Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wrapping it up

Tomorrow night's the big finale; when Mr. Moffat finally lays his cards on the table.

If you've been following the season then you know that there's quite a few threads floating around in the air. Most important of which is the supposed 'death' of the Doctor. The death where we saw him die.

The death where they've gone on record as saying 'this is a fixed point in time, this event MUST happen'.

Yeah, that's quite a corner to paint yourself into.

Quite a thing to try and come back from.

(Spoilerrific catch-up video below for Series 6)


But if we know anything about the Doctor (and the laws of running a successful TV series) then we know that he'll find a way to sneak his way out of that one.

All-in-all I've been quite a fan of this season, there haven't been a ton of episodes that've left me panting in my seat... but it's been a solid ride with some great reveals.

And this finale looks to be a real doozy -- I can't wait to see how it ends!

In other news, unfortunately, I haven't yet finished my breakdown for 6x12, hopefully this weekend I'll be able to get that all sorted.

In other, other news that Web Series I've been working on has a Director attached, just looking to track down a Producer. We're currently on our 2nd round of rewrites and, man, are the scripts really starting to shine. Seriously, if we can pull this off, it's gonna be awesome.

And, finally, it looks like I'll be getting to sit down with Mr. Sheasgreen again soon (hopefully this coming week) to tackle my pitch bible for Pipeline.

Progress is slow these days, especially with so much in the works and, well, a baby... but it's still progress, things are still happening.

I'll take it.

Anyways, more to come soon!

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doctor Who 6x09 Breakdown

Okay, so the 6x12 episode's not quite ready yet but thankfully 6x09 has completed its run.

Here's what I've managed to put together with the help of my little spreadsheet template -- note: one show is only going to give you so much info, once you've got 3 done you tend to be able to make better judgement calls but this is a decent jumping off point.

Total Running Time: 41:37

'A' Plot Run Time: 29:11 <-- this is a bit high as when I wasn't sure (usually some odd scenes with tertiary characters) I tended to lump them in with the A plot.

'B' Plot Run Time: 9:45 <-- this is much easier to track as the B plot was pretty solidly divided.

'Runner' Run time: 0:59 <-- a weird little micro-plot about the father owing rent money that only existed to tie the landlord into the story... was pretty odd.

Five Acts??

As the episode played out I tried to pick out where the Act Breaks would be if it had natural Act Outs. What surprised me was that often there were these fantastic build-ups, with tension and the whole nine yards, very noticeable points in the story where in a regular American program you'd cut out and go to commercial. This show chose not to do that, but they're still there and seem to make sense.

I found a total of 5 potential Act Outs (Spoilers from here on down)

Teaser is self explanatory.

Act Out Number One was at 12:55 where the Doctor confronts George and says that he's 'here to talk about the monsters'. It's significant because it's the first real moment the Doctor being 'the Doctor' - he steps from the shadows and recognizes the boy and his call for help; maybe the boy's right, maybe something IS up after all. It's a great moment that bumps up the intrigue aaaand, if this were a North American production, commercial!

Act Out Number Two, for me, came at 19:14, a natural extension of Act the end of Act One - the Doctor, now finally getting a proper reading off the cupboard (where the family has hidden all the things that George fears) is surprised to find out that the readings are actually off the scale. Freaked out by this revelation, and further agitated as Alex (George's father) tries to open said cupboard, the Doctor turns to Alex and stops him. Why? Because "George's monsters are real". WHAAA?!
Aaaand commercial!

Act Out Number Three seemed to pop up at 28:35 where, after a pretty brilliant scene where the Doctor realizes/reveals that Alex's wife (Claire) was never pregnant for George -- and Alex responds, as if remembering something long forgotten, 'of course not, Claire can't have kids!' it's revealed that George is some sort of alien child. Who then freaks out 'causing the Doctor and Alex to be sucked into said evil cupboard of fear as the little boy looks on in horror. The cupboard even gives a satisfying little door slam after our heroes disappear inside. Yeah, we'll be right back... time to sell some soap.

Act Out Number Four comes just after the climax of the episode at 38:40, after Alex realizes that all of his son's fear came from George's worrying that his parents were going to abandon him. Something something about George being a special kind of alien, but essentially ends with Alex hugging his son and re-affirming that he'll love George no matter what. They both cry, George calls out 'DAD!' and the closet bursts open in a brilliant show of white light. One last further shot of the two embracing happily and we have one last commercial out before coming back for the epilogue.

The end of 'Act Five' at 41:37 shows the Doctor and his companions back on the TARDIS and talking about what their next fantastic adventure will be -- though a wicked little children's rhyme plays in the background 'tick tock goes the clock, even for the Doctor'. A nice little creepy ending and some foreshadowing for what's to come.

(end spoilers)

Getting into a bit more technical, number-y stuff, here's what I found:

Scene break down:

Total 'scenes': 68 <-- also seems high but this was mostly due to some very fast-paced, creative editing.

Total 'A' Plot scenes: 50 <-- This is high because, when in doubt (and with the B plot being SO obvious) I lumped the scene in with the A plot. There are a number of weird little side scenes (like the Landlord in his apartment being sucked into the floor) that didn't really seem to fit anywhere.
Total 'B' Plot scenes: 13
Total 'Runner' Plot scenes: 5

Scenes featuring the Doctor: 32 -- of which 30 are in the 'A' story

The next most-used character, surprisingly, turned out to be George's Dad, Alex who appeared in a combined total of 26 scenes.

Next up was Alex's son, George with 24 scenes total.

Amy and Rory, the Doctor's companions, ended up in a total of 22 scenes each (mostly because they spent all of their time together).

Scene Breakdown by 'Act'

Teaser: 4 Scenes
Act One: 21 Scenes <-- Some very quick scenes that didn't fit together and weren't intercut... weird. I might give this another look later.
Act Two: 11 Scenes
Act Three: 9 Scenes
Act Four: 15 Scenes
Act Five: 8 Scenes

Anyways, if there's interest, let me know and I'll post the completed spreadsheet up here for you take a look at.

So far, not bad. Not exactly enough to draw final conclusions on -- especially if this 21 scenes in Act 1 is a fluke, a mistake or a common thing (even if it's a mistake at 21, it'll still be a pretty high scene count).

But, hey, it's a start.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Breaking it down

So, I'm about halfway done breaking down 6x09 Night Terrors. It's been a bit of work getting everything set up but, thankfully, having that transcript on hand has made life a tad bit easier.

Even thought I'm only halfway done, it's pretty easy to see that it's a very fast-paced episode. I haven't noticed yet if this is a pattern (which will come once I've broken a couple more episodes) but so far, at the halfway mark I'm at about 37 'scenes'.

Now, that number is artificially inflated due to editing, but considering that the total running time for the episode is 42 minutes that's still a whole whack of scenes. They manage to cheat this by having a lot of cutting back and forth while staying within only a few sets. So far, the longest scene in the whole episode clocks in at 1:52 with the shortest being 4 seconds (though this scene inter-cuts with another, ends up acting like more of an intro to the scene proper).

That's only a bit of a glimpse into what's been gleaned so far and there's more to come, for sure. With any luck I'll be able to finish this tonight and tackle episode 6x12 tomorrow (putting both breakdowns up for this Wednesday).

Other than that, I finally managed to get in a shipment of printed books! Woo-Freakin' hoo... so those are going back into the mail ASAP and out to those fantastic people who climbed on board when 404 was still in Web-only form.

Many apologies for how long the whole process has taken but you should be getting your couriered copies soon! (yay!)

Alright, back to these spread sheets!

More to come ;)

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, September 23, 2011

Okay, so, new plan

My life's been too hectic these last couple of days to sit down and start breaking down 'Night Terrors' properly (hopefully I'll get to that this weekend) but since today's a write-off, I'm going to share with you a little tool that my wife and I designed to help me break down episodes.

At first glance it's a simple little spreadsheet, but I've found it quite useful in helping me figure out all sorts of information about a show -- things that can help to ensure that your script feels like a 'real' episode.

You can find the template over there on the sidebar under the 'Stuff I Made - Free Stuff' heading. It's an XLS doc so you're probably going to have to use it with MS Excel (I believe 2003 or later) and it's formatted for a 5-Act series but all of that stuff should be pretty easy to tweak as per necessary.

I originally used this when I was breaking down several episodes for my Chuck spec (also over there on the side) and it's definitely one of my stronger scripts because of it.

I offer this tool to you for free in goodwill. And while I know there's no way to enforce this, please do me the kindness of not selling it or claiming as your own.

Feel free to modify it as per necessary to your uses but if you share that modified version, please keep the original 'created by' information intact.

Thank you very much (and I hope you find as much use out of this as I have)!

Cheers,
Brandon

P.S: Here's an idea of what the spreadsheet looks like when it's filled in:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Doctor, Doctor!

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing a spec for a TV show is actually finding a relevant script. In the case of trying to write a Doctor Who spec that fact is further aggravated because, well, there aren't any available for the current series.

And yet, thanks to the wonders of the internet, one has the ability to stumble upon people like 'jpgr'. See, jpgr is a big Doctor Who fan. No, really. Huge. She's gone and made TRANSCRIPTS for each and every episode of Series 6 (so far she's up to 6x10 - The Girl Who Waited).

Wow.

Now, there are certain things you're not going to get out of a transcript. You're not going to get their writing style, probably not much of their flow (since the Transcript is for the final produced show) but it's a fantastic thing to have on hand and it can make your life incredibly easier as you work to break the show down to its component parts. It's also great for dialogue analysis, picking up trends in how characters speak, what words or phrases they tend to use often.

Anyways, I happened to stumble upon this today and I thought it was a brilliant thing (making transcripts can be brutally mind-numbing at the best of times) and it saves me from having to do the work myself.

So, well, thank you jpgr!

This Friday I'm going to start to break down the episode 'Night Terrors' which is somewhat thematically similar to the episode I'm putting together.

Until then, take a gander at jpgr's site and revel in her hard work.

(and jpgr, if you happen upon this post, get in touch - I'd like to thank you properly for your hard work!)

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, September 19, 2011

Doctor Dark?

Over in the UK there's been a lot of complaints from distraught parents that Doctor Who isn't a kid's TV program anymore. It's too scary now.

I have to admit, when my friend Cameron first got me into the show -- through some audio books like War of the Daleks and some comic strips of the Seventh Doctor tearing around time and space -- I had no real idea that this was, in fact, a show intended for kids. It seemed like a regular, adult Drama to me.

I mean, sure the plots got a tad silly sometimes but by and large there was nothing that pushed me into a 'this is for kids' mindset. In fact, to be honest, the writing on the show has often been quite compelling. Adult-level compelling.

Honestly, I wish I'd have discovered this show when I was younger. (I mean, I knew it existed but back then I was more interested in Cartoons).

Instead, I found myself settling in with the Doctor during his 9th iteration, when Christopher Eccleston re-launched the program as a traumatized Time-War Veteran.

Sure, the first episode was a tad hokey -- about plastic coming to life through an army of mannequins and trash bins -- but the character drew me in. He was manic, eccentric, brilliant; unlike any other character I'd ever seen on TV.

Yet there's no doubt that over time this show has gotten darker. As each Doctor made his way to the forefront, as more and more adventures have scarred him, the fight against the baddies has slowly turned its way inward. And as he has grown darker, so too has his rogue's gallery: The Weeping Angels, The Silence, The Gangers, The Headless Monks...

Creatures that get you from behind, when you're not looking. Creatures that make you forget you ever saw them, that can control your mind and make your every action their own. It's creepy territory, for sure, moreso when people start talking about how this is supposed to be a kid's show.

Mr. Moffat has defended this trend, saying things like:

"Children like to be scared – like on a ghost train or a rollercoaster" and "They have always told each other ghost stories in the dark."

And by and large I agree with him.

Except for one thing:

I would readily say that this show is no longer for 'kids'. It's now a show for 'the kids who grew up watching the Doctor', kids who are now adults and wanting their Doctor to tackle more adult themes; To explore darker, more ominous questions like 'Is this hero really a hero? or is he a crazy old man who hurts the ones he loves?'.

Yes, these aren't new questions, and they're not the first time they've been asked over the 50-ish years of Doctor Who's existance but questions like that were often found in novellizations and radio dramas, things that, by their nature catered to more adult fans.

Seeing them here, now on the main stage (as it were), with the largest audience that the Doctor's ever had -- often an audience of fans who want their children to share in it as well -- it gets harder and harder to justify that this is a 'kids show' any longer.

It's growing, changing, becoming something more... but as it struggles to straddle both worlds the seams are starting to show. Like the Doctor himself, this show has a decision to make. A path to choose.

And I'm intrigued to see how it'll all pan out.

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, September 16, 2011

Storytime

Warning: This post will have randomly placed, unmarked spoilers for Series 6 of Doctor Who in it. If you haven't seen Series 6 and you want to go into it unspoiled, then you'll probably want to skip this post for now.

For everyone else, random spoiler encounters from here on out.

So, what do we know about this incarnation of The Doctor? 

The last Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, he was light-hearted sort of chap with a real wide-eyed amazement about the world... but there was also this dark side to him; there was an edge.  It took a lot to piss him off, but if you'd managed that feat, oh did he ever make you pay for it.

But this Doctor... he's... well, he's smug.  He's a ton of other things as well -- he's a live-wire, he's quick-witted, he's weird... but also: smug.  That said, he's also a strangely positive sort of person; always trying to keep attitudes up even when things look their bleakest.  He's self-aware but completely unafraid to get a tad grandiose in just 'who' he is (and how amazing he is).

Smug.

It's an interesting thing to keep in mind as I start to gather the threads of the story I'll be telling.

Of course, this Doctor would be nothing without his Companions, the married couple Amy and Rory.

Amy's a brave woman, bold, a bit reckless. She's also (thanks to the help of some alien tech) a new mother. Her baby was taken from her by an alien religious cult called 'The Silence' who plan to raise the baby into an assassin capable of killing the Doctor once and for all. Needless to say, she is not happy about this development. She knows that her daughter grows up well, as it's eventually revealed that River Song is Amy's daughter (all grown up), but she still longs for her baby back, to not miss all those wonderful years of being with her child. The Doctor has promised to find her baby and return it but even he suspects it's a promise that he won't be able to keep.

Rory started off as a timid sort of guy, but he loves his wife dearly and has performed many brave and heroic acts to try and help or save her. He used to be jealous of the relationship Amy shared with the Doctor, but now he's calmed down a tad and has come out of his shell more. He also recently punched out Hitler.

Caught up?

So where are we so far, storywise?

Well, right now we've got:

A Title: The Dragons of Iowa
A Location: Iowa, USA
A Time Period: The Great Depression - The Dustbowl Era - 1936
A Big Bad: Urmungstandstra - The imprisoned 'Devil God' of the Silurian Race.
A Tone: Horror

Okay. Good. It's a start.

So, Plot. What happens? This's the part that, well, is likely to change significantly over time - especially prior to a first draft.

For me, when I plot, I like to plot already thinking in TV structure. What's my Teaser look like? What am I building towards? What's the big Act Out look like?

So let's start with a theoretical Teaser. What would that look like?

Well, the first decision is: Are we starting with The Doctor and company, or are we starting with someone else?

Okay, no, that's not really the first decision. Where does it fall in the span of Series 6? What's our story about?

The story that, right now, I feel that I want to tell... it's about children. About quite possibly the biggest fear any parent has: losing their child.

In Series 6, this is highly relevant because it's already happened to Amy. And I want this story to start not long after the baby's been taken, so I'd probably slot this in between episode 8 ("Let's Kill Hitler") and episode 9 ("Night Terrors"). Interestingly enough, 'Night Terrors' deals with fear and children as well, but from the other end of the spectrum (a child afraid that he's going to lose his parents).

So, Teaser:

Let's start it on the TARDIS.

Backstory to this episode:
"Let's Killer Hitler" is only a few week's back, the Doctor, Amy and Rory have just left their adult, formerly brainwashed daughter -- River Song -- in the hospital (and to her fate) after she killed the Doctor and then brought him back.

It turns out that River turned was able to regenerate like the Doctor but ended up sacrificing this ability (gave it to the Doctor) in order to undo his death.

Plotting it out:
In light of these events, Amy hasn't been the same since. She's more determined than ever to get her daughter back and knowing that she's far out of reach has left Amy depressed.

Rory and the Doctor try to cheer her up, want to distract her, show her some sun and sand, some of the best beaches in the galaxy. The Doctor takes off in a blur, determined to make her feel better.

The TARDIS lands, everyone exits, dressed for the beach but step out into a desolate farmer's field, withered plants covered in blowing dust. In the distance, a run-down old shack. The ground beneath them rumbles, shakes... something's wrong.

The Doctor orders them back onto the TARDIS, closing the door as the ground gives way. Inside, everyone is bounced around as the TARDIS crashes to the ground.

Everyone's fine. The Doctor still dressed for the beach (meaning dressed as per usual but with a Sun visor?... maybe a stripe of Zinc on his nose...?) steps out of the TARDIS into a pool of... goo. He pulls his foot back to see that it's covered in yolk. He looks around to see a massive underground cavern... full of huge eggs (think triple the size of an Ostrich egg).

Off of this, we go to Titles.

Now... okay, not the best start but, let's be objective: what works here? Not everything -- there's not much here about the time period or how it will play into things, there's no 'other' people for them to interact with yet. But we may not need them yet -- who's story is this?

So far it's Amy's story (which should be okay, seeing as she's one of the main characters, thus not breaking the Second Rule).

But there's more setup needed here, more groundwork to lay before we can start this tale off proper.

Back to the drawing board... for now.

Have a great weekend, folks! See you Monday.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dragons and Such

One of the cool things about the potential of writing a Doctor Who spec is that you have the opportunity to make your own big bad or, if you so choose, dust off a classic baddie.

In this case, I've decided to do a bit of both.

See, one of my favourite Doctor Who 'villains' is a race called the Silurians.  One of the coolest traits of these 'monsters' is that they're actually the original inhabitants of the Earth; they were here first. 

They evolved from Reptiles millions of years ago and, despite the time period, had a very technologically advanced society.  They were master geneticists and were known for bringing species back from extinction (as well as creating several biological weapons).  In fact, if they hadn't put their entire race into hibernation -- to avoid what they believed would be a cataclysmic disaster -- Humanity as we know it would probably never have come to pass. 

Luckily for us (but unfortunately for them) their hibernation tech malfunctioned, keeping them in stasis long after the rise of Humanity.

Now they're waking up and realizing that their planet has been usurped by... mammals?

It's a fantastic backstory and in Series 5 Doctor Who used the Silurians as a way to show that, in many cases, Humanity is the real monster (The Hungry Earth/In Cold Blood).

However, some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes are the Horror episodes.  Episodes like 'Blink'.  Or high-tension episodes like 'Midnight'.

And, you know, the title of the episode is 'The Dragons of Iowa'.

So I was reading up on the backstory of the Silurians and came across a being called "Urmungstandra" -- essentially, the 'Devil God' of the Silurian people.

Intrigued by the idea, I started digging, trying to find out more about this being... and what I learned is that there's not a whole lot of information on it other than the fact that it's considered a part of Silurian mythology.

So then I started thinking about this evolved race, this technologically advanced, brilliant race that still had this irrational fear of a 'Devil God'.  So I started to imagine what this Devil God would look like, something that reminded them of their unevolved, animalistic roots.  Something fearsome.  Something evil.  Something hungry.

Not a 'God' but something worshipped like a God.  Something that actually exists; something captured, imprisoned, hidden away, forgotten.

And, slowly, I started to put together the idea for a story.

But we'll dive into that a bit more on this coming Friday.  ;)

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Call The Doctor!

Okay, so, yeah, that was a bit of a heart attack.

I opened the PDF for 4x15 Planet of the Dead and it said that it was 88 pages long.

Luckily, two little words saved me from a full-blown coronary: Pink Revisions.

In actuality, the script is 73 pages plus a bunch of tiny add-in pages, so we're looking at around 76 or so pages for the British version of the TV series, with the final, aired, episode clocking in at around 59 mins.

The BBC America version of the show generally clocks in at about 44 - 46 minutes so if I aim for about 60-65 pages, I think I should be fine as far as script-length goes.

One interesting thing that's quickly noticeable in the script is just how much white space is dedicated to things like camera angles, special effects and CUT TO: Transitions.  Especially the CUT TOs.  I bet if I went in there and pulled out all the CUT TOs I could probably shave a good 2-3 pages off of this script.

Anyways, I digress...

Another interesting thing, and potentially my biggest roadblock, is the fact that Doctor Who doesn't have any noticeable division of Acts.  I'm sure they're in there, silently tittering while hiding beneath the covers, but it'll take some work to tease it out. 

One of the most baffling things that I've noticed, specifically about the BBC America series, is that what often seems to happen is that the commercial breaks don't line up with the Act Outs.  Or, what could easily be Act Outs.  Why this is, specifically, I'm not sure yet -- could it be because BBC America shoehorned five Act Breaks into an episode written for four Acts?

Or is it that maybe the episode itself is following a whole other formula?  At this point, I'm not quite sure... yet.


See, one of the things I've been wondering as I read Planet Of The Dead (not a Moffat episode, but, being unable to get a script for a Moffat episode, this had to do) was how this thing was put together.  Specifically, if it following any sort of Act structure, what structure would it be? (3,4 or 5 acts). 

Story-wise, it seems to be pretty easy to sort out, we have the A Plot: Doctor and rag-tag group of bus passengers travel through a wormhole in downtown London and end up in a desert on another planet and have to find their way home before a 'swarm' can get to them and eat them.

There appears to be a sort of small B Plot in that there is another group of aliens called the Tritovore that crash-landed on the planet.  At first they think that the Doctor is responsible for their crash but the Doctor can speak their language and so befriends them (until they die horribly while giving the Doctor an essential piece of the puzzle to get everyone home).

And then instead of a C story there's a weird sort of Runner going on back in London with UNIT, Captain Magambo and Malcolm (the brilliant mind that will help the doctor escape).

All of these stories naturally dovetail into one another with the B folding into the A and then, finally, the Runner catching up to everything as they eventually get the Doctor and his new friends home.

But Act-wise?  That's a whole other kettle of fish.


The easy bit is the Teaser, in the script it was 4 pages comprised of 8 very fast-paced scenes.

But once we get into the action that's where things get hinky.

See there's a spot on Page 10A (page 15 in the PDF) where the character CARMEN reveals, through her creepy low-level psychic abilities that "The Dead.  We are surrounded by the dead."  It's a great, ominous bit of foreshadowing -- but it's too early on in the story, only 6 pages after the intro, can't have an Act Out there. Or can we?

The very next scene (Page 16 in the PDF) after that beat jumps the time forward a certain amount of time, showing three suns blazing overhead (and not immediately killing everyone) and the crew hard at work trying to get the bus moving out in the desert.

So... it certainly feels like we've had an Act Out.  Like we've stepped away from the story for a moment and come back to it.  Weird.

The next 'moment' that feels like an Act Out comes on Page 20 (Page 26 in the PDF).  The Doctor's friends have all started to lose hope, complaining that it's hot and none of their ideas have worked out.  They start to fight amongst one another so the Doctor talks to them all, changes the subject by asking them where they were going, what they were doing... and then, once the mood shifts, he tells them not to give up on that hope.

THE DOCTOR
Just think of them.  Cos that planet
out there, all three suns and
wormholes and alien sand, that
planet is nothing.  D'you hear me?
Nothing, compared to all those
things waiting for you.  Food and
home and people, hold on to that.
Cos we're gonna get there.  I
promise.  I'm gonna get you home.

BAM.  No, seriously, if that's not an Act Out... I mean, come on.  They even follow that up by jumping out to the C plot, dealing with the arrival of UNIT back in London.

After that, on Page 42 (Page 50 in the script) we end up with another possible Act Out moment.  Following the Doctor and his friend's meetup with and subsequent capture by the Tritovore race, the Doctor is able to discern not only their location (they're on the other side of the Universe) but that all the sand on the planet got there in just over a year.  The sand is the remnants of the planet's population, sucked dry of all their moisture.  The stakes are further raised in that we learn that the wormhole is growing in size, 4 miles straight up now.  They've stopped all airplane traffic back in London just to be safe.

And then, after all of this, the alien probe finally reaches the storm and sends back images described as such:

EXT. PLANET, FX SHOT - DAY
FX SHOT (x2, LONG DURATION!): CU on the dot-of-light PROBE, against blue sky - then it swoops down - INTO A SWARM!  A blizzard of STINGRAY-LIKE CREATURES in flight.  They're
grey but with a metallic exo-skeleton glinting in the sun. 

BOLTS OF LIGHTNING shoot through the swarm, like it's generating electricity.
FX SHOT: CU on a STINGRAY.  Snapping red O-shaped mouth. 
CUT TO:

INT. TRITOVORE SHIP, CONTROL ROOM - DAY
THE DOCTOR, CHRISTINA, TRITOVORES staring.
FX SHOT: 54.2 FX projected in the air.
CHRISTINA
It's a swarm.  Millions of them...
THE DOCTOR
Billions.

Okay.  Again... that reads to me like another perfect Act Out moment.  Maybe I'm just noticing these 'cause I'm looking for them, but in the context of the story so far, they seem legit to me.. has anyone else noticed this?

After this we jump out to an FX shot of the metallic swarm of stingrays sweeping across the surface of the planet and it jumps back into the story proper.  Could be a great moment to return from a commercial break...?  Just sayin'...

So following this reveal we learn that these creatures eat metal and extrude it into a type of exoskeleton and fly around the planet in mass numbers, faster and faster until they rip a hole in space, which the creatures use to go to the next planet and drain it dry of its resources.  (wow)

This last one... I'm really on the fence about -- primarily because, well, the Act Out would fall on a C story -- but at a moment that directly effects the A plot... so I don't know.

Take a look and tell me what you think:  By page 60/61 (Pages 71/72 in the PDF) the Doctor and his friend has survived an encounter with the alien stingrays (which killed the two Tritovores), escaped with some MacGuffin which will allow the bus to somehow escape back through the wormhole.  We learn that the wormhole is still getting bigger but now Malcolm has figured out a way to close it.  The Doctor races back to the bus and the waiting passengers, gets it all geared up and ready to go.  Meanwhile, in London, Captain Magambo orders Malcolm to close the wormhole immediately.  Malcolm objects, saying that it would trap the Doctor and everyone on the other side.  The captain pulls a gun and puts it to Malcolm's head, saying she knows how to shut down the wormhole herself.  Malcolm stands his ground:

Magambo pulls her gun out.  Aims it right at Malcolm.
CAPTAIN MAGAMBO
Right now, soldier.

MALCOLM
(terrified)
No, cos...  You need me.  You don't
even know which button.

CAPTAIN MAGAMBO
Transmit, F8.

Malcolm picks up his keyboard, holds it behind his back.
MALCOLM
Well, then.  To get to that button.
You'll have to shoot me.

CLOSE on her; hating this, but her finger on the trigger...

My main problem is that it breaks up the momentum that had been building -- the Doctor, right after that scene, uses the alien technology to fly the bus out of the sand dunes and, with the stingrays hot on their tale, fly it back through the wormhole.

The other problem is that, other than this moment, I can't really find any other moments where things pause in any way shape or form... other than that moment, after the 'Act Out' on page 42 it seems like a pretty solid run toward the finish line.

So... I don't know, maybe I'm only seeing what I want to see here... but those other moments, they're pretty compelling.  Could this script be harboring a silent Teaser/5 Act structure?

More and more I feel myself wanting to say 'yes' but... I don't know.

What do you think?

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, September 09, 2011

And What Of Iowa?

Ahh Wikipedia, the writer's best first step forward.  Even if it's not entirely accurate, it is a great (free) place to start digging around.

So, at Wikipedia I search for "Iowa History" which... takes me to the "History Of Iowa".  Man, you gotta love it when it's that straight forward.  Alright then, so we're looking for 'Americana', or something weird or interesting or that would somehow carry a strong emotional resonance.  All four would be even better.

History caps on, people -- it's Research Time!

- Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase (<-- great read) in 1803, US purchased the land from the French.

- The US didn't have uncontested control of Iowa until after the war of 1812 and it didn't become a state until 1846.

- Railroads in the 1850s and 60s changed the face of Iowa from subsistence farming to commodity farming

- Iowa "contributed a disproportionate amount of young men to fight in the American Civil War".

- After the Civil War, Iowa became an agricultural powerhouse and supplied food to the rest of the nation.

- With Industrialization of agriculture this only grew over time, until the small family farm was threatened by larger farms


- Then came the Great Depression (1929-1940-ish), which hit Iowa exceedingly hard as prices of meat and food bottomed out.

- Recovered in the early 1940's after the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (passed in 1933 but took a while to get full effect).

Now, out of this list, the thing that really kind of grabs me is the idea of the Great Depression; it's a time of great strife, a classic and deeply emotional American tale.

When I think of the Great Depression, the thing that pops into my mind -- one of the most iconic times -- is the Dustbowl; a time of endless heat, drought and rolling dust storms through the breadbasket of America.

Unfortunately, as I dig deeper into my research, Iowa didn't really get caught up in the Dustbowl.  They'd had some years of drought, but nowhere near as bad as what was going on in the Southwest.

That said, they did have one really bad year -- 1936 -- where essentially all the dust from the Dustbowl came home to roost on what little they'd managed to grow.

From the article:
"Dust drifted two or three feet high, around fences and buildings. Dust sifted into houses, under doors and through cracks around windows. It filled the air, darkening the day."

Well, that's certainly an event of note.  But how would The Doctor get involved?  Or maybe this is ultimately a red herring in my investigation, maybe this isn't the right setting at all.  Still, it's an interesting tidbit.  Let's file that one away.

Okay, so... what else happened to those living in Iowa?  Well, with food prices bottomed out, many farmers couldn't afford to pay the debts they incurred while producing food for the war -- that means no work, little or no crops, lots of hunger.  Farms were being foreclosed on, Banks were shuttering their doors and even those with money saved were finding themselves bankrupt, sometimes overnight.

Yes, there's definitely something here... I'm not sure what yet, but something about this setting is speaking to me.  I'm going to think on this a bit more, see what comes to mind.

Meanwhile, keep on reading those Doctor Who scripts!  Now, I was originally going to tackle "Waters of Mars" on Monday, but since it's a 'special' episode, it's not really fair.  Instead, I'll take a look at "Planet Of The Dead", the last stand-alone episode of Doctor Who before David Tennant began his swan song and passed the torch over to Matt Smith.

So, if you choose to read only one script this weekend, check out that one.

Anyways, more to come!

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Inspiration!

So, here's a little peek into how my mind works:

I was looking at the scripts for Press Gang -- one of the series that Mr. Steven Moffat had been showrunner on before he'd gotten onto Doctor Who -- and I noticed that there was a script entitled: "At Last A Dragon".

So then I got thinking: Hrmmm... Dragons. In Doctor Who? Is that crazy? Is that just too far out there?

Considering that this's a series that's been all over the universe (and more)... well, it's worth a gander.

So then I thought 'Here Be Dragons'... and then I thought that it'd be a pretty neat title for an episode.

And then I dismissed it as too blah.

But then I remembered that Series 6, at least the first couple episodes, had a strong Americana streak in it -- of course, they followed that up by sailing the high seas on a pirate ship and then by visiting a 'junk planet' in a bubble universe... but that wasn't on my mind at the time.

Anyways, I started thinking 'Americana', started thinking 'history' and started thinking 'cool place names'... which evolved into 'cool state names'.

Arkansas...?

Cool, sure, but I wanted something that had a bit more mystery to it. Something that sounded... I dunno... otherworldly?

Wyoming?

I ended up -- and this is a temporary title, may or may not change... hell, the whole thing might change if it turns out there's really not a good story here... but for now I came up with a title that I think is rather interesting:

Doctor Who: The Dragons of Iowa.

I really like the name Iowa. It sounds... otherworldly, it sounds mysterious -- like it could be a whole other planet or something.  Eye-Oh-Wah.

Huh.

Personally, I don't know much about Iowa (yet), so there's also a bit of mystery there as well. For me, when I think of Iowa, I think 'Heartland of America' kind of thing. Corn. Lots of corn. Rolling fields of corn.

Not dragons.

Which, really, could be kind of cool.

Of course, then we have to think about time periods. We have a guy who can travel to any time, any place in the whole of the universe. Why Iowa? What goes on in Iowa?

Well, as far as I can tell, not a whole lot that's seriously historically significant. (My apologies to Iowa-ians if I've missed something amazing).

But hey, that's how research works:  You hit upon something that makes you go 'huh... I wonder' and then you start digging.

So, I've got to do some digging into the history of Iowa.

And I've also got to start pulling apart Doctor Who scripts.

A bit more homework for you, if you're interested:  Read some Doctor Who scripts.  They're not by Mr. Moffat, but should still put you into the right mindset nonetheless.

This Friday we can start to start to dig in a bit further.  Brainstorm a tad, perhaps.

Cheers for now!
Brandon

Monday, September 05, 2011

What Can We Learn From Press Gang?

So, you've all had a chance to read a script or three, right?

I've made it through four so far:

2x06 - At Last A Dragon
2x07 - Something Terrible Pt 1
2x08 - Something Terrible Pt 2
5x06 - There Are Crocodiles

There's still about another eight to go through, but I'm already starting to get some pretty clear pictures here.

You see, Press Gang, ultimately is about the young romance between the American juvenile delinquent Spike Thomson and the hardass, ball-busting Editor of the Junior Gazette, Lynda Day.  Sure, there's school drama and interpersonal conflicts between the staff, but what really rises to the surface is the relationship between these two leads.

Especially Lynda.  There's something about Lynda Day.

At first I couldn't quite figure it out, here I was reading these scripts, and feeling this odd sense of familiarity with her.  So I go back and re-read her scenes and as I do so I start to put together just who Lynda Day is; I start to notice some familiar traits: the tough exterior with the momentary lapses of compassion; the hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners, do-what-must-be-done-no-matter-what approach; the massive attraction to mysterious, somewhat edgy men.

Hell, Lynda Day is pretty much the Proto-River Song.


And yes, I do mean 'proto' 'cause, well, our dear Lynda has some serious rough edges -- her personality at some points pretty much borders on 'monstrous'.

Yet there is, at least to me (and, granted I'm looking at this through a filter) a strong outline to be found here.  It'd be interesting to take a look at other series like Coupling or Jekyll or something to see if there is some sort of evolution... but for now its an interesting tidbit to note.

What I also found interesting about these scripts was how he managed to take an otherwise straight-and-narrow teen program and insert moments like the one found here at the end of 'At Last A Dragon' (after Spike receives his first kiss from Lynda):

But then, in the episode 'There Are Crocodiles' we get this dark, brilliant monologue:

In the two-part episode "Something Terrible", a story about a young girl suffering from sexual molestation by her father, Mr. Moffat takes a story that pretty much screams 'after-school special' and elevates it by having that little girl go not to our leads (who we would expect to make everything better) but by having Colin, one of the secondary characters -- a young hustler and liar, someone who no one else on the show takes seriously -- figure out her predicament.

Watching him suffer with this information, as he comes to realize her plight as well as just how little his word means with others because of his antics, is truly an intriguing turn.  Not only does it stray away from -- well, okay, it does sort of get preachy near the end... but a great portion of the two-parter is refreshing because it's not just a tale about a girl being abused and then 'saved'; this guy, who Lynda calls an "immoral, dishonest,  tasteless little hustler", faces the real repercussions of his actions.  His past ends up being the main obstacle to him trying to do good by this little girl.

It's a pretty bold choice, especially when you consider the time period and the would-be audience.

So, yes, I've still got some more scripts to read but there are some interesting lines that can be drawn forward even at this stage: the kinds of decisions that he makes; what he does to elevate a story; how he adds layers of complexity or hints of darkness or wonder to accentuate and punctuate his scenes.

True, it's not exactly world-changing insight at this point... but it is a great start.

More to come!

Cheers,
Brandon