The Paradise Machine by Paul Thain

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


(A rapid series of electronic pips ... )


(More electronic pips ...)

(From a dead silence - we hear the slightly unnatural voice of Doctor MARY GODWIN, late thirties:)

MARY : You are now about to experience the most significant application of technology since
the printing press.  Ladies and Gentlemen ... Welcome to the world of Virtual Reality ...

(Bring up a Tropical Desert Island.  We hear exotic bird-calls, and the surreal cries of
strange animals.  Waves break lethargically on silver sand:)

MARY : Isn’t it beautiful ?  And if you turn your heads you’ll see a silver sun slowly set beneath
the Blue Mountains ...(Pause)We’re now about to walk along the beach.  This will seem rather
strange at first, but please remember, you are at all times perfectly safe ...

(Slowly bring up waves, closer:)

Let’s sit and rest a moment. That’s right.  And now for another miracle - reach out and take
a handful of sand ... Yes, you can feel it, can’t you ?  You can actually feel it.  And it looks so
real. Look closer ... closer and closer ...worlds within worlds.  Seeing the world in a grain of
sand.  From sand, we get silicon.  And from silicon, we make the brain of a computer.  As you
can now see, that brain can take us into worlds even William Blake couldn’t imagine ...

(The breeze suddenly builds to a strong wind:)

MARY : Please don’t be alarmed .  Remember ...

(The wind rapidly builds to a howling storm:)

MARY : ... this is only an illusion. With sand we mingle ... Electricity!

(The sky answers with a bolt of lightning and a crash of thunder:)

MARY : ... the primeval Life-force ...

(Another terrifying crash of thunder and lightning.  MARY chuckles:)

MARY : I think it’s time we returned to Paradise ...

(The howling storm immediately cuts to the gentle, tropical breeze:)

MARY : That concludes our first Program.

(Effects dissolve to silence:)

MARY : You may now remove your headsets.

(Change of acoustic:)

(Press Conference.  For a moment, the dozen or so journalists are spell-bound. 
They then burst into applause. 

MARY acknowledges this with her now normal voice, slightly amplified:)

MARY : Thank you.  Science-fiction writers have long predicted this kind of technology. 
But now, ladies and gentlemen, fantasy has become fact.  I will now take questions ...

MICHAEL : Michael Adams, ITN - Doctor Godwin, could you please explain a little
more how it actually works ?

MARY : Certainly. If you examine the headset, you’ll see two small screens - one for each
eye.  These provide the stereoscopic vision.  The addition of digitised stereo sound is, of
course, relatively simple.  The real complexity is in the creation of the tropical island.  The
illusion was generated by a vast catalogue of three-dimensional sprites accessed from a
dedicated pre-constructed database

REG : Reg Marmaduke, Daily Mirror. Any chance you putting that in English?

MARY : It simply means that when you move your head, the object field moves - just like in real life -
and the touch sensitive data-gloves enables you to pick up and feel any of these objects.  Like you did
with the sand.

SALLY: These objects - could they be people ?

MARY: Why not ?  As far as the computer’s concerned, people are just data. Theoretically you
could be or meet whoever you want.  Anywhere, any dream, any fantasy ...
SALLY: And how much will this thing cost ?

MARY : At the moment, a small fortune.  But in say, five, ten years ...

PETER : Peter Holstein - the Guardian.  Dr Godwin, isn’t all this a bit Brave New World ? 
“Feelies”, and all that ...

MARY : We are sensitive to those dangers.

PETER : Yes, but who decides what dreams we dream ?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most
of ICN’s interests in weapon technology -

MARY : The world’s changing, Mr Holstein.  Weapon systems generate increasingly less profit.  We believe
our primary profit engine will be the entertainment industry, not the military.  Now if we can perhaps -

(Abruptly cut - we have been listening to a video recording.  We are now in -

INT. Board Room Meeting

PATRICK CUNNINGHAM, English, forties, Senior Research Director of ICN (UK), turns to MARY, pleased:)

PATRICK : Well done, Mary - a first-class presentation.

MARY : Thank you, Patrick.(WERNER GALLWITZ, forties, German:)

WERNER : Yes, excellent.  Our Marketing people are particularly impressed.

PATRICK : And so they should be.  You’re very quiet, Arnie?(ARNIE GOLDHORN, thirties, American:)

ARNIE : ... hm ?  Sorry ?

PATRICK : The Press Conference ...

ARNIE : Oh, that ...

PATRICK : Well ?

ARNIE : It went okay ... a little sober for my taste, but I suppose this being England - don’t want to scare too many horses, do we ?

PATRICK : Precisely.

ARNIE : Can I go now ?

PATRICK : No, you may not.

ARNIE : Patrick, I have work -

PATRICK : Sit down, Arnie.  This does concern you.  Professor Corbier ..

(MARCEL CORBIER, forties, French:)

CORBIER : Thank you, Director.  It is not all good news, I regret.  There seems to be an
increasing ... unease among certain opinion-makers, politicians, and so forth, that our aims are not -
well, how shall we say ?  Not in the public interest.  In essence, they fear Virtual Reality will cause
a significant degeneration of social skills ...

ARNIE : ... what ?

CORBIER : ... particularly among the young.

(ARNIE chuckles:)

ARNIE : You mean like rock ‘n’ roll ?  Or television ?

MARY : I don’t think we can risk complacency, Arnie.

ARNIE : Who’s complacent ?  I just -

CORBIER : There is considerable psychiatric evidence -

ARNIE : Aw, come on, all shrinks are fruit-cakes, everyone -

CORBIER : They advise powerful people, Arnie.  The Government is most concerned -

ARNIE : - what they gonna do ?  Suppress it ?

PATRICK : They might try ...

ARNIE : ... no way.  Okay - even if they did, we simply move operations - New York, Paris ...

PATRICK : Arnie ...

ARNIE : ... where’s the problem ?

PATRICK : Circumspection, a little ... sensitivity, that’s all we ask.  Got it ?

ARNIE : ... yeh, I got it.

PATRICK : Good.  Well on that note, I think we can adjourn for lunch.  Thank you.

(As the meeting breaks up, ARNIE approaches MARY:)

ARNIE : Oh, Mary ...

MARY : Yes ?

ARNIE : I, er ... I feel real sorry I didn’t make it last night -

MARY : So you should be.

ARNIE : Yeh, well ... so what about tomorrow ?  I thought we could -

MARY : I’m afraid not.

ARNIE : Aw, come on ... I was working - you know what it’s like.

MARY : Arnie, I can’t.

ARNIE : Can’t or won’t ?
MARY : Can’t.  I’m driving down to my daughter’s school. We’re spending a few days at the
sea-side ...


(Sea-shore.  A solitary gull cries plaintively, waves crash on shingle.

We then hear AMY, fourteen:)

AMY : Daddy saw you on television ...

MARY : ... did he ...
AMY : He came up last weekend.  With a new girlfriend.

MARY : ... oh, yes ...

AMY : She’s nice.  They took me to the ballet, then for a meal.  It was wonderful.

MARY     : Amy - I came to see you, not to talk about your father.

AMY : So what do we talk about ?

MARY : Well, you still haven’t told me how you’re getting on at school ...

AMY : ... Mother !

MARY : It’s important, Amy !

AMY : I know it’s important !  I just get sick of everyone -

MARY : Yes, all right -  I’m sorry.  I said, I’m sorry.(Pause. Change of mood:)

AMY     : Isn’t it beautiful ?

MARY     : ... hm ?

AMY     : The sea.  Beautiful.  Powerful.  Don’t you feel it ?

MARY     : You’re such a romantic ...

AMY     : It makes me feel real.  What makes you feel real, mother ?

MARY     : What kind of question - ?

AMY     : I don’t know why you bothered.  You’re not here.  You’re not with me ...

MARY     : Amy -

AMY     : ...  you’re back there, you’re still back there - your head choked full of numbers ! Daddy says
you’re -
MARY     : Oh, I see.  Your father’s been -

AMY     : No, listen !  Please listen ... he still loves you.  It’s true, he does, only ...  Well, I finally asked him
why he left -

MARY : You had no right -

AMY : I have every right.  am involved you know - or have you forgotten that as well? M

MARY     : That’s not fair. Amy, there are just some things you’re simply too young to understand.
But please remember you’re more precious to me than -

AMY : Don’t touch me - I am not a child.  He said he could’ve handled your having an
affair, but how could he compete with a computer ?

(MARY chuckles sadly

AMY: )Mummy, I don’t want to hurt you, but ... he thinks you’re… you’re sick - sick and obsessed. 

MARY:  Well, bully for him.  Come on, we’d better be getting back.

AMY : Why won’t you listen?  Why don’t you ever listen?

MARY : Amy ... if I were a man,  I’d be regarded as ambitious, dynamic, ruthless even.
But I’d still be admired. That’s the way of the world, darling. And if your father chooses to caricature
me as sick and obsessed, that’s his problem, not mine.  Now, can we please go back ?  ...  Amy ?

AMY : ... go to hell ...


(ICN Research HQ - MARY & ARNIE in bed:)

MARY : ... she’s half-child, half-woman, and I can’t seem to relate to either.

ARNIE : Well, she’s had a tough time, you can’t blame her for being angry.

MARY : I don’t. I blame myself.  I should’ve spent more time with her, explained things better.

ARNIE : You did what you could.  You paid a fortune to get her into that fancy school -
MARY     : Not the point.

ARNIE   : Okay, so what’s her lousy father ever done ?  A few trips out, big deal.  Aw, come on,
Mary - she’ll get over it.  Kids are a lot tougher than we think.  And you carrying a whole weight of guilt’s
not gonna help anyone.

(As MARY gets out of bed:)

MARY     : ... spare me the analysis.

ARNIE : Where you going ?

MARY : Back to my room.

ARNIE   : Hey, relax ... I didn’t mean to -
MARY     : Yes, I know - but I still have work to do.

ARNIE : You haven’t seen my latest miracle.

MARY     : ... tomorrow ...

(ARNIE gets out of bed, goes to a computer terminal:)

ARNIE   : But I’ve created a new icon ... an entirely new character !

MARY : ... tomorrow, Arnie ...

ARNIE : Won’t take long ...

(Electronic pips, followed by a dull hum as ARNIE boots up his computer terminal:)

ARNIE   : ... I scanned her from an old Hollywood movie.  Mary, I used the new Cray !  It’s incredibly
powerful - the resolution’s near perfect.  And the voice -

MARY : I’m sorry, Arnie - it’ll have to wait.


(Board Room Meeting.  Bring up CORBIER:)

CORBIER : ... Doctor Godwin,  this is all very worthy, but is it sufficiently commercial ?

MARY : When television was first introduced, Professor Corbier, people were enchanted
by a goldfish bowl.  I think the experience of walking on the Moon is significantly more engaging.

PATRICK : It does seem to lack a little drama ...

MARY : Patrick - that vision of Earth floating in Space is a primary archetype

CORBIER : But yes, I agree, only -

MARY : If I might continue ...
CORBIER : ... forgive me ...

MARY : I propose we end this Moon sequence with evidence of an alien civilisation ...

PATRICK : ... ah ...

MARY : Then - in future modules - we can follow a scenario similar to that of the Sixties film “2001”.

WERNER : Good, that is good.  But I still think we need rather more action.

PATRICK : Quite.  Something a little more “sexy”, perhaps ?

MARY : ... sexy ?

WERNER : With all this fantastic new technology, surely we can be a little more adventurous ?

CORBIER : Maybe some kind of Moon-monster ?

MARY : ... a what ?

CORBIER : Like what you say, an octopus.  Huge, writhing tentacles which threaten -

MARY : ... cheap sensationalism.

WERNER : There is a saying ... Nobody ever went broke -

MARY : We don’t need B-movie monsters !  This Program is implicitly directed at
politicians, opinion-makers, not schoolkids !

PATRICK : Everyone enjoys a fantasy, Mary - especially politicians ...

MARY : I thought I had your support on this ?
PATRICK : What does Arnie have to say ?  And why the hell isn’t he here ?


(A high-pitched, squeaky VOICE:)

VOICE : ... Hello, Arnie ...(Same VOICE - low, base pitch - very slow:)

  ” ” : ... Hel ... lo ... Ar ... nie ...

(Same VOICE, now properly “tuned” - slinky, sexy - Marilyn Monroe:)

MARILYN : Hello, Arnie ...

(Fade up gently splashing water:)

ARNIE : Hi, Marilyn ... Say, you look terrific.

MARILYN : Yourself is not so bad, big boy.(ARNIE chuckles with delight, splashing his bathwater:)

MARILYN : Do you really think I should be permitted your bathroom?

ARNIE : I was hoping you might soap my back ...(The VOICE falls into a rapid “loop”:)

MARILYN : ... soap your back ... soap your back ... soap your -

ARNIE : Damn !

(Double-pulse electronic pips:)

MARILYN : ... soap your back ?  But Arnie, my get clothes all wet.

ARNIE : So take them off ...

MARILYN   : ... take them off ?

ARNIE   : Take them off.

MARILYN : Think I should really ?

ARNIE : You bet.

MARILYN : Oh, well ... if what you like is that ...

ARNIE : ... that’s what I’d like .

(MARILYN giggles:)

MARILYN : ... okay ...(ARNIE sighs contentedly:)

  ” ” : What shall I - ?

(Another VOICE - female, stern, metallic:)

VOICE : Virtual Reality Mode 7 is terminated.(Silence)

ARNIE : ... eh ?  What’s going on ?  I didn’t -

(Special acoustic - we hear MARY:)

MARY : I did. I want you back on Earth, Arnie - now!

(ARNIE sighs:)

[end of extract]