The Field Notes of Tristan O'Shea
Random Notes about The Field Notes of Tristan O'Shea
At the turn of the twentieth century, a daring naturalist (Tristan O'Shea) travels the globe in search of creatures both mythic and exotic. With the crew of his ship, the "Daedalus", he encounters danger and discovery on a weekly basis. His first adventure will be in search of the terrifying Mokele Mbembe of the Congo (rumored to be a dinosaur). Subsequent adventures will concern such famous mystery monsters as the Yeti, Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster, as well as more obscure "mystery" animals. Sir John Steele, a rival adventurer (the captain of the notoriously wanton and dangerous ship, the "Gevaudan") will prove to be a constant thorn in Tristan's side throughout his travels. Tristan's crew is comprised of interesting characters in their own right, on whom the spotlight will occasionally turn, as the story requires.
When they travel, we will see an animated old fashioned map. The ship or balloon or train will be depicted moving across the world, avoiding cartoon whales, bumping into the compass, etc. Lets go for a real storyteller type creativity for this, with stories blending into tapestries and maps and old artwork on jugs. Opening sequence and credits can incorporate the first couple of pages of the Field Notes and then as they flip faster and faster blur into scenes of the preparation and setting sail of the Daedalus. Story is told by Tristan through his writing in his diary. This is often used as narration throughout the story (as well as to establish that there are more unknown creatures than those presented in the series). Each episode is a search for one or more new creatures, currently unknown to science, but rumored to exist in the wilder parts of the earth. What we wish to convey primarily, with this story is that the world is full of mystery, viewers should feel the sense of awe at what is still to be discovered. Of course plenty of adventure and excitement will be a staple as well. Tristan's nemesis (working name: Sir John Steele), is seeking the same creatures, but his motive is to kill or capture and profit from their display, as opposed to Tristan's purely scientific interest (minor environmental/conservatory theme). Not too exposition rich, as we plan to show rather tell about the creatures that he encounters. Tristan is the main character, but some stories will reveal the backstory (in flashback) of various members of his crew. Animals that have in reality been found, will be in the story and be announced in news and meeting other adventurers or in discussion among the crew (care will be taken not to make this too obvious or repetitive, one possibility is to show the journal entries for those areas, either as he is writing [ala STNG Captain Picard's captain's log] or independently)
One episode synopsis:
starts with the adventurers in danger of being crushed by hippos and eaten by crocodiles in a jungle river at night, somewhere in the Congo.
flashback to a London cafe where gentleman naturalist Tristan O'Shea and his fiancee, Gwendoline, meet a strange man, who overhearing them discuss the new Brontosaurus skeleton in New York, tells them a tall tale of a possible dinosaur deep in the heart of Africa. Tristan is intrigued, while Gwendoline is scornful. The argument that flares up (centered superficially on Baron Cuvier's rash dictum concerning undiscovered animals but moreso on their divide over the larger world view, of there still being mysteries worth investigating), reveals that their planned nuptials may be a tad premature. Flashback ends with the door to Gwendoline's home slamming closed after he'd escorted her home (she tells him there is no way she can marry a man who is never actually present and who is always gazing off at the horizon); he wanders dejected through the streets of London, finding himself at the docks and gazing at a tallship that has been partially drydocked for training. The ship is the Daedalus...
we return to the Congo river where the adventurers survive their encounter primarily due to the bravery and skills of Captain Nathanial Davenport and Miss Valerie Keer, some of the native porters are lost, the others flee back to their homes. The fight and escape from the river will be the longest and most action packed part of the episode.
the adventurers continue alone on foot. While we see a montage of them as they travel (with brief encounters with mamba's, leopards and chimps), we hear Tristan narrate as though he were writing in his Field notes about the legend of the Sirrush and Mokele Mbembe, the legends will be shown through more surreal animation than the rest of the episode (to give background info as well as to whet the appetite of the wee ones for the big dino reveal).
as the group settle down for the night at camp, Tristan and Miss Keer talk. The conversation will develop the very first hints of a romance between them, as well as set up how mysterious a character she is. She leaves Tristan to his thoughts and as Tristan falls asleep we return to a flashback of London.
back in London: after the argument, things slid downhill quickly for Tristan. Having scraped together all of his resources, he purchased and outfitted the Daedalus, then advertised for a crew. He is mocked by his peers in the British zoological society, snickered at by passersby on the street ("ere, thats that great lizard hunter!" "nah...him? ee wouldn't be able to catch 'imself a dead butterfly.") and shunned from polite society for "embarrassing" Miss Gwendoline with his fanciful plans. Comical montage of each of the main characters as they interview for a position on the Daedalus (each one will reveal in brief, their personality and some reasons for their wanting to travel with Tristan. Steer clear of it being too much like the Pirates of the Caribbean scene that is similar).
return to Africa. The crew is rudely awakened by pointed spears held by the pygmy warriors that surround them (Donnelly splutters that he thought it was Tristan's watch when Davenport raises his eyebrow at him).
after initial tensions the crew befriend their "captors" and find that they indeed know of their quarry and will help them find it.
an encounter with a rhino which their new guides call "Mokele Mbembe", while dangerous and exhilarating, leaves Tristan feeling like he might have made a massive mistake. The voices of those mocking his "quest" are heard in his head as he writes into the Field Guide the disappointment of finding that the Mokele is nothing but a forest dwelling rhino. The entire crew is despondant and discussing their return to civilization when Donnelly runs into the tent with far more exuberance than his usual gloomy self. He explains that he has been talking with the pygmies and it turns out that they use Mokele Mbembe to describe any large animal with a horn or tusk...their is another type that matches his pictures of sauropods, that they say lives not too far away, in the swampy Likoula region.
with hopes brightened and the music getting more uplifting we see the crew reach the swamps. They hear very large animals in an opening beyond. Stepping out of the jungle, the crew is mesmerized by the sight of a small herd of enormous sauropods grazing. Once again we see the naysayers that have bedeviled Tristan's inner doubts throughout the episode telling him that he'll never find what he is looking for as the camera pans around him standing enraptured while these gentle relicts of a bygone age go about their own business oblivious to him.
Donnelly shakes Tristan's hand and says "so now laddy, what say we go see what all this "horrible snowman" nonsense is all about hey?"
cut to Tristan's hand writing in the frontpage of his Field Notes "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy. William Shakespeare" as the music is really exciting and adventurous. He slams the book shut, reaches for the pistol and sabre lying next to it, the camera pans up to see just the lower part of his face give a devilish grin. cut to black.
naturalist (specializing in the exotic).
a brilliant zoologist and Victorian scientist.
young to be as respected in scientific circles as he was until he conceived of his quest.
finds civilized life to be stagnant and filled with insignificance.
yearns for adventure and danger more than fame and fortune.
very Doctor Who, Fox Mulder like, he often has to be dragged away from some fascinating yet dangerous creature/situation/place.
Is almost childlike in his wonder and curiosity.
being rejected by the love of his life is the spur that makes him begin his travels.
captain and owner of the Daedalus (has a history in her Majesty's navy, but left due to his distaste for unnecessary violence/overly strict discipline).
no patience for marginal authority figures.
looks younger than he is (tries to make up for it with thick "mutton chop" sideburns and the occasional wispy moustache).
fears he isn't taken seriously.
brief former navy career.
he is the guide on these adventures.
looks like a much younger Peter Davison (All creatures great and small era).
one of the crew's most amazing discoveries. Found in the kamchatka peninsula of Russia, she had just escaped the slaughter of her tribe by Sir John Steele and his crew. She joins the crew and under Professor Donnelly's tutelage learns english (she has some difficulty with certain pronunciation due to a different physiology). She quickly becomes a valued member of the crew, as her survival and hunting skills are second to none. Professor Donnelly and Gloria develop a close student/teacher relationship based on her fascination with his advanced age (an extreme rarity in neanderthal life) and his fondness for imparting his wisdom on whoever will listen. She is 16 years old (middle age by neanderthal standards).
naive but a quick study.
looks like teen Michelle Rodriguez with a lot of special effects makeup on.
MISS VALERIE KEER
the stunning adventuress from Oslo. Her beauty is matched only by the mystery that surrounds her. She is utterly fearless. Standing at 6'2" she intimidates all but the most headstrong of men. Her fearlessness often gets the crew into trouble.
tough beyond imagining.
secretly a Valkyrie of myth (but thats a whole 'nuther story).
looks like a younger Darryl Hannah or Blake Lively (from Accepted).
there will be clues as to the true identity of Miss Keer scattered throughout the stories.
CAPTAIN NATHANIAL DAVENPORT
Perhaps the most experienced traveler in the crew, he is similar in many ways to his adventuring peers Sir Richard Burton and Lord John Roxton. Although he has found less fame, this is in part because he prefers not to be in the limelight. Captain Davenport is more at home smoking apple rinds in a persian brothel, than entertaining the high society of London or Paris with his many exploits. A crack shot, expert mountain climber and talented singer, one is hard pressed to think of something that Nathaniel does not do well, except perhaps suffer fools gladly.
silent man of action.
similar to Ned Flanders without the religiosity. But still very cultured, polite and private until the shit hits the fan when he rips off his shirt, revealing bulging pecs and kicks ass.
his reticence will be legendary. He would be silent if being eaten by a lion. When he does talk at length for the first time, it will be played for laughs as nobody will be expecting it. His interview scene will be him just nodding his head grimly to Tristan's answers while cleaning his rifle.
usually talks in one word sentences.
he is basically Lord Greystoke without the animalistic rage side to him. A silent man of action in every way.
looks like Gary Oldman in Harry Potter movies or as young Dracula.
PROFESSOR KENNETH DONNELLY
behind his acerbic and often surly disposition, Professor Donnelly is actually quite a sentimental and compassionate old man. His mind is a font of knowledge of many sciences and although physically he is the weakest of the crew, his determination and bravery are an inspiration. His cynical outlook often balances Tristan's wilder flights of fancy.
sardonically funny old man (basically Eeyore and Owl rolled into one), he gets all the best lines (or the funniest ones anyway).
last name is (final version after Leary, Connelly, Rackham anyway) reference to Ignatius Donnelly, writer of the Antideluvian world.
looks like Anthony Hopkins.
SIR JOHN IRONS (THE VILLAIN! BOO! HISS!)
he is all about profit...well, profit and sticking it to anyone who crosses his path.
he is very much in the mold of a Doc Savage type but one that has let greed and violence go to his head.
has a serpentine charm when he feels like it.
will kill without conscience on a whim.
is just a tad obsessed with Miss. Keer.
likes to take his shirt off a lot...sort of a villainous Captain Kirk/Doc Savage/Gaston (well...an even more villainous Gaston).
twist: heroic seeming villain.
lantern jawed, cleft chinned heroic type gone bad.
initially more heroic seeming than Tristan.
physically far superior to Tristan.
possibly Tristan's equal in intellect, it is usually due to such intangibles as character that he fails in his aims (underestimates foes, is arrogant, creates unnecessary enemies, trusts nobody).
prime motivator is greed, followed by fame, followed by need to prove himself at all times (Alpha male to the 9th degree).
no real redeeming qualities, he loves nothing but himself.
has no backstory with the crew of the Daedalus.
he is often admired by and has allies in the authorities of society, moreso than Tristan.
is above all things a survivor. He will abandon any plan and sell his own grandma if he has to.
is the youngest of five children raised only by their widowed mother(all the others were girls who bullied him a lot).
Harry Steele is the name of a precursor to Indiana Jones that was played by Chuck Heston in an old movie.
Boogy Jones (Eccentric, creepy and sadistic deckhand on the Gevaudan).
Mr. Jebediah Trent (notorious cattle ruster, bounty hunter, train robber and out and out rogue. He proves a surprising ally, mostly due to his affections for the lovely Miss Keer and a mysterious debt he owes Captain Davenport).
Gareth Owen (Adventurous yet sloppy, trailblazer. It is he who inspires Tristan to follow in his footsteps.).
Gwendoline (Tristan's first love who ultimately chose a more "practical" suitor over him. This spurning was a major factor in his quixotic quest to explore the world. Only ever seen in flashback).
Mr. Marant (mysterious old inventor who supplies the crew of the Daedalus with some of their more exotic paraphanalia. Marant is derived from Amaranthine...immortal).
Mr. Skein (mysterious old inventor who supplies the crew of the Gevaudan with some of their more deadly paraphanalia. Skein is a synonym for labyrinthine...).
1 Baron Cuvier's Rash.
2 The Gray Ghost.
Mngwa (Nandi Bear)
3 Abominable! Simply abominable!
4 On top of the World.
5 Cave Bears in Kamchatka!
6 The trouble with giant extinct sharks...
8 My what big feet you have...
9 In the shadow of the Thunderbird.
10 The snake and the sloth.
11 In the dark, in the deep.
12 Och! there's something in the Loch!
Loch Ness Monster
Tristan O’Shea will now be set in the 30’s so as to emulate a more Indiana Jones esthetic with the settings, costumes, equipment, vehicles etc.
Do a bestiary for three different time periods: first a medieval one (Bestiary), then a 1930’s one (Tristans Field Guide), then a 1970’s one. The creatures in each will be appropriate to the period as will the design of the book and any characters who are narrating/exploring.
The first monster compendium will be called: Bestiarum Horribilis and written by Mandeville’s daughter (Johanna de Bourgogne is daughter of actual writer of Mandevilles Travels: Jehan de Bourgogne. She is from Liege in Belgium, the illigitimate daughter of the physician with wild tales.
The main monster and character compendium of myth and folklore is by Tristan O’Shea and Bestiarum is one of the main sources.
Must create a renaissance super team including DaVinci, Edmond Dantes, Casanova and others…
Current casting of Tristan O’Shea (for artistic reference and if a screenplay ever happens quickly): Tristan = Matt Smith, Gloria = Maisy Williams Professor Donnelly still = Anthony Hopkins Val Keer = Yvonne Stravinksi Nathanial Davenport = Hugh Jackman