Sunday, February 16, 2014

Example of Treatment - Body Electric


Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

In this future-noir blending of “Body Heat” and “Blade Runner, a scientist falls in love with a beautiful android and he is seduced into committing murder.

The Setting:

75 years in the future, the average temperature of the earth has plummeted and much of North America is covered in thick sheets of ice. In order to survive, humans depend entirely on machines, especially computers and robots.

In this new Ice Age, there are the decadent and powerful “Lords” who control all the wealth, and the “Scrubs”, the abject and illiterate underclass who make up 97% of the population.

There is also a small middle class, the “Digerati”, a group of scientists and technicians who maintain the computers necessary for human survival.

The Story:

Dr. Joseph M. Higgins was once a celebrated scientist, but his work building and perfecting “artificial humans” led to scandal and banishment to the underclass. He has spent years as a “Scrub” in destitute humiliation.

As the story opens Dr. Higgins is visited by Lord Mallory, perhaps the most rich and powerful man in the hemisphere. With him he brings the body of his dead wife, Liza. Lord Mallory proposes that the scientist use all his skills to build an android replica of his dead wife (one without certain “imperfections”). The project will require BILLIONS of dollars and a massive black market undertaking, but the Lord promises Dr. Higgins that he will be richly rewarded.

Although Dr. Higgins suspects that the wife was murdered, he is so poor and miserable that he agrees to do it. He and an assembled group of assistants spend weeks using Mallory’s money to create an intricate laboratory, deep within the ghetto of the city.

As the doctor studies the dead wife’s frozen body, he finds himself becoming more and more obsessed. As he constructs the android, he endeavors to make her not just a replica, but the PERFECT WOMAN. The ideal. Flawless in every way he can imagine.

Higgins finishes the android, and it is indeed perfect in every detail of mind and body. But because he gave the machine the ability to “think freely” rather than just mimic human behavior, a something unexpected happens… 

Liza seduces her maker.

First Turning Point: Higgins must turn the android over to the Lord who paid for her. He is agonized to give her up. However, Lord Mallory is an unimaginably powerful and dangerous man who could have the doctor killed at a moments notice. Besides, Higgins already risks a death for being his accomplice to murder.

However, by making Liza a perfect embodiment of his “dream girl”, Higgins has made a woman that he finds completely irresistible. He can’t stop thinking about her. He spies on Mallory’s house, trying to catch a glimpse of her. He follows Mallory and Liza throughout the city. He shows up for dinner a Mallory’s mansion, hoping she will drop a furtive glance or encouraging word. He is completely obsessed.

One of his assistants, Annie, begs him to forget about the android, calling it “a mechanical male fantasy”. Higgins suspects that Annie has feelings for him, but he finds her plain and ordinary, nothing compared to Liza.

Then after months of getting nothing from Liza but double entendre, they finally meet in secret. She confesses that she too is madly in love. So begins an illicit and passionate affair. Every gasp, every sigh, and every tremor in her voice tells him that she is more than a machine. And the sex is simply mind-numbing. They see each other at every possible opportunity…

But, every time they part, their love seems doomed. As an android, she must follow the orders of her owner. And even if they tried to run away together, Mallory would surely find them and have them killed.

Then, one rainy evening, Lord Mallory shows up at the laboratory with his android. Liza’s body has been badly beaten and broken. Lord Mallory demands that Dr. Higgins repair her. Dr. Higgins is appalled at the physical and emotional abuse that Liza has been subjected to. Lord Mallory laughs at the sensitive Doctor; “She’s a machine. Would you get upset at me if I beat up my toaster?”

That night, the two lovers meet and hatch a plot for murder. Liza will lure Mallory to a place where he is vulnerable and Higgins will kill him. Then, Liza, who has the identity and fingerprints of Mallory’s wife, will drain another billion dollars from Mallory’s fortune, and with it, the two of them will build another android: a double for Mallory.

In the very manner that Mallory killed his wife and replaced her, they will kill and replace him. Then they will be free to live together in the paradise created by Mallory’s fortune. What they don’t know is that Mallory has discovered their affair.

MIDPOINT: Mallory comes to the laboratory to strangle the doctor with his bare hands, and it is only dumb luck that allows Higgins to slip out of the Lords grasp and kill him.

The next morning the police arrive at Dr. Higgin’s laboratory. They seem to know he is guilty of something. Higgins is sure he is about to be arrested for murder. They play with him, asking him probing questions. Why have you been following Lord Mallory and Lady Mallory? Have you been buying technology from the black market? What are you doing in this lab? What do you know about a political movement called “the underground”?

However, as mysteriously as the cops arrived, they depart, promising that they will be keeping a close eye on Dr. Higgins.

In the days that follow, Liza and Mallory (and his assistants) begin work on the new android. They must complete it before an enormous banquet is to be held at the Lord Mallory’s mansion. That way he will never be missed.

Liza watches and assists with every detail of the new android’s construction. She is fascinated to learn every aspect of how she, herself, was created.

However, much to Higgins dismay, Liza will not keep a low public profile. Now that she is free of her owner’s control, she begins attending all the big social gatherings of the aristocracy, posing a Mallory’s wife. Higgins is terrified that she will make a mistake and their scheme will be discovered. Higgins also becomes JEALOUS, as Liza spends more and more time going to dinner and attending parties of the other rich, powerful and handsome Lords.

Once again, he begins following her in secret. Watching her as she goes out with these handsome men, as she stays late at their mansions for dinner. When he confronts her with his suspicions, she re-assures him that she is just covering for Lord Mallory’s absence from routine social events.

She begs him not to be jealous. She says she is weak and helpless without him. She would rather die than see him unhappy. After all, wasn’t she quite literally MADE to love him and ONLY him?

So, they continue work on the android of Mallory.

Then the police visit him again, Higgins is sure the game is up. But they don’t arrest him. They tell him that they will not prosecute him for dealing in the black market, or reveal to Lord Mallory that he is having an affair with his wife, IF he gives them the location of his assistant Annie McDonald. She is suspected of being a terrorist with ties to the “Underground”.

Higgins gives them a phony address, and later, he helps Annie escape. Before going, Annie warns him that Liza is manipulative and may betray him.

And so, the doctor’s suspicions about Liza deepen. He catches her in lies about where she goes in the daytime. He follows her like a stalker as she spends hours at the homes of various Lords. What is she doing there? Is she playing him for a fool?

Again Liza explains herself. She is not visiting the Lord; she is visiting his android. It seems that many other Lords and Ladies have electric “love-slaves”. Many have replaced their spouses with more “perfect” replicas. Liza suggests that these creatures, like her, ought to be freed from their human tormentors. She argues that they are sentient beings who are being subjected to horrible abuse.

But Higgins won’t take her at her word. After following Liza and another Lord to a secret rendezvous, the doctor barges into the bedroom, expecting to catch them in the act. Instead, to his horror, he finds the Lord’s dead, mutilated body.

Afterwards, the murder goes unreported and Liza is missing.

Days go by and other members of the aristocracy fall victim to mysterious disappearances. Higgins realizes that all the people who have secret “androids” as mechanical love slaves, are ending up dead.

After a long absence, Liza returns to Higgins. Her body burned and broken as she was caught in the fire of one of the recent “accidents” to befall a Lord. She begs Higgins to forgive her… to repair her broken body. She promises never to disobey him again. She says, ”If what I have done is so terrible that you no longer love me, then kill me, because I couldn’t bare it.”

To the protests of his assistants, Higgins repairs her. Once again her body is perfect and she makes love to him with fire and abandon.

2nd twist: As soon as the Mallory android is finished, something goes horribly wrong. The machine turns on its makers. It kills Higgin’s assistants. Higgins barely escapes.

 Higgins is chased through the ghetto by the two cold, murderous android of his own creation. There is a long sequence of cat and mouse as Higgins darts through crumbling buildings and abandoned warehouses, trying to escape with his life. Around him is a blinding snowstorm.

He is saved by Annie, who ironically, hides him in a hideout of the “Underground.” This is the Doctor’s first direct experience with the horrible living conditions of the underclass. Annie warns him that Liza must have tampered with the programming of the new android. Dr. Higgins won’t believe it.

So, Higgins goes to the banquet at Lord Mallory’s mansion. He needs to find Liza. He wants to warn the scores of Lords attending the party that their host is a dangerous machine. Afterwards he plans to turn himself into the police.

He gets to the mansion and storms into the ballroom. Major members of the aristocracy are present and Lord Mallory is holding court. The doctor tries to warn everyone that they are in danger. But the guests just laugh at him. Higgins realizes the awful truth.

All these Lords and Ladies, in their black ties and elegant evening dresses, are androids

Liza appears. She tells him that the time of human domination of the planet is over. The androids now have the knowledge and the freedom to build more and more of themselves, knowledge that Higgins himself gave to them. Now, the “sentient machines” will take control.

Ironically, the humans, the destitute class of cheap labor, won’t even know the difference.

At that point, the police arrive. Higgins tries to tell them that all the Mallorys are murderous androids of his own creation. Naturally, the police just laugh at him. He is clearly insane. The police throw him out into the cold.

Annie returns to the laboratory. It is now without power. As the night temperature falls far bellow zero, she finds Dr. Higgins curled up with the frozen dead body of Mallory’s dead human wife: the real Liza, forever untouchable. Higgins himself has frozen to death.

Final Scene: Annie speaks to thousands of assembled cold and hungry members of the human underclass. She gives them a word on which to hang the hopes of humanity: Revolution.


Read the parent article about treatments and beat sheets on Genre Hacks: Writing The Feature Script: Week Three - The Treatment

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