Sunday 25 September 2011

Testing... Testing... Pilot Episode

Anything done for the first time unleashes a demon.
– Dave Sim

(INT:  The Living Room.  After lunch.)

(Start on The Beginning Box Set – placed on top of a television.  Pull back to reveal the empty case for An Unearthly Child.  Pull back further until we can see the television screen itself: it’s black, then a copyright warning, 2 Unlimited, an ident frenzy and the menu screen begins proper with a tumbling Police Box falling into a logo then returning for the screen to be sucked into the World Of Fiction and a rather unsettling montage.  Atonal atmospheric noises mixed with plucked high notes.  Screams and-)

WILLIAM HARTNELL:  Sorry.  I’m sorry, it’s all my fault.  I’m desperately sorry.

FIRST WRESTLER:  It’s good to have someone to LAUGH AT!

GUMBY:  Urgh!

SUSAN:  Grandfather!

(Pull back to reveal the HIM and the ME on the couch.  The limited rice pudding’s all gone.)

ME: That menu screen’s a bit spooky.

HIM:  Is it?

ME: Don’t you think so?

HIM:  No.

ME: Why not?

HIM: That it’s a creepy title screen?  It just doesn’t seem like one.  Why do you mean it’s creepy?

ME:  It seems an odd way to start the best part of half a century of adventures.  That piano-

HIM:  Piano?  There’s a piano?

ME:  Yeah, the-

HIM: Oh!  The piano.  I thought you meant there was an actual piano in caveman times.


ME:  I’m glad this is just a dry run.  I’ve just realised how much extra work I’m going to have to do to bang this into something readable.

HIM:  Shouldn’t we have an intro bit?

ME: No.  Right.  The Pilot Episode.

(Click.  It begins.)

HIM:  Are we going to do the Special Editions when we –

(The rising Howlaround worm throws off audio dust into the time vacuum and there’s an unexpected BANG of thunder or a gunshot or something.)

What was that?

(Pause – the Greatest Theme In The History Of Ever grinds on.)

I love the way the music’s still the same – just sped up.

(The HIM starts singing the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre lyrically embellished version of the Grainer/Derbyshire beauty.  The ME wonders how the subject of Murray Gold can be broached delicately, decides it can’t and opts to wait several months instead.)

Oh – and commentaries.  Are we doing those?

ME:  Best not.

(Bring Out Yer Dead tolling bell.  Long Dixon Of Dock Green wobble-shot leading through fog, gates and up to – the TARDIS!)

BOTH:  Yay!

HIM:  It didn’t have the British Health thing on it for ages.

ME:  The what?

HIM: (ignoring the comment as the camera zooms in on the Pull To Open sign.  Somewhat recklessly.)  Oop.  Stumbling cameraman.  Did they change that sign at all?

ME: (Realising he’ll have to do a bit more research before each episode to appear more knowledgeable about stuff that doesn’t really matter) I think it got resized.  And they took it out of the frame.  Or they might’ve painted it.

(Scene change.  Coal Hill School corridor.  Due to cutbacks many of the school buildings are creased.)

(Pupils file out from a door.  Two girls stand right in front of the camera, one whispers to the other.)

ME:  “Bet we have to do this whole thing from scratch.”

(She stares at us.  Right at us.  Right into our souls.)

(Enter Barbara.)

HIM:  Barbara doesn’t seem like a teacher.

(She walks down the corridor and into the Laboratory.  Hello Ian.)

I hadn’t realised she was a teacher until you told me.  And I didn’t think Ian was a headteacher.

ME:  He isn’t.

(Ian and Barbara are discussing a mutual student.)

HIM:  “Susan Foreman?  Yes, she’s from Gallifrey.”

ME:  “Is that in Ireland?”

HIM:  I remember the first time we watched this – and you started explaining it to me.  “Susan’s a student, these are her teachers and she’s brighter than they are.”

ME:  And?

HIM:  And that’s all I remembered about it.  I didn’t remember any cavemen.

ME:  Well – there aren’t really any-

(The scene changes to reveal An Unearthly Child getting down to some bangin’ choons.)

HIM:  What’s with the creepy music?  And the weird dance?

ME:  Sorry. I was getting into it. 


She’s supposed to be a bit weird.  A bit unearthly.

HIM:  She’s supposed to be alien?  Tch.  That’s not alien music.

ME:  Would be with a theremin.  There’s some more bad dancing coming up.

HIM: (Pointing at the blackboard)  Oo.  They’re doing that thing where you change money into other money.

ME:  What?  Shopping?

HIM:  No.  Conhersion.

ME:  Conversion?

HIM:  Conversion conschmersion.

(On the screen, Susan’s being considerably unearthly.)

ME:  She’s quite different in the Pilot.

(Susan refuses a lift.)

HIM:  “I’ve been told not to go home with strangers.”

(Ian and Barbara say “Good night” and leave.)

“Good night”?  How long did they keep her for?

ME:  She’s got art homework too.

(Susan begins rushing a still-life.)

HIM:  That’s art?

ME:  And…

(Susan folds the paper and then opens it.)

It’s a butterfly!

HIM:  That’s not a butterfly.

ME:  Sydney Newman wasn’t happy with it either.

(Susan looks embarrassed and crumples the paper.)

HIM:  And neither was she.

ME:  Could be a sketch of Cthulhu, I suppose.

(Ian and Barbara stake out the Foreman residence.)

This is all in one take, y’know?  They’ve just popped into a prop on the other side of the studio.  That’s why Susan started doing the mad portrait – to give them time to get there.

HIM: I get it.

BARBARA:  She can’t have got here yet.  I suppose we are doing the right thing?

HIM:  Yeah – spying!

(Jacqueline Hill stumbles over a line.)

Explain the what now?

(Flashback to earlier, where Susan gets her decades fuddled.)

SUSAN:  Yes, of course.  The decimal system hasn’t started yet.

HIM:  Ooops.

ME:  That’s a superb look that Carole Ann Ford gives there.
(Back to the car, then another flashback.)

They’ve got her running from set to set on the other side of the studio.

(There’s a final, quite weird moment where the fifth dimension is revealed and then-)

That’s a nice shot, where Susan’s framed between the two of them.  Go on, Waris.

(Susan appears at the gates.)

She’s got a stitch now.

(Susan enters the junkyard.  It’s full of Autons.*)

HIM:  It looks like a really posh dump.  It’s not full of debris and burning bracken.

ME:  Bracken?

HIM:  Burning bracken is found in all dumps.  Except wet ones.

(Ian and Barbara leave the prop and wander the Auton graveyard, breaking things.)

ME:  It’s got an odd atmosphere – creepy.

HIM:  Oo.  It’s a police box.

IAN:  It’s a police box!

ME:  He heard you.

IAN:  It’s alive!

ME and HIM: (together) It’s alive!/It’s alive!/It’s alive!/It’s alive!  (Stolen from Frankenstein via The Simpsons (I think) and to the tune of the intro to the Mode’s Master And Servant.)

(Enter the Doctor.  Furious and coughing.)

ME:  We gave him an intro by accident.

(Ian and Barbara challenge the Doctor.)

HIM:  If those two are trespassing, what’s the Doctor up to?

ME:  Squatting?

(Much confusion around the doors of the police box.  Susan (and her theme) can be heard.  Or can she?)

HIM:  I didn’t hear Susan the first time, so I thought they were imagining it too.

(The Doctor wanders into the left of frame for a furious close-up.)

ME:  Hartnell looks great there.  He’s lit really well.

(The door opens – there’s no doubt this time.)

HIM:  Oops.  Susan’s theme.

ME:  That’s torn it.

(And the actors get a break as everyone blunders into Television History.  Or, the interior of The Ship, as we’ll call it for now, seeing as that whispering supporting artiste was right (and this is really just a DVD extra and therefore Not Canon).  What actually happens is that Barbara pushes her way into an early, better lit, version of Eraserhead.  It’s great.)

They’ve got a louder fridge than we have.

HIM:  Maybe it’s the doors closing.

ME:  I wouldn’t have thought so.  Look – there’s a Silent behind Barbara!

HIM:  Where’s all the light coming from?

ME:  Not the candles.  The roundels?  That thing on the ceiling?  I’m sure that’s back in the new series.

HIM:  Ah.

(Unearthly Susan explains to the trespassing apes about the ship being not as small as you’d expect.)

SUSAN:  I made up TARDIS from the initials.  Time And Relative Dimension In Space.

BOTH:  Yay!

IAN:  Now let me get this right.  A thing that looks like a police box, stuck in a junkyard – can move anywhere in time and space?

HIM:  Ian looks evil there.

(Ian tries to leave.)

SUSAN: You can’t get out.

ME:  Shouldn’t be too hard to open the doors…

HIM:  The fridge’s stopped making noises.

(An argument ensues.)

It’s weird how William Hartnell’s playing the same character as Matt Smith.

(The argument moves to the console.  Ian decides to try and open the box.)

SUSAN:  Don’t touch it.  It’s live!


(Pause.  Ian stiffens alarmingly.)

ME:  If a bit slow.

HIM:  Here, the Doctor’s trying to keep it a secret, but later on he’s inviting people aboard.

(A thump, a scuffle, a surprise launching.  It's the first dematerialisation.)

ME:  It’s having a bit of difficulty getting going.  But then, I suppose the brakes’re on.

HIM:  Oh – the intro makes sense to me now.  Cool – a nebula.

(Back in a sonic sandstorm the Howlaround’s really disorientating.  And then – it stops.  The Doctor standing.)

He looks furious there.

ME:  Get used to it.

HIM:  Oh – Ian and Barbara are dead.

(The TARDIS has landed in the first desolate wasteland of many.  A sinister shadow is cast by an unseen figure.)

It’s a Ganger!

ME:  It’s an amazing idea but it does seem an odd way to start something that survived the best part of half a century of adventures.  There’s a definite amount of luck going on here.  Newman gives way on all the right points and stands firm on the correct changes, and so does Lambert and by doing so they bring this weird invocation into place that creates a meme or an idea that’s so powerful it’s actually unkillable.  Well, unless Steven Moffat’s decided he’s really bored and stabs it through the chest as a wedding present to the Song, of course.


He won’t, though.

HIM:  Yeah… 


This used to be an educational show didn’t it?

ME:  That was the plan.

HIM:  Was there really a Stone Age?


ME:  Yes.  So.  That’s the Pilot.  What’d you think?

HIM:  I liked it more than Sydney Newman did.

ME:  Why’ve you got it in for Sydney Newman?

HIM:  He was always moaning.

ME:  Ah.  We’ve got a long way to go yet.  Moaning’s something that’s followed this series longer than Levine.

HIM:  Eh?

ME:  Exactly.


Right.  Shall we begin properly then?

NEXT:  Escape To Danger!

*Only having read two of the non-Target classic fiction novels (and none of the EDAs – is that right?) it’s highly possible that this flippant observation crosses into NA (how about that one?) trilogy territory.

 If it does, sorry. 

If it doesn’t, then why the hell not?

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