Under Three Hundred

The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

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.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Take Me To The Pilot

I feel like another blog. I’ll talk about things I’ve had released another time. Today I’m going to write about my Fact of Fiction on The Macra Terror which was published last month, in Doctor Magazine 513.


This article was a particular challenge, because I haven’t seen The Macra Terror, and had very little to go on. There’s a soundtrack, telesnaps, a few clips, the camera scripts, a film shooting schedule and that’s about it. Pretty much everything we know – everything we can know – has been inferred from those documents.

Which meant I had to do what academics call ‘close reading’. Going through the camera script and seeing what could be inferred. Because, once you get the hang of reading them, you start to realise they contain more information than you might realise. For instance, the director might have been using a different typewriter to the script writer, so you can see which bits the director added. Or, with Death to the Daleks, I noticed that the script page numbers indicated that some scenes had been cut, where they were and approximately how long they were. And so on.

The camera script of The Macra Terror is unusually scruffy. Somebody has retyped ‘crabs’ over ‘insects’ throughout – well, nearly – rather than having the secretary re-type the script again, suggesting that the decision to make the monsters crabs rather than insects – or the realisation that the prop builders had built a giant crab rather than a giant insect – came very late in the day, possibly even during the week of rehearsals for the first episode.


But this scruffiness also meant I could guess at stuff which had been cut or changed from the preceding rehearsal scripts. (Annoyingly, the rehearsal scripts did exist in a private collection, after they were bought at an auction at a convention, but when I tried to track them down I found they had since been lost). But even so, I could see where stuff had been changed. For instance, if the first half of a page is blank and the dialogue begins half-way down, it’s pretty obvious that some stuff has been cut – maybe three or four lines.

Elsewhere, although dialogue was deleted, it was still clear enough to infer what it was. For instance, here the Doctor ('Doctor Who') must be saying “Very well. With me.”


While for another part I even reconstructed the dialogue, finding the only letters in the typeface that would fit:



What else did I find out? Well, I suppose my other ‘revelation’ is that the character of Chicki might not have appeared in the first episode. The only evidence that she did is that she is listed on the script’s Cast In Order Of Appearance list (which would have been the source of the listings given in the Radio Times and on the Programme-as-Broadcast sheet – so a last-minute change in casting would not have been recorded, these are not independent sources!). But what was interesting was there was no other mention of the character in the script – you would normally expect them at least to be mentioned in a camera shot. And there’s no sign of her on the soundtrack on in the telesnaps.

(I am, however, pretty sure that a Chicki appeared in Episode 4, even though – once again – the character is not mentioned in the camera script apart from the Cast In Order Of Appearance list. This is partly because the girl on the left in these telesnaps:




looks like the actress/singer Karol Keyes (aka Luan Peters) pictured here in 1966.


and because the girl on the right is Sunaa, seen here in episode 2:


What else did I find out? Well, I did my best to transcribe the lyrics of the various songs, I found a likely source of inspiration for the name ‘Macra’, and did some interesting research on ‘Potemkin villages’. Based on the idea that the story was originally about ‘insect men’ I extrapolated that it might have originally been a story about mutated miners taking control – which would make more sense than the story as broadcast! – and would also have tied in with another possible influence, the play Cities of the Plain by Alex Comfort (which in the end I decided was too tenuous to include!).

And finally, I’m pretty sure the ‘white’ Macra that turns up in episode 4 was a model, placed close to a porthole, rather than a full-size prop. This is mainly because there wouldn’t have been time during the recording to re-paint the single existing full-size prop, and the full-size prop wouldn’t have been able to turn around like this:



But it’s also because the full-size prop was so large that, in other episodes, its position is given as part of the set floor-plan – it was so big that it couldn’t be moved to another set during the recording.

So there you go. And in the end, after going through the scripts, soundtracks and telesnaps so closely – never mind line by line, it’s letter by letter – I feel that although I haven’t seen The Macra Terror, I probably know as much about it as a viewer looking up occasionally from their newspaper to see what all the screaming was about in 1967.