Channel 37

S1:E1 PRISON PLANET (Pilot)

Synopsis: On a distant planet, the Star Alliance investigates the death of a professor studying singing aliens.

Airdate: September 20, 1957; 8:00 pm EST

Teaser: The sound of crashing waves against the coast. Fade in and pan across an ocean beach with towering rock outcroppings. The surf pounds and the camera stops on a figure lying face down in the sand. The waves lap at his boots. Near his head several lobster-like creatures with long legs and antennae (they strangely resemble hand puppets). The lobsters are singing and gently stroking the man’s face.

Teleplay Summary:

>>Player Characters for Jason E.R.’s “Channel 37” dimension-hopping miniseries, using FATE Accelerated, as of “1957”/spring 2015:

  • “Hiram Wallace” [Gene D.]-male Earthling human; know-it-all “Perfessor” (other aspects: Looking for Easy Street, bottled up emotionally, eidetic memory, breakout as “Prof. Atom” on kids’ show; apex approach: Clever); actor who finds himself science officer on the fast space cruiser Hercules
  • “Ronnie ‘Smokie’ Baker” [Beruk A.]-male human; aged ham/artiste (other aspects: Middle-aged metamorphosis, lives large, hustler/grifter, scene stealer — “Who’s bustin’ my chops?”; apex approach: Flashy?); acting captain of the Hercules on its apparent mission to investigate the murder of xenolinguist Dr. Darov Cositon
  • “Hank Botskii” [Brian W.]-male human; gallant extra (other aspects: Anything for a buck, “red shirt” (martyr) mentality, 4-H farmboy, Wilhelm scream; apex approach: Quick); supporting cast member and quiet but brave Star Alliance lieutenant
  • “Danny Wilson” [Bruce K.]-male human; boy next door (other aspects: More than just a pretty face, rebel without a cause, grease monkey, singing family show; apex approach: Clever); young heartthrob turned bold engineer on the Hercules as it travels to the Mali Barreyo prison colony on Tartarus 2 and encounters defensive systems and dead aliens on a disabled space ship on the way
  • “Ginger Lane” [Rich C.G.]-female Russian human; vampish vixen (other aspects: “The next Veronica Lake,” Red Scare, stagecraft/technophile, farmer’s daughter role; apex approach: Sneaky); assertively snooped around Sgt. Irtan Pard’s quarters and suspects the guards aren’t behaving normally
  • “Timmy ‘Skip’ Thompson” [Brian S.]-male human; little scamp (other aspects: “Look, Ma, no hands,” daydreamer, double-jointed, was “Prof. Atom’s” assistant; apex approach: Flashy); made contact with the Parqe, an intelligent lobster-like species on Tartarus 2
  • “Walter MacNeill” [Drew S.]-male human; gentle giant (other aspects: Looking for a human connection, doesn’t know his own strength, talent for mimicry, costumed heavy?; apex approach: Forceful); helps investigate murder scene while others question the guards, three inmates, and Dr. Cositon’s family

Members of the ‘Star Alliance’ had been dispatched to Tartarus II, a remote prison planet, in the year 2240 AD. After encountering (and dealing with) the planet’s automated proximity defenses, some of the crew explored a bombed-out vessel adrift nearby, finding it to be of mysterious alien make.

The Star Alliance proceeded to the Prison Planet, home to a maximum security prison where its members are kept in quantum stasis in a device called ‘the Carousel’. The team came to investigate the untimely death of famous xenolinguist “Dr. Cositon”, a professor who had devoted his studies on the planet to a mysterious, lobster-like race known as the
“Parqe”…

The team spoke briefly with the security guards on site to orient themselves, and were introduced to the professor’s wife and daughter, as well as two of the three inmates currently being paroled from quantum stasis: Jan Kigh, the nerdy assistant to the xenolinguist, and the only other party who could communicate with the Parqe on the planet; Mikel Ritabi, a brilliant criminal scientist turned custodian for his parole; and Bok Ferred, a strong laborer who worked in the nearby mines.

Ginger Lane (Rich G.) under guise of wanting to change her torn uniform, convinced the guard Irtan Pard to use his room – the guard was easily flustered by the femme fatale’s good looks and suggestive banter. Once alone in the room, she rummaged around and found some incriminating evidence – a guide that gave background and other information on the REAL Irtan Pard, suggesting the guard was really an impostor!

The group then proceeded to the beach to investigate the site of Dr. Cositon’s death. What happened was clear: The xenolinguist’s head had been bashed by a large rock that had then been thrown into the bay. Less clear were the activities of the inscrutable Parqe, which signaled in unison in a slow dance. One of the team members found a hand puppet imitating a lobster claw nearby: The puppet is used to speak with the Parqe in their own language of gestures, though the extreme communications barrier in perceptions between the races made any interaction difficult.

The group next decided to interview Isaya Cositon (wife of the doctor). She was a keen intellect with a frosty disposition. Isaya noted she intended to continue her studies on the planet, more of a biological research nature on the Parqe. Her studies had been held up as the professor had focused on communications with the creatures first. Isaya also was disappointed in her daughter, Lyra, being smitten with the criminal scientist Mikel Ritabi: she had hoped for a guard or other man who would be a more suitable distraction to her daughter.

Next the group returned to the scene of the crime. To resolve questions over how easy it was to break off a new piece of boulder to use as a weapon, strong man Walter McNeill (Drew S.) struggled with a piece until Danny Wilson (Bruce K.) successfully snapped it off, and threw the rock into the water. That prompted an extreme reaction from the Parqe, gesturing around the stone. Believing the Parqe to be agitated or upset, members of the group removed the boulder, then threw it back in the water, then removed it again, trying to fathom the odd reactions of the inscrutable Parqe. One particular Parqe separated from the pack and began gesturing at the party.

Hank Botsky (Brian W.) suggested getting Jan Kigh out to translate, and he was quickly retrieved from public quarters where he was together with Mikel and Lyra. The nervous man made out that the Parqe foresaw that their kind were at the cusp of a fundamental transformation. They noted that Dr Cositon was free, and that they, too, desired to be free.

The group took the opportunity to question Jan some more, and found the man quite nervous when requested to speak with Parqe, or when it was suggested that the Parqe might be able to identify Dr. Cositon’s killer. He was doubly nervous when asked about any anomalies with the guards, and volunteered that the guards had taken Bok Ferred out of quantum stasis out of turn, even though other prisoners both had higher priority and were easier inmates.

Danny Wilson next led a contingent to speak with Lyra with Mikel present. Lyra was difficult and had little to say, but spoke harshly of her mother.

It was resolved that we needed Bok Ferred here to conclude the investigation, and Walter left in the 2-man mine transport vehicle to retrieve him – only finding out at the halfway point that flexible little Timmy (Brian S.) had stowed away in the mine car! Stoic Walter met with Bok Ferred, who mistook the rough-looking strong man as a fellow convict. By saying little and letting Bok do most of the talking, Walter established that Bok Ferred was clearly Dr. Cositon’s murderer. He had committed the murder to attract the Star Alliance, in the hopes that – in cahoots with the guards, who were accomplices – they could set more prisoners free, overwhelm the Star Alliance officers and steal their ship. Mikel was also in on the gig, though his desire was to stay with Lyra.

Bok noticed the kid and was alarmed – Timmy pretended to wander off into the mines, then snuck back into the vehicle in such a small space that not even Walter and Bok knew where in the vehicle he had hidden. When they returned to the base, Timmy and Walter managed to communicate enough of what was going on to get the rest of the group to understand just to play along. Hank remained down in the vehicle bay with Bok with his hand on his blaster holster. The rest of the group proceeded upstairs to deal with the guards.

The guards were busy apparently dealing with another alien ship attack – just like the prior ship that had been disabled by the Prison Planet’s defenses! Danny, not taking any chances, drew his blaster and fired at the impostor Irtan Pard, the mighty atomic power of the blaster weapon killing the guard instantly! The other guard, Anroda Striz, surrendered immediately. Ginger Lane seated herself at the defense panel and punched up a new defensive configuration to thwart the incoming alien ships. But it was clear that even the improved defenses were only buying time for the group. The ships then communicated in a great and terrible voice: They identified themselves as “the Etherphages of the
Netherverse”, and insisted that the Parqe – their prisoners – not be released from their prisons. The Parque, the Etherphages noted, were prisoners because they represented goodness and virtue, a terrible crime for their kind.

Meanwhile Bok was getting increasingly impatient, then agitated. By the time the group had returned to the bay, Hank had drawn his blaster on the criminal thug and was keeping a watchful eye on the prisoner. Bok made a run for it when the rest of the party showed, and made his getaway in the vehicle – back to the mines – with only a half-hearted attempt to stop him.

The group picked up Isaya and Lyra, and let Mikel know his plans had been dashed. Before leaving, the group argued whether their mission should be to set the Parqe free by killing them, or set them free by bringing them along. The majority decided to bring them onto the ship, so a little hop to the beach later, the group started trying to round up the creatures, only to find it was like trying to herd kittens. Hank, frustrated with the lack of progress, picked up a rock, warned a Parqe to get in the ship or else, and bashed it over the head: Out came a ray of light, and a voice thanking the group for having released the spirit from its material prison. After that, the crew made short work of the remaining Parqe. After the last was released, the spirit of light of Timmy’s Parqe friend, “Spiny”, remained behind to thank the party and present them with a gift – the glowing colorful pyramid, which Timmy touched … and the group was sent to a faraway time and place.

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