Max: The Lost Episodes

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Like all series that are cancelled abruptly, Max Headroom had a number of episodes somewhere in development or production at the time the ax fell.

The series was renewed for a second season of 13 episodes, and sources have told me that there were full treatments, if not developing or developed scripts, for all the planned episodes. That means that at least five unproduced scripts exist, as well as others that were discarded at some point in the development process.

Here are the details that are known. With luck, more material will become available some day.

Note: Contrary to the widely-believed rumor (found even on IMDb), William Gibson never wrote nor planned to write an episode. This comes from a show authority who is well-acquainted with Gibson.

"Families"

Written by Michael Cassutt.

In production at the time of cancellation. It seems likely that there is footage from this episode, but as all film footage for the series is "lost," finding it is unlikely.

"Theora's Tale"

Story by Eric Blakeney. Teleplay by Steve Roberts.

In preproduction at the time of cancellation. If the synopsis below is even a rough early draft, it would have been an audacious episode in both production and story development terms.

Synopsis

The script became publicly available, and a synopsis was widely posted on Usenet in the mid-1990s. Full credit to the synopsis author Joe Struss, whom I've been unable to contact in recent years.

Act I

At dawn twenty minutes into the future the story opens as two super-nationals ZikZak and Zlin have started a shooting War in Antarctica over mineral zones. Meanwhile Theora is violently kidnapped from her bed by two well-equipped mercenaries (Billig and Slauson) who seem to derive sadistic pleasure from her terror. At Network 23, all hell is breaking loose over the Antarctic Super-National War which has easily become the biggest news story in years. Murray readies Edison in arctic gear as Edison bemoans that fact that Theora has yet to arrive at Network 23. Murray hurries Edison to the special newsperson Air Corridor Antarctic Jet shuttle telling him not to worry and then engages Bryce to find out what has happened to Theora. Bryce illegally uses Max and the two-way sampler to search Theora's apartment. Bryce finds the apartment to be in shambles and finds the doorway has been burned out. The Act ends with the sight of Theora bound and gagged in semi-darkness in the back of a hot and humid van as the van hits a bump and Theora careens into the side of the van.

Act II

Theora is taken out of the van by her captors and marched to a featureless building in midst of a barren, sandy wasteland. Murray tries to calm Edison who is about to board the Air Corridor shuttle while Max berates Murray for not telling Edison the whole truth about Theora and Cheviot berates Murray for not moving quicker on the hottest story in years. Meanwhile Theora is put into a small, dirty cage and a beautiful woman mercenary (Borgia) tortures Theora with sudden loud noises and nail-on-blackboard sounds at high volume. Borgia keeps insisting that Theora's name is Simone and punishes her with noise when she denies this fact. Meanwhile Cheviot, who is busily watching over potential advertising sales from the War coverage, gets a vidcall from Borgia who demands twenty million credits for Theora's release. Cheviot contacts Murray regarding the ransom and wonders aloud how a simple controller can be worth that much. Murray again decides not to contact Edison regarding Theora's ransom. Suddenly a new report comes that states that the special Air Corridor flight has been shot down killing all aboard. Edison Carter is listed amongst the dead. We then see Theora all alone in her grimy little cell pulling helplessly against the bars. Her dirty and bruised face is almost in tears. Back at network 23, a call comes in for Cheviot. It seems that John Best (Chairman of Channel 2) wants to talk to him privately about what has happened to Theora. Cheviot asks Best why he is interested in the well-being of one of his controllers and Best replies by saying, "Because Theora is my daughter".

Act III & IV

Billig and Slauson push, shove and drag Theora around a bare room and eventually drag her out a barred door. Best invites Cheviot to his mansion to speak with him mentioning that there might be something at stake here that is even bigger than the war. Best tells Cheviot that Theora is his adopted daughter. Best adopted a boy and a girl. (The boy does not seem to be Theora's biological brother from the Rakers episode.) Best goes on to describe Theora's childhood in his large mansion and estate, her adopted brother, her fierce independence which caused her to refuse most of his gifts and presents and which eventually led her to a working class life as a controller. During this, Bryce contacts his hacker friends at other networks and sets about doing the near impossible task of tracking down Theora. Bryce's friends both know and like Theora and eventually Bryce hooks together much of the informational power of nearly all the networks (except 66, who refuses to cooperate). Borgia calls Theora a little rich brat and frightens her with black birds that terrify Theora. She imprisons Theora again in darkness and Theora seems as though she is ready to crack as she calls out in fear as loud black bird fluttering sounds are heard in the darkness. Time passes. Theora is later seen as she kicks over her bathroom bucket. Borgia appears as a face in hundreds of images on a video wall and taunts Theora for being a dirty, little girl. Borgia's face is replaced by a news story about the crashed Air Corridor flight. The story lists Edison amongst the passengers who were killed. Theora cracks and begins blubbering and then begins automatically obeying all her captors orders.
Back at network 23, the War is heating up and Edison pops into the network to tell them that he accidentally missed his flight because he was worried about Theora. Murray gives Edison the latest news some of which he must have gotten from Cheviot. Edison contacts a mercenary assassin friend of his named Kurt who looks and sounds like Von Sidow in 'Three Days of the Condor'. Cheviot over the video link and after a little debate allows Murray and Edison a small team to look for Theora. Theora is seen being physically abused by Billig. She is emotionless. Then further mental abuse by Borgia. She doesn't react to it. Eventually Slauson cleans her up, puts her into a VFA jumpsuit and asks her to join the VFA (Video Freedom Alliance) to fight against the monopolistic network system that sustains leeches like her father. Theora timidly agrees and is given a rifle but is carefully watched by the other revolutionaries. Borgia indoctrinates Theora(Simone) into their cause and teaches her their ways of terrorism. Edison, meanwhile, is combing Theora's apartment with Max looking for some clue to help Bryce finally locate Theora. He comes across an address book with names and address of many network owners/chairpeople. Carter tells Cheviot this and Cheviot comes clean about Theora's past. Cheviot then reveals that Theora because of her rich father knows many vital secrets about the network monopolies and hints that if these secrets were to leak out that mass chaos and hysteria could result. Cheviot then invites Edison to the Best estate. Meanwhile Theora's training is almost complete and she seems happy about her new calling in life though she doesn't handle a rifle well at all. Theora agrees to make a new video communication and will demand the same money for her silence instead of for her release since she has now joined the VFA. While Theora goes to make the video, all the mercenaries laugh and make plans for the arrival of the money and for Theora's demise.
Best, Cheviot and Edison watch Theora's new tape. The new tape demands include twenty million credits in one hour to be exchange to an account via an irreversible computer bond device. Kurt arrives, is briefed and comments on the "professional" level of requiring an 'irreversible bond transaction at an undetermined location of their own choosing'. Cheviot has Murray obtain the bond transmitter as Bryce gets on the video link to say that he has found Theora and to not ask him how he did it. Kurt and Edison head off via helicopter to pick up the bond device and then to get to Theora's location as soon as possible. Kurt is deep in thought while flying the helicopter trying to think of an angle that won't get Theora killed but admits to Edison that she will probably be dead before they even arrive. Outside the featureless desert house the three mercenaries turn on Theora and announce to her that her usefulness has ended. Slauson grabs her rifle and drags her off to a rough firing range to kill her like a dog while the other two prepare to kill their visitors once the bond transaction has taken place. Borgia sends off to Best the location of the camp. Slauson roughly throws Theora down against the rough wall of a firing range and walks off a little before raising Theora's own rifle with which to blow her brains out. Theora looks numb and drained. Emotionless she watches as Slauson pulls the trigger. Click. Nothing. The weapon was not loaded. Slauson laughs and pulls out his own pistol. Theora begs briefly for her life but Slauson calls her a rich bitch and slaps her around a little. Slauson turns briefly to watch Edison's helicopter fly over. When Slauson turns back, Theora savagely bashes him in the head with a crude iron rod which was part of the crumbling wall. Slauson flops down to the ground - very dead. Theora picks up Slauson pistol, checks the load and expertly slams the clip home. Glancing around she moves swiftly and with purpose; with her back to the building she moves towards the helicopter and the terrorists.
Meanwhile Edison, with Kurt pretending to be a pilot, has landed and has moved the bond device out towards the VFA mercenaries. He starts up the device and the credits begin quickly counting down on a digital readout as the electronic transaction takes places. Suddenly a shot rings out and the device is shattered as Theora is seen at the corner of the house. She covers all the VFA mercenaries and walks towards the helicopter. Billig tries to sneak out his pistol but Theora warns him: "Don't make me do what every fibre of me is longing to.." and has him throw the gun to the ground. Edison has a brief flashback to the Rakers episode as Theora says, "there's a lot I haven't told you about myself". Edison and Theora back up slowly to the helicopter. Theora is temporarily blinded by sweat and the desert sun as Billig dives for his pistol. Borgia takes a shot at Edison and then runs for the house. Kurt neatly kills Billig and then runs after Borgia. Theora in tears thanks Edison for being there. A shot rings out and Kurt is soon seen returning from the house. Kurt compliments Theora on her fine shot. Theora once again thanks Edison but bemoans the fact that her life will now never by the same since everyone will soon know her secret. "Find out what?" says Edison with a smile as Theora jubilantly throws her arms round his neck. Smiles all round as Murray links in to say that the Arctic War is over.

"The Trial"

Written by David G.B. Brown.

No further information available.

"X-Mas"

(or "Xmas," or possibly "X-Max" - accounts vary. Probably the first above.)

Written by George R.R. Martin. Yes, that GRRM.

No further information available.

"Bring Me the Head of Network 23"

(aka "Nanosurgery")

Story by Chris Langham & Steve Roberts. Teleplay by Chris Langham.

No further information available.

Max Headroom for President

In the immediate aftermath of the series cancellation, there was significant talk of a Max Headroom movie, which was to be rushed to completion both to capitalize on the shaky fan base and the looming US Presidential election. Steve Roberts and others spoke of it to the press and fan inquiries, and a few scant details beyond the title and obvious plotline are known.

Consider - just consider - the possibilities of:

  1. Big Time TV becoming really big-time, a global player, maybe because Max returned to them, and
  2. The pink bus mounted like a fighter jet outside corporate Big Time HQ, and
  3. Reg... in Armani.

Such a loss.