Behind the Scenes of
First of all, I have to say that writing this story has given me such a thrill. I have had this particular plotline running through my head for over 35 years! I did once try to write it down, but since I was only a teenager at the time, I didn’t do a good job of it and ended up throwing it away. But as I began writing it all these years later, it just flowed together beautifully, and it was such a pleasure to see it finally going down on paper.
Chapter 1 – This story draws heavily from UFO episodes, because when I first came up with the plot, I didn’t have a lot of other science fiction ideas to use than the show itself. Which turned out just fine, because this story more than any other I’ve written tends to read just like an episode of UFO.
We open with Paul leading a mobile team on foot through the woods in search of a downed UFO. Immediately we’re thrust into the middle of things, wondering what he will find that will make this UFO different from the others. Since the show never gave us much of a glimpse inside the alien ships (except in Paul’s dream and that doesn’t really count), I was free to set it up any way I chose. I kept it simple, since it was a wreck, and the interior wasn’t the focus of the story in the first place. Besides, I needed debris!
Straker isn’t a paper-pusher. He’s a combat soldier. So when he’s called upon to oversee rather than be in the thick of it himself, it has to be hard. We catch many glimpses of this in the series by the way he stands while leading his troops via microphone at HQ. He’s always holding himself back, keeping himself still when you can see that he’s wanting action now! So I played on that a bit, having him finally give up and pace during the tensest part of the scene.
A note about that. I don’t really plan the little nuances of the way Straker acts or reacts when I write. I’m a visual person, so my stories always begin as vignettes played across my mind as if they were teasers for the show. When I write then, it’s merely me trying to articulate what I’m seeing as I ‘watch’ the play unfold in my head. When a storyline forms in my head, Straker acts as we’ve all seen him act in the show. And he has several mannerisms that come across in the episodes. My mind takes those and runs with them as I write them down on paper, which is probably why my readers often tell me that my depiction of Straker is very true to the series.
The end of the chapter sets the story up with a surprise. At least, I hope it’s not obvious to the reader just how this incident will be different from others. I almost cut back to Straker to show his shock at the news, but I well knew that it would be obvious to the reader how he would react. So instead I left it with Paul’s words.
Chapter 2 – I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene between Straker and Foster during the surgery. My goal was to show the contrast between the two men: one young and still somewhat chivalrous and the other older and more aware of betrayal and pain. I also wanted to show how difficult it is for Straker to keep his objectivity in the face of dealing with an alien female. Because he is still instinctively chivalrous beneath his hard demeanor, and he has to fight himself to stay detached. His determination to protect Earth at all cost comes to his aid here, although later he will lose all capability of remaining detached.
His discussion with Jackson was one I have pondered myself for many years. Why don’t you ever see a female alien? There could be so many reasons for this! And in the end, I don’t really give a definitive answer. And in fact, as this story plays out, it’s a moot point. But it’s still an intriguing question, isn’t it? And definitely worthy of a deeper look in another plotline sometime.
Then Straker gets his first real look at the alien woman. And recognizes her. When Straker feels anything deeply, he withdraws inward and shows us as little as possible of what he’s feeling. We still see it, because Bishop had a way of emoting that gave us everything through the eyes. Or the tightening of his jaw or fist. But it isn’t obvious. I like that about him, and so in my stories I often give him the opportunity to display that restraint. This is one of those times. Everything you need to know about what he’s feeling is in the nuances of the words he’s saying and the fact that he beats a quick retreat out of there. It wasn’t necessary to describe his emotions. The reader is not left in any doubt. (At least, it is to be hoped that his feelings are fairly self-explanatory here!)
Chapter 3 – I love scenes with Alec! Freeman makes a perfect foil for his friend, because in some ways he understands Straker better than anyone else, and in others he’s just as confused as we are about him. But in many ways, Alec is the everyman to the genius that is Straker. So we get to feel the way we would react to certain news when we get Alec’s reaction.
We also learn an important point from this scene. That is, if we’re paying attention. And that is that Straker kept his relationship (because it should be obvious by this point that he had one) with Trisha quiet even from his closest friend.
Then we learn that she’s dying. It’s hard for me to put myself in the reader’s shoes at this point, because as the writer, I know that she isn’t going to end up dying. But my goal with this scene is twofold. I want the reader to wonder if she will die without explaining what happened to her. And I want Straker to have the opportunity to break through every restraint and do whatever he can to save her. This story, although it seems to be about a woman who has been stuck on an alien planet for years, is actually about Straker. This plot forces him to deal with his own demons in ways that none of my other stories have done – or at least, haven’t done to this level. My beta tester loved when the doctor realizes what the commander is doing trying to save her life by giving her his own strength. She thought that was the most romantic thing she’d ever seen. Well, it is. And it gives us a further insight into the enigma that is Straker.
But the final lines of this chapter spell things out pretty clearly. Either way this story plays out, it’s not going to be good for the commander. Like Kirk, I hate no-win scenarios. But it is interesting to see how a person deals with one. And in this story, we get to see how The Man handles a no-win situation. And that’s fun to see!
Chapter 4 – As the chapter begins, we see Jackson intervening. I had a lot of fun with this scene, because Straker is not a horse that can be driven, and the doctor is well aware of that. But he finds a way to move his superior officer along, just the same. And we see that Straker, although furious with him, is nonetheless aware that in this instance, the doctor is right. So Jackson ends the scene with a smile, having gotten his way for once.
The next scene raises all the questions that have been at bay until now. What in the hell is the commander going to do with Trisha now that she’s recovering? There are too many variables, and in desperation, he takes the wait-and-see approach. In his place, I would have done the same thing. It would just be too harrowing to consider every scenario, don’t you think?
But he’s not happy to see Paul at the hospital. *snicker* I was raised with seven brothers, which gave me insight early on into the inner workings of the male mind. And as I explained to my beta tester, men are territorial creatures. And Straker, for all his genius and restraint, is still very much a man. And Jackson has his hands full!
Then for the first time, we see things from Trisha’s perspective. We’ve been waiting the whole story for this moment, and she’s finally waking up. But before she gets there, she has a nightmare. And the reader becomes aware that this story is about to get tangled beyond belief. Her reaction to the sight of Straker lets the other characters in on that knowledge. But everyone is left at the end of the chapter – like Straker – without answers to the big questions.
Chapter 5 – Usually for one of my stories, by the time you hit chapter 5, the story is either at the climax or already winding down. This story has shorter chapters, but more of them, so that this time, the story is only now just getting underway. We’ve had the prep work and are finally ready to get into the meat of the plot. And we see that Trisha has amnesia. Whether it will be permanent or not is not disclosed. But it’s an added difficulty in unraveling this story.
Then Jackson has to deal with Straker and Foster. I usually portray Paul as just self-absorbed enough to be oblivious to other’s feelings. And this story is no different. He doesn’t have a clue that the commander is in any way distressed by Foster’s interest in the new girl. Why would he be, after all? Straker never goes after the girls. So he’s all happy and excited that she wants to talk to him, while the doctor (who isn’t oblivious) would have preferred not to pass on the message, I’m sure. Again we see Straker withdrawing, trying to hide his pain. And the doctor struggling not to let him see that he sees it.
The chapter ends on a lighter note as Paul assures Trisha that her mind will clear after a bit. We know he knows from experience about these things, since he’s had a few crashes himself. And we see her accepting his friendship.
Chapter 6 – When she wakes from a repeat of her nightmare, we know we’re in for trouble. The question now is whether she will tell anyone what’s she’s experiencing? She certainly doesn’t tell Paul, who like the puppy he is, tries to make her happy.
Then we see her conversation with the doctor. She wants to understand what’s going on, and if that means facing the nightmare, well then. So be it. Her courage shows itself in many small ways throughout this story, and I hope it’s evident here. And even though he frightens her, she does face Straker.
She finds herself opening up to him as she hasn’t been able to with anyone else, but this happens so naturally that she doesn’t really question it. I truly believe that this is how an amnesiac might react to someone they knew and trusted, but didn’t remember consciously. I hope the reader is able to catch this underlying thread during this scene.
We see that everything seems strange to her. If you’ve ever had a nickname you preferred to your full name, you’ll get why she doesn’t recognize her name at first. But it’s when she finds the world around her slightly off that she gets Straker’s attention. After all, he knows where she’s been.
But when he sees her reaction to remembering her name, he almost loses it. In desperation, he gives her something else to think about. A closer view of the world. She reacts as anyone would in those circumstances, and he is drawn into her feelings and the past to the point where he has to leave or succumb.
However, he makes a date to talk to her the next day, even knowing that he’s already in over his head. Once again, the reader can see that he’s fighting himself every step of the way. Duty versus love – which shall prevail? And will he get out of this without losing everything?
Chapter 7 – This chapter opens with both of them having the same dream. A memory of their time together in the past. My beta tester found this scene very steamy, which surprised me a bit since I purposely kept it brief. But it is perhaps the most poetic moment in the story, and that may be what she was talking about. Although succinct, it is an intense moment.
He deals with the dream in typical Straker fashion, ignoring the entire incident and trying to put it from his mind. She however, is left wondering what the hell just happened? I enjoy places in my stories where the reader knows more than the characters. This story has several of those moments, and this is one of them. And we glimpse another part of her personality. She analyses their earlier conversation, looking for clues that the dream might actually have been reality. Notice how she is not even aware that she knows his first name.
Almost like a dash of cold water, then, is the next scene with Paul. I had to do some research to know what was available with computers and online in 1985, since so much has changed since then. But I figured with them in the military, Paul could get his hands on a laptop even though they were certainly not in circulation at that point. And we see that she truly has been out of the picture for a while, since she doesn’t even know what it is.
When Straker visits, he sees immediately that Paul has made a mistake. But he handles her inevitable angry questions calmly, at least until she tells him about her nightmare. Then he realizes that Jackson might be right about her, and that’s more than he wants to think about.
Chapter 8 – This chapter starts with Paul being Paul. He really can’t help himself, you know. He’s so certain that he’s God’s gift to women. The tension when Straker enters is lost on Foster, but Trisha certainly feels it. I don’t normally write scenes where my lead characters are put into embarrassing situations. I don’t find those entertaining to read, so I just don’t write them. However, this scene needed to happen, if for no other reason than to spur Straker on to kissing her himself. And I didn’t keep her embarrassed for long.
Once more, Straker grasps any straw to counteract the sexual tension in the room and suggests a walk outside. She agrees, and the chapter ends with him looking for slippers for her feet.
Chapter 9 – Their stroll outside gives us a lot of information about Trisha. We see that she has managed to piece a few things together from that kiss and now knows that her steamy dream was a memory. And oh, yeah! That makes her happy! We also learn a little of the pain she felt on the alien planet, since she often dreamed of flowers, which were non-existent there. Lastly, we see that she is getting stronger, because she corners him on how their relationship ended. That’s a biggie for two people just getting to know each other again, but she does it anyway.
But the biggest thing we realize about Trisha is that Straker was right. She’s an excellent analyst. With the few bare facts she has, she is able to see what her return home has done to the commander. And she wants no part in it. Every time I reread this section, I swell with pride for her. She’s so brave here, even when it’s obvious that she has strong feelings for him. I know I wrote it, but it still manages to take me by surprise.
And we finally learn what that weird title means. *grin*
Chapter 10 – Trisha also figures out where Paul went – well, not exactly where he went, but who sent him away. And she meets Col. Lake. Male readers might not get why Trisha stares at her reflection for a while after the colonel leaves, but any woman could tell you why. We’re always ultra-critical of ourselves and rarely see what others see when they look at us.
Later, Trisha has a nightmare about the bad-ass vicious bad guys. And we see that her memory is returning quickly now. And Col. Lake tells her a bit more about her return, including the interesting information that her ship had been shot down. This small tidbit of information has probably been assumed from the very beginning of the story, but now at this moment it takes on new meaning when we realize how Straker must have felt when he saw who he had almost killed with that order. And Trisha sees it too, although Virginia (who’s worked with him for years) doesn’t see it.
Chapter 11 – And he can’t stay away any longer, knowing that she needs his strength now more than ever. And we get to see him throw away his sense of self-preservation for the greater prize of a chance for her love. He even forces her to confront her nightmare in an effort to prove to her that she would never act on it. This scene harks back to the episode ‘Kill Straker!’, although in a somewhat abbreviated form. But there is definitely precedent for the commander to take this kind of risk, since we’ve seen him do it before.
Chapter 12 – Straker’s talk with Jackson was another of my favorite parts of the story to write. He should have been embarrassed and repentant, but instead he’s sure he’s done the right thing. And for me, his explanation why the situation wasn’t a no-win scenario after all is the greatest moment in the story. I almost can’t take credit for it, either, because I had no idea how to say it. I just let him speak and the words came. I really love it when that happens.
The whole green joke was an effort to lighten really intense moments in the story. Although it was also quite believable, since no woman is going to want to be green.
And we finally find out what the nightmare was all about. Not brainwashing after all, which you know she would worry about, even though Straker wasn’t worried anymore. The ending with the dagger was a nod to a few of my favorite chic flicks, where the leading lady gets to play with knives throughout the movie.
I know that several people have asked if there is going to be a sequel to this story. They want to know more about what life was like for her on the alien planet. They want to see how she helps SHADO gain the advantage over the aliens. And maybe they just like her character and want to see more of her. All these are good points, and I may actually write a sequel someday. Stay tuned!