OPENING SCENE – DEEP SPACE – The LEXX is cruising through empty space. It turns, the Gigashadow looms in front of it. The LEXX cruises slowly past as the Gigashadow turns slowly, motionless. It’s not the Gigashadow, just another of the species, and its dead, scorch marks and gouges in its side. As the frame opens, there are other carcasses of dead insects, some dismembered, all of them visibly damaged. The LEXX passes among the dead leviathans, as it flies, small insectoid forms – things resembling stingers and moths, spiders, crabs, centipedes and beetles are visible, forms strange and exotic and all clearly dead. One of the drifting objects is a craft that is half viking longboat and half scorpion.
CUT TO – LEXX Bridge – Stan, Kai and Xev are looking up at the viewscreen, as the LEXX cruises through the insect graveyard. Stan is pensive.
This gives me the creeps. I think we need to get out of here.
The third LEXX script never actually got written. I had a story worked out, just never followed through.
So you’re probably wondering, why don’t I just upload the second script that I actually did, instead of just blathering away over something that never got done? And for that matter, why didn’t I?
I thought it might make for an interesting story in and of itself.
I started with the Insect Wars….
Let me back up a little for those who don’t know LEXX (and if you don’t, I’m not sure why you’re reading this), the backstory of LEXX, particularly the first two seasons, is that many many thousands of years ago, there were two space faring races. Humanity and the Insects. Unfortunately, the Universe was only big enough for one. The great conflict was called the Insect Wars and ended with the near extermination of the Insect race and the ascendancy of humanity, lead by the Brunnen G.
Unfortunately, a single insect survived, and was able to pass its ‘soul’ or ‘essence’ into a human host. This human/insect became the first Divine Shadow, created the Divine Order, and proceeded on a plan, over thousands of years, to wipe out the human race. That was always Paul Donovan’s backstory.
Details changed over time. Originally, the Divine Order’s homeworld, The Cluster was a giant graveyard/war memorial, and the Divine Order started off as grave keepers, which influenced their costumes/uniforms, their traditions and rituals and technology.
Later on, in Gigashadow and Mantrid that got retconned a bit, The Cluster was just the small world/big asteroid where the last Insect hid to wait for its victim, no war memorial, no monument, etc. Instead, just the dormant insect, being fed on human flesh and growing and growing for thousands of years, while His Shadow and the Divine Order conquered much of the Universe, waiting for the apocalyptic moment when it could burst out.
But we never really did find out much about the Insect Wars. There’s a suggestion in the first season that humanity won, in part by adopting the Insects own living technology and turning it against them. I think Donovan was going to write a novel, but eventually set it aside.
To be honest, I suspect that Donovan’s original ideas were probably pretty conventional. I kind of think he might have been inspired by and originally patterned them off of Robert Asprin’s Bug Wars, which was really big in Science Fiction during the years he would have been going to University. Asprin’s Bug Wars is a series of stories or novellas about two alien races – Insects and Reptiles, in a fight to the death. The stories are told from the point of view of the Reptiles. Or he might have been influenced by Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, where humanity fights invading Insects (the Verhoeven movie was much later). But honestly, I’m just guessing. We don’t really know much about his early vision.
When the first series was in production, LEXX evolved a lot. It started with Cluster Lizards. Originally, they were sort of armoured dog-crocodiles. But that was beyond the scope of the available CGI for the money they had. They had to come up with something different. Legs were hard to animate with CGI, and they were hard to puppet, so maybe no legs? Dave Albiston started doing maquettes of this segmented worm like critter. That evolved into the rolling triple jawed Cluster Lizards in I Worship His Shadow… Rolling was a useful and weird way to move them around. The segmented bodies rolled into a circle inspired the LEXX logo, which in turn inspired the final form of the Gigshadow in the final movie of the same name. It’s all in my first LEXX book.
A few things come out of this:
First, all this development of the Insect, that’s an evolution of the actual production of the first season, so it’s almost certainly got little or nothing to do with Paul Donovan’s original ideas and vision for the Insect Wars and backstory of LEXX. Where and what Donovan started off, wasn’t where or what it ended up being.
Second, this is what the Insects are officially now: Gigashadows. The Insect race weren’t a technology species – they were gigantic, flesh eating, cosmic pillbugs with space powers. The Gigashadow was just a super-sized version of its species.
All the other insect motifs – the LEXX, the moths, the stinger ships, the foreshadow, megashadow, web creature, cluster lizards etc., they were just conceptual detritus and baggage along the way. The foreshadow and megashadow, for instance, weren’t actual insects at all – they were just Divine Order machines made to look like spiders and beetles. Cluster Lizards, although they were part of the conceptual visual development, weren’t linked – there was an unmade episode called ‘Clizzards of Woz’ where it would be shown they were just indigenous to some remote planet. It all ended up being ‘insecty’ stuff that hung around because it was cool.
It sounds like I’m making fun of the LEXX people, but I’m not. There was actually a lot of deep conceptual design and thinking for years that went into it.
But anyway, personally I was just going by what was on the screen, and trying to make all the bits and pieces fit together, like some intellectual jigsaw puzzle. I was trying to take the end product of all these erratic creative impulses, the final versions of this and that, and work backwards.
What were the Insects? Based on the characteristics shown by the Gigashadow and its larvae: Giant flesh eating cosmic pillbugs with space powers, obviously. They weren’t bothered by vacuum, they lived in it. But going by the larva from Mantrid, they could live in atmosphere. They could fly through space, or through the air, no apparent wings or propulsion necessary. They were definitely carnivorous.
The insect ‘essence’ seemed to be the key. An Insect, we are shown, could pass it into a human host, or into a larva. Humans possessing the essence could pass it from one to the other. It did appear that when the essence passed, a residue was left in bodies or brains which could sometimes pass. Kai received the residue of essence from the Predecessors brain, and this essence seemed to carry memory and motivation to Kai. A return of essence seems necessary for the Gigashadow to fully come alive. In Mantrid, it seems that the infusion of essence was necessary for the larval insect to come alive. Essence can not only be transmitted, it can be withdrawn, the Gigashadow strips the essence from the Divine Predecessors. The Gigashadow also appeared to be able to form its essence, or perhaps similar energies into a tentacle to reach LEXX, and arguably manipulate matter.
We can be pretty sure that the Insects didn’t evolve or develop their ‘Essence’ just to screw with humans. It must be a natural part of their biology and society, and it must fulfill necessary roles in that biology and society. So based on how we’ve seen the Essence used, we can draw conclusions about how the Insects used essence:
* Reproduction and Reproductive control – it’s necessary to animate Larvae;
* Memory & Knowledge transmission, communication – literally, by exchanging essence, the Insects would be able to directly share or exchange information efficiently;
* Social control and dominance – motivation seems to transfer, so highly motivated or strong willed insects could control or dominate others, a social consensus could be imposed on members. Essence could be taken away as well as given, which means that Insects, or Insect society could punish, take away information, even de-motivate or kill individuals.
* Manipulation – Insects don’t have limbs, or complicated parts to manipulate, they seem to project or cast tendrils or tentacles of energy, perhaps semi-solid essence. Perhaps this is the key to their ability to feed and consume.
Essence amounts to the foundation of their civilization, a combined language and technology. Based on this, I kind of visualized Insect societies as akin to pods of Elephants or Whales. Gigantic space elephants or space whales, dozens or hundreds of kilometers long, travelling between the stars, building their civilization through exchange of Essences, kind of like whale songs or elephants subsonic rumblings. It’s kind of beautiful, when you think of it like that.
What about the other insectoids depicted? Pilotfish, Remora, hangers on. I mean, think about it. The Insects came from somewhere, they evolved, which means that they had ancestral forms, a lineage, they came from a tree of life, and there would be other branches, other evolutions. They were the dominant species of their evolutionary lineage, but not the only one.
Look at us. We’re the dominant species on earth, but we aren’t the only species. We have rats, rabbits and raccoons, pigeons and crows, existing in the margins of our civilization. We have a multitude of domesticated species – cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, chicken. So we could imagine an Insect civilization travelling between the stars would have parasites like Cluster Lizards, hangers on, pilotfish or remora – the ancestors of moths, stingers, even the LEXX.
But here’s the thing – as beautiful as this notion of pods of Insects journeying between the stars, singing elaborate songs of Essence, surrounded by a hanger on population of lesser insectoids – you have to ask, what do they eat?
They consume organic matter – plants and animals. Where is that to be found? On life bearing planets, like ours. So imagine that? You’re living on a planet full of life – trees grass, cattle, elephants, humanity civilization. Then one day a pod of space whales sweep down like locusts and chew the place down to bedrock. Then they fly off to the next life bearing planet around the next star, leaving the survivors to repopulate. In a few hundred or a few thousand years, when life has regenerated on the planet, they’ll show up again to eat. Maybe they even seed barren planets with life, building a cosmic garden of food worlds. It’s an idyllic lifestyle, an idyllic civilization, unless you happen to be living on the planet when they show up.
Here’s the thing – going by the nature of the Insect Civilization, the way they communicate with each other, the way their culture would be built, I don’t think that they’d even recognize humanity as intelligent. At best we’d be clever little termites or ants. But they wouldn’t recognize a technological civilization as a civilization. So they come to a human world… They gotta eat, it’s a long way to the next food planet.
Imagine: Humanity expanding, settling on more and more life bearing worlds, building civilizations. Pods of Space Whales showing up to eat them. Humanity fighting back. It would probably get complicated. Attempts at communication or dialogue on both sides, human refugees fleeing, worlds being devastated, insect pods attacked. The insect might not even realize there’s a war at first, they’d just notice more and more nests of hornets on more and more worlds. And if they realized… well, if we had a proliferation of hornet nests, we’d try and exterminate them.
There would be other consequences. I could imagine devastated human worlds, spacefarers, desperately trying to survive, improvising and adapting with the lesser insectoid species, hiding among the parasites, maybe even incorporating them into human technology. That’s pretty much canon, exactly how and why isn’t spelled out, but humanity clearly adapted and incorporated small insectoids into human technology.
There’s something else:
In Supernova, the Brunnen G sun is unstable and ready to blow up. It’s only kept from exploding through the Brunnen G technology. Maybe that’s not an accident. Maybe humans learned to detonate suns as the last ditch deterence. It kind of makes sense – you’ve got a giant pod of hungry space whales, each of them fifty or a hundred kilometers, they’re ready to eat the planet down to the bedrock. How do you fight them off? How do you fight something that big and powerful. Maybe threatening to blow up the sun was a deterrent, suicide, but a sure way to destroy the insects.
That might explain how the Brunnen G won, and why there are so much fewer inhabited worlds in the Dark Zone Universe. In comparison the Light Universe, the Dark Zone is apparently an empty place.
But such a threat, blowing up entire suns, might make the Insects even more determined to wipe out humanity.
I think that’s the Insect Wars: Two civilizations, two intelligent species, utterly alien to each other, bent on extermination. Humanity blowing up suns, adapting the insects own subordinate species. Was that Paul Donovan’s vision? Probably not. But that’s how I reconstructed it, based on the what we were shown in the series.
Which takes us to my script idea – Graveyard.
If we saw the Insects as akin to Elephants or Whales, that kind of inspires the idea of an Elephants Graveyard. Out there in space, in the gap between the stars, what about an Insects Graveyard.
I imagined the LEXX, a ten kilometer dragonfly, passing slowly among the broken, burnt, floating corpses of the giant Insects, dozens or hundreds of kilomaters, dwarfed by this cyclopean wreckage. The immense segmented shells turning in the void, rotating, orbiting one another, casting stark shadows. The image captivated me, the grand but somber visual quality. I could imagine the LEXX cast staring at this through the viewscreen, or Xev piloting a moth through it. LEXX was a show with such grand, epic gothic visuals. This would have been cool.
Why would the LEXX be there?
INTERIOR: LEXX Bridge, Stan, Kai and Xev staring up at the Insect graveyard.
This whole place gives me the creeps. Let’s just get out of here, in case something is still alive.
Everything here has been dead for ten thousand years.
There’s nothing dangerous here. I’m going to take a Moth and have a look around.
For Kai. This is our best chance for more protoblood.
Protoblood. Insects produced protoblood. That’s where Kai’s protoblood came from, the Gigashadow. Protoblood reanimates the dead, even without the extensive modifications that Kai has – corpses are reanimated in both Gigashadow and Mort. Protoblood even seems to carry some degree of motivation and memory as we see in Mort.
Okay, so they come across an Insect Graveyard, all these giant corpses, dead for tens of thousands of years. Stan is creeped out, and wants out of there. Xev figures ‘Hey protoblood! Let’s see if we can find some for Kai!’
Okay, that’s fine as far as that goes. But something has to happen, there has to be some dramatic tension or conflict.
They visit the graveyard. It’s really creepy. They find some protoblood, or don’t find it, and go away? That’s not really exciting, something more has to happen.
So maybe there’s something alive there. The insects are dead. But when a whale dies, it’s body as it sinks is steadily consumed by all manner of really creepy looking sea beetles. So suppose that’s happening. The graveyard is full of weird horrible necro-bugs, feasting getting a little thin after thousands of years, but the LEXX and its crew look tasty.
EXT – SPACE, SURFACE OF A DEAD INSECT – DISTANT LONG SHOT – STANLEY running for his life, face full of fear, panting for breath. Charging over an immense leathery plane, leaping across the Insect segments. He is calling for help. CLOSE UP ON Stan’s face, terrified. EXTERIOR – MEDIUM – Necro-bugs pursuing.
Maybe the necro-bugs are cluster lizards, or variations on them – while the insect is alive, they’re a parasite in balance, but when it dies, they slowly consume the host. That might be interesting, given that Xev is part cluster lizard. It’s always been played as a throwaway reference, but what if she ended up hanging out with them, maybe communing on some level, seduced by their hive.
INTERIOR – CAVE/TUNNEL/CLUSTER LIZARD HIVE – XEV stretches out langorously like a cat, surrounded by Cluster Lizards, playing with a hatchling. Larger Cluster Lizards rear around her, she rubs against them, almost purring with sensual satisfaction. STAN peeks around the corner, trying to stay out of site. He calls out to her. XEV goes stiff, her face inhuman, her jaws open, and she gives a Cluster Lizard scream. The other Lizards shriek along with her.
That could be really fun. The LEXX and its crew under siege from necro-bugs. I had this lovely image of Stan fleeing for his life across the immense empty shell of an Insect while necro-bugs chase him. Or Xev communing with Cluster Lizards, getting seduced into a hive mind with her human side withering.
But no. The trouble is, that would be difficult and expensive to do. CGI backgrounds and compositing is one thing, simple enough. CGI spaceships flying across the screen, turning and darting, also doable. But then you start getting CGI bugs or animals, with all these moving parts moving separately, that starts to clock up processing power and time. That starts to get expensive and difficult. And it gets a lot more expensive and difficult when you’re integrating CGI critters with live action. So maybe no necro-bugs or CGI cluster lizards. Well, what about puppets as in I Worship His Shadow? Those were a big pain in the ass, technically difficult. So maybe if it’s the headache from a production standpoint, let’s not go there?
What else? Maybe Stan falls down a well or something? All these gigantic dead insects and insect parts, orbiting each other, crashing into each other. That could be dangerous. Maybe they just get trapped or stuck and have to work their way out. Something like that James Franco film, 120 hours. No new cast, no CGI or puppet monsters, nothing. It could be interesting. The trouble is that Kai is so hyper-competent, he makes these things hard to write, if he’s around, he just solves the problem.
How about Anti-Kai? There’s a thought. Let’s go back to the Insect Wars. There’s a spacefaring civilisation on a planet, the Insects show up, chew it down the bedrock, destroy the civilisation. Well, what about the survivors and refugees? Where do they go? Maybe some of them hide in the swarm of parasite and hanger on insectoid. We know that humans adapted these creatures for their technology. What if, as the Insects travelled, they picked up humans as part of their complements of parasites and hanger on species? Suppose that a human culture evolved in the insect sphere, subordinate, worshipping, travelling as part of the part of the cluster of species accompanying the the travelling Insect pods. Wearing clothes or armour made of bug parts, tools and weapons of bug parts, travelling with the Insects they’d be sort of space-bikers or space-vikings. Maybe they even fought for the Insects, betraying humanity. If so, they ended up on the losing side and are all extinct, just like the insects.
But protoblood reanimates the dead, and a graveyard of Insects would be full of protoblood. So reanimated space viking/bikers, worshipping their former Insect masters, living off their corpses, waiting for the day of rising that will never come. They’d be pretty around the bend crazy.
Especially after ten thousand years or however long ago the insect wars were. After all that time, hanging around in the Graveyard, undead, their minds would become utterly brittle, ossified, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, little more than randomly colliding with each other in the void. By the time the LEXX came across them, they’d be literally windup toys, responding automatically to stimulus, robotically doing their fascist salutes and shouting ‘We hate the Brunnen G!’
Now there’s an interesting thought. Wind up toys. They’re undead. They don’t need all those internal organs, they’re subsisting on protoblood. Lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, none of that’s necessary, it just wastes protoblood to keep them working. What they need is their skeleton, the musculature, the sense organs, the brain and nerves. Maybe, to extend the protoblood, they’d get rid of the surplus, all they need is a pump to keep the protoblood moving. Maybe, there in the graveyard, slowly going mad, they’d turn themselves into clockwork. Winding each others pumps up.
Or maybe slowly unwinding. Spending long periods dormant and frozen, until some collision or accident jars them and starts the pump ticking again, so they wake up for a while. Imagine thousands upon thousands of years like that.
INTERIOR – Stan and Xev walk into what appears to be a viking warrior hall. The hall is silent, starlight visible overhead. Frozen figures are everywhere, some sitting at tables, some standing many in poses of life, almost as if they froze in mid-motion, drinking, arguing, singing.
How long have they been like this?
Thousands of years, my dearest.
As they look around the frozen party, Xev spots a nearby figure standing with a lance which is half spear, half hypodermic needle. Xev spies something in the glass shaft of the spear…
She reaches for the spear, pulling it. The motion jostles the frozen warrior into another warrior. They strike each other like a row of dominos, each contact rousing them into a clockwork life. They resume singing in mid-verse, completing the verse, and going on to sing a martial stanza.
……………………. will never stop
We hate the Brunnen G, we will never stop
Death to the Brunnen G, we will never stop
We hate the Brunnen G, till the suns go out!
The song comes to an end, the warriors and shield maidens cheering and laughing, and then finally noticing the strangers in their midst.
Now this could be fun and interesting – all these wind up Nazi Space Vikings, their minds so ancient and rigid they can barely perceive the LEXX crew, fitting them instead into what they know. There’d be nothing to do really, but go along with them – Stan perhaps figuring it out and going ‘We hate the Brunnen G.’
That could go interesting places.
The problem is Kai. He’s like Superman, he shows up, the problem is solved. So you have to take him off the table somehow. Either leave him in cryosleep for a while. Or have the LEXX crew split up like they often do, so Kai has to find them to rescue them. We could do that.
Or, we could play with it a little bit. Michael McManus sometimes found it boring to play Kai. He liked to change things up, Cowboy Kai in White Trash, drunk Kai in Twilight, Psycho Kai in Wake the Dead, Live Kai’s in third and fourth series. So maybe make this a chance to do something. He gets infected with Nazi Space Viking Protoblood – say he gets impaled on a hypodermic lance. The alien protoblood temporarily makes him forget he’s a Brunnen G, and the next thing you know, he’s a windup pirate king, playing out moves thousands of years old. There’s all kinds of over the top ways McManus could play that – I visualized a Brian Blessed thing.
Stan and Xev have to play along, and figure out how to rescue him, or hope he snaps out. Xev may actually enjoy this new, weirdly passionate Kai… until it gets tiresome.
Stan or Xev might find themselves flirting with or making time with the Nazi Space Vikings… until they discover that they have no ‘working bits’ just clockwork.
The clockwork Nazi Space Vikings eventually decide that Stan is a Brunnen G, and set about preparing to sacrifice him. Something Stan finds awkward and appalling. That might be the point where Xev decides its no longer fun, and she has to rescue the men in her life.
The big complication – the clockwork Nazi Biker Space Vikings end up on the LEXX with our heroes. But once they are there, they finally realize that with a living craft, they can finally leave the graveyard, and go out into the universe to resume a war that’s been over for ten thousand years, blowing up world after world, searching for the Brunnen G…..
All of it building up to a suitably clever climax. Which I will not reveal. I gotta have some secrets.
FINAL SHOT – The LEXX leaves the graveyard. Behind them, on the Scorpion / Longship, or Valhalla Hall, the clockwork men and women return to their well worn phrases and oath, repeating them mindlessly, as they run down and freeze in place – waiting to be animated again in a thousand years or so. The stars turning overhead, on frozen figures, trapped in unlife.
And there you have it…
I made some notes, did an outline, got about half way through a script more or less, all now lost unfortunately. I never finished.
Well, I’d already written and submitted two scripts to Salter Street. That was enough. A third one would have been gilding the lily. Salter wasn’t really looking for outside submissions, so it was a long shot at best. Two I could justify, the third, nah.
Of the three ideas, this one was probably the least viable – go the Necro Critter route, the Cluster Lizard Route, the Space Viking route, it was probably going to consume a fair bit of production budget. The other two were cheapers.
And this issue was the most problematic: This was rooted in my backstory of the Insect Wars, or technically, my reconstruction of the backstory of the Insect Wars based on what the series depicted. The one thing I’ll guarantee you, is that wasn’t Paul Donovan’s vision of what the Insect Wars were. That kind of made it a non-starter.
I did love the idea. It was filled with baroque images and visuals – the graveyard of insects, the space vikings at once so full of life and so nearly robotic, so old that they’d become incapable of change, their entire existence a rut of songs, boasts, rote lines. A dreadnaught scorpion. This insect pieces themed body armour. The sheer quirky insanity of the whole thing. It might have been fun to have actually done something with it. But it was too intrinsically LEXXish for anything else.
So why tell you about it? I dunno. I still think it’s a fun idea.
And I think it provides an interesting angle into the way my mind works, how my writing process works. The process of thinking intensely about the world, about how it works, and the things that come about from that. And through that process, finding quirky images or notions – the idea of a graveyard, or the idea of leftover humans who had taken the insect side.
And as the ideas come and go, there’s story mechanics – we need to complicate the plot, we need to have Kai off the table, we need to do something with Stan, or Xev, something organic to the characters, but they all need plot complications. It has to build to a climax, what are you going to use for that, what are the stakes, and there has to be a resolution.
Maybe in talking about a script that never got written, I can offer as a substitute an equally entertaining glimpse into the process of creation, of writing.
If you read my LEXX books, that’s what the whole thing is really about. It’s not just about some late 90’s, regionally produced Space Opera. The books, all of them, are explorations of creativity, of the creative process. Where do ideas come from? How do they evolve? Cross pollinate? How do they rise or fall, mutate, are taken, abondoned, transform?
The books are this forensic exercise, a pursuit of the muse. How does inspiration happen? How do we trace the pathway from idea to realization? In the books, I’m fascinated by lost or abandoned episodes, the paths not taken, why they appeared, how they fell by the wayside, the ideas they depicted and where these ideas ended up.
How does it happen? What drives it? The restrictions, the opportunities, the experiences that move things in one direction or another. Would LEXX have been the same if Brian Downey hadn’t always been Stanley Tweedle in Paul Donovan’s mind? An actress breaks a leg, a part is written, changed, the performance and the story and story arcs are all affected. Bill Fleming takes a walk in Germany, Norman Denver has a headache with carpenters, the money is running out and they need an episode with no sets and no guests.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved LEXX and I loved researching and writing about. I think it was a brilliant show, flawed but brilliant, and sadly overlooked.
But writing the books was more than just chronicling the show. I had something bigger, grander, more profound in mind. It was to use the show as a dissection of the process of art, of the entire creative process.
Look, let’s be honest. LEXX is a television show that’s been off the air and orphaned for twenty years. It’s not like there’s a market for these books. Maybe if I’d gone down this route fifteen years ago, or twenty years ago. But now? I’m pleased that a handful of people have read them, and liked them. But as far as advancing my non-career as a writer… nah. Almost anything else would do better. My Doctor Who books, fan film books and essays, esoteric speculative essays, short stories, novels, anything. In a sense, I’m doing this as long unfinished business, closure, the satisfaction of it.
I would like to think, though, that in these books, there’s a larger theme, a larger objective or goal. Something that transforms this from a mere ‘making of’ to an actual significant work. I’d like to think I’m saying something.