Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Dr Who: The Apetopus Experiment

Tonight the long-awaited new Dr Who series begins...
Eee-ooo, eee-ooo…

oo-ee-oo oo-ee-oo ooooo... oo-e-oo...
Cue eery, familiar synthesised BBC special effects music. On a black background, futuristic-ish red and orange lines form shifting Rorschach test images as the genial, smiling face of Jon Pertwee forms in the centre, and then fades away to reveal the intriguing, yet familiar-styled title of this new series:

THE APETOPUS EXPERIMENT
Episode 1


The music fades, to reveal the Doctor, struggling over an apparently unpredictable TARDIS control centre, as Jo Grant, in an improbably-fashionable red tartan/white leather boots combination, enthusiastically panics. They both lean to the left as the camera jolts abruptly in the opposite direction and the set wobbles unconvincingly in the background.

"What's happening, Doctor!" she panics.

"Don't worry, Jo, I'm sure it's nothing serious" the Doctor reassures, "Something is trying to direct the TARDIS, and I'm doing my best to put us back on course, that's all."

Jo does not find this reassuring.

"You have to do something about it, Doctor!" Jo cries, as the cameraman lurches to the left and she is thrown unconvincingly to the right, despite her high heels, somehow still remaining standing.

"I'm doing my best, Jo," the Doctor calmly replies, "Now, that should do the trick!"
Without explanation, the cameraman rights himself, the set stops wobbling, and the scene becomes unexpectedly calm.

"Well done, Doctor," Jo says, relieved. "I knew you could do it!"

"I shouldn't get too excited," the Doctor replies. "I just stopped trying to override the controls. Now I wonder where we will materialise..."

It is a grey day somewhere in rural Britain. With its in the background sound effect, the TARDIS fades into existence on a tarmacked surface beside some white, single-storey buildings. The door opens a crack and the Doctor and Jo peer out. The wind is picking up, and above them, grey clouds are swirling abnormally...

Inside a Laboratory, the camera zooms in behind two scientists, who stand in front of a gigantic container, its transparent walls revealing it to be a sort of aquarium, half-filled with liquid. In the centre, a large tree trunk emerges from the water, its branches devoid of leaves. A bizarre pulsating mass, tentacled and hairy, clings precariously below one of the lower branches, dripping and writhing strangely, occasionally picking at fleas. The scientists observe this weird creature, a huge half-monkey-half-octopus, as it bares its teeth and drools at them, the angry stare from its glazed eyes betraying its psychotic self-loathing.

The Apetopus, safely caged
"I don't think it's very happy," the short, bald man in the stained lab coat says between bites, as he fussily adjusts his wire-rimmed glasses.

"Neither am I, professor," the taller man with ruffled hair and the kipper tie asserts. "I do so wish the canteen wouldn't experiment so much with sandwich fillings. I thought this was cheese and tomato but it tastes more like squid and marmalade."

The professor had been so preoccupied observing the Apetopus that he hadn't thought about what he was eating. He reviews the evidence, grimaces, swallows the mouthful of fishy citrus as quickly as possible, and tries not to think about what might have happened to the surplus cephalopods they hadn't used in the Apetopus experiment and which had mysteriously vanished this morning. As if it can read his thoughts, the Apetopus raises two of its tentacles, gives what may be a rude gesture, and starts beating its chest.

"No really, Professor, it is quite cross," he reiterates. "You don't suppose it suspects we're eating its relations, do you?"

"On the contrary, Doctor,"  his companion asserts. "Doubtless both the ape and the octopus preferred their appearance before the experiment, and that is surely sufficient cause for ire."

The scientists confer
"Although it should consider itself lucky. It could have ended up with the head of an octopus on the body of a monkey, after all. Alas, but such is the price of science! I'm pleased it is securely contained, though. The extra-toughened titani-glass of the aquarium walls will see to that."

"I concur," his companion agreed. "Those aquarium walls are strong enough to withstand anything!"

As if on cue, there is a loud rumble from somewhere outside. The room shakes alarmingly, plaster falls from the ceiling, and a crack begins to form in the  extra-toughened aquarium titani-glass. The scientists stare, shocked, as loud alarms sound, the crack in the glass slowly expands, and the Apetopus writhes, smirking malevolently.

An alien flying saucer appears overhead, lights flashing. As they do.
Just outside the laboratory facility, between its electric fence and the woodland beyond, groups of laboratory staff stand around the buildings and watch as a hole has appears in the swirling clouds through which a silver flying saucer, which can clearly be seen to be made from two paper bowls, slowly descends. Lights flashing, it lands in a cloud of vaporising dry ice.

The alien ship lands
As the weird tones of BBC sound effects build, strange green tentacled alien beings, their spherical bodies dominated by a single huge eye, appear through the mist, and descend a ramp to the ground.  Some of the onlookers panic. Others remain fixed, in shock, unable to move away.

Aliens gather beside the security fence

As the Doctor and Jo assess the situation, a Land Rover speeds to a halt opposite the TARDIS and uniformed men run out, directed by their NCO to head towards the fence at the edge of the compound, where a film cameraman is getting some good close-ups of the action. A moustached senior officer walks swiftly towards them, reaching out his hand with a surprised smile.

The Doctor and Jo recognise a familiar face
"Doctor, and Miss Grant," Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart acknowledges. "Very good to see you. I have no idea how you manage to always turn up at the right time, but I'm very pleased you do."

"Always good to see you, too, Brigadier," the Doctor replies. "Whatever the circumstances. So tell me, where are we, and what's going on?"

"Alien invasion, Doctor," the Brigadier clarifies, in a matter-of-fact way that might normally be considered inappropriate in such circumstances. "UNIT got the call less than an hour ago and as luck would have it we were in the area so we're first on the scene. Silver flying saucer, landed just the other side of the main building."

UNIT troops run into position

Behind the building, the aliens are briefly delayed by the perimeter fence. Several attempt to cross meet with electrical discharges that fling them back, stunned, to the ground where they struggle to right themselves.

Some of the aliens are thrown back, stunned by the electric fence
"Brigadier," the Doctor took a sterner tone. "Where exactly are we?"

"Sorry, Doctor," the Brigadier apologised, "I thought you would recognise it from last time. DSTL, Doctor. Porton Down. Now come on, time is of the essence!" And with that, the Brigadier turns away, and instructs two soldiers manhandling a bazooka and its ammunition to find a more sensible firing position. Jo, keen to follow the Brigadier, realises the Doctor isn't moving, but is deep in thought, muttering to himself.

"The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory," the Doctor muses, wondering whether the last time the Brigadier referred to is in his past or future. "What are they up to, I wonder?"

"Come on, Doctor," Jo panics, pulling at his sleeve. "We must follow the Brigadier!"

"No, Jo, not yet," the Doctor asserts. "First we need to know what's going on here. Follow me!" And ignoring the Brigadier, who is waiting for them to follow, the Doctor walks steadily towards the main door of the Laboratory. Jo, flustered, reluctantly follows.

Meanwhile, close to the fence...
Close to the fence, one innocent onlooker stares as alien eyes and tentacles appear through the mist. One such eye is larger, more malevolent, and faces the onlooker with its compelling gaze.

...YOU ARE IN MY POWER...
The camera slowly zooms in on this larger alien eye, which pulsates in brightness as the sound of static builds and the weird, electronically enhanced voice of the alien commander speaks in his mind: YOU WILL OBEY. YOU WILL OBEY. YOU ARE ONE OF US NOW… The onlooker's shoulders drop and like an automaton, he turns slowly, his expression vacant and gaze unfocussed. YES, MASTER. I OBEY…

With a crash of glass the Apetopus bursts out of its prison. As the scientists turn to flee, it squeezes itself adeptly through a doorway to trap them against furniture in the foyer of the building. Try as they might to make use of the many items to hand in the laboratory, their futile resistance is all too brief and they scream as they succumb to the creature's tentacled simian attack and are crushed.

The Apetopus attacks
Quickly, the aliens realise they must break the fence, and attack it with resolve. In moments, a section of the sparking fence is broken down and the creatures advance through the gap.

Aliens stream through the broken fence
The possessed laboratory worker, under the control of the alien commander, walks steadily toward the rear of the laboratory. His view of the world, transferred telepathically to the alien commander, and represented by the BBC special effects department as a fish-eye lens accompanied by heavy breathing, shows him searching amongst the piles of discarded chemical waste containers behind the laboratory. He sniffs the air. YES, the alien commander's electronic voice whispers, THE CREATURE IS HERE, AND IT HEARS OUR CALL…

UNIT troops open fire on the invaders
Soldiers advancing towards the alien enemy open fire, killing at least one of them in a burst of machine gun fire as a bystander, caught in the middle, frantically dodges bullets and somehow escapes. The aliens respond, concentrating their fire on the soldiers, who all fall, leaving their corporal facing the alien assault on his own.

The dying screams of the crushed scientists are heard by those outside the laboratory.

"Wait, Doctor!" the Brigadier shouts. "Whatever it is, it's going to have to come out through those doors!" The Doctor and Jo stop as the Brigadier takes charge.

"You men!" he shouts at the bazooka team, "Get ready. You'll only get one chance at a clear shot so better make it a good one!"

The Brigadier organises everyone, despite facing the wrong direction
Just as the Brigadier predicted, the main laboratory doors burst open and the Apetopus reveals itself. In one oily movement it squeezes through the opening and expands, stretching its hairy, writhing tentacles and snarls dramatically in the way that only special effects monsters can. The camera focuses in on the Apetopus as all around stand watching in awe. Too late, the bazooka team respond, but are unable to load the weapon before the Apetopus slides swiftly away, attempting to slip behind the cover of the building.

While this is happening, the main group of aliens gather behind the laboratory, and the alien ship starts to lift off, preparing to move to a position where it can be more easily boarded by them and the escaping Apetopus. The corporal, seeing no other option, jumps into one of the Land Rovers to pursue them.

The Corporal goes it alone in the Land Rover
Meanwhile, the bazooka team runs forward to take position for a clear shot at the escaping Apetopus, but before they are able to fire, the Apetopus turns and opens its maw toward them. Its ear-piercing shriek hits them as a sonic shock wave, and they and their weapon are instantly disintegrated. The Apetopus smugly slips behind the laboratory to comparative safety.

Our heroes follow in the Jeep
"Follow me!" the Doctor orders, seeing the Corporal starting up the lead Land Rover. He jumps into the driver's seat of the Jeep behind as Jo and the Brigadier hurriedly bundle into the back. Pistol at the ready, the Brigadier gets prepared as the Doctor accelerates the Jeep away with a jolt. 

Ahead of them, the Corporal rounds the end of the building. Seeing a group of aliens ahead, he smashes the front window of the Land Rover with his submachine-gun and, weapon in one hand and steering wheel in the other, opens fire. One alien falls, and as he sees the others move to raise their weapons in his direction, he jars the vehicle into reverse and backs off rapidly into cover behind the building.

Aliens board their ship in an attempt to escape earth, while the Apetopus tries to keep up
The alien ship lands, ramp lowered, as the alien troops scuttle aboard. The Apetopus, slower, shambles toward the landed craft. Watching through the broken windscreen of the Land Rover, the Corporal sees his moment. Slamming his right foot to the floor, he accelerates the Land Rover towards the landing gear of the alien craft, colliding with it dramatically.

There is a very big explosion.

The fragile alien ship totters, falls, and smashes against the ground, destroyed, as a box of nerve gas canisters in the Land Rover explode unnecessarily. Wounded, stunned, and weakened, the Corporal sees the alien commander rise, the only survivor of the blast.

BOOM!
Through smoke from burning spaceship, cloud of nerve gas, and broken windscreen, The Corporal has only a moment to appreciate his success. Then his eyes meet the alien's unflinching gaze and his shoulders relax. YES, MASTER, I OBEY…

Through the windows of the Jeep, rushing towards the conflagration, our heroes take in this scene of carnage. The alien ship lies on its side, in a pile of debris, destroyed. The Land Rover, battered but not yet broken, beside. The passenger door opens and one man - the bystander under the control of the alien leader - enters, and the alien commander jumps into the back. The Apetopus, nearby, may have been about to somehow squeeze into the Land Rover too, but as the Jeep approaches, it advances to face it and opens its maw to shriek.

The camera closes in on the faces of those in the Jeep. All are in pain, screaming, (even the Brigadier), with their hands over their ears. The only sound is the piercing shriek of the Apetopus, which builds as the camera moves closer,until Jo's screaming face is all that can be seen, and the noise abruptly resolves into the Dr Who theme music and the end credits roll.

Until next time…

THE CASTS

UNIT
The Doctor (Unearthly Traveller, Star, 9)
Jo Grant (Plucky Assistant, Co-Star, 5)
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Dependable Deputy, Co-Star, 6)
2 x Scientists (Scientist, Extra, 2 each = 4)
1 x UNIT NCO (Army Corporal, Extra, 3)
4 x UNIT Privates (Army Private, Extra, 2 each = 8)
1 x UNIT Heavy Weapons Team (bazooka) (Army Heavy Weapon, Extra, 7)
2 x Land Rover/Jeep (Vehicle, 4 each = 8)
1 x Cameraman (Extra, 1)
TOTAL 51 points

Aliens from Planet X
Alien Commander (Otherworldly Invader, Star, 10)
2 x Alien War Leaders (Extras, 3 each = 6)
10 x Small Aliens (Extras, 2 each = 20)
The Apetopus (Marauding Monster, Co-Star, 5)
Alien Flying Saucer (Helicopter, Vehicle, 10)
TOTAL 51 points