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The Terraformers

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Episode 25: The Day of Plagues

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First aired: The Signal: Season 7, Episode 21
Credits
Written by Helen Eaton
Starring Miranda Thomas as Taya Ray Parsec
Starring Kari Haley as Sarah Brunel
Featuring Les Howard as Mister Spall's Boss
Featuring Kevin Bachelder as Announcer
Featuring Nick Edwards as Mister Spall
Featuring Jutta Jordans as Headmaster
Featuring Paul Korswagen as Teacher
Featuring Craig Kurumada as Friend
Edited by Andy King
NARRATOR
Starring Kari Haley as Sarah Brunel.
SARAH
So, let me get this straight. Our assignment this morning is to traipse out to the landing port to meet a transport carrying Mr Spall and a consignment of cattle. Remind me again why I bothered to study hard at school to get this job?
NARRATOR
And Miranda Thomas as Taya Ray Parsec.
TAYA RAY
Because terraforming is always an exciting adventure! You never know what’s coming at you next!
NARRATOR
And featuring Nick Edwards as Mr Spall.
MR SPALL
You’d better not mess anything up this time because I want to be off Black Rock in time to celebrate U-Day somewhere a lot more civilised.
NARRATOR
Episode number 25 – The Day of Plagues

Location: Black Rock Training Centre, outside. As the whoosh of a transport ship taking off fades away, we hear the peaceful sounds of cattle mooing and moving around gently, which continue over the following dialogue.

MR SPALL
Now, it goes without saying that you checked the corral earlier, right? I don’t think it’s been used for a while.
SARAH
We checked it. It’s plenty strong enough for a few docile cows.
TAYA RAY
You still haven’t told us why you brought them here, Mr Spall. Is it so the newbies can practise putting them in sacks, like we did for the squirrels that one time?
MR SPALL
Err, no. It’s far more interesting, and far less crazy, than that. The trainees will be conducting some psychological experiments with these cows. (Beat, then with some pride.) They’ve been drugged.
TAYA RAY
The trainees have been drugged?!
SARAH
The cows have been drugged, Taya Ray, the cows! Keep up!
TAYA RAY
(Sheepish.) Oh, right. That would make more sense. (beat) No, wait, that doesn’t make any sense either! Why have you drugged the cows?
MR SPALL
(Deadpan.) Because we’re going to have a rave later. (beat) No, you moonbrain! The cows have been given a new drug that is being developed by HQ to pacify wild animals. It’s ground-breaking stuff. The powers that be want some more data on its effectiveness, and the trainees get to run the experiments as part of their studies.
SARAH
If the drug is for wild animals, why have you given it to cows?
MR SPALLL
Well, you’ve got to start somewhere! With your track record for animal disasters, did you think I was going to bring leopards?
SARAH
Fair point. That said though, don’t you think these cows look a little, well, frisky?
MR SPALL
(Not totally convinced by his own words.) They’re probably just glad to be out in the open again.
TAYA RAY
(Starting to sound a little concerned.) No, they really seem to be getting a mite antsy.

The mooing of the cows gets a little louder and more frequent, and the stomping sounds a little more purposeful.

SARAH
I really don’t like the way they’re all staring at us.
MR SPALL
(Sounding more panicky now.) I think it’s, um, time to head towards the van. Gently now. No sudden movements.

Slow footsteps as the three back towards the van, overlapping with following dialogue.

TAYA RAY
Are you telling us that, or the cows?
SARAH
(Also sounding panicky.) I don’t think the corral’s going to hold!
MR SPALL
Forget moving gently, RUN gorramn it!

Quicker footsteps as they run to the van. The cows continue to moo and stomp in a threatening manner. The van door is pulled open.

MR SPALL
(Out of breath.) Quick, get in!

The van door is slammed shut. The cows continue to moo outside for the rest of the scene, but the stomping subsides as they surround the van and stay there.

SARAH
(Incredulous, slightly out of breath.) Did you see that? You call those cows pacified?
TAYA RAY
(Also a little out of breath and struggling to believe what is happening.) They’ve surrounded the van!
MR SPALL
Well, what are you waiting for, Brunel? Start her up and let’s get out of here!
SARAH
Yes, sir!

Sound of a very sick van attempting to start, but failing...

MR SPALL
Try it again!

The same sound again.

SARAH
It’s no use. It’s been doing this all week. It’s too cold this time of year. Someone needs to get out and give us a push.
TAYA RAY
(Overlapping with Mr Spall’s line.) Not me!
MR SPALL
No way!
SARAH
Oh, you two are such cowards!
TAYA RAY
Cow-ards, that’s funny!
SARAH and MR SPALL
(In unison.) No it isn’t!
TAYA RAY
Well, anyway, you could get out and push, Sarah.
SARAH
(Beat, small voice.) I didn’t say I wasn’t a coward too.
MR SPALL
(Resigned.) So it looks like we’re stuck here until... until...
TAYA RAY
Until what exactly?
SARAH
Until the cows come home! (beat) What?! That’s funny!
TAYA RAY and MR SPALL
(In unison.) No it isn’t!
MR SPALL
Until the cows calm down, I guess. Whenever that might be. Oh, this reminds me so much of... (Blustering as he realises he had let his guard down and was about to give away a secret.) ... of, of something not very interesting that happened to a friend of mine. (Quickly, deflecting.) Is it hot in here?
SARAH
This reminds me of what happened at my school on U-Day, the very first U-Day, I mean. It was career week and I had just decided I wanted to be a terraformer...

Sarah’s voice fades out. Musical cue to introduce flashback. Location: School corridor. General school noises. Footsteps as Sarah and her friend walk along.

TEACHER
(Over microphone.) Today’s terraforming demonstration has been cancelled. All students should proceed immediately to the meeting point in front of the auditorium for an important announcement.
SARAH
(Sounding like a teenager, and very enthusiastic.) Aw, shoot. I was really looking forward to the demonstration. This man was going to come and, like, show us a biodiversity distribution readjustment protocol.
FRIEND
(Not at all impressed, very sarcastic.) How will you survive without seeing that, Sarah?
SARAH
Why do you always have to be so sarcastic? Can’t you just be enthusiastic for once?
FRIEND
Yeah, yeah. Come on. We don’t want to be late for this super-special announcement, whatever it is...

Friend’s words fade out and those of the head teacher fade in. Location: outside. Birds singing, wind in the trees.

HEAD TEACHER
(Over microphone.) ...and so today we celebrate Unification Day! Look around you and take in all the faces. You will be telling your grandchildren one day where you spent this auspicious day! In years to come you will remember--

The head teacher is interrupted by the loud croak of a frog.

HEAD TEACHER
(Over microphone, starting to sound flustered.) What in the ‘verse is going on? Get off me! Arrgh!

More croaks. The people in the crowd get agitated and a buzz of conversation starts as they react to all the frogs around them. The croaks continue.

HEAD TEACHER
(Over microphone, sounding very much not calm.) Stay calm, everyone! Let’s all, um, head inside... Um, quickly now, everyone!

Head teacher’s words fade out. Musical cue to indicate end of flashback.

TAYA RAY
No way!
SARAH
Yes way! The U-Day announcement got cut short by an invasion of frogs. People tried to leave the auditorium, but every time someone ventured outside, the frogs swarmed on them like they they were a tasty snack or something. We were stuck inside the auditorium for hours until the frogs all finally hopped away. Maybe the guy doing the biodiversity demonstration was annoyed that he got cancelled and let all the frogs out to spite the head teacher.
TAYA RAY
No, I meant, no way did you have an invasion of frogs at your school too!
SARAH
(beat) Too?
TAYA RAY
Yeah, the same thing happened at my school...

Taya Ray’s voice fades out. Musical cue to introduce flashback. Location: Outside, in the crowd.

HEAD TEACHER
(Over microphone.) The war was long and hard, but the victory is all the sweeter because of it. We should never forget those who gave their lives in the cause of the great Alliance, who willingly sacrificed all to unite the ‘Verse again...

Head teacher’s words fade into a background drone after the first phrase or two and then overlap with Taya Ray’s line below.

TAYA RAY
Oh, how long is she going to go on?! Let’s start the party already! Oh, look, a frog!

Croak. Beat. Musical cue to indicate end of flashback.

SARAH
(Incredulously.) You were at Mark Pins Technical Institute on Meridian?!
TAYA RAY
Yeah! (beat) Ohhh, we were at the same school! That makes more sense than there being two separate frog invasions on the same day, I guess.
MR SPALL
I don’t believe it! You were at Mark Pins Te- (Realising he was about to give something away and covering for it ineptly.) I mean, you were at the same school! Fancy that! (Slightly rattled and trying to change the subject quickly.) Well, anyway, try the van again, Brunel. The sun’s quite strong now. Maybe its warmth has breathed some life into the battery.
SARAH
I’ll give it a go.

The van still sounds pretty sick as it starts, but it eventually sputters into life. The following three lines overlap.

TAYA RAY
Woo hoo!
SARAH
Yes!
MR SPALL
At last - something goes right! Let’s get out of here.

The rest of the scene takes place as they drive off in the van.

SARAH
Okay, but now there’s a herd of very angry cows occupying the landing port. What are we going to do about that?
MR SPALL
I think we call HQ and let them deal with that. Their mess, their problem!
TAYA RAY
I agree!
SARAH
Yeah, me too!
TAYA RAY
So, Mr Spall, where were you on the first U-Day?
MR SPALL
(Deliberating with himself about whether to tell them.) Oh what the heck... I suppose in the spirit of the holiday, I might as well ‘fess up...

Mr Spall’s voice fades out. Musical cue to introduce flashback. Location: Outside on the school field. The frogs are in cages, croaking from time to time in the background over the rest of the scene.

MR SPALL’S BOSS
(Officious and patronising.) Now, Spall, I know you wanted to demonstrate the biodiversity distribution readjustment protocol, but it’s not every day a war ends, is it?!
MR SPALL
(Dutiful and subservient.) No, Mr Doyle.
MR SPALL’S BOSS
Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the cages though. We don’t want our little green friends crashing the party, do we?
MR SPALL
(Not really listening.) No, Mr Doyle.
MR SPALL’S BOSS
Right, then. I’m off for a pre-party drink with the head teacher. You just stay there and make sure nothing is amiss. It was my idea to hire you, Spall. Don’t make me regret it!
MR SPALL
(Pretty annoyed at missing the fun.) No, sir.

Footsteps as Mr Spall’s boss walks off.

MR SPALL
(Muttering to himself.) Yes, sir! No, sir! Three bags full of blimmin’, hoppin’ frogs, sir! One day I’ll be the boss and then my minions had better watch out! Mr Spall will be on their case. Well, I don’t see why I need to babysit a bunch of frogs and miss out on the party. Mr Doyle won’t know if I slip out for a while. I’m sure these cages will hold...

Musical cue to indicate end of flashback.

MR SPALL
(Somewhat sheepish.) So, um, yeah, I was there too, and, um, kind of caused the whole plague of frogs thing! (Feebly.) Surprise!
SARAH
You’re kidding! You mean while the rest of the ‘verse was out celebrating, we were trapped in the auditorium because of a marauding army of frogs which you let escape!
MR SPALL
(Trying to make light of the situation.) Well, that’s quite funny you know. The collective noun for frogs is in fact an army. Or, um, a colony, I think.
TAYA RAY and SARAH
(In unison, and angry.) MR SPALL!
TAYA RAY
We were stuck for hours!
MR SPALL
I bet you were hopping mad, huh? (beat) What?! That’s funny!
SARAH and TAYA RAY
(In unison.) No it isn’t!

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