Here we have a lot of standing around talking. There is no imminent threat, no alien invasion, no ship about to go boom. This is the kind of story that deals with the ramifications of the value of life itself. And quality of life.
The Doctor and his companions discover a shipload of people reaching for a better life. But something has gone wrong. What went wrong is not terribly relevant. It could have been an alien menace which discovered the ship and occupied it, feeding off its inhabitants. But that's been done. It could have been pirates. Could have been many things. Turns out it was an asteroid belt, but it's not that important to the plot.
So the ship encountered trouble and here comes the Doctor to put it right. Damage done to the sihp meant that it was off-course, but not irreparably. With some effort - and sacrifice - the ship can be put back on track for its destination.
But here's the deal... there must be a sacrifice to save these people. And the sacrifice is on the part of the co-pilot who must live her life out in solitude, knowing she will never get to the Promised Land with her people. And she may have to consign someone else to the same fate before she herself dies.
The Doctor faces two dilemmas in this story. The first is the segment of the key itself. As is made obvious, the Doctor was sent to retrieve the piece of the key, but to do so would doom an entire shipload of people to die.
This story allowed me to explore the moral values held by the Doctor and his new companions. The Doctor has a job to do, but he's unwilling to do it if it costs the lives of the crew and passengers of the ship.
We find that Elannuir sees the job as easy. She is a pragmatist and is willing to take the segment and leave, regardless of the consequences. Sir Edmund is not willing to do that. He sees the lives as important, yet he also believes his quest comes from god himself, so to him that is vitally important.
The Doctor makes the decision that he will not take the segment of the key if it means the loss of the lives aboard the ship. So he revives the co-pilot to fix the problem and get them back on track. He doesn't know he's dooming this woman to a life alone aboard the ship. But he can't let that stand either.
So using the tools at hand, (and congratulating the Guardian for creating a dilemma even worse than the one he faced with Princess Astra) he solves both dilemmas to the satisfaction of all involved.
When I was a child I was fascinated by the TV show "The Starlost". I thought it was a great concept, and I loved watching it. The concept was simple. A huge spaceship (called simply The Ark) was adrift in space. In biomes throughout the ship various cultures lived, oblivious to the fact that they were on a spaceship. Each had been in space so long they had forgotten they were in space at all. Rather than cryo-freezing, these people lived out their existences while the ship was on its way to a new world where they would presumably disembark and begin again. Various important crewmembers were, however, put into Cryo-Sleep for the journey, as we discover in one episode.
Sometime during the last several hundred years, however a disaster took the ship off-course, steering it towards a star, where, if the course went uncorrected, the ship and crew would meet a firey fate.
This is not a completely new idea of course. Doctor Who had done Arks in Space before. (The Ark; The Ark in Space; etc.)
In mine, I thought it would be good enough to have the ship blown off-course and have the Doctor's timely arrival allow the crew to fix the problem and put the ship back on course before it was too late. Originally I was going to have the Co-Pilot, or even the Doctor, do an extra-vehicular repair mission in a space-suit. But the story was getting long enough that if I did add it it would have been the longest segment by far. And it wasn't really necessary.
To fit all of the elements of the dilemmas in, a simple computer re-programming would suffice - with the complication that waking someone from Cryo-Sleep would doom them to live out meaningless existences on-board the ship.
Aegis means "protector". This is simliar to saying "God". I thought about it a bit, looking for a suitable title for this episode. I had originally gone with "The Lifeship", but that sounded to simplistic. "The Ark" was already taken by Doctor Who, as was "The Ark in Space". So I thought I should actually name the ship and use that as the title.
"The Ark of the Aegis" sounded just perfect. Plus, it added the side-benefit of being a double-entendre. If you say it right, it could also sound like "The Ark of the Ages"... as in ages in space.
And in this episode the ocncept of the Guardian is explored a little. Who is he? How did he hide these Key segments? Why? If he was seen hiding the segments, what would the people of that planet think they were seeing? Surely, in each case so far, the creator of the disguised segments would have been seen as a god.
Near the end, Elannuir asks a pertinent question: Why would Renn, the Copilot of the Aegis Ark give the Doctor the Heart of the Aegis, an artifact given to them directly by their God? The Doctor explains it. Renn felt she was, in essence, returning the Heart of the Aegis to its source, with her grateful thanks.
However, this brings up an interesting Jewish parallel. When Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets inscribed by God himself with the commandments, he broke them in contempt for what his people had become in his absence. Legend has it that the pieces were gathered up and placed in a recepticle called an Ark. The Ark of the Covenant.
I find this parallel somewhat interesting - that the Doctor has a similar experience on the Ark of the Aegis. Only in this case, the Moses character gives the pieces back to God, in a way.
This story was rather complicated, so I had to do storyboards that closely matched the script. This, I tried to follow as closely as possible. Again, though, reality often has a serious effect on how the actual shots are laid out and filmed.
Click any image for a larger one.
During pre-production of this segment, I tried to get some work done at night - get the script set up, the storyboard drawn, and then perhaps some set work.
I am prone to muscle spasms. I've gotten about a dozen in my life and each time I'm usually on my back for about a week. I usually get them along my spine, near my ribs. Once I got one in my neck that felt like someone stabbing me in the neck with an oyster knife and twisting - twenty-four hours a day for ten days. I have never felt such pain, and I hope I never do again.
This muscle spasm wasn't as bad as that. It was akin to sciatica - a condition of pain near the base of the spine that was painful while standing, but not quite so bad while sitting. I could not stand up straight. This lasted, as predicted, for about ten days, which meant during that time I got next to no work done.
Then came a period of great productivity. I bought styrofoam boards and cut them, planned out the set, got some gutter vents for the space ship hallways, painted them, created a set wall for them, and it was looking good. I bought larger gutter vents for the bridge walls. I trimmed (by hand with a carpet knife) twenty sets of four mini roller-paint trays that make up the Cryo-Sleep bank, I cut the doorways, painted the boards, planned the bridge, designed the working Cryo-Bed...
And it was looking great, coming together, and I planned a shoot for June 20. During the weekend prior, I planned to go in and put together a lot of the set pieces that need gluing and connecting. If I do that at home, it would make the set several times larger, and harder to transport.
Then on Wednesday, June 15, I yawned at work, and pow. Neck spasm.
Ok. First, this spasm was minor compared to the one I talked about earlier, the oyster-knife spasm... but it limited my range of movement, and threatened to push the shoot back again.
But I am determined not to let five months go between stories like I did between Segments 3 and 4. This one required far more complicated sets than any of my previous sets, but I found great materials and the end result, I believe, looked great. I was a bit more motivated to get this one done, because now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe when it's done, it will all have been worth it.
I figured Segment 6 will probably re-use some sets from Segment 4, so it will be an easier pre-production effort. And at this stage, about half of the Epilogue has been shot, and the climactic final images have already been created.
Undaunted, I pressed on.
This episode introduces the TARDIS Rec Room. The rooms of the TARDIS are constantly shifting and moving, redesigning themselves and just showing up at random.
This room, I figured, would be a place the Doctor places some of his trophies, his gifts, the things he gathers up on his travels.
The best way to go through what these all are is to put up an image of the room from above. If you draw your mouse over the picture, Pop-Text will show you a brief description of the items.
Roll over the various items for a description. Some of them link to larger pictures, or more information.
There's also a great miniature chess set behind the knight here, which I have used before.
First, what would the Aegis look like? I played with some ideas, but always came back to a series of cylinders surrounding a core. It was only when I was reviewing a model kit of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek that I came up with it. The model kit came with extra engine nacelles to make the various different models of the ship during different parts of the series. And I happened to have two of the kits. Total: 8 nacelles.
But rather than model the ships physically, I used Lightwave 3D to create a ship based on the Star Trek nacelles, but with my own changes.
I modeled the ship as one engine nacelle, and grouped 8 of them around a central axis with rings connecting the 8 engines.
Close-up of the ship rendered in Lightwave.
My plan for the ship was that in the center of the rings would sit a bridge, connected to each of the 8 cryo-tubes, but in reality, the model does not have that core piece. No need, since it could not be seen.
But the theme of the ship is 8 tubes connected. Technically, the bridge should have 8 doorways, each leading to one of the concentric cryo-tubes. However, we have just one in my case. I don't think it matters much.
However, it did inspire the design of the logo for the ship - 8 circles around a center. The letter is A in Klingon font.
This logo is seen throughout the ship, and on the uniform of Renn the Co-Pilot
This was perhaps the most ambitious set I had built to date. This set required two separate rooms - the Cryo Chamber, and the Bridge, and of course I needed a hallway between them.
Months before (perhaps even years before) I saw some gutter liners or eave liners at Home Depot, and I knew that, painted white, would make an excellent spaceship wall.
The previous summer I went to Disney World in Florida and had a real close look at how they did things, and one place that really impressed me was the waiting line for Space Mountain. It looked like the interior of a spaceship, and I wanted my set to look that good. So I took some visual notes, promising to remember some of this wehn I started my set.
I used two walls from Segment Four's copper patina'd sets as backing for the hallway walls. I used stryofoam triangles cut from Segment Three's Egyptian Stone Floor sets to fasten the walls at the proper angles.
To give the idea that they are amidships, I originally planned to have the cryo-tube set be much taller, and have a ring of floor around it, rather than a full floor. Just not feasible. Even so, the set walls were four feet tall for both the bridge and the cryo-tube.
This is an octagonal set with a doorway leading to the hall. The other walls are arrayed with cryobed chambers. How do I depict hundreds or even thousands of frozen humans in cryo-sleep? I originally wanted vacu-formed human-shaped panels like they did in the episode The Ark in Space, but I couldn't find anything like that, so I began to look at everything I could to come up with something that would actually look high-tech enough, and not look stupid.
Time was running out and I had found nothing suitable. I toyed with the idea of using plastic party plates, but they were round, and not too convincing. A completely accidental find at a Building 19 solved the problem. I found these small roller-paint trays by the hundreds, and at fifty cents each, I didn't have to break the bank to get myself a whole ship-load of cryo-beds.
Best yet, they came in a row of five, and as luck would have it, they were already spaced appropriately for my sets. I only had to cut away the edge of each sheet to allow the inverted trays to lie flush with the walls.
One row (the Co-Pilot's) had to have one cryo-bed cut away so I could actually open the chamber to reveal Renn's sleeping chamber.
So on the morning of the main shoot, I brought the flats and props into my office, I laid out all the panels on a boardroom table and began gluing down the Cryogenic bed caps to the walls, and the rhinestone jewels that made up the indicator lights.
But I also had printed out many stickers to place throughout the ship, not the least of which were the many, many status screens that went on each individual Cryo-Bed. Each one has individual status bars, no two are alike, and each one has a name on it, each in English with Klingon font. Some of the names include past actors who played Doctor Who or his companions, my family members, and names of people I admire.
Green status, with various life sign bar graphs. This one says "Elannuir"
This one is not doing so well, but is still hanging on by a thread. Name of "George W Bush" - Ok, sometimes they're not people I admire.
This one is dead. The red octagon in the center says "Non-Viable" and the name here is "Pilot of the Aegis"
Each cryobed has either a green light above it or a red light. Red lights go on over the yellow-status beds as well, as they need attention. I toyed with the idea of having all the red beds flash using animated .GIFs like I did with the locator, but that would have done two bad things: 1) It would have broken the paradigm of having only the locator flash, and 2) it was a ton of work I didn't really feel like doing.
For the Bridge, I played around with various ideas - including trying to mimic the set of the Liberator, from "Blake's 7". But those were a bit too complex to create. I had larger versions of the hallway wall panels which I used as the walls to the bridge.
I decided to go with a raised octagonal platform (used before in my story "Lightfall" as an elevator platform) with a central control console. By the time I decided on all that, and figured the best place to place the Heart of the Aegis - in reality a blue glass replica of a ship's deck light I got in Salem, MA - in a column of plastic above, I realized it was almost TARDIS-Console-shaped. It would make a good console shape, and in fact somewhat resembles the TARDIS Console used in the new TV series.
Here's the set going together on the boardroom table. The floor sections are just chrome flourescent light covers that our company had in storage.
Clever me put hidden messages all over the ship, too.
For each of these images, click them for their translation.
Just trying to stay current:
On the console screens (which are plastic ball-bearing maze puzzles) I superimposed many graphics. Some are ones I created to fit with the Aegis style:
But I also filled out the console screens with images from some of my all-time favorite arcade games:
On the morning I was shooting the last scene of Segment Five, (it was a holiday) my friend Michelle came by just as I was getting ready to leave for the shoot. So she chose to join me and help me out on the shoot, for which I'm grateful.
I grabbed a bunch of GI Joes and dressed them in Adventure Team primary-colored jumpsuits. I had a blue tower from a Tech-Deck racing toy set. This is close to the Adventure Team Training Center Tower, so I had to get one. Found it on eBay.
The Promised Land
Sitting atop the tower is an alarm clock in the shape of a Star Wars Pit Droid, and at the base, erecting the tower, is a Reboot Exo-Skeleton.
Star Wars Pit Droid Clock (with Jar Jar)
Reboot Exo - This one is orange. The original, seen in my shoot, was yellow.
For this shoot, everyone I showed the first scenes to just loved Renn's hair. So I colorized the hair of all the crew, to be green, and I think I like the result.
Willow gets into everything!