B-Movie Inspirations: The Drift (2016)
This is an award winning UK sci-fi space short film made Backyard Productions UK as part of the “Darkwave universe.” Set in a world where rare crystals – called Starlight Crystals – make FTL flight possible, it shows that even with a low budget and actors working for free, you can still tell a damn good story. I write about this because I really feel that this Darkwave setting REALLY needs to be written up as an RPG setting. Someone really needs to approach these guys with the idea.
As explained the beginning of the film, something called the Darkwave is an event blamed for nearly all the Starlight Crystals not working. ONly a small percentage of them still work. This ends up leaving many ships in mid-flight stranded in the middle of space, decades if not centuries away from a colony using sublight engines. Finally, a sci-fi movie that respects stellar distances.
Only a few fragments of working Starlight crystals exist, so only a few ships can travel limited FTL. Apparently the distance and speed a crystal can travel is proportional to the size in some way. Scavenger ships armed with these crystals travel from derelict to derelict – called Drifts – salvaging cargo, rescuing passengers where possible and salvaging crystal fragments. Some have good intentions while others don’t. The film introduces a Ministry ship named the Deliverance ( a ship that vaguely looks like the Firefly) and it’s salvage crew of eight scavengers. The drop out of FTL asleep in hypersleep suits after a 5 month flight, near a couple of Drifts – a cargo ship and a passenger liner – that is apparently near the nebula where the Darkwave originated.
The characters are kind of cliched – hard-ass woman inspired by Ripley from Alien, the wise-cracking American pilot, the by-the-book perfectly British captain, the pair of rough and tumble blue-collar types that are underappreciated and do all the work, a wide-eyed kid who is bound to get in trouble, rookie corporate guy and so on. Collectively, they come across as a cross between the crew of the Firefly and the crew of the Nostromo with some homages to the marines of the Sulaco. They come across a starship graveyard of multiple wrecks and other debris. Their systems apparently detected a crystal fragment and they are after it.
What follows is a series of events that are reminiscent of several claustrophobic space movies like Aliens, Pandorum, and the like. There are survivors on the ship and they all have a dark story to tell. It is a mad dash to recover a crystal on the ship that is apparently special. A mole in the group wants the crystal for their own clandestined purposes while the rest just try to get out. There are moments you can tell this is a shoe-string budget production while others are top-notch. The hallways seem thrown together and poorly constructed at times, but the set of the Deliverance is very cool. Overall, however, the story they tell is compelling and fantastically inspiring.
From an RPG point of view, this movie is more inspiring from a setting point of view than anything else. The story itself is tropey and cliched, but would serve as a great intro adventure into the settings. This “Ministry” they work for needs to be fleshed out, as does the covert factions within that drove the mole character. There would need to be an idea of what the universe was like before the Darkwave and what it is now. Colonies are isolated now, with only a few fragments available to them, perhaps only able to reach out to other nearby systems. Smaller stellar nations would form, space would factionalize and people would start blaming others for the Darkwave. Perhaps a whole faith would rise out of the Darkwave, saying that humanity had reached too far.
Youtube is full of short sci-fi and fantasy films, some good and some not so good. I found this one exceptionally imaginative and inspiring. I hope I can find the time to flesh out a setting inspired by it.