The ATLANTIS INVADERS
The AMPHIBIANS / ARGOLAS & DRIDENT
On the aquatic planet ATLANTIS VI, three frightened offshore workers meet alone on the upper deck of their mining installation. Suddenly, they are attacked and overpowered by three shadowed forms, then quickly disappear into the night with two of the men. Only one is spared...
If you’ve followed my little series you’re aware I’ve removed the above sequence for two reasons:
(1) Its uncomfortable similarity with another STAR TREK episode opening (‘’the DEVIL in the DARK’’)
(2) The length TV time-wise: that sequence, along with the ones inside the ATLANTIS VI conference room and the EXETER bridge would make for an uncharacteristically long pre-credits section.
There are some other nagging story problems concerning the kidnapping in particular, and the amphibians in general that need to be addressed:
PROBLEM 1: Why kidnap the workers at all? The amphibians are supposed to be in a desperate state due to toxic poisoning of their waters caused by the humans. If they are so desperate for their survival, why kidnap a handful of low-level employees every two weeks or so? Up until the latest abductions on pages 1 and 2, none of the miners even suspected any hostile actions by other beings to a certainty.
Say that cultural terrorists wished to damage the Disney Corporation by kidnapping a few Disney players costumed as Goofy and Buzz Lightyear from the Disneyland park every few weeks or so. Without leaving any evidence... Not a very efficient way to gain your objective, I would think...
To put some real tension and urgency into this episode you need the following:
(1) Change the amphibians’ actions from kidnappings to sabotage on a medium scale, which resolves the moral failing by Garrovick later when he forgets to rescue the other kidnap victims, and makes amphibian leader Argolas seem less like a tactical ignoramus.
(2) Reduce the timeframe for the ‘’alien incidents’’: rather than kidnapping one or two inconsequential men every few weeks, have dramatic acts of sabotage occurring almost every day.
(3) Changing from kidnapping to sabotage produces more tension to more people. Having many pieces of important machinery breaking down constantly for no apparent reason will rile up many of the humans, as opposed to random and possibly rumoured disappearances that could be the result of multiple circumstances other than alien invasions.
PROBLEM 2: Planet ATLANTIS VI’s size. It’s a planet!!! Ok, you have the miners using their equipment to drill and they disturb the ecological balance, releasing poisons into the water and threatening the amphibians’ way of life. Argolas is their leader, so why doesn’t he:
(1) Contact the humans above the water to stop before it is too late?
(2) If it IS too late, why doesn’t he migrate his people to the other side of the planet?
A possible solution would be that the miners use force field technology on a huge scale to contain very large segments of ocean, thus facilitating the extraction of Scurvium particles. But the amphibians are entrapped within such a prison, threatening their lives to a point that they must destroy the force field-generated prison, or die.
And PROBLEM 3: how to get around the fact that Starfleet and the Mining company seemed completely unaware of the existence of the amphibians before AND during their operations.
As I mentioned elsewhere, it’s probably very safe to assume that as Starfleet expands outward into the galaxy, they would do massive biological surveys on each discovered planet before inserting colonies or allowing private companies to exploit those with natural resources. The better to provide safe environments for their colonists...
Of course there wouldn’t be much of a show if Starfleet were always 100% successful at detecting and removing any harmful native species. On The Original Series, danger appeared in the form of apparently benign, inanimate vegetation such as the spore plants from Omicron Ceti III (‘This SIDE of PARADISE’), or the seemingly animal-like Horta from planet Janus VI (‘The DEVIL in the DARK’). Sometimes menace did strike from outer space such as the single-cell organisms of Deneva (from Operation: Annihilate!).
But this episode strains under the unlikelihood of an aquatic monarchical civilization remaining undiscovered by starship sensor scans for over 12 years, scans which depending on the episode have managed to be precise enough to pinpoint a ground-level fire hydrant (‘A PIECE OF THE ACTION’).
How to explain the amphibians then? I’ve thought long and hard about this and came up with the following:
(1) Forget the monarchy angle, it really brings nothing to the amphibians as a concept.
(2) Just like the DIRECTOR and Brian CALLAHAN, ARGOLAS and DRIDENT are indistinguishable as characters. Argolas and Tri’tillya never display any sort of father-daughter dynamic, and having Argolas be murdered was a convenient, though hokey way to separate her from Garrovick at the end of the episode.
(3) To credibly explain why the amphibians remained undetected for so long, I came upon having them actually be dolphin-like marine mammals, who just like ours on earth are intelligent and playful. As such, they would become catalogued as similar to dolphins and porpoises by both Starfleet and civilian research teams.
Unlike Earth’s dolphin’s, the mammals on planet ATLANTIS VI also possess an adapting capability, similar to a chameleon’s color changing ability, in this instance where they have adapted aspects of a humanoid’s physiognomy. In short, recent close proximity to one, or many humans has altered the amphibians to give them 4 limbs.
Soon after, the USS EXETER is summoned to Atlantis VI. During their investigation, Commander Cutty and security men D’Agosta & Freeborn are also assaulted by three amphibians. Two of the amphibians manage to abduct officer Freeborn, but Cutty manages to stun the remaining one unconscious.
I have previously mentioned the need to replace Drident with Tri’tillya as the first amphibian encountered by the Exeter men, for these reasons:
(1) Being captured so easily makes Drident appear a weak opponent.
(2) Nothing is learned about Drident as a character while imprisoned. He awakens almost immediately before being rescued. In fact, the captured amphibian could very well be any one of them.
(3) Replacing Drident with Tri’tillya as the first amphibian encountered by Garrovick and his men, in a less-violent scenario, offers a good opportunity to begin their emotional relationship.
Drident, the captured amphibian, is long and fishlike, with dark eyes and scaly yellow skin. He wears a vest stylized to simulate the look of strong scales. His garments are intricately adorned with shells that denote his military rank.
An underwater character’s look is always complicated. For network or internet concerns, you can’t have them be naked. However since they need to be aerodynamic while swimming, any ‘clothing’ should be form-fitting.
Placed in a holding cell, Drident is visited by Captain Garrovick. He awakens from unconsciousness, speaking in dolphin-like sounds.
Without warning, three more amphibians strike at the Exeter men with energy weapons and overtake them. A fourth one, a female, wallops the Captain into unconsciousness.
As mentioned, it is better to have Tri’tillya instead of Drident as the first onscreen amphibian. The amphibians’ dolphin-like sounds were what guided me to having them actually be dolphin-like creatures.
However, I would need to check the science on this, but I’m pretty sure it is very unlikely for a race of aquatic beings to develop weapons whose power output is electricity, on an ocean planet with no landmass.
A more spectacular battle between the amphibians and the miners here would be an ideal set up for the concluding 3-way gangwar. It would also be a great opportunity to show Cutty getting his hands dirty, and you could ALSO have Freeborn do the Redshirt sacrifice on the surface rather than later in the underwater prison.
Later below the surface, inside the amphibians’ underwater city, Garrovick awakens as a prisoner. He is chained up alongside officer Freeborn, as well as all the missing dock workers.
Since I’ve taken away the need for the amphibians to require any prisoners, it will be necessary to come up with a different way to get Garrovick off the mining platform and away from his crew temporarily.
Two amphibian guards appear to unshackle him, but Garrovick turns the tables and incapacitates his jailers. He frees Lt. Freeborn and both escape from their cell, the others remaining behind.
They skulk their way along some corridors, until they unexpectedly encounter more guards. They must battle for their lives, but more amphibians appear, including Drident.
Freeborn tragically sacrifices his life to save his captain’s.
This cat-and-mouse sequence sounds like a huge headache, money-wise. As set up, there will be a need for about a dozen costumed amphibian stuntmen with very extensive make-up. A lot of set design and construction as well.
BUT, by changing the amphibians from kidnappers to saboteurs, the need for prisoners has effectively been removed.
One more thought about the Amphibians, as written in this script version: as originally conceived, they abducted some random workers and brought them to their underwater city to jail them. As specified in the script, they had begun to capture the miners some weeks before Exeter’s arrival. So what did they want with the prisoners, to keep them alive for so long? Also, they keep the prisoners alive instead of torturing or killing them, yet are eager to kill Garrovick (but stab Freeborn instead)...
The once-again captured Garrovick is taken to a large hall where the amphibians’ leader, Argolas, wishes to address him. Drident as well as the female amphibian Tri’tillya, are also present.
While Argolas drones on about the invading surface-dwellers from the stars, Garrovick pleads earnestly for the miners’ non-hostile intentions. Unmoved by Garrovick’s words, Argolas promises war and orders Garrovick back to his cell.
Again, here there is WAY too much talking and talking, and CLEARLY not enough showing. The surfacemen are killing your people? Show it!! In ‘’MIRI’’, we are clearly shown a few of the infected kids with the deformed faces and purple splotches on their bodies. Here is a great opportunity to show the horror that the amphibians are facing...
Later released thanks to Tri’tillya, Garrovick returns up to the surface. He is soon after mobbed by a frightened group of miners. Suddenly, a horde of amphibians climb up to the dock and confront the humans. Before more violence can happen, an armed squad of Exeter security men materialize to re-enact a 23rd-century Mexican stand-off.
The amphibians should not be confronting the miners like some mindless pro hockey rumble...the amphibians want to stop the surfacemen’s machines from killing them, and the miners are desperate to stop the alien monsters from destroying the machines that permit them to have a job and to feed their families.
All are then surprised by the roar of a large cargo shuttle as it blasts- off towards the sky. Garrovick attempts to calm the raw emotions of the fighters, but is attacked by a maddened Drident. After a heated battle, Drident succumbs and is disgraced by his leader Argolas. Drident treacherously murders the leader of his people, but is himself executed in turn.
Since I’ve advocated the fusing between Argolas and Drident’s characters into one, another climax will need to be written since the character cannot go and kill himself.