The stars glittered on a black backcloth - sometimes there is little need for special effects. This sparse backdrop showed very well that space is, for the most part, empty.
But not today?
Silently, because in the real world - unlike in Mr. Lucas' vision - there is no sound in a vacuum, something moved behind the camera view. A disturbance in - call it the Farce, call it the Higgs Field, call it the violin strings that stretch across nothingness - would have registered on certain measuring apparatuses or on certain minds well-attuned to the music of the spheres, had there been any present.
Instead, there was only a camera to watch as three pages of credits and back-story shot out of nothingness from behind its field of view and disappeared, with violently applied perspective visual effects, into the distance:
A long time ago, in a ship-park far away...
...lists of heroes and villains scrolled past inestimably fast, giving biographies - some of characters that would play parts in the forthcoming drama - some of characters that would not - some of characters that never existed at all...
... Jensen, Dimbleby, Dr. von Klinkenhoffen, Sixty-Nine of Nine, the Pink Cyberbunnies ...
... and others, too.
If there had been anyone mathematically inclined watching the footage from the camera as it came in, they might have noticed that the only way that that particular perspective effect could have come to be was if the whole thing was unevenly shrinking, starting from one end. Unfortunately, there was no-one. The camera was playing to a sole audience of a deserted CCTV control room somewhere in Wolverhampton, the sole inhabitant of which had gone to the police station to report the theft - somehow - of one of his cameras, while it was still turned on.
However, the surmise said hypothetical mathematically-minded CCTV watcher would reach was in fact correct; the credits flew through the emptiness, shrinking gradually as they did so. By the time they had got to an inhabited planet the time was no longer "long ago". It was Now. But isn't it always?
They fell through the atmosphere, slowing appreciably and glowing red-hot; finally they approached the surface, having lost much of their heat to a rainstorm on the way down; and, drifting gently like a leaf, they blew through the window of one Jungler Vet, bounty-hunter and part time supermarket assistant. He, unable to make out the words, used them as a bookmark.
Elsewhere, on the planet Croissant, a ship was landing. It came down slowly and neatly into a space delineated by three white lines: one at the back, two at the sides. A man nipped out while the engine was still running, small against the black tarmac, and ran across to the parking ticket machine. There was a pause while he wrestled with the small change it required, then he was given a small self-adhesive sticker in two parts. He peeled one part off, ran back to the ship, and affixed it to one of the front windows in the cockpit. The ship then dropped the final metre to the ground, and the engines turned off. There was a collective sigh of relief from the cockpit and mutters along the lines of "Damn, I hate parking these things," and people started to get off.
At which point the ship exploded.
When the smoke had cleared and the people whose job it was to run around and scream had indeed run around and had screamed, there was nobody left but Senator Armadillo lying on the ground, her long hair smelling of damp hay to which someone had tried - unsuccessfully - to set light. She was not in a good state. Her head of security was standing over her, looking almost mad with worry.
"Are you all right? Are you all right?"
There was a kind of sigh from the body at his feet - her eyes suddenly snapped open, and she spoke:
"I died for you."
She took a deep rattling breath. The man looked upset.
she added with sudden vehemence, almost spitting it - then her eyes closed one last time.
said the security operative, with real feeling, and removed his false moustache. He then removed his hat, his wig, and his other wig, and he was suddenly a her. In fact, the very image of that Her that had died at her feet. She swore again, invoking many and various sexual acts, several of which were banned on all worlds.
"At least the decoy worked,"
she said sadly.
There was a phut from the edge of the platform, and she dropped dead. The mechanic who had been servicing the engine removed her hat and shook her long brown hair.
"Damn. Two doubles gone in a day."
She swore, and slammed her fist into the engine. A jet of high-pressure coolant scythed out and blew her - with a solitary and drawn-out cry of
- all the way across the platform and off the opposite edge.
A little way from the space-ship, there was a maintenance cover for access to the drains and other equipment beneath the platform. This moved aside with a creak and another brown-haired head popped out, followed by yet another copy of the Senator. She sighed, and then her expression changed as she heard an explosion far beneath her, and a rushing wind. Approximately one second later, she disappeared out of the pipe like a cork out of a bottle directly upwards.
The camera panned and re-adjusted its contrast control, and two people became visible leaning on the side of the ship. They were the real Senator Armadillo and her real Chief of Security. He turned to her.
"We must look to your safety, Lady," he said. "Follow me."
This having been said, he saluted smartly and walked off the edge of the platform. With a mixture of alarm and mild sardonic amusement, she turned around and took the escalator down to ground level.
Unfortunately for him, Dimbleby awoke on that day, feeling not only that this was the morning after the night before, but more that this was the morning after several successive nights before, some of which had lasted up to 24 hours.
Damn, the Fruitavian Embassy threw good parties.
He slowly peeled himself from the bed, staggered into the toilet, and was immediately Yeti Mind Sick. He washed out his mouth, then staggered back into the kitchen, where he had to sit down to get his breath back. Then he made himself a very large espresso.
It was about at this point that he remembered who he was - and, more to the point, he remembered that he was a Yeti Knight, and wondered why he was mucking about with coffee makers. He made a gesture with his hands, and promptly the thousands of micro-organisms in his blood which made him Yeti mopped up all the alcohol and poisons, and suddenly became very drunk. Now at least his head was clear, even if it felt like his blood had the consistency of minestrone soup. Grabbing a croissant, he walked into Mannequin Skywanker's room, and said:
"Mannequin, time to wake up!"
Mannequin just turned over and snored, deep in a dream. Dimbleby tried it again:
"Mannequin, time to wake UP!"
More snores came from the one on the bed. Dimbleby sighed and walked over to the head of the king-size vibrating bed that Mannequin had bought to impress the girls. Smiling wickedly, Dimbleby turned the "Power" knob up full, and the "Frequency" knob down as far as it would go, and pressed the big red button.
No sooner had he done this than there was a great whirring noise, followed by a sound as of a spring being released. Mannequin was fired at an appreciable velocity directly upwards. He stopped about an inch short of the ceiling and fell back towards the bed, awaking with a yelp on the second bounce.
Dimbleby said in his ear as he passed on his way up again.
By throwing his weight to one side, Mannequin managed to get the bed to throw him onto the floor, whereon he landed on a pile of dirty washing with a thump. He turned the bed off at the wall socket and turned to Dimbleby.
"Yes, master?" he said.
Dimbleby looked at him harshly.
"We have an appointment, remember?"
Mannequin's eyes widened, and he sprinted into the bathroom, where he spent the next two hours prettifying himself.
Mannequin and Dimbleby stood in the lift and waited for the lift to reach the right floor. Dimbleby could sense a disturbance, so he wiped his forehead with his hand; finding that this had not actually improved matters, he cleaned out his ears with a cotton bud; finding that this, too, had not cleared the disturbance, he turned his attention to his apprentice.
"You are disturbed," he said in his best party accent.
"Sorry, master, it was all that rich food last night."
"No, I mean you're tense. I've not felt you this tense since I rescued you from that brothel on the planet of Testos."
"Master, I rescued you from the brothel on Testos."
Dimbleby coughed. There was an embarassed silence. Mannequin broke it.
"What if she doesn't recognise me?"
Dimbleby put on his best reassuring smile. "Don't worry, woodlouse, she will."
He turned a little more to face Mannequin, so that he wouldn't see that Dimbleby had his fingers firmly crossed behind his back.
As they neared the top of the lift shaft, strange fairground muic began to play from speakers concealed near the roof of the lift, and the lift stopped. Dimbleby turned to face the doors, and began to tap his feet irritably.
Then the floor fell away.
The two of them dropped, screaming, onto coconut matting which began to slide downwards and forwards; lights in many colours began to flicker on the left hand wall, and they began to be carried down in a spiral. The music got louder and the lights began to flash more purposefully.
until suddenly they were thrown into air, to land at the feet of Senator Armadillo, as she stood with arms crossed at the bottom of the helter-skelter.
Dimbleby recovered first. He stood up and bowed. Then he drew his Yeti robes up around his knees and curtseyed, for safety's sake. He felt that one couldn't have too much respect. Mannequin shot him a dirty look, scrabbled to his feet grazing his knees on the matting, and also bowed. He declined to curtsey.
"Dimbleby," the Senator said, smiling, and turned her face to Mannequin.
"And you are?"
Mannequin's mouth dropped open in horror. A look of recognition passed over Armadillo's face.
"Ah, you're the boy who looked like a fish - never shut your mouth."
Mannequin's mouth snapped shut and he stamped off to the corner of the room where he sat in a sulk.
"What's wrong with him?" asked the Senator. Dimbleby shrugged.
"Just that he's been fantasising about you for the past ten years," he said as casually as he dared. The Senator raised her eyebrows.
"Hmm," she said.
She seemed to be about to elaborate on this but was cut short by the approach of Senator Potplant.
He was wearing a long dark cloak with a hood which rendered his head completely invisible except for a pair of shining red eyes which seemed to look into one's soul and, when he spoke, a mouth of carefully sharpened and very white teeth. His fingernails were long and painted red.
"Ah, my most trusted advisor," Armadillo said to him, but he ignored her; he was looking at Mannequin.
"Ah, Mannequin," he said from the depths of his cloak. "You've been working out, haven't you. I always said you were the most physically - " he paused for thought " - exuberant of Yeti." His hand, hanging at his side, carelessly brushed Mannequin's leg. Mannequin himself began to look somewhat worried, but Potplant had already turned to Armadillo. "Dillo baby! I was shocked - nay, terrified! - to hear of the," he coughed, "failure of my colleague's assassination attempt upon you! When I find him...."
DIMBLEBY: I can assure you we're doing all in our power to find the perpetrator and bring him to justice.
POTPLANT: Hmmm, you're not bad looking yourself. Justice sounds kinky.
POTPLANT: Hm, I can give you his number if you like.
Dimbleby edges away from Potplant.
POTPLANT: Well, I must be away. I have convoluted and mysterious evil plans to form.
He turns to Mannequin.
POTPLANT (aside): By the way, I'm in Room 23 from about 8pm onwards. No pressure.
Potplant tries to drop a key into Mannequin's hand, but Mannequin has already fled.
A fade; and through the magic of celluloid and careful editing the scene shown now is Dimbleby and Mannequin walking to meet Yoga, the great small Yeti master. They were walking down a road not far from the palace, and before too long came to the great and imposing front door of Yoga's suburban semi-detached cottage.
They knocked, and the door opened. They walked through it, whereupon it shut. It's logic of a kind. Yoga himself was sitting cross-legged in a kilt in front of the fire and chanting in a mystic tongue the very tones of which sent terror shivering through their bones and shards of ice through their hearts.
"Is that a mystic tongue you're chanting in, or are you just pleased to see me?" quipped Dimbleby.
"It's Britney Spears' three billionth single. They said she couldn't get worse," answered Yoga. "My child," he added hurriedly, remembering that he was meant to be a holy man.
"I can't afford CDs these days," Mannequin volunteered.
Yoga shrugged. "I got it off Kazaa."
They sat and talked as the fire burnt the house down.
Yoga swore as the curtains caught alight.
DIMBLEBY: What's wrong?
YOGA: Time for my leg exercises.
Yoga bends over, kilt flying elegantly.
Dimbleby and Mannequin wince, turn their heads away, and notice the flames. They scream.
EXEUNT missing various articles of clothing.
They repaired to Yoga's other semi-detached cottage; but no sooner had they sat down when there was a heavy knock on the door. Two mysterious strangers were waiting there, clad in rough brown hempen robes, faces shrouded in shadow, arms crossed over their chests. Their breathing was slow and regular but apart from that they didn't make any noise at all.
Dimbleby stood, nonplussed.
Yoga ran to the door.
In slow motion.
The beginnings of a scream on his face.
He screamed. "Yay! The strippograms have arrived!".
Cut. Or, more accurately, censored.
DIMBLEBY: So what do you think?
YOGA: I think I like strippograms.
Mannequin sighs and hits his head repeatedly on the wall.
YOGA: Oh, I'm sorry! I think we should keep a close eye on Armadillo. Starting now.
After one more brief three-day billiard marathon they were on their way. Two weeks later they were walking through the gates of the palace and arguing.
"I thought you could drive," argued Yoga.
"I thought you could!" said Dimbleby.
"I can drive," said Mannequin.
"Shut up," answered Dimbleby and Yoga in chorus.
They walked in sullen silence into the anteroom of the palace then stood around and attempted to make small talk. Mannequin, though, seemed distant.
"You seem distant," said Dimbleby.
"I'm sorry. I can't stop thinking about my mother."
Potplant entered with a mug of steaming cocoa.
"I thought I was the only one who couldn't stop thinking about your mother," he suggested.
They ignored him. "Don't worry, earthworm, I'm sure she's fine," Dimbleby said, slapping him on the shoulder and glancing at Yoga who merely looked blank.
This was not technically true. Mannequin's mother had in fact been killed three years before, when a cottage had appeared from nowhere at a point about twenty feet above her head and had immediately bowed before the law of gravity with predictable results. Not content with this damage, the vandal aboard the renegade dwelling had brought a dog with her who brutally savaged the family cat, Cuttles, while singing some nonsensical song about "Africa". The vandal, being somewhat confused, then decided that the khaki-coloured cobbles that made up the main roads of the town were somehow agents of wish fulfilment. She was eventually sent back to whence she came, but the cottage remained as a nuisance to the natives. Nobody had actually had the heart to tell Mannequin about this yet.
Pondering these unfortunate events made Dimbleby think about the day when he had come home from a particularly vicious game of quicksand polo to the desert farmstead where he lived, only to find his Auntie and Uncle burned to death and the place ruined with a gas bill attached to the door.
"Do you think ill of me, master?" Mannequin enquired.
"No, cockroach," Dimbleby opined. "Nobody can stop thinking about your mother."
It was night-time on Croissant. Outside the palace two dark and sinister characters were doing their best to look dark and sinister.
"Does my bum look dark and sinister in this?" asked one.
The other turned and was revealed to be Jungler Vet the part-time bounty hunter.
"Shut up," he hissed. "Now, these slugs are very poisonous," he said handing the other a jam jar at the bottom of which was a squirming mass. "Throw them through that window," he instructed "and this time, you idiot, take them out of the jar first." With this, he left hurriedly. The other shrugged, removed the slugs from the jar and threw them overarm.
Meanwhile, inside, Mannequin and Dimbleby were watching Countdown (hosted by Richard Whiteley XXXXII) when suddenly Mannequin twitched.
"There's something wrong with Armadillo," he said urgently.
"You mean there's anything right about Armadillo?" Dimbleby replied snidely.
Mannequin jumped off the sofa, gelled his hair while in midair, cleaned his ears out with the non-operational end of his lightsword with the handy bottle opener attachment and burst through the doorway into the Senator's bedroom.
"Most people would have opened the door first," Dimbleby grumbled and followed, sipping his milkshake.
"Don't worry, I'll save you!" Mannequin yelled.
The senator was sitting up in bed and reading a book. "Shut up, Mannequin," she said.
They both turned and looked at the window, and both froze as they saw the evil sinister dark mysterious slimy sinuous poisonous... slugs, which had made about six inches headway towards the potted plants in the corner of the thirty foot bedchamber during the last half an hour. Then Mannequin yelled defiance and began violently attacking the slugs with his lightsword.
"Mannequin!" yelled Armadillo.
Dimbleby swore. He screamed: "Mind the priceless irreplaceable Elizabethan..."
There was a heart-rending crunch.
"Oh well," he said quietly, "never mind. A bit late now."
The slugs were still in one piece.
"The poison in the slugs is only effective when the slugs are uncooked," Dimbleby informed them; whereupon he picked the slugs up and rapidly sautéed them in melted butter with onions, covered them in breadcrumbs, and served them up with an onion gravy, roast potatoes, and a light white wine.
Three servings later, Mannequin looked out of the window and noticed the bounty hunter. He could tell she was a bounty hunter because she had the words "BOUNTY HUNTERS ROOL OK" tattooed across her forehead in a shaking script followed by multiple exclamation marks. She was trying to hotwire a vehicle; the reason for this became obvious when he saw the large triangular yellow clamp that had been fixed to one of the rocket motors on her own transport. Mannequin leapt rapidly out of the window; fortunately Dimbleby noticed and grabbed his braces as he fell and hauled him back into the room. They phoned for a taxi.
The taxi arrived just as the bounty hunter finally managed to steal a car. They leapt into the back of the taxi and told the driver to "follow that car!"
TAXI DRIVER: I had that George Lucas in the back of my cab once...
DIMBLEBY: Shut up.
Suddenly they could no longer see their quarry. Mannequin, prompted one of those rumblings that could have been from the mystic sense of the Yeti or then again could have been his stomach, looked down and saw the bounty hunter's stolen car stopped at a set of traffic lights directly below them.
"Back in a moment, Master," said Mannequin winking heavily at Armadillo, and jumped out of the car.
"What a plonker," said Armadillo.
When he was about half-way down, the lights changed to green. Mannequin screamed, flailed, completely missed the car and by pure luck landed in an articulated lorry full of spring mattresses. The car ascended; so did Mannequin. He screamed as he accelerated upwards past the taxi he had just left and embedded himself with a thud in the floor panelling of the other car.
"Unorthodox, certainly," said Dimbleby. He held out his hand absent-mindedly as Mannequin's change flew past his face and caught it. He started counting the change, and as he did so Mannequin's glass eye bounced off the top of his head. He sat down. Armadillo asked why Mannequin had a glass eye in his pocket. Dimbleby had no idea and said so.
Meanwhile Mannequin was watching the bounty hunter. She ripped off her wig and mannequin gasped. "She's a shapeshifter!" he realised as she took off her false eyebrows, false moustache, false bald scalp, false long bushy ginger beard, and her other wig that she had been wearing under her bald scalp. She combed back her long red hair, which looked exactly like the wig she had been wearing initially. Mannequin did a little rapid sabotage then let go of the car and plummeted back through the sunroof of the taxi.
There was a series of rapid pops and high-velocity satsumas flew out of her exhaust pipe. Then an almighty bang, and the windscreen of the taxi was covered in grapefruit purée. There was a loud whistling noise and their quarry began to lose altitude. It crashed.