The Writing Life

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23

Oct 2016

Our Worst Script

Posted by / in The Writing Life / 3 comments

seaquesttitlecard300Here’s an excerpt from “About Face,” the worst script that William Rabkin and I ever wrote…but before I share it with you, here’s the story behind it (which I originally shared on this blog back in July 2006)

We were working as supervising producers on the third season of SeaQuest, a scifi show about a phallic submarine exploring our oceans in the year 2032. We were a day into writing episode 14 when the series got cancelled. But studio and the network were still obligated to pay us for the script — the catch was that we actually had to write it if we wanted our money.

In other words, we had to write a script we knew would never be shot and that we were pretty certain nobody would ever read. But we weren’t about to walk away from $25,000.

So we wrote it in one day…while we were packing up our office. We amused ourselves by writing the worst scenes that we possibly could, reading them out loud to each other as we wrote. We turned in the script as we walked out the door and we assumed it would never be read.

To our horror, we were wrong.

We discovered years later that bootleg copies of this atrocity were showing up at science fiction conventions as one of the “lost episodes” of the final season. Some have even shown up on the Internet. It even became the basis for a fanfic story.

Okay, now here’s the excerpt. All you need to know to follow along is that Piccolo is a man with gills and Darwin is a talking dolphin (I’m not kidding).

EXT. SEAQUEST – CGI/STOCK

as it cruises through the sea.

INT. SEAQUEST – CAFETERIA

Lucas is at a table eating as Piccolo comes in.

PICCOLO

Hey, Lucas, what’s the blue plate special today? I’m starving.

LUCAS

Grilled trout.

PICCOLO

Nothing else?

LUCAS

Scrod casserole.

PICCOLO

Pass.

LUCAS

Wait – I thought you were starving.

PICCOLO

I just lost my appetite.

(re: Lucas’ plate:)

You’d think the Chef could be a bit more sensitive.

LUCAS

The presentation may not be great, but it tastes pretty good.

He holds out a fork of trout.

LUCAS

Here, have a bite.

Piccolo turns away, disgusted.

PICCOLO

Are you nuts? Why don’t you go offer Darwin some dolphin pate.

Suddenly Lucas understands.

LUCAS

Tony, you aren’t a fish.

PICCOLO

I have gills, Lucas. I may not be a fish, but it still feels like
cannibalism to me.

LUCAS

You’re a human being who happens to have gills, that’s different.

PICCOLO

If you could fly, believe me, chicken wouldn’t look very
appetizing.

LUCAS

Chickens don’t fly.

Piccolo glares at Lucas and walks out. Lucas smiles to himself.

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3 comments
  • claude lambert

    October 23, 2016, am31 10:27 AM
    01

    Lucky you! It is brilliant. Thanks for making me laugh.

  • Doug S.

    October 24, 2016, am31 4:04 AM
    02

    So when does it start getting bad?

  • RAR

    October 24, 2016, am31 8:13 AM
    03

    There is a similar story from the world of comic books. Back in the 1960s, the illustrator Jeff (now Catherine) Jones was hired to draw a story for FLASH GORDON, published by King Comics. Before he had could begin, before he had even been assigned a script, he was told that not only had the comic been canceled, but the publisher was going out of business. Jones, who had signed a contract, insisted on being paid. The publisher agreed, but only on the condition that Jones turned in the contracted number of pages before the publisher shut down the office, which would be in a very few days. So, over the course of a couple of days, Jones very rapidly drew twelve pages, making up the story as he went along–basically, a matter of Flash running from one trouble to another. He considered it the worst thing he had ever done, but he took solace in the knowledge that it would never be published.

    A few years passed, and another publisher, Charlton, got the rights to the character–and with it, all the unpublished material that King had on hand. So, in Charlton’s first issue, there appeared the Jones story–with his sketchy pencil work colored but not inked in, and dialogue added to make some sense of the action.

    So, you can temper your embarrassment with the knowledge that someone else had it worse.

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