The Man Who Wasn't There, part one

Original Airdate: Oct 17, 2011

[Serf Industries foyer]

(A George Clooney look-alike is on a loop doing some in-house advertising.)
SERF [on screen]: Hi. I'm Joseph Serf. I'm here to introduce the Serf Board from Serf Systems, the world's newest and best portable computer. The fifteenth at 5pm. Put it in your diary. The day the Serf Board arrives, and the revolution begins. Billions of dollars of research and development have gone into this compact affordable device.
(A cleaning operative isn't impressed.)
ADRIANA: Where's my billion dollars, Mister Serf?
SERF [on screen]: Excuse me. Did I say device? I mean friend. From the fifteenth, the world will have another question. How did we manage before the Serf Board?
(Adriana drags her cleaner's trolley to the lifts where she hears a strange chattering sound.
ADRIANA: Hello? Hello?
(The lift arrives and the door opens. It is empty.)
ADRIANA: Idiot.
(Fingers appear around the edge of the door, then a blurred something drags her inside.)
SERF [on screen]: Do you want to see tomorrow, today?

[Attic]

CLYDE: Morning, Sky.
SARAH JANE: Well, I think I've got everything he wants. Oh, it doesn't matter, Mum, he says, and then when he turns up, it's straight to the fridge, and why haven't we got any bacon?
CLYDE: Well, let him starve. When I went up to Oxford, the cupboards were bare.
RANI: Are you all right, Sky?
SKY: I'm just a little nervous. I'm meeting Luke face to face, not just on the screen.
SARAH JANE: Well, you couldn't have a better brother.

[Sky's room]

(Formerly Luke's room.)
LUKE: Oh. Right, yeah. Not my room any more.

[Attic]

SARAH JANE: Luke. Oh, welcome home.
LUKE: Hi, Mum. Hi, Clani.
RANI: Don't call us that.
SARAH JANE: Clani? Who's Clani?
CLYDE: Clyde, Rani, Clani.
RANI: It's meant to be funny.
CLYDE: He can't keep away.
SARAH JANE: Luke, meet Sky. In person.
LUKE: Sky. Hi. Hi, Sky.
SKY: You're taller than you look on
web cam.
LUKE: Yes, yes, I am. Sorry, I just went in your room. I forgot it's not mine any more.
SKY: It's the best room, and you don't live here any more.
LUKE: It's fine. It's really fine.
CLYDE: Hey. Finally, face to face. It's the clash of the nerds. Sky, behold my greatest success. Frankenbane's monster, now a normal human student living off Pot Noodles, rising at twelve sharp to watch Loose Women.
LUKE: Yeah, shut up. Sky, I really hope we can be friends.
SKY: Of course we'll be friends. I suppose we're sort of brother and sister.
SARAH JANE: Tea?
LUKE: Yeah.
(Later)
LUKE: I had to leave K9 back at Uni. But look. I made this. A dog whistle. Because you never know.
SARAH JANE: What's he doing up there?
LUKE: He's backing up the Bodleian Library. The whole lot. He wouldn't come back with me.
MR SMITH: Oh, good. Ness me, what a terrible shame.
RANI: Oi, Mister Smith, don't be nasty. We could always swap you for another computer, like the SerfBoard.
MR SMITH: I hardly think that would be a good exchange.
CLYDE: Well, it's the launch this afternoon, at five.
SERF [on phone]: Affordable device. Excuse me. Did I say device?
RANI: And nobody knows what it does when you switch it on.
CLYDE: The rumours say everything.
SARAH JANE: There's a rehearsal of the launch this morning. Just three of the country's very top journalists have been invited to watch.
RANI: Do you know any of them? Could you, like, blag us in?
SARAH JANE: Ahem. I said just the top journalists have been invited.
CLYDE: Yeah, so what if we swap a ticket?
SARAH JANE: I mean me. Me. What do you think pays for all this, taking in washing?
RANI: Sorry, I just didn't think it was your kind of a story.
SARAH JANE: Yeah, almost good enough, Rani.
LUKE: I am not going to miss that. Who said you're going to miss it? Homecoming treat.
SKY: I'm not going to miss it, either.
SARAH JANE: Fine, you can come too, Sky.
RANI: And?
SARAH JANE: Oh, I'm sorry, that's all I could manage. Well, I shouldn't really be taking anybody else. It's highly unprofessional.
CLYDE: That's so unfair.
LUKE: Sorry, Clani. Family outing.

[Serf Industries foyer]

LUKE: Basically, we blab anything about the Serf Board before the actual release and they sue us to death.
SKY: But what if I disagree with the terms and conditions?
LUKE: They're fine. Just sign it.
SARAH JANE: Believe me. If he says they're fine, they're fine.
SKY: Whatever you say.
CARSON: Sarah Jane Smith. Let me drink you in. As lovely as ever.
SARAH JANE: Luke, Sky, Lionel Carson. An old, old friend. 
CARSON: I could have been so much more. Now I am a ruin. You remain a paragon.
SARAH JANE: Lionel was my editor when I first started on the nationals, and then he moved on to food and wine.
LUKE: So why are you covering the SerfBoard, Mister Carson?
CARSON: I pulled rank. To impress my grandchildren, I think. I've met the great Mister Serf. I leave the technical stuff to you young people. I can't abide computers. Nothing wrong with a typewriter, says I.
SKY: What's a typewriter?
CARSON: Goodness me. Make me feel even more old-fashioned, why don't you?
SARAH JANE: You were alread
y
old-fashioned when I was new-fangled. My son and my daughter.
HARRISON: Sorry to keep you waiting. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm John Harrison, Serf Systems public relations. The rehearsal is about to begin, so if you'd like to follow me up.
CARSON: Well, that's us. Would you care to accompany me, o radiant one, in memory of what might have been?
SARAH JANE: Oh, go on, then.
(Sarah Jane takes Carson's proffered arm and they walk away.)
SKY: Luke, can you feel that?
LUKE: Feel what?
SKY: Electricity is building up. It's strong.
LUKE: Probably just a storm on the way.
SKY: No, this feels different, strange.

[Projection theatre]

(Very steeply raked rows of seats in front of a big screen and small stage.)
HARRISON: And then I shall say, please say hi to Joseph Serf. And cue Mister Serf.
(Who enters by the side of the seating.)
SARAH JANE: Wow. Not half bad in the flesh.
CARSON: He's like you, Sarah Jane, he's got charisma.
SERF: Thank you, Johnny. Then I'll say, pleased to meet you. And then I'll do this.
(Looks up at the big screen with his face on it.)
SERF: Whoa, who's that beautiful guy?
HARRISON: Yes, very good, sir, very spontaneous.
SERF: What next?
HARRISON: You stand there, sir, and your close-ups will be on camera three. Is the teleprompter in the right position, sir?
SERF: Yeah, looking good to me. And then straight into the spiel?
HARRISON: Straight into the spiel, sir.
SERF: The SerfBoard will revolutionise the way we work, the way we play. Every home should have one. Soon, every home will have one. 
HARRISON: Perfect, sir. And then the attendees will each be given a SerfBoard, like so.
(The size of a 1
5 inch laptop
, but with curved corners.)
SERF: The SerfBoard. Take it home, press go, play and learn. It's a phenomenon, and you're going to love it. You're going to love it.
CARSON: Why wait is my motto.
(He opens the SerfBoard, presses go and an onscreen keypad pops up.)
SERF: Download, browse, photos, books, everything. You're going to love it. It's the future, it's tomorrow, and you love it. You want one, you need one, everybody wants one, everybody's got to get one.
(Serf flickers slightly.)
SKY: Did you see that?
LUKE: Yeah. But that's impossible. 
HARRISON: Er, excuse me. Can we have a little bit of hush, please?
SKY: But, Sarah Jane, he
LUKE: Quiet, Sky. Wait.
SKY: But you did see that?
LUKE: Yes, but nobody else did.
(Because only the adults were given SerfBoards and are looking down at them.)
SERF: It's tomorrow and you love it.

[Serf Industries foyer]

CARSON: It's so easy to use. He was right, it's a revolution. It's beautiful. I love it.
SARAH JANE: Well, it must be good to impress you.
CARSON: I never saw the point of computers, but this, this is so easy to use. I'll see you at the launch.
SARAH JANE: Bye.
(Carson leaves.)
SARAH JANE: Ah, look what you've got. Hurrah for Mum.
(Sarah offers her SerfBoard to Sky.)
SARAH JANE: Hurrah for Mum?
SKY: Something weird happened in there. To Mister Serf.
SARAH JANE: What are you talking about?
LUKE: Mum, he glitched.
SARAH JANE: He what?
SKY: Just for a moment, he flickered.
SARAH JANE: Right, back home. We need to check this out.
LUKE: What if I stay, look for more glitches. There could be other people like Serf, whatever he is.
SKY: Good idea. Where shall we start?
SARAH JANE: Oh, no. Luke is old enough to look after himself.
SKY: And I'm not?
LUKE: No, you're not. Sorry.
SARAH JANE: You be careful. Come on, Sky, home.

[Attic]

CLYDE: Right. Let's have a look at you, my beauty.
RANI: No, Clyde, wait. We should check it out first.
SKY: Only Luke and me saw it happen.
SARAH JANE: Well, Luke's got superior senses, and Sky's sensitive to electrical fluctuations, however tiny. Mister Smith, tap into the digital database. The rehearsal was recorded, so somebody at Serf must have sent the movie file. Get us a copy.
MR SMITH: That may take some considerable time, Sarah Jane. Here you are.
RANI: Hey, you're doing that on purpose now.
SKY: It was when Serf was saying everybody will want a SerfBoard.
SERF [on screen]: You want one, you need one, everybody wants one, everybody's got to get one. Freeze it between frame 4:34:21 and 23.
CLYDE: There's nothing there. You imagined it.
SKY: I did not. Roll back a tenth of a frame, Mister Smith.
MR SMITH: Time flexing applied.
SARAH JANE: That's impossible.
MR SMITH: Enhancing. (Serf's head, on a level with his eyes, has pixillated.)
CLYDE: But that's not the recording, that's him. The rest of the picture didn't move.
SKY: That's what I've been telling you.
CLYDE: I'm getting just a bit suspicious. And preparing to say the A word.
SKY: What A word?
CLYDE: Aliens.
SARAH JANE: Mister Smith, give us everything you've got on Joseph Serf. What is he?
MR SMITH: Joseph Samuel Serf, born Dayton, Ohio, 25th May 1972. Graduated Harvard 1993. Founded Serf Systems, then completely disappeared from public view after a near-fatal skiing accident in Val d'Isere in 2007. Following this, he became famously reclusive. No interviews or pictures. The only images available after this date are these publicity photographs.
SARAH JANE: Look. In all these photographs, he never once holds anything. He never touches anybody.
RANI: So, what, he's a hologram?
SARAH JANE: No, no, more than that. He walks, talks, interacts with people. He's amazing. This technology, it's fantastic.
CLYDE: But he sits down. He gets into cars.
RANI: It's like a photo. You can fold it up, and move it around.
CLYDE: Aye, aye, who's that guy that's always right next to him. Who's he?
SKY: John Harrison, PR for Serf Systems.
SARAH JANE: The skiing accident. The real Serf, he died in that accident. He was replaced.
MR SMITH: And shortly afterwards, Serf Systems began the development of the SerfBoard.
SARAH JANE: Ah, wait. Lionel. He hates computers. The moment he switched that on, he raved about it. 
RANI: This SerfBoard, what if it's got some sort of hypnotic power? They've replaced Serf, and took over his company.
SARAH JANE: But why? What's this all for?
CLYDE: And today's the launch. A SerfBoard in every home? You can count me out.
SARAH JANE: Mister Smith? Deep scan, full spectrum analysis. Let's see what Luke finds out. And while we wait, I want an interview with Mister Serf.
RANI: But he doesn't do interviews, ever.
SARAH JANE: Watch and learn, Rani.

[Serf Industries foyer]

HARRISON: Mister Serf does not give interviews, Miss Smith.
SARAH JANE [OC]: Oh, but the SerfBoard, it's just amazing.

[Attic]

SARAH JANE: I have to do a personal follow-up with Mister Serf.
HARRISON [OC]: You are invited to the launch later.
SARAH JANE: Oh, if I could just speak to Mister Serf, just to tell him there are no glitches.

[Serf Industries foyer]

HARRISON: Go on, Miss Smith.

[Attic]

SARAH JANE: Oh, well, Mister Serf seems so warm, so real, so natural. I'm sure my readers would like to get to know such a

[Serf Industries foyer]

SARAH JANE [OC]: Genuine human being.
HARRISON: Well, that's different, Miss Smith. Please, come right over.

[Attic]

SARAH JANE: That's marvellous. I'll see you soon. One of the country's top journalists.
RANI: Wow, Sarah Jane. Just wow.
CLYDE: Isn't that a bit dangerous, though? They know you know.
SARAH JANE: Oh, I know they know I know. That's the only way to get in.
SKY: And they know you know they know you know.
SARAH JANE: Sometimes that's the best way. I need to bring Serf Systems out into the open, find out what they're planning.
SKY: And you need me. I saw the glitch, and I might see something else.
CLYDE: What, another family outing?
SARAH JANE: Yeah, okay. No, no, you wait here. Find out what Mister Smith makes of that. Come on, Let's go.
(Sarah Jane and Sky leave.)
CLYDE: What's up?
RANI: It's daft, but I feel like it's watching us.

[Serf Industries car park]

SARAH JANE: How goes the spying?
LUKE: I checked the car park, hung about in reception, got a coffee from their machine, but nothing. No more glitching, nothing weird.
SKY: It's time for your interview.
SARAH JANE: Okay. Meet you both back here in half an hour.

[Serf's office]

(Harrison shows Sarah Jane in. Serf is seated behind his desk, with his back to the window cum wall.)
SERF: Miss Smith. I hear you're a fan of the Board.
SARAH JANE: I certainly am, Mister Serf. Call me Sarah Jane.
SERF: Joseph. I'm sorry, I can't shake your hand.
SARAH JANE: Oh, really? Why ever not?
HARRISON: Mister Serf suffers from an acute peanut allergy.
SARAH JANE: I haven't been eating nuts.
HARRISON: But you might have been in a nutty environment.
SERF: Can't be too careful.
SARAH JANE: Oh, I'm so sorry. How very convenient. Sorry, of course I mean inconvenient. Does
Mister Harrison need to be here, Joseph?
HARRISON: Actually, I'd prefer to stay. After all, I'd hate there to be any more glitches.
SARAH JANE: Oh, with you around, Mister Harrison, I'm sure everything will run like clockwork.
HARRISON: Oh, yes. I pride myself I can deal with any old spanners that get into those works.
SARAH JANE: (coughs) Before we start, could I get something to drink? I'm parched.
HARRISON: Certainly, Miss Smith. Tea? Coffee? Anthrax?
SARAH JANE: What was that?
HARRISON: Nothing.
(Serf chuckles.)
SARAH JANE: No, I'll just have water, please. Nice, clear water that I can see right through.
HARRISON: Coming right up.
SARAH JANE: Wouldn't you like some, Joseph? It's very hot in here.
SERF: I'm fine, thank you. Now, let's talk about the SerfBoard.
HARRISON: Yes, let's.

[Attic]

MR SMITH: Deep scan complete.
RANI: Tell us the worst.
MR SMITH: The Serf Board is a standard low-specification laptop computer.
CLYDE: And?
MR SMITH: That is all.
RANI: But it can't be. The hologram, the big launch tonight, one in every home.
CLYDE: Hold on. (sotto) Right. What if this has got at him?
MR SMITH: I can hear you, Clyde. And no, it hasn't got me.
CLYDE: It's not the first time you've said something was okay and it turned out to be deadly. Do you remember the Rakweed?
RANI: Leave it alone. We wait for the others to get back.
CLYDE: But there's not much time. How will you feel tonight when everyone's walking down Bannerman Road with their arms out going, serve the computer?
RANI: Clyde, no.
CLYDE: Oh, come on, the clock's ticking. Let's just switch it on, see what it does.
RANI: Okay. But we do it my way. We take precautions.

[Serf's office]

SARAH JANE: The implication for global communications
(She drops her pen under the desk.)
SARAH JANE: Oh, butterfingers. Would you mind picking that up for me, Joseph?
HARRISON: Oh, please, Miss Smith, do use mine.

[Serf Industries lifts]

LUKE: An electrical surge?
SKY: No, it feels strange. Coming from down below.
LUKE: We'll tell Mum when she gets back.
(The lift arrives.)
SKY: Let's take a look. Come on, it's what you always do.
LUKE: I'll go. You go back to the car.
SKY: Not a chance.
(Sky dashes into the lift.)
LUKE: Sky.
(He gets in as she presses the button for the lower basement.)
SKY: Going down. How's the liking each other thing going now?
LUKE: I'll let you know.

[Attic]

Overalls, safety glasses, rubber gauntlets. Rani opens the laptop with a long prod. It plays the Windows chord as it powers up. Clyde stops her from pressing Go on the screen.)
CLYDE: Hey, it was my idea.
RANI: It needs a delicate touch.
CLYDE: Well, I'm delicate, in a very manly way. I've got artists' fingers.
RANI: Just like the old days. You and me, having a laugh.
CLYDE: Yeah. I meant to say, all that stuff with Ellie.
RANI: It's okay. Right, let's do this.
(And presses Go.)

[Lower basement]

(Animal noises from somewhere.)
LUKE: OK, I can't sense the electrical surge, but I can hear that.
SKY: Coming from further down.
LUKE: But this is the bottom floor. Unless there's an override command. I can reverse-intuit the code.
(He presses various floor buttons and the doors close.)
LUKE: Knew it.

[Attic]

(Clyde calls up the hard drive information. Speed, Bad. Space in use, 2 gigabytes. Space free, 1 byte.)
CLYDE: There's nothing. Really, nothing. I'm going to take these off.
(He removes the safety glasses.)
RANI: Careful.
CLYDE: In fact, it's more than a bit rubbish. Bog standard. What's so special about this?
RANI: So it's not the Board itself. That's normal.
CLYDE: It looks cool, that's all.
MR SMITH: What did I tell you?
RANI: Then what is going on?
(Rani closes its lid.)

[Basement]

(Sound of regular machinery. A photocopier still wrapped in plastic.)
SKY: Down here.
(Through a door and along a corridor with more of the same. Then an animal screeching noise. They come to a bolted metal door.)
LUKE: Whatever it is, it's through there.
SARAH JANE [OC]: But
Mister Serf, the functionality is
LUKE: That's Mum.
SARAH JANE: I mean, you've revolutionised the entire concept of mobile
(Luke unbolts the door.)
SERF [OC]: Our dedicated team of specialists made improving the functionality their number one priority.

[Light chamber]

SARAH JANE [OC]: Well, you must have been amazed, Joseph, when you got your hands on the keyboard for the first time. I mean, to see your dreams made into a solid reality. I'd love to tell my readers how that felt from your unique point of view.
SERF [OC]: It was a great moment, but I always had faith in my tech guys.
(They watch a bunch of figures
in welder's helmets and monk's robes
operating railway points levers. A sign shows that one set controls Arms.
PLARK: Keep up. Keep up.
(Other signs say Skin, Smile, Hands, Eyes, Fabric, Legs, Hypno.
The foreman is watching Serf's office on a screen.
)
SERF [OC]: The ideas man.
SARAH JANE [OC]: Well, ideas can be so intangible, can't they. Oh, dear. What am I saying?

[Serf's office]

SERF: That's okay, Miss Smith.

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Smile.

[Serf's office]

(Serf smiles.)
SARAH JANE: Joseph, are you all right?

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Keep up, keep up.
(Some of the minions start squabbling.)
PLARK: Keep up, keep up.
(One uses a typewriter keyboard.)

[Serf's office]

SERF: We all say thongs we don't moan.

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Spelling, spelling.

[Serf's office]

SERF: Forgove me. Things we don't mean.

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Keep shadow in sync. And smile again. Thoughtful smile, not sexy smile.
(Serf is almost leering at Sarah Jane.)
SKY: It's incredible.
LUKE: They're controlling him. Everything he says and does, it's them. Come on.
(Luke and Sky sneak behind Plark.)

[Serf's office]

SERF; What else do you want to know?
SARAH JANE: Oh!
(Sarah knocks over her plastic cup of water, and it flows across the desk towards Serf.)

[Light chamber]

PLARK: A spillage. Emergency stand. Steady on thumb. And one, two, three, and up. Crease fabric, crease fabric.

[Serf's office]

SARAH JANE: I'm so sorry.
(Harrison mops up the water.)
HARRISON: What a clumsy clot you are, Miss Smith. One of our country's most famously shrewd journalists is, apparently, such a loveable scatterbrain.
SERF: Well, Miss Moth. Miss Smith. What else do you want to know?
SARAH JANE: Well, I just hope I can stop embarrassing myself, for a start.
(Harrison presses an ear bud.)
HARRISON: (sotto) Hypno to ten.

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Hypno-power to ten. Hypno-power to ten. She must trust. She must trust.
LUKE: Mum.

[Serf's office]

SERF: You love the SerfBoard, Sarah Jane.

[Light chamber]

SERF [OC]: It's the most amazing computer you've ever seen.
PLARK: Stronger hypno. Stronger hypno.

[Serf's office]

SERF: And I am the most amazing man you've ever seen.
SARAH JANE: Yes, yes. You're such a handsome man, Mister Serf. But I'm an old hand at hypnotism. And when it comes to men, I actually prefer something I can grab hold of. Gotcha!
(Sarah Jane waves her hands through Serf, making him glitch.)

[Light chamber]

PLARK: Failure. Light sculpture failed. Failed. Stand down, await orders.

[Serf's office]

SARAH JANE: This is alien technology. And it's pretty erratic.
HARRISON: Alien technology? You mean, something that's not made on this planet, like this.
(He pulls a curved box out of his inside pocket. A large phaser, probably.)

[Light chamber]

(Luke sees Sarah Jane raise her hands and back away on the screen.)
HARRISON [OC]: One false move, Miss Smith, and you're dead.
LUKE: Mum, no.
(Plark has removed his welders helmet to reveal that he has one eye in the middle of his large forehead. Sky screams.)
PLARK: Intruders!
(Luke and Sky are surrounded.)
PLARK: You.
LUKE: Please, let her go, she's my sister. She's just a child. Please.
PLARK: You, you, you.

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