On 15th February 2012 – five years ago today! – SX:TV welcomed in a revolution, as the dawn of an exciting new series made its premiere.
The Revolution Beyond, at the time, was billed as the University of Essex student television station’s most ambitious drama project to date. And, all things considered, I still stand by that billing – even in the time between its release and the station shutting down for good, I don’t think anything quite dared to eclipse it. Of course, in all honesty, that’s probably because we never actually finished it.
It started off under the guise of ‘Project Revolution’, a concept thought up on the road trip back from NaSTA 2011. What SX:TV needed, we agreed, was a big scale show for the coming year. In its own (almost meta) ripple effect of creativity, this droplet of an idea grew into a three-part sci-fi(ish) drama shamelessly inspired by the likes of Doctor Who. Students going missing, sinister forces lurking in the shadows, a university professor turning into an unlikely hero… we had big plans. So big, in fact, that translating them from script to screen would turn into something of a logistical nightmare. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The project was officially unveiled at the Fresher’s Fair in October 2011, garnering a fair amount of attention and interest. But that was just the beginning: as the show’s writer and producer, I was keen to get the word out. While we’d all cut our teeth on Rub-a-Duck the previous year (and, to a much lesser extent, the ill-fated Henchman Training at the end of 2011), if we were going to do this justice, we needed to do things properly. I distinctly remember sending out wave after wave of emails, trying to enlist some theatre or drama students for the cast as well as stir up some hype. This wasn’t like Rub-a-Duck, where (with a couple of exceptions) we hodge-podged a cast the day before we started filming – The Revolution Beyond had actual, proper procedures in place. There were plenty of meetings, plenty of script read-throughs, and plenty of cast auditions. In the end, I think we got a pretty solid little crew together: Blake Knight as Dan, Nick Brett as Stu, Sofia Zervudachi as Kate, and Zainab Mohiuddin as Lucy.
However, we still needed someone to fill the role of our main character, Professor Tony Knight. Thank the lord for Sam Rowett, that’s all I can say. I wasn’t there at the time, but I do know for a fact that he was offered his audition during a drunken night out. Thankfully, it paid off beautifully. I remember sitting in Sam’s audition and being immediately convinced by his loud, bearded performance. I also remember turning to see that Nico D’urso (SX:TV’s Head of Marketing, who was sat next to me at the time) had written just one single comment on his feedback sheet, in big bold letters: “YES”. Needless to say, he bagged the role, and moreover he utterly embraced it. Everyone in the cast took the project to heart and displayed huge amounts of enthusiasm, but perhaps none more so than Sam. It’s cliché to say it, but it really wouldn’t have been the same without him. He just is Tony Knight.
So, with cast and crew in place, we began filming Episode 1 “The Ripple Effect”. I’ll hold my hands up high and admit it wasn’t perfect, but it seemed to impress at the time. Taking into account the technical limitations of our abilities, the visual restrictions of the low production values, and the (probably over-)ambitious nature of the series, I think it still holds up pretty well to this day. At least conceptually, I’m still proud of the mind-bending opening sequence with the Why-Not stalking a student. The episode also contains my favourite scene I’ve ever written, and I think it’s pretty clear which one it is, because the effort from all parties shines through above the rest. That climactic showdown, full of wit and action and drama… call me biased, but I just love it. “Never bring a gun to a swordfight”, indeed. You should get that on a t-shirt. Heck, I should get that on a t-shirt. It was a gruelling 3 hour night shoot on a freezing cold day, with the majority of the cast wearing less-than-appropriate outfits (or just looking plain silly – sorry Luke!). I’m pretty sure they all temporarily hated me for it, but it all worked out well in the end. Elsewhere, the soundtrack in this scene was a fairly late addition, but I think it makes all the difference. A relatively simple composition by yours truly, “Gun at a Swordfight (The Knight’s Theme)” mixes acoustic with electric guitar to represent the two sides of the battle: the harsh loudness of the evil Why-Not versus the brave-hearted pluckiness of Tony Knight. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but it all helps to add to the atmosphere.
Of course, this only being a first episode, it ended on a tantalising cliffhanger. Who were the Why-Nots? Why had they kidnapped Kate? And what has Tony got to do with all of this? The answers were coming… or were they? We had started to film Episodes 2 and 3, as a back-to-back production, I can promise you that. They were probably about halfway done, too. The footage exists, somewhere (including some hilarious outtakes which the world really needs to see again… slip-sliding Blake and Street Fighter Sam, that’s all I will say). But, alas, it just wasn’t to be. Episode 1 did well by SX:TV standards, both critically and ratings-wise. It was just a little too big a project for its own good, and before we knew it, exam period was upon us and everything got shelved in favour of studying. By the time we were ready again to wrap things up, a good chunk of the cast and crew had moved on or graduated, and the whole thing just sadly fizzled out into obscurity.
It didn’t go down well with certain people…
But, guess what? The hiatus ends today!
Well, sort of. While we’ll unfortunately never get to see Episodes 2 and 3 on screen – partly because its moment has long since passed, and partly because SX:TV is now deceased – the scripts were fully written and complete. So, for those die-hard followers who’ve been anxiously waiting for some resolutions for half a decade… I salute you, and for your patience I offer up the final scripts for all three SX:TV episodes! I hope they’ve been worth the five year wait!
So, what does the future hold for The Revolution Beyond? In its original form, probably nothing at all. But it’s a project I still hold very dear to my heart, and I’d love to do something with the same ideas again in the future. A higher budget reboot? A novelisation? Just, well, anything? Who knows. Even if it merely continues to live on as an unfinished one-hit wonder, we’ll still always have the memories. Thanks to this series I made some great new friends and had a barrel of laughs along the way, all the while getting some serious writing and production experience. If I could raise a glass of Top Bar’s incredibly aptly named Revolution ale to you all (remember, the one we all had after the premiere? I wonder if they still serve it…), then I would.
And that’s about all there is to say. Except maybe “squidgy” and “Fresh Prince”. If nothing else, the in-jokes will last forever.
Ultimately, The Revolution Beyond was all about posing a question. Why was it what it was? Why did it turn out like it did? And why, oh why, have I spent the time to write over a thousand words about it five whole years later?
There’s only one answer I can give to that – and if you’re a fan, you’ll already know what it is…
An unseen photo of a younger Tony Knight (played by Luke Farrelly) and his sweetheart Rosie (played by Charlotte Peters) from Episodes 2 and 3