Tharg’s Future Shocks Script Synopsis
War of the Worlds
By Mark J Howard.
The year is 2019 and Lester J. Smethwick, the 46th president of the United States, has been doing rather well until an alien force invades the Earth.
In true alien-invasion style, humanity has no answer to the awesome forces unleashed all across the planet and can only stand and watch as huge areas are transformed into alien strongholds 100 miles across.
With the detection of a countdown signal, mankind can only wait for the final assault to come. The aliens, however, have no interest in humanity at all and are merely using the Earth as a glorified machine gun nest in order to ambush another alien fleet coming this way.
In the end, mankind takes no part in the Battle for Earth.
War of the Worlds
By Mark J. Howard
PAGE ONE, FRAME ONE: Large frame, half a page or so. The planet Earth seen from space, looking peaceful and beautiful. The International Space Station orbits in the middle distance. All is well.
CAP (HANDWRITING): JUST FIVE DAYS AGO, EVERYTHING WAS GOING SO WELL. I WAS HALF WAY THROUGH MY PRESIDENCY AND MY APPROVAL RATINGS WERE AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH.
CAP (HANDWRITING): I’D BROUGHT PEACE TO IRAQ AND FINALLY GOT THE MIDDLE EAST ON THE VERGE OF A LASTING CEASEFIRE.
CAP (HANDWRITING): BY THROWING THE ENTIRE WEIGHT OF AMERICA’S SCIENTISTS AND INDUSTRIALISTS AT THE PROBLEM, I MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR CHEAP AND CLEAN NEW ENERGY SOURCES TO BE DEVELOPED. OUR RELIANCE ON OIL WAS COMING TO AN END.
CAP (HANDWRITING): OUR ECONOMY WAS BOOMING AND THE REST OF THE WORLD WAS FINALLY STARTING TO LIKE THE U.S.A. AGAIN.
PAGE ONE, FRAME TWO: Large frame, taking up the rest of the page. A fleet of massive alien spacecraft (similar in design and size to the ships from the movie Independence Day) heading for the Earth. There are 666 of them, but we don’t need to see them all here, just enough to know that this is an overwhelming force. One of the alien ships collides with the International Space Station, smashing it to pieces effortlessly and with no damage to itself. There is no weapons fire.
CAP (HANDWRITING): I, LESTER J. SMETHWICK, 46TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WAS ABOUT TO GO DOWN AS PROBABLY THE GREATEST LEADER IN OUR HISTORY.
CAP (HANDWRITING): AND THEN THEY CAME FROM OUT OF NOWHERE.
CAP (HANDWRITING): IT JUST ISN’T GODDAM FAIR.
PAGE TWO, FRAME ONE: The alien ships entering the atmosphere, as seen from ground level by frightened people. It doesn’t matter which country is depicted here, as the same thing is happening all over the world. The ships are not firing or making any aggressive moves, just descending and spreading out.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THERE WERE SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX OF THEM. RELIGIOUS NUTS ALL OVER THE WORLD HAD A FIELD DAY WITH THAT LITTLE STATISTIC.
PAGE TWO, FRAME TWO: We focus on one of the massive alien ships descending towards a city. Fighter jets are on their way to intercept it, looking like gnats mobbing a whale.
CAP (HANDWRITING): ALL ATTEMPTS AT COMMUNICATION FAILED.
PAGE TWO, FRAME THREE: The alien ship lands on top of the city, crushing buildings beneath it as if they were made of sand.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THEY DIDN’T SEEM TO CARE WHERE THEY TOUCHED DOWN. CITIES, JUNGLES, DESERTS, ICE CAPS, THE OPEN SEA; ALL WERE MERELY LANDING SITES TO THEM. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE SIMPLY CRUSHED TO DEATH.
PAGE TWO, FRAME FOUR: The alien ship, sitting within the city, comes under attack from the fighter jets and land based tanks and rocket launchers etc. The ship sustains no damage at all and does not return fire, but the remaining buildings around the edge of the landing site are demolished in the attack.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THERE WAS NO OTHER OPTION OPEN TO ME. I HAD TO AUTHORISE AN ALL-OUT COUNTER STRIKE.
PAGE TWO, FRAME FIVE: The attack is over and the smoke and dust is clearing to reveal a totally undamaged alien ship.
CAP (HANDWRITING): WE DIDN’T EVEN SCRATCH THEM.
PAGE TWO, FRAME SIX: Closer on the alien ship, still just sitting there, but focussing on the damage to the city caused by the landing and the attack. Many dead people.
CAP (HANDWRITING): GOD ALONE KNOWS HOW MANY OF OUR OWN PEOPLE WE KILLED, BUT WHAT ELSE COULD WE DO? I PRAY GOD WILL FORGIVE ME.
PAGE THREE, FRAME ONE: An alien ship sat in the Mojave Desert with a stealth bomber approaching. The bomber has released a guided nuclear missile towards the alien ship. The alien ship does not react.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THERE WAS ONLY ONE WEAPON LEFT TO TRY, JUST LIKE IN ALL THOSE CHEESY MOVIES. I PICKED ONE OF THE SHIPS THAT HAD LANDED IN A REMOTE AREA, THE MOJAVE DESERT, I COULDN’T FACE KILLING ANY MORE CIVILIANS IN THE ATTEMPT.
PAGE THREE, FRAME TWO: The alien ship is hit by the nuclear missile, but the blast is deflected, doing no damage to the ship but vaporising the stealth bomber.
CAP (HANDWRITING): IT MERELY DEFLECTED THE BLAST, INCREASING ITS POWER TENFOLD, TURNING OUR OWN WEAPON AGAINST US.
PAGE THREE, FRAME THREE. Another alien ship, this time sat in the English countryside. The ship is beginning to glow.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THEY JUST SAT THERE, FOR THE BETTER PART OF A DAY, QUIET AND INVULNERABLE.
PAGE THREE, FRAME FOUR: The same ship and scene from the last frame, but this time almost hidden inside a dome of energy with the ship at the dead centre. As the dome expands, it annihilates everything it comes into contact with; trees, animals, buildings, hills – leaving behind a totally smooth area.
CAP: (HANDWRITING): MOST OF OUR SATELLITES WERE STILL WORKING THEN, SO WE SAW EVERY ONE OF THE INVADING SHIPS GENERATE A MASSIVE ENERGY FIELD AT THE SAME TIME.
PAGE THREE, FRAME FIVE: London. The energy barrier has expanded to just short of the Houses of Parliament, although now the energy barrier cannot be seen through.
CAP (HANDWRITING): EACH BARRIER RADIATED OUT IN A PERFECT CIRCLE ONE HUNDRED MILES IN DIAMETER. THE BARRIERS LASTED FOR A DAY. NOTHING COULD GET THROUGH THEM.
PAGE THREE, FRAME SIX: Same as above, but now the energy barrier has gone, leaving behind a smooth wall a mile high with the surviving portion of London untouched outside the wall.
CAP (HANDWRITING): WHEN THE BARRIERS DISAPPEARED, THEY LEFT BEHIND CIRCULAR ENCLOSURES SURROUNDED BY WALLS A MILE HIGH AND A MILE DEEP.
PAGE FOUR, FRAME ONE: Large frame. One of the newly constructed enclosures from above. This one has its centre off the eastern seaboard of the United States and the outer wall cuts into New York City. The interior of the enclosure is filled with an alien cityscape of towers and weaponry. Aircraft are trying to fly over for a look, but each one of them is vaporised by alien energy weapons.
CAP (HANDWRITING): ONLY THEN DID THEY START SHOOTING. EVERYTHING THAT FLEW OVER THE ENCLOSURES WAS ATOMISED. INSECTS, BIRDS, AIRCRAFT, MISSILES, SATELLITES... EVERYTHING. WE STILL CAN’T SEE WHAT’S INSIDE.
PAGE FOUR, FRAME TWO: An army radio operator on the ground, close to one of the alien walls, pulls off his earphones in agony as a loud noise rips through all the frequencies.
SFX (RADIO): FSSSS-KKKK-FSSSSS-KWAAAA-FSSSS...
CAP (HANDWRITING): THEN THE SIGNAL STARTED. IT’S COMPLETELY BLACKED OUT MOST OF OUR OWN COMMUNICATIONS. WE CAN’T JAM IT OR BLOCK ITS EFFECTS. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE ITS COMING FROM.
PAGE FOUR, FRAME THREE: President Lester J. Smethwick sat at his desk in a darkened bunker office, writing in his diary. He looks like a defeated man. The Seal of the US President hangs on the wall behind him. A door has opened and General William Schultz enters.
CAP (HANDWRITING): ALL WE KNOW IS THAT THIS SIGNAL IS A COUNTDOWN, WITH ZERO HOUR IN JUST A FEW MINUTES. WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO TO US WHEN THE TIME’S UP? ARE THEY HERE TO DESTROY US? TO ENSLAVE US? TO EAT US? IF ONLY WE KNEW WHAT THIS WAR WAS ABOUT, MAYBE WE’D HAVE A CHANCE.
GENERAL SCHULTZ: MR PRESIDENT? IT’S ALMOST TIME.
SMETHWICK: WHAT? OH, THANKS BILL. JUST GIVE ME A SECOND.
CAP (HANDWRITING): IT LOOKS LIKE THEY’RE GETTING READY FOR THEIR FINAL ASSAULT ON US. IF ANYONE SURVIVES TO READ THIS, PLEASE KNOW THAT WE DID OUR BEST. PRESIDENT LESTER J. SMETHWICK, JUNE 6TH, 2019.
PAGE FIVE, FRAME ONE: An underground war room. There are many generals and civilians present. On the walls are large monitors, most of them filled with static or very poor images of soldiers giving reports and views of the alien enclosures. The mood in the room is one of despondency and fear. A large CLOCK is counting down and reads H00:M00:S43. President Smethwick enters, followed by General Schultz, everyone stands and the military personnel salute.
SMETHWICK: WHAT’S OUR STATUS?
GENERAL SCHULTZ: FORTY THREE SECONDS TO GO, SIR. ALL OUR FORCES ARE STANDING BY. FROM WHAT WE CAN TELL, THE REST OF THE WORLD’S READY, TOO.
PAGE FIVE, FRAME TWO: Still in the war room, close on the president and General Schultz.
SMETHWICK: CAN WE WIN THIS WAR, BILL? HAVE WE GOT A CHANCE?
SCHULTZ: NO, SIR. THEY WON’T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PLEAS TO SURRENDER. BEST WE CAN HOPE FOR IS TO GO OUT FIGHTING.
PAGE FIVE, FRAME THREE: A civilian scientist listening to a ‘phone relays information. He is very frightened.
SCIENTIST: MR PRESIDENT! I’VE MANAGED TO GET THROUGH TO A GROUND-BASED OBSERVATORY IN UTAH. SIR, THEY’VE JUST PICKED UP ANOTHER FLEET HEADING FOR EARTH, THOUSANDS OF SHIPS THIS TIME!
SCIENTIST (JOIN): THEY’RE A LOT SMALLER AND OF A DIFFERENT DESIGN. E.T.A. TWENTY SECONDS.
PAGE FIVE, FRAME FOUR: Large frame. The alien enclosures firing at the approaching ships, which are of a completely different design. The new ships are firing at the alien enclosures, doing lots of damage. Massive damage to each side, and massive collateral damage to the Earth also.
CAP (HANDWRITING): WE GOT IT ALL WRONG. THEY WERE AT WAR, BUT NOT WITH US. THEY TURNED OUR PLANET INTO A GLORIFIED MACHINE GUN NEST; SET A PLANETARY AMBUSH.
CAP (HANDWRITING): THE BATTLE FOR THE EARTH HAS BEGUN, AND MANKIND CAN ONLY STAND AND WATCH AND DIE IN THE CROSSFIRE.
And this is what Matt Smith said about it:
Apologies for the brevity of this letter, but I do assure you that each and every unsolicited submission to 2000 AD receives the fullest individual attention.
Thank you for your script submission WAR OF THE WORLDS. Unfortunately, I don't feel that at the moment it is suitable for 2000 AD. I'm afraid I felt the plot simply wasn't substantial enough for an engaging five page tale, with too much of the backstory told in expository captions, when the narrative should flow naturally through the action and dialogue. Also, tje ending made the preceding pages fairly pointless and the story as a whole a little inconsequential...
Well, I can't argue with that. I'll keep posting these painful things if others find them helpful.