* Some years ago now – I scribbled this little piece, which I was hoping might be turned into a sketch for the BBC… who I was liaising with an agent for – at the time! This is a “tongue in cheek” celebration of the British attempts to push back the boundaries of space mixed with ‘despite’ all the risks, and the decidedly limited resources at our scientists disposal.
THE LEGACY OF BEAGLE2…
I believe this sketch would be ideal for a compilation programme, or a similar show! The comedy value of this submission is primarily based on the stark contrast in funding between Nasa and the UK efforts at space exploration, as well as our eccentric but brave attempts to succeed against all the odds.
This is a sketch that was written a few years ago and based on our somewhat forlorn efforts in United Kingdom to land a probe on Mars. If you recall of course, at the time we thought it had not just, not worked, but we had entirely lost the probe…
Since then it has transpired how actually very close Colin Pillinger and his team were to completing the mission!
News Reporter/Colin Pillinger (the brave hero)
The ‘Classic’ Past Presenters of Blue Peter
John Noakes, and of course… ‘Shep the Blue Peter dog!’
Opening SCENE 1 and backdrop to the story:
*Establishing the sketch (opens with a reporter talking to Collin Pillinger at a science fair or University.)
Reporter: “I’m here with Collin Pillinger, talking to him about the recent failure of Beagle 2. Do you think that the Beagle 2 might have succeeded if you’d had the similar level of funding as your counterparts at NASA?”
Collin Pillinger with exaggerated sideburns – iconic of his persona:
“Not really, we Brits are very ingenious and home to some of the best talent in the world…”
SCENE 2 – Highlighting the comically large contrast between the UK ‘s Beagle2… and the substantially better funded NASA operations!
CUTS TO: NASA creating their satellite in a hermetically sealed laboratory, fully equipped with dozens of professional technicians, garbed in white and face masks, evidently used to stop contamination of the spacecraft.
SCENE 3 epitomising the comically stark contrast of the Great British contribution to space exploration! Cue: The Blue Peter Studio… with an element FX – MUSIC
Valerie Singleton: “Hello, children and today we’re going to make the Beagle2 Mission to Mars.” Espoused in a matter of fact tone, as if they’re actually doing nothing out of the ordinary: “How’s it going boys?”
CAMERA PANS TO: Peter Purvis and John Noakes fighting between themselves over a thrown together contraption which looks suspiciously like a bath tub covered in silver foil – the satellite! Arguing over which one of them gets to attach to the washing up liquid bottles (thrusters) to the side of the tub, with of course the use of double sided sticky tape! John Noakes stands furthest away from the camera on the far side of the tub, bottle in hand. Peter stands on the near side of the tub, trying to wrestle it from him.
(All of the time Shep, is in the background running back and forth, jumping – adding to the mayhem.)
*Not all this “argument” needs to be audible, the idea is to just give an impression of childish/chaotic behaviour, the actors should feel free to improvise!
Peter Purvis: “Just give me the thruster John!”
John Noakes: Pulls the Fairy Washing-up liquid bottle back – their supposed improvised booster! And then intimating to the other…
“That’s your thruster over there…!”
The two presenters realising they are caught on camera, suddenly stop dead (caught like two proverbial rabbits struck in headlights) and belatedly try to show a mock semblance of professionalism!
Peter Purvis: “Yes,” he smiles, “we’re just trying to fit the sub – atomic thrusters to the satellite (once more… actually the washing up liquid bottles.) “How’s it going with you John?”
Cut to John Noakes, now increasingly tangled in reams and reams of double sided sticky tape, struggling to fit the remaining washing up liquid bottle to the side of the bath – all the time his task made worse by Shep jumping up at him!!!!!
John Noakes: “Yes, Peter” (he smiles) “it is going very well,” he replies in a harried unconvincing voice, while continually admonishing the dog with… “get down Shep!”
Just as it looks as if he’s getting somewhere, Shep snatches one of the supposed thrusters out of his hand, and scampers off with this!
John Noakes: Shouts after the dog.
“Come back Shep!”
SCENE 4 – Lift Off!
NASA: an old film clip of Huston Control, filled to the brim with professional technical staff, with banks of computers – viewing the take off – of the shuttle on a huge screen as it goes into orbit!
Cut to: The United Kingdom effort, the Blue Peter presenters are outside in a farmer’s field, perhaps with the odd cow or two in the background! Attempting to try to launch the Beagle 2, with use of a make-shift/medieval catapult!
Shep is jumping up and down again and John Noakes is continually telling him off, as the presenters fight between themselves’ in a mad scramble to launch the satellite which is laid in the cup of the catapult!
*Incoherent words and possibly swearing assist in giving an over-riding sense of chaos in this scene!
John Noakes:“Look it goes in here, Valerie, not over there.”
Valerie: “I know what I’m doing!”
John Noakes: (Berates the Blue Peter pet – in no uncertain terms, who true to form… leaps frantically up at the distracted presenter!)
“Will you get down Shep!”
Cue more clips of DIY orbital carnage: Unbeknownst to the hapless trio ‘Shep’ somehow manages to get into the actual cup of the catapult – itself!
John Noakes exasperated and not realising the true gravity of the situation…
Shouts above the mayhem: “Just fire the damn thing!”
# Peter Purvis pulls the lever to the catapult…
* And the momentous – final shot???
To the sound of the theme to “2001 Space Odyssey:”
END OF SKETCH