INT: THE LIBERATOR BRIDGE, TIME UNKNOWN, MAYBE A FEW DAYS AFTER BRIAN BLESSED GOT BLOWN UP OVER CYGNUS ALPHA
Blake stands two feet away from Jenna, who is in front of the pilot’s console, running through the instructions to make the ship move.
‘Orbit rotation in sync,’ says Blake.
‘Check,’ says Jenna.
‘Rotate thrusters a bit.’
‘Not too much. A bit.’
Blake shrugs. ‘17 spatials?’
Jenna looks puzzled for a moment, checks the script then nudges Blake in the side. They whisper for a bit, Blake looks reluctant, then they finally swap positions.
‘Compensate for orbital drift,’ says Jenna.
‘Check,’ says Blake.
Jenna shakes her head and points at a different button. Blake smiles and presses it.
‘Engines present?’ continues Jenna
‘Check,’ says Gan.
‘Check,’ says Vila.
Blake claps his hands together and looks at Avon, Gan and Villa, making sure they’re not gurning. ‘Okay, now we know how to move the ship, let’s check if there’s anyone following us. Zen, are there any Federation ships in the vicinity?’
‘There are no Federation ships nearby.’
Avon nods and starts heading to the cocktail couch, but Blake can’t contain his revolutionary fervour, how could he, he’s based on Zapata and Zapata preferred to walk into an ambush instead of prop up his local village bar.
‘Okay, how about we find a nearby Federation base, locate an area that resembles Surrey, run around a power plant, pretend it’s a communications relay hub, and blow up a single computer, maybe a printer too, time permitting?’
Avon goes back to his console and says, fool, we’ll probably die if we do that.
‘We’ll all die someday.’
‘I’d prefer to die like an elderly Japanese woman.’
‘The 116 year old? I read about her too. Federation shill. What did she stand for? When did she ever stand for it? Did she even go outside?’
‘We haven’t agreed that we’re revolutionaries yet,’ protests Avon.
‘You’re welcome to leave anytime.’
Gan walks down to Avon and says you’re not very bright for a clever man. ‘No Federation ship can match our speed, or our ship design. And after we’ve blown up their power plant, they’ll be deaf, dumb and blind. We could fly right into BBC HQ, greenlight another run of Sir Yellow, fly back out and they wouldn’t be able to do a chuffin’ thing about it.’
Blake asks Jenna what she thinks.
‘Do you think we should fight the Federation or go and hide like a coward, age badly and ultimately vote tory?’
‘I don’t think I can vote tory, Blake.’
‘It’s agreed then. We hit the communications hub. Zen, bring up a sketch of the planet, please.’
A pic of Mars appears.
‘This used to be a colony, but they declared independence. Obviously, the Federation responded in typical fashion.’
‘What did they do?’ asks Vila.
‘Hired Elliot Abrams, faked a few blackouts, paid locals to nibble on trash, called the colony leader a dictator. Then they remembered that they were brazenly fascist already and just sent the shock troops in to slaughter half the population. The rest were sent to various bleak and depressing frontier worlds where the only entertainment was the NES version of Ghost n Goblins. Of course, no one managed to get past Astaroth, or even get close to him, and when that happened, most committed suicide. A few of the colonists managed to hide out in the hills near the power plant and eat alien deer…hopefully they’re still there and we can work with them.’
‘I don’t follow,’ says Vila.
‘Ohhhhhh, but you do and that’s the problem,’ spits Avon almost before Vila has finished ‘follow’.
Vila opens his mouth to ask how they can make the exchange seem less contrived, but Avon glares him down.
‘Look, the plot of this episode is quite basic, and it’ll take a while to get to the planet so why don’t we all get some rest and explore the rest of the ship. Maybe find a hobby or something. Gan, you need to go to the gym?’
‘Nah, I’m just fat.’
‘Jenna, you wanna go to the spa and…’
Off-screen, someone coughs.
Blake glances over, nods then rephrases. ‘Jenna, do you want to continue working on the ship controls?’
‘Yes, good idea. I still need to figure out what exactly we’re orbiting.’
‘We went into orbit at the start of the episode, but as far as I’m aware, we’re not close to any planet.’
‘No, we left there when the Federation ships came, remember?’
‘It was in the last episode.’
Another cough from off-screen, this time from the episode writer. Jenna goes over to him and then comes back and says, ‘never mind, we’re not orbiting anything, it was drift, like the loose influence of very faraway planets, not an actual close orbit around a planet.’
‘Ahhh…I thought you said drift…’ says Blake.
‘No, you didn’t.’
‘I did, everyone heard it.’
‘Don’t ask for proof, it’s boring. Besides…orbital drift…it’s obvious…’
Jenna bites her top lip, annoyed at Blake’s lies, annoyed at herself for mis-remembering ‘orbital drift.’ She knows this will stand against her for at least a decade, maybe longer, and not just her, all women. Callie probably won’t talk to her. Unless she just denies ever saying it…that’s what Blake usually does and it works okay for him. Yes, denial, good idea. Wait a few episodes, see if anyone brings it up, if they do, deny. What kind of skilled pilot doesn’t know what orbital drift means, Mr Teleport pad?
‘So…how about that spa?’ asks Blake. ‘Assuming you’re done with the ship controls…’
‘I’m busy,’ says Jenna, still focused on the ‘orbital drift’ strategy.
Blake strokes his perm, mutters ‘right’ then turns to Avon and asks if he wants to hit the spa, maybe stretch a bit.
‘I’m in character, Blake.’
‘Maybe later then.’ Blake stretches out his arms. ‘Okay, I’m gonna sit on the couch and study Portuguese. Or write a manifesto, if there’s any paper. You guys can rest.’
CUT TO – THE LIBERATOR BRIDGE, LATER.
Jenna is standing by her usual console looking at some buttons, trying to guess which one is the rape alarm. She knows Terry promised to put one in, but Terry isn’t the most reliable guy ever, and he’s been a bit distracted ever since the janitor caught him with the ‘killed by foam’ actor from episode 2.
‘Ah, there it is…’ Jenna pushes the button and Zen starts saying ‘sex act’ on loop.
Jenna frowns and looks over at the crew.
‘Sorry, Jenna,’ says the director, ‘the crew feels uncomfortable with the word ‘rape’…’
‘We’re not going back to the dark old days, are we?’
‘Of course, not. It’s 1977, not 1973. No more sleaze, guaranteed.’
‘What about Blake?’
‘We told him it’s unacceptable to grope co-stars. And he agreed. Said he had a vision in Episode 3, changed him completely. Obviously, he’ll still be a little creepy at times, maybe a bit demeaning, but it’ll work its way out eventually I’m sure.’
Jenna says ‘it’s a start’ then stares down at the screen. ‘Blake, wake up. There’s a beeping noise.’
Blake is sitting on the couch, arms folded, Portuguese study book and manifesto nowhere to be seen.
‘There’s a beeping noise.’
‘On the console. Could be a subplot.’
‘Do we have time for that?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘Could be the Time Squad…’
Blake stands up dramatically. ‘Fuck it, there’s only Callie on the planet and not much to do in a power plant so let’s get over there, see what kind of gear those guys have got.’
‘Whoever it may be. Wait, this radar blip, it is definitely a ship, right?’
‘Yes, about the size of a volvo. No kitchen, no toilet. Enough oxygen for a few minutes of contrived suspense.’
‘Why are we still standing here?’
CUT TO – TELEPORTER ROOM
Avon and Gan are sitting on the Teleporter bench/weed corner, waiting to get a line. Blake and Jenna put on the teleporter bracelets and say ‘beam us over there then come up with a convincing reason not to beam us back.’
‘Iconic circuitry malfunction?’
Blake and Jenna beam over into a very confined space and both of them immediately start to sweat. Blake puts his hands behind his back and thinks of The Welfare State, Pakistani pottery, his cat submitting to Raeker’s touch, sophistry, whereas Jenna tries to remember how to break a man’s neck with one pinch.
‘It’s lucky we found space to beam into…’ says Blake.
‘True…it’s very cosy…’
Jenna looks into Blake’s eyes and Blake stares at some grey wiring hanging down from the ceiling.
‘What’s over there?’ asks Avon on the comm.
‘Three pods, each of them containing a man with Russian aristocracy era moustaches. I can’t see, but I think they have a small forest on their chests too. Quite unsettling if you’re a lady…’
‘He’s right, feels like a snooker club,’ adds Jenna.
‘We only have enough air for another fifteen minutes. Any chance you can pick up this little ship and let us out?’
‘Theoretically, yes. Practically, yes.’
CUT TO – LIBERATOR BRIDGE
Vila, Gan and Avon try to look tense but it’s tough, the whole scene is tedious, the lines are technical, the logic behind the whole thing thinner than Jenna’s backstory.
‘We can’t match the velocity of the shuttle,’ says Vila.
‘What does that mean?’
‘It’s rotating away from us…’
‘We’re not gonna get it…’
‘Do something, Avon,’ shouts Gan.
Avon pushes his piloting sticks forward and the ship goes forward too. The buttons previously used to drive the ship stay dusty and untouched.
‘Okay, they’re in,’ says Avon.
‘We did it!’
Avon raises an eyebrow at ‘we’.
‘Shall we have a chat, flesh out our characters a bit?’ asks Vila.
‘Did I tell you I used to work in a bank?’
Avon walks out of the room.
‘I also started a charity that helped victims of police brutality,’ continues Vila. ‘And I speak other languages. I’m actually a really fascinating guy once you get to know me…’
Gan picks up a copy of Hustler and flicks through until he finds a pic of Jane Fonda naked in a fountain. He stares at her body for a long time, but the body doesn’t move, it doesn’t do anything so he stops and reads the interview instead. Apparently, Jon Voight is a revolutionary who wants gay people to marry and thinks everyone should have healthcare. Good guy, that Jon Voight, thinks Gan, looking again at Jane Fonda’s body and feeling a pang of shame. He closes the mag and tells Vila he’ll be in his room if they need him.
‘What about the shuttle?’
‘Tired. Gonna have a nap.’
‘You can nap here.’
Gan looks at the couch.
‘Not big enough?’ asks Vila.
‘I’ll be in my room.’
CUT TO – DOCKING BAY
Blake and Jenna fall out of the shuttle and breathe the beautiful fresh air of the docking bay. Avon waltzes in and tells them that he did some impressive manoeuvring and Vila and Gan were incredibly negative the whole time.
‘Avon, I’m surprised you didn’t let me suffocate to death…’
‘Thought about it, but then I remembered the spa…’
Blake nods and looks at Jenna.
‘You want me to say the plot?’
‘I struggle with all that filler stuff, you know that. Monologues are more my thing…’
‘Well, it looks like three guys are in cryo-sleep, they’re incredibly hairy for some reason, like they’ve been living in a Russian village or doing SAS exercises on the Exeter moors and…what else…oh yeah, there’s just enough room in the shuttle to hide an extra pod, but that doesn’t make any sense so we figure there isn’t a pod and these other guys are probably pacifists so let’s thaw them out and invite them for a few drinks on the cocktail couch, maybe even ask them to join the crew if they’re halfway attractive and not pervy…’
‘You’re interested in them?’ asks Blake, concerned.
‘But they’re 70’s men…’
‘As long as they don’t say ‘stupid woman’ or ‘not fish again’ or ‘I’m not licking that’ then I’m open to anything.’
‘I never said any of that…’ says Blake, perm standing on end.
‘You groped me in front of the crew.’
‘They enjoyed it. I’m an entertainer. Blessed would’ve done worse, if he’d played Blake…’ Blake pauses, remembering the previous episode. ‘Wait, what am I saying? That’s not me. I’m based on Zapata.’ Blake puts his hand on Jenna’s shoulder, then quickly takes it off. Instead of putting it back down by his side, he leaves it hovering an inch from her arm. He puts his other hand on her waist and leans in. ‘Sorry, Jenna. The Blake who groped you was a different man, I’m not him. The only groping you’ll get from now on is if you ask for it, and I’m more than ready to wait respectfully for that moment. That goes for you too, Avon.’
Blake looks down. ‘Waist is a neutral place surely?’
Jenna stares at him.
‘Okay, no comradery at all from now on.’ Blake removes his hand. ‘Words and eyeballs only.’
Jenna folds her arms, and tells the others to check out the shuttle, see if there’s any point in it being there.
‘Doubtful,’ says Avon, ‘there’s only half an hour left.’
Avon and Vila go inside the shuttle and tell Zen to download the database and start thawing out the hairy men.
‘We can wait a few hours then ask them. I’m sure they’re not psychotic.’
‘A reasonable conclusion.’
‘Hey…maybe they’re some kind of Time Squad?’
CUT TO – COLONY SURFACE
We skip the teleporter scene and go straight to a quarry with a pink filter to make it look like Mars. Vila walks over to a plant and waits for Blake to feed him his line.
‘Careful, they’re more intelligent than Tim Allen and liable to eat you if you get too close.’
‘That’s nice, I’d hate to be eaten by something stupid.’
No one laughs or reacts at all cos they’ve read the script a thousand and nine times, but Callie hasn’t so if you listen carefully you can hear her giggling off-screen.
‘Okay people, let’s make a fire and wait for Callie to turn up.’
‘What if she shoots first?’
‘We’re in a quarry, it’d be impossible for her to sneak up on us.’
CUT TO – LIBERATOR BRIDGE
Jenna and Gan chill on the couch and talk about how Blake is actually more similar to Che than Zapata, but Che has been overused so Zapata it is.
‘Well, if it’s a Mexican audience, it won’t work…’
‘They can change it to Mao…’
‘Wasn’t he a despot?’
‘Young Mao, before he got fat.’
‘Why are you here Gan? Is it the couch?’
‘The couch helps, but…no, I have to be here. I murdered a Federation Guard. You see, he killed my woman. Wanted her to be his woman, but she was my woman. Mine. It seemed romantic at the time…but now I say it out loud it feels kinda weird that I don’t use her name.’
‘Maybe she was called Sharon?’
Gan nods, never having thought of that.
‘Look, Gan, it doesn’t matter. We just need to focus on two things. The couch and beaming Blake and the gang back up. I’m gonna go and check on the complete strangers in the docking bay, see if they’re awake yet.’
‘I’ll be here if you need me.’
Jenna nods and walks to the docking bay. She quickly realises that one of the hairy men has escaped from the shuttle and is hiding in the shadows.
‘I’m not going to harm you…’ she shouts.
A pipe flies through the air and hits her on the arm. Jenna says ouch and runs for the door, shouting ‘sex act’, ‘sex act’…
The hairy man wedges his arm in the door just as Jenna closes it, and thinks of Jenny Agutter in Walkabout to cope with the intense pain that follows. Jenna also thinks of Jenny Agutter in Walkabout as she slams the door repeatedly against the hairy man’s arm.
Meanwhile, Gan sits on the bridge couch, trying to figure out if his hair has a parting.
CUT TO – COLONY SURFACE
Blake sits alone by the fire. Vila pops up in the background and waves, so Blake says ‘never mind, let’s move to a pinker area, see if anyone’s there’ and puts out the fire.
He freezes, somehow aware that Callie is behind him. He turns quickly and takes a boot in the stomach. He tells himself ‘don’t say ‘oof’ before saying ‘oof’ and falling down the slope.
Callie follows him down and the two of them practise gymnastics before Blake gets the gun off her and poses Mexican.
‘May you die in Skegness…’ says Callie bitterly.
‘Relax, we’re your allies.’
Vila appears and says ‘hey’. Avon stumbles over a slope like a drunk and says I’ve had my gun trained on you the whole time.
‘You look like you’ve just woken up…’
Avon ignores her and re-points his gun. Blake tells Callie that he really wants to get inside the power plant and blow up the main computer and can she help him do that?
‘I know someone from the Electricity Board.’
‘So you can get us in?’
‘Only if you promise to treat me like an equal.’
Blake raises an eyebrow. ‘I will treat you like the rest of them.’
Callie looks at Vila and Avon. ‘How many are in your crew?’
‘Legally, seven. Visually, six, including you.’
‘Course not, we have Jenna.’
‘I thought sci-fi was above this kind of shit?’ asks Callie to Vila and Avon.
Neither of them responds.
‘Relax,’ says Blake, ‘Avon’s my competition, it’s natural in a TV show…on a spaceship…’
‘What are you competing for?’
‘Control of the ship. Active revolution and possible death vs active hiding and complicity in dictatorship.’
‘And what would Jenna and I be competing for?’
She looks over at the rest of the crew, hoping to spot Ursula Le Guin or Tanith Lee poking out between male shoulders, but either they’re very tiny or they’re absent.
‘Look, I was joking about the competing thing…you’ll be crewmates, not adversaries. And you’ll definitely have more to do than Gan.’
‘Jenna is definitely a woman, right?’ asks Callie.
‘Undoubtedly.’ Blake opens his mouth to say ‘I’ve checked’ but cautions himself against it. ‘Listen, you’ll be right next to each other, on the bridge, in your rooms, in the sauna, showing little girls that women can stand on spaceships too.’
Callie mulls it over.
‘So do we have a deal?’ asks Blake.
Callie looks at Avon. ‘Are you gay?’
‘Inconclusive,’ replies Avon.
‘So? Deal or not?’ asks Blake again.
Callie nods. ‘Long as I don’t have to share a stage with Harlan Ellison, I’m in.’
‘Great. I promise you’ll fit right in. So much so that, after a few seasons, you might even forget you’re female.’
CUT TO – LIBERATOR BRIDGE
Jenna runs in and tells Gan that one of the hairy men tried to force her into a little mermaid costume and shove a trident up her ass.
‘Okay, okay…you’re safe now. Tell me, how far did he get?’
‘I think my arm’s broken.’
Gan grabs a little device that could be a weapon and rubs it on Jenna’s arm. Magically, the wound disappears.
‘Yes. Now what happened with the hairy man?’
‘It’s horrible, Gan. His moustache is even bigger close up, like something from a 19th Century Miners’ Strike, his chest is like the Black Forest, his outfit…it was so grubbily erotic, the whole thing…’
‘Is he bigger than me?’
‘He’s not that tall.’
‘Great, I’ll go slap him around a bit.’
‘But he was very strong.’
Gan looks down at his gut, which is moon-like. ‘Hmm, maybe he was confused. He has been asleep for a long time.’
‘It’s possible, I guess…’
‘Or maybe attacking you was his way of saying he likes you. Like his culture’s version of a mating call.’
‘I prefer the 70’s way…’
‘Courtship, condescension, marriage, servitude?’
‘The first and third ones…sometimes…’
‘Okay, don’t you worry your pretty little head, Jenna, I’ll go and have a chat with our hairy psycho friend.’
‘Gan, be careful…’
‘Relax. Episode’s called Time Squad, remember? Nothing about that name screams danger.’
Jenna shrugs and Gan heads off with a spring in his step.
CUT TO – POWER PLANT
Callie finds a secret way in to the power plant and the four of them run around an inexplicably huge communications hub with large, open spaces. Perhaps it’s this large to fit in all the generators needed to fuel power for…the guards quarters? The satellite/computer combo?
None of the main characters are engineers or surveyors so they keep running and eventually manage to get themselves spotted by the guards. A chase ensues.
CUT TO – LIBERATOR BRIDGE
Jenna sits on the couch contemplating ‘The Blood of Others’ and another cocktail, then suddenly remembers Gan.
She runs to the docking bay and shouts ‘Gan!’
She gets on the shuttle, avoids looking in the pods, climbs back out and prepares to wrestle. Another miner appears, grabbing her waist, whispering in her ear that he’s not Raeker, he’s a member of the Time Squad, and in his mind, his character would never grope a woman during wrestling. Jenna hears the word ‘Raeker’ and kicks him across the room, then follows up with a shot from the twirly whirly. The miner drops to the docking bay floor, dead.
Gan crawls out of the shuttle, tells Jenna he forgot how to punch, then passes out again.
CUT TO – POWER PLANT
Vila uses his bag of tricks to open the vault to the computer room then takes the opportunity to remind everyone that this is not his only skill, he also speaks Farsi and Chinese, and with a bit of behind the scenes stalking of Terry Nation, they could include a planet of Iranians, a six episode run, where Vila is the only one who has lines and love scenes. Or fight scenes. A fight scene that turns into a love scene before becoming a fight scene again. That would be something.
‘Vila, you really are the best at opening locked doors,’ says Blake.
‘But you’re still a coward,’ adds Avon.
‘Guys, didn’t you hear what I just said, I also speak…’ Vila is stopped by the Federation guards coming out of the BBC canteen, who size up the scene and realise they have to start shooting.
The four heroes duck inside the computer room and wait for Avon to load up the Spectrum.
CUT TO –
Jenna sits down in the teleporter room and gets a message from Blake.
‘Jenna, we’re almost ready to come back up.’
‘Blake…I’ve been sitting here all this time, waiting for you.’
‘Sorry we took so long, some of the rooms in the power plant are the size of Bournemouth.’
Jenna jumps up and wrestles with another miner, this time taking a shoe to the face. The miner picks up the gun, mistakes it for a straw, puts it down and takes out his knife.
‘You don’t want to grope me first?’ asks Jenna, trying to stall.
‘Did that already.’
‘I felt your muff when you threw me on the floor.’
‘That was my stomach.’
The miner moves forward, but Gan appears behind him and points the gun. He does a Steve Martin impression then collapses. The miner shrugs, turns around to glare at Jenna then gets shot.
The impact is so powerful it makes him do a semi-cartwheel across the room. Jenna leans in close and asks, ‘what is Time Squad?’
The miner smirks. ‘You’ll always be in the teleporter room.’
Jenna leaves him and runs to Gan. ‘Quick, Jenna, you have to go back to the docking bay and fight another one.’
‘From the shuttle?’
‘He was hiding in a secret compartment.’
‘On my way.’
Gan beams up Blake and co just as the main computer blows up. Blake asks where Jenna is, he misses her ass, and Gan says she went to the docking bay. At that moment, Zen comes back to life and tells them that there are four miners, and they are called guardians, not Time Squad.
‘So the title’s figurative?’
‘Maybe the last guy knows…’ Blake runs to the docking bay just in time to see the last miner rubbing Jenna’s stomach. He walks back out, waits a few minutes, then runs back in. The miner is walking towards Jenna with two chopsticks glued together. He’s about to stab her when Blake stumbles in and pushes him into electricity.
Blake looks at Jenna and prepares to ask her the Time Squad conundrum when Terry nudges the director, the director cuts and straight away we’re on the bridge again.
‘Well, Callie, you’re safe now. Would you like a lift back to Kensington?’
‘No, I can’t. My parents said they’d disown me if I took this role.’
‘Ah, then you can stay here.’
‘As a telepathic warrior from an alien culture who clashes with your Earth values from time to time?’
‘That plus woman in the teleporter room.’
‘Hey, that’s my job,’ shouts Jenna.
‘You pilot the ship.’
‘Fuck off, there’s six of us standing around, any one of us could be driving this thing.’
‘Shut it, woman, show Callie some respect.’
Jenna mutters ‘can’t believe we’re letting illegals on board.’
‘She’s not even qualified to use the teleporter controls.’
‘It’s fine, she’ll work it out.’
Jenna grumbles a bit more then places her hand on her jacket zip. She holds it there, begging herself not to zip it down, and then finally lets go, keeping the zip near her neck.
‘Right, now we’ve blown up the power plant, shall we look into this Time Squad thing?’
Avon folds his arms. ‘Actually, they were just xenophobic psychos. I suppose you could argue they slept through normal time therefore were a kind of Time Squad, but it’s a bit of a stretch.’
‘Agreed. Doesn’t make a lick of sense, let’s move on.’
Avon stares at Blake, forcing the camera away from all the others. Panic ensues. Jenna immediately goes for her zip, Callie starts doing yoga, Vila says ‘this pizza doesn’t have lemon’ in Chinese and Gan does his Steve Martin impression again.
The cameraman is unmoved.
He stays on Avon, and then Blake, and then Avon and Blake together. It stays that way until a chill enters the bridge and everyone including the crew puts on a jacket.
‘Did someone turn the air-con down?’
‘Then why is it so cold in here?’
No one answers cos no one knows why, except Terry Nation who quickly hides the script for episode 5 under his thighs.
‘So, what adventure is up next?’ asks Blake, psyched.