Writer, Broadcaster

Category: Humor (Page 1 of 4)

Captain’s Away!

Random Science Fictiony Looking Pic

Once I finished producing The Cold Equations for our science fiction radio show pilot Faster Than Light, I turned my attention to the second radio play in the show, an original called Captain’s Away! (Which I always wrote with an exclamation mark in the title because I liked the look of it. According to Goodreads there are 758 books with exclamation marks in the title, most of which are kids’ books, including a bunch by Dr. Suess.)

I didn’t intend Captain’s Away! just for kids but it was something I thought kids would enjoy. It was based on an idea I’d had several years earlier that had stuck with me. Roy Orbison once said if you had to write an idea down to remember it, it probably wasn’t worth remembering. I’d written the idea for Captain’s Away! down somewhere but I hadn’t needed to. It was an idea that had definitely stuck with me over the years. 

The premise was pretty straightforward. A waitress is approached by a crackpot who refers to her as “Captain” and implores her to return to her ship in space to lead her crew on a dangerous mission.  Except that the stranger isn’t actually a crackpot and there really is a spaceship and circumstances force our hero to assume the identity of the captain with no idea what she’s doing as all the while the question lingers: is she the captain or isn’t she? And if so, why can’t she remember being the captain?

Intending the piece to be a serial, to be aired in ten minute episodes during each instance of Faster Than Light, I set out to write the first ten minutes for the Faster Than Light pilot. I wound up writing the first three episodes, but we only ever produced the first one. I wrote it as a light, comic piece with plenty of opportunities for cool sound effects.

I got into a bit of trouble during the writing of it. When I gave what I considered to be the final draft to James Roy, he pointed out that this was not the way it was done. I was supposed to have written an outline and then a first draft and then a second draft and then a third draft and a polish, with feedback at every stage to inform the next stage. I don’t think I actually knew that. I was used to writing fiction on my own. Writing with the input of others was an alien concept to me. But James was right. I was stomping all over the way things were supposed to be done. He accepted the piece just the same, though.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about The Cold Equations, we cast the actors for both The Cold Equations and Captain’s Away! at the same time. Casting, I discovered, is quite difficult. It was so hard to make up our minds. So many great actors to choose from. I really liked a fellow by the name of Julian Richings for the part of the crackpot stranger named Choki. Julian has a wonderful British accent that I thought would work nicely (I was delighted to see him turn up in both Orphan Black and The Expanse years later), but we opted for Sergio Dizio instead (whom we also cast in The Cold Equations), after Sergio wowed us with a faux Italian accent. Later, after hearing Sergio’s comic Italian accent in the production, Damiano Pietropaulo, Director of Radio Drama at the time, of obvious Italian descent, expressed some dismay at the accent. Until he brought it up, it hadn’t occurred to me that it could be seen as offensive. That certainly wasn’t my intention. But nobody else complained.

We cast Kristina Nicoll as the lead and Richard (Rick) Waugh of Muckraker fame as her boss (he also doubled as a bus driver for a couple of lines). Both were terrific.

I contracted Wayne Richards to contribute original theme music and he came up with a fabulous piece that I called the Ah Oooh song (I don’t know if it has an actual name). I finished the play with another original piece of music by Rod Crocker called Turnaround, which I also love.

Turnaround (Rod Crocker, artist, composer)

Making Captain’s Away! was a lot of fun and I was disappointed we didn’t get to make any more. To make up for it, I’m hard at work on my second novel, working title Captain’s Away (this time without the exclamation mark). It’s not quite the same story as the radio play version—it’s a lot less silly and there’s a lot more to it—but it has a bit of the same spirit.

And maybe one day we’ll make a radio version of it.

Captain’s Away! (Well, the first ten minutes, anyway)

Just for fun, here’s the script for the first five episodes:

CAPTAIN’S AWAY!

By Joe Mahoney

KARIN KUDELKA, waitress, thirtiesh

ENSIGN CHOKI SUNERIN, early twenties

LEONARD SNODGRASS, Manager of the Pickled Onion, fortiesh

MIRIEL, female, thirty-five, hint of the islands

STREETCAR DRIVER

EPISODE 1: SCENE 1 — KARIN’S APARTMENT

1. MUSIC:                                AH-OOH THEME

2. KARIN (NARR): Kudelka’s Log, Tuesday, July twenty-seventh.  It’s been almost a month since… the accident.  I still can’t believe he’s gone.  It’s so lonely without him.  I hear him all the time, but when I turn around to look for him, he’s not there.  What I wouldn’t give to see that handsome little face one more time.  The guilt is almost more than I can bear – it was my fault, after all.  If only I hadn’t left the window open!  Maybe I should just replace him, but – I don’t think I deserve another gerbil.  Sometimes I think I don’t deserve any pet at all.

3. MUSIC: UP AND OUT

4. SOUND: TELEPHONE RINGS.  CREAKING OF BED AS OUR HEROINE PICKS UP TELEPHONE

5. KARIN: (SLEEPY) Yo.

6. SNODGRASS: (TREATED) Who’s this?

7. KARIN: You first.

8. SNODGRASS: It’s me, Leonard.

9. KARIN: Leonard…

10. SNODGRASS: Leonard Snodgrass!  That you, Kudelka?

11. KARIN: Omigod, M-mister Snodgrass, what time is it?

12. SOUND: KARIN SCRAMBLES OUT FROM UNDER THE COVERS

13. SNODGRASS: It’s late, is what time it is.  Do you not think, Kudelka, that it’s time you bought a clock?

14. KARIN:   I have one, it just doesn’t –

15. SOUND: SNODGRASS HANGS UP, DIAL TONE

16. KARIN:     — work, is all.

17. MUSIC: GETTIN’ THE LEAD OUT

SCENE 2: BUSY SIDEWALK IN DOWNTOWN CORE

18. SOUND: STREETCAR ARRIVES, BELLS CLANGING, KARIN STEPS IN, DEPOSITS COINS ONE BY ONE

19. KARIN: Hi, how ya doin’?  Okay, seventy, eighty, ninety, ninety-five, ninety-six, ninety-seven… uh oh.

20. DRIVER: Well?  You gettin’ on or not?

21. KARIN: Uh, do you have change for a twenty?

22. SOUND: CHOKI CLAMBERS ABOARD BG

23. DRIVER: We only take exact change.

24. KARIN: Oh.  Darn.  Uh, gee — 

25. DRIVER: Look lady, what’s it gonna be?  On or off?

26. CHOKI: (MOVING ON) Hello, hi, excuse me… maybe I can help.

27. SOUND: CHOKI DEPOSITS COINS

28. CHOKI:  There.  Is that enough?

29. KARIN: Yes, thank you.

30. CHOKI: You’re quite welcome, Captain.

31. KARIN: Captain?

32. SOUND: STREETCAR STARTS UP, KARIN SITS DOWN

33. CHOKI: Mind if I sit beside you, Captain?

34. KARIN: Be my guest.

35. SOUND: CHOKI SITS DOWN

36. KARIN: So, do you call everyone Captain?

37. CHOKI: Just Captains, Captain.  Excuse me.

38. SOUND: A TUNEFUL ELECTRONIC BLEEP SOUNDS

39. CHOKI: (DISCRETELY) Choki to Kimay (KEE’MAY), I’ve found the Captain, she’s assumed the identity of a human female, brunette, with quite a smattering of freckles about her face. A clever disguise.

40. KARIN:   Uh…

41. CHOKI: I’ll keep you posted, Choki out.  (CHUCKLES) You’re asking yourself, why am I talking to my watch.

42. KARIN: Well yes, actually.

43.  CHOKI: You see, it’s not just a watch, it’s also a communicator.  We had them specially made.  Clever, eh?  Here, I’ll show you.

44. SOUND: WATCH PRODUCES NEAT SOUND

45. CHOKI: You see?

46. KARIN: Oh, I get it, it’s a toy.

47. CHOKI: Noooo Captain, it’s no toy, it’s as real as the Kimay.

48. KARIN: The Kimay…

49. CHOKI: The Kimay… the starship that brought us here.  You’re a little confused, aren’t you?  I didn’t realize –

50. KARIN: You think I’m the one that’s confused?

51. CHOKI: Thank heavens I found you in time, before the enemy –

52. KARIN: Oh boy.

53. CHOKI: When the psionic link went down, I –

54. SOUND: “STOP REQUESTED” SIGNAL SOUNDS, KARIN GETS UP TO LEAVE

55. KARIN: Gee, is this my stop already?  (MOVING OFF)  Thanks so much for your help, I’ll just be getting off now, thanks, excuse me?

56. CHOKI: (CALLING AFTER) But Captain, you don’t understand, we need to – the mission, it’s in jeopardy… Captain, the Kimay needs you!

57. MUSIC: WHIRLWIND STING

SCENE 3: KITCHEN OF THE PICKLED ONION, A RESTAURANT

58. SOUND: DOOR BURSTS OPEN,  RESTAURANT KITCHEN SFX

59. KARIN: (BREATHLESS) I’m so sorry –

60. SNODGRASS: Third time this month, Kudelka.  Third time.

61. KARIN: Sorry, Mr. Snodgrass, won’t happen again, getting a new clock soon as I can afford one.  Then on the bus, there was this, this guy –

62. SNODGRASS: You’re on thin ice, do you hear me?  And it’s melting, just like the polar ice cap.  (BEAT)  Be sorry to see it go.

63. KARIN: (BEAT)  What go?

64. SNODGRASS: The polar ice cap!  All those polar bears – won’t be a one left.  Punctuality and polar bears – I shall mourn their passing.  Okay, get out of here, table twelve’s waiting, what’s the matter with you?  Take his tray, weirdo’s been waitin’ half an hour already.

65. KARIN: Like I said, Mr. Snodgrass, I’m really sorry about –

66. SNODGRASS: Out!

67. KARIN: (MUTTERING) Okay, okay… this his tray here? (GROANS PICKING UP TRAY) Fella’s got an appetite…

68. SOUND: PICKS UP LARGE TRAY OF FOOD, OUT THROUGH SWINGING KITCHEN DOORS

SCENE 4: THE PICKLED ONION

69. SOUND: PATRONS EATING, CHATTING BG

70. KARIN: (MOVING ON) Table twelve, table twelve, here we are… morning, sir, sorry to keep you waiting, I must say, this is one heckuva a big breakfast for just one per – (GASP) – you!

71. CHOKI: A ploy to remain seated, Captain, no time to eat.  Now listen: The enemy, they’ve affected your brain, I think.  We must get you back to the ship —

72. KARIN: Are you stalking me?

73. CHOKI: Captain, please —

74. KARIN: Stop calling me that!  I’m not your Captain, or anyone’s Captain, I’m a waitress, and you, sir, need help —

75. SOUND: CHOKI TAKES A DEVICE FROM HIS POCKET – THERE IS A HUMMING SOUND

76. KARIN: What’s that?  What’ve you got there?  What are you-

77. CHOKI: P.T.A, Captain – personal time accelerator, for use in emergencies only.  It’ll buy us the time and privacy we need.

78. SOUND: BLEEP OF PTA; RESTAURANT CHATTER VARI-SPEEDS DOWN, THEN STOPS

79. KARIN: What the – my god, what have you done?  It’s like, they’re all frozen!  Everyone!  Not cold to the touch, but –

80. SOUND: WOMAN TOPPLES OVER

81. KARIN: Omigod!  I just touched her and she fell over, I didn’t mean to — 

82. CHOKI: ‘S’okay, Captain… (STANDS UP), it’s not a problem, I’ll just get up and (GRUNTS WITH EXERTION) stand her back up, like so…

83. KARIN: Watch her head!  The table!

84. SOUND: SICKENING THUD

85. KARIN: Ooh!

86. CHOKI: That’s gonna leave a mark!  (BEAT)  Shame, too… it was such a nice table.

87. SOUND: MORE EXERTION FROM CHOKI

88. CHOKI: There!  Except for the big lump on her head she’ll never know what happened.

89. KARIN: What exactly is happening?

90. CHOKI: (RAPID-FIRE) The personal time accelerator, it speeds us up, we’re moving much faster than everyone else, too fast for them to see or hear us.  Got it?  No.  Okay, doesn’t matter, not important.  What is important is this:  You are Captain Karin Kudelka of the Kimay, you’re not from here, you’re a T’Klee, you’ve been hurt in some kind of accident, that’s why you can’t remember who you are.  Mighta been enemy action, maybe you just slipped on a banana, hard to say.  Thing is, we‘ve got to get you back to the Kimay before the damage becomes irreversible.

91. KARIN: Okay look you, I don’t know what kind of shenanigans you’re up to or how you know my name, but I’m not going anywhere.  I am not a whatever you said, I’m a waitress.  You, this, this thing you’ve done, I’m just delusional is all, it’s… the gerbil!  The stress of his death, it’s getting to me, the guilt, I’m, I’m losing my mind –

92. CHOKI: Captain.  There’s far too much at stake here.  If I have to, I’ll sling you over my back… 

93. SOUND: INSISTENT BLEEP OF PTA DEVICE

94. CHOKI: Drat, time’s up.  Grab on to something, quick.

95. SOUND: THERE’S A WRENCHING SOUND AS TIME IS TORN IN HALF.  RESTAURANT SFX SUDDENLY RETURN TO NORMAL

96. KARIN: Oh!

97. SOUND: KARIN DROPS THE TRAY OF FOOD SHE WAS HOLDING ONTO

98. SNODGRASS: (STORMING ON)  Kudelka… Kudelka, was that you?  Did you drop your…  what’s got into you?  Look at this mess!  As far as the eye can see, nothin’ but scrambled eggs.

99. KARIN: Mr. Snodgrass… you were frozen, all of you, just like statues, you came back to life and I musta – (SNIFF; SHE’S TRYING NOT TO CRY) jumped, I didn’t mean to — (SNIFF) I’m just having a bad day (SNIFF SNIFF)…

100. SNODGRASS: Oh, Karin, Karin, Karin, there there, it’s okay, here’s a handkerchief.

101. KARIN: (SNIFF) Thank you.

102. SNODGRASS: It’s drugs, isn’t it?

103. KARIN: Huh?

104. SNODGRASS: You disappoint me, Kudelka.  Didn’t think you were the type. 

105. KARIN: No, no!  No drugs!

106. SNODGRASS: You’ll consider this an act of kindness some day — you’re fired.  Get help if you have to.  Now get your things and get out.

107. KARIN: Fired?  No… you can’t!  The rent, how will I… Mr. Snodgrass, please –

108. CHOKI: (APPALLED) Captain, please, the dignity of your station, begging before a mere human —

109. KARIN: You stay out of this!

110. SNODGRASS: Sorry, mind’s made up.  Oh, and Kudelka – if you wouldn’t mind, just, cleaning this up before you go?  Hmm?

111. MUSIC: AH-OOH THEME

End of Episode One

EPISODE 2: SCENE 1 — OUTSIDE THE PICKLED ONION

THEME:       AH-OOH THEME

2. SFX:       CHOKI & KARIN EXIT RESTAURANT

3. CHOKI: (BREATHLESS, MOVING ON) Captain, we have to get back to the ship.  The crew… you’ve been gone a long time, they’re restless.  I can’t blame them, the enemy, closing in —

4.  KARIN: “We” must not get “me” anywhere.  I’m going home.  Alone.  (MOVING OFF)  Taxi!  Taxi!

5. CHOKI: Captain!  Home is an awfully long way from here!

6. KARIN: (ON) What am I doing, I can’t afford a taxi.  (MOVING OFF)  Bus!  Bus!

7. CHOKI: Half way across the galaxy.  Remember?  No?

8. KARIN: (ON) Hypnosis.

9. CHOKI: Captain?

10. KARIN: Hypnosis.  That whole slowing down time thing in there.  It was a trick, wasn’t it?  You’re some kinda loony hypnotist.  Well thanks for the show, pal, but you’ve gone and got me fired!

11. CHOKI: Captain, you’re not well.

12. KARIN: (DERISIVE SNORT) I’m not well! 

13. CHOKI: Come with me.  Back to the ship, I implore you.  We’re in danger, all of us, great danger.  The mission… you want to go home?  Captain — there will be no home, not here, not there, not — not anywhere, unless you and I get back to the Kimay, back where we belong, and finish what we came for!

14. KARIN: Look you — wait a minute.  What’s your rank, young man?

15. SFX: CLICK OF BOOT HEELS

16. CHOKI: Ensign Choki Sunerin, at your service, Captain.

17. KARIN: Ensign.  So I’m your Captain, am I?

18. CHOKI: Yes.  Yes, that’s right.  Captain Karin Kudelka of the Kimay, Marauder Class Starship of the Imperial Republic of T’Klee.

19. KARIN: Of what?  Never mind.  Okay.  If I’m your Captain, then you have to follow my orders.  That’s right, isn’t it?  Ensign?

20. CHOKI: Uh…

21. KARIN: (STERNLY) Ensign!

22. CHOKI: Yes Captain.  But —

23. KARIN: No buts!  I order you to go away!  Far, far away!  Vermont, at the very least!  And leave me alone! 

24. CHOKI: (GENTLY) Captain, with all due respect, you are not fit to command.

25. KARIN: That’s a direct order, mister!  You can’t disobey a direct order!  (BEAT) Can you?

26. CHOKI: I’m afraid I must.  We’re running out of time.  I’m sorry, Captain, but…

27.  SFX: CHOKI WITHDRAWS A WHIRRING OBJECT FROM HIS POCKET

28. KARIN: Okay, what’s that, what’ve you got there –

29. CHOKI: S’okay, Captain, won’t hurt a bit.  Well not much.  A bit of pain, maybe –

30. KARIN: Hey!  Whattaya…  don’t you dare stick me with that thing!

31. SFX: THEY STRUGGLE

32.  CHOKI: It’s for the best, Captain.  You’ll go to sleep, you’ll wake up on board the Kimay, and everything’ll be juuusssst fine.

33. KARIN: Oh no you don’t…!

34.  SFX: MORE STRUGGLING.  CHOKI IS STRUCK OVER THE HEAD WITH A FRYING PAN AND COLLAPSES

35. CHOKI: Ooof!

36. KARIN: Mr. Snodgrass!

37. SNODGRASS: To the rescue, it would appear.

38. MUSIC BRIDGE: SHORT AND SNAPPY

SCENE 2: SNODGRASS’S OFFICE

39. MUSIC: CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING QUIETLY BG

40. SFX: SNODGRASS POURS DRINK

41. SNODGRASS: A little something to help you relax.

42. KARIN: Thank you, Mr. Snodgrass.

43. SNODGRASS: (SITTING DOWN) Where was I… oh yes.  When I saw the weirdo hadn’t paid his bill, I went after him.

44. KUDELKA: With a frying pan.

45. SNODGRASS: Naturally.

46. KARIN: Did you – did you have to hit him so hard?  I mean – I know he was crazy, but —

47. SNOGRASS: He was assaulting you with a deadly… with a deadly… thing, you know.

48. KARIN:    I know, but… he was kind of sweet in a way.  Calling me “Captain” all the time.  Captain!  Usually it’s “Honey where’s my baloney sandwich?”

49. SNODGRASS: Yes.  “Captain.”  Curious that.

50. KARIN: You’re being awfully sweet too, Mr. Snodgrass.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t —

51. SNODGRASS: Think I had it in me.  Yes, I know.  You all think I’m some kind of “monster,” don’t you, heh heh.  Well there’s a lot you don’t know about me, Kudelka.

52. KARIN: Um… Mr. Snodgrass… seeing as how you’re being all nice to me and all now, um…

53. SNODGRASS: No.

54. KARIN: No?

55. SNODGRASS: No.  You can’t have your job back. 

56. KARIN: But – but Mr. Snodgrass…!

57. SNODGRASS: This may sound harsh, Kudelka, but… well… jobs are for people who show up on time.  They’re for people who don’t drop things, and… who aren’t about to die horribly.

58. KARIN: That aren’t about to… huh?

59. SNODGRASS: Kudelka, I’m gonna to show you something I haven’t shown anyone in years.

60. KARIN: Oh, I’m not so sure I wanna see that —

61. SFX: SOUND OF FALSE FACE RIPPED OFF

62. SNODGRASS:    (TREATED AS AN ALIEN) My true face!

63. KARIN: (GASPS) Mr. Snodgrass!  You’re hideous!

64. SNODGRASS: (TREATED) I beg your pardon!  I’ll have you know I’m considered quite the catch back on Necronia Prime.

65. KARIN: Necronia…

66. SNODGRASS: (TREATED) Prime, my dear Captain.  My homeworld.  Yes, that’s right: I know who you are, even if you don’t.  I heard every word your ensign said.

67. KARIN: (WEAKLY) Homeworld?

68. SNODGRASS: (TREATED) Oh, how I long for those crimson skies, those sulphurous seas!  Here everything’s so… bright and… fuzzy, I – I simply can’t stand it any longer.  Fortunately, once I’ve extracted what I need from your feeble brain, I won’t have to.  What have you to say to that, Captain Karin Kudelka of the Kimay?

69. KARIN: Uhhhh… help?

70. MUSIC: “HELP” FROM THE BEATLES, SEGUING DIRECTLY INTO:

71. MUSIC: AH-OOH THEME

End of Episode Two

EPISODE 3: SCENE 1 — SNODGRASS’S OFFICE

1. MUSIC CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING QUIETLY BG

2. KARIN: (UNDER HER BREATH) This is not happening.  It’s not happening!

3. SNODGRASS: (TREATED) We’ll have to be quick about this, Kudelka.  Come over here.

4. KARIN: No…! 

5. SFX: SNODGRASS GRABS HER ROUGHLY.  SHE STRUGGLES FUTILEY

6. SNODGRASS:   I just insert the…

7. SFX: SUCTION DEVICE PLACED ON HEAD

8. KARIN: (GASPS)

9. SNODGRASS: Turn it on, and…

10. SFX: WHIRRING, SUCKING SFX

11. KARIN: Oh…!  Oh, it hurts! 

12. SNODGRASS: Yes.  Yes I’m sure that it does. 

13. SFX: BUTTONS, WHIRRING BG

14. SNODGRASS: But you mustn’t think me cruel, Kudelka. Merely expedient.  You see, the truth is, I’ve always been rather fond of you.

15. KARIN: Right!

16. SNODGRASS: We have much in common, you and I.

17. KARIN: What could I possibly have in common with a monster like you –

18. SFX: BUTTON PUNCHED HARD, SFX OUT

19. SNODGRASS: (BEAT) Monster?

20. KARIN: Have you looked in a mirror, pal?  I mean, you know, since you ripped off your face?  A little something to consider: Instead of a gaping hole in the middle of your face?  How ‘bout some kind of, oh, I dunno, nose

21. SNODGRASS: Show me your true face, Captain.  Talk to me then of monsters.

22. KARIN: My true face…? What do you mean my true face?

23. SNODGRASS: (CHUCKLES) Never mind, Captain.  No time for that now.  Now —

24. KARIN: I’m warning you, I’ll scream.

25. SNODGRASS: Oh good. I was rather hoping you’d scream.  Soundproof walls, Captain.  Scream to your heart’s content.

26. SFX: BUTTON.  PAIN MACHINE ON

27. KARIN: (CRIES OUT)

28. SNODGRASS: Time to find out what you know.

29. KARIN: What I know?  I don’t even… know about what?

30. SNODGRASS: (WARNING) Captain…

31. SFX: PAIN INCREASED

32. KARIN: (SUFFERING) Wait!  Wait…I know…

33. SNODGRASS: What?

34. KARIN …pain…

35. SNODGRASS: My dear Captain.  We all know pain.  Tell me something I don’t know.

36. KARIN: Okay!  Okay!  Just don’t… I’ll tell you something, something I know…

37. SNODGRASS: Hmm?

38. KARIN:     I know…

39. SNODGRASS: What?

40. KARIN: (BABBLING, DESPERATE) What do I know?  Uh… well, I’ll tell you one thing, I know that this is really a bad day, ‘cause Mr. Snodgrass I have to tell you I thought that yesterday was a bad day, I mean, you’re gonna laugh, but I got my little finger caught in a cheese grater, trying to get it out I thought I’d rip it clean off, man did it hurt  — but compared to today that was nothing

41. SNODGRASS: (INTERRUPTING) Captain, Captain.

42. KARIN: What?

43. SNODGRASS: The Apple.

44. KARIN: Apple…

45. SNODGRASS:    I need to know about The Apple.

46. KARIN: (HASN’T A CLUE) The apple.  Yes.  Yes, of course.  The apple.    

47. SNODGRASS: It’s the entire reason you’re here, isn’t it.  To find The Apple.  Bring it back to your people.  Win this silly war with it.

48. KARIN: (TRYING TO FOLLOW) Win the war with the apple…

49. SNODGRASS: So what I need to know, Captain…

48. SFX: SHOT OF PAIN MACHINE

50. KARIN: (GASPS)

51. SNODGRASS: …is… where is The Apple?

52: KARIN:  I don’t know!

53: SNODGRASS: Maybe you have it already.  Do you?  No?  How close are you to finding it?

54. KARIN: Mr. Snodgrass, please…

55. SNODGRASS: ‘Cause it’s here, somewhere.  Oh yes, I know it is.  Has to be.  So close I can practically smell it.

56. KARIN: (BEAT) Without a nose?

57. SFX: ANOTHER SHOT OF PAIN

58. KARIN: Oh…!  Oh, Mr. Snodgrass.  Why are you doing this to me?

59. SNODGRASS: Make no mistake, Kudelka, you’re doing this to yourself.  Tell me where the Apple is and all the pain will stop.  It’s as simple as that. 

60. KARIN: It is?

61. SNODGRASS: It is.  I promise.

62. KARIN: You do?

63. SNODGRASS:     I do.  I really do. 

64. KARIN: Umm…

65. SNODGRASS: Mmm?

66. KARIN: Uh… what about the fridge.  Have you looked in there?

67. SFX: PAIN, TERRIBLE PAIN

68. KARIN: (CRYING OUT)

69. SNODGRASS: Tsk tsk tsk.  Why do they always insist on dying horribly?

70. SFX: MORE PAIN GENERATED 

71. KARIN: (MORE CRYING OUT)

72. SFX:     DOOR SPLINTERING OPEN

73. SNODGRASS:  What the…?

74. SFX:          SHOT OF FUTURISTIC BLASTER

75. SFX: SNODGRASS FALLS TO THE GROUND

76. SNODGRASS: Oh!

77. MIRIEL:   Hello, Captain.  Long time no see.

78. MUSIC: AH-OOH THEME

End of Episode Three

EPISODE 4: SCENE 1 – INTERIOR CAR

1. SFX: INT. CAR SCREECHES AROUND CORNER, DRIVING FAST

2. KARIN: (IN SCENE): (FRANTIC) Gotta… gotta get a grip.  Gotta think!

3. SFX: PURSE RUMMAGING FOR PEN, PAD

4. KARIN: Have ta… organize my thoughts… maybe, maybe write things down…

5. KARIN (NARR): (STILL FRANTIC) Kudelka’s Log, Wednesday, July… July…

6. KARIN (IN SCENE): What’s the date today?

7. CHOKI: Human calendar, Captain?  Or T’Klee?

8. KARIN: (BEAT) Never mind.

9. KARIN: (NARR): They’ve taken me in some kinda — some kinda car.  Who?  I don’t know. Why?  Dunno that either.  My… my job — gone!  Eggs!  Everywhere… boss some kinda – freak! Nose! Gone, all gone.

10. CHOKI: Captain… Captain, are you okay?  Sir, she’s shivering.

11. SFX: SCREECH OF TIRES

12. MIRIEL: (FROM FRONT SEAT TO BACK) Don’t worry, Ensign — we’ll get her looked after as soon as we can.  Get her seatbelt on — I’m gonna take a shortcut.

13. CHOKI: Yes sir. 

14. SFX: SEATBELT CLINKING

15. CHOKI: Captain, if you could just–

16.  KARIN: (IN SCENE) Don’t –! Touch me.

17. CHOKI: Captain, your seatbelt.

18. KARIN: I’m not your captain.  And I may be crazy, but I still know how to…

19. SFX: GRAPPLING WITH SEATBELT BG

20. KARIN: … how to… how to get a…! Arrgh!  How do you get this thing to —

21. CHOKI: Just… you just have to –

22. SFX: SEATBELT ATTACHES PROPERLY

23. KARIN: (BIG SIGH) Thanks.

24. CHOKI: You’re welcome, Cap – you’re welcome.

25. SFX: DRIVING GETS REALLY BUMPY

26. KARIN: (SHAKY) Look, Ensign – whatever your name is – maybe – maybe it wasn’t such a good idea me coming with you.

27. CHOKI: No, no, Captain, don’t say that—

28. SFX: OVER PARTICULARLY BIG BUMP

29. CHOKI: (PAIN) Oh!

30. KARIN: What? What’s wrong?

31. CHOKI: Nothing… it’s nothing…

32. KARIN: It’s your head, isn’t it? Where he hit you —

33. CHOKI: My head’s fine. Really. 

34. KARIN: Really?

35. CHOKI: Absolutely. My real head, anyway.  But this one? Hurts a lot!

36. KARIN: (BEAT) Could you sound any more like you have a concussion?

37. CHOKI:      I just need to get back to the ship, Captain.  I’ll be fine then. We all will. (SOTTO VOCE) I think.

38. KARIN: Oh yeah.  The ship.  The – what did you call it?

39. CHOKI: The Kimay. You – you do remember her, don’t you, Captain?

40. MIRIEL: Ensign.

41. CHOKI: But – but sir, she’s got to remember! If she doesn’t even remember the Kimay, how can she can possibly –

42. MIRIEL: Ensign! 

43. CHOKI: Yes sir.

44. KARIN: Look you… people – or whatever you are — what if – and just, just go with me on this, um, what if I don’t remember anything because, you know, call me crazy, but, ah, because there isn’t anything to remember! Eh? And – and — and – and maybe it isn’t me that’s crazy at all but, but – and, don’t get mad — ha ha! so to speak — but, but, but it’s you that’s crazy, and not me!  Eh?  Or, or, or this is all some kind of a joke, some kind of really, really horrible, mean joke —

45. MIRIEL: Karin —

46. KARIN: (WEAKENING) A joke that… that Mr. Snodgrass put you up to… except – except that – you guys – it really hurt the stuff he did to me, you know…? 

47. MIRIEL: Karin, listen to me. You’re going to be okay — 

48. KARIN: No, no I don’t think so.  I am anything but okay! —

49. MIRIEL: You’re scared… confused. I don’t blame you – all you’ve been through.  Hang on.

50. SFX: BIG BUMP, THEN SMOOTH DRIVING

51. MIRIEL: I’ve no idea what happened to you, Karin – why you can’t remember who you are. I know it must’ve been something bad.  But we’re going to figure it out, you and me – all of us, together. You have my word on that. We’ll sort it all out just as soon as we… uh… (SHE’S SAID TOO MUCH)… as soon as we…

52. KARIN: (RECOVERING COMPOSURE) What?

53. MIRIEL: Um… as soon as we, ah, soon. We’ll sort it out soon.

54. KARIN: As soon as what? What were you going to say?

55. MIRIEL: (SIGH) As soon as we cross over.

56. KARIN: Cross over.  I don’t even want to know what that means.

57. SFX: SEATBELT UNBUCKLED

58. KARIN: Stop the car.

59. CHOKI: Captain…

60. KARIN: Stop the car.  I mean it! I’m getting out.

61. SFX: DOOR OPENS, HIGHWAY IS LOUD

62. CHOKI: Captain no!

63. KARIN: You’re got three seconds and then I jump!

64. MIRIEL: Karin –

65. KARIN: One!  (BEAT) Two!

66. CHOKI: Sir — I think she means it, sir!

67. MIRIEL: Of course she does, Ensign. She rarely bluffs, our Captain.

68. KARIN: Three!

69. SFX: CAR SCREECHES TO A HALT

70. MIRIEL: (FACING BACK SEAT FOR FIRST TIME) Well? Karin. Go if you’re going.

71. CHOKI: (AGHAST) Sir? You’re not going to just –!

72. MIRIEL: That’s enough out of you, Ensign.

73. SFX: CAR PASSES, HORN DOPPLERING

74: KARIN:      I just… it’s just —

75. MIRIEL: Mm?

76. KARIN: It’s all just so… insane!  I mean… isn’t it?

77. MIRIEL: Oh yes, Captain, quite insane, I assure you.

78. SFX: LONG BEAT AS CAR PASSES ON COUNTRY ROAD

79. MIRIEL: We have a long ways to go yet, Captain — if you would be so good as to close the door?

80. SFX: ANOTHER LONG BEAT.  DOOR CLOSES.

81. MIRIEL: (SIGH OF RELIEF) Yessirree… a long, long ways.

83. SFX: CAR STARTS OFF

End of Episode Four

EPISODE 5:  SCENE 1 – CLIFF

1. SFX: WIND WHISTLES, BIRDS CRY, WATERFALL CRASHES ONTO ROCKS BELOW

2. KARIN:    I was afraid of this.

3. CHOKI: What, Captain?

4. KARIN:    I don’t see it.

5. CHOKI: What are you looking for?

6. KARIN: Your ship. The… the Kimay. I thought you were taking me to the Kimay. (DERISIVE SNORT) You know, you almost had me convinced. 

7. CHOKI: No… no, Captain — we are taking you to the Kimay, really!

8. KARIN: So… what.  Is it down there?  Under the water?

9. CHOKI: Noooo….

10. KARIN: Wait! Don’t tell me: it’s in a cave in the cliffs.

11. CHOKI: Noooo….

12. KARIN: (SARCASTIC) Is it a cloud?  A tree? No, no wait, I got it — it’s a bug, isn’t it.  A ladybug, or — or a bee!  And we have to shrink to get in it. Right? Am I right?

13. CHOKI: A good guess, Captain —

14. KARIN: But?

15. MIRIEL: No. The Kimay is not a bug.

16. CHOKI: You see, the thing is, Captain, the Kimay is not actually here.

17. KARIN: (ASIDE) Why am I not surprised? (LOUDER) All right, then — where is it?

18. MIRIEL: Tell her, Ensign.

19. CHOKI: Yes… well, you see, Captain, it’s difficult to say exactly where the Kimay is at any one time.  We have to keep it out of harm’s way, you see, because of the, ah, well the war and all… and — um, should I be…?

20. MIRIEL: It’s okay, Ensign, she has to hear about it sometime.

21. KARIN: The war… Snodgrass said something about a war. Kept asking about… an apple?  Can that be right? Maybe I didn’t hear him right.

22. MIRIEL: We are at war, Captain.

23. KARIN: Over an apple?

23. MIRIEL: No.

24. KARIN: Well that’s good. (CHUCKLES) Be a pretty silly war, over an apple.

25. MIRIEL: Wars have been fought over less, Captain. 

26. KARIN: Yeah? Like what… grapes?

27. CHOKI: There is an apple involved.  But it’s not a real apple – we just call it an apple.

28. KARIN: Let me guess – it’s really a grape.

29. MIRIEL: Ensign. Tell her about the Kimay.

30. CHOKI: Yes sir. You see, Captain, the thing is, we don’t actually know where the Kimay is.

31. KARIN: You don’t.

32. CHOKI: No.

33. KARIN: So… what. This is some kind of a game, then?

34. CHOKI: Oh no, Captain.  By no means.  You see, we may not know where the Kimay is…

35. SFX: A TUNEFUL ELECTRONIC BLEEP

36. CHOKI: But we know how to get there.  Choki to Kimay.

37. SFX: FUNNY HIGH PITCHED SQUEAKING

38. CHOKI: Kimay, we have the captain.

39. SFX: SQUEAKING MANAGES TO SOUND LIKE “YOU HAVE THE CAPTAIN?!”

40. CHOKI: Yes.  We have the captain.  Standing by to cross over.

41. SFX: MORE FUNNY SQUEAKING 

42. CHOKI: Understood.

43. SFX: TUNEFUL ELECTRONIC BLEEP

44. SFX: A LOW, OMINOUS SOUND BG

45. KARIN: (AFRAID) What’s that?

44. CHOKI: Psionic field.  It’s up, sir.

45. MIRIEL: Good.  That gives us… what.

46. CHOKI: Seconds, minutes… hard to say.

47. MIRIEL: (CONCERNED) Hmm.

48. KARIN: A sonic what?  What do you mean by “cross over… you’re not talking about beaming up, are you?  Know what I think? You guys watch too much television.  You should listen to the radio more!

49. MIRIEL: Get a move on, ensign.

47. CHOKI: (OFF) Yes sir. 

48. KARIN: What’s he doing?  (PANIC) Where’s he going?

49. CHOKI: (OFF) It’s okay, Captain!

50. KARIN: No!

51. SFX: WATERFALL & OMINOUS SFX LOUDER

52. KARIN: No… no, Choki, what are you… don’t do it! Don’t jump!

53. SFX: THEY STRUGGLE BG

54. CHOKI: Let – go, Captain!

55. KARIN: But – but Choki – it’s gotta be a hundred feet down there! There’s rocks – you could hit a rock beneath the surface!

56. CHOKI: (STRUGGLING TO FREE HIMSELF) Captain, there’s — no time —

57. KARIN: But – but Choki!  You’ll drown! Or – or wind up a quadriplegic! Or worse!

58. CHOKI: Captain, it’s – it’s how you do it!  How you get to the Kimay!

59. KARIN: Choki…!  Choki… You! Help me!

60. MIRIEL: (OFF) He knows what he’s doing, Captain.

61. KARIN: Choki… Choki damn you!

62. SFX: THEY STRUGGLE; CLOTHES RIP, ROCKS, PEBBLES FALL

63. SFX: SILENCE ENSUES, UNTIL:  

64. KARIN: Choki! Omigod… omigod Choki!  I – I can’t see him!  Where’d he go?

65. MIRIEL: (APPROACHING) He’s on board the Kimay, Captain.

66. KARIN: (URGENT) I don’t see him on the rocks… he must be in the water! Quick! Call 911!

67. MIRIEL: I’ll go next.  You need to come right after, Captain.  No dawdling… the field won’t stay up forever.

68. KARIN: Whattaya you guys… in some kinda cult?

69. MIRIEL: See you on the other side, Captain.

70. SFX: SCRAMBLE OF ROCKS; SHE JUMPS

71. KARIN: Noooo!  Oh no… I – I can’t believe this… omigod, there she is!  In the water! Can’t… just… gotta, gotta do something!

 72. SFX: RUSTLING AS SHE TAKES OFF SHOES, CLOTHING

73. KARIN: Maybe – maybe can’t save both of them… but… but gotta try at least!  Wasn’t a syncronized swimmin’ champ for nothin’!  All right.  Here goes! (TAKES A BIG BREATH)

74. SFX: SCRAMBLE OF ROCKS; SHE JUMPS.

PSIONIC FIELD KICKS IN, RIPS KARIN’S PSYCHE FROM HER BODY

76. KARIN: (CRIES OUT IN SHOCK) Oh! Ohhh!

77. MUSIC: AH-OOH THEME

End of Episode Five

Live Effects with a Dead Dog

Gracie Heavy Hand (Edna Rain), Thomas King (playing himself), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and me

One day I showed my wife a picture.

It was me performing sound effects for the radio show Dead Dog Café.

“You look a little silly,” she suggested.

She’s probably right. Judge for yourself: that’s the pic at the bottom. That particular picture’s staged, obviously, but it is an accurate representation of the sort of sound effects I was called upon to perform. Just—not usually all at once.

Of all the jobs I ever had to do for CBC radio, the job I hated most was working for the radio show Sunday Morning back in the eighties. There were a couple of jerks on the show at the time (not the host—I liked Mary Lou Finlay).

Performing sound effects came a close second.

At least I got paid for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against sound effects per se: I loved sound design, for instance—taking sound effects from different sources and electronically creating worlds out of them that you could fully believe in. But I didn’t like performing sound effects live with actors. It just wasn’t my specialty. We had a couple of guys—Anton Szabo and Matt Willcott—who did specialize in it. They were good at it. Then Matt retired and the rest of us had to divvy up the job. Myself, I preferred being the recording engineer, or producing, or jabbing forks into my eyes. Anything other than perform sound effects live with actors.

So when I was assigned to do sound effects for the Dead Dog Café I was a bit dismayed. I concealed my feelings on the matter from Dead Dog producer Kathleen Flaherty. I really liked her and didn’t want to let her down.   

Making matters worse, I had been shipped a Compaq Armada laptop from Edmonton especially for the Dead Dog Café recording sessions that was not making me happy. It had an audio program on it called Dalet, a program I loathed at the time because of what I perceived to be its editing deficiencies. I’d always likened editing on Dalet to “editing with your elbows” when compared to other programs such as ProTools (I would change my mind later when we upgraded to DaletPlus and I received training from Brian Dawes). I was stuck with the laptop because it had been pre-loaded with many of the music and sound effects cues that I would be required to play back during the taping sessions, and I didn’t have time to come up with an alternative. (Eventually I would come to appreciate that someone had actually made my life a lot easier by prepping the laptop for me.)

Floyd Favel Starr, Edna Rain, Thomas King, and Tara Beagan taping the Dead Dog Cafe in Studio 212

I went into the first taping session with a sense of dread. I was afraid that I wasn’t adequately prepared, and that everything would go wrong. We were taping on a Sunday morning. Greg DeClute helped me bring some props in on the Go Train. He brought his son Randy’s hockey sticks and I brought some umbrellas belonging to my daughters. In the studio, I wheeled out the Dead Dog Cafe door—the one with the bell attached to it, held together with duct tape and wire—and several other props I would require. The cast arrived. Gracie (Edna Rain), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and Tom King (playing himself, or a version thereof), along with someone new to the show, a woman named Portia (played by Tara Beagan).

I had prepared my sound effects by reading the scripts and getting a sense of the sounds required. I deleted all the dialogue, leaving me a list of sound cues. Any sound cues that were kind of vague, I referred back to the script to see what the context was. Most sound cues were obvious. Like, say, “plunger.” How many different kinds of plungers are there? 

Dead Dog Plunger
Dead Dog Plunger

Shortly before our recording session I reviewed my list, a couple of weeks after having created it. Seeing a plunger listed I thought, well, we don’t have any of those kicking around in the studio so I’d better bring one in from home. I found one, disinfected it, stuck it in my bag, and carried it all the way in on the train along with the umbrellas and Greg’s hockey sticks. I placed it close by so that when the script called for it I would be able to grab it easily.

We started recording. The actors read their lines. We got to the sound cue that said, “SFX: Plunger!” I grabbed the plunger and begin vigorously plunging the floor, making “thwocking” sounds that I thought were really quite outstanding.

Producer Kathleen Flaherty immediately called a halt to the proceedings. “Cut! Joe, just what the heck do you think you’re doing?”

“Uh… making plunging sounds. Is it working?”

It was not.

Turned out the cue was actually calling for a plunger to test Tom King’s blood sugar level. It was a medical device. Which was obvious when I took a closer look at the script.

D’oh!

Fortunately the Dead Dog Café was a comedy show. Everyone had an excellent sense of humour. We had a laugh about it and moved on. And I learned to read my scripts more closely.

Margaret Atwood during Dead Dog Cafe taping

We had a guest on the show that day—Margaret Atwood. I’d met her years earlier—spent four days at her house, actually, recording her interviewing Victor Levy Beaulieu (and vice versa)—but she didn’t appear to remember me. There was no reason for her to have (it wasn’t like we’d stayed in touch over the years, exchanging Christmas cards). But she was friendly and pleasant, like just about everyone else I’ve worked with at CBC Radio over the years (there really have been precious few exceptions).

The entire Dead Dog Café team was unfailingly friendly. Always interesting, consistently entertaining. Tom King told us stories in between takes. He told us how he’d lost a lot of weight recently, after dramatically adjusting his diet upon learning that he had diabetes, remarking that although he still ate bananas, he took great care to eat only bananas that weren’t particularly ripe. He spoke of writing, of particular interest to me. He was fond, he said, of instructing his students to practise writing passages with no adjectives. And that is why, you will observe, there isn’t a single adjective in this piece.  

It was a privilege to be amongst these folk. And yet, as much as I appreciated the experience, I never did really warm up to performing sound effects with them. And not just because I’d made a silly mistake with a plunger.

I just never got comfortable doing it.

Whenever I was assigned to perform sound effects live with actors I almost always felt apart from them. Ill-at-ease. Often, the actors all knew one another. At the very least they could relate to one another. I was a part of the cast in that I had to perform with them, but I was not one of them. I was just this guy off to one side smashing plates and tinkling teacups.

Looking a little silly.

Me attempting to perform multiple Dead Dog Cafe SFX

To the Ships!

Certain projects that I worked on generated “take aways.” Lines that were too good just to forget about. The project might have been good or lousy, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the quality of the take-away. Some take-aways were crude and cannot be repeated in polite company. Others were crude and can perhaps be repeated in polite company. Others were just funny… at least to me.

For instance, I once worked on a radio play called “Heart of a Dog” in which a character kept muttering (in a Russian accent) “arsefessor” (don’t ask me why) to refer to another character who was a professor. For years afterward I would hear my colleagues muttering from time to time, “Arsefessor!” (Hey, I never said these take-aways were in any way socially beneficial.) The thing is, after you’ve worked on one of these plays for a month or two (or three), certain words and lines got burned into your brain.

Another take-away came from an adaptation of the play Trojan Women. The play called for one character to summon the warriors to the ship by calling out, “To the ships!”

So one of our sound effects engineers — I’ll call him Pat — was called upon to utter these immortal words, as all the actors had left by the time the crew realized that this line hadn’t been recorded. Pat was a brilliant sound effects foley artist but a quiet, unassuming man. So when called upon to cry out “To the ships!” he said it as if commenting on the weather, not as if summoning an army to battle as the script called for.

On the second take Pat generated enough enthusiasm to make the line sound like he was asking for someone to pass him a jar of peanut butter.

The third take sounded like a question: “To the ships?”

Each take fell woefully short of the necessary vigour, but became increasingly hilarious for the crew in the control room. And the line, “To the ships!” became the rallying cry of the CBC Radio Drama department.

To the ships!

Nora’s Mental Tune-Up

Here’s another fun bit I got to produce on the summer replacement show NEXT with host Nora Young and producer Alison Moss.

We hired actor Andrew Gillies (Orphan Black) to do these bits. I’d worked with Andrew before on my adaptation of Tom Godwin‘s The Cold Equations. Andrew had played the captain of the Stardust for us. Now he played a Scotsman trying to tune up Nora’s brain.

I’ve pasted the script below, with the actual produced bits at the bottom of each one.

Photo by David Cassolato from Pexels

Part One

NORA: It’s easy to spruce up your body… okay, well maybe not easy, but you do have the option of going to the gym and hiring a personal trainer.  But what about your brain?  What if you could give your brain a tune-up too?

SFX: WOOSH! INTO NORA’S BRAIN

SFX: GRINDING, SQUEALING GEARS OF A BRAIN OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: (THICK SCOTTISH BROGUE) Och! Listen to that.

NORA: What?  What is it?

 SFX: OBNOXIOUS WHIRRING

McSCOTT: It’s nae wonder you cannae do arithmetic in a brain like this.  Your neural net… it’s all gummed up.  Och, and that basil ganglia. (BLOWS ON SOMETHING)  Tsk tsk.

NORA: Oh my.

McSCOTT: But dinnae you worry, lass, I’ve seen worse.

NORA: You have?

McSCOTT: Aye.  This monkey once.  Couldn’t count to two if its life depended on it.

NORA: What did you do?

McSCOTT: Lipid soluble molecules past the blood brain barrier.  Before you knew it that monkey could count to five.  Nae… you leave it to me, lass…

SFX: Power Tool Roars to Life

McSCOTT:    You’ll be doin’ math in nae time.

SFX: EVERYTHING OUT WITH A WOOSH

 

Scottish Brain Guy Part One

Part Two

SFX: POWER TOOL SHUTTING OFF

SFX: BRAIN ONLY SLIGHTLY OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: That should do it.  Tell me, lass: are ya feelin’ at all perspicacious?

NORA: Excuse me?

McSCOTT: Peripatetic?  Cogitative?  Erudite, scholarly?  The least bit sagacious?

NORA: I’m sorry?

McSCOTT: Are ya feelin’ any smarter, lass.

NORA: Uhhh…

McSCOTT: I’m guessin’ that’s a “nae,” then.  Nae worries, got a few more tricks up me sleeve yet…

SFX:      SWOOSH OUT

Scottish Brain Guy Part Two
 

Part Three

SFX: BRAIN HOPELESSLY OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: Och!  It’s nae use.

NORA: No?

McSCOTT:    I kin make ya smarter…

NORA: Uh huh?

McSCOTT: But… but not without changin’ the fundamental chemistry of your brain.

NORA:      I see.

McSCOTT: But if you dinnae mind me sayin’ so…

NORA: Uh huh?

McSCOTT:     I think you’re just fine the way you are…

SFX: BUMPER

End

Scottish Brain Guy Part Three
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