1st Outline: “I, Proteus”

Right, back to the tangled roots of the Doctor Who audio project called something-Proteus-something.

You might remember the background.  Neil Marsh and I were working on a fan audiodrama where the Doctor was female.  Fanboy dickering drove the project into a ditch twice before.  A big popularity contest.  Sort of like high school, only shorter.  We moved on to Afterhell after that.

The worst of it faded into the background noise of the scriptwriting process.  Unfortunately that was an even bigger mess.

I started on a full outline of the whole storyline, cliffhangers and all.  Then Neil sent an e-mail, panicking.  Forget the outline, he said.  He could really use a script, something to show people.

I wrote the first few scripts based on what I had.  Then he grew concerned about the plotting.  Stop the scriptwriting.  He wanted the outline after all.

I went back to the outline, only to get more e-mails begging for scripts.

And so on and and so on.

Neil was always nervous.  Never satisfied.  Whatever I gave him, he needed more.  All this while writing Afterhell.  Yup, he had me writing two radio series at the same time.  And like an idiot, I went through this vicious cycle a few times, back and forth.  Recipe for burnout.

Anyway, after the jump,  this is the rough but completed outline for “I, Proteus.”

Okay, a little more balloon juice under the guise of spoiler warning.

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No, really.  If you write for the BBC, close the browser now and re-open it on something else.  Like bunnies.

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Technically this is little more than a detailed synopsis, a summary or rough sketch of the whole story.  An outline or treatment often reads more like a rushed short story, describing each scene.  But this mini-outline does the same thing in broad strokes.  These are the key plot points.

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DOCTOR WHO:  I, PROTEUS
Revised synopsis
March 22, 2002
written by Joseph Medina

We start in the hangar deck of a space station in the isolated star system of Theta Cerberus.  Klaxons, running feet on deckplates, computer voices calling everyone to rescue stations.

Two of the command staff are arguing in the middle of high-tech cacophony.  Station Supervisor Young must choose between continuing their top secret mission–risking discovery–or letting people die in space.  To Young’s shock and outrage, rescue teams are returning with a battered lifepod.  Professor Crowther, head of the lab section, had already sent them out.

Suddenly a certain police box materializes in the hangar deck and a woman in oversized men’s clothes stumbles out.  Supervisor Young peers into the blue box to see if someone else squeezed into it and gasps, his voice echoing throughout the cathedral interior of the Tardis.  This machine and this woman aren’t what they seem.

The comatose woman is sent along with the lifepod’s occupants to the station’s Medical Unit, but the medical staff get more questions than answers when they examine her.  She’s not human, and they have no idea what’s happened to her or how to help her.  They’re about ready to give up on her when she awakens, reacting to something said by one of the nurses.  “Doctor.  That’s me…the Doctor.”

The Doctor quickly gets accustomed to her new incarnation and tries to introduce herself to one of the other patients, a cynical young man named Gabriel.  Through their gruff exchanges, Gabe and the Doctor quickly form an emotional bond.  The Doctor acts as teacher and guide, asking nothing in return, outwitting or shouting over him as needed.

And despite a penchant for harsh words and an impatience for fools, the Doctor retains a child-like vulnerability:  She doesn’t know who she is.  Once male, now female.  Flashes of memory, wellsprings of knowledge, and an innate desire to make things right.  But no answers for herself.

And as they learn more about their surroundings, Gabriel and the Doctor learn they must work together to leave this place alive.  Gabriel’s comrades from the lifepod are actually militant activists here to stop the unethical experiments of the Proteus Project…with deadly force.

Professor Crowther has indeed turned the Proteus Project into a nightmare, but not the one suspected.  He rules his staff through fear and manipulation, sacrificing his less obliging assistants to the alien artifact on the planetoid below.  And Gabriel’s people have been tricked into volunteering for the next round of experiments.

Soon the bodies of test subjects turn on the living.  They’ve become the rotting drones and incubators for the Proteus Device, a race bank created by the I, which is quickly infesting Crowther and his lab.  The survivors flee to the space elevator that links the orbital station and the planetoid lab, barely a step ahead of the I infection.  But that won’t hold the I back for long.  As soon as they remember how, they’ll scale the miles of space tether, spread their genetic instructions, and expand.

When the Doctor recognizes the I, she gains a renewed sense of purpose.  She refuses to let them invade the rest of the cosmos.  The space station refuses to let them board, but the Doctor hacks into the controls and takes charge, preparing everyone for their final stand against the invasion.

The I charge the space station, trying to lock down communications, the station hangar, and even the escape pods.  But thanks to the Doctor, the computer network has more backdoors than the Winchester Mystery House.  Command functions have been routed through hydropodics.  Diagnostics are busy scanning the video library.  Firewalls have been labeled personal schedulers.  The I can get in, but their only hope of controlling the station is capturing the Doctor.

And that’s how she wants it.  Their attention is on her, giving everyone else time to evacuate…and distracting the I from the real danger.  On the Doctor’s instructions, Gabriel’s people wire up their explosives to the station’s fusion reactor.  The Doctor herself fires the station’s thrusters and sends the station careening into the planetoid, determined to destroy the Proteus race bank.

In the station’s final minutes, the Doctor struggles with Gabriel in the hangar deck where it all began, trying to dump him into an escape pod.  But he won’t leave without her.  Distracted, they don’t see the I surround them.  Their only means of escape, the Tardis, is on the other side of the I swarm.

The Doctor takes a gambit and warns the I about her trap, practically daring them to stop it.  But the I gestalt spends too much time debating whether to believe herónot enough time to form a consensus.  Gabriel and the Doctor make a mad dash for the Tardis.

For this problem, the I have instructions from the race bank: Deploy the drones; capture all the aliens.  Gabe and the Doctor are then face to face with the half-human/half-I remains of Crowther and his cronies.  The manipulators are now being manipulated, the consumers now consumed.  Together they fight tooth-and-nail, using every weapon and ounce of strength left in them, through the I swarm.

The station starts careening toward the planetoid, sending everyone and everything flying.  They’re in freefall.  The I are too busy coping to stop Gabe and the Doctor from soaring into the Tardis.   And as it demats, the station crashes, exploding, and takes Proteus with it.

Inside the Tardis, the Doctor catches her breath and announces they’re travelling.  She stops and remembers.  The Tardis is in Vortex, traversing all space and time!  Gabe is too busy absorbing his vast surroundings to appreciate it.

“Wake up, Gabriel!” the Doctor says.  “Now pay attention.  You might learn something.”  She adds wistfully, “Perhaps we both will!”

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