Signal by Matt Hubsher | Script Revolution


An interstellar research vessel arrives at Proxima Centauri and discovers a seemingly impossible mystery.



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A few decades into the future, a mission is planned by several international organizations with some funding from a couple of space industry giants. Effectively, this is a proof-of-concept mission demonstrating that the technology to support extended interstellar missions is ready for application. After 50 years of space travel sped up by a gravity engine--the Alcubierre drive--the ISC Robert Innes successfully arrives at the nearest stellar neighbor to the solar system, Proxima Centauri, with plans to sample planets in its orbit. Another objective of this mission is to find the source of a strange radio signal broadcasting from the area.

Upon arriving, the crew finds some surprising things: first, that telemetry is malfunctioning, making telemetry a round-the-clock operation; second, that the signal has no definite source, and seems to be coming from everywhere around them all at once; third, that there is a field of debris orbiting very close to the star. Upon investigating the debris field, they find that they not just shipwrecks but indeed human shipwrecks--two unconscious bodies in spacesuits are recovered from the wreckage, brought onboard, and stabilized. The signal, most definitely interfering with telemetry, proves too elusive to find; however, a major breakthrough occurs when the communications officer, Barry Whitacre, notices that the brainwave patterns of the two comatose astronauts rescued from the wreckage exactly match the signal he's been staring at for hours on end. The captain Alex Beaumont decides to have the medical officer, Dr. al-Qatari, remove the drugs inducing coma and wake the survivors up for questioning.

Around the same time, drones sent to sample local planets return to the ship and the researchers get to work analyzing the samples. One of the planets turns out to be incredible: an active molten core provides a strong atmosphere rich with liquid water and abundant in many elements found on Earth, plus a whole bunch of metals that would fetch a pretty penny.

One of the survivors ceases to survive and the doctor can't save them--but the other one makes it out of the coma and awakens, severely brain-damaged and unable to communicate. Two things then happen that completely stun the crew: first, the navigation officer Omar de Corrientes hears a bizarre noise through his hearing aid that causes him to have a kind of psychotic breakdown before blacking out; second, the survivor of the shipwreck quietly murders the three crew members in the infirmary, plus another officer, Lena Karamarova. The chief engineer Odell Harris subdues the survivor, but he succinctly kills himself with no hesitation or emotion.

The crew is shaken by these four deaths, as well as Omar's potential psychotic break--Omar, despite some odd behaviors, claims to have recovered just fine. Barry begins to suspect that this tragedy was in some way connected to the signal he's been unable to find, but has no proof to offer Alex. Alex, unsure of what else the mission can accomplish, decides to end it by broadcasting a mission report and setting a time to fire up the gravity engine and plot a course back to Earth. But then a thought occurs, and she checks the local planet samples to confirm a hunch: the aforementioned incredible planet that could support life and a potential mining colony was about to be colonized by a fleet of ships from Earth. The gravity engine's mechanism allowed the mission report to travel faster than light and reach Earth at a time before it was sent, before the ISC Robert Innes even arrived at Proxima Centauri. A colony fleet was rapidly assembled and sent on the same course as the Innes; spaceflight technology advances allowed them to reach Proxima before the Innes, but something went wrong and the fleet met with disaster, which created the field of shipwreck debris in orbit.

Completely reeling from this, Alex still determines that the prudent course of action is to return to Earth. However Omar, in a mental state similar to the shipwreck survivor, undoes the Innes' exit from orbit and sets them on a crash course for the surface of Proxima. Two crew members attempt to stop him but he promptly kills them. Nothing can be done at this point--the ship is on its way to inevitable destruction. Alex calls the escape pods and the remaining crew attempts to board, but only three people survive a crash into the debris field: Alex in her own pod, and Odell and Robert in another. With almost no recourse for survival, Alex directs them toward the potentially habitable planet. En route, inexplicably, a black hole appears, eating up the two pods as well as all the remaining debris which hasn't crashed into the star. Robert, in a panic, disables life support in his pod, rendering him and Odell unconscious. Alex, still conscious, witnesses the transit of her pod through a wormhole in spacetime.

Alex is left alone in interstellar space to die, but is serendipitously found and rescued by a fleet of ships from Earth. They had received her mission report, telling of a habitable planet, and sent what appears to be humanity's last hope on a colony mission. The fleet also picked up the Innes' other escape pod, containing a comatose Robert and Odell, currently on life support in the infirmary. Just as the colony fleet arrives at Proxima Centauri, Robert and Odell awaken in the same mental state as Omar and the previous shipwreck survivor. They kill a crew member in the infirmary, disappear into the ship, and sabotage the engine. Alex discovers this all too late, and the ship is destroyed; this causes a chain reaction, destroying all the other ships in the fleet and leaving the shipwrecks in orbit around the star. Soon thereafter, the ISC Robert Innes arrives, ready to begin its research mission.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

Semifinalist, Shore Scripts Feature Contest 2018
Quarterfinalist, LA International Screenplay Awards 2018

Submitted: April 9, 2019
Last Updated: May 3, 2022

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The Writer: Matt Hubsher

Fueled mostly by coffee and a little bit of booze, I have a real hankering to write that doesn't go away. Even when I would prefer not to be writng, it just slides out of me in an uncontrollable fashion, and I just have to sit and deal with it until it stops. So, it seems like it's just a thing I want to do for the rest of my life, whether I like it or not. I'll be writing movies until I die, because that's just how I am. The way I look at it: you can save the cat and complete the hero's journey and do all that good stuff the books tell you to; nobody gives a fuck about your script if the characters interact like the stock characters you read about in those books. I will give you unique... Go to bio

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