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Monday, June 27, 2011

Dark Skies 1x01 - The Awakening

Holy. Shiat. No, really.

What we have here is a 104 page uncredited, undated 'Writer's Draft' (download here).  This, if you can't tell by the page count, is a backdoor pilot -- essentially, a TV movie that the writer hopes will end up turning into a series.. which, apparently worked.  This pilot has a Teaser and Seven (yes, Seven!) acts, breaking down as follows (5/17/15/19/13/14/14/7).

Okay, so, first off I don't know how I didn't realize that this was a 100+ page script.  I remember giving it a once over, but somehow it just didn't register.  Anyways, long story short, this is one of the most exciting and enthralling scripts I've read in a long time.

It starts off as a slow burn -- a young couple in love move to Washington in the '61 to try and make their mark on the world.  John Loengard has a job at the Capitol and his 'living in sin' girlfriend Kimberly Sayers desperately wants to find a job. John starts out... as some sort of aide (?) they don't really make that clear.  He's young and ambitious and eager to take on whatever they throw at him.  So, eventually, after a good deal of pestering, Loengard gets tasked with going through a bunch of old files to determine what departments should be cut.

Which leads him into investigating a little thing called 'Project Blue Book'.

Which leads him down one hell of a rabbit hole.

Ms. Sayers, however, thanks to a bit of networking on her own part, ends up working at the White House during the time of JFK -- which, while initially not all that interesting, leads to the most fantastic twist in the whole script.  I don't want to spoil it for you but, that said, if you think about it hard enough you can probably figure it out.  I saw it coming about halfway through, but it was still handled so well that I couldn't help but go 'DAMN!' when it happened.  (You'll know what 'it' is when you read it).

Essentially, it breaks down like this:  Aliens have been living amongst us for a while now, probably since the 40s or 50s.  It's your classic (almost clich√© now) Men In Black sort of tale.  And yet one (of many) great twists is that the aliens we've all been lead to believe are out there -- the Greys -- they exist, but, like Humanity, they've been enslaved by some other alien race.  Some sort of parasite. 

Which the Greys brought to Earth when they crash landed here (ala Roswell). It's that parasite that's currently running around trying to enslave 1960's America.

Now, one thing that this script does incredibly well is raise the tension.  It's slow, deliberate at first -- we get a chance to know Loengard.  He's a decent guy, full of ambition and piss 'n vinegar -- and then he gets his big shot. A 'do-well-on-this-tiny-little-throwaway-project-and-maybe-we-can-see-about-where-your-future-lies' sort of thing.  And so he ends up auditing Project Blue Book, starts investigating one of the more serious claims of alien encounters.  He visits the couple in question and, using his own affable sort of charm, gets them to open up in a way that no one else ever could, gets them to start talking about what they know... in detail.

This worries Captain Bach and his men at Majestic-12 (who've bugged said peoples' home) enough to shanghai him later that night, to try and scare Loengard away.  We're talking a black helicopter, violent takedowns, guns to the head -- the show shebang. 

The message is clear: 'Back off!'.

Except it has the opposite effect.  And though he's notably scared by the midnight roadside attack/warning from these Men In Black -- remember, this is 1960's America... back when most folks still believed their government was on their side -- Loengard re-doubles his efforts. 

And you start to root for the guy. He's crafty, determined.  Scared shitless, but he can't give it up.

Hell, he's even surprised when they end up recruiting him to the cause.

It's all about layers, people.  Deeper and deeper this thing goes -- hell, by the time they started pulling wriggling alien... jellyfish/tentacle things... out of people's brains I was hooked.  Hooked until the bitter end, until a well-intentioned move on Loengard and Sayers' part leads to one of the greatest tragedies in American history.


Now, I'd never heard of this show before -- I actually downloaded it thinking that it was the pilot for Falling Skies (the new Spielberg Alien show) -- but man, this script kicks ass.  I actually want to try and track this series down 'cause if it's anything as good as this script then hot damn.  Apparently I've missed a gem.

Seriously, check out the brilliant description that leads us into the main titles:

MAIN TITLES - SURREAL IMAGES

NOSTALGIC IMAGES have been re-assembled into TECHNOLOGICALLY
ENHANCED IMAGES as perceived by an alien intelligence. They
transition us in time from the final moments of the
Eisenhower Administration to the opening days of the Kennedy
Administration.

The video images merge with bits and pieces of AUDIO from
spoken words, speeches and popular music. Our final
chilling image from this extremely odd slice of Americana
coalesces as we PULL BACK through the cornea of a human eye,
then out further to reveal --

-- a human face, mouth open in a silent scream of terror.
This man is ELLIOT GRANTHAM and we are watching a turning
point in human history.

A white laser beam drills into the eye. Swirling around the
cylindrical light are the very images we've seen, images
extracted from the mind's eye of the human subject.

We are being studied by someone, or some thing.

We watch as words slowly assemble themselves on our TV
screens. The name of this program comes from our past and
will change our future:

DARK SKIES

Quite simply: Read this script.  If you're even remotely interested in Sci-Fi -- hell, if you want to see a fantastic example of how to draw your viewer in, how to raise the stakes at just the perfect moment... read this thing now.

The saddest thing is that this show came about in 96/97 -- I can only imagine what would've happened if they'd made this show in this day and age, in our current world climate.

Man, I wish I knew who wrote this thing so I could give them proper credit.

Brilliant, brilliant script.

Tomorrow I'll be checking out Entourage 1x01.

But for now, read this thing and feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Cheers,
Brandon

1 comment:

Lee said...

Brandon, the script was written by Bryce Zybel and Brent Friedman. The series is a cult classic; short lived with a run of only 18 episodes. The original plan was for each season to span a decade - from 1960-2000. I think it's only very recently been released on DVD, the music licencing costs prevented a release for some time. It was a good show - shame it didn't get much a chance.

By the way, Falling Skies is on the site now, though lord knows when you're going to get a chance to read it!