There Be Light
Concept: A 'what if' drama about inventor, visionary, and very eccentric Nicola Tesla at a crucial turning point in the later years of his life, revealing his accomplishments, struggles, flaws, humanity and humor.
Genre: Broadcast one hour real-time, fact-based/enriched fiction.
Tone: Seriocomedic, minimalist, character-driven.
The most eccentric, misunderstood and humanistic physicist of the 19th and early 20th Century who invented most everything, but got credit for virtually none of it. An immigrant self-taught inventor from Serbia, Nicola Tesla came to the US to create his visions for world wide electricity and machines that would transform the world into a utopian paradise for rich and poor alike. Tesla was nominated for the Nobel Prize but lived the last 20 years of his life in poverty, ignored by the world and ridiculed by his competitors (e.g., Edison) who, to the very end, did whatever they could to discredit, humiliate and steal from him.
In "Let There Be Light', it is a few years after the 1929 Crash on Wall Street, two decades after he was the toast of the world scientific community and nominated for the Nobel Prize. He is currently living in poverty, his only trusted friends being the pigeons, with no funds to continue his work, and no one who will believe his wild, but scientifically valid, theories and suggestions for new 'wonder machines'. 'Old Man' Nicola's greatest inventions have been stolen, discredited, ridiculed or used for destructive purposes. His position in the scientific community or any other 'legitimate' community is not helped by his 'non-American' poetic nature, his ever-increasing obsessive compulsive disorders, and his honestly relating that the Visions he has for great inventions got to him through extra-terrestrial sources. He has also had all his notes confiscated by the US government, twice, a knife that digs in hard since Tesla gave his adopted country all he had.
Finally, Nicola has given up, no new ideas about anything coming into his mind, or Soul. Tesla is about to jump off the roof, since 'when the singer has no more songs to sing, the singer must be no more'. Then, fate intervenes. He is visited in the latter part of his life by an aspiring female journalist/scientist (Virginia Millhouse), with whom he shares his most innovative discoveries, and his innermost secrets. Nicola spots in Virginia a silver-spoon socialite who wants to give the world much more than the world will accept, a genius who has been put into a 'slot' of a commoner, or an unwelcome agitator. Virginia becomes 'Teslaized', inspired to be her own person, and all she can be. The Old Man entrusts her with his latest, and very private, scientific notes. His faith in humanity is renewed by the knowledge that his new student, and biographer, will carry on his work. He goes up to the roof, his mind and Soul inspired to continue inventing, even though the world will not understand it. He realizes that doing the work is what matters, when or if the world picks up on it is up to 'a Higher Wisdom'.
Virginia is touched, inspired and terrified when leaving Tesla'a apartment with the notes entrusted to her. She's on her own, finally. Then, she is startled by Edison.waiting in the wings, having sent her to Tesla as a spy to get the last of his 'naïve competitors' ideas in exchange for Virginia to get a coveted research position in his multimillion dollar laboratory. Virginia hands over the notebook to her new boss, Edison, according to the arrangement then asks for them back to 'fill in details, while they are fresh in her mind'. She walks away, leaving a heartfelt note to Tesla that reveals her inability to be his student, or protégée, but keeps the notes out of Edison's hands, choosing the honorable, lonely path rather than the safe, 'connected' one. She is her OWN person after being inspired by the most rugged (and perhaps deluded) individualist of 19th Century Science.
To this day, Tesla's inventions remain hundreds of years ahead of 'modern' science, many of those inventions secretly under lock and key by governments on both sides of the former Iron Curtain which sought (and perhaps still seek) to use them for their own national interests. Tesla's inventions were, and still are, quite earth shattering, including a car that runs without engines, wireless transmission of electricity on a world scale and, yes, a machine that can (and did) make the earth shake. He lived in seclusion for the last 30 years of his life, a lull in his inventions occurring during the early 30s, revived afterwards. He died in 1943, still alone, and still fighting.
Tesla understood so much about Nature and the way science can be used to serve humanity, but the poet-scientist knew so little about the basic 'condition' of humans.their capacity for cruelty and greed.
One-off drama and potential series pilot with tailor-made host introductory, middle and concluding segments.
Tape available upon request. Regional CBC airing, 2005.