Treatment: “Proteus Rising”

We return to our horrific tale of fanboy obsession and computer keyboard intrigue.

This is the second or third draft of this posting.   It turned into a loud, bitter rant.   But this should be about the story, not the noise or the foolishness that distracted from it.   So let’s get back to that.

I went through a lot of wrangling to hammer out the basics of this new version.   And even in the scripting change, I’m still banging on it.

Writing isn’t about perfection.   Writing is about getting the ideas out.   Get it all out.   Out of your head.   Outta yer system.   Screw perfection.   Put it down on the page.   Do it now.  All the clean-up — the tightening of bolts, the caulking of plot holes, gritting your teeth, cutting out the stuff you love but doesn’t work or moves too slow — that’s editing.  Edits come later.  Write it down first.

I point this out because of the shaky nature of this treatment. A synopsis is a quick sketch, summarizing the overall plot.  An outline can be done several ways, sometimes as a list of key plot points, or a scene breakdown that narrates key events.  A treatment is usually more detailed than all the rest, written like a short story, spelling out the drama.

If you’ve been following this blog thread from the beginning, you already know about the distractions that brought me here.   This treatment was written under the pressure of those distractions, in the hope of stripping all the rathole ideas and audience pandering that was holding the story down.

And even with that, it’s still kinda messy.  Writing.  Getting the ideas out.  So I’m going to throw in commentary, the sort of stuff people say when their place is a mess and they weren’t expecting guests.

And again, this is a Doctor Who story.  BBC employees, writers, and producers of a nervous disposition should be mindful of this.  But knowing that, and if you’re still interested, follow the jump:.

DOCTOR WHO
“Proteus Rising”
Sept 30 2010 outline
Written by JRM
(in the mode of RTD)

Teaser.
Space station hangar deck.
Klaxons, running feet on deckplates.  Computer Voices call everyone to rescue stations.

Station Commander Stears monitors the situation.  Over the comm, Professor Crother asks for a status report.  Stears lets out a sigh.  Their supply ship had a life support failure, so it’s docking ahead of schedule.  Crother warns him to keep the supply crew off the space elevator until he’s ready.  The Cerberus Line station is restricted, and Crother’s research is at a critical stage.

The docking is loud, full of metallic clangs and the hiss of vacuum seals.  Cargo bays open with a mechanical groan.  Spacers step out of the cargo ship, apparently to help unload… until they draw their rifles.  They’re not free traders.  They’re extremists, members of an alien rights group “Sentience Unite.”

Multiple gun clicks.  Surprised, confused voices.  Stears hits the general distress signal.  Someone decks him for it and cuts outgoing communications.  The hangar crew are now hostages.

Michaela, the leader, warns the crew that the slightest provocation will get them shot.  Their cargo is explosives, not supplies.  One wrong move and the whole station goes up in a nuclear fireball.   Uri, her grim second, feigns disappointment.  He wanted the boom to be a surprise.  Gabe, their young protege, leads a round of dark laughter.

Then we hear it — as a certain Mr Davies would put it, the groan of ancient engines.  The crew and Michaela’s people alike wonder aloud:  What is it?!  But we know.  It’s the Tardis.  The Doctor has come.

Titles scream in.

This is a real geeky, fanboy kind of moment.  Deliberately so.  Russell T Davies didn’t shy away from moments of sheer nerdy pleasure, but rather used them for a purpose.  And naturally the audience would’ve come in expecting a Doctor Who story.  I figured, let’s milk that anticipation and work it into the performance.  “OMG it’s Doctor Who!!!!”  Yup, any excuse for an edge.

Scene 1.
Back to hangar deck.
A certain police box materializes into scene.  A stranger tumbles out, falling to the deck.  Barely conscious, he mumbles in one voice.  And then another voice.  Then another.  And on and on.  Seeing him glow, everyone takes cover!  And an eerie whine crescendos into an EXPLOSION!  Then a new man — a new Doctor — rises to his feet.  “Wonderful!  Much better.”

And he falls down again.

THE DOCTOR:  It’s all right, it’s all right.   Been through this before.  You have no idea, how many times!  Motor functions are still healing.  I’ll just lie here for a bit.  Welllll, new voice.  Has a nice woody tone, doesn’t it?  Words just roll off the tongue.  Good grief, a new tongue.  It’s wet and it’s moving.  Rather nasty, once you notice.  At any rate, I received your distress call–

Michaela’s people turn their guns on him.

THE DOCTOR:  You’re all tense.  I can see that.

The Doctor introduces himself.  Stears has to tell them he’s not the CMO.

This might seem like gratuitous humor.  Well, the pratfall gag is gratuitous.  Neil Marsh insisted on it.  But this goofy introduction lays down several key points.  The Doctor is a trickster.  He upsets the status quo.  He’s a shapeshifter of sorts.  That aspect touches on the use of Proteus (including the unintentional pun of the Doctor standing on his feet.)  Also, we introduce the Doctor’s ability to consciously focus on hundreds of seemingly tiny details.  A holistic view, maybe.  He sees connections between things, opportunities, and insights into the people around him.  Why is the Doctor, a man of peace, willing to help a bunch of violent thugs?  Maybe he sees something we can’t.

Michaela confronts Stears and the Doctor, demanding the whereabouts of Professor Crother.  He’s below, on the planetoid.  Then what is the blue box?  She saw the Doctor change and she knows her Greek mythology.  That blue box — is that Proteus?

The blue box, his Tardis, belongs to the Doctor.  Michaela wants a look inside.  He leads her to the door, then slips past her.  Door lock clicks.  He locked her out!  Furious, she pounds on the door.  He emerges with new attire, then snaps his fingers, locking the Tardis again.

Furious, Uri threatens to take the key from him.  The Tardis opens only for the Doctor.  And if he — or anyone else — gets hurt, they’ll never get inside.

MICHAELA: You think this is a game?  This is about survival, Doctor!

THE DOCTOR:  Survival or living?  There’s a difference.

Getting into dramatic structure theory here.  This is a Defining Character moment.  Whenever you watch a movie and one character says, “You know what your problem is?”  to the main character, odds are that the major obstacle for the main character has just been spelled out for the audience.  An impossible goal.  A character flaw.  The big, big lesson that our hero must learn.  This is Michaela’s lesson.

The Doctor makes a counterproposal, to join their investigation if they let the crew go free.  He’ll even help them shut the lab down.  But no violence.

THE DOCTOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, there is a choice before you.  Destroy everything.  Gain nothing.  Or we work together.

Uri thinks the Doctor is conning them, but Michaela wants to give the Doctor a chance to deliver.  A successful mission without bloodshed would win people over.

Stears reveals one last wrinkle.  To reach the lab, they must take the space elevator.  And Crother controls the lifter.  Fortunately Michaela has hostages.  She leaves some of her people behind to watch the station crew.

Scene 2.
Space elevator terminal.
The heavy hum of power generators in bg.  Michaela, Uri, and Gabe haul Stears and the Doctor to the boarding hatch.  Gabe fails to hack the lock.  (But nothing beats a Perdition Cipher!)  Uri growls in frustration.  Gabe apologizes, but Uri reminds him what they always say, “No excuses.”

THE DOCTOR: I don’t see a resemblance.

URI: Resemblance?  In what?

THE DOCTOR:  The three of you.  You, her, and Gabe.

GABE: (to Uri) Hey, Doctor’s gotta point… Dad.

URI: Shut up, I’m not your dad.  I’m not anybody’s dad.

MICHAELA:  (sharp) What — never?

URI: (pause)(in trouble) Don’t listen to that guy, Michaela.  He’s messing with our heads, Michaela.

They get Crother on the comm, threatening to kill their hostages unless he brings them down.  But Crother refuses to negotiate with terrorists.  Uri puts a gun to Stears’ head.  The Doctor intervenes.

THE DOCTOR:  Put the gun away, Uri.  Or you will lose it.

URI: (laughs) What’re you gonna do, mister peaceful–

(SFX: Sonic screwdriver.  Metal parts and springs fall to the floor.)

URI: (gasp) Wha…? My gun!

MICHAELA: Doctor, how did you– What is that?

THE DOCTOR: Sonic screwdriver.  Guns are full of screws.  Right, now do let’s board the space elevator, shall we?

GABE: (amused) Well, you heard the Doctor.

URI: Shut up, Gabe.

Scene 3.
Space elevator lift vehicle.
Boarding hatch opens.  The Computer Voice calls for final boarding of the space elevator lift vehicle.  Orbital descent is imminent.  Everyone straps in.

Despite the crisis, the Doctor is excited.  A space elevator!  He hasn’t ridden one in ages.  The Doctor dates the place to the year 2207, quite an effort for its time.  For a dead planetoid, it’s drawn a lot of attention.   Indeed, the Cerberus Line station was once a lucrative mining operation until the 4986 Cerberi-D planetoid was tapped out.

Boarding hatch closes.  Docking clamps open with a muffled clang.  The lift vehicle launches with the angry hum of propulsion lasers and a loud, quick VRRRAP, like an x-ray picture from hell.  Then a metallic, gently audible rattle.  Next stop, the planetoid lab complex.

The Doctor takes the trip as an opportunity to hear from all parties.  Clearly Michaela, Uri, and Gabe have known each other a long time.  Uri won’t discuss it, definitely not with the Doctor.  But Gabe & Michaela confirm they met in the Sentience Unite movement.  In the slums of Misvan Gatu, the movement gave them shelter, safety, and a place to belong.

STEARS: And guns.

URI:  She said safety, didn’t she?

THE DOCTOR: Uri, safety doesn’t always mean “gun safety.”

So why all the interest in Crother and his project?  Michaela’s group compare Crother to a war criminal, a menace to sentient life everywhere.   And allies within his company told them where he was and what he’s doing — experiments on living beings.

The Doctor calls out to Crother.  Does he have nothing to say?  Crother replies over the comm, as surprised as the rest that the Doctor knew he was listening.  But the Doctor heard minute feedback from the comm system, which suggested it was still on.

Now the Doctor intrigues him even more.  Crother tells them a cargo cart will be waiting for them.  His assistant Camille will direct them to the lab.

CROTHER:  I look forward to meeting you, Doctor.

Scene Three poses a problem.  We need to establish the space elevator.  It separates the crisis down below from the resolution to be played out later on the space station.  If passage from one to the other was inconsequential, then there would be nothing to prevent the station from being overwhelmed by the horrors to be unleashed.  But even as the plot is rocketing downward, the exposition here brings the story to a screeching halt.  In the script, I chose to end the scene at the launch and encapsulate Michaela’s grievances with Crother as a manifesto tucked into their demands in Scene Two.

Scene 4.
Lab terminal.
The lifter vehicle approaches like thunder.  The angry hum of propulsion lasers and electrical pop-pop-pops herald the landing cycle.  Docking clamps.  A mechanical hiss.  Landing complete.  A new boarding hatch opens.

End of the Cerberus Line!  Everyone steps out, into the lab terminal.  No one is there to meet them, just an automated cargo cart.  The Doctor notes, after the tense and thunderous ride down the space elevator, the silence of the lab complex seems ominous by comparison.

It makes them uneasy, but especially Stears.  He’s never been here before.  Crother never gave him access.  Nothing goes in or out without clearance, not even personnel, without his permission.

Uri picks on Stears for being a commander who can’t get around his own outpost.  This sets off an exchange of insults.  The Doctor slips them each increasingly silly suggestions, which amuses even them in the end.

A new voice comes over the comm.  It is Camille, the professor’s meek and devoted assistant.

THE DOCTOR: Oh, hello, luv.  If you don’t mind my asking, where is everyone?

CAMILLE:  Our work is at a critical stage.  Everyone is engaged.

MICHAELA:  Doesn’t seem like anybody’s here.

GABE:  Nah, nobody.  Betcha even that voice is automated.

CAMILLE:  Don’t talk like that, as if I wasn’t real!

GABE:  (under breath) I, um, sorry….

THE DOCTOR: (smiles) An object lesson for us all.

She directs everyone to climb in, and advises them to stay inside the cart.  The Doctor & Michaela suggest they could walk instead, but Camille was instructed to make sure they didn’t get lost.  The Doctor compares the cart to a steamboat on the Congo or the Amazon.  “Never get out of the boat.”

A tense moment of silence and doubt.  Camille prompts them to get aboard.  The Doctor pretends they can’t hear her, then uses the sonic screwdriver.  Comm static.  Now they have a moment of privacy.

Everyone quickly agrees this feels like a trap.  Stears and Uri find themselves in agreement — to their surprise.  The Doctor knows, having seen googleplexes of them.   If they want Crother or Proteus, they must follow his rules.

But changing the rules is what the the Doctor does best.  They climb into the cart and start rolling.  The gentle whirr of a small electric engine, like a golf cart.  Other than that, the complex is eerily quiet.  Like a ghost town.  A futuristic, mechanized void.  For Stears and Uri, it feels like a funeral procession.  Or a trip to the gallows.

The Doctor hits the sonic screwdriver again.  Comm static.  They’ve lost Camille again.  Then he asks Gabe if he can hack into the control systems before Camille calls back.

The Doctor could do it himself, but he’s going to trace her command channel back to the source.  Camille is controlling major functions of the computer network from a control center.  Full access to everything.  He wants to go there first.  And they don’t have much time before she retaliates.

Scene Four reveals the demands of production and problems with the plot.  I wanted a short, tight plot and a small cast.  This story was to be performed live, with a shorter running time than earlier drafts.  I keep looking for ways to cut the story way, way back.  Fewer subplots, less backstory, no cast of thousands.  So I thought a vast, empty lab complex would fix those problems all at once.  It also left a big plot hole.  Why such a big complex for just two people?  Did Crother feed everyone else to Proteus?  If he had, the foreshadowed horrors to come would’ve happened a lot sooner.  I opted instead for a faceless crowd in the background, who all get killed off when the Big Bad is released.  Ruthless and bloodthirsty.  That’s me.

Scene 5.
Crother’s office.
Computers in bg.  Over the comm, Camille reports she has lost their visitors.  They must be jamming the comm system, and the automated cargo cart is out of her control.  Professor Crother fumes.  His work is at a critical stage.  His responses are cool and demeaning, but Camille is apologetic and fawning.  He gently declares her a disappointment, a source of heartbreak, and now he must tear himself away from the experiment.  No, no, Professor, I can do it — I’ll find them and punish them for what they’ve done to you.  Go get ‘im, beautiful.  I could eat you up.

We’ve already established Camille and hinted that something wasn’t quite right with her.  Here, we delve into that further –  Crother’s dysfunctional hold over her.  Creepy, manipulative little [BEEP]!  It also shows how quickly I’m rushing the writing process here.  Rather than convert the dialogue into narrative or set off the dialogue in quotations, I just lumped it all together.

Scene 6.
Lab complex corridor.
A futuristic corridor.  The cart whirrs into scene.  Urgent — Camille will find them any minute.  The Doctor leads everyone to a sealed door marked “central access” — access to the central computer.  The signals have been coming from there.  He opens it and finds Camille — half alive, part machine.

Scene 7.
Interface room.
The Doctor leads them into the proverbial dragon’s lair.  Low, powerful electrical hum.  Camille is wired into huge servers and mainframes, part of the system, not just running it.

Crother did this to her, didn’t he?  No!  She insists that she chose to do this — for him!  Gabe & Michaela are horrified.  Stears and Uri wants to kick Crother’s ass.  But the Doctor is moved.  She did this to herself; sacrificed her own humanity for the love of a selfish man.  But has she ever received that love?

THE DOCTOR: We are here.  We see what you’ve done to yourself.  And we mourn.  But the man you love.  He’s not here.

CAMILLE:  He’s here!  Sometimes.

Defiant and in denial, Camille lashes out.  He’s in the company of terrorists and murderers.  Monsters.  He’s the one who’s alone!  And the Doctor is strangely silent.

Reluctantly they confront Camille for data on Proteus.  She refuses to betray Crother, the man she loves.  Computer cables tear free, letting off sparks.  She’ll fry them dead before she’ll let them hurt her man.

The Doctor apologizes for manhandling her.  Sonic screwdriver.  Cables fall with a dull flap and an electrical fizzle.  Camille is outraged but weak, her muscles atrophied from disuse.  Crother calls in; the network is offline (and she’s a real disappointment — at that, she weeps.)

The Doctor sonics Gabe’s handheld and tells him to download files.  Gabe jacks into the computer.  Instead of a cyber-smash-n-grab, it’s a flashfeed dump of everything!  The sonic is magic!

Michaela insists on setting Camille free.  The Doctor warns that she’ll resist.  Indeed, powerless Camille rages at her rescuers.   Then the door shuts behind them.  A mechanical hiss.  People start to cough.  Gas!  Camille falls.

The Doctor helps Uri and Stears pull the door open just enough.  They take Gabe and crawl out.  Michaela won’t leave without Camille.  Door shuts.

Scene 8.
Lab complex corridor.
Stears, Gabe, and Uri fight with the door.  Gabe tries to jack into the door control, but it’s the same lock as the space elevator.  Over the comm, Crother tells them to stay put unless they want the cart to run over them.  Then the autocart charges them — pins them against the door.  Another gas jet hisses.  It’s directly over the door!  Coughing.  Drowsy groans.  Loud, metallic clangs & servo motors.  They tumble in and get hauled away!   No, Crother has plans for them.  All of them.

Scene Eight here is the beginning of the wasteful back-and-forth that has resulted from separating the characters.  In the script, I keep them together as much as possible.  The knockout gas beat is played twice, and doesn’t move the plot any faster for all the repetition.  I later condensed this into the previous scene, so the protagonists all share the same peril at once.

Scene 9.
Back to Camille’s interface room.
Coughing and the hiss of gas.  Michaela tries to wake up Camille, and starts to succumb as well.  The Doctor is still standing, if barely.   Crother speaks over the comm, impressed but mocking his resolve.  Air pumps and fans.  The Doctor can breathe.  Camille and Michaela come to.

Perhaps a deal.  Hook Camille back into the network… and he can live.  The Doctor has a better idea.  Set them free and he can help Crother get what he really wants — Proteus!  Crother scoffs.  What can one man do that an entire division of scientists couldn’t?

THE DOCTOR:  Allow me to demonstrate!

The Doctor’s sonic.  Computer sound speeds up.  The Doctor mutters, reading.  Flashfeeding into his own head.  Crother cuts power to the room.  But now the Doctor has tons of data about Proteus in his head.

Crother tests him.  What is Proteus?  It is a strange alien artifact, dark and shaped like a pentaprism.   Mining robots found it encased in rock dated thousands of years old.  And it guards its secrets well, hence Proteus.  It sat dormant until scanner beams woke it up, and generated a weak E-M field ever since.  Further scans reveal less and less, draining power from the scanner beams.  Is it protecting its secrets?  Or recharging?  Or both!

THE DOCTOR: Oh, and a fleet of armed spacecraft tried to destroy it.

CROTHER: (pause)(laugh) I beg your pardon?

THE DOCTOR:  Molecular studies of the surrounding rock.  They reveal concentric stress patterns.  Nuclear disruption.  Thousands of years ago, someone tried to destroy your artifact. (pause) I’m sorry, did you miss that?

Awkward pause.  Crother smoulders, then says it’s time they met face to face.  But they must reconnect Camille.   Camille is relieved, gushing with gratitude to Crother, mocking the Doctor.  To Michaela’s horror and outrage, the Doctor complies.  Quietly he tells Michaela he hasn’t given up on her yet.   The door opens.  Michaela and the Doctor exit.

Interesting backstory for Proteus, but the plot is already running long.  Reconnecting Camille was housecleaning the plot, maintaining story logic but not moving things ahead.  Had to get to the heart of the matter.

Scene 10.
Lab complex corridor.
Michaela’s & the Doctor’s footsteps.  They follow Crother’s directions, presumably to the professor’s office.

CROTHER: (laughs) You don’t trust me?

THE DOCTOR:  In science, there is no trust, Professor. (wistful) “Only in mathematics will we find truth.”

CROTHER: Ah, a cynic.

THE DOCTOR:  A quote.  From a tyrant.

The Doctor moves in one direction, seemingly making a wrong turn.  He points out to Michaela the wheel tracks of the autocart heading that way.  What lies that way?  Crother dismisses it and mocks the Doctor’s sense of direction.  If he wants to help his friends, the Doctor must see Crother first.  The Doctor lets the comment pass, growing cool and aloof.  They follow the professor’s voice into his office.

Two things here.  The quote is a reference to the Doctor’s history.  Hardcore fans would recognize the quote from one of the Doctor’s former teachers, who later became power-mad.  This also hints at the cause of the Doctor’s loneliness, the reason why he is in fact the last of his kind.  The other point is that I was using a classic folklore trope, the lure of the forbidden.  Bluebeard’s secret door.  The Tree of Knowledge.

Scene 11.
Crother’s Office.
Computers in bg.  Crother greets them at gunpoint.  He takes her guns and lingers on the sonic screwdriver, intrigued.

CROTHER: How does it work?

THE DOCTOR:  Quite well.  For me.

The Doctor gives Crother’s office a good look.  It’s like a mini-command center.  Multiple screens and control boards.  If Camille was the brain of the complex, all these screens are the eyes.  Cameras and scanners monitor every inch of Crother’s little world… except for the few blinded by the Doctor’s meddling.

Clearly they’ve started on the wrong foot, the Doctor says.  He brings the discussion back to his offer to help research Proteus.  But he needs two things.  A chance to personally observe the Proteus device.  And assurances that his friends will be safe.

Crother agrees and gets Camille.  Camille is pleased to hear her master’s voice (as the Doctor points out).  But Michaela wants to know where Gabe, Uri, and Cmdr Stears went.

Crother turns her demands into an opportunity of fulfill both of the Doctor’s conditions.  He opens two sliding windows and reveals two connected chambers.  The first chamber is the airtight center of the lab complex, a sealed mineshaft… that contains the Proteus artifact!  The second room is an iso-chamber with an airlock leading straight to Proteus.  And Gabe, Uri, and Cmdr Stears are inside it!

Voices shouting at Crother.  Uri and Stears shout threats at their captor.  Michaela shouts at them, trying to answer.

THE DOCTOR: Crother, get them out of there!  You can’t expose them to the Proteus device!  You don’t know what would happen!

CROTHER: Of course not.  It’s an experiment, idiot.  It responded to electromagnetic fields.  But would it respond to the presence of flesh and blood?

THE DOCTOR:  Or perhaps it’s dangerous.  Consider that for a moment.  Maybe two!

Michaela panics and pleads.  Doctor, help them, please!  Camille tries to reassure her that it’s for science, meek and doubtful now.

Crother pushes for more analysis –  threatens to open the airlock.  The Doctor complies, but Crother doesn’t like the results.  Proteus is a technological hodgepodge.  Spare parts from different devices, different tech levels, and different planets.  The exterior comes from a Zassich memory cell, archival grade.  Hologram data storage from Bithos.  Arushian stealth countermeasures.  Organic crystals.  Refrigeration units.  All surrounded by incomplete circuitry.  Proteus shouldn’t work at all.

CROTHER: (laughs) You and your friend sound upset, Doctor!  You wanted Proteus, didn’t you?  After all that’s what brought you here.  Or rather, me.

MICHAELA: (pause)  You?  You brought us here?!

THE DOCTOR:  Of course.   Professor Crother was the leak.  Leaving a data trail.  Hints about… experiments on living beings!

MICHAELA:  Oh God, it’s a trap.

CROTHER:  More subtle than your little death threats.  The company wants you people gone.  I needed live test subjects.  And who’s going to miss you?

Crother orders Camille to open the airlock and begin the experiment.  She says no.
She won’t kill, not even for love.  Crother is stunned.  Then enraged.  He hasn’t spent years in isolation, obsessing over an interstellar junk pile, just to lose it all because of a timid assistant!  Camille balks.  She’s a scientist.  He cuts off her access to the lab, but forces her to watch him make history — without her.  He moves to open the airlock himself.

THE DOCTOR:  Crother, if you think I’ll let you do this, you are very mistaken.

CROTHER:  I have the gun, Doctor.  And a finger on the airlock control.

THE DOCTOR: Yet on your console, the door control is conveniently marked right HERE!

Wham!  The Doctor slaps the control.  Crother moves to stop him.  Camille bypasses the door control, but it was only a diversion.  Catching him by surprise, Michaela clocks him and disarms him.   The Doctor retrieves his sonic screwdriver.  Camille strikes at them — electrical bolts lancing out at them from overloaded circuits.  She drives Michaela and the Doctor out.  Woozy, Crother comes to.

CROTHER: (woozy) Camille.  Help me.

CAMILLE: (filtered)  I’ll get you to Medical.  Sending the autocart–

CROTHER:  No.  Open… airlock.

CAMILLE: (filtered) I, I said no.

CROTHER: Shapeless, trapped worm.

SFX: Keyboard tap.  Computer beep.

CAMILLE: Manual control?!  I don’t have access!  To anything!

CROTHER:  Won’t let you ruin this.

SFX: Keyboard tap.  Computer beep.

CAMILLE: (filtered) Airlock shutdown?  You’re cutting off their oxygen!  They’ll die!  Stop it!  STOP IT!

CROTHER: Can’t be stopped.  Not you.  The Doctor.  Or anyone.  Recorders on.  The experiment begins.  Now.

Scene 12.
Lab complex corridor.
The Doctor & Michaela run into scene.  Short on time, the Doctor plays a hunch and sonics the air for traces of gas.  It leads them along the mysterious autocart tracks seen earlier, straight to the airlock!

Airlock hisses open.  The muffled pulses and murmurs of air pumps, like an airlock.   Uri, Stears, and Gabe mumble, chuckle, and gasp, asphyxiating.  Michaela & the Doctor rush in.  Before they can drag them out, the airlock closes behind them.  Crother addresses them over the comm, still shaking off Michaela’s attack.

CROTHER: (filtered)(groans) Welcome back, Doctor.  Just in time.  Your air is almost gone.  Only one source of air left.  The Proteus Lab.

Airlock hisses open.  Disoriented, Stears tumbles into the Proteus Lab alone.  The Doctor and the others move to save him, but too late.  Now they’re trapped, confronted with Proteus itself.

Scene 13.
The Proteus Lab.
Scanners beeping.  Crother tells Stears to get closer to the artifact.  Like hell.  Stears is gasping for air, disoriented but defiant.  Also weak, the Doctor moves to help him, but the airlock shuts him out.  Crother threatens to remove the air from the lab.

CROTHER:  That’s right, Commander.  You have less than a minute to reach the artifact.  Or you will asphyxiate.

Over the comm, Crother is excited.  The artifact’s energy field is already responding to Stears’ presence, increasing.

Sonic screwdriver.  The Doctor and the others scramble through, forced into the Proteus Lab’s abundant air supply.  Uri & Gabe are coming to, but they don’t understand the urgency to leave.  Michaela explains they’re the guinea pigs, that it was a trap all along.

And before the Doctor can stop him, Stears has wandered too close to the mysterious artifact.  Proteus creates a small crystal shard.  It sounds like stone and glass being ground together.  Small whoosh of air.  Look out!  It shot the crystal deep into Stears!  His body goes into shock.  Risking his life, Uri jumps out and drags Stears back.  The Doctor scans around with the sonic screwdriver.  The air is clean.  But the wound is infested with non-human DNA — alien morphogens.

The Doctor puts it all together.  Organic crystals.  In-vitro cryogenics?  Holographic memory design principles?  Memory.  Non-volatile storage… with snap-frozen tissue samples!  It’s a race bank!  But which race, what species?

A sick, loud, almost wet, glassy crunch.  Michaela, Gabe, and Uri recoil in horror.  Stears watches shards sprout in his flesh.  A horrific transformation.  Unaware or disinterested in the suffering involved, Crother is excited.  Vindicated!  Metamorphosis!

Crother’s cry is more apt than he realizes.  Stears grows more legs, bursting with crystal shards.  Skin turns blue.  New fingers grow.  His voice is changing, crunching like glass.

CROTHER:  Commander Stears!  Tell me, what are you experiencing!

STEARS:  (filtered) I… I….

THE DOCTOR:  I… know that voice!

STEARS-I:  (vocoder) I… am I.

[Cliffhanger?]

Neil Marsh insisted on a cliffhanger.  The classic show often had them, but the modern one rarely ever did, so this was a strange demand.  On the other hand, I like cliffhangers.  I tagged a likely place for one, intended as the midpoint.  Even with a new tighter plot, this appears on page 27 of the script — several pages late for a 45-page radio script.  While Russell T. Davies consciously flouted screenwriting rules when they got in the way of a fun story — and I was trying to follow his example here — I began to worry about the overall length.

Scene 14.
Still in Proteus Lab.
Stears’ transformation is complete.  Now he is one of the I.  The first of a new generation.  Michaela, Uri, and Gabe try to remind him of his former self.  But the Doctor realizes it’s too late.  Stears is being genetically rewritten.  Everything that made him Stears — from his brain to his DNA — has been changed.  His body mass has been reshaped, his genetic data overwritten with a new program:  to become the first of a new I colony.

The glass-grinding sound again.  Proteus is making more shards!  Run for cover! The Doctor uses his overcoat to shield them.  Pops of air.  Shards fly and impact with a crunch on the scenery.

THE DOCTOR: So much for that coat.  Into the airlock!  Now!

The Doctor forces everyone back into the airlock and sonics the door shut.  Is he nuts?  There’s no air inside!  He sonics the other side open.  Go!  But where?  He leads everyone back to Crother’s office — their best chance to monitor the I.

Doctor Who traditionalists, including writers from the classic series, have criticized the liberal and almost magical use of the sonic screwdriver in the new era.  But working with time constraints, I understand the allure.  If an obstacle was holding up the story as well as the characters, a quick burst of sonic got you back to the plot.

Scene 15.
Crother’s office.
Crother gleefully notes the latest developments, scanning air samples and Stears’ new brainwave patterns.  Camille tries not to watch, but as the computer network, she has no choice but to process the data streaming in.

Sonic screwdriver.  Door opens.  The Doctor leads Michaela, Uri, and Gabe inside.  Crother greets them at gunpoint again.  Sonic.  Metal bits fall to the ground.  Uri hauls back and decks Crother.  Michaela’s group want revenge for Stears.  Even bruised, Crother is amused.  They had threaten to kill him earlier.  They barely knew Stears, whereas he’s been his supervisor for years.  And he’s convinced this is an improvement.

Uri and Michaela hold him while the Doctor surveys the situation.  Camille, the heart of the machine, still has no access.  But they can see the I Drone in the Proteus Lab.  Crother assures them it’s sealed and low on oxygen.

That’s not enough for the Doctor.  The I Drone has been programmed to survive at all costs.  Sooner or later, it will escape.  The Doctor wants everyone to join forces and stop the I.   Yes, the I really are that serious.  This species is ruthless, determined to expand.

So what are… is… what are they dealing with?  The I is a hive intelligence, a race of techno-parasites, if you will.  In many ways, the I is selfishness incarnate. They often steal tech, seed it on different planets, and wait for other species to develop them.  Then the I come back to invade the seeded planets and harvest the results, leaving destruction in their wake.

A shocking revelation interrupts the Doctor’s explanation.  Crother watches in awe; the Doctor and the rest, in horror.  The I Drone splits in half with a crunch of glass.  Then the Proteus device throws more shards at them, rebuilding them.

The I colony is re-spawning.  This is why an alien space fleet reduced Planet 4986 Cerberi-D to a big lump of rock –  to wipe out the infestation.  If set free, the I will consume every inhabited planet.

Crother is fascinated, but the Doctor and the others want to get out now, to return to the orbital station and rally their forces.  Crother assures them they have time.    He cut power to the airlock to keep everyone inside.  Only the Doctor’s sonic device could open it now.  But the I say something that inspires them, something that shocks everyone.

STEARS-I: (vocoder) The Doctor opened it faster.  Sonic device.  I like that!

Airlock door open, filtered over comm speakers.  The two I Drones tackle the airlock together, using a hidden hand-crank mechanism.   But how did they know it was there?

THE DOCTOR:  Poor Commander Stears.  The I are using his knowledge.

CROTHER: Well, they won’t learn much from him.

STEARS-I: (vocoder) Crother.  Knows more.  I need Crother!

THE DOCTOR: I suggest you start running, Professor.

The I skitter through the airlock, into the lab complex, charging Crother’s door.  The Doctor and the others look for another way out.  But Crother refuses to help or to leave.  He wants Proteus for himself.

THE DOCTOR:  Mad scientists.  Children are more reasonable.

Camille tells them over the comm about emergency exits, almost high-tech secret passages.  The Doctor sonics an emergency fire hatch open.  Before they can escape, the I Drones pry the door open with a mechanical crunch — the stripping of gears and frying circuits.

The I enter with the shard-throwing Proteus device in hand.  The Doctor sends Michaela through.   Crother grabs Gabe and shields himself.  Uri goes wild and pries the boy free.  Glass shards fly.  Bodies fall.  The Doctor drags Uri and Gabe to the emergency hatch, then sees the shaken and frustrated Crother stricken with glass shards.

CROTHER: (shaken) Save your pity, Doctor.  The boy. (laughs)  He needs it more!

Uri and the Doctor realize that Gabe has also been hit.  Gabe tells them to go.  And he’s right.  The I Drones are still bearing down on them.  The Doctor and Uri have no choice but to run.  Emotional, Uri leaves behind the son he could’ve had.  Hatch slams shut.

CROTHER: (spasming) Boy, prepare… yourself.  Uh! Augh! (laugh) Here I go!

A sick, loud glassy crunch.  Crother joins the I.  Gabe is terrified.  Wracked with pain.  Crying.  Trying to call out to Michaela.

GABE:  Mick-ah…. Momma…?  Momma!

Then comes the crunching glass fx.  Gabe is gone.

The confab in Crother’s office dragged on and on, thanks to all the exposition.  In the script, it becomes more of a bunker scenario, with the main cast locked inside while the I grew in numbers and charged their refuge.  Crother’s & Gabe’s conversion was pushed out into the next scene.

Scene 16.
Camille’s interface room.
Hatch clangs open.  Michaela scrambles into scene, thanking Camille for the way out.  She move to disconnect Camille when Uri and the Doctor come out of the hatch.  But not Gabe.  The Doctor apologizes to her, but it’s Uri that she confronts.  Didn’t he try to save him?  Barely calm, Uri offers no excuses.  Michaela accuses him of being glad to finally get rid of the boy.  But Uri feels the loss.

The Doctor points out they don’t have time for this.  The I are coming for them.  He asks Camille to contact the space station, but something else is running the network.  Using Crother’s access codes.  It’s the I.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) I… am I.  I… have this complex.

THE DOCTOR: I could’ve told you that.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) I hear you, Doctor.  I see you.

THE DOCTOR:  I beg your pardon? A little privacy!

The Doctor sonics the cameras offline, then sets Camille free again.  Together, they head for the space elevator.

Revealing Crother’s integration into the I is pushed further out, as a set-up for the final confrontation.  It doesn’t affect the stakes much until the climax.  I mean, the I are chasing everybody either way.  So it made more sense to reserve the unveiling of the Crother-I for later, when it would cause the most grief.  I’m such a sweetheart.

Scene 17.
Lab complex corridor.
The Doctor and company run into scene.  Michaela has been carrying Camille, so Uri takes over.  Servo motors.  They realizes security cameras are tracking them.  The Doctor sonics the security systems again, but doubts it’ll work for much longer.  The I outnumber them.  And now they have Crother’s knowledge of the lab complex, including the space elevator.  The I will know to look there.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Camille.  Smart.   Obedient.

CAMILLE: No… no!

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Good server.  Smart.  Adaptable.  I… want Camille.

CAMILLE:  Help me! He’s coming for me!

Several I Drones skitter into scene with the Proteus device in tow, looking for more bodies.  And something else.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder)  Sonic device.  I like that, Doctor.  I want.

THE DOCTOR: Hardly changed at all. (to the others) Run!

And they run for it.  Uri and Michaela shoot at the I, but their shots only ricochet off the crystal shards, ringing like off-key glass chimes.  They look fragile, but somehow they’re armored.  And if a fleet of spaceships couldn’t destroy the race bank, fat chance of a bullet doing the job.

Then they hear the electric motor of the autocart, which is barreling down at them, another trick learned from Crother.  But the Doctor intervenes with his sonic screwdriver, wresting control away and sending into the I Drones.  Now their chance to run for the space elevator.

Radiodrama is sound.  Words, music, and sound cues.  We often depend on the characters describing aloud what’s going on (though preferably in a way that doesn’t suspend everyone’s disbelief.)  Crother’s taunts would’ve interfered with stage business like the chase, so I trimmed them out.

Scene 18.
Lab terminal.
The Doctor and the others run into scene.  Behind them, the skittering of the I Drones is distant but closing.  Long, glassy tearing sounds hint at drones getting split and regrown, doubling their numbers.

But the lab terminal is strangely silent. No power.  The boarding hatch is dead.  And the propulsion lasers that push the space elevator up need time to charge up. Crother’s last and cruelest trick.  They’re trapped.

The Doctor turns to Camille for help.  Giving them cover, Uri and Michaela fire into the growing I horde.  Camille insists she’s powerless against Crother, but she has knowledge the Doctor needs.  With her permission, he touches her mind.  Now he can see the circuit layouts and power relays.

With his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor revives the lab terminal.  Computer panels awaken with a chirp.  The propulsion lasers fade up, resonating like a futuristic dragon.  The skittering of the I is closer, louder.  Boarding hatch opens.  The Doctors bids the others to board the lifter — quickly!

Another delay in the action.  Apparently I was writing this and mapping out the world — storytelling and stage blocking — at the same time.  Also, I overlooked the sonic screwdriver’s ability to open doors.  Big plot hole.  In the script, I make better use of that and push the mind meld business into the next scene.

Scene 19.
Space elevator lift vehicle.
Everyone enters.  Docking hatch closes behind them.  The Doctor tells everyone to strap in.  The computer announces imminent launch.  Then Uri & Michaela recognize the voice as Camille’s — a reminder of how she’s been used.

But in spite of the danger scraping at the door, Camille is fine for the first time in ages.  After the Doctor’s mind link, she feels whole and intact, no longer empty.  Not alone.

CAMILLE:  But you, Doctor… still.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.

Metallic scrapings at the boarding hatch.  The I are trying to get in.  Uri & Michaela want to launch right now, but the propulsion lasers don’t have time to charge safely. They’re dead.

No, the Doctor has a different idea.  A one-way trip.  He hits the sonic.  (Murray Gold’s Series 4 theme for the Doctor, a la “Forest of the Dead.”)

Alarms go off.  The power build-up doesn’t sound like the controlled hum from earlier.  It sounds more dangerous, rising and out of control.   Camille is horrified.  The propulsion lasers are on overload!

Uri & Michaela unstrap themselves and scramble to stop the Doctor.

COMPUTER: (UNDER)  All hands, brace for launch in ten.  Nine.  Eight….

THE DOCTOR: No!  Let me go, sit down!  The g-forces at launch will crush you —

MICHAELA: We’re not losing any more people, Doctor!

THE DOCTOR:  NEITHER SHALL I!

COMPUTER: (cont.)  One.  Launch.

The Doctor shoves Uri & Michaela into their seats at the last minute.  Then comes the launch.  THOOM!  The blast seems deafening.  One part thunder, two parts destruction.  Caught standing, the Doctor is crushed under the intense g-forces, flattened to the floor.

COMPUTER: Warning. Lab complex terminal offline.  Catastrophic failure.  Negative return.

Camille calls out that her vision is fading.  Uri & Michaela try to reassure her, but they’re also struggling under the g-forces.  The Doctor groans, incoherent, fighting his way back to consciousness.  Will he survive?  Alarms beeping.  The lifter sizzles and shudders.  Burning.

COMPUTER: Warning. Superheating failure.  Warning.  Propulsion lasers offline.  Deceleration window closing.  Collision imminent.

URI: Collision?!

MICHAELA:  Doctor!

THE DOCTOR: (woozy) Braking… manual… braking….

Sonic screwdriver.  The electrical pops of the landing procedure (cf Scene 4) come faster, more desperate.

COMPUTER: Decelerating.  Collision imminent. (beat) Decelerating.  Nominal travel speed.  Nominal approach.  Emergency docking protocols active.  Stand by.  Stand by.  Docking complete.

The pained grunts of our heroes’ high-g stresses ease into ache-filled groans of relief.  The clang of docking clamps.  Uri & Michaela help Camille.   Another sonic.   A mechanical hiss.  Landing complete.  To everyone’s amazement, the Doctor rises, battered and ready for the final battle.  He sonics the boarding hatch open and stumbles on.

THE DOCTOR: (weary) Not finished.  Never finished.

One of Michaela’s people hails them over the comm, alarmed by the fiery ascent of the space elevator.  The Doctor warns them of the coming invasion from below.  Michaela is skeptical.  The launch destroyed the lab complex, it must have.  The Doctor sonics a nearby comm-screen for a look below.  The others are horrified by what they see.  The I are crawling out of the blast crater, climbing up the space elevator’s tether.

THE DOCTOR: The I are coming for us. (beat) We have to stop them.

This is where the influences of the modern era are glaringly clear.  Camille’s “I’m so sorry” line is a reference to the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.  And I chose to go for mega-theatricality here.  A fiery escape.  Heartfelt declarations from the Doctor.  Borderline schmaltz.  Maybe not even borderline.  Either way, that’s emblematic of modern Doctor Who.

Scene 20.
Back to hangar deck.
The Doctor leads Michaela, Uri, and Camille into the hangar deck.  Michaela tells her people to stand down.  The Doctor explains the situation.  Cmdr Stears is dead.  And the space station will soon be invaded.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Doctor.  I call the Doctor.

THE DOCTOR: Oh, Professor Crother’s mad and he’s an alien now.  I knew I forgot something.

As one of the I, Crother speaks over the ship-wide comm.  The Doctor tries to negotiate.  The I want Camille, the station, more bodies.  Put simply, the I want everything.  The I want good things.

THE DOCTOR: The I also want to survive.  Yes?

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Yes.  I must grow.  Make more of I.

THE DOCTOR: So here’s my offer.  Return to the planetoid.  Leave everyone alone.  Survive alone.  In peace.

A long silence.  Tense.  Nerve-wracking.

THE DOCTOR:  Y’know.  Peace.  That’s a good thing.  Right?

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) I need good things to survive.

THE DOCTOR: You don’t need things to survive.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Food.  Flesh.  Life.  Knowledge.  Things.

Michaela and the others grow nervous.  They’re losing the argument.  The Doctor advises them not to panic.  The I share one group mind, a central processor.  Growing.  Seeking consensus, often imposing it.  Starving for new ideas.  The Doctor has introduced a new concept.  And he’s hoping this new colony is small enough to process these ideas quickly.

But the I come to the wrong conclusion, intrigued by this new source of ideas.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) Doctor.  Clever, powerful Doctor.  I like you.

URI: Oh hell.

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) I… could eat you up.

CAMILLE: No!  No!

MICHAELA: You can’t have him, Crother!  We won’t let you!

THE DOCTOR:  Everyone, stop! (pause) Crother, one offer!  The station or survival!

CROTHER-I: (reverb)(vocoder) I get good things, I will survive.

THE DOCTOR: Why did I run, Crother? (pause) Eh?  Think now.  I don’t read books, I read libraries.  I can stop you with a sound.  I rode a pillar of fire into the sky.  If I can do all that just to escape, what happens when I stand my ground?  Who would survive?  Would you? (pause) One offer.  One warning.

Camille checks the scanners.  The I are still climbing up.  Disappointed but firm, the Doctor closes the channel.

The Doctor cannot allow the I to take him, let alone take the station and thrive.  The I would consume them.  Then the Doctor.  Then his Tardis.  Finally, the entire cosmos all at once.  Like a plague of locusts on every planet, every moment in history.

Everyone must take the cargo shuttle and evacuate.  Michaela & Uri want to fight.  Their followers back them up.  To the horror of the Doctor and Camille, some of the station crew feel the same.  They all want blood.

CAMILLE: I thought you were all monsters.  But those things!  The I!

THE DOCTOR: Camille’s right!  You saw what they can do!

MICHAELA: They took Gabe!  Took him away from me!

URI: Damn right they did.  We can’t — I — can’t run away.  Doctor, he was our boy.

MICHAELA: In the slums and the jail pits, all we had was Gabe!

URI: He’s gone, Doctor.

MICHAELA: How do we run away and live with that, Doctor? (sobs) Uri….

URI: (hugs) Easy, boss girl. (pause) Bet you wouldn’t understand.  Doctor.

THE DOCTOR: (pause) More than you realize.

Camille readily agrees to get the cargo shuttle ready. For everyone.  Staying here is suicide!

The Doctor rallies them with a final plan.  There is a way to stop the I.  Uri & Michaela will destroy the station, yes.  But not their old plan.  The Doctor’s plan.  On his commands.  The station must be under his complete control.

Together, they will turn it into a trap for the I — this far and no farther.

Several things are going on here.  The most obvious is setting up the climax.  And by now, everyone has come to rely on the Doctor.  So when he’s threatened, the stakes get a lot higher really, really fast.  Also, in response to complains about Doctor Who‘s tendency to feature people running down corridors, I offer a sensible and rather in-character explanation for it.  The Doctor, the lonely god, could cause a lot of destruction if he wanted it.  But he doesn’t, so he runs instead.  And I get to squeeze in a little poetry while I’m at it.  But above all, this scene reveals the tragic flaw that has ruined Michaela’s life, her instinct for violence and revenge.  Her reasoning is believable, even sympathetic.  But ultimately her downfall.

Scene 21.
Later, on hangar deck.
Klaxons.   Running feet on deckplates.  Much like the opening of Scene 1 — but now flesh-and-blood Camille is on shipwide comm, frightened.  She directs the hangar deck crew’s work on the cargo ship.

She checks on the Doctor, who’s working on the computer network, expressing doubt.  She thinks they’re mad to fight the I.  How can the Doctor encourage them to throw their lives away?

The Doctor reassures her.  The I can be destroyed.  He’s met them before.  Back then, the I were dependent on a central control node, mindless without it.  Hence the Proteus device, their back-up system.  To shield it from the attack, this I colony buried it deep in the planet’s crust.  But now the Proteus device is in the open.  Vulnerable.

The Doctor is on the comm with Michaela and Uri.  They’re setting his plan in motion.  Their people and station crewmembers are planting explosives, following his directions, on key airlocks and bulkheads.  The Doctor urges them to hurry to the fusion reactor.

Camille raises an alarm.  Exterior airlock controls went online.  It’s the I!  They’re scaling the hull to reach an airlock.  The Doctor cuts power to the airlock.  Their roles are now reversed.

But the I drones use their numbers to force it open! Hull breach at the docking collar!  The I are getting inside!

The Doctor gets on the comm.  Avoid all contact with the I!  But too late.  The sounds of battle and fear come over the comm channel.   Gunfire.  The skittering of the I horde.  Crystals whoosh through the air and crash.  Screams.  “The aliens, they’re here!  They’re–” Crunching glass.  Static.

Camille begins to panic.  The Doctor urges her to board the cargo ship now.  Over the comm, Michaela & Uri also react to the news.  Uri wants to hunt them down.  But Michaela needs him to watch her back.

MICHAELA (filtered):  Revenge. For Gabe.

URI (filtered): For Gabe.

A dark, anxious musical transition.

Scene 22.
Still on hangar deck.

Another alarm.  Camille checks.  It’s Crother.  He’s trying to access the station network.  The Doctor takes it away from him, turning it inside out.  The network is going mad!  Command functions are routed through hydropodics, the entertainment library, the mail system!

Then Camille sees the I on the security cams.  They’re changing direction, toward the fusion reactor!  Crother knew about the terrorist plan, so the I know it too.  They’re moving to secure the reactor!  The Doctor makes a desperate move.

THE DOCTOR: Everyone, brace yourselves!  Braking thrusters!

Before Camille can stop him, the Doctor stops the rotation of the space station.  The distant hiss & pop of thrusters.  Hard, gut-slamming grunts from everyone.  Metal crashing on metal.  Confused cries from station crew in the bg.  Onboard gravity is gone.  They’re all in zero-g.  In freefall.

The Doctor leaps to catch Camille before she floats away helpless.  He calls for everyone to board the shuttle.  Reluctantly Camille agrees, begging the Doctor to save Uri & Michaela.  He’s their only chance!

The cargo shuttle hatches clang shut.

THE DOCTOR:  The hangar is clear for launch!  GO!

Cargo bays groan open. Metallic clangs and hissing vacuum seals herald Camille’s escape.   The shuttle engines thunder.

THE DOCTOR: (to self) Now where did that Tardis fly off to?

A dull, distant thump.

THE DOCTOR:  Dancing on the ceiling.  Typical.  Right, first thing’s first.  Uri?  Michaela?  Respond please!

Scene 23.
Station corridor.

Door opens with a beep.  Uri & Michaela grunt and kick themselves into the air, into scene.  Air whoosh.

MICHAELA: Yes, Doctor!  Leaving the reactor area, still coping with zero-g.  A little warning next time you vandalize a space station?

THE DOCTOR: (filtered) A vandal?  Me?

URI:  Damn right!  You trying to set these babies off early?

MICHAELA: Better not.  It’s our best work ever.  Let’s move!

Another door slides open with a beep — onto gunfire and the skittering of the I.  Uri & Michaela are trapped.

But the Doctor has another trick.  Over the comm, he tells one of them to borrow someone else’s communicator.  Following its frequency, he gives it some sonic — by remote.

THE DOCTOR:  Now throw it at the I!  And run!

MICHAELA: Not running!  Flying!

Uri & MIchaela kick off and fly thru zero-g.  The comm lets out an electronic wail and a wild burst of static.  Michaela & Uri see the results, but don’t believe it.  The I drones are shambling, bumping into the walls!  The Doctor has jammed the signal from the Proteus device, scrambling the hive mind.  But the I will adjust.  It won’t last long!  Run!

But Michaela & Uri are raring for a fight.  The I are defenseless.  Gunfire over the comm.

THE DOCTOR:  (filtered) No no!  Just run!

They don’t listen.  They order their people to slaughter the I.  Gunfire richochets off chiming glass armor.  Their gunshots in freefall throw Uri & Michaela into a bulkhead.  The Doctor begs them to stop and run.

Then the jamming wears off.  The I strike back.  Battle turns ugly fast.  Screaming.  Glass shards come flying at Uri and Michaela.  He pushes her aside and shields her, taking the shards himself.  Sadly the Doctor can’t help him.  The I pathogens are instantaneous, already rewriting Uri’s DNA.

Uri urges her to take the detonator and blow the corridor into space.  He pushes her through a hatch, into another corridor, toward a painful future without him.

URI: (shaken) Can’t be afraid.  No time.  You get a chance, better take it now.  Go.

The skittering of the I is closer, louder.  Uri fires off a few more shots, then groans with the spasms of impending transformation.  He seals the bulkhead between them.  It slids and hisses shut.  Behind it, the I skitter and scrape at the hatch.  Through the bulkhead, through angry tears, Michaela says goodbye.

Scene 24.
Hangar deck.

Klaxons.  The Doctor is alone, on the comm with Michaela.

THE DOCTOR: (filtered) Michaela?  Are you there?

MICHAELA: (in tears)  On my way, Doctor!  The I are right behind me!

Door slides open with a beep.  Michaela flies through the doorway.  The Doctor pulls her aside, sending them tumbling into the wall.  Pops of air and the tiny shattering of crystals hint at the fate she narrowly avoided.

Michaela reaches for the detonator and suddenly realizes it was knocked out of her hand.  The Doctor sees it floating away!  They scramble to get it!

But too late.  The I horde skitter into scene, amassing a huge presence in no time at all.  Michaela and the Doctor find themselves surrounded.  To their horror, the I snatch up the floating detonator.  Their plans have backfired.  Even the Tardis is out of reach.  All seems lost.

Crother speaks for the I again, taunting the Doctor.

CROTHER: (vocoder) Detonator.  Primitive.  I expect better of you, Doctor.  Better things.

THE DOCTOR: Crother, you forget the simple pleasures.  Like fireworks.

Sonic.  Detonator beep.  Nearby explosion.  Everyone reacts to the shockwave with a grunt.

THE DOCTOR: That was the first string of explosives, Crother!  The space station is now tilting off axis!  Back toward the planetoid!  We’re falling!

Michaela urges him to set off all the other explosives.  It’s their best chance.  But not yet, the Doctor says.

The I turn on the Doctor, knowing he has ideas for escape.  Before they can use the Proteus device on him, the station tilts and turns onto its side.  Loud, huge, horrifying metallic groans.  The station is bending, straining.  Falling!

MICHAELA: Doctor!  The reactor!  What are you waiting for?

THE DOCTOR: The right time. (pause) Now.

Another sonic.  Then a deafening, bass-shaking THOOOOM.  It makes thunder sound childish.  Metal twists and screams and tears.  The I tumble into the walls like discordant glass chimes in a storm — clangs, clatters, and tone-deaf ringing.

THE DOCTOR: No, Michaela!  Stay here!  With me!  Almost there!

MICHAELA: What’s almost there!

THE DOCTOR: The Tardis!

The dull, distant thump of the Tardis on the ceiling gets louder.  Closer.  Faster and faster, thud upon thud.

MICHAELA:  It’s gonna crush us!

THE DOCTOR:  Hold on to me!  Now jump!  JUMP NOW!

They grunt with effort.  Whoosh.  Thump thump-thump-thump.  Together, they wail in terror at the approach of the Tardis.

Then the Doctor snaps his fingers.  And the Tardis doors clap shut, blocking out the sounds of destruction outside.

Scene 25.
Tardis console room.

Tardis interior bg.  The Doctor & Michaela land with a thud and a shared, painful grunt.  Then comes the mounting rumble, like a distant earthquake.

MICHAELA: (beat) Huh? Where are we?

THE DOCTOR: (grunt) Pardon me!  Bit of a rush!

Tardis controls beep and click and pump and squeak — and other weird junkyard noises that time machines really shouldn’t be making.  Then we hear it.  The ancient groan of engines.  The rumble fades away.  They’re safe.

The Doctor explains they are now inside the blue box.  This is the Tardis.  That noise just then, that was the fusion reactor explosion from one attosecond to the next.  A shaky ride, time-shifting this close to a nuclear exothermic event.  But they’re fine now.  Between moments.  Between the buh- and the -oom.  Or more like between one “ooh” and another “ooh.”  Nowhere near the consonants at that point–

Michaela attacks him — slaps and manhandles him — exploding with rage and grief.

MICHAELA: (hitting him) Shut up!  Shut up!  You don’t make sense, never make sense!  Just shut up!  Save us! That’s what you said!  You were going to save us!

THE DOCTOR: I told you … ! (holds tongue) I – I’m sorry.

MICHAELA: Sorry.  Damn you!  You don’t understand, you couldn’t!  Look at you and your damn Tardis!  What’d you ever lose?

THE DOCTOR:  Everything. (pause) My people.  My family.  My home.  And myself, more times than I thought possible.  I shouldn’t be here at all.  And yet I am.

MICHAELA: (realizing) What are you?

THE DOCTOR:  I am a Time Lord.  I’m the Doctor.  Still practicing.  Still, they say thirteenth is the charm!  Or is it fourteenth?  Ha! That shouldn’t have worked at all!

MICHAELA:  You’ve done this before?

THE DOCTOR:  Oh yes.  For centuries.

MICHAELA: Does it always end like this?

THE DOCTOR:  No.  Sometimes I’m alone.  Usually.

She asks about the station and the I.  The Doctor works a squeaky wheel, directing her attention to the monitor that he’s brought down to eye-level.  He reveals a fireball striking a planetoid.  No sign of the I or Crother or the Proteus device.  They’ve been destroyed.

And Camille?  The Doctor flicks a few switches.  The monitor warbles and changes view.  Her cargo shuttle flies on.  The Doctor estimates they’ll reach inhabited space in nine days.  They’ll be fine.  Michaela tries to take comfort in that.

MICHAELA: (pause) Run.  You said to run.   Doctor, what I said.

THE DOCTOR: (gentle) It’s all right, I understand.  I wish I could say it gets better.  But let me say this.  One day you’ll be happy.  I mean, you’ll hate yourself at first.  But then you’ll realize the people you loved… always loved it when you were happy.

MICHAELA: (pause) I don’t know what to do now.

THE DOCTOR: Well, I have a thought.  Come with me.

MICHAELA:  Where?

THE DOCTOR:  Anywhere!  Any time!  See the universe.  Past, present, future.  Maybe afters.  Right some wrongs.  Eat alien food.  Or not.  Sometimes it bites back.  Explore museums older than mankind.  And talk real loud like a tourist!  (pause) Come with me.

MICHAELA: (skeptical) And be happy?

THE DOCTOR: (smiles) I’m the Doctor, not a miracle worker.

MICHAELA:  Liar.  You’re on.

Closing theme screams in.  End credits.

As you can see, the plot still needs work at this stage.  But the basic premise and many character arcs are nailed down.  Even with further revision on the horizon, this draft provides a good foundation for a first draft script.

Which should be soon.  Very, very soon.

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