Script Bandits: Second Pacific Squadron

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Script Bandits: Second Pacific Squadron

In our latest installment of Script Bandits, we turn to Russia at the turn of the twentieth century to get some real life inspiration for a good old fashioned naval comedy.

In 1904 Tsar Nicolas II sends one of the most unprepared fleets on a trip around the world to engage the Japanese. The comedy of errors that follows strains belief. The story includes a very troublesome repair vessel, and a brief period of time where the fleet becomes a floating zoo of exotic animals.

Can this scrappy band of Russian sailors with hearts of gold make it through this fantastic voyage in one piece? Spoilers ahead.

Show Summary

Intro

  • Script Bandits is where we look for movie ideas from overlooked history
  • Bad Movie Raffle: We select three movie pitches from our rejected history movie repository
  • The Pig War
  • Abraham Lincoln: Wrestlemania
  • Gladiator Ad Men

Brief Historical Background

  • Russia is a third rate naval power around the turn of the twentieth century
  • Russia has picked a fight with Japan and needs relief at Port Arthur, near present day North Korea
  • Tsar Nicolas II accepts a crazy plan to send relief from the Baltic Sea
  • The newly dubbed “Second Pacific Squadron” embarks on a journey around the world
  • This story is hilarious due to their general incompetence, which leads to a seemingly endless comedy of errors
  • When is the last time a major naval themed comedy movie was produced? Down Periscope?
  • When was the last time a good naval themed comedy movie was produced? Never?

A Bad Start

  • The flagship runs aground and another ship loses its anchor as they attempt to set sail on day one
  • The person in charge is Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky, probably generally competent but in charge of “hillbilly yokels”
  • Attempts to keep the crew on their toes about the Japanese leads to a sense of mindless panic
  • Does alcohol play into this? Or carbon monoxide poisoning?
  • The fleet opens fire on two fishermen who bring a message from home base
  • They miss the fishermen, whose message is that the Admiral has been promoted to Vice Admiral
  • We are introduced to the repair ship Kamchatka, also known as the comedy relief of the fleet
  • The Kamchatka announces it is under fire, and surrounded by Japanese torpedo boats
  • They realize they are mistaken
  • They have not even left the Baltic Sea and it’s unlikely they’d be facing the Japanese for a long time

World War Britain

  • The fleet meets some British fishing vessels, and they open fire, assuming they are Japanese
  • They sink one trawler and damage at least one of their own cruisers
  • One ship, the Borodino, thinks it is sinking and being boarded, neither of which is true
  • One Russian ship fires 500 shells and hits nothing
  • The chaplain aboard the Aurora has his hand blown off
  • This incident, known as the “Battle” of Dogger Bank, almost starts a war with Britain
  • The British navy starts tailing the Second Pacific Squadron
  • More importantly, Great Britain refuses the use of the Suez Canal by the Second Pacific Squadron
  • The Russians stop off in Spain to send back to home people blamed on the incident
  • The Vice Admiral takes this chance to get rid of his hated enemy, Captain Klado
  • Klado continues to vex Rozhestvensky, as he is charged with coordinating reinforcements
  • Klado rounds up derelict and ancient vessels which are put under the command of the elderly Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov

Sailing Around Africa

  • The Kamchatka goes missing, when it regroups its discovered they were off shooting at civilian fishing vessels again
  • After a stop in Tangiers, one of their ships’ anchors damages the telegraph line and knocks out communication with Europe for four days
  • They take on double coal from a German resupply rendezvous, and the coal fumes causes crew distress and even deaths
  • The Vice Admiral hears about Klado’s ancient fleet and is not amused
  • Britain, for some reason, allows the Third Pacific Squadron to use the Suez Canal
  • Near Angola the Kamchatka causes a panic, asking if anyone sees the non-existent torpedo boats
  • Illness, including malaria and typhoid fever, strikes much of the crew, including the Vice Admiral
  • On shore leave the crew takes in exotic animal offerings
  • A venomous snake brought aboard bites someone, and a crocodile is also onboard
  • A supply ship loses a refrigeration unit, rotten meat is jettisoned
  • The rotten meat attracts sharks which start following the fleet
  • During a funeral the Kamchatka fires a live round, which hits the Aurora

The Indian Ocean and Indochina

  • “Somehow” 2000 opium cigarettes makes it onto the fleet
  • Ocean madness takes its toll on some crew and they are removed, along with some “troublemakers”
  • The Vice Admiral recovers
  • Everyone is excited for the resupply vessels
  • The excitement fades when its discovered the only thing they are carrying are fur lined uniforms which are inappropriate for equatorial climates
  • They attempt some target practice
  • The only hit is on the ship towing the target
  • There is some scrambling during a torpedo drill gone wrong
  • They are excited for another resupply rendezvous which is delivering mail
  • They discover the mail is just their own mail they sent off that hasn’t arrived yet
  • The “backup” finally rendezvous with the Second Pacific Squadron, to the chagrin of the Vice Admiral
  • Rozhestvensky reads a newspaper article saying he is ordered to not engage the Japanese and turn over the fleet at Vladivostok where they will regroup

The Battle of Tsushima

  • Before the Russian fleet can reach Rozhestvensky they are ambushed by the Japanese
  • In a one-sided battle, the Russians are defeated
  • 4000 Russians are killed, eight Russian battleships destroyed along with other vessels
  • Only around 100 Japanese are killed

Movie Theorycraft

  • Should the movie end before the battle?
  • Allen pitches a Cool Runnings style movie
  • Sean suggests an abrupt ending like the original Dodgeball ending
  • Could A Million Ways to Die in the West be a roadmap for making this movie?
  • Yakov Smirnoff?
  • 1941 as a possible template for compartmental storytelling
  • Paul Blart: Ship Captain
  • The villain is incompetence
  • Add zombies?
  • No don’t
  • “The Japanese fleet is right behind me, isn’t it?”
  • In a Cool Runnings idea, the “victory” could be seeing the main characters survive the carnage at the end
  • The Aurora and the Japanese flagship still exist
  • Life Aquatic with Vice Admiral Rozhestvensky
  • We throw around some vague casting ideas

In Conclusion

Links

Hullwebs “History of Hull” offers a detailed writeup of the “Voyage of the Damned.”

The cruiser Aurora is on display in Russia.

The Naval Historical Society of Australia describes in detail the Battle of Tsushima.

The Accidental Anarchist offers “5 Amazing Facts About History’s First Modern Sea Battle.”

Wikipedia on the Battle of Tsushima.

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