Featured Screenplay: Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs

$ 32Finally, the third (and hopefully not last) part in this ongoing series. Today I want to talk about “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs” and what went on behind the scenes.

If you visited the “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs” section on www.whiteworms.com you are probably familiar with the basic story but let me recap.

After “Skyscraper” we wanted to write a big space adventure. We tried to come up with original ideas but the more we worked on our ideas and the more thy took shape, the more we realised that our minds were set in something else. During a long “meeting” at the bar during Comic-Con in 2012 we decided that instead of an original space opera, we were going to write a “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs” movie.

Right from the beginning, the process was very different than what we were used to. Unlike “Skyscraper” we had underlying material and we had something to build on, admittedly flawed material but there was stuff to build on. There was/is a world, characters, rules and plot-points that just need(ed) to happen. Looking back, it’s quite interesting to realise that we probably had the same discussions that are happening right now at big studios when they decide to reboot an old property.

What has to be in the movie? What has to go? How do you make fans happy? How do you recruit new fans? It’s impossible to keep everyone happy. I joined a “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs” message board and I floated some ideas, and to say that reactions were mixed is an understatement. Some people feel very protective of the thing they liked as a kid and are not able to talk about its shortcomings, and trust me “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs” has a lot of those.

Our main job was to turn the pilot into a movie that makes sense and is not too different from the show to alienate fans. That’s a tall order from the get go. How do you turn 20 minutes into two hours? Well, we fleshed out the backstory of the worlds and decided to turn the Outriders into an old enemy that returns after many years. We put Fireballs dad into the prologue (you might need him in movie 2 or 3, who knows) and tried to give the characters more of a reason to join/be selected to become Star Sheriffs.

We added some big disasters and some nice action set-pieces, sky-beam finale1 included and made sure that the story had some urgency, the basic structure was that of a “chase-movie”, our characters have to get somewhere before the enemy, simple but effective.

The first version wasn’t bad but it’s wasn’t that good either. We were looking for the idea to tie everything together and we found it. We went bold and made some changes to the main character. We turned Saber Rider into an old guy. Needless to say, the message board wasn’t too happy about that but we stand by our decision. It made everything more personal for Saber Rider, he was there when it all started and he is now there to finish it, 25 years later, after 25 years of him being laughed at for his views but suddenly, as the Outrider return, the Cavalry Command needs him. It also makes sense that he assumes the role of the leader and it makes for a good surprise that he doesn’t know about Project RAMROD. I actually talked about this change in an earlier post.

But enough about the history of “Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs”, you’re here to get a sample and here it is. It’s one of my favourite sequences. Orlindo came up with most of it and I translated and fleshed it out. It’s the in the first act, Vena2 escapes from the hospital and kidnaps April. A chase ensues. Enjoy.

INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY

Saber looks around and catches a glimpse of Vena pushing her bed along the hallway.

SABER

Stop her!

Vena turns around, smiles and keeps running -- still cuffed to the hovering bed.

Colt steps out of the room, smiling.

COLT

Wow, I’m not sure what’s more impressive. That she can still walk or that you let a gal with two broken legs slip.

Saber turns and looks really annoyed, he had it with this guy.

SABER

You were there too, so stop talking and get to the ground floor to cut her off.

But too late -- Colt is already running.

Saber pursues him.

Then Fireball -- paddling in the air -- using his hover bed as a boat -- floats out of the room.

FIREBALL

Guys?!

But they’re gone. Fireball looks around and an OLD LADY in an electric wheelchair passes him. Fireball smiles at her.

FIREBALL

Excuse me ma’am!

The old lady turns and smiles as well -- she looks quite smitten with him.

OLD LADY

Are you my grandson?

INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY – MOMENTS LATER

Vena runs along the hallway, still pushing the bed she’s cuffed to.

She runs past a supply station and grabs a pair of scissors. She tries to open the cuffs but the scissors break in half.

A GUARD tries to stop her but Vena stabs him in the neck with the broken scissors. The guard SCREAMS and falls to the ground.

Vena stops, takes the guard’s gun and aims at the cuffs. Still -- no luck.

Vena starts running again and turns around a corner -- a dead end. The doors are too narrow to get the bed through.

Then -- Colt and Saber come around the corner. They have Vena cornered but she is not giving up.

Vena turns the bed around and runs towards Saber and Colt and FIRES at them.

Colt and Saber duck and FIRE back.

Vena starts running again, she picks up speed and presses some buttons on the bed’s hover controls.

The bed picks up height. Vena slides onto the bed and uses the momentum to float past Saber and Colt.

Vena FIRES at the large panoramic window ahead, turns and smiles at Colt and Saber.

Saber and Colt look astonished.

INT./EXT. YUMA MEMORIAL

Vena CRASHES through the window. For a moment she’s floating in the air.

She presses the button again and reverses the hover engine -- the bed is now vertically attached to the building; Vena slides off the bed but the cuffs save her from falling.

The bed picks up speed. Racing down the wall.

Vena pulls herself back onto the bed.

Saber and Colt look out the broken window. They are speechless.

Vena waves at them with a smile. She presses another button and the bed slows down.

SABER

Cuffing her was a great idea.

Colt GROWLS. Saber turns on his heels and runs away to the elevator.

Colt presses some buttons on his wrist and we can hear an ENGINE ROARING and the Bronco Buster approaches the broken window. The cockpit opens and Colt jumps into the cockpit.

He looks back through the broken window. Saber is still waiting for the elevator.

Colt smiles at tips his head.

COLT

See you later!

The cockpit closes and the Bronco Buster dives.

Saber frowns and presses the elevator button again.

BACK ON VENA

Vena doesn’t slow down. Below her a large glass ceiling.

She presses the buttons again -- but this time she’s not so lucky -- the strain is too much for the bed -- it breaks in half.

Vena keeps falling and with a BANG she CRASHES through the glass ceiling into:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM – DAY

SHATTERING GLASS. Vena lands on her feet, the cuffs dangling from her hands.

Vena wipes away the glass shards and looks around. She stares directly at April. She is sitting on a hovering gurney and is being examined by a DOCTOR. Jesse stands next to her.

Vena grins. Jesse gets in front of April to protect her. Vena grins even more.

VENA

I love it when a plan comes together?

Jesse pulls his gun.

JESSE

What the...

April wants go get up but Jesse signals her to stay down.

Vena moves her hand towards her stomach, she’s bleeding.

The doctor looks at Vena and then at the emergency button.

Vena smiles and pulls out a big glass shard and throws the shard at the doctor.

April SCREAMS and jumps up.

The doctor collapses, Jesse turns towards him -- Vena kicks the gun out of Jesses hand, catches it mid air and roundhouse kicks Jesse across the room.

VENA

(smiling gleefully)

Best day ever.

Jesse lies unconscious on the ground.

Vena points her gun at April, takes a step towards her and smiles.

VENA

Do you fancy a little trip little dove ... or should I say little eagle?

INT./EXT. ENTRANCE HALL

Under the giant glass ceiling people are running around, doctors SHOUTING for nurses and gurneys.

The elevator door opens. A DOCTOR IN WHITE emerges with a hovering gurney with a body bag on it.

It’s Vena. She steadily walks across the hall towards the exit. Even through her disguise we can see her smiling.

The Bronco Buster lands in front of the entrance. Colt exits the Bronco, an ambulance approaches and lands next to him.

Nurses and doctors start running towards the ambulance.

Vena sees her chance and walks towards the ambulance.

INT. ELEVATOR

Saber stands in the elevator. A muzak version of the “Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs” theme song is playing.

EXT. HOSPITAL

The nurses and doctors get close to ambulance. Vena, hiding in the CROWD, passes Colt.

Colt is looking around but he doesn’t pay attention to the people attending the ambulance.

Three people get pulled out of the ambulance. Vena waits and then shoves her gurney into the now empty ambulance. She climbs in and shuts the door.

Colt is still screening the crowd.

The ambulance’s front door opens and a dead body falls out. The body hits the ground. Colt turns towards the ambulance.

The engine ignites and the ambulance lifts off. Colt draws his gun and fires -- A HIT. Parts of the engine get blown away.

The ambulance sinks to the ground.

ON VENA

VENA

Stupid mutton-puncher, praise NEMESIS for ground propulsion.

BACK ON COLT

Colt keeps firing. The ambulance pulls back and crashes into the Bronco.

Colt almost gets squashed and the ambulance races away towards the main gate.

On a terrace above the entrance hall Fireball has seen the scene unfold. He sits in a motorised wheelchair. The engine cover is missing and it looks like Fireball rewired the whole thing.

FIREBALL

(shouting at Colt)

Now you know how that feels!

Colt looks up mumbles something and looks at the big dent in his Bronco, parts of the engine are broken.

Fireball takes a look at his wheelchair and sighs.

FIREBALL

Here comes nothing!

He presses the controller forward and accelerates, the wheelchair sound like a race car -- Fireball built himself a “race chair”.

He drives (or slides) down the glass ceiling and tries to steer towards the side closer to the main gate.

He jumps off the glass roof and lands on the grass hill that leads down to the main gate.

In his face we can see equal parts excitement and terror.

The ambulance reaches the gate and CRASHES through, turns into the main road and -- a SCREAM.

FIREBALL

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

He flies through the air and reaches the ambulance and manages to grab the door handle. The ambulance accelerates.

Fireball is dangling from the ambulance and his splinted leg is stuck in the wheelchair. His excitement turns into pain.

The speed is too much for the wheelchair and the wheelchair falls apart.

Fireball still has part of the wheelchairs arm rest in his hand. His splinted leg grinds along the pavement.

Fireball pulls himself further up, opens the door and climbs into the ambulance.

INT. AMBULANCE

Fireball lays on top of a body bag. The bag starts to move.

He opens the zipper and finds a gorgeous blonde, April. She is cuffed and gagged.

Fireball starts removing the gag. April MUMBLES.

Fireball points at Vena who is busy steering the ambulance and signals April to be quiet.

He tries to remove the cuffs but as he looks up he sees that Vena is doing something on the steering wheel.

The HUD reads “AUTOPILOT ENGAGED”.

Fireball lips mouth the word SORRY.

He puts the gag back, April protests silently; he closes the body bag and rolls under the gurney.

Vena opens the slide door and walks towards the body bag, unzips it and removes the gag.

VENA

So, Miss Eagle, tell me, where is it?

APRIL

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

VENA

I really thought we could solve this issue like reasonable people, woman to woman so to speak. I just need to know where you stored the RAMROD...

This word makes April shudder.

VENA

... device. Ahh, so you do know what I’m talking about.

APRIL

I’ll never talk. I’ll rather die than talk.

Vena smiles.

VENA

They always say that.

Fireball is quietly looking for a weapon of some sorts.

VENA

I’m quite good at figuring out what motivates people.

Vena presses a button, the gurney sinks down and Fireball is caught between gurney and floor. He can’t move.

Vena looks at him and smiles.

VENA

Hi Raceboy! This is perfect, just when you need someone to prove a point.

Vena pulls a knife and shows it to April.

VENA

So Miss Eagle, please picture me cutting his throat very slowly. I know you would sacrifice yourself, but can you sacrifice someone else?

FIREBALL

What are you waiting for, tell her everything.

The autopilot starts to BEEP. On the HUD: COLLISION ALERT.

VENA

I’m really sorry! Just give me a second to take care of this mess.

Vena returns to the steering wheel.

EXT. MOTORWAY

The ambulance races towards a road block, about a mile ahead, heavily guarded by armed POLICEMEN.

INT. AMBULANCE

Vena accelerates -- then someone knocks on the window.

It is Saber, riding on Steed.

Vena lowers the window.

SABER

Stop the car now and let them go.

Vena smiles.

VENA

A welcoming committee, how nice of you.

She turns around and looks at Fireball and April.

VENA

Just as we thought you might get out of this alive.

Vena turns the wheel hard left.

EXT. MOTORWAY

The ambulance almost knocks Saber and Steed over and CRASHES through the beam barrier into oncoming traffic.

Breaks SCREECHING. Cars CRASHING into each other but the ambulance evades them almost effortlessly.

Saber keeps pursuing. He closes in on the ambulance -- but then -- hard left again -- the ambulance CRASHES through another beam barrier and flies off the motorway.

The ambulance CRASHES through a big billboard -- Fireball selling “Pearl White Toothpaste – The fastest way to pearl white teeth” and lands on an other motorway lane -- two cars break hard and two others CRASH into them.

INT. AMBULANCE

Vena looks into the rear mirror. Behind her cars are piling up. Total car mayhem.

She smiles.

VENA

This is getting better and better.

She switches on the autopilot and gets back to April and Fireball.

VENA

So where were we? Oh yes....

She pulls his knife out and puts it at Fireballs throat.

VENA

... last chance before I cut him up, where...

She gets interrupted by a voice over the radio.

SABER (V.O.)

It’s useless Vena. You can’t escape.

VENA

I’m trying to work here, all I want is just a few minutes without being interrupted? Is that too much to ask?

She gets up and switches the radio to hands-free.

VENA

I’d love to chat with you about the two or three times you almost caught me but I’m hitting it off with this cute blonde.

(to April)

Do you want to say something?

APRIL

(shouting)

We are fine Sir! Just get her!

FIREBALL

You call this fine?

Vena kicks him and knocks him out.

VENA

Hey, I didn’t say it was your turn to talk.

The autopilot BEEPS again. The HUD reads: Energy levels low.

VENA

Looks like I have to hurry. Talk to you later Sheriff.

She switches the radio off and looks around in the ambulance. She takes a bottle off the shelf and fills a syringe and injects April.

APRIL

What are you doing?

VENA

Let’s see if this makes you more cooperative?

Vena rips Aprils cloth off, puts sensor patches on her bare skin and switches the heart monitor on.

April looks dizzy.

VENA

This should do the trick. Where is the RAMROD weapon?

APRIL

(with a weak voice)

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

The monitor shows some spikes.

VENA

Naughty girl. You shouldn’t tell lies. Is it on Yuma by any chance?

No spike on the device.

VENA

I guess not. What about Ganymede?

EXT. MOTORWAY

The ambulance is racing along the motorway.

Saber and Steed still in pursuit but he’s not alone. The Bronco Buster is approaching fast.

COLT (V.O.)

Hey old geezer, missed me?

SABER (V.O.)

Go away, or I’ll have you arrested for obstruction of justice.

COLT (V.O.)

Because you’re doing such a bang up job arresting people.

Then someone else joins the conversation.

JESSE (V.O.)

Can’t you solve this after we get her?

Jesse, with a black eye and a swollen nose, is standing behind a road block and stares at the fast approaching ambulance.

JESSE

Slow him down and we’ll take care of the rest.

SABER (V.O.)

That we can do.

The Bronco Buster FIRES a rocket at the ambulance -- a hit.

The back door gets blown to bits. Saber can see Vena interrogating April.

INT./EXT. AMBULANCE

Vena stares at Saber who is just a few horses lengths behind. Saber has to evade debris from the door and loses ground.

For the first time in all this Vena looks nervous. Fireball slowly regains consciousness.

Then -- on the radio.

JESSE (V.O.)

Surrender now and you will get a fair trial. Hurt her and I will personally make your life a living hell.

Vena starts smiling again.

VENA

(to April)

OK, last chance girl, is RAMROD on Alamo?

The drugs have kicked in fully. April MOANS, and the device spikes.

Vena looks pleased with herself.

VENA

Alamo it is. Thank you very much.

Right at this moment -- the Bronco Buster is directly behind the ambulance

COLT

(over loud speakers)

Hands up! It’s dead or alive so I don’t mind if I have to shoot you.

Vena turns toward Colt and starts laughing.

VENA

Be my guest cowboy.

Vena starts dancing around.

VENA

Am I moving too fast? C’mon, shoot already.

Colt fires but it’s not a rocket, it is a grappling hook. Vena looks disappointed.

VENA

That’s it?

Colt hits the breaks and the ambulance slows down. Vena stumbles.

Fireball, fully conscious again sees his chance, he pushes the gurney up and manages to move a few feet, enough to free himself.

He pulls himself up and tries to punch Vena but Vena doesn’t even blink when he hits her straight in the face.

VENA

Is that all you’ve got? I barely felt that. Want to try again?

Fireball punches her again -- no reaction.

VENA

Pathetic!

Vena kicks Fireball right into the stomach and he falls out of the Ambulance and lands on the Bronco. He stares at Colt through the window.

Colt tries to look past Fireball but Fireball tries to evade him as well and they keep staring at each other.

The Bronco starts to trundle and with it the ambulance.

The Bronco CRASHES into the ambulance’s rear suspension, gets stuck and rips the suspension off. Fireball gets thrown back into the ambulance.

The ambulance starts to grind on the road.

Vena is back at the wheel. She hits the breaks and turns the wheel hard left.

The ambulance flips over -- flying over the road block -- and lands in the side. There -- a small fire at the bottom of the ambulance.

Jesse looks at the flipped over ambulance and starts running towards it.

He signals the other policemen to stay back.

JESSE

Stay back! It’s going to blow!

Jesse climbs into the Ambulance. Fireball is picking up April.

JESSE

Let me!

Fireball nods and hobbles away. Jesse takes her.

JESSE

April? You all right?

April MOANS, she’s barely conscious.

Up front he sees Vena. Still sitting in the chair -- fixed with a piece of metal through her chest.

Vena, barely alive, turns around and smiles.

VENA

I’ll greet the other side from you.

She picks up a bottle of sterilizer with a “highly flammable” sign on it.

Jesse grins and carries April out of the ambulance.

EXT. MOTORWAY

Jesse and April exit the ambulance. Fireball is still crawling. Saber and Colt run towards them. Colt picks up Fireball.

COLT

Where’s your wheelchair?

Fireball smiles.

Saber keeps running towards the ambulance but Jesse signals to get down.

JESSE

Get down! The ambulance...

The ambulance EXPLODES in a big ball of fire.

The blast blows everybody down.

Saber is the first one to get back up and stares at the burning ambulance.

SABER

So much for my only lead.

INT. AMBULANCE

The ambulance is burning and the fire has reached a lifeless Vena, her face is already melting away and leaves behind a strange looking skeleton that gets consumed by the flames.

EXT. MOTORWAY

Saber, Jesse are staring at the burning ambulance.

Colts gets up and wipes away the dust.

COLT

There goes my reward.

TWO MEDICS are attending Fireball and April.

Saber turns towards fireball and starts interrogating him.

SABER

What did she say?

FIREBALL

I don’t know, something about a secret project and then she started to call out planets.

SABER

What planets?

FIREBALL

I don’t know. I was knocked out.

Hearing this, April regains consciousness.

Everybody turns towards her.

JESSE

April, are you all right?

But April ignores the question, she looks at Saber.

APRIL

Nice to see you again sir.

SABER

Likewise, but you can drop the sir Miss Eagle. Your father fired me today.

April looks surprised. Saber turns to Jesse.

SABER

Mr. Blue.

Jesse nods.

APRIL

We have to go to Alamo!

SABER

What about the attacks.

APRIL

You don’t understand. She knew about the RAMROD project! We have to go there, now!

SABER

RAMROD? It can’t be more important than the attacks.

April touches her pendant.

APRIL

But it is.

JESSE

More important than 4000 lives?

APRIL

Yes.

Saber nods. He seems to understand. For now.

JESSE

And how shall we get there? I doubt they have a spare ship down at the cavalry command.

APRIL

We could borrow one.

Everybody turns to Fireball.

Fireball smiles shyly, he’s not happy, not at all.

> FADE TO BLACK.

FIREBALL (V.O.)

I’m not going anywhere until someone fixes my leg.

A bit long but, at least in my opinion, a really great sequence. I’d love to see it realised one day. I’m sure people would really like it. If you want to read more, head over to www.whiteworms.com and read the rest. You’re welcome.

  1. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
  2. Another one of these changes we made that not everyone is happy about.