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DBA in Space: Behind the Scenes—Question 13

Part 1 of Question 13: The Question.
Part 2 of Question 13: The follow up to the question.

This is a continuation of my DBA in Space journal.

While there are fourteen episodes, this episode was the climax of the two subplots. It was also a complex episode with many different scenes. We learn right away that Miss Friday is alive and locked in the IT storage room. It is dark and she is talking into a hand held video camera in order to document her situation for her superiors at the NSDD. In the initial scene, she appears to be trying to communicate with someone from the outside, but with no luck. Suddenly, she realizes that someone (the audience) can see her and she tells the audience that she is in a locked room, but apparently alien Brad has fiddled with the password and she can’t get out.

In addition, she has found the real Brad in the same room as she is locked in. Apparently, the real Brad has been stuck in some sort of stasis chamber, where alien Brad placed him as soon as he crashed on Earth and took over Brad’s persona. Miss Friday seems more interested in getting out of the storage room than helping Brad, although she does make a small attempt at getting him out by blowing hot air on the stasis chamber with a blow dryer to unfreeze him. But now that she has the audience’s attention, she asks their help in restoring her password so she can get out.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

Can you see the air tube I was breathing from?

After the task is completed, and she has the password, she goes to open the door. About that same time, there is a loud sound of sloshing water, and Miss Friday looks back to see that the real Brad has slipped out of his stasis chamber and is now flat on his back on the floor, covered with slime. Brad appears to be conscious, so Miss Friday gives him a hand to help him off the floor. But rather than helping out Brad and checking to see if he is OK, Miss Friday drags him on the hunt to catch alien Brad. They begin to run down corridors, and then she passes off the hand held video camera to Brad so he can document the event, as Miss Friday wants to be able to prove to her bosses that she is an able agent.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space

I think it took three takes to get this scene right, which was good, as I was freezing after being saturated with slime.

They finally reach the Roddenberry Launch Center’s Exhibition Hall, where most of the questions have been filmed for the competition, and she grabs a ray-gun off a table, hoping to use it to kill alien Brad if she has to. Unfortunately, Miss Friday isn’t aware that the ray-gun is just a fake museum piece.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space

Miss Friday catches me on camera before we switch off, and then I hold the camera.

As Miss Friday and the real Brad rush up the stairs, they see alien Brad being prepped by the makeup lady for shooting another DBA in Space competition question, and Miss Friday shouts “up with your hands,” and fires her ray-gun, which only makes a cute toy-like sound.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

Some people thought that having the makeup artist in the final scene was a mistake. No, it was deliberate, as alien Brad is getting prepped to continue with the next episode of DBA in Space, and the makeup artist is just doing her job. What is interesting is the makeup artist in the scene is the real makeup artist, Eve.

The still slimy real Brad, who is still recording these actions live, realizes that alien Brad seems to look a little bit familiar. Given that he has been in a stasis chamber for about a month, he isn’t aware of what has happened.

Brad McGehee and Nell Mooney in DBA in Space.

Brad and Miss Friday attempt to capture alien Brad.

Alien Brad lucks out in his timing, as before Miss Friday can arrest him, he beams out. But as he beams out, he takes on his real Martian appearance, and then he is gone. Apparently, alien Brad was able to get SQL Source Control and the database to his dad in a previous episode, and his dad sent someone to pick him up from Earth and return him to Mars. Alien Brad’s freakish appearance scares both Miss Friday and the real Brad. “Frack.”

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

This was shot during rehearsal for the “beam-up” scene. The shoes I am wearing cost about $450.00, and I had to be real careful to keep them clean.

This winds up the two subplots. First of all, Miss Friday got proof that there was indeed an alien, and with the video tape as evidence, she will most likely get a promotion. Second, the crashed alien finally gets home, which is all he ever really wanted to do.

This episode was another of my favorites, as I got do some interesting things. The first scene was shot in a very small storage room with the lights turned off. Nell (aka Miss Friday) was holding a video camera (with an attached light), filming herself, recording the events as they occurred. For the story, she is performing the recording in order to document her accomplishments finding alien Brad. There is no explanation how she got the video camera in the final version of the episode, but originally there was supposed to be another scene where she picked up the camera, helping to establish that she had one and where she got it. This got cut out of the final script and was not filmed.

While Nell was filming herself, I was standing in the stasis chamber, all the time doing my best to keep from laughing. There were numerous takes of Nell before you see me, which meant I was stuck in the status chamber for a long time.

Being inside the stasis chamber was an experience I’ll probably never have again. Here’s the story behind it. On the day this scene was to be filmed, I was brought to the set of the stasis chamber, and a set decorator got inside the chamber to show me how it worked. It was quite obvious that you could make out the outline of the person inside, and he didn’t look like me. Then I was politely asked if I wanted to do the scene or not, as they had assumed that I would not want to, but were being polite in giving me the opportunity to do the scene. Apparently, earlier in the day when the status chamber was being tested, one of the testers literally freaked out once he was in it, and then everyone assumed I would do the same. Well, once I saw that the outline didn’t look like me, I immediately volunteered to do it, as I wanted the scene to be as authentic as possible. Once I volunteered, I could see that a lot of the crew was a little surprised at my eagerness to do my own “stunt work”.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

The stasis camber was plastic pipe and latex. I think I look a little to eager to be encased in latex.

Essentially, the status chamber was made up of a frame of ridged plastic tubing at the left, top, and right sides, and at the bottom was a piece of hard foam, about a foot in width. The left and right tubing were placed in holes of the hard foam to secure the frame in place. Next, two very large sheets of latex were placed on the frame and taped at the bottom and sides with duct tape to create an air tight seal. To get in the stasis chamber, they lowered the latex shell to the ground, where I stepped up on the foam bottom of the frame, and then the set decorators pulled up the latex shell around my body, encasing me. Next, I was given an air hose to breath with from my mouth. Then they sealed the top of the latex shell, and then with a vacuum pump attached through a hole in the latex, they sucked out all of the air, leaving my body sandwiched within the latex. When the pump first turns on, the air is literally ripped from the latex shell, providing a sensation I have never felt before. I guess the closest way to describe the feeling is like being expelled from a spaceship into the vacuum of space. As the vacuum pump makes a lot of noise, once the air is out, it was turned off, and then some air returns, relieving some of pressure on my lungs. Of course, all this time I am breathing out of my mouth through a plastic tube.

As Nell was filming the scene, I had to keep several things in mind. First, I had to breath in and out with my mouth, not my nose. Breathing in with my nose didn’t work, and breaking out slightly inflated the latex chamber. This was especially hard as I was trying to keep from laughing as Nell was acting and ad libbing, most of which didn’t get included in the final cut of the video. Another problem was that I had to balance myself on the foam block I was standing on, which was not particular easy, as it was soft and my feet barely fit entirely on the foam. And of course I couldn’t move, otherwise the effect would not be realistic. Holding my position for long periods of time was a little stressing. And I won’t even go into how hot and humid it was inside, with the lights directly behind me and no way for water vapor to escape.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

The crew sealing up the top of the latex stasis chamber.

On top of all this, the crew was worried that I would freak out, fall over, or have some other emergency. So behind me (which you can’t see in the video), were two set decorators who were there to catch me if I fell, or to rip off the latex if I couldn’t breath. And on top of that, in the hallway outside of the room was a paramedic with his equipment, ready to help out I necessary.

I was in the stasis chamber four different times, taking breaks between shots. Each time they had to remove the tape off the top of the latex shell, and then tape it back up and vacuum all the air out again, four different times. By the time we were done, I was soaked with sweat. But that was no problem, as in the next scene, I was covered with slime.

The next scene occurs after the activity is done by the contestant. Miss Friday’s password now works and she opens the door to leave, but before she does, there is this sloshing sound (special effects), and she turns around and sees me, flat on the floor, covered with slime.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space

The blue bucket had the slime,and they applied it by first pouring it on me, then using their hands to make touch-ups.

So, once the status chamber filming was over, they immediately set up to film the next scene. I was helped out of the latex chamber and was only able to rest a short time, as they wanted to keep on filming. So I laid down on the cold, concrete floor, with my head resting on the foam bottom of the frame. This was good, as putting my head on concrete would not have been fun. The set decorators had already prepared a large bucket of cold, wet, slime, so once I laid down, they began to pour it on me, careful not to get any in my eyes. Did I say it was cold? I wasn’t given any direction on what do for this scene, other than for Nell to help me up. So I improvised myself, trying to put myself in the mind of an actual person in this situation. That’s where I got the idea (I guess it is rather obvious if you think about it), of blinking my eyes when the light from the hand held camera hits them, and making the face I did. The groaning as I got up was me, and not a sound effect. One difficult part of this scene was that the floor was very slippery, and both Nell and I had to be careful not to slip. In addition, my hands were covered with slime, and she grabbed my hand to pick me up, I had to do most of the work of getting up off the floor, as her slippery hand wasn’t enough to do the job on its own. We did this for about 3 or 4 takes, and were done, or so I thought. Nobody had told me that the next scene was going to be me and Nell running through corridors.

In the next scene, as Nell and I are running through the corridors (I changed my shoes to clean ones so I wouldn’t slip). At first, Nell was holding the video camera, filming me as I ran in front of her. Then next, you see Nell running in front of me, while I am holding the video camera. We shot an extra scene where Nell passed off the video camera to me, but it was cut from the final version. Not having this shot makes the scene less cohesive and perhaps a little confusing, but I doubt if most people noticed. And since I took the shots of Nell running through the corridor, I guess I am officially not only an actor and writer (I helped a little on the final draft of the script), but also a camera operator. Now I will have to join three different unions. We only shot the first two corridor scenes a couple of times. After the corridor, you see Nell run down a staircase, running around some people blocking her way. This scene was actually shot the day before with the real camera operator, and the people you see dressed in different suits were volunteers from Red Gate.

The Red Gate extras who appeared in DBA in Space.

In the next scene, Nell grabs the pretend ray-gun and rushes up to confront alien Brad. This was also filmed separately by the camera operator. My camera operator career only lasted a few seconds on screen.

Then there is a cut to alien Brad on the Lunar Exhibition set and you can see that someone is putting makeup on Alien Brad, as he was getting ready to present the last question of the competition. The someone is the real makeup artist, Eve, who was essentially playing herself. Also, if you look closely, you can see the boom microphone in the scene, which was also intentional, to support the idea that alien Brad was getting ready to be on camera, as he has for the past episodes, imitating the real Brad.

Now, you may be thinking, how can I be in two places at the same time, as I am in the same scene playing alien Brad and the real Brad? Easy, of course. The scenes were shot on separate days and edited together to look like they were shot at the same time. In fact, there is a camera pan that moves from alien Brad to the real Brad, as if they are in the same room together. This was actually a special effect to give a better appearance of reality.

Next is a cut to the real Brad, holding the video camera (the first time you see this), and Nell holding the fake ray-gun at alien Brad. The real Brad, for the first time since waking from stasis chamber, sees alien Brad, and isn’t sure what is happening.

Nell then confronts Alien Brad with the ray-gun, but as luck would have it, his dad comes to the rescue and beams him off the set. The beaming scene was also shot separately from the others. I essentially stood still for a few moments, while looking up into the sky (another one of my improvisations), and then CGI was used to beam me out. But as alien Brad is beamed out, the real Brad changes to his real Martian form, which grosses out both Miss Friday and the real Brad. Of course, CGI was used for all these effects. I didn’t even know what the alien looked like until I saw the final version on the website.

Brad McGehee in DBA in Space.

I get to to be beamed up with a transporter. How many people get that lucky?

Miss Friday’s and the real Brad’s reaction to the ugly alien were filmed on the same day as the stasis chamber and slime scene, and I get to look surprised and disgusted at the same time, and utter “Frack”. As a matter of fact, I wrote that line, as the original line (and now I can’t remember what it was) was too corny.

Alien from DBA in Space.

It would have been cool if this was me in makeup, but CGI was used to represent the alien in his true form.

So overall, this entire episodes was made up of many different scenes, filmed over three different days. Oh, and how did I get de-slimed? As I mentioned in one of my original blogs, most of the filming was done at a racetrack grandstand at Epson Downs in England. Since I was completely soaked with slim, one of the producers was able to get me access to the showers used by the jockeys. I was led down under the building by a building supervisor, along with the two wardrobe ladies, where I was able to get out of my slimy clothing, take a hot shower, and put back on my regular clothes that I had worn to the set that day. It was a little eerie being down in the basement with nobody around, except for the wardrobe ladies. It was like being in abandoned building, and every sound bounced off the walls as echoes. Once I was done, the wardrobe ladies took my slimy clothing, and later sent them to be cleaned. But the pants, which was from a woolen suit, shrank. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, in the scene where I jack into the communications system, I was wearing the shrunken pants.

As I said before, this was the most fun, and interesting times of the entire shoot. I doubt if I will repeat many of these same activities anytime soon again in my life.

In my next installment, I will talk about filming question fourteen, the last episode of DBA in Space.

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