This original proposal kept Sarah in the UK for a lot of the time. I had also assumed it would be story 4 of 5, and not the season finale that it became. Knowing that Miss Winters was to be the surprise villain, I wanted to have her at the centre of my story, and so the proposal envisaged her tracking Sarah from very close quarters.
The concluding scenes take place here in a Scottish Castle, and the threat is to the population of Glasgow. The final version of the script upped the stakes somewhat, though it did lose an additional scene and possible finale. The taxi driver, who features at the start of the recorded version, doesn’t show up until well into this proposal. And continuity enthusiasts may be pleased to see that the not-quite-appearance of K-9 was considered even at this very early stage.
Also on this site you can see how I subsequently did a scenes breakdown.
Outline for a Sarah Jane Smith audio
Suggested for story 4 of 5
by Peter Anghelides
16 December 2001
We can hear messages on Sarah’s answer phone. One’s from Josh, saying that he’s got the info they wanted from the Public Records Office, and also that someone from Sarah’s former satellite TV company has been asking after her, so he needs to speak with Sarah about a woman called Wendy Jennings. Another message is from Natalie, phoning in from a crackly mobile, telling her she has info about Cynaro. A third is a fax. A fourth is Natalie again, wondering where Sarah is, and won’t she please get in contact with her.
[I don’t know what the satellite TV company is but for the sake of this outline let’s call it “Planet Three” and Sarah’s programme was called “Satellite”.]
Sarah’s apparently on holiday in the Bahamas (or the Seychelles, or somewhere exotic with a big time difference between it and the UK). She’s going on a fishing trip with a group, asking the local fisherman guide what his parents did in the 1940s, and odd goings-on offshore. She is distracted by another person on the boat, who reveals that she’s a reporter on “Satellite”—Wendy Jennings! Wendy joined Planet Three just after Sarah left. “Fancy meeting you here,” says Wendy, “I’ve heard a lot about you”. “All bad, no doubt” says Sarah. “No, you still have friends there,” says Wendy. “I hope I can be one, too.” But they are being observed by another passenger, “Spying Guy”[non-speaking], so they arrange to meet later.
Sarah and Wendy meet up and talk in a restaurant after the boat trip. They chat about inconsequentialities to start with—Wendy talks about how she carries too much luggage about with her on holiday, Sarah talks about how she carts junk between houses. “Odd,” says Wendy, “have you moved a lot recently?” “I just can’t seem to settle in the right place, I’m very particular. But there’s a pile of broken equipment in a box that I just can’t let go. I can’t repair it because they don’t make the parts for it yet.” “Yet?” “I mean, any more.” She quizzes Wendy about what she’s been doing since they met briefly at Planet Three. Wendy explains she’s out here in the Bahamas, also doing some research (in her own vacation time) about some genetic engineering done for the UK government by a private company called Scalar. It is hush-hush work to prevent fish diseases, because they’re trying to eliminate a parasitic infection in factory-farmed salmon in Scotland that could spread to wild fish stocks in the North Sea. They have a research facility by a reservoir and a dam near to Glasgow. Wendy shares her research with Sarah, who continues to pump Wendy for info without sharing any of her own! Wendy is surprised that Sarah wasn’t more surprised to see her here. Sarah seems to be on the verge of explaining when Wendy stops her—she’s spotted Spying Guy from the boat again, snooping on them from nearby.
Wendy and Sarah can meet up again later, on a secluded beach. Wendy asks Sarah wasn’t more surprised to see her on the boat trip. Sarah explains that she’d got a message on her answer phone just before going on the boat trip, which mentioned it. She is reluctant to say more to Wendy. At this point, Wendy sees Spying Guy churning across the beach towards them in a jeep, and he tries to run them down. They narrowly escape. Wendy says that the guy has been following her since she arrived in the Bahamas—and now he’s trying to kill her! She must go to the local police. Sarah stops her—they’re not after Wendy, they’re after Sarah.
So Sarah explains to Wendy that she’s probably being pursued because of the story she’s researching. She explains about the answer phone—it’s actually a phone number at Planet Three, which Sarah dials in to remotely (with a code number) even though she doesn’t work there any longer, and only people who know the direct-dial number bother to leave messages on it. She doesn’t want to say more about her story, but feels she must when Wendy says they have to go to the local authorities. Sarah points out that the local authorities may also want her to leave the islands—including Wendy now, by association.
The story that she is researching, Sarah explains, is this: biological warfare experiments in the 1940s. In the later stages of WWII, British scientists bungled some germ warfare trials in the Caribbean during “Operation Harness”. Thousands of animals died, for little scientific benefit, from the brucella bacteria. It was a rehearsal for possible biological attacks in the UK. The calm waters of these islands were thought to be ideal for the tests. Now she has to pursue a scientist, Joseph Brandt, who is currently vacationing in the Bahamas. Wendy helps her find him at his hotel suite—because he’s also the person she came to talk to about the fish-stocks story that she was researching in Scotland, as he’s advising Scalar, that private company working in Scotland.
Brandt doesn’t want to talk to them, but Wendy persuades him to let them in (on Sarah’s mobile phone, which she has borrowed to make the call). They find out from Brandt that animals were put in containers on dinghies around the islands, and had biological bombs dropped on them, or were sprayed with bacteria. But the sheep and guinea pigs chosen for the experiments proved unsuitable. Of the 600 sheep shipped from Texas for the experiment, 500 had to be shot—or just “discarded” in the sea. A consignment of 200 rhesus monkeys could only be used after being treated for pneumonia. What’s more, the sea turned out to be rougher than anticipated, and the two converted tank landing vessels used for the operation were unable to pick up the dinghies in open water. So the tests happened just offshore from one of the islands, despite the threat to dozens of local fishing boats working there. Even one of the researchers became infected by the germs they were testing. The results of the tests, in the end, were judged to be meaningless because the conditions at sea made it impossible to assess the levels of bacteria.
Wendy goes out of the room to get better reception on Sarah’s mobile, and get them early flights back to the UK—they have to pursue this story back there, with contemporary evidence from the Public Records Office. Sarah can’t run the story herself—but she can do the research and get Wendy to run it as a story on Planet Three’s “Satellite” programme.
Still in the hotel suite, Sarah’s interested to know why Brandt is telling them his research now. He says he was on vacation here, trying to decide how to go public on this and also then tell Scalar that he doesn’t want to work on their project—which is more than destroying fish viruses, it’s reviving and extending the Cynaro research which was part of “Operation Harness” in the 1940s. He gets no further—Wendy comes in, escorted by two policemen who have spotted her in the corridor and brought her in to arrest them all. Wendy recognises one of them as Spying Guy—when he speaks, we hear that he has a distinctive South African accent–and the other man is a silent thug wearing sunglasses. At this point the two policemen produce handguns and start firing. Brandt is killed, and Sarah and Wendy flee in separate directions. Sarah’s lost her mobile phone.
Sarah gets to the airport, and gets the first flight out of the country (to wherever-is-convenient, and then on to London).
We hear more answer phone messages, skip through the old ones, get to the new ones: Natalie asking “where are you, get in touch, I’m going to get my mate Duggie to help me drive by the Records Office” (she emphasises “drive by”); Josh saying that he still needs to talk to her about Wendy Jennings; a silent call swiftly clicked off from an unlisted number.
Sarah gets a taxi from the airport, which screeches ahead of another taxi–brief argument between taxi drivers [one of them off-mike if you need to save on cast members or doubling]. Sarah wonders how he knows her. Taxi driver is an admirer—“I’m your biggest fan!”—so it’s a pleasure to offer her a lift. They set off to her lodgings.
Natalie is driving past the Public Records Office with her pal Duggie. They use a wireless laptop computer to break the standard wireless encryption within ten minutes, and download a lot of stuff relating to Operation Harness. [If we need to avoid casting Duggie, he can be entirely off-mike and Nat can discuss things entirely with Josh on a mobile phone in this and their next scene.]
Sarah realises that the taxi driver is nattering away to her about her previous journalistic triumphs, but he’s also taking her the wrong way round the M25—she’s not that jet-lagged that she hasn’t noticed at last. She complains, and he confesses that he just wants to chat to her a bit longer. She winds the car window down, and tells him to turn around and take her straight home or she’ll start throwing her hand luggage out of the rear window—and she’ll set off her rape alarm in the car while she’s at it. He’s very apologetic, and agrees.
Natalie speaks to Josh on the phone—he’s gone to Sarah’s last lodgings (she has swapped around a lot to avoid suspicion, and they discuss how she’s becoming a bit more paranoid, a bit more obsessive). The info that Natalie has got about “Operation Harness” is interesting, but will be made public in about a month’s time. Any of it restricted, asks Josh. No, all available says Natalie. And where are you, by the way? Josh doesn’t have time to tell her—someone’s breaking in to Sarah’s flat! Gotta go.
Sarah’s taxi arrives at Sarah’s home. She tells him that it’s people like him who have made her life a misery, having to move from place to place. He’s very apologetic again, and asks: “so, no tip then?” She tells him: “my tip is: mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Now push off.” She goes in to the flat, and we gather from what she says to herself that the place has been broken into. Then she finds Josh in the hallway, beaten up by the intruders.
Josh is pretty badly battered, and she calls for an ambulance. He can’t tell her what really happened, or how they found the place (even he wasn’t sure where the flat was—Sarah’s been very cagey recently), but he’s sure he wasn’t followed. They’ve ransacked the place while he was unconscious.
[Possible continuity point to help the series here, but not essential to this story: Miss Winters is keen on hi-tech, and we want to raise the stakes for the story 5 finale. We also want to dispense with K-9 implicitly, rather than explicitly. In my short story for Decalog 3, K-9 ends up in a box in the attic because Sarah can’t get the correct parts for him after he breaks down. So maybe the stuff stolen from Sarah’s flat is the box containing the remains of K-9, which Miss Winters and her cronies cannibalise for their futuristic set-up, and who we therefore never see again. It doesn’t have to be named as K-9, so it could be any futuristic junk that she’s kept for old time’s sake, but sad fans like me will know what it is.]
The guy who beat Josh up was a middle-aged guy, but broad and strong, and he had a distinctive South African accent. Sarah says this must be Spying Guy. Josh does tell her that Wendy Jennings has been looking for her. Sarah says she’s met her. Josh asks if she knows that Wendy was “let go” by Planet Three two weeks ago, took a redundancy payment, and is on paid vacation to work out her notice. Sarah says “no wonder she’s desperate for a scoop,” and explains about “Operation Harness”. Now she will use Wendy’s information to investigate Cynaro and the Scalar company up in Scotland. Josh says “Operation Harness” is no great discovery, it’s about to be made public–she’s making a lot out of nothing, seeing a conspiracy where there isn’t one, and allowing Wendy to use her for the story. They argue. Sarah complains that she’s been pursued by killers, her home was burgled and she was taken on a detour by a mad fan! Hang on, the taxi driver could have been the other “policeman” in the glasses—they could both have been on the same plane as her, and used the taxi ride to get her to reveal her home address and then have one of them get there before her and raid the place before she returned. Josh sees this as more paranoia, and that it’s just a coincidence about the South African accent but starts to have a coughing fit. Then the ambulance arrives, and he’s in no fit state, etc. etc.
As the ambulance arrives, Sarah calls her answer phone service. We hear answer phone messages. One is from a panicked Natalie, warning her about going to her own apartment, that Josh may be in trouble, and asking for a meeting a prearranged venue. Sarah leaves a response, agreeing to the meeting, and asking Natalie to hunt out info about a company called Scalar and what their involvement with research into fish viruses or brucella is.
Sarah also hears a voicemail which seems to be from herself (her voicemail system identifies the number of her mobile. It’s from Wendy Jennings—she remembered what Sarah said about the voicemail system, and used Sarah’s own mobile to call it. She wants to meet too, in Central London in three hours—her plane just got in. There’s an alert that there’s a brand new message on her voicemail—it’s Natalie, confirming their meeting.
When they meet in an internet cafe, Sarah explains to Natalie about Josh. Similar tense conversation about her paranoia—for example, Natalie could have got help to Josh sooner if Sarah wasn’t so overcautious about contacting the two of them, or about moving house so often to avoid imaginary pursuers, or changing her mobile frequently and forbidding them to call her directly. This irritation simmers in the background of the scene. During which, Natalie can show Sarah through an anonymous account that Scalar are a public company, they have their registered office and research facility in a castle in the Grampian hills in Scotland, and that they have Dr Joseph Brandt on their small staff. (“Then they have a vacancy,” says Sarah.) It’s all above board, and quite open—no secrets there, just like Josh has told her about “Operation Harness”. Sarah’s irritated by Natalie’s dismissal of her suspicions, and the conversation gets awkward. Some unfortunate misunderstandings in this conversation—Sarah talking about how she’s being criticised for getting off her backside and doing something about her predicament, Natalie misinterpreting this as a slight about her wheelchair, etc. It gets heated. She sends Natalie to the hospital to see Josh and sets off for Scotland on her own. If Natalie’s not going to help, then Sarah will go to meet Wendy—another journalist will understand. She’ll get to the root of this story, no matter what it takes!
Cut to the train to Scotland. Maybe cross-fade a number of moments in the journey’s conversation. Sarah is talking with Wendy.
They met in London, and are now travelling north together. Wendy wasn’t sure if Sarah would come. Sarah said they can work on the story together.
Wendy is cross with herself, because she left some key information about the Cynaro patent (the Scalar development which will cure the salmon parasites) back in her office at Planet Three, and of course isn’t allowed back in to get it. So she can’t answer all of Sarah’s questions about it.
Wendy got into journalism quite late, when some of her contemporaries were thinking about early retirement. She spent much of her early career running events, scientific research, and then gave it all up and came back as a journalist through doing some specialist research for Planet Three.
In the hospital, Natalie is visiting Josh. She’s being allowed to visit out of normal hours, and stay longer, because she’s made a fuss about wheelchair access. While talking to Josh, she’s also connecting in via his nearby phone line to show him stuff off the internet. (When nurses walk by, she switches to a game.) She tells him that she’s found some interesting things about Scalar—she checked their staff portfolio, and it seems only to have four full-time members. She shows him photos of the staff: here’s the woman who is the CEO, here’s their chief scientific advisor, here’s their business manager Willem Dehaan, and here’s their finance guy Dean Stoltz. They note that the scientific advisor is Dr Joseph Brandt, who Sarah saw shot dead in the Bahamas. Josh recognises the business manager Dehaan as the guy with South African accent who attacked him at Sarah’s apartment. Now they start to get worried. Natalie tries to use an internet phone to contact Sarah (“Are you crazy? She’ll kill us for using an open line!” “They’ll kill her if we don’t.”) But there’s no reply. Josh clambers out of his hospital bed, despite Natalie’s arguments that he’s too unwell.
Back on the train, Wendy returns Sarah’s mobile phone to her. Sarah is going to use it to check her voice mail, but Wendy points out that the train windows are “silvered” anti-mobile phone, and even if she goes to the end of the carriage they’re in the middle of the countryside and probably won’t get a signal.
Sarah asks Wendy about why she left Planet Three. Wendy says they had to rescue the company share price after bidding too high to retain their licence at renewal time, and so Planet Three laid off the older and more expensive staff. She’s using her accreditation to get them an interview with the CEO of Scalar. Wendy doesn’t officially leave Planet Three for another two weeks, and they haven’t remember to reclaim her ID card. Sarah looks at the ID card—“You remind me of someone, but I can’t remember who. An old school friend maybe?”
Sarah confesses that she shouldn’t have been so rough on some of her own friends recently (she doesn’t name Natalie or Josh). She told them “I’ll get to the bottom of this story, no matter what it takes.” Now she’s a bit embarrassed. Wendy is interested, talks to her about whether she can get close to people if she’s going to be an investigative journalist. Doesn’t Sarah remember the people she does stories about, does she keep in contact, ever wonder what happened to them? “What, do follow-up pieces on them?” asks Sarah.
Natalie talking to Josh on her mobile. (We’re with Natalie but can hear Josh down the line. As an aside, you can hear him doing a transaction saying things like “400 quid, are you kidding? I could buy a car for that much.”) Natalie has found out more about the Scalar staff. They were all members of a scientific research society in the 1980s. Some society members even went to prison for some undisclosed breach of the Official Secrets Act, which would surely disqualify them for working on any government contracts.
Sarah and Wendy arrive in Glasgow. They get a taxi out towards the Scalar headquarters, past the huge Loch Kefildes dam [made up name] which supplies Glasgow with most of its drinking water. Scalar have offices in Castle Brewster, where ScotWater and DEFRA also have offices.
Scenes in the echoing halls of the Castle and its various corridors and rooms etc. One they’re in the building, Sarah sends Wendy on ahead of her, sneaking off while Wendy makes her own way to the CEO’s office for the interview.
Sarah finds a research area, where she rifles through some paperwork or accesses a computer and finds out more about the fish stocks virus, the brucella virus, and the patented cure called Cynaro. She gets a call on her mobile—it’s Natalie phoning from the hospital with news about what she’s found on the internet. Sarah is very cross, but accepts that Natalie has called her in an emergency (it’s a wonder she got a signal this far into the castle). She is able to relate to Natalie what she’s found—detailed diagrams of the dam, and a construction that Scalar have built into the turbines to filter for viruses and to pump Cynaro into the water. Natalie says that her internet search has cast up some debate on a secure internet discussion group that she’s hacked relates how Cynaro is a more controversial solution than fluoridisation. She tells Sarah about the Scalar staff, and that she’s worked out that they were all in the same scientific research society together. Sarah asks Natalie to do a drive-by hacking of the Planet Three offices, to get the information that Wendy left behind there.
Sarah starts to make her way out of the building, determined to go and find out what’s happening in the turbines at the dam. On the way through, she gets stopped by someone in the corridor—and asks him for his help in finding her way out, saying she got lost when visiting DEFRA. He shows her the way. She realises she’s being led up stairs instead of down stairs. When she points this out, he says “I’m sorry, Miss Smith.” “How do you know my name?” she asks. And he says, in his taxi driver voice: “I’m your biggest fan.” He says he is Dean Stoltz. He locks her in a small office, high up in the castle. She checks her mobile—even by the window, it won’t work. She opens the window—still nothing. How can she contact Natalie?
Natalie can’t get through to Sarah’s mobile. She’s doing her drive-by hack of the Planet Three offices. But they must have wiped all her personal files already, realises Natalie, there’s nothing there—not even a byline on an archived news report. But her personnel file is still in the system, though it has a create date of only a month ago.
Stoltz comes back to see Sarah. You didn’t come in here alone, he tells her. Sarah denies being accompanied. Never mind, he says, we know that Wendy Jennings came with you. She’s in our CEO’s office at this moment. She’s a very informed lady. I think we should go and join her.
Natalie is studying more of her drive-by hacking results. She says to herself: “Now that’s too much of a coincidence. No, it’s not even a coincidence. They’re the same person.” Rings Josh, but can’t get through to him.
Sarah is taken to the CEO’s office. She’s glad to see Wendy there, but worried when she recognises the guy with the scar (who introduces himself, with his South African accent, as Willem Dehaan). She warns Wendy that they’re in danger. “I’m not in danger,” says Wendy. “You don’t remember me, do you? I may have lost a bit of weight, got a lot older. You, Sarah, just meet and discard people in your journalistic profession. You profess to care about them, but all you care about is the story.” Sarah finally recognises that Wendy is Hilda Winters of the SRS. [Maybe she even pulls off a wig with a sort of wig-tape-ripping sound. :=) ] “So, is it time for a follow-up story on me, Sarah?”
Sarah’s mobile rings unexpectedly “That’ll be your colleagues, calling you to warn you. Answer it, but be aware that Mr Dehaan is trigger-happy.” They’ve had Sarah’s mobile long enough to be able to ensure when it will or will not receive a signal. Sarah has a brief conversation with Josh, who warns her what he’s heard from Natalie—that Wendy and the CEO of Scalar are the same person. Sarah carries on a conversation with him, but Josh gets cagey towards the end of the call. Then it cuts off.
Miss Winters explains that Josh is smarter than she thought—he suspects something, but can’t have guessed that Scalar were able to modify the phone call “live” as it was being made. They have enough samples of Sarah’s voice from the Planet Three voicemail system, and recordings that “Wendy” took during their train journey to Glasgow, to synthesise Sarah’s speech and reply to Josh plausibly enough for a cursory hearing by him over a mobile phone. (In fact, Josh is still talking to “Sarah” now—“the call hasn’t ended, and my colleague behind you is typing in your responses.”)
The pile of junk that they stole from Sarah’s apartment, along with Sarah’s research papers, proved a useful source of futuristic parts when they cannibalised it. [And how typical of Sarah to have anthropomorphised the equipment. “It even had a pet name, like your car does, I imagine.] Miss Winters has been close to Sarah for a long time. [References here to previous adventures in the series.] Watching her, steering her. Your research notes were returned, suitably modified, to your apartment shortly before we left for Scotland. It’s shocking what you’ve done to create this fictional story, Sarah. The lies you were going to tell to the world about Scalar, just to resurrect your career. “No-one will believe you,” says Sarah, “others know that Dr Brandt died in the Bahamas, you’ll have to explain.” “No they won’t,” says Dr Brandt, coming in through the door in a surprise vocal ending to the scene (or perhaps he’s the typist at the terminal behind her). “And now, what will your few remaining friends think when they learn that, in the process of framing Scalar, you’ve poisoned the drinking water for the whole of Glasgow?
Stoltz drives Sarah and Dehaan to the dam. Winters and Brandt follow in a different car. They’re going to flood the turbines with brucella virus instead of Cynaro. In the car on the way there, Stoltz play a tape of Sarah’s phone call with Josh. (This is a chance to hear Josh’s exact words again, but the “dialogue” for Sarah is changed.) She is saying that Scalar have realised that they’ve been rumbled, and are on their way to the turbines to destroy the evidence—but she is going to go ahead and contaminate the water anyway, because that’s what they were planning and Scalar will be caught and blamed as a result. Josh is getting more and more suspicious as the call goes on.
On the journey, Sarah wraps her handbag strap around Dehaan’s neck (“stop this car or I’ll strangle him”, etc., choking noises, Stoltz: Give me the gun, you idiot! Don’t let her grab it! Dehaan: (gurgling) Keep your eyes on the road!) Sarah sets off her rape alarm, and in the ensuing confusion the car crashes into the reservoir. (“The water, aaagh!” SPLOSH!) As they panic, Sarah talks herself calmly through smashing the window with the gun, getting out on to the bank, etc. The car goes under. “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre,” says Sarah breathlessly. Then Dehaan splooshes out of the water, snarling at her. Gunshot. Splosh.
At which point, Josh appears in his hire car. (“With this and the plane fare, I think I’m just about at my limit on this Visa card. I hope Natalie can hack me some more.”) He didn’t believe it when Sarah said she was going to poison the reservoir, recognising some unlikely phrase of Sarah’s (a code phrase that she’s talking rubbish, or some grammatical mistake she once said sarcastically she would never use unless held at gunpoint). But, Sarah points out, someone else is going to poison the reservoir, and blame her for it. They can even fake her voice. And here they come! Winters and Brandt’s car charges them down (“Look out! Steering straight for us!” etc.), smacks into the side of the hire car and then, when Sarah takes a pot shot at them (much to Josh’s consternation) swerves off and away.
They won’t get to the dam, says Josh. He and Natalie have anonymously passed on a warning, with a known terrorist code word, that the dam is a target for a bomb attack. And they have also passed on information about Miss Winters’ SRS history and non-security clearance to the government, so Scalar will have to be closed down. Sarah points out that she may still be implicated along with Josh and Natalie, because of the paper trail that Winters has left. And Winters and Brandt have enough technology still at their disposal, outside of Scalar, to carry on their vendetta. But now at least they know who they are fighting.
[I originally had a confrontation on the dam (or in the turbine room), with Sarah facing down Miss Winters and Brandt just too late as the barrels of brucella virus go into the reservoir–foaming away before her eyes (which she describes in her horrified dialogue, of course) and then locked in there to be discovered by the authorities later as Winters and Brandt flee. Only to discover that Josh had got to the barrels first, and substituted industrial-sized containers of Fairy Liquid or something—and then he and Sarah have to flee the scene before the authorities arrive, because Sarah s implicated in an unsuccessful attempt from which she will have to clear her name. Not sure if this is better, or too over-the-top?]
- Sarah Jane Smith
- Wendy Jennings
- Joseph Brandt
- Spying Guy
- Taxi Driver
© Peter Anghelides 2002, 2009