“Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted” is currently my most important film treatment of my three DADT books.
The basic set-up is that “Bill” (me) suddenly wakes up in a barren room, and is processed by a sequence of young-men, into an apprenticeship experience in a small “extraterrestrial” world. While he is going through a certain kind of purgatory, he will wind up in the position of judging which (additional) young men become angels. He may be able to return to Earth, but it will soon undergo tribulations.
At first, he doesn’t know where he is. This could be end-of-life (a near-death experience), or a job interview, or jail, or some kind of apprenticeship. While he reminisces or daydreams, the other men decipher his story. He settles into a community, one of several on a space station constructed on Titan, a moon of Saturn. He gradually gets to show what he can do (music is central to the effort), and will be tested before returning to Earth, as will the men who tend to him.
The film has a variety of constructs, and it’s helpful to consider them separately.
Construct Set I: Storytelling layers.
The “immediately reality” of life on the spaceship is shown through sepia tones of reduced color sensitivity and unusual hues (as for plants), as might be found on another planet. Bill may experience this layer with partial color-blindness.
The “true history” layer is Bill’s own historical backstory, and is shown in full color. The “true history” is known to other “angels” (or “candidates”) through Bill’s own social media. The story became known through legal proceedings on Earth necessary after Bill’s own “fantasy” (screenplay), “The Sub”, created a disruption when he was substitute teaching.
The “fantasy” layer is Bill’s own screenplay, “The Sub”, and is shown in black and white, It was considered disturbing in large part because it shows Bill’s fantasy of a “peak experience” in conjunction with a brief homosexual relationship. (There are details on March 6, 2014 in my “Do Ask, Do Tell Notes blog here, and the “behind the scenes” secrets will be explored in the screenplay.) The lead “angel”, named “Brutus”, believes he is the “Clark Kent-like” character in the screenplay. Brutus can read the screenplay through telepahty, and another character, Timo, has the technology to translate the telepathic materials to digital video, but only in black and white.
Construct Set II: The Communities
The “angels” have a base on Titan, with a power plant, hospital, their own living quarters, and space port. The geography of Titan, with methane lakes, is presented.
Attached to Titan is a long, more or less rectangular and two-sided rama, or Post. It has a variety of communities where residents (other captured humans) live and train new arrivals, such as
(1) The modern city Urbana
(2) The 1950world
(3) The 1900 world
(4) The 1775 world
(5) The BC world (the model layout has a Middle Ages world, and an 1850 world, too(
Two railroads and one regular road with tram run through the communities. There is also an underground monorail set up as a Mobius Strip. Candidates can cross the Strip rail and sometimes experience themselves as they were at earlier points in their lives.
There is also a “Core” tunnel, where an initiate is placed before release into training, for testing of his resolve.
Construct III: The characters
The movie does center around “Bill”, and an angel “Brutus”.
There are several other strong young adult male characters who interact with Bill, and seem to be “candidates”. “Randall” apparently lives and works in “The City”. The other characters work in the other communities, about two per area.
Each community has permanent residents (only a few of whom were “abducted” recently from Earth, according to rumor) who seem to have children but who live in larger social units than nuclear families. Most of them see Bill (and the angel candidates) as a bit privileged and potentially as having authority over them. A woman. Tovina, in the 1900-level community, will develop a certain “romance” and Bill will be surprised at his receptivity. There seems to be a small birth rate, enough to sustain a small “planet” population to support the angels’ efforts. Most feel they live in an authoritarian environment and tend to be obedient. Some of the children may be intended to become angels and have “powers” when they visit Earth!
Some characters from Bill’s past appear (at least one is an angel candidate, in the 1775 commune). They are contemporaries of Bill but can become “younger” by crossing the monorail at certain places.
There is an issue of what peer characters could be “candidates” at other communities. Most peers have some of Bill”s personality issues: physical inertia, schizoid, judgmentalism, some issues with focus or regimentation, fantasy. They probably aren’t quite as close as Bill to the edge between “divergence” and “factionless”. But they may be even more sensitive than Bill to some other issues with the angels: like fleeting powers (telepathy, telekenesis, maybe rare teleportation). They could be of varied age, gender and race.
Construct IV: Communications:
The other characters (mostly young adults expecting to become “angels”) have various was of communication. Some of it is the typical Internet and mobile phone technology, with super command of programming. But some of it is also telepathy. Because (as in “Angel’s Brother”) telepathy can communicate deeper consciousness and the “free will” track of another, it has more effect in enabling an individual candidate angel to oppose entropy, even without reproducing conventionally. Therefore, the candidate angel might remain young much longer/
More on plot:
The “life story” of Bill has its own ironies, twists and turns. Bill comes to expect that the “angels” will help him solve it, and explain some of the hidden mysteries (or at least coincidences) behind some of the incidents.
The movie actually starts with the embedded screenplay “The Sub” and carries it to the point that Bill has a cardiac arrest while substitute-teaching PE and trying to play softball (after just batting). He “comes to” in sepia color in the patient room, but that is in the hospital om Titan, where the “real” Brutus sees him,. But there is another character, Randall, in charge of his case, and apparently just another “candidate” for the angelic host. Randall lives in the “urban” community and is somewhat advantaged. Another character of some interest, TomPom, lives in a more “primitive” community than where Bill is sent.
Bill travels to the infirmary or the headquarters a few times by underground monorail, where he cannot see the layout of the place at first. The entire set-up is a little bit like a military base, in that when someone lives there and is trained, he gradually sees more of it, although always being marches back to the “company area” (like in Army Basic — hence the title of the film). As he goes to different training assignments, he can travel above ground and see the progress of the place. He has to accept a more “regimented” and simplified way of life, resembling both military basic training but also life in an “intentional community”.
In time, he learns he has to have heart surgery, to cure the problem that he suspected in his own screenplay (which in the fiction setting he dies). It will be of the keyhole laproscopic variety, to reduce the impact on his body, so that the “tribunal” session at the end is as effective as possible.
As he passes through the training sessions, he meets a few people from his past, especially when he gives a piano concert, shortly before the final “tribunals”. At least two of them sharing the experience of “looking younger” after transiting the Mobius element of the monorail .
The final “tribunal” (mentioned in his own book as a hazing ceremony at William and Mary back in 1961) will put the “angelic contestants” and Bill through the same rituals. Bill will prove that he can “perform” with Tovina and provide the community with progeny, before he can go back, to find a world that has indeed been changed.
(First published Thursday, July 17, 2014, at 11:55 PM EDT; to be continued).