The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Age Of Revolution

Another deleted scenes blog, this time with a script written way back in May 2011, Jago & Litefoot: The Age of Revolution. The brief for this story was to write the introductory episode of a new series of Jago & Litefoot placing them in the swinging late 1960s, in a format akin to Adam Adamant Lives, with Jago acting as the compère of a TV show along the lines of The Good Old Days. The brief also included the opening ‘pull-back-to-reveal’ gag.

(By the way, the story is still available here. Obviously, don’t read any further if you haven’t heard it.)

The finished story has a few obvious inspirations. The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society serving as a kind of anti-swinging London manifesto. There’s the vogue for Victoriana, the idea of treating it as a ‘golden age’, art galleries like the Indica and the Go-Jos from Top of the Pops, while the Timothy Vee character was a cross between David Frost and Simon Dee (brilliantly played by Horrible Histories’ Ben Willbond). The Victorian Values Preservation Society was also inspired by Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers and Listeners’ Association and – more overtly – the short-lived Nationwide Festival of Light movement. The plot was deliberately a fairly typical Avengers-type affair – a puritanical cult intending to force Victorian values onto the Swinging Sixties – in order to provide a neat thematic counterpoint to our heroes’ out-of-time predicament - while the climax of the story was inspired by an edition of the David Frost show that was invaded by hippies:


And the title was taken from a Duckworth Lewis Method song.

Anyway, deleted scenes. My first bash at the story came to 13,000 words, way over, so here’s stuff I cut out before it became the ‘first draft’ (obviously there were lots of little cuts, this is the substantial stuff).


To begin with, from Scene 2, in the art gallery:

SACKER: (NARRATION)
I noted that many leading figures in the so-called counter-cultural scene were present - including several well-known pop singers, writers, artists and fashion designers... Including Timothy Vee, host of the television chat show, The TV Show.

...

TIMOTHY:
Please, call me Timothy, everyone does.

SACKER:
I’d rather keep things formal, if it’s all the same to you. You wouldn’t happen to know who those two gentlemen are?

TIMOTHY:
Which two gentlemen?

SACKER: (NARRATION)
I indicated towards the two men standing in the corner of the gallery, trying not to attract attention. Unlike the rest of the guests, who were in their twenties and thirties, these two gentlemen were in their fifties and were dressed in a curiously old fashioned manner, with top hats and capes.

TIMOTHY:
Ah. No idea. Never seen them before.

SACKER:
I thought you knew everyone who was everyone.

TIMOTHY:
I do. So if I don’t know them... they can’t have been on the guest list...

Then scene 3 ends in a car chase...

(FX: SACKER’S CAB PULLS UP.)

SACKER:
How much?

TAXI DRIVER:
For that? You can have that gratis, mate, never had so much fun in me life!


In scene 5, Jago is interviewed on the Timothy Vee show:

JAGO:
Ah, no. It’s a traditional vaudeville, authentic in every detail, just as it would have been performed in the days of good Queen Vic.

TIMOTHY:
So it’s a nostalgia thing? Because let me tell you, the whole Victorian nostalgia thing is very ‘now’.

JAGO:
I suppose so, though I’d say it was just good old fashioned entertainment and entertainment never goes out of fashion!

Followed by Sacker meeting Jago backstage – all this was cut:

(FX: LINK MUSIC BECOMES END THEME, AUDIENCE APPLAUDING, MUFFLED AS WE MOVE THROUGH DOORS.)

AUBREY:
I’m sorry, sir, you can’t go through there, guests only.

SACKER:
I am a guest. By personal invitation of Timothy Vee.

AUBREY:
Yes, I’m sure you are –

SACKER:
Detective Sergeant Sacker of Scotland Yard.

AUBREY:
Why didn’t you say? In you go. The dressing rooms are down the corridor on the right.

(FX: KNOCK ON DOOR)

Also losing this (fairly pointless) bit. Well, all deleted scenes are fairly pointless, that’s why I deleted them.

TIMOTHY:
Me neither. I mean, it was a marvellous evening, with some super people, but –

(FX: KNOCK AT DOOR, IT OPENS)

MARION:
Phone call for you, Timothy. Says it’s urgent.

TIMOTHY:
If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure –

(FX: DOOR CLOSES)

I cut most of this discussion about Litefoot’s bookshop:

LITEFOOT:
- going pretty well. I’m rather enjoying the life of a shopkeeper and it’s turned out to be quite a profitable concern!

ELLIE:
Just you don’t go forgetting who’s shop it is, Professor.

LITEFOOT:
No, not at all my dear. I owe you a great debt. I must say, though, it’s a trifle disconcerting to be selling books as antiques when as far as I’m concerned many of them have only just been written!

ELLIE:
That’s what makes you such an expert. Who better to run a Victorian bookshop than a genuine Victorian gentleman?

And this superfluous over-explanation:

LITEFOOT:
I’m sorry for the subterfuge but you see, we had to be sure you were who you said you were and not...

SACKER:
And not what?

LITEFOOT:
Over the years we have faced and fought many terrors, and along the way we have made enemies. Enemies who would not hesitate to kill us, given the opportunity.

SACKER:
And you thought that’s who I was? Someone sent to kill you?

...

LITEFOOT:
Detective. Surely if we were going to lie to you, we would make the effort to concoct something more plausible?

SACKER:
So the fact that your story is completely unbelievable means you must be telling the truth?

I cut Litefoot’s brief description of his psychedelic ‘trip’ at the gallery:

LITEFOOT:
Indeed we did. A most curious sensation. As though the world had become more vivid, lively and colourful.

In the end, I thought Ellie’s first line here was a better line to end the scene on, so I cut the rest:

ELLIE:
And besides, in case you’d forgotten, I’ve been around for almost a hundred years. I think I know how to look after myself!

SACKER:
Very well, the more the merrier I suppose. Just you don’t go getting yourself into trouble, that’s all.

ELLIE:
Detective Sergeant Sacker. I’ve lived through two world wars, and seen stuff you couldn’t even begin to imagine, so if any of us is going to need rescuing, it isn’t going to be me!

I cut all this stuff from their visit to the Hit Parade studio, probably because it was too say-what-you see:

SACKER:
An hallucination... Yes... just like at the gallery opening. That statue!

LITEFOOT:
Indeed.

ELLIE:
It’s third eye was glowing... but now it’s gone out.

LITEFOOT:
Curious thing... It’s not unlike a religious icon, but is resembles no deity that I’ve ever come across.

JAGO:
Ugly blighter if you ask me, with more arms than it knows what to do with –


Later, our heroes investigate a meeting of the Victorian Values Preservation Society:

LITEFOOT:
So you’re pouring away the champagne into the nearest plant pot?

JAGO:
Well, no, it would be a shame to waste it. I say, this is quite a well-to-do little get-together, isn’t it? All top hats and pearl earrings!

I cut the last bit of Colonel Mandrake’s speech here. Bit OTT!

MANDRAKE:
Back then, a woman’s place was in the home, with their family, instead of taking men’s jobs like today’s so-called women’s liberationists!

Not sure why I cut the next bit. Wordcount, I suppose. Seems quite essential though!

SACKER:
And so now you work for him?

TIMOTHY:
Oh yes. I’m now a fully paid-up member of the society.

(FX: GUN CLICKS)

TIMOTHY:
And you’ve just walked into a trap.


Now this is odd. These speeches are, basically, what the story is all about, and yet I cut them. Maybe I was in ‘kill you darlings’ mode or something. Or maybe the point had already been made elsewhere.

MANDRAKE:
I will show them the truth about this age... and I will show them how much better things were in the past.

LITEFOOT:
But your idea of the Victorian age is a myth, just as much as this time being all about pop music and mini-skirts! You think it was some sort of golden age of morality and prosperity, when to most of the people living back then, it was anything but!

JAGO:
Indeed! Your vision of Victorian values bears as much relation to reality as... a biscuit tin lid! You think this age has a monopoly on moral degeneracy? Let me tell you, speaking as one who knows, there’s absolutely nothing you didn’t get up to in this age that we didn’t get up to in the Victorian age. In fact, you name it, we invented it!

MANDRAKE:
How ironic, that two antiquarians should have such antipathy to the past. But let me show you the truth about this time.

Another get-out-of-the-scene earlier – I cut everything after Litefoot’s line:

LITEFOOT:
Yes. They believe us to be dead, which should give us the element of surprise! Come on!

DOORMAN:
Hey, you can’t go in there – you need to show a pass -

SACKER:
Detective Sergeant Sacker. Of Scotland yard. I need to get into that television studio on urgent police business...

DOORMAN:
But it’s in the middle of broadcast!

SACKER:
That’s why it’s urgent. Now, are you going to get out of my way, or do I have to arrest you?

After that, going into the second draft, more stuff was cut. From scene 2 in the gallery:

TIMOTHY:
However we are honoured to have with us the policeman charged with finding her - Sergeant Sacker!

SACKER:
Detective Sergeant, actually.

TIMOTHY:
Detective Sergeant, sorry! Well, there’s nothing left for me to say, except thank you for coming and enjoy the art!

(FX: GUESTS APPLAUD)

SACKER: (NARRATION)
I spent a few minutes examining the so-called ‘art’, a number of avant-garde sculptures of, well, I’m not sure if they were supposed to be of anything exactly.

All of this was replaced by Sacker feeling as though he might collapse and leaving the gallery:

SACKER:
(COLLAPSING) I – I –

(FX: CONCERNED MUTTERS AND GASPS)

TIMOTHY:
Detective Sacker, are you alright?

SACKER:
Detective Sergeant. Just had the strangest feeling...

TIMOTHY:
You fainted?

SACKER:
Did I? Must be the heat... get some fresh air.

SACKER: (NARRATION)
But as I made my way outside, I couldn’t help but glance back at the statue. Its third eye was now just an ordinary crystal. But then I noticed something else. The two gentlemen with the old fashioned clothes had slipped away. But why had they been at the exhibition in the first place? Could they have some connection to the mysterious disappearance of Delilah Samson?

(FX: DURING THIS, WE MOVE INTO NEXT SCENE)

The beginning of the Jago chatshow scene was cut:

(FX: BEFORE A RECORDING, AUDIENCE HUBBUB)

SACKER:
Sorry, not too late am I?

AUBREY:
No, you’re just in time, we’re just about to start. Quiet please, and – cue music!

Later, when he meets Jago backstage, Sacker asks him what he was doing at the gallery:

SACKER:
Can I ask what you were doing there?

JAGO:
Ah, oh, well, I was just popping in and out at the suggestion of the producer of Those Were The Days, he said I should make myself known to young Timothy here.

TIMOTHY:
And when I met him, I invited him to appear in my little show.


Another bit I cut, going straight to Aubrey reading from the diaries:

FX: ATTIC HATCH CREAKS OPEN)

SACKER: (NARRATION)
I returned home, my head spinning with and disbelief, and dug out my grandfather’s old diaries, about the years he spent at St Thomas’s hospital...

A huge chunk cut out, coming immediately after Jago and Litefoot’s account of how they ended up in the 1960s.

10. INT. HIGGIES.

LITEFOOT:
...and so we found ourselves with no recourse but to make new lives for ourselves in this time!

SACKER:
You must think I was born yesterday.

JAGO:
My dear fellow, I don’t believe it, and I was there! The point is we’re here now, seventy years out of date!

SACKER:
And what about you, Miss Higson? How do you fit into this?

ELLIE:
Me? Well, when they arrived, I was fast asleep, when I was awoken by this dreadful commotion from downstairs...

(FX: INTO FLASHBACK)


11. INT. RED TAVERN. (FLASHBACK)

(FX: CRASHING SOUND, SOMEONE KNOCKING OVER A CHAIR)

LITEFOOT:
For goodness’ sake, Henry, what are you trying to do?

JAGO:
What does it look like? Trying to break out!

LITEFOOT:
Wouldn’t it be simpler for us to sit tight until morning?

JAGO:
Spend the night locked in a pub, you mean? Well, I suppose, needs must...

...then, after they meet Ellie...

JAGO:
By a mysterious fellow, name of the Doctor. It’s a long story.

LITEFOOT:
You see, when we met him, the Doctor claimed to be in possession of a time machine. Naturally we –

12. INT. HIGGIES.

SACKER:
Alright, no need to go through all that again!

ELLIE:
If it’s any consolation, I found their story very hard to believe too, but I’ve found that with the Professor and Mister Jago, it’s best just to let them get on with it. And besides, I had my own incredible story to tell...

(FX: INTO FLASHBACK)


This explanation was cut down to a couple of sentences:

LITEFOOT:
Ah. As we had found ourselves marooned in this time without a penny to our name, we had no choice but to call upon the assistance of young Ellie here to find us employment.

SACKER:
So you found the Professor a job running an antiquarian bookshop. But what about Henry?

ELLIE:
I must admit it took me a while to find something for Mister Jago. There’s not a great deal of call for his particular... talents in this day and age. At least, that’s what I thought, until I heard some producers chatting in my restaurant about this new show they were doing set in a music hall, and how they were looking for somebody to act as compere.

Next, the point where they leave was trimmed down further, losing Jago’s line:

JAGO:
Now, my dear, there is no need to get agitated, you can hardly blame us for being a little out of touch with modern fashions!

ELLIE:
And besides, in case you’d forgotten, I’ve been around for almost a hundred years. I think I know how to look after myself!


Then when they get to the Hit Parade studio and are hypnotised by the dancing girls... oh, it was a shame to lose this:

JAGO:
The female form in all its fulsome finery... a bevy of bounteous beauties! A line of libidinous and lissom lovelies!

LITEFOOT:
Reminds me of that time I was in Cairo...

ELLIE:
But they’re not real! Listen to me! They’re not real!

SACKER:
But I can see them... gyrating.


All of this, from Mandrake’s manifesto, was cut, largely because it was OTT or repeating/spelling out points made elsewhere:

MANDRAKE:
Well now it is time for us to do something about it! Now it is time for us to return to a golden age when the sun never set on the British Empire!

(FX: GUESTS CHEER)

MANDRAKE:
Back then, people knew their place. And they were happier for it! Back then, people were prepared to buckle down and do a decent day’s work, not like today thanks to the trades unions! Back then, a woman’s place was in the home, with their family!

I also cut our heroes’ reaction to the speech:

LITEFOOT:
I don’t think I’ve ever heard such complete rot.

JAGO:
He does seem to have a rather rose-tinted view of the past.

LITEFOOT:
Rose-tinted? The chap is positively blind!

Later, in the climax, I cut the last two lines of this bit:

AUBREY:
What? This control room is out-of bounds! No public allowed!

ELLIE:
You’ve got to pull the plug! Stop transmission!

AUBREY:
Somebody call security, no room for any more lunatics in here!

And this...

JAGO:
Fight it, old chap. This crystal thing should protect us.

SACKER:
No. Go, Henry. Go... before I... can’t resist...

And this...

TIMOTHY:
But how... the statue. It should have killed you.

MANDRAKE:
No. He has... a crystal in his waistcoat that protects him.

JAGO:
Oh, so you know about that now, do you?

...and that’s about it!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Ghosts

Another trip into the dusty archives. Way back in 2004, Big Finish released a series of audio adventures based on the TV series Sapphire & Steel. Now, I remember that I had one idea for this series, an idea which became the Doctor Who audio story Protect & Survive (see here). But it turns out I never sent in that idea. Nor did I send in my idea for a comedy Sapphire & Steel story set in a Post Office with a time-looped queue and a sinister voice saying “Window number five, please”.

However, I did send in an idea. I don’t know if it was rejected or not. I never heard anything back, so maybe it got lost in the internet, as things did in those days. It turns out that some of the ideas in it ended up – quite unconsciously – in my Doctor Who audio adventure The Ghost in the Machine. Nothing is ever wasted!

Anyway, here it is. My great lost Sapphire & Steel story!  

Sapphire & Steel

The Record Shop proposal by Jonathan Morris

Episode One

We begin with a crackly recording of a man reciting ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. More voices are added to the mix, followed by music, moving through the forms of the 20th century. The sound builds to a discordant climax.

After titles:

Sapphire & Steel arrive at a deserted second-hand record shop. Everywhere is dust. The shop is in darkness. There is no electricity. The only light comes from Steel’s oil lamp.

Sapphire confirms that the shop has been placed outside time. It should be daylight outside, but inside the shop there is no time. Steel suspects this is the work of their employers – the equivalent of the building being placed under quarantine. It is also possible that this shop is a ‘lifeboat’, and that something terrible has happened to the world outside, and they are the only ones left.

Sapphire finds more boxes of old records – some 78’s, even wax cylinders. She hears band music coming from the main shop, but returns to find there is still no power for the record player. There is more music again. Then a girl’s voice plays as though on a record. She is in pain. ‘Help me. Please. Somebody help me.’ She screams.

Sapphire takes time back, but second time around there are no words – just crackle. Steel checks the record in the record player – it is just a 78 of old band music.

Sapphire and Steel investigate upstairs. There is a flat, presumably belonging to the shop owner. It is unkempt and deserted. One door is locked and will not open.

Steel forces open the door and discovers a rudimentary recording studio. He is about to leave when a supernatural wind starts up, together with a chaos of music and the girl’s rising screams. 

Episode Two

Steel seals the door shut. Sapphire and Steel go downstairs to discover they have been joined by a man called Thomas. Sapphire takes time back to find out how Thomas got in, and describes to Steel her visualisation of Thomas entering through the front door in daylight.

Thomas doesn’t know why he is here. He seems to have no memory. He is only interested in the record in the player.

Sapphire examines the record – it is blank. Why record silence onto a record? There are dozens more blank records stored in the back room.

Sapphire plays the record again. There is a voice on it, very faint. By increasing the volume, the girl’s voice can be made out. ‘Help me. Please. Somebody help me.’

Suddenly the chaotic music starts up again and a supernatural wind fills the shop.

Sapphire and Steel go upstairs and discover the door to the recording studio is open and the recording equipment has been activated. There is also a girl inside. Victoria. Sapphire and Steel talk to Victoria, but she cannot hear them. She is some sort of ghost. Thomas steps into the room, Victoria screams, and the door slams shut.

When Sapphire and Steel open it, the room is empty. They hear a man reciting ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. Sapphire and Steel run downstairs where the blank record is playing...

On the record, Victoria screams, then the record scratches back a few seconds, so she screams again. And again. Sapphire is concerned. Listening carefully, each repeated scream is slightly different. Victoria’s ghost is somehow trapped on the record - and being tortured to death.

Sapphire and Steel deduce that the original occupant of the flat caused time to break through. Something was imprisoned on one of the old acetate records. Something evil.

Then there is a sudden silence, followed by the crackle of a record. We hear Sapphire’s voice. She is somewhere very dark. She cannot smell or feel anything. Steel is with her. They are trapped - on a record. 


Episode Three

Sapphire senses the age of the medium they are trapped inside. It dates back to 1877 – the day that the first recording was made. Thomas Edison recorded his own voice reciting ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’.

Sapphire and Steel believe that something broke in during the first recording and has taken on Thomas’s form.

Together they recite ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ backwards. Time reverses and they find themselves back in the studio.

Sapphire and Steel locate the record that would originally have contained the ‘something’. Sapphire examines it...

We go back to the 19th century. Sapphire describes what she sees to Steel. She is in a room with Thomas and Victoria.
Victoria is a prostitute - and Thomas’s prisoner.

Although we hear the voice of Thomas, it is clear he is another man. His spiritualist friends have taken photographs of people at the moment of death, in the hope of photographing the soul leaving the body. He intends to record the sound of Victoria’s ghost. And hence, he will develop a telephone to communicate with the dead.

Thomas conducts his experiment, and Victoria dies, her ghost becoming trapped on the record, forever reliving the moment of her death. ‘Help me. Please. Somebody help me.’

Sapphire and Steel realise that the ‘something’ is drawing its power from Victoria. If it escapes, it will move into every recording ever made...

Downstairs, we hear Thomas – as the ‘something’ - play several records of ghosts trapped on the recording at the moment of death. He promises them retribution.

The séance suddenly goes wrong and Sapphire becomes the subject of the spiritualist’s experiment. She is murdered.  

We hear the crackle of a record. It skips back, repeating Sapphire’s moment of death again. And again. And again.

Sapphire is one more ghost in the ‘something’s collection. 

Episode Four

Steel attempts to wake Sapphire from her trance, but is unable to help her. However, Victoria appears and leads him to the record on which Sapphire’s death is recorded. If they can reproduce the means by which the shop owner freed the ‘something’, they can do the same for Sapphire...

Steel sets about re-recording Sapphire’s death screams, onto tape, amplifying them, and mixing them with music...

There is a supernatural wind and the record is transported into the ‘something’s hands. It destroys the record. Fortunately, Steel manages to free Sapphire in time, and she finds herself back in the studio with him.

Sapphire and Steel know what they must do. They must persuade Victoria’s ghost to give up its desire for revenge as that is giving the creature from time its power.

The record shop suddenly returns to normal time. The quarantine has ended. The ‘something’ prepares to escape...

But it is momentarily unable to act. Deprived of Victoria’s despair and resentment feelings, it is powerless.

However, it can still use the power of recorded sound. Every type of noise plays at once in deafening confusion. The recording studio bursts into flame.

Sapphire and Steel make their way downstairs to the shop, and record the ‘something’s inhuman screams onto a digital recorder. The digital recorder then burns a CD.

With Victoria’s help, they have trapped the ‘something’ onto a recording medium once more. Victoria gives her farewells and fades away. All that is left now is for Sapphire and Steel to dispose of the CD. If the CD ever gets played again, the ‘something’ will be released...

End Titles

There is silence for a few minutes. And then, very quietly, we hear Thomas. ‘Please. Help me. Somebody please.’

The CD appears to skip, because he says it again. And again. And again... 

Cast:

Sapphire

Steel

Thomas (male, 50s – plays a spiritualist torturer, the ‘something’ from time and Thomas Edison)

Victoria (female, 20s, prostitute from the 19th century)

Style:

The idea is to use the audio medium to its fullest, and to pull out all the stops in terms of scaring people shitless.

Monday, 7 August 2017

How To Be Invisible

Well, having spent most of this afternoon writing, rewriting and then cutting various scenes from a script, I thought, hello, why not another trip to see what I can pull from the Deleted Scenes skip? So this time it’s Deleted Scenes from Doctor Who: The Last of the Colophon, released way back in 2014.


(I wrote previously about the story here, there’s a trailer here, an associated sketch here, and a blog about its scientific accuracy here. It can also still be ordered here. As usual, these deleted scenes will constitute ‘spoilers’ so do not continue if you haven’t heard the story).

To  begin with, both of my first drafts were a couple of thousand words too long. So, before I even showed the script to anyone else, I cut out a fair amount of stuff. These are the biggest parts I cut (literally dozens, if not hundreds, of small bits, odd lines were cut).

From part one:

(FX: INSTRUMENTS BLEEP. KEYBOARD TAPPED. ENGINES RUMBLE AS SHIP DECELERATES.)

KELLAWAY:
Approaching planet fifteen. Distance point one solar units.

HARDWICK:
Take us in closer. I want to take a good, long look.

(FX: KEYBOARD TAPPED)

KELLAWAY:
Stabilising in super-synchronous orbit, at a distance of (READS) Point oh-one solar units. Now in visual range.

(FX: SCANNER ACTIVATED)

SUTTON:
Whoa, we’ve struck the mother-lode with this one. Another lifeless grey rock.

HARDWICK:
We can’t be sure of that. Commence spectroscopic scan.

(FX: KEYBOARD TAPPED)

KELLAWAY:
Commencing scan.

SUTTON:
It’s as dead as our prospects of getting a productivity bonus. Helmet to a halfpenny, there’s nothing down there bigger than a sand-roach.

Deleting stuff mainly cos, you know, it’s explaining stuff that doesn’t need explaining.

HARDWICK:
Ideal conditions for the emergence of life.

SUTTON:
Yeah. Unless it’s been sterilised by ultra-violet rays.

(FX: KEYBOARD TAPPED)

KELLAWAY:
No, I’m not detecting significant levels of electromagnetic radiation.

Again, too much explaining.

LEELA:
Where are we, anyway?

DOCTOR: (INSIDE TARDIS)
(CALLS) What?

LEELA:
(CALLS) Where are we?

(FX: DOCTOR EMERGES WITH CLANKING TENT-POLES, CLOSES DOOR.)

DOCTOR:
Not sure. Bit off the beaten track, not listed in any of the major tourist brochures.

Irrelevant.

MORAX:
They have disembarked from the spacecraft?

COMPUTER:
Negative. The spacecraft has not yet come to ground.

MORAX:
Interesting. You spend a thousand years waiting for a single alien visitor, and then two come along at once!

Too much explanation again!

COMPUTER:
The spacecraft has now landed.

MORAX:
And the two life forms?

COMPUTER:
They are approaching it through the remains of the city.

(FX: DOOR OPENS)

TORVIK:
Morax. What are you doing?

Telling the listener things they already know.

TORVIK:
They will not discover anything. They will leave soon enough.

MORAX:
What? But they can’t. They can’t!

TORVIK:
Do not indulge any fantasies of rescue, Morax. This citadel is shielded. They will not be able to detect your presence.

MORAX:
I beg you, have mercy. After being alone, for all these centuries...

TORVIK:
You will be alone for many more. No-one will ever find you. Ever.

Basically repeating stuff.

HARDWICK:
I am Chief Surveyor Hardwick. This is my Deputy Sutton, and our pilot, Kellaway.

DOCTOR:
Look, do you mind not pointing your guns at us. We are, as you can see, unarmed. In fact, you could say we were mostly armless

Not a classic gag.

KELLAWAY:
Chief Surveyor, it might just be a glitch, but I’m picking up an energy trace.

HARDWICK:
From the ship belonging to these two?

KELLAWAY:
No, it’s a repeating pattern. Like a distress signal.

(FX: WE HEAR THE DISTRESS SIGNAL FROM SCENE 7, VIA RADIO.)

DOCTOR:
It seems we are not alone on this planet.

SUTTON:
Not necessarily. It could be computer-controlled.

HARDWICK:
Kellaway, can you get a fix on the source?

Too many explanations!

COMPUTER:
Iso-locking controls.

MORAX:
You think that will be enough to stop me?

TORVIK:
Your nervous system has become severely compromised over the years, Morax. Were it not for a constant supply of analgesic medication you would be condemned to a state of perpetual physical agony.

MORAX:
No, Nurse Torvik, I beg you, have some pity –

TORVIK:
As a punishment for your treachery, you will be denied medication for the period of one hour.

Exposition of the ‘As you know...’ school of writing.

LEELA:
What is it that you do? Why have you come to ‘survey’ this planet?

SUTTON:
This stellar neighbourhood was recently purchased by the third imperial conglomerate.

Pity I cut this, but worldbuilding colour is disposable.

HARDWICK:
You know how to open it?

DOCTOR:
Oh yes. It’s perfectly elementary. But I strongly advise against it.

HARDWICK:
Oh, do you?

DOCTOR:
Someone has clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to prevent anyone from knocking, and in my experience, it’s usually best not to go where one is not wanted.

SUTTON:
Someone has also told us how to open the door so they can’t want us to stay out that much.

DOCTOR:
Ah, yes, but only I can interpret those instructions, and I’m not going to tell you what they are.

HARDWICK:
Oh no?

DOCTOR:
No. Like I said. Someone doesn’t want to be disturbed and I think we should respect their wishes.

Labouring the point.

TARVIK:
I have come to see whether you are willing to co-operate.

MORAX:
Of course. And besides, now you have iso-locked the controls, I am quite powerless.

TARVIK:
I must have your word.

MORAX:
I cannot bear it any longer, the agony is too great. I will do anything you want. Please, just give me my medication.

TARVIK:
Very well. Hold out your arm.

(FX: MEDICAL DEVICE INJECTION, PNEUMATIC WHOOSH.)

MORAX:
(PAIN RELIEF) Ah. Thank you. Thank you... (LAUGHS)

TARVIK:
What is amusing you?

Doesn’t add much to the scene, does it?

HARDWICK:
Alright, Doctor, Leela. If you’d be so kind as to walk ahead of us?

DOCTOR:
With a gun pointed at our backs, you’re not giving us a great deal of choice.

Bit clunky, even by my standards.

(FX: FOOTSTEPS ON ECHOING METAL)

LEELA:
Doctor, I think my eyes are adjusting to the dark. It is a tunnel. The walls, they glow like the fungi of the forest.

DOCTOR:
Chemiluminescence. Must’ve been activated automatically when we entered. At least we’ll be able to see where we’re going.

I doubt anyone was ever going to wonder where the light was coming from. But I had thought it all through!

SUTTON:
Apart from you.

MORAX:
I sealed myself into this citadel so that I might conduct research into the nature of the disease. You are standing in my laboratory.

LEELA:
But you found a cure. You are alive.

Surprisingly unessential.

DOCTOR:
Doesn’t look like anyone’s been in here for a while. (BLOWS AWAY DUST) Still, so as long as the radio works, it doesn’t matter how dusty it is.

‘Controls encased in dust’, bit naff.

HARDWICK:
We have to get out of here first.

MORAX:
We will. Tell me about your world, Chief Surveyor.

HARDWICK:
The third imperial conglomerate covers many systems, not just single worlds. The empire stretches half-way across the galaxy.

MORAX:
An empire? Fascinating. Tell me more.

Worldbuilding colour, disposable.

MORAX:
Genius, Nurse Tarvik? You flatter me.

HARDWICK:
Who are you talking to?

LEELA:
I think he is listening to someone else through the air. See. He has a metal box on the side of his head.

The listeners would have worked this out.

DOCTOR:
They chose extinction over tyranny.

TARVIK:
They decided that if Morax wanted to be the last of the Colophon, they would grant him his wish.

He said it! He said the title of the thing!
DOCTOR:
I see. Sentenced to life. Eternal life.

SUTTON:
Eternal agony.

TARVIK:
He destroyed his own race. He showed them no mercy. So now you see, Doctor, why I cannot permit him to escape.

Labouring the point/repeating information.

DOCTOR: (VIA MONITOR)
Ah, been eavesdropping have you, Morax? Were your ears burning?

MORAX:
Contact the ship and instruct the pilot how to open the door to the citadel. And then we can all leave.

DOCTOR: (VIA MONITOR)
And if I don’t?

MORAX:
You wish to be trapped here?

DOCTOR:
No, but I don’t particularly want to set a genocidal maniac loose on the universe either.

MORAX: (VIA MONITOR)
You would condemn yourself and the others to a lifetime in captivity?

Morax’s dialogue getting a bit too rhetorical!

MORAX:
On the contrary. I am in perfect health.

(FX: REMOVING STRAPS)

MORAX:
I was not strapped into this chair because I could not move. I was strapped into this chair to prevent me from moving.

This is quite a nice line but I’m not sure, in the cold light of day, it makes sense.

And from part two...

MORAX:
Keep talking, girl. Keep talking.

LEELA:
Because that is the only way you know where I am. I know that to see, the light must touch the backs of your eyes. But the light passes through your eyes - and so you see nothing.

MORAX:
You are correct. It is the one limitation of my condition

Leela giving us the ‘science bit’ there. I was worrying far too much about how to make invisibility plausible. Glad I cut this!

MORAX:
It is too late. The Doctor has already disclosed the combination. It is only a matter of time until I have my freedom! (LAUGHS)

Characters commentating on how the story is going... never good.

SUTTON:
That robot nurse, I thought I saw her move –

TARVIK:
You have instructed an outside agency how to gain entry. The citadel must be secured. All life-forms other than the criminal Morax are to be subjected to temporary paralysis.

Get to...

TARVIK:
Escalating escape attempt protocol. All life forms other than the criminal Morax are to be terminated.

...the point!

MORAX:
And neither do I. How much more pleasurable it will be to take your life with my own bare hands.

LEELA:
That is a pleasure I will deny you. You are no hunter.

MORAX:
And you are, I suppose?

LEELA:
The children of my tribe are taught to hunt silently in the forest.

MORAX:
I am also capable of moving silently. If you only knew the number of enemies I have butchered in their sleep!

LEELA:
So you even murder like a coward. You are afraid to face your victims in death. I think that is why you have made yourself into a ghost.

MORAX:
Oh, I am no ghost, my dear. As you will soon discover - with my fingers around your throat!

Some lovely Leela lines here, maybe I shouldn’t have cut this bit.

SUTTON:
The airlock?

DOCTOR:
In a few minutes your friend Kellaway will be opening the main door. That’s where Morax will be heading. We have to make sure we get there first.

SUTTON:
What about your friend, Leela?

DOCTOR:
If that girl has any sense she’ll be heading for the airlock too. Come on!

Over-explaining again.

TARVIK:
Scanning colonnade four. No life-forms detected.

MORAX:
No. But that doesn’t mean there are no life-forms present.

TARVIK:
Morax. You are capable of independent movement?

MORAX:
Oh I am capable of so many things. All these years I have pretended to be weak and at your mercy, when I was merely biding my time. Waiting for the perfect opportunity

Clunky clunky clunky. He doesn’t need to say any of this because it’s obvious from what he does.

(FX: WHIRRING OF NEW EYES BEING ADJUSTED)

MORAX:
Invert the refractive index... and the eyes become as invisible as the rest of me. Now I can see but cannot be seen! (LAUGHS)

Again, over-thinking the ‘logic’ of how invisibility might work.

SUTTON:
One way to make sure no-one escapes alive, I suppose.

DOCTOR:
Yes. Drastic but thorough.

SUTTON:
What about your friend Leela?

DOCTOR:
If she doesn’t get here in time, I’ll go back and look for her.

SUTTON:
What? But that’s insane. You’ll die here together.

DOCTOR:
Yes, which is why I am rather –

Time-wasting...

LEELA:
I did, but I do not know where he is. He moves as silently as a shadow, he could be amongst us now.

SUTTON:
He could?

LEELA:
And he does not give up. He burns with the fire of madness.

DOCTOR:
Yes, very prettily put.

SKIN OF TEETH

This rather gives away the ‘twist’ that Morax is in the airlock with them. And I’m not keen on patting myself on my back for my own dialogue .

SUTTON:
Thank the Emperor! We made it!

KELLAWAY:
By the skin of our teeth.

LEELA:
I do not understand. Teeth do not have skin.

DOCTOR:
He means we cut it pretty fine. But we should be alright now... look!

Waaaaaffle.

LEELA:
Your people are strange, you live your lives according to numbers.

SUTTON:
That’s just the way it is, we are all servants of the great economy. So you’ll be leaving in your spaceship?

DOCTOR:
Yes, the first chance we get. On balance, I wouldn’t describe Colophos as the ideal holiday destination.

SUTTON:
Then we must say goodbye. Doctor, Leela.

More disposable worldbuilding colour. I’m not sure anyone would be that interested! I certainly wasn't!

MORAX:
Indeed. And now my vision is perfect. So be very careful, Doctor. Because your life now lies in my hands.

LEELA:
(WHISPER) I think this Morax is quite mad.

DOCTOR:
Yes, he’s clearly quite, quite mad. Or should I say transparently? But I’m not sure he started out that way.

MORAX:
I advise you not to mock me, Doctor. Your life now lies in my hands.

DOCTOR:
Before you made yourself invisible, were you a murderer? Did you go to all the trouble of discovering the secret of invisibility just so that you could be a more effective killer?

I quite like this bit but this is ‘character says the same question again’ syndrome.

And then the script went through 4 more drafts, would you believe. However, comparing the first and fifth drafts, there aren’t that many differences; some scenes are shifted around, particularly the around the end of part one, but mostly the differences are things being added rather than deleted. So only a few more deleted bits:

DOCTOR:
Because we’re on holiday, and that’s what people do when they’re on holiday.

MORAX:
I had not dared to dream of such a possibility, but now they are here, setting foot on Colophos!

Just unfunny/over-fruity lines.

DOCTOR:
Unless we don’t use a photon drive, it has been known.

SUTTON:
You couldn’t have got out this far without a photon drive.

Literally nobody listening would care about this. Over-explaining.

DOCTOR:
Or, what, you’ll count to three? I can’t bear it when people count to three, it’s so terribly melodramatic. Alright, I’ll open the door.

I like this line but the script editor probably didn’t.

DOCTOR:
The hairs of the back of my neck are standing on end, and the hairs on the back of my neck are never wrong.

Again, quite a fun line, but your mileage may vary.

DOCTOR:
Why else would whoever lives here send us instructions on how to open it rather than open it themselves?

Reads like it was translated from Albanian.

(FX: PART OF ROBOT BEING FORCED OUT)

MORAX:
Your eyes. I need your eyes! All I have to do is insert them into my own ocular sockets and – yes! I can see. I can see! (LAUGHS)

TORVIK:
Vision malfunction. Vision malfunction. (REPEATS IN B/G)

(FX: WHIRRING OF NEW EYES BEING ADJUSTED)

MORAX:
Farewell, Nurse Torvik. Your ministrations are at an end.

Not sure why this was cut. Jonny boring everyone rigid by over-thinking the science again I expect.

And that’s it. I hope reading that has lulled you into a deep and restful sleep.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Happy Hour

The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine is a bit of a tribute to Steven Moffat and what I like to call the ‘Steven Moffat era’. There’s an interview with the great man himself, and erstwhile editor Tom and I chased up various people to say nice things about him, including the predecessor Russell T Davies and successor Chris Chibnall.


My main contributions, though, are a Fact of Fiction on The Eleventh Hour and a piece entitled 20 Amazing Things About Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. It’s like a listicle, but with a round number (important) and not bothering to put the items into any order of precedence (because whatever we decided would be arbitrary and annoy people).


It was a fun piece to write – I went back and re-watched every single Moffat story as ‘research’, which was no hardship at all – and it’s an interesting challenge to try to come up with new angles, new insights, and new things to say. To go, “Hey, did you notice this incredibly cool thing? You did? Oh. Well, I only just noticed it myself, you must be more observant than me”.


Of course, it’s all about the good stuff. We could all make our own lists of things that didn’t quite work or things that weren’t to our taste. Which might be fun, it might even be constructive, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for a magazine celebrating Doctor Who and Steven Moffat’s contribution. I daresay if you want that sort of thing it can be found on the internet.


However, inevitably with this sort of article, there are things that didn’t quite make the top 20. Things that were just ‘bubbling under’. I compiled such a list, but there wasn’t room for it in the magazine, so here it is now.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
We don’t have to stop at twenty. We could keep going...

The Silence
Madame Kovarian
Asylum of the Daleks
The Name of the Doctor
Deep Breath
Danny Pink
Listen
Dark Water/Death in Heaven
Ashildr/Me
Extremis

(Most other things were covered within the article – for instance, Osgood is mentioned as part of The Day of the Doctor).


For the Fact of Fiction on The Eleventh I had access to various early drafts of the script. It’s always fascinating to see stuff which got cut or altered; without speculating as to the reasons, it’s usually fairly obvious and dull like budgets and schedules. I was particularly interested to find out that the part of the story that has always felt a bit iffy – the Atraxi spaceship appearing over the village green – was a last-minute bodge-job fix because several chunks of that section hadn’t been recorded due to bad weather. It’s also amazing just how much stuff gets cut; odd words here and there, that you would think were essential, reading the script, but which turn out to be redundant.


It was also interesting to see how many different iterations the ending of the story went through, as ideas were rewritten, dropped then brought back again. Right at the end of the article I mention one such idea – something that’s never been revealed before, because it’s a bit embarrassing – and break with Fact of Fiction protocol by expressing an opinion on it. Yes, I went there. So look out for that.

There you go. Two excellent reasons for buying the latest Doctor Who Magazine.