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Recycle Bin, Writing

Recycle Bin: Starfighter Squadron

August 10th, 2009 by Jeff | Dump Core

I’m not sure what brought this idea back to my mind recently, but as soon as it resurfaced, I instantly thought, “Now there’s an idea for the Recycle Bin!” It’s a sequel to a popular 1980s science-fiction film; check. Therefore there’s no way I can legally do anything with it; check. It repeatedly resurfaces in my imagination and effectively cannot be otherwise purged; check. Yep, sounds like Recycle Bin fodder for sure.

The standard Recycle Bin reminder: This is a rough plot only, with minimal characterization and plenty of plot holes. All new character names are placeholders and would likely change. And yes, I’m aware there are rumors of a sequel already in the works, supposedly coming out in 2010; this idea far predates that news, and previous Recycle Bin entries should prove that a little detail like that is insufficient to stop me.

One-Line Synopsis

A sequel to 1984’s The Last Starfighter, five Earth children are chosen to defend the galaxy—and Earth—from an advancing alien horde, recruited by a video game that mimics the real-life space ships they are chosen to fly.

Characters

  • Seth: A teenage boy, around 17
  • Matt: Seth’s younger brother, around 10. Ben’s best friend.
  • Allison: A teenage girl, around 16
  • Ben: Allison’s younger brother, around 10. Matt’s best friend.
  • Abby: Allison and Ben’s younger sister, around 7
  • Centauri 12: An alien recruiter sent to discover and enlist potential Starfighters. We learn through the course of events that the Centauri of the original film was actually a clone (Centauri 8) and that he has cloned and regenerated himself multiple times over the centuries, usually with “new face and voice packages” to suit his changing tastes. (This change is necessary to work around the unfortunately death of actor Robert Preston, who originated the role. Filling his shoes would be difficult indeed.)
  • Grog: A sauropod alien who acts as the children’s mentor. He is of the same race as Grig from the original film. (Actor Dan O’Herlihy, who played Grig, has also passed away, so a new character is necessary.)
  • Alex Rogan: The original “last Starfighter”, Alex is now wing commander of the Gunstar fleet, where he has served to defend the Frontier for the past 25 years. The exact level of involvement for Alex’s character would realistically depend on how interested the original actor (Lance Guest) would be in reprising the role. In this synopsis, he places a small but pivotal role and would mean more than just a cameo.
  • Xur: The villain of the original film, Xur again returns to threaten the Star League, this time with a different set of allies. Ideally, Norman Snow would return to reprise the role, hopefully bringing a rougher, wiser, and more methodical angle to the role, things age tend tends to improve upon.

Extended Synopsis

Matt and Ben are the best of friends. They do almost everything together, meaning they are constantly at one house or the other, doing just about everything ten-year-old boys tend to do… especially playing video games. Their favorite game is Starfighter Squadron, an update to a classic 20-year-old game they are far too young to remember. What they love most about the game, however, is its cooperative game play. While it has a single player mode, it is best played with minimum of two players, and multi-player matches should have even pairs. One player is the “Gunstar” pilot, flying and navigating the ship, while the other is the “Starfighter”, manning the complex but powerful weapon systems. Matt and Ben log many hours in the game, with Matt playing the Starfighter and Ben the pilot. Together, they have saved the galaxy multiple times and they are well known on all the Starfighter forums for their incredibly high scores. While they have their skeptics, many of their online fans believe they’ll be the first to achieve the rumored ultimate high score.

Enter their relatives: Matt’s older brother, Seth, is concerned about all the usual things high school seniors are worried about: college applications, graduation headaches, and his perpetual inability to find a date for the prom. He reluctantly agrees to be Matt’s pilot in the game when Ben isn’t around and, much to his chagrin, he’s actually gotten fair good at it. On the other side of the fence, Ben is the middle child between two girls: Allison is his older teenage sister, who is far more concerned with her grades than with boys, while little Abby is the sweet little youngest who can do no wrong when any adult is watching, but who is quite the prankster when it’s just the three of them. Abby loves Starfighter just as much as Ben does, even though she’s technically not allowed to play, but she’s pretty good at the single-player modes and constantly begs Ben to fly for her while she plays as a Starfighter. To her dismay, it’s Allison that Ben pesters to play the game since their little sister isn’t supposed to play. Allison despises the game, but when she can no longer ignore his repeated pleading and bribes, she gives in and discovers that she’s pretty good at the Starfighter role herself.

With the exception of Matt and Ben, however, there are clashes between the two families. To Abby, Matt is the second older brother she wishes she never had. Together, Matt and Ben are a dynamic duo that she can’t stand, and it takes all her seven-year-old wits to hold her own. As for Seth and Allison, they can’t stand each other. It’s one of those awkward teenage loathings driven by clashing interests, clique disconnects, and a hint of raging hormones. It’s painfully apparent to just about everyone else that there’s an undercurrent of attraction present, but everything else about the two screams about different worlds. This is compounded, of course, by the fact that they are constantly thrust together by Matt & Ben’s friendship, and their respective parents’ subtle nudges don’t help things either.

Then, one fateful evening, Matt and Ben decide that the stars are appropriately aligned to ensure their ultimate prize: to obtain the ultimate high score in Starfighter. But to achieve this, they must form a squadron with a minimum of three ships. Unable to find anyone to play online, they beg Seth and Allison to set aside their differences and man the second ship. Out of desperation, they reluctantly let Abby man the guns of the third, with a computer pilot. To everyone’s surprise, they actually do beat the game and garner the game’s highest rank. As Matt and Ben cheer, they tell their older siblings that their names will be forever remembered in gaming history. “Great,” mutters Allison. “So much for any hope of a social life.”

Their achievement does not go unnoticed of course… but from a difference source than expected. While the exact details of this plot point are still fuzzy, the kids eventually run into a man named Centauri who claims to represent the game’s developer. He’s come to congratulate the team who finally beat the game. He manages to whisk them away in his car, which to their surprise takes off into the sky.

At this point, I must sheepishly admit that the sequel begins to follow the original a bit too closely. The game (this time released to consoles rather than arcades) is a recruiting mechanism used by Centauri to find potential future Starfighters. The kids are taken to New Rylos where they are to enlisted to defend the Frontier from Xur and his new allies, the Klith’zriel. (The Ko-Dan suffered a great deal for their invasion and have since become nearly extinct.) The Klith’zriel are an insectoid race who breed by inserting their larvae into the dead bodies of their enemies, and they are itching to expand their territory. Xur is willing to hand over the Star League to them in revenge for the disgrace handed to him by the failed Ko-Dan invasion and subsequent losses to the Starfighters. The kids are to join a whole new corp of Starfighters to defend the Frontier, which is still being rebuilt, from this oncoming threat.

Matt and Ben think the entire thing is the most exciting thing ever; Seth and Allison deny this is even happening; Abby thinks all the aliens are “funny looking”. The older siblings pull rank, however, and demand that Centauri return them to Earth, to which he reluctantly agrees. As the group prepares to leave, news arrives that the Klith’zriel have launched their attack on the Frontier. The Starfighters are mobilized and the kids watch as the massive Gunstar fleet takes off. At the front of the Gunstar wing is commander Alex Rogan, the original “last Starfighter”, the most celebrated Starfighter to ever live. Centauri explains to the kids that Alex was recruited in exactly the same manner they were, and that Alex was disappointed to hear they weren’t going to take up the offer. Just as they are about to leave, New Rylos enters a lock down and no one is permitted to leave, stranding the kids in space.

Again, the plot gets a bit fuzzy here, but somewhere, somehow, the kids are convinced to eventually don the Starfighter uniforms and take to the stars. It could be a recap about Alex’s heroic battle against the Ko-Dan, or telling them about how Earth is in just as much peril as any other planet, or something else. (I hate admitting this plot holes, but as there’s little motivation to plug them, there’s not much else I can do.) At any rate, the kids eventually take off in their own little Starfighter squadron (Sounds like a good title for the movie, huh?) using the pairings with which they beat the game. Abby is given Grog, an alien of the same race as Grig in the original film, as a pilot and as the group’s guide. Matt and Ben are raring to go, while Allison and Seth loath the prospect of being trapped in a cramped cockpit together. The three ships take off to join the rest of the fleet with plenty of humorous moments at they adjust to the new controls and their alien ally.

As they near the Frontier, they discover that the barrier has already been breached. Nearby is a vast debris field. Upon closer inspection, they discover that the debris are the remains of the Gunstar fleet. Among the debris is a wing bearing the insignia of Gunstar One, Alex Rogan’s ship. A sobering realization begins to set in: the Gunstar fleet has been demolished, and now their three ships are all that remain to stop the Klith’zriel from reaching New Rylos… and Earth.

The kids eventually have a few skirmishes with isolated Klith’zriel fighters, enough to let them test their skills in real combat. One battle has them in over their heads. They are outnumbered and outgunned, with little hope of survival. Suddenly, another ship appears on their radar. It’s another Gunstar, covered in battle scars and missing one wing. It’s Gunstar One! With Alex Rogan’s help, the kids win the battle.

Although I’m not sure hope practical it would be, from both a space combat and a story telling standpoint, I envision the small squadron setting down somewhere to make quick repairs. While Grog and Grig (mentioned but never seen) fix the Gunstars, the kids are given a few moments with Alex. He praises all of them for their efforts. I imagine him having a father-son or mentor-tutor type discussion with Seth about being a leader, a role Seth has been thrust into being the oldest. There’s also bound to be some angst between the two teens; their teamwork in the previous battles has gotten them past their general distaste with each other and the latent attraction has begun to take precedence. Finally, Alex warns them all that they are about to face impossible odds. They have four battered Gunstars against an armada of Klith’zriel fighters and one massive mother ship. He reminds them that one man (or woman) can make a difference, trying to help them draw inspiration from when it was just him against the Ko-Dan. They blast off, uncertain of their destiny.

Well, we can’t just leave it at that, can we? I don’t have any specific plans for the final battle, but it’s bound to have a happy ending. (It’s a movie, after all.) The Klith’zriel are confronted and defeated, Xur escapes once again, and Earth and the Star League are saved. Seth and Allison finally hook up… and Seth finally has a date for the prom. Alex and Centauri offer for them to remain as Starfighters but they decline, stating that maybe they can be “reservists” should the Star League need them to save their behinds again. Matt, Ben, and Abby all enthusiastically agree to sign up, but Seth and Allison insist that they have to go back to Earth and finish school first. Then, once they’re old enough to make their own decision, they can decide whether to become Starfighters full time. The kids are returned to Earth, each given communicators with which they can call or be called upon by the Star League if their services are needed again. Note that this is the perfect opportunity to launch a Starfighter Squadron television series, drawing from the proven kids-as-super-heroes formula as seen in the likes of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, with the kids living double lives as ordinary kids by day, space-faring fighter pilots by night. (In today’s Hollywood, where nothing is original and every property must be milked for every possible penny, it’s bound to happen.)

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