With 7TV Day 4: Pulptastic! coming up in two weeks' time, and Al and I signed up, and all ready to go*, it was probably about time Al played his first ever game of 7TV2. OK, neither of us have the 7TV2 Pulp rules yet, but that doesn't matter, does it?** So we hurriedly cobbled together some figures and terrain and remembered to take at least some pictures as we played using the main set of rules. Here's what happened…
*I'm all ready to go except for sorting out my cast, who are all still unpainted in a plastic bag.
**Well, it might.
Luke Warm in the Desert: The Pilot
On the back of substantial quantities of cold beer and even more substantial quantities of money from sales of what is probably the best cooking lager in the world, the spin-off, made-for-TV series based on the popular film Ice Cold in Alex has at last become reality. The show, which follows the journey of the crew of a military ambulance, will involve many well-known guest stars playing popular roles in a multitude of bizarre, hazardous and increasingly unlikely adventures on the way to the pub in Cairo.
This is the narrative of the pilot episode of that series.
Of course, as this is the pilot, some corners have been cut and, in accordance with established precedent of arguably the three greatest TV shows ever (and of course you know I am talking about Airwolf, Happy Days, and The Munsters), cast members and props will be sure to change for the actual series. But for the moment, here they are:
Brigader Mills: hip-flask-at-the-ready-leader - Dependable Deputy, Co-Star
Alex Quayle: inappropriately dressed bruiser - Strongarm, Co Star
Velma Jones: bespectacled schoolgirl archaeologist - Investigative Academic, Co Star
Dr Sims: Sylvia, not Joan - Doctor, Extra
Sgt Maj Andrews: Harry, not Julie - Technician, Extra
Corporal Benton: Army Corporal, Extra
Privates Smith & Jones: Army Privates, Extras
And featuring superstar “UNIT Landrover” as Katy the Ambulance! - Vehicle, Ambulance
The Cult of Blofeld, Science Division
Ernie Blofeld: cat-wielding supervillain - Evil Mastermind, Star
Doc Brown: maniacal bulgy-eyed inventor - Mad Scientist, Co-Star
Mustapha Pistol: Cultist Leader - Extra
5 x Unnamed Pistol-Armed Cultists: Cultists, Extras
Katy and her intrepid crew have teamed up with plucky schoolgirl archaeologist Velma Jones and some expendable army-types. In a formulaic plot known in the industry as The Steal, Velma needs the help of Katy's crew to keep an ancient Egyptian nerve agent found during a local archaeological dig out of the hands of Doc Brown, who for reasons that remain unclear throughout the episode is working for the evil Mr Blofelt and his dastardly cultists (science division).
At the edge of an urban area somewhere in the Western Desert, the cultists advance on our unsuspecting heroes.
Inside the ambulance, Dr Sims and the Technician discuss Ancient History while they look after the canopic jar containing the ancient Egyptian nerve gas. It is an unusual task, but one that is accepted with typically plucky British resolve. And nobody has died yet, which is good for morale.
Outside, the Brigadier lights another cigarette while admiring Alex's bracers, make-up, and shiny jockstrap. In a brief moment, the background music goes suddenly silent as their eyes make contact.
"Don't be alarmed by the size," Alex concedes, "You're not the only one here with an enormous hip flask."
The Brigadier smiles, somewhat relieved.
"A pint of semi-skimmed. I keep one under my bowler hat too," Alex continues, "But that's soya. I think I might be developing an intolerance."
|Is that a clue I see?|
On the far side of the buildings, Velma, followed by Corporal Benton and his comedy duo platoon, is enthusiastically searching for clues.
"Keep alert, men," Benton warns, "This is exactly the sort of place you're likely to find the kind of unsavoury Johnnies who have all sorts of strange ideas about what they might get up to with schoolgirl archaeologists."
Smith and Jones exchange knowing glances. That was exactly what they were trying hard not to think about.
|The Cult of Blofeld (Science Division) advance|
Ahead of them, through the heat haze, they see a group of just such unsavoury Johnnies approaching. Six of them wear red cultist robes, which the props department might have considered a little out of place in the desert had they paid enough attention. The two standing behind were different, though. The crazy haired one carrying the strange-shaped gun was dressed in a white boiler suit and red sneakers, while the fat bald man with the monocle in the khaki suit appeared to be armed with an exceptionally furry white cat.
"Mwahaha!" Blofeld says, "Now we have them in our clutches!"
Doc Brown's eyebrows dance up and down as he grimaces his best smile, wondering why Blofeld's conversations usually end in exclamation marks.
"Great Scott, you're right!" He overenthusiastically responds, realising that he does it himself too. "That means the nerve gas will be in our hands soon, and then I can finish my involvement with your unnecessarily complicated, unlikely and decidedly mad world domination plot at last and get on with fixing the fault in my flux capacitor!"
Taking the initiative, Brigadier Mills is about to do something when suddenly the set lighting cuts out as the power fails. As a result, he completely forgets what he was going to do, and doesn't do it.
|The Brigadier notes Alex's impressive jockstrap|
But with the unexpected change of lighting, out of the corner of his eye (the one with mascara), Alex spots something unusual about the oil drums nearby. Two are normal oil drums, but the third seems to actually be some sort of ancient pot. It is obviously an important clue. Wondering why he hadn't noticed it before, he sidles over to the pot and picks it up. The cultists, who lack such sophisticated acting talent, advance slowly, draw their pistols and open fire ineffectually.
Aware of possible danger, the uncredited paramedic slams Katy in reverse gear and moves back to the cover of the nearest building. Inside, the Doctor and Technician's conversation moves on to Current Affairs.
Meeting the threat, and understanding the limits of their acting skill, the cultists open fire again. Alex, in the open, finds himself caught in a hail of bullets. Wounded, he retreats swiftly back carrying the pot, while the Brigadier moves to a defensive position behind the cover of some convenient cardboard boxes disguised as wooden crates.
|Yes, it's definitely a clue|
Meanwhile, on the other side of the buildings, Velma comes across what she thinks is a clue, which she is examining closely with a magnifying glass.
"There's some writing down here at the bottom of the wall," she announces to everyone in general and no-one in particular, and bends down to take a closer look. "It's a good job I can read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs."
Corporal Benton approaches to take a closer look at the writing, while Smith and Jones try as hard as they can not to take a closer look at anything at all.
"It's written in blood!" Velma cries. "The last words of a dying man!"
"What does it say?" asks Corporal Benton, putting aside for the time being the thought that a dying man might write his last words on a wall with his own blood in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
"It reads: RGH-MDNG-HPHV-NFTM-TRT-CL-D," Velma reads. "Bear in mind that the ancient Egyptians didn't have any vowels or punctuation, and hieroglyphs are largely phonetic anyway."
Corporal Benson looks confused. He isn't at all sure about the meaning of the word 'phonetic' and certainly wouldn't have chanced using it in polite company. As Smith and Jones continue to avert their eyes, Velma smugly continues.
"In English, Corporal, that translates as: 'Aaargh!!! I'm dying!! I hope I have enough time to write a clod'."
Benson gives her an odd stare.
"Well, it's something like that."
As the gunfight in the open continues, the Brigadier takes careful aim and bags the shortest, and unluckiest of the cultists who was standing in the middle of the street waving his pistol about pointlessly.
"Jolly good shot," said Alex as he passes by, swiftly retreating to cover, carrying the pot.
Velma stands up, pondering the meaning of the clue, while Smith and Jones exchange relieved glances and Corporal Benton takes in the situation. None of the enemy are near them, but the cultists will certainly soon be in shooting range if they continue to press their advance on the retreating ambulance.
"I've got it!" Velma announces. "It's simple. It's not 'clod', it's 'clue: D'. The hieroglyph for D is a hand. And, see, the middle finger is forming an unusual upward-pointing gesture, directing us towards the top of the opposite building. There must be something on the roof!"
Taking advantage of the lack of nearby opposition, Velma takes out her archaeologist's whip, while Smith and Jones begin exchanging worried glances again. With a skilled crack, at the exact moment that both Privates wince, the tip of the whip coils around a small hook at the top of the wall and, with the whip providing a makeshift grappling hook, in one swift movement Velma swings herself up onto the roof of the adjacent building.
"I was right!" Velma excitedly cries, examining the body she's found. It's a man dressed in Egyptian clothing, a knife buried in his stomach, his own blood smeared on the index finger of his right hand. The body of the man who had written the clue on the wall in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in his own blood.
"How very mysterious", Velma thinks.
But Velma is not aware she is being watched. One of the cultists, knife at the ready, is lurking against the wall on the opposite side of the street waiting for the moment to pounce.
|Everyone laughs when someone falls over|
As the nearest of the cultists slips over a banana skin someone left on set, and Alex retreats further, to an even safer position, confusion suddenly breaks out. The director, who doesn't seem to appreciate the difference between a man with white hair in a white jump suit and a man wearing a bowler hat in white underwear, makes them inexplicably exchange positions. This leaves the unfortunate Alex surrounded by angry cultists, and the Brigadier with Doc Brown pointing an experimental gun at his back. Confusion is swiftly followed by gunfire, which even a large handful of plot points cannot withstand. Alex is duly mowed down and the Brigadier swiftly and unceremoniously follows. In the ambulance. the conversation moves on to Politics.
|Doctor vs. Ambulance showdown|
With an apparent absence of opposition, the overconfident cultists advance, exposing them to the field of fire of Corporal Benton's undersized platoon. Doc Brown, ahead of them, advances toward the ambulance and opens fire. Experimental bullets (some incendiary) bounce harmlessly off the armour of the vehicle, while inside, the Doctor and Technician move their discussion on to Religion.
At this point, for no better reason than getting a couple of quick extra plot points, the director takes the opportunity to add a brief romantic interlude to the picture.
"Call me Sylvia"
"Oh uncredited Paramedic"
"Oh uncredited Paramedic"
With plot points scarce, the firefight continues to little effect, as it often does in TV shows when they have time to kill. An extremely lucky cultist shot wounds the Corporal. Other bullets bounce off ambulances and through cultists.
"Mwahaha!" Blofeld gloats, stroking his cat. "All is (mostly) going to plan!"
The cultist leader and a particularly short cultist standing next to him nod and laugh in flattering agreement.
"Don't I know you?" Blofeld asks.
"Er, me? Yes, sir," the short cultist responds. "I was shot earlier but the director sent me back on again."
"Ah, yes. Unlimited minions. Of course, that explains it!" Blofeld strokes the cat again.
And that is the precise moment Blofeld senses that something is not quite right. He stares at the cat. Big. White. Fur. Pink eyes. Strange ticking. Something isn't quite right. This isn't the right cat. Somehow it must have been exchanged for one of Doc Brown's experimental cats, possibly earlier when the power failed.
The cat explodes, instantly disposing of the short cultist (again).
|Blofeld considers he may have had a lucky escape|
Stealing the scene, the army presses their advantage, accompanied by a suitable special effects sequence.
"Oh no," says Blofeld, as the remains of the cat that he is holding catch fire.
But through the blood and flames Blofeld sees his moment. Pulling the starter cord of his jetpack he flies to some nearby trees at the side of the set, where he knows there was a small fire extinguisher for use in just such emergencies, and in moments the flames are extinguished.
Sensing an opportunity to appear in the credits, the uncredited paramedic slams Katy into forward gear for the first time in the episode and accelerates to the Corporal's aid, completely failing to heal his wound. Inside, there is a soft thud as two people fall from one of the beds, though there doesn't seem to be any more conversation. And the inevitable explosion happens.
Smith (or Jones) explodes, while Jones (or Smith) is left unscathed, and Katy's armour proves as strong as ever. Inside, beyond the condensation on the windows, the Doctor and the Technician barely notice.
With the news fast approaching and the episode rapidly drawing to a close, the final drama takes place. As Velma leaves the building she is pounced on by the waiting cultist, who waves his knife at her. She duly hits him on the head with her bag and walks off.
And so, with their cast axed at the last possible opportunity, the credits roll as the ambulance drives up to her and the doors open enabling the last of the crew to escape.
"Curses!" shouts a bruised, soot-blackened, water-soaked Blofeld holding a piece of burnt fur. "Foiled again!"