Masha & Pobeda’s Interstellar Ultra-Cosmic Submarine Adventures

Space submarine, image by Dmitry Maximov.

A pitch/script treatment as a Pictonaut short story challenge effort for October 2013.

THE HIGH CONCEPT

A superhuman little girl and her supercanine dog companion have adventures across multiple galaxies and multiple dimensions in a Soviet space submarine.

THE FULL CONCEPT WITH MORE CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION BECAUSE YOU WANT IT. YES, YOU DAMN WELL DO.

This is the background and viewers would probably only find this stuff out in flashbacks if the show got beyond its pilot episode. Masha is an eight-year-old girl. She is the daughter of the captain of the Soviet Union’s women’s ice hockey team and a very important scientist. They all live in an alternate 1970s and in this alternate ’70s the Cold War is running pretty hot. The Soviet government wants superior weapons to get an advantage over the USA and the very important scientist – driven, patriotic man that he is – pursues this challenge with tremendous zeal. He hopes to unlock the latent superhuman potential coded within the genes of regular soldiers and to achieve his objective he performs experiments on his daughter. (Practical reasons for doing this: he can keep a close eye on his test subject while working from home where he can be intimate with his highly-athletic wife whenever he wants to take a break.)

The outcome of his ill-advised, ethically-dubious experiments: Masha loses her ability to speak and, yeah, pretty much loses her mind BUT (positive silver lining!) she acquires incredible telekinetic powers. Being a child, she uses her incredible new gifts to pull the sort of hilarious and imaginative pranks that you’d expect of kids. She floats her family’s summer dacha onto the top of St Basil’s Cathedral. She empties out the national beetroot stores and bombards Alaska with the root vegetables that she’s now controlling with her mind. She lifts an entire herd of cows into space. Then she steals a nuclear submarine and takes off into orbit herself before the adults can stop her, suppress her and turn her into a living weapon with which they can destroy the Western world (or trade to the Western world in exchange for Elvis).

Masha is very attached to the family dog whose name is Pobeda, so he joins her on the sub. The eager beagle is also an experimental subject and he’s ended up with advanced supercanine intelligence and the ability to talk using a collar vocoder. Because the mad Soviet scientists have a peculiar, ironic sense of humour they decided that Pobeda should speak in English with vocoder settings giving him a strong Slavic accent.

So there they are: talking space dog and superpowered little girl in an atomic sub in Earth’s orbit. What follows is the rough script treatment for the opening sequence of the hypothetical pilot episode in which the pair encounter a manned (and womanned) American military satellite. After fending off the threat with Masha’s telekinetic powers they find themselves pulled through a portal to other dimensions and galaxies having been gripped by a loose cosmic string. Girl, dog and submarine thus set off on a series of fantastical adventures across time and space…


EXT: EARTH’S ORBIT, SPACE

Space. It is not the final frontier at all. It is wide, open and it glitters with distant stars that wink oh-so-invitingly, all pretty pinpricks sparkling with exciting potential. We look out at the great infinite void (but it isn’t much of a void because there’s life out there and adventures to be had) and contemplate its vast wonder for a while…

Then we see a cow floating across the centre of the screen. It somersaults in slow-motion. The camera pulls back until…


INT: AMERICAN SATELLITE, LIBERTY-3

We’re now positioned on the bridge of an American military satellite named Liberty-3. Half a dozen of Uncle Sam’s finest are stood there gawping, all eyes on the surreal vision that is the cow. The two key figures in the mix are LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JUDD (young male, clean-cut, Mr April in the 1974 US Space Marines Calendar) and ADMIRAL RABHORNE (Gruff male in his late ’50s, his father never showed him enough affection when he was a child). Judd is taken quite aback by the sight…

JUDD

Cow…

The Admiral steps forward forcefully to stand beside Judd. He gives him hard eyes…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Judd! Pull yourself together, son!

JUDD

I’m sorry Sir, it’s just I…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Save it, son! Composure! Stay focused…

They do focus and turn their heads once again to look out into outer space. Rising up from below them, a colossal statue of a Josef Stalin floats gracefully into view…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Sweet Uncle Sam… okay, let’s get her…


EXT: SPACE

We’re outside in the open void of space again and the statue and cow are slowly rolling around in zero gravity. Then it appears, moving in from the right side of the screen to dominate the centre of the frame. It’s the Soviet atomic submarine and as it sails closer and closer we come to appreciate the large size of the vessel in comparison to that somersaulting heifer.

It comes nearer, ever-nearer, and the camera drifts along the body. It’s a loving and long lingering shot. We’re allowed opportunity to appreciate the submarine and these astounding circumstances (There’s a Soviet nuclear sub in space!). As we move down the length of the sub we hear the quiet sound of laughter rising and falling. In space no one can hear you scream but for some reason we can hear this uncanny giggling. It’s the laughter of a little girl…


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE

We cut to the inside of the craft, the camera slowly making its way through the machinery, the inner mechanics, the plumbing and then the corridors. Everything is functional and the aesthetic is that of lo-fi Soviet austerity. Nevertheless, there are a few hints of advanced technology and the slow movement allows viewers the chance to fetishistically soak up the details, explore all the details of the pipes, the riveted walls, the piping and wiring, etc.

We glide on, eventually passing through a porthole door and into the living-and-working areas of the sub that would be inhabited by human crew members. We get a feeling of zero gravity and slow motion in space as we travel through what appears to be an abandoned vessel. On our painstakingly slow passage through the submarine we occasionally encounter floating objects. We see an opened tin of condensed milk, white amorphous globules spilling out around it. We see a levitating matryoshka nesting doll open up and reassemble itself. We see pastel crayons, clipboards, beetroots, worktools and bits of broken machinery hanging in ‘mid-air’, and all of these sights further immerse us in the beauty of gravity-free existence and the sensation of being in space.

All the while the discordant girly giggling continues to ring out, morphing and taking on the echoing timbre of electronic noises. Inside the submarine and no longer in the void of space sound is a very present feature and we’re experiencing a metallic soundscape of machine whirring and occasional bleeping that keeps on merging with the laughter. In these moments it’s like the source of the giggling and the submarine itself are one shared soul.

After about five minutes of floating through the submarine’s insides (ten if we’re feeling really indulgent and spaced out) the laughter and ambient background noise escalates in volume and comes to an acute high pitch stab.


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

Suddenly, cut to silence and an extreme close-up shot of a dog’s wide open eyes.

The dog is POBEDA, the talking Soviet space dog with more intelligence than most humans and a comic Slavic accent.

POBEDA

Masha? Ah…

The camera pulls back so we can see the whole of Masha’s head. He has a vocoder collar strapped around his neck and a patriotic trinket dangles from that collar. He is just adorable.

POBEDA

Ah… Masha. Dearest little darling, please… I think you need to pay attention…

Cut to a position behind Pobeda. We find that he’s in the cockpit of the sub and he’s looking up at a massive command chair right in the centre of all the panels, buttons and gauges. In the centre is a tele-screen that displays what the periscope sees alongside other technical information and readouts. The chair swivels around and we come to see the other half of the hero duo for the first time. Sitting in that seat, her legs barely reaching over the edge, is MASHA. She is a cute little 8 year-old girl with beetroot juice smeared all over her face. Her clothing is pretty plain (standard ’70s Soviet schoolgirl cardigan and trousers) and her haircut is a practical braided arrangement. Her huge eyes beam out with barely-suppressed manic energy and she has a great crazy grin on her purple chops. She lets out a loud cackle and then leans forward intently, bringing her nearer to her doggy friend.

POBEDA

Good. Yes, hello!

Bwoop bwoop bwoop! At that point an alarm starts blasting loudly and red lights flash on the panels of the cockpit.

POBEDA

Oh…


INT: AMERICAN SATELLITE, LIBERTY-3

A rapid transition, the camera rapidly retreating through the submarine machinery, across space and then back on to the bridge of the American satellite. Admiral Rabhorne picks up a communicator connected to a console and, eyeballing the enemy vessel with barely suppressed loathing, he starts to spit into his mic device…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Attention, submarine. Attention, submarine. This is Admiral Robert G. Rabhorne of US Satellite Liberty-3. Are you receiving me? Over.


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

We cut back to the submarine, Pobeda now perched on the armrest of Masha’s chair. We get a quick sequence of shots from different perspectives as they look at each other and look back at the periscope tele-feed visualisation in front of them. Moving back-and-forth between facial close-ups we grasp that there’s telepathic communication between girl and canine.

Something clicks. Masha starts cackling with great gusto and a slightly-twisted grin.

POBEDA

Oh well, yes, why not? If you want to play with them, go ahead!


INT: AMERICAN SATELLITE, LIBERTY-3

Cutting back to the bridge of the satellite and the camera is positioned behind the American crew as they stare out of the window at the sub and surrounding space (the Stalin statue and cow are still hanging around). They are waiting and the Admiral is impatient…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Attention, submarine…

But then he’s shocked by a blast of feedback on the Satellite’s PA system. The entire bridge is engulfed by Masha’s surging laughter, carried across the vacuum on all of their radio channels. Rabhorne falls over and several of his decorative medals drop from his jacket. He struggles to get up and as he grabs a young ensign for support he only succeeds in pulling down the ensign’s pants and banging his arm on the floor again.

He’s humiliated and furious. He springs to his feet, frothing at the mouth. All red-faced and raging, he starts to blast orders…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

All right, that’s it! Missiles launch! Engage! Initiate missile launch sequence now!

JUDD

But Admiral! We…

The Admiral turns upon the Lieutenant Commander and cuts him off, hostile and hellbent on destruction.

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Son, there’s a Russian submarine in orbit and it’s armed to the gills with nuclear warheads and it’s under the complete control of a crazed, superpowered freak 8-year-old. She’s already blitzed Alaska with all the beetroots in Russian and now she’s got atomic weapons. We’re the only thing in her way. I will not be beaten by a little schoolgirl, understand Judd?

JUDD

I, I, yes, Sir, Admiral, Sir!

ADMIRAL RATHBONE

Good! FIRE MISSILES AND FIRE THEM RIGHT NOW!

Action montage! Men, women and a child (he’s the mascot, because I think this satellite should have a mascot) rush about the satellite, all frenetically engaged in the process of prepping the missile attack. We get a lot of invigorating shots of people pushing buttons, turning dials, handling knobs, scrutinising consoles and dashing up and down corridors. A young woman appears on the bridge and starts handing out sticks of emergency chewing gum to crew members.

The rapid-edit montage action begins to incorporate shots of the mechanical insides of the satellite. Pistons move and panels shift as we follow electrical wiring deep into the bowels of the satellite, eventually reaching the missile bay where the activated weapons of mass destruction lie ready. They drop from their casings into projectile cannon devices ready to launch.

We then cut back to the bridge…

JUDD

Missiles locked and loaded! Targets acquired! Ready to launch, Sir!

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Fire ’em, son! FIRE!


EXT: SPACE

Our viewpoint is just off and to the side of the submarine and we’re looking ahead at the satellite in the distance. Two bright flashes burst out of the satellite. The missiles have been launched.


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

Masha is just laughing while the alarm sounds and the red lights flicker all around her. Next to her, Pobeda looks quite concerned as he studies the tele-screen which is now warning of the incoming missiles.

POBEDA

Oh…

But Masha isn’t fazed and, in fact, just keeps on laughing even louder and even harder. We close in on her face as her giggling takes on that unnatural quality again. Her eyes are protruding, her temples are throbbing and the mania is upon her once again.


EXT: SPACE

The camera is hurtling through space following the travelling missiles. Suddenly they stop still and, thus, so does the camera. The missiles shudder and jerk, then they start swirling around each other and it’s like watching a pair of ballroom dancers except the ballroom dancers are atomic death devices in the vacuum of space. This absurd extra-terrestrial waltz continues for a short while before one of the missiles bolts back and kinks, crumpling itself into the shape of an ‘M’. The other one stands upright and starts to spin around like a Buddhist prayer wheel. It spins faster and faster and faster…


INT: AMERICAN SATELLITE, LIBERTY-3

All the Americans on the bridge are watching this in a stunned state of optimum bewilderment…

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

What the h…

But before he can complete his cuss all the crew leap back in shock as they observe spontaneous explosion of blue flashing around the missile, the bridge subsumed by lens flare and vivid shimmering.


EXT: SPACE

Back outside in space we see that the spinning missile is caught up in the centre of a tumultuous-albeit-beautiful whirl of radiant blue. Cosmic energies glow and surge from this phenomenon and long blazing cosmic tendrils start to grow and push their way out of the colour’s core. These spaghetti strands – they are manifest cosmic strings – sprawl and flail in open space. One of the effervescent latches on to the submarine and wraps itself around in a tight grip.


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

On the armrest of the seat, Pobeda continues to wear a look of mild concern…

POBEDA

Ah… Masha?

But the girl just carries on with her deranged laughter. The dog looks back to the screen and alights as something new happens on it.

POBEDA

Oooooooh!


EXT: SPACE

The whirling colour opens up, the tendrils splaying as a great gaping portal opens wide in the centre. It looks like a cosmic cephalopod yawning and the inside of the portal is a rushing, whooshing tunnel of light.


INT: SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

Back to Pobeda and Masha, both looking up at the screen with amazement written all over their faces.

POBEDA

By Gogol! It’s… it’s… it looks like… it looks like a transdimensional interstellar portal and a splurge of cosmic strings spontaneously appearing in complete defiance of the conventional laws of the timespace continuum!


EXT: SPACE

The beagle is right. That’s what it is. We cut to a view of the pulsating portal. Where once there was a missile there is now a blazing aperture of colour, surging electricity and writhing cosmic energy. It grows larger and larger.


INT:SOVIET SUBMARINE COCKPIT

Our heroes are looking up with awestruck wonder at the stellar phenomenon before them. Masha is still laughing though it is calmer now.

POBEDA

Masha, darling. I think it wants to take us in…

The girl grins even wider and the giggling rises in volume again, tuning in with the weird ambience around. We come in closer in as the soundscape churns and lifts in pitch and intensity before it cuts altogether, the camera resting on her lips as she utters the only word we will ever hear her say…

MASHA

Go!


EXT: SPACE

The portal swirls around and the long tendril attached to the submarine convulses and tugs. With a stunning sweep it yanks at the vessel and swings it around right into the gaping mouth, all at once blazing up and closing in a flash of electric crackle and blazing bright blue. The blue singes up into pure white light and then it shrinks into nothingness.

Gone. The submarine has been swallowed up and is on its way to another dimension. Open space is tranquil again.


INT: AMERICAN SATELLITE, LIBERTY-3

The Americans all stand looking out into the void, jaws on the floor. Shaken, stirred, confounded. The silent freezeframe holds for a while until Lieutenant Commander Judd speaks up…

JUDD

Ah… Sir… What just happened?

But the Admiral has no idea. He tries to speak but can’t. A close-up shot of his confused, contorting face give us a sense that he’s in deep shock, unable to utter anything and if he was he wouldn’t be able to find something sensible to say. Suddenly he flinches.

A shot showing the screen reveals that the cow is back. It floats in front of the astounded Americans. It sticks out its tongue lazily as it glides by.

ADMIRAL RABHORNE

Beef?

Cut to the title sequence and the really catchy theme tune…


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  1. Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Masha & Pobeda’s Interstellar Ultra-Cosmic Submarine Adventures’… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON

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