2nd Outline: “Eternity Calling”

After a series of blogging prohibitive encounters (i.e. life — more on that later, much later, perhaps one day), we return to the sordid tale of fanboy obsession and behind-the-scenes intrigue.  After the jump:  “Eternity Calling.”

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Next chapter.

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Do not pass Go.

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A little background, some context, and a pinch of salt:  The first production effort for “I, Proteus” with Neil Marsh crashed and burned in 1999.  That eventually led to the early work on Afterhell.

During that stage,  Neil recruited me for the Six-Minute Doctor Who Audio project, a collaborative fan media effort hosted by the Federation, one of the premier Doctor Who clubs in the USA.  Of course the trick was to tell a fun, exciting story in six minutes.

Neil handed me one script already in work featuring Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor character.  Fitting the time constraint, it was about him defusing a bomb.  Characters debated and argued, padding out the six minutes.  More SNL than Danger UXB.  The story was abandoned.  The project didn’t have any other stories, so the floor was open to ideas.

Hence “Eternity Calling.”  The whole point of the story was to explore the alien nature of the Doctor.  He seems human, but he’s not.  Once in a while, we get disconcerting reminders of that.  I wasn’t thrilled with our title, but I thought it’d be fun to play with the concept.

The first draft featured the Eighth Doctor again, but it was a better fit for the darker personality of Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor.  And one of Neil’s oldest friends, writer Jonathan Blum who played the character before, was going to be Boston in time to record “Eternity.”  Everyone involved was pretty excited.  Even me!

The good news:  There was a recording.  The bad news:  Technical difficulties destroyed the first few minutes.  And they couldn’t get all the actors back to re-record the missing scenes.  On the bright side, it was reportedly a remarkable improvement over what I had written–

Wait, what improvement?  Oh yeah, the even worse news.   To work around the missing audio, the script had to be rewritten.  Without my knowledge.  Well, to be fair, they had a deadline.  Jon had a plane to catch.  And they didn’t have to call me or anything for my input or make sure I was cool with the results either.

And those results, I was told, were a real improvement on what I wrote anyway.

Ooh.  Yeah, that lemon juice on the blade real felt good sliding in, didn’t it?

But after all that, there was a recording.  There was.

Then it was deleted.

To this day, I’m not sure what happened.  There was a big mea culpa emanating from the Boston area, explaining it was all gone.  Gone?  Everything?!  Yup, the whole thing.  We had nothing to show for all the effort, money, and all the grief.

I couldn’t have been more ambivalent.  Not even if I tried.

Here is the complete outline of “Eternity Calling.”

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Six-Minute Doctor Who Audio
“Eternity Calling” (working title)
written by Joe Medina
Feb 5 2002

Harsh, howling storm winds.  As they louder, the TARDIS demats onto the surface of a dead, inhospitable world.  The Doctor and Ace run out into the storm, a bleeping scanner in their hands, and trace a distress signal to a cave.

As they enter the cave and the storm winds fade back to bg noise, they can hear screams from deep within the cavern.  They find an archeology dig that has found its own undoing.

Professor Park’s expedition had come looking for alien artifacts, and found one that spoke.  Park explains to the Doctor how their equipment picked up an organic power source, a dormant piece of alien cybernetics older than the human race.  His people quickly unearthed an alien skull, possibly artificial life.  It tried to communicate.  But its message began to drive the excavators mad.
Barret ran screaming into the eternal storms.  Waters nearly drank himself to death with industrial cleanser.  Scarf, the most stable person out of all the people exposed to the alien, does nothing but draw strange pictures and weep.

The Doctor seeks out Scarf and asks him about the alien message.  The Doctor’s interest in his work encourages Scarf to come out of his traumatized shell.  All the drawing is Scarf’s effort to tell others about the message in a safe way.  But as his efforts continue to fail, he falls deeper into despair.  His last hope of expressing himself has become a source of alienation.

“But what is the message?” the Doctor demands.  “Is a greeting?  A warning?  A plea?  A name?  A truth?”

The last word startled poor Scarf.  The Doctor touches his forehead and sends him into sleep.

How did he know to ask about a truth? Ace asks him.  But every true artist, the Doctor explains, always seeks out his or her own personal truth, then tries to make sense of it.

The Doctor sums up the situation as he sees it.  The alien skull contains a data storage medium, a living record, equipped with telepathic circuits and left here for others to find.  Its destructive power could be a malfunction, a deliberate threat…or a genuine truth, one too horrible to conceive.

He takes it upon himself to silence the alien message, but Ace insists on blowing it up.  Quickly she cobbles together an explosive (some Nitro-9 or bits from the expedition’s supplies, depending on where we are in DW continuity) and hurls the bomb before anyone can stop her.  The alien skull instantly sucks the explosion into itself, feeding on it.  “Bang goes that idea.”

Insisting on approaching it alone, the Doctor leaves Ace in Professor Park’s care and confronts the skull.  From a distance we can hear him introduce himself and the skull’s gurgling reply (speaking an alien language or its way of “spinning up” its data storage).  Ace gasps as the Doctor raises the skull to his ear and nods.  He whispers into it…and pulls out of it an organic device.

DOCTOR:  (to Park)  There.  Quite safe now.  Have a look.  This, in essence, is a capacitor.

ACE: (as the device goes squish in Park’s hand)  Ew!

DOCTOR:  Keep it away from the rest of the organic “circuitry,” as it were, and your discovery will be as silent as the grave.

The Doctor leaves the expedition for the coming rescue ship and leads Ace back to the TARDIS.  But why wasn’t he affected by the alien message?  Is it because he isn’t human?

DOCTOR: No…I’ve heard it before.  Echoing in a corridor without walls, when the cosmos exhaled its first solar wind.  It hurt, then.  I’m fine now.  And yet I seem to remember…I have so much left to do.

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