The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

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.

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