Name: Harri Sargeant
Script title: Knock
Format: Short film
No. of pages: 20
Slightly concerned that in dialogue headers Fred’s called Frederick but in the script at
times he is referred to as Fred. Pick one and stick with it.
So is he in deep space or not? I’m so confused when Fred mentions the “local
atmosphere.” Is he in the atmosphere of a planet then? Inside a Dyson sphere or
something. The opening made it sound like he was in a nebula or something. Not sure
nebulae have atmospheres?
P14. I’m intrigued to know how Fred worked out the black abyss was the result of a
supernova, and furthermore, the idea that it’s a galaxy eater. It seems obvious now that
they’re in a black hole or somesuch, but black holes don’t look like clouds, and
furthermore, galaxies tend to be a lot bigger than black holes. In fact, there’s a theory
that there’s a big black hole at the centre of every galaxy, around which everything else
in the galaxy orbits. I’m trying not to be too pedantic about the science, especially when
every other aspect of the script is so on point, honest.
Then again, this could not be a black hole. It could be something else. But then
why mention the supernova at all, when so far all we know supernovae produce
are black holes?
Okay, the distance Laika travelled is given as the indication for Fred knowing the abyss
is expanding. That seems reasonable.
P1. The description at the start is beautifully written but maybe a tiny bit too prose?
Nice ominous opening visual though. Use of planetary words like horizon and
atmosphere don’t really fit in deep space either. If the scene heading said we were
inside a nebula or something, I wouldn’t quibble.
Laika as the name for the probe is a nice touch for all you space canine fans.
Like the weightlessness aspect of the script, always good to see that in science fiction
P2. I’d assumed the video was a recording but it seems to be a live feed. This is probably
me being pedantic but I doubt we’ll have solved the time delay aspect of
communications in the next 10 years of space travel. A recording might be more
appropriate not just from a scientific perspective but also helping to isolate the
character? Then again, people might say it’s too close to Interstellar.
P3. I’m sure by horizon the writer means background? Again, just me being a picky so
and so, but the word choice is bugging me a bit.
Would a fade or some kind of transition be okay on p.7? Or would a jump cut to a dream
sequence be creepier/more unsettling? Do we need the new scene heading? It’s all the
same scene, right?
P8. The knocking, with the screeching and whispering, is properly unnerving. I can
hear it in my head now.
P13. The floating tears are a nice touch.
The descriptions are all evocative and atmospheric, if skirting a little too close to prose
on occasion. The visuals are very cinematic – this is one I could picture in my head as
I read on, no problem.
P20. Wow, that ending. The ending is nice, grim as hell, but really doubles down on
the darkness and isolation. I had chills. They multiplied. However, wouldn’t the whole
ship’s internal atmosphere start venting out into space when the hull is breached? I get
that at first it’s in a room that’s sealed off, but when the creatures smash the door into
the camera feed, the rest of the ship’s air should be getting pulled out into the vacuum
I’m not sure if we need the abyss expanding to endanger all life on earth aspect of the
plot. Just Frederick trying to cope with being along in a void with something for
company and a loosening grip on his sanity is enough for a short film. Were this a
feature, then the expansion subplot would probably be necessary.
The pace is slow but determined, with a gradual building up of the tension and dread.
Very similar to Alien in that regard, which also harked back to slow build of 2001.
The montage is nice. Could fred get more haggard at it progresses, as a supplement to
the notches on the wall, as the loneliness and constant fear of death take their toll?
P4. The message in voiceover gave me goose pimples. I like the matter of fact, almost
The nature of the black somethings is nice. Fear of the unknown and all that. Think the
phrase “weird death demons” is a bit odd though. Not what I’d have said myself.
P5. Juxtaposition of the ballet and the “I think I’m losing it already” is a lovely touch.
P6. This last bit of the message before the “THE ABYSS” scene heading feels a bit too
on the nose. I’d suggest cutting the bit between “I hope you get them.” And “Everyone
at home I love you.” Leave the hoping humanity isn’t doomed bit implicit? Similarly,
with the “I wish I could be there to celebrate.” We can assume that, it doesn’t
necessarily have to be said. Just the happy birthday bit, said in the right sort of tone,
would convey that, I think.
I’m not sure about the line “I’m probably just a footnote in their happiness by now.”
Feels a bit disingenuous and purple. It’s a shame as most of the dialogue has been good.
The dialogue is largely well-written and mostly avoid being on the nose.
The classical music bit – is that diagetic or not? Not a criticism, just asking.
Also hasn’t the classical music in space been done to death since 2001: A Space
Odyssey? With the spherical spaceship too, I’m getting very strong 2001 vibes.
For once I’d like to see a film where someone in space listens to early blues or
freestyle jazz or even Brian Eno or something.
Oh so the music was non-diagetic then. Personally I’d have thought the message would
play better without musical accompaniment. Depends on the classical music piece in
question I guess, but the sort of balletic type of music you’d need for the syncing of the
pong game etc. probably wouldn’t go with the ominous message thing. Unless you’re
going for complete tonal juxtaposition just to convey the alienness of the situation, in
which case, fair enough.
P7. Hang on, so it is diagetic then? I am so confused. This needs clearing up.
The first paragraph creates a serene mood readying us for a story of dark beauty.
Nice juxtaposition of normality and deep space.
‘Morning?’ is a nice way of dealing with the ambiguous time of day.
How is he so sure the darkness is going to kill everyone on earth too? He explains later
they’ve got new readings explaining what the darkness is but at this point how does he
‘Me and your mum always shared our toys’ – typo?
Peeing into a hoover/wearing the tiara again offers bitter sweetness.
The first page and half simply offers us a grasp of the normality of this world, we then
learn his desire to have the people of his earth/his family receive his messages, however
he has little hope for this – he’s pretty much accepted he’s going to die – he has six
months to survive from the off – it feels like perhaps this should take a little longer, or
his descent towards death should have a more extreme level of growth – 267 days in
and he’s still got hope, but as the story continues we see it drain out of him.
The biggest issue with this structure is the tragic ending – if he had a flaw which he
kept on relying upon he would deserve a sad ending, however in this case he’s a man
trying to cling onto hope that he will see his family again, making a routine for himself,
the darkness is coming and he knows deep down it’s going to get him. But it feels like
a bit of a dud ending to then quite simply have the darkness get him. There doesn’t
necessarily need to be a massive twist. Perhaps he should escape or wake up
somewhere heavenly and we are at least left to speculate about the sadness of the
ending – did he get away or is he just dead and in some sort of paradise? 2001 Space
Odyssey (a film which can easily compared to this script thanks to the gentle, slow pace
in space with classical music) is obviously a film on a much larger scale than this,
however we do see a man reach the end of his life, we then see a foetus – the meaning
can be debated but it seems even when this man’s life has ended he is born again. An
ending like this – with ambiguous hope – seems like it would be much more suitable
for a short film which has set up such a firm ending for itself. You’ve told us what’s
going to happen, it happens – it doesn’t feel fulfilling.
Seeing Frederick in a pink tiara on the second page undermines any overblown
masculinity, separating him from the droning sci-fi men of recent years e.g. George
Clooney/Matthew Maconaheyhey – this is refreshing.
Frederick is easy to empathise with, he’s lonely for external reasons (which makes us
want to see him find company) yet he still has hope and makes a new life for himself in
this strange environment which is admirable. The only thing I’d suggest is making his
loneliness more of a damaging flaw – we see a burst of rage when his family can’t see
him, perhaps this should be brought in earlier or we should see him shake Laika or
even have Laika trying to offer a report but he ignores Laika, then he can find the hope
again and have a dance – he just seems to have quite a static journey at the moment –
the darkness enshrouds, he gets more isolated and slightly less sane – let’s see those
cracks of darkness come out in him.
Having the family fighting as something Frederick misses is a very nice moment of
Could we get a little more idiosyncrasy from the family? Even if it’s just Frederick
referencing it, it would be a nice poignant addition to hear about the weird thing his
kids used to do.
The line ‘I don’t know what they are, or what they want’ is followed by ‘all I know is
they want to kill me’ – this seems contradictory.
‘Weird death demons’ sounds a little bit off – maybe he should have given them a weird
name by now?
‘Gross’ feels a little bit immature or it might just be the exclamation mark – he’s come
across this dirt before I don’t think he should react with such disgust.
Generally, some of the dialogue could be cut – you’ve got a very visual story, you should
use it and let us just watch Frederick floating in isolation, doing little things to keep
himself occupied. Then you can turn those little things into slightly weirder things as
time goes on and he starts to lose his mind.
Some of the dialogue sticks out as being overly-poetic for a man who tends to speak
quite plainly e.g. ‘The last man in the universe…’ is a simple, true statement he seems
to be saying in order to come to terms with it, whereas ‘I’m probably just a footnote in
their happiness by now’ feels like indulgence.
‘Morning honey’ to Laika is a really nice line that has a nice pay-off.
From the first line we get this is sci-fi, dark, beautiful and slow. There’s not a huge
amount of subversion but that’s not a terrible thing when the script is executed so well
– much like the plot – you set out what it is and you give it to us in a high-quality,
Comparing it to other texts it feels somewhere between 2001 Space Odyssey and The
Doctor Who episode Midnight. It’s a damn nice place for a script to sit.
Knock is an intense, contained short that focuses on a character’s attempt to stay sane.
The pacing is brilliant and the character’s attempt to maintain his sanity is engaging.
Overall this was a fun read with great imagery and tone that sucks the reader in. The
issue of the knocking could be addressed better (is it a personification of his insanity?
Aliens? Maybe have knocking occur in other places towards the end to help show his
impending insanity?) Otherwise, it’s a great short that could even make an interesting
first part to a Doctor Who episode. Who knows?
Minor qualms with format and characterisation should be addressed but these are
issues that can be dealt with a simple redraft.
There are errors in formatting as well. The montage isn’t labelled as ending, so at the
point where he’s either spinning or smiling on page 11, write MONTAGE ENDS. The
intercut where Fred’s VO is heard over readings of Laika’s Data, but it should have the
scene heading where he’s talking straight to the camera on screen, as it’s a different
point in time. Terms like “He sits at the desk, processing data.” Shouldn’t be used,
instead show the audience what he does to process the data, like inputting it himself,
looking over details on different programs etc. show don’t tell.
Frederick is an affable protagonist but he takes a lack of action. As an astronaut, it
would be better if he tried to do something to better understand the data that Laika
brings back. If Frederick was testing the soot or attempted to process the data in a
different way, like making a chart or comparing the different readings etc., it would
provide him with action suitable of his role. This can then be counterbalanced with his
attempt to stay sane, with each test coming back with worse results it can build up
towards Frederick’s major breaking point (loss of hope optional). Also, if Frederick’s
on a ship, and not a space station, he can at least attempt to move the ship to get to a
better place to send messages or gain better test results. If the location was changed to
a space station, this couldn’t be done, but with a ship this seems like a possibility.
Moon meets Solaris in this awesome little sci-fi. A man alone in space with an object
for a companion, like all stories set in space with an antagonistic force isolating the
protagonist, comparisons with 2001 are almost clichéd, but true.
Frederick is quite the dancer and at the end I’m pretty sure he’s literally dancing with
death. Right after death was literally knocking on his door. It could be read as a story
of a man who ignores death, almost in denial of it but ultimately succumbs to it, finally
The story itself, whilst not really breaking any new ground and perhaps a less
optimistic version of the Martian, is executed so well that the conceit of it all hardly
matters. I mention the Martian because the protagonists are quite similar, in a similar
situation, both a little unconventional in their personalities and slightly wise-crackey
given their circumstances, though Frederick slightly more unhinged.
Laika’s demise serves the purpose of cementing Frederick visions as something purely
from his mind (as opposed to what we find out in Solaris) it’s as if he sees his own
personal Heaven before him.
Using Laika, the robot companion and getting us to warm to this inanimate object is a
tricky thing to do, but by Boy George do you do it. All the more heart breaking then,
when Laika is stripped from our protagonist’s hands prematurely, much like his family.
It’s a nice little technique.
It’s a no brainer to enjoy a sci-fi piece that’s executed well, because I do love me some
spacey sci-fi, especially sci-fi horrors.
THE SCRIPT RIGHT VERDICT
+ Beauty is conveyed beautifully.
+ A simple, effective story.
+ A terrific use of sound and vision.
- The dialogue could be cut down and improved.
- The structure could be reworked a little.
- Some formatting issues.