Gateshead: The Screenplay
Final Draft is an important program for a very specific purpose. It provides all the formatting and structural tools you need to create a professional screenplay. More importantly, the tools are easily accessible, thereby making their application less obtrusive and bringing the writer’s creativity to the fore. Next month, I’ll include a full-featured review of Final Draft.
What follows is Episode 2 of The Why Files series, imported into Final Draft and rewritten as a screenplay. (The whole series is available on MyMac.com.) After exporting the original story as a text file, it was relatively easy to open it with Final Draft and apply the built-in styles and macros to transform the document into a screenplay. Please note, however, that the Final Draft document is a fully formatted screenplay with Scene numbers, character lists, locations, and so on, while what you see below is Final Draft’s ASCII text export file. It’s quite readable as is, but does not fully depict Final Draft’s power.
This particular episode finds the Starship Gateshead, plagued with computer problems, traveling back in time to attempt to try to change the course of computer evolution on Earth:
INT. GATESHEAD BRIDGE – AFTERNOON
The Starship Gateshead had been exploring the Strata-9 Galactic Ring for some time now and the crew was ready for a break having just completed an in-depth spectral analysis of several binary systems collapsing towards Strata-8. It was tedious work that was exacerbated by the continuing failure of TADA, their WIN2240-based android, and the intermittent failure of many of the ship’s onboard systems. The two RESTWIN specialists were putting in 20 hour days and Jean Louis, the ship’s Captain, knew this couldn’t go on much longer. He was assured by Admiral Dimwitz, the IT Chief on Starbase 11, that WIN2241 was a vast improvement over WIN2240 and although the final release of the operating system had been delayed, it would be possible to load a beta version once the Gateshead returned to station.
The ship’s bridge is abuzz with activity. On the aft side, several crew members pore over manuals trying to reinstall communications software, while astern, Commander Warp works on assembly code for a new Pong game to be introduced on the ‘Holideck.’
Dozing off in his recliner on the bridge, the Captain waits patiently for yet another computer glitch to be ironed out so that he could resume communications with StarFleet Command. First Officer Striker addresses Ensign Flusher. (Note: ‘Flusher’ was a nickname given to the young Ensign for causing a mess by not attending to the fine details in the shuttle’s weightless toilet facilities.)
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
Ensign Flusher, set in a course
to Starbase 11.
My system’s on the blink, sir.
What are the coordinates?
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
Flusher, I’m tired of hearing you
whine about your computer being
down. Look the darn thing up.
But sir, I keep getting this
restore WIN2240 error message and
the RESTWIN specialists are both
in sick bay.
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
Ask TADA, then.
Flusher looks over at TADA and as if to prove a point:
TADA, er, what are the
coordinates of Starbase 11?
Sorry, Ensign Flusher, I am
experiencing a WIN256 error.
Please reinstall the WIN256’s or
restore WIN2240 from the original
Commander Striker, sir, I asked
TADA and he seems to be
experiencing another downtime.
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
Flusher, we pay you to navigate
this ship. Set in a course for
Sir, can you give me a hint as to
the possible direction?
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
Yeah, Flusher, it’s that way,
Striker points toward a distant star.
Setting in a course for ‘that
Treanna, the ship’s counselor and a Deltazoid, noted the rising tension among the crew. Deltazoids could not only read emotions, but also knew instantly when members of the crew were ‘distracted.’ She enjoyed wearing her uniforms one size too small and then scanning the bridge to measure her impact. Lately, her impact was negligible and Treanna concluded it was time to talk to the Captain about the crew’s other distractions.
She walks over to the Captain’s chair, leans down, and whispers.
Captain, can I see you in your
The Captain opens his eyes and sees two beautifully formed…
Why…eh…yes… make it so.
Upon entering his quarters, the Captain asks the counselor to have a seat, goes to the food dispenser and orders:
JEAN LOUIS (CONT’D)
Tea, Earl Grey, two cups
The dispenser console responds:
Tea, Earl Grey, two cups
Missing UKTEA.DLL, please insert
media containing that file.
Jean Louis closes his eyes, sighs, and sits on his living room love seat…
That’s exactly what we need to
talk about Captain,I sense that
you and the crew are becoming
emotionally strung out by all of
the shipboard errors.
Treanna sits next to the Captain, her uniform skirt rising well up above the knees.
Yes, that’s true Treanna, but
things will get better when we
upgrade our ship’s software.
Plus, StarFleet will soon enforce
a new directive that every
starship will be accompanied by a
technical support ship… and
that should eliminate many of our
But Jean Louis, who will keep the
technical support ship running?
Why, I assume eventually another
technical support ship.
Treanna senses a stirring in Jean Louis as their eyes lock. She
becomes flushed with excitement.
Jean Louis, you need to relax.
She leans closer and his hand finds hers.
At that very minute, as if on cue, R appeared. R is a creature from the R Continuum who has visited the ship on previous occasions just when things had gotten really dull. He is dressed in what appears to be late 20th Century Earth clothes and is sitting in one of Jean Louis’s chairs with his feet up on the dining room table. His appearance startles both Treanna and the Captain.
JEAN LOUIS (CONT’D)
(with some disgust in his
What are you doing here and damn
it, take your feet off my table.
Now, now, Captain. No reason to
be unfriendly. Are you having a
bad hair day? Oh sorry…
Listen R. We have enough problems
around here without having to
deal with your sarcasm.
I know…I know. Jean Louis. I’ve
come to help.
Yes, you always come to help, but
it never turns out that way.
Besides, I thought you were
expelled from the Continuum.
Now who’s not minding their own
business, Jean Louis?
Sorry R, but I am just not ready
for any more of your stunts right
Captain, just what stunt are you
ready for right now?
That’s none of your damn
business. What are you doing
Actually, Captain, the Continuum
contacted me and asked if I’d
come to see you because of our
What is you talking about R?
Is that good English, Jean Louis?
I don’t know how else to put it.
Okay Captain… enough frivolity.
I’m here to talk about your
troubles. And they’re more
serious than you know.
What is they R?
Stop talking like that!
What are you talking about R?
Your computer systems, Captain.
If we don’t take some sort of
action, the Galactic Empire will
never evolve and StarFleet will
decay into a very small regional
What kind of action, R?
Bear with me Captain, and let’s
go on a short journey.
TIME WARP SPECIAL EFFECT
At this point, the Gateshead is transported through space and time to Earth orbit in the late 20th Century. Jean Louis finds himself standing on the observation deck with R, the Earth clearly visible in the distance.
R, exactly what are we doing
I brought you here to change the
course of computer evolution on
Earth. There was a point during
this period when your Information
Technology industry made a major
blunder that continues to haunt
your systems even today… and
that’s why nothing on the
Gateshead works properly. Your
mission is to isolate that
blunder and undo it.
But R, how are we to make that
determination? None of our
systems work and no one on board
is familiar with the local
history of this period.
Yes, Captain. I thought you might
be frustrated. I could simply
undo the blunder myself but as
you know this would be contrary
to the Continuum’s Code. And I
have stretched that code to bring
you here, but that’s as far as I
can go… except to suggest you
detain an individual who might
through their absence affect the
turn of history. The name is
And with that last piece of information, R disappears into thin air, as it were.
INT. WOLF’S BEDROOM – MORNING
CLOSE UP OF SCRABBLE BOARD. LONGEST WORD SPELLS:
Wolf Mutter sits at the game table poring over his Scrabble pieces. Directly across from him sits his eight year old sister, Asthmantha.
Wolf is dressed in a pair of old levis, a T-shirt, and a green Boy Scout belt. His dark hair is cut very short except for a small tuft in the front that has been waxed straight up. Asthmantha wears a yellow sun dress and sports horn rimmed glasses with smudged lenses. Her sandy hair is laced into two long pigtails that frame her narrow face.
‘Asty’ as Wolf is fond of calling her, is a mean Scrabble
player. In fact, though Wolf is a full four years older, he has never beaten his little sister at any board game. This game is close and Asty has seven letters left. Wolf has only four. If Asty can’t use her letters, the points will be deducted from her score and Wolf is sure he will win. He is noticeably excited.
Wolf studies his four tiles: an F, two O’s, and an M, while Asty hums some silly song she learned in Music class. Wolf is sure she has the high scoring ‘Q’ and perhaps a ‘Z’ that she can’t use.
(Looking at Asty with an air
of superiority in his voice
It’s your move and if you can’t
play any letters the game is over
and I win.
Just as Asty begins to respond, an incredible thing happens. Over a period of about two seconds and accompanied by the strangest sound, Asty seems to fade into thin air. Wolf can hardly believe it. His emotions run the gamut from fear to disbelief and denial to disappointment, and finally back to fear. He screams at the top of his lungs, and only after this emotional release does he notice with some disgust that his four Scrabble tiles are also gone and therefore his Scrabble set is ruined.
INT. GATESHEAD BRIDGE – SOME 10 YEARS LATER
For years the Gateshead continuously orbited the Earth.
Commander Warp and the Security Detail kept a discrete
surveillance on the Mutter family in the event some sort of further intervention was necessary.
Meanwhile, Earth monitoring systems had reached a level of sophistication that kept the Gateshead crew busy. On occasion, it was necessary to create distractions like Warp’s crop circles and TADA’s abductions. The crop circles occupied the curious and TADA only abducted the ‘intellectually challenged’ and returned them almost immediately. As predicted, the Earth’s popular media
debunked these stories and provided the Gateshead cover in the event of accidental detection.
Clearly, Wolf Mutter had something to do with the evolution of technology on Earth, but it seemed increasingly difficult to predict why. When he joined the FBI, Warp wanted to intervene, but the Captain said no.
R had mentioned a possible conspiracy, and perhaps, Wolf was to be instrumental in uncovering it. An FBI job could place him in the ideal position.
Captain, sensors are picking up
another ship heading away at warp
(puzzled and somewhat
Why can we detect it heading away
when we never detected it in
Earth’s orbit, Ensign?
Well, Captain, it might have
something to do with the fact
that our sensors have been down
for several days due to computer
FIRST OFFICER STRIKER
(in a severe command voice)
Ensign, you are being
Later, Number One. Ensign, what
was the signature of that
Sir, my system just went down
again, but before it froze, it
identified the ship as GORB with
a 60% probability.
Treanna sensed enormous anxiety growing on the bridge.
(to everyone on the bridge)
I fear Mr. Mutter has his work
cut out for him.
I/E. PARKING GARAGE, ALEXANDRIA, VA – EVENING
Wolf never got over that childhood loss Q both the loss of his sister and his failure to collect his Scrabble win. These incidents were deeply disturbing. Subconsciously at first, and now consciously, Wolf pursued the truth. He spent his first years as an FBI Agent exploring the world of the paranormal, inexplicable, and unbelievable, and he had been joined in this mission by his somewhat skeptical partner, Nada Sulky. After all of those searches through countless lies and exaggerations, Wolf finally felt he was on the right trail.
It had all started with innocent speculation about the
domination of the computer industry by one megalithic company despite far superior technology offered by another, and it had almost ended with an attempt on Wolf and Nada’s life on Highway 1 outside of the District. Fearing that their work and home computers were being monitored via the Internet, Sulky and Mutter stayed strictly off-line. Using special contingency funds, the Why Files office hired college students around the country to do research and to FedEx it back to their office. On Tuesday evening of the week following the attempted murder, Sulky stayed at the office sifting through data and attempting to piece together a profile of the ‘Chairman.’ Meanwhile, Mutter rushed to a last minute meeting with CIGAR SMOKING MAN in an underground Alexandria garage.
Mutter leaves his car, looks both ways, and walks gingerly toward the black Cadillac. He then does one more visual scan of the area, opens the front right hand door, gets in, and gently closes the door behind him. CIGAR SMOKING MAN, sitting in the driver’s seat, never looks over. He seemed to be sweatingm profusely and Mutter glances down at his seat belt lifting up and under his enormous belly. Mutter’s gaze moves up to the outline of a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Detective Special as it sits holstered on one of CIGAR SMOKING MAN’s voluminous breasts.
CIGAR SMOKING MAN
(groaning and then labored
You’re getting close, but your
course needs some adjustment.
What do you mean by ‘some
CIGAR SMOKING MAN just sat there for what seemed to Mutter to be an interminable period of time, staring ahead into the darkness, and Mutter waited.
(musing to himself)
What is with this guy anyway? He
asks to meet with me and now he
just sits there like some sort of
jerk. On top of that he smells
like an enormous clove of garlic.
CIGAR SMOKING MAN
(sensing Mutter’s disdain)
Get out Mutter. You’re not ready.
You don’t get off that easy. If
you’ve got something to tell me,
let’s hear it.
CIGAR SMOKING MAN
Get the hell out of the car.
As Mutter opens the door and begins sliding out, CIGAR SMOKING MAN hands him a small sticky note. Mutter pockets the note, hurries to his car, and watches the Cadillac drive off at high speed.
INT. FBI HEADQUARTERS – EVENING
Upon his return to the office, Sulky quizzes Mutter about his meeting.
I don’t know… CIGAR SMOKING MAN
said we were getting close but
implied that our ‘course needed
What do you think he meant,
I just don’t know, Sulky. Wait,
he also gave me a note.
Mutter fumbles around in his coat pocket, pulls out the yellow sticky, and is shocked to see four letters F, O, O, and M – the same letters, he explains to Sulky, that had disappeared from his Scrabble game with his sister many years earlier. He looks again at the note to confirm that for the very first time, he has an actual lead to his sister’s fate.
Sulky, there’s no one else on
this planet who knew about those
letters. I feel like it’s finally
Wait a minute, Mutter, this could
all be a giant coincidence. Maybe
they stand for the name of an
organization or a password? Let’s
see if the computer can come up
with a match…
No, Sulky, don’t. I have a
feeling they’re important, but I
don’t want to tip our hand.
What have you discovered from
your office research?
Well…it seems that most of
Apple’s woes appear self-inflicted.
There were the obvious
blunders like not licensing the
operating system until it was too
late, marketing the equipment
like they were out to save the
world, confusing the market with
dozens of different models,
making a hash of production,
giving the ‘look and feel’ of the
Mac to the Chairman, getting
distracted by the ‘Knowledge
Navigator’ crap, and so on. But,
Mutter, listen to this: there was
one major blunder that Apple
committed early on and never
fully recovered from.
What was that Sulky?
Apple never released a Macintosh
with the industry standard
So what? Wasn’t the Mac’s serial
port just as fast?
When the company introduced the
Mac, the whole rest of the
industry, including many Apple
II owners, used dot matrix
printers that attached to their
computer via a parallel port.
This meant that in order to
switch from a PC to a Mac, a user
had to buy a serial port-based
ImageWriter printer from Apple.
This was a positive disincentive
for anyone already owning a
printer to buy Macintosh.
Now why would they do such a
Sorry to disappoint you, Mutter,
but I figure it was just bad
That’s one explanation, Sulky.
There’s also the possibility that
someone at Apple sabotaged the
Mac intentionally. We leave
tomorrow for Cupertino, Sulky.
INT. APPLE HEADQUARTERS – AFTERNOON
That Wednesday afternoon, Sulky and Mutter arrive for their appointment with the ‘acting’ Apple CEO at the Secret Research and Development Lab at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. The two are ushered through several security checks, forced to turn in their weapons, and finally are accompanied to what appears to be an ultra-secure area through iron-reinforced doors. Mutter is taken aback by the harsh clang of the doors as they slam shut.
The Venetian blinds on the hall window have been left open but otherwise they are bathed in artificial light. Mutter just catches the glimpse of a balding fat-joweled man in a rumpled black suit and bare feet hustling through open doors to a helipad. The security guard attempts to hamper his view, closes the blinds, and then proceeds down the hallway to what appears to be a vacated receptionist’s desk. The guard ushers Sulky and Mutter into a small waiting room and explains that they’ll be seen real soon now.
(glancing at the bulletin
board covered with outtakes
from the company’s
Mutter, what do you think’s going
I’d swear that was the acting CEO
who just left on a helicopter.
Sulky, do you smell something
As a matter of fact… but I
can’t put my finger on it – sort
of a farm-like smell.
(pointing to a picture that
appeared to show a Cray
What’s this, Mutter?
I read about that somewhere. The
company bought a supercomputer
some years ago and no one quite
What could you use a supercomputer
Well… I suppose anything from
playing solitaire to creating
Say, Mutter… have a look at
Sulky had pulled the photo of the supercomputer off the board only to find another picture behind.
What is it Sulky?
I’m not sure, Mutter. Some sort
of animal… but nothing I’ve
Their conversation is interrupted by a loud noise down the hall that sounds like a dog bark but is much louder and sort of muffled at the same time.
(alarmed that the sound
seemed to be getting closer)
What is that, Mutter?
Mutter ignores the sound and stares down a the photo that Sulky had uncovered. Beneath the picture of what appears to be a genetically engineered dog/cow combination is the single word, “MOOF.”
Wait a minute, Sulky, take
Mutter feels an enormous rush of adrenaline. He’s so flushed he can hardly breathe. The four letter tiles that had disappeared so long ago are linked inextricably to the creature approaching their room.
By now the sound is deafening
Both Sulky and Mutter back away from the door. Perhaps in shock, Mutter appears frozen by fear and an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. Sulky looks frantically around the room for a weapon.
The sound is literally shaking the building.
Sulky finds a pair of scissors in the desk drawer… The door swings open and Sulky and Mutter gaze in horror at the real intelligence behind Apple Computer…