Strange then that it's taken me so long to inflict my tedious attempts at fiction on you, barring that weird story about a big fat cat. Put it down to a vestigial fragment of dignity on my part, or else not wanting to waste any more of your valuable time than is necessary. We both know you have some important Facebooking to get back to. You know it's true.
Anyone, as I believe I've amply demonstrated, can knock out observational 'grumpy old bugger' blogs, or wail on about how their childhood was so horrible. Again, I know this because I've done so time and time again, to all our costs. Just bung in a few pop-culture references as a shout-out to your geek friends and before you can say 'Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe' you're rocking out a meandering middle-aged moanathon worthy of a Times magazine columnist.
Hence I have decided to step outside my comfort zone, as appalling people managers up and down the country might say, and shower upon you some of my fictional fruits. Like Hobson's banana or the rare pineapple of Timor. Many of us will claim to have a novel inside them, or more likely the first few chapters of a never-to-be-finished novel sticking out of them at an awkward angle. I however appear to have fragments of scripts for fictional television shows from the 1960s and 1970s inside me, as I now intend to demonstrate...
A wee bit of background, so you don't think I've gone entirely off my rocker. Some chums of mine produce a rather fine wargame-cum-roleplaying game called 7TV, wherein the players control rival squads of 28mm heroes and villains, in miniature battles intended to evoke cult television shows of yesteryear. Influences range from The Sweeney to classic Who to The Avengers, with dashes of Hammer horror and Quatermass thrown in for good measure.
In my role as unofficial 7TV hanger-on, I've managed to parasitically attach myself to the boys' efforts, contributing supplementary flavour text, charmingly known among the wargaming community as 'fluff'. If you were to flick through the 7TV rulebook, you'd notice lots of retro text boxes that look like they were cut out of a Radio Times from 1974. They're my bits, as are the odd pages of what appear to be dog-eared old scripts from such long lost shows as Department X, A.K.A. and my personal favourite, The Man From 2000 (in which a futuristic traveller from the distant year 2000 comes back in time to battle scientific nutjobs). I have no idea what one might call one-page scripts for TV shows that never existed, so I'm calling them scriptics until someone comes up with something better. Suggestions welcome.
The Man From 2000 features the amnesiac Darius, an enigmatic gentleman of prodigious mental abilities and somewhat abrasive manner, who along with the personnel of Project: Time Lift (hey, somebody had already bagsied Tunnel...) like the plucky young Samantha Bridge or the blustering bureaucrat Sir Benton Troad, pits his wits against 'science gone mad' on a weekly basis. It's kind of Time Tunnel meets the Prisoner meets Adam Adamant. We even got as far as debating which actors might actually have played Darius et al had the show existed four decades ago; see if you can work out who we had in mind.
So here we go: some scriptics for The Man From 2000. This episode is called The Year of the Monkey (I know, cool or what) with a 7TV Times episode guide a little like this:
The Man From 2000
starring Ted Bishop
The Year Of The Monkey
by TERRY NEIGHTON
When a number of research facilities are attacked by unknown forces, Darius and the professor are called in to investigate. Their only clue: a small hairy man sighted in the area at the time of each incident.
Darius ......................................... TED BISHOP
Professor Plantagenet ........ JEFFREY BAILDON
Samantha Bridge ................ PAULINE OLLINS
Ann-Marie Goodall ..................... LIZ LADEN
Professor Andros .............. PHILLIP MADDOX
Straker ................................. JOHN CHALICE
Producer SYDNEY LAMBERT
Director DUDLEY PHILLIP
And now for your viewing pleasure, let me take you back to the year 19xx, when the British viewer could rely on their weekly helping of telefantasy being served up with cheesy sexist dialogue, whopping dollops of exposition and female assistants twisting their ankles just as the monster lumbers into shot...
SCENE 6. ANDROS' STUDY – INTERIOR
The cluttered study of the missing Professor ANDROS. Books and paper cover nearly every surface of the shelves, desk and floor. DARIUS, the Man from 2000, is squatting in the centre of the room, his expression one of deep thought, his fingers steepled before his face. ANN-MARIE Goodall, the zoologist, is shuffling through some of the academic papers on the desk. She still wears a small wound dressing on her forehead from the earlier incident.
There's not much here… though it's hard to tell with all this mess. Professor Andros clearly doesn't believe in the tidy desk, tidy mind approach. Darius?
DARIUS ignores her, still concentrating on something. ANN-MARIE watches him from where she is standing, with some confusion.
Are you alright?
Without looking up or changing expression, DARIUS responds to her at last.
Mess, disorder. Perhaps on the surface. To the twentieth century mind. But look beyond the seeming chaos and you will see hidden patterns. There (He points to a pile of books and papers without looking) every published work of Dr Gillespie, the first victim. There (He points elsewhere) newspaper cuttings on research facilities, grouped geographically. There (He points again) a collection of seemingly unrelated treatises on electro-cerebral stimulation, learning patterns in infants and… the communication habits of the great apes.
(Bemused) But I still don't see what's so important about all of that. (As she speaks, she moves around the study, looking at the papers indicated by DARIUS) The professor's a primatologist, so he's bound to have books on the subject. We know he knew Dr Gillespie from Cambridge, and given all the recent attacks on scientific labs it's only natural that he may have kept some news clippings about the break-ins, in case he was next.
ANN-MARIE picks up the newspaper clippings and flicks through them, peering closely. She gasps.
These are all from before the break-ins! Why would Professor Andros want to know about the laboratories before they were attacked?
DARIUS stands up smoothly and turns to face her.
You see the anomaly then. The timing. Order is everything. Andros makes note of the facilities, then they are broken into. Coincidence perhaps? The mere random fancy of a scientific mind?
They look at each other for a moment.
Now look at the room again. What else do you see?
ANN-MARIE turns about the study looking up and down.
I don't know… books, the desk, clutter everywhere…
Everywhere but there.
He indicates a clear area on the otherwise cluttered floor – a rough triangular area against one wall.
Why leave that area clear? Unless it had to be kept clear.
ANN-MARIE moves over to the clear area, looking first at the floor and up at the study wall. She brings a hand up to touch the wall.
You mean, there's a secret door here! But (She feels all over the section of wall) I can't find any sort of handle, not even a hidden one.
DARIUS concentrates on the wall, focussing his psychic powers. CLOSE-UP on his face. ZOOM on the wall.
EFFECT: high-pitched electronic whine.
The section of wall swings open toward ANN-MARIE with an audible click.
You opened it! But how?
(Moving past her and through the opening in the wall) Telekinesis. The ability to affect objects at a distance. Elementary for the advanced mind.
DARIUS pauses in the gloom beyond the opening and looks back over his shoulder at ANN-MARIE, who is hovering indecisively.
Come on. Don't you want to know where this leads?
And a few scenes later...
SCENE 9. MAZE – INTERIOR
A featureless series of corridors, branching irregularly at right-angles. It is lit from above at intervals, leaving pools of darkness in between. DARIUS rests against a wall, breathing heavily and looking back down the corridor. His Time Lift jumpsuit is dirty and torn. He looks down at a large tranquiliser dart stuck in his arm. Grimacing, he plucks the dart out and brings it close to his eye.
POV – DARIUS: from his viewpoint, the shot of the dart swims and distorts. He has been drugged.
DARIUS flings the dart to the floor, pushes himself away from the wall, and staggers along the corridor.
The electronic voice of Professor ANDROS crackles out from concealed speakers.
Still standing, Mr Darius? Impressive. That tranquiliser dart was strong enough to put a bull gorilla to sleep. As it is, I'd be surprised if you can walk straight, let alone negotiate the little obstacle course I've set out before you.
DARIUS staggers to a junction. He looks left and right, unsure which way to go.
(Mockingly) Left or right, left or right? Surely one's as good as the other, don't you think?
DARIUS looks up and behind him, as if searching for the source of the speakers.
Come along. I've seen three-month old orangutans come to a decision faster than you.
DARIUS tries to concentrate his psychic powers but can't focus. He shakes his head and lurches down one corridor. He makes it to a corner and leans against the wall to catch his breath.
From a concealed panel, the professor's loyal lieutenant STRAKER emerges, dressed in a safari suit and carrying a hunting rifle. STRAKER brings the rifle to his shoulder and takes aim at DARIUS. ZOOM on DARIUS. As STRAKER fires, DARIUS finally notices STRAKER and ducks, the bullet barely missing him.
EFFECT: bullet hole in wall, shower of dust on DARIUS.
As DARIUS stumbles away, STRAKER works the rifle to load another round.
A lucky miss, lucky for you. Consider that a warning shot. The next time you pause, Mr Straker will shoot to wound. The time after that? Well.
DARIUS stumbles down two more corridors, not stopping to look. Then a set of solid metal bars drop down from the ceiling, blocking him. DARIUS collides with this barrier, grips the bars, then uses them to support himself. Behind him STRAKER's footsteps are distant but getting closer.
I designed this obstacle to test an ape's strength. You know an adult chimpanzee is roughly twice as strong as a man?
DARIUS struggles in vain to lift the bars. He looks over his shoulder to a bend in the corridor – the distorted shadow of STRAKER grows larger. He steps back from the barrier, straightens up as best he can and takes a deep breath. Then he teleports past the barrier.
EFFECT: Freeze shot on DARIUS. Short reverse-explosion sound effect.
DARIUS relocates on other side of barrier. DARIUS falls down on all fours, exhausted by the exertion of teleporting.
I imagine… you haven't seen a chimpanzee… get past it… that way.
Remarkable! Your futuristic enhancements are all I'd heard them to be! You truly are a marvellous specimen sir! I shall value our later time together in the laboratory greatly. You, I fear, will not enjoy it so much.
A shot rings out and DARIUS flinches as STRAKER shoots at him through the bars. The bullet grazes DARIUS' leg as he rises to his feet and moves on.
(Annoyed) Hold still and take your bullet like a man. (Shouting as DARIUS moves further off) I'll make the next one painless!
DARIUS turns a corner and staggers round more bends until he abruptly comes to a dead-end, terminating in a mirrored wall. He reels to a halt and stares at his own wild-eyed reflection.
The ability to recognise ourselves is one of the key indicators of self-awareness, you know.
DARIUS spins round, only to find that other mirrored walls have sprung up around him, sealing him in a chamber of multiple reflections. His eyes dart about.
That crucial, unique sense of self, of 'I'. It's what I've tried to instil in all my test subjects.
DARIUS attempts an energy blast, stretching out a shaking hand at a mirror. But he is too weak and cannot muster the power. He turns around and around.
POV - DARIUS: a series of distorted funhouse mirror reflections of DARIUS in swift succession.
The knowledge of what is 'I' and what is not. The self from the reflection, The true from the false.
POV – DARIUS: among the series of distorted images, one looks different, its face somehow inhuman.
DARIUS steadies himself and tries to focus on the odd reflection. The Time Lift jumpsuit is the same, but the face is that of an ape! As DARIUS' eyes widen in shock, the APE-MAN lunges forward out of the false mirror and grapples with him.
Do you see? (Laughter)
DARIUS rocks backward, but the APE-MAN has both hairy hands on his throat, its leering monkey face mere inches from him. Its ape-like hooting merges with ANDROS' electronic laughter, as DARIUS' eyes roll up.
There y'go. Hopefully it made some kind of sense and felt like the sort of thing you might have watched between Basil Brush and Parkinson. Add a Ron Grainer soundtrack and some cheap camera tricks for the full effect. Then get someone else to rewrite it and we might just have ourselves a show. Enquiries from Radio Four Extra commissioning editors welcome.