IN TO LAND...

DOCTOR TWO:
TIME TO PUT PART TWO OF THE PLAN INTO ACTION!

Panel 4

The planetoid of ASGARD. A desolate grey rock littered with craters and sheer, jagged mountains. The longboats have landed on a landing pad. On each of them a ramp is extending out of the hold – as on Page 3, Section 3 – with VIKINGS shepherding hundreds of PRISONERS out of the ships.

This is in the foreground. In the background, we can see two shadowy figures sprinting across the landing pad. The VIKINGS are looking the other way.

BOX ONE:
“FIRST, FIND SOMEWHERE TO HIDE!

BOX TWO:
“WAIT UNTIL THEY’RE UNLOADING THE PRISONERS...”

BOX THREE:
“...THEN SNEAK OUT WHILE THEIR BACKS ARE TURNED!”

Panel 5

The DOCTOR and BJORN are crouched behind an outcrop, gazing towards a castle a mile away, and the line of PRISONERS snaking towards it with their escort of VIKINGS. The castle is medieval gothic, somewhere between Norse myth, Wagner opera, Hammer Horror and Beauvais Cathedral - but also sci-fi, as though built with futuristic, hi-tech technology. This is VALHALLA.

DOCTOR ONE:
VALHALLA! THE HALLS OF ASGARD! BUT THAT’S A MYTH, A LEGEND!

DOCTOR TWO:
WHY IS SOMEBODY TRYING TO RE-CREATE A NORSE MYTH?

Panel 6

The DOCTOR and BJORN are peering towards one of the VIKINGS overseeing the line of doleful PRISONERS being brought in. He’s wearing a horned helmet, and his eyes are vacant, lost in shadow. This VIKING looks rather like BJORN, similar features, similar hair colour.

BJORN ONE:
DOCTOR... MY BROTHER!

BJORN TWO:
THAT’S HIM! SVEN!

BJORN THREE:
THEY’VE TURNED HIM INTO A VIKING!

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1

From a small rise, the DOCTOR and BJORN are looking down at SVEN, who is still staring blankly into the distance. The line has moved on, through the massive gates of ASGARD, and SVEN is guarding this section of the landing pad alone. DOCTOR is concerned. BJORN is fearful.

DOCTOR:
OF COURSE! THE HORNS ON HIS HELMET!

BJORN:
THE WHAT?

Panel 2

A close up of the DOCTOR, whispering to BJORN as they both look at SVEN (not pictured). The DOCTOR is deadly serious. BJORN is appalled, tearful.

DOCTOR ONE:
THE REAL VIKINGS NEVER WORE HORNS ON THEIR HELMETS... IT’S A POPULAR MISCONCEPTION!

DOCTOR TWO:
BUT THOSE OH-SO-HORNY HORNS... THEY’RE ACTING AS ANTENNAE, PICKING UP COMMAND SIGNALS...

DOCTOR THREE:
HE’S BEING GUIDED BY REMOTE CONTROL!

Panel 3

The DOCTOR shouts out in vain, as BJORN sprints forward, down towards his brother SVEN – who is facing away from him, oblivious.

BJORN:
WELL, IN THAT CASE –

DOCTOR:
NO, WAIT!

Panel 4

BJORN grabs SVEN’s helmet by the horns and twists it off. Electricity sparks everywhere. The DOCTOR looks on, appalled, too late to prevent this.

SOUND EFFECT:
SHRAAAAK!

Panel 5

A floor-level POV, looking up at BJORN holding the empty helmet, still by the horns, whilst looking down at the corpse of his brother (in the foreground). We see that wires and circuitry have been drilled into SVEN’s skull, where it would have made contact with the helmet – wires and circuitry which are now broken loose. The DOCTOR reaches out a comforting hand to BJORN’s shoulder.

BJORN ONE:
HE’S DEAD...

BJORN TWO:
I KILLED HIM!

DOCTOR:
NO. NO, YOU’D ALREADY LOST HIM... THERE WAS NOTHING ANYONE COULD’VE DONE.

Panel 6

The DOCTOR examines the inside of the helmet by the light of his sonic screwdriver. He doesn’t like what he sees.

DOCTOR ONE:
CEREBRAL IMPLANTS... THEY MUST’VE COMPLETELY OVERWRITTEN HIS MIND! NASTY! 


PAGE FIVE

Panel 1

BOX ONE:
“SO, DOCTOR, HOW DO WE GET IN?”

The DOCTOR and BJORN have reached the gates/doors of ASGARD – huge, imposing, heavily armoured, and guarded by FOUR VIKINGS. The DOCTOR is disguised as a VIKING – now wearing SVEN’s helmet and clothes – with BJORN as his prisoner. They are being permitted to enter.

BOX TWO:
“THE OLD PRISONER-AND-ESCORT TRICK, NEVER FAILS!

BOX THREE:
“WELL, NOT USUALLY.”

BOX FOUR:
“WELL, NOT ALWAYS...”

Panel 2

The hall of Valhalla. A place of legend. Vast, impressive. Carved columns, braziers and drapes. And dozens of VIKING warriors, quaffing on skull-mugs and feasting and sucking on pipes. Smoke everywhere. At the far end of the hall, a large black drape fills a wall. The VIKINGS all wear helmets with horns or wings; we can see THORIR and SIGURD enjoying the celebration. Amongst the revelers, VALKYRIES are delivering mead. They’re blonde, buxom, in half-traditional, half-futuristic battle armour. The operatic cliché.

The DOCTOR and BJORN are hiding behind a pillar in the foreground, the DOCTOR with his back to the pillar, leaning around to get a look at the scene.

DOCTOR ONE:
I DON’T BELIEVE IT! THEY’VE EVEN GOT VALKYRIES!

DOCTOR TWO:
IT’S LIKE THEY’VE DONE NO HISTORICAL RESEARCH AT ALL!

Panel 3

At the far end of the hall, the LEADER is making a pronouncement.

LEADER ONE:
WARRIORS! ALL HAIL OUR GREAT AND GLORIOUS GOD... ODIN!

LEADER TWO:
WHAT IS YOUR COMMAND, OH BENEFICENT ONE?

Panel 4

ODIN appears – a vast hologram projection of a disembodied head in front of the back wall, his fringes mixing with the curling smoke. Like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, or Lawrence Olivier turning up in the musical ‘Time’. ODIN looks like your typical Norse God –rolling white beard, chubby cheeks, heavy eyebrows.

ODIN : (BOOMING VOICE)
I SENSE... TWO UNAUTHORIZED ENTITIES IN THIS CHAMBER!

Panel 5

BOX: (ODIN )
“SEIZE THEM, MY VALKYRIES!”

The DOCTOR and BJORN have been discovered in their hiding place, and are being approached and surrounded by imposing, menacing VALKYRIES.

BJORN:
DOCTOR...!

DOCTOR:
IT’S ALRIGHT... THEY DON’T APPEAR TO BE ARMED!

Panel 6

The DOCTOR and BJORN are clutching their hands to their ears, in agony – surrounded by SCREAMING VALKYRIES, mouths open, using their voices as weapons. The sound is so great it is even causing the air to ripple and blasting their hair like a strong wind.

SOUND EFFECTS:
TRAAA-LAAAA-FAAA-LAAA!

PAGE SIX

Panel 1

The DOCTOR and BJORN are being led, at axe-point by THORIR, down some stones stairs into a dungeon. Or rather, a cryogenic stasis chamber from a spaceship which has now been converted into a medieval dungeon.

It’s a mixture of stone walls, metallic spaceship walls and hi-tech-but-fallen-into-disrepair. There are about fifty sarcophagus-like cryogenic chambers arranged around the dungeon in an orderly pattern, linked with cables to computer control banks with monitors. There are tangled cables exposed. It’s gloomy, of course, and lit with flaming torches and draped with cobwebs.

The DOCTOR and BJORN have their hands behind their backs.

DOCTOR ONE:
OOH, YOU’VE EVEN GOT A DUNGEON! I LOVE A GOOD DUNGEON!

DOCTOR TWO:
WHAT YOU GONNA DO, TORTURE US?

THORIR:
YOU ARE TO BE CONVERTED!

Panel 2

The DOCTOR has darted forward, before THORIR can react, to examine the contents of one of the sarcophagi. Inside, lying down, is a PEASANT being turned into a VIKING. He’s wearing a Viking helmet, which is connected with wires to the innards of the sarcophagus. The DOCTOR is delighted.

This panel should reveal more of the chamber than Panel 1 – this is where the big reveal that it was once the main control room of a spaceship takes place.

DOCTOR ONE:
IN THIS? A CRYOGENIC STASIS POD?

DOCTOR TWO:
AS USED TO DEEP-FREEZE PEOPLE DURING LONG SPACE VOYAGES?

DOCTOR THREE:
OH, I’M GETTING IT NOW! THIS WHOLE PLACE - IT’S BUILT ON THE REMAINS OF A SPACESHIP!

Panel 3

The DOCTOR turns to face THORIR, who is advancing on him, axe leveled. The DOCTOR has, in one hand behind his back, his sonic screwdriver ready.

DOCTOR ONE:
BUT WHAT’S ALL FOR, EH? WHY ARE YOU TRANSFORMING INNOCENT PEASANTS INTO HOMICIDAL MANIACS?

THORIR:
IT IS THE WILL OF ODIN!

DOCTOR TWO:
RIGHT, YEAH! THAT’S WHO’S GIVING YOU ORDERS

Panel 4

Action shot! The DOCTOR aims his sonic screwdriver at THORIR’s helmet. There is a crackle of energy around it. THORIR is wide eyed, stunned.

DOCTOR:
-       ORDERS WHICH CAN BE JAMMED!

SOUND EFFECT:
SHHHRRAAK!

Panel 5

THORIR has collapsed to the floor, unconscious. We have a new angle on the chamber – at one end, there are cobweb-covered, battered pilot chairs and instrument panels – what would once have been the front of the ship. That’s the focus of the DOCTOR’s attention. BJORN Is looking down at THORIR.

BJORN:
IS HE DEAD?

DOCTOR ONE:
NOPE. JUST AWAITING FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS!

Panel 6

The DOCTOR has dropped into one of the seats and is tapping away the controls, peering into a monitor screen showing a close-up image of an asteroid with schematics and numbers. BJORN is watching him, incredulous. ODIN ’s hologram is breaking up with interference, becoming transparent.

BJORN:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

DOCTOR ONE:
ACCESSING THE FLIGHT LOG... AH-HA!

DOCTOR TWO:
TWENTY YEARS AGO A SYSTEMS MALFUNCTION CAUSED IT TO CRASH-LAND ON THIS ROCK - WHILE THE CREW WERE ASLEEP!

Panel 7

The DOCTOR is twisting in his seat, BJORN whirling round – because they have suddenly found themselves inside a hologram! It’s of OPERA SINGERS – one dressed as a VIKING LORD, another as a VALKYRIE. Both chubby, and caught mid-performance, mouths wide open; he’s shaking a fist, she’s striking a pose. Around them, a semi-transparent blur in the projection, are props and scenery – this scene is set on some misty cliff top battlements.

DOCTOR:
WHAT ON GALLIFREY...!

PAGE SEVEN

Panel 1

Our view shifts – the holographic OPERA is continuing, but we’re looking at the DOCTOR and BJORN through it, and we can see that they’re not actually on any battlements, but still in the dungeon. The DOCTOR is standing within the actual scene of the opera, bodily half-way-through one of the singers.

DOCTOR ONE:
OF COURSE! AN OPERA TROUPE!

BJORN:
A WHAT?

DOCTOR TWO:
THE SHIP’S ORIGINAL CREW WERE SINGERS! IN A TOURING PRODUCTION OF ULTRAGROSSEGOTTERDAMERUNG!

DOCTOR THREE:
THIS IS THEIR HOLOGRAPHIC PRESS KIT!

Panel 2

The DOCTOR has returned to one of the cryogenic chambers, and is looking down at the occupant. He’s grabbed a Viking helmet for illustrative purposes as BJORN looks on doubtfully. Behind them, the opera trailer is fading away.

DOCTOR ONE:
BUT EACH PERFORMANCE IS OVER A MONTH IN DURATION - TOO LONG FOR ANYONE TO PHYSICALLY REMEMBER!

DOCTOR TWO:
SO THEY’D HAVE TO BE ELECTRONICALLY PROMPTED USING WI-FI...

DOCTOR THREE:
- VIA THEIR HELMETS!

DOCTOR FOUR:
I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM...

Panel 3

To the DOCTOR and BJORN’s alarm, the holographic figure of ODIN ’s bellowing face appears before them, as part of the spaceship’s control panel.

ODIN :
I ALLOCATED THEM THEIR PARTS... AS I AM PROGRAMMED TO DO!

Panel 4

The DOCTOR is beaming with delight, BJORN standing beside him, less enthusiastic. Our point of view is from behind the projection of ODIN ’s face – we’re seeing the DOCTOR and BJORN through ODIN ’s beard, eyes etc.

DOCTOR ONE:
A COMPUTER!ODIN” IS NOTHING MORE THAN A MACHINE! OH, HOW CORNY IS THAT?

DOCTOR TWO:
WHAT IS IT WITH COMPUTERS AND NORSE GODS, ANYWAY? YOU AND YOUR DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR!

Panel 5

A close-up of just the DOCTOR and BJORN in conversation, the DOCTOR in I’ve-just-discovered-the-truth mode, BJORN serious and skeptical.

DOCTOR ONE:
OR... OR THE CRASH CAUSED THE CAST’S REHEARSAL COMPUTER TO GET ITS WIRES CROSSED, CONFUSING FACT AND FICTION!

DOCTOR TWO:
SO INSTEAD OF JUST HELPING THE SINGERS OUT WITH THEIR LINES -

DOCTOR THREE:
- IT BRAINWASHED THEM INTO BELIEVING THEY ACTUALLY WERE THE CHARACTERS FROM THE OPERA! OH YES!

BJORN:
BUT WHY’S IT STILL TURNING PEOPLE INTO VIKINGS NOW?

Panel 6

The hologram face of ODIN returns, much to the DOCTOR and BJORN’s surprise and alarm. ODIN is screaming with righteous anger.

ODIN ONE:
FOR THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF GOOD AND EVIL! THE END OF THE WORLD!

ODIN TWO:
THE TWILIGHT... OF THE GODS!

PAGE EIGHT

Panel 1

Our POV is from the front of the craft, looking towards the DOCTOR and BJORN – the DOCTOR now seated once again at the controls, working on the keyboard, BJORN beside him. We can also see that THORIR has woken up and is reaching for his sword. And ODIN is screaming instructions.

DOCTOR ONE:
THE COMPUTER’S JUST OBEYING ITS PROGRAMMING... IT THINKS IT’S RECRUITING AN ARMY FOR THE FINAL ACT OF THE OPERA!

DOCTOR TWO:
I SHOULD BE ABLE TO REVERSE THE CONVERSION PROCESS, IF IT’S NOT TOO LATE

ODIN :
NO! YOU CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO INTERFERE!

Panel 2

The DOCTOR is still seating, twisting around – as THORIR lunges towards him with his axe held above his head, ready to strike. BJORN is ducking out of the way, screaming a warning to the DOCTOR. (If it’s in this frame, ODIN ’s hologram is still around, but not saying much)

BJORN:
DOCTOR – WATCH OUT!

THORIR:
FOR THE GLORY OF ODIN!!!

Panel 3

At the last moment, the DOCTOR has dodged out of the way – causing THORIR’s axe to slam right into the middle of the computer control panel, electrocuting THORIR and causing a massive explosion of sparks. The DOCTOR is mid-dodge, BJORN shielding his eyes. ODIN has gone.

SOUND EFFECT:
CRAASSHH-BOOOOM!

Panel 4

BOX:
"QUICK! EVERYONE! TO THE LONGBOATS!

We’re back on the landing pads, as dozens of PEASANTS are running towards the ramps for the LONGBOATS. The DOCTOR and BJORN are screaming at them to hurry – because in the distance, the castle of the VALHALLA is bursting into flames, the towers exploding g and throwing masonry. Two of the LONGBOATS are still on the platform with their ramps lowered – the third has already taken off, thrusting up, up and away.

Panel 5

BOX:
LATER...

In the brazier-lit control room of the LONGBOAT – with BJORN now in the control seat, looking very much at home, resting his arms on the bearskin. He’s looking around for someone who isn’t there. The other control desks – the ones lined up to look like oarsmen – are occupied by PEASANTS. The DOCTOR is gazing at the front scanner, hands thoughtfully in his pockets.

BJORN ONE:
SO THE VIKINGS ARE ALL DEAD?

DOCTOR ONE:
YES. AND WITH ODIN DESTROYED, THEY’RE NO LONGER RECEIVING STAGE DIRECTIONS!

DOCTOR TWO:
BUT AS THE SAYING GOES, THE SHOW AIN’T OVER ‘TIL THE FAT LADY SINGS...

Panel 6

Reveal that in the control room there is also a VALKYRIE – or at least an extremely plump PEASANT woman who had been half-converted into one, wearing the battle armour and headgear. She looks mildly offended because the DOCTOR is saying...

DOCTOR ONE:
NO, DON’T.

DOCTOR TWO:
NO, REALLY. DON’T.

BOX:
THE END

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