The Edge of Earth

I’m writing a script for a 50’s inspired science fiction short film, that me and some friends are going to hopefully start filming in January! Here’s the treatment that I wrote as a starting place before I get going on the script. I am beyond excited for this – this is how I used to feel about starting a new play. Lots of questions, lots of things to figure out, lots of uncertainty – this is only a starting point, so much to explore and develop before we film a thing.

Working Title: The Edge of Earth

Teenagers from Outer Space - 1959
Teenagers from Outer Space – 1959

A proper SCIENCE FICTION movie from this period must contain:

  • aliens masquerading as humans (cheap costume)
  • a preposterous monster
  • a professor or scientist who is sought for wisdom
  • THEMES – racism, overpopulation, ecology, etc.
  • unnecessary monologues about THEMES
  • unlikely but palatable science
  • sexually attractive but chaste love interest (Pure One)
  • paragons of society: Manhood, Authority, Faith, etc.
  • aliens encountering children, familiar societal locales and institutions
  • sense of dread
  • slow pace

Touchstones: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Teenagers from Outer Space, Forbidden Planet

Synopsis:

Act One

A spacecraft crosses the emptiness of space, a figure sits in an strange cockpit filled with screens and light. The figure wears a helmet or flight mask, obscuring their features. A screen fills with strange symbols and we hear a strange voice speak in an alien language. The figure nods, then pushes a few buttons and descends to the planet below. Earth.

The figure emerges from the craft, holding an instrument. They take readings, then hook the instrument directly into their flight suit. The figure writhes as if in pain, then straightens – some change has occurred within the flight suit. The figure pulls free its helmet to reveal the long tresses of a human woman. The woman uses a reflective surface to inspect her face with curiosity, then turns back to her tasks. The craft is closed, but some extra care is taken with an odd section near the back. The woman rests her naked hand on it for a long moment before departing.

The woman walks down an empty road, stopping several times to inspect local flora and various street signs with equal curiosity. A few cars pass as she comes into town, but none stop or take any notice of the traveler and her strange clothing.

The woman approaches a shop of some sort, her face focused with concentration. An encounter with a customer or server reveals that the woman speaks English, though in a stilted and formal manner. The encounter is heading towards some uncomfortable or awkward crisis when a young woman named Natalie Marlowe intervenes. A few kind words, perhaps some money – the moment is smoothed over and Natalie takes the traveler by the hand and leads her outside the establishment.  The traveler seems touched by these gestures and through conversation reveals that her own name is Nora.  Natalie leaps to the conclusion that Nora is a foreign traveler in need of a guide and quickly volunteers, pulling her off deeper into town.

Meanwhile…two policemen/park rangers/authority figures discover Nora’s spacecraft. Their caution turns to terror as they trip some sort of proximity alarm, firing their weapons at the strange craft. The bullets hit the rear section of the craft, causing an immediate reaction of great violence. The two humans flee as something large and angry breaks free from the rear section of the craft. The last thing we see is a warning light flashing on the console of the craft.

Act Two

A light flashes from a device on the belt of Nora’s gear – but she has not noticed it, being completely wrapped up in exploring the town with Natalie. Natalie and Nora walk hand in hand, in a sequence of discovery – local customs, places of interest. Some flirtation occurs, initiated by Natalie, but it is chaste. Nora seems fascinated by all that she is shown, but not least of all by her new companion.

At last, the two take a break for short conversation where the subject turns to Nora’s home. She is evasive but does not directly lie. Natalie, with some trepidation, brings up the Polaris Sweetheart Dance. Nora is interested in this local custom and immediately accepts her companion’s invitation, but is confused by Natalie’s excitement at her acceptance. Some query of Natalie’s prompts the traveler to reach into her pack to show off something, which is when she discovers the flashing device warning of an attack on her craft. Abruptly Nora departs with little explanation, Natalie shouts directions to the dance after her – hoping that the two can meet back up later that evening.

Meanwhile… the two policemen burst into the local establishment that Nora visited earlier. They quickly commandeer the phone, informing the startled server that their own radio stopped working on the drive back to town. They begin to dial for Local Authority – when the line suddenly goes dead. Something large and angry bursts through the window – we only see the screaming faces of the policemen and other humans as they are destroyed.

Nora arrives back at her craft, breathless. She goes immediately to the shattered rear section and sees that SLAA has escaped. The sun is setting, Nora reaches into the cockpit and pulls free what we assume is a weapon. The lights and voices coming from the cockpit are insistent, but Nora ignores them. She says aloud ‘Natalie’ then holsters her weapon and heads out into the dark.

Act Three

The young people of town gather for the Polaris Dance, none suspecting that SLAA lurks in the shadows nearby. The creature picks off a few dance-goers in gruesome fashion, but remains unseen by the audience. The creature seems to hesitate as Natalie arrives, dropped off by her father, Professor Marlowe. He bores his daughter with tales of his research into the vast unknown reaches of space, but she is far too excited at the prospect of seeing Nora again to pay much attention. She kisses her father goodbye, and he grouches and pulls out a newspaper to read as he waits to pick up his daughter when the dance ends.

Natalie waits outside the dance for quite some time – but finally growing cold she enters alone. The SLAA follows.

The dance is wild and exciting, happy faces, movement. Natalie shakes free of her sadness and finds some friends nearby that she greets, and begins to dance. An overlong sequence of young people dancing and the SLAA growing closer.

At last ,the SLAA reveals itself to screams of terror from the gathered dancers. The SLAA is a monstrosity, terrible to behold – but pieces of it seem to drop away as it advances. It’s target seems to be Natalie, who stumbles and falls in the center of the dance floor. The SLAA closes on her, seeming unsure. At last, Nora appears heroically brandishing her strange weapon – putting herself between the SLAA and Natalie. The terrified townsfolk look on in transfixed horror at this standoff, soon joined by Professor Marlowe – brought in by the screams.

More and more of the SLAA falls away, revealing a figure that is a dark mirror to Nora. Nora explains tersely to Natalie that her race learned long ago that to prosper and grow they would need to remove and exile the dark parts of themselves, but they could never completely break the link. She and the SLAA are one being, and she is complicit in all of its crimes. She believed that she could keep it contained, but knows now that it is too dangerous a beast to inflict on the primitive Earth.

The SLAA howls in anger and grief, but is held back by Nora’s weapon. Nora bids farewell to Natalie with a kiss. Then at last, she activates her weapon destroying the SLAA — but at the same time destroying herself.

Natalie weeps, surrounded by the ashes of the traveler. Her father comes forth to comfort her and offers what consolation he may.

“If such wonders can exist out there among the stars, beyond the edge of the earth — who knows what greater wonders await us? If such a being can walk among us, one who seems to have all but mastered the darkness within – perhaps they too have mastered death?” – Professor Marlowe

Natalie weeps on and ashes blow across the dance floor.

END