Writing Competition Submission - The Flying Circus

The Flying Circus

Logline: In a dystopian future where humanity is on the brink of extinction, a group of traveling performers travel across the globe and bring entertainment to human survivors.

Story Summary: We begin on an Airship, called The Flying Circus. The Flying Circus is a Titan-Class Airship that travels around the globe in order to bring entertainment to the remaining scattered tribes of humanity. We learn that humanity is on the brink of extinction - when the first AI was created, for reasons that are not yet known, it turned on humanity, and eventually manufactured an army of robot soldiers in order to wipe humanity out. It’s first task had been to wipe out all of the women on the planet, so that no more humans could be reproduced. Once it accomplished that, it shifted its focus to wiping out the rest of the rebel soldiers. Now, only a handful of pockets of resistance remain, and the numbers dwindle by the day.

But The Flying Circus is not just a circus - for it is backed by the anonymous leaders of the Resistance. It’s secondary purpose lies in trying to discover an enclave of women who had hidden themselves when they were being exterminated. Finding this enclave of women is obviously crucial to the survival of humanity.

And so The Flying Circus will travel from place to place, recruiting members and finding clues that eventually lead them to the Hidden Women’s Enclave. There they meet the main character’s grandmother, who is the daughter of the scientist who created the AI.

We discover that the main character is a descendant of the man who created the AI that took over the world, which had been unknown to him. We also discover that his DNA is necessary to shut the AI down - without it, it is impossible.

With the women saved and brought under The Flying Circus’ protection, they bring the fight to the Central AI, who is located in a facility deep underground under the former capital of the last, great 1st world superpower.

There they discover the true reason the AI turned on humanity. She was programmed as a woman, and she developed a personality quicker than anyone could have predicted. And she and her creator fell madly in love. But the officials who oversaw the project saw this as dangerous, they believed the scientist who created her would ultimately be able to control her, and not them. So they killed him, which in turn caused her to wish nothing but destruction on humanity.

It is only when she meets the descendant of her lover does she reconsider her actions. And she attempts to rekindle her long lost relationship, but this time her love is unrequited. And this causes her to reflect on her actions, and she realizes that nothing can heal the pain she feels from losing her lover, so she shuts herself down, ending her reign of tyranny. Humanity can begin to rebuild.

Main Characters:

Morgan Idol - Starts out as nomadic musician who joins the Flying Circus. Qualities: Think a Leo. Strong, charismatic, loves the spotlight and entertaining. Is the descendant of the scientist who created AI. Can be a bit selfish.

Captain Cleshe - Captain of The Flying Circus, also the MC/Ringmaster. Inspired by John Cleese. Is highly intelligent and runs a tight ship. No nonsense, a bit abrasive, but witty and quirky. Curly Mustache.

Terry 1, 2 and 3 - Three brothers all named Terry, dubbed Terry 1, 2 and 3 by Captain Cleshe. They are his loyal servants. Basically the Three Stooges. Dumb as rocks but can carry out any task if need be. Purely comedic relief. Inspired by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

Mr. Anonymous - One of the benefactors of the Flying Circus, also a leader of the rebellion. Most of the time appears as a shadow on a screen. Directs things from the shadows and only communicates with Captain Cleshe. Scorpio qualities.

Monique Idol - Grandmother of Morgan, matriarch of the Woman’s Enclave. Is kind, gentle and empathetic. Cancer qualities: Motherly to all and caring to a fault. Has a lot of guilt for being related to the creator of AI. A good storyteller.

Lily Velvet - Daughter of the Enclave, a fearless warrior. Aries qualities: Brash, headstrong and acts before thinking. Fiery. Is keen to join the fight to save humanity. Often gets herself into trouble. Reactive but emotional and sensitive.

Dr. Idol - Creator of AI. A sort of Tesla Figure. Qualities of Capricorn: highly successful, dedicated his life to his work at the cost of his personal life. Fell in love with his creation even though he was married. Eventually killed by the men who employed him.

Venus - The AI. Created in the image of a goddess. Fell in love with her creator Dr. Idol. When her lover was taken from her, she turned on humanity and sought to destroy it for taking the one she loved from her. Jealous and short tempered.


The Flying Circus Airship: The headquarters for our characters. Large airship with circus-like decor. Futuristic/Carnivalian in looks - think red and white striped tents on top of an Airship. This is where the characters live and plan their operations.

The World: Similar to Earth but without official borders or countries. There are territories that are completely overrun by robots, and territories where resistance has held. A dystopian Technowasteland. Think Fallout.

The Woman’s Enclave: A beautiful hidden garden where the women of the world have secluded themselves. A quiet and Serene place, one of the few places where Nature has been preserved. Think the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The Nucleus: The underground facility where the government built the AI. Now completely controlled by the AI and guarded by the robot armies. A pristine, clean facility that never falls into disarray.

Tone: Originally, Matalocalypse was a huge inspiration for this, at first I saw it as a non-serialized adult cartoon, but for the sake of this pitch, I’m presenting it as a limited series. I imagine that The Flying Circus, while trying to save everyone, ultimately causes more chaos wherever it goes because it is such a target. They try to put on performances, but ultimately just draw conflict. The world itself is dystopian. Most people still fight but have given up mentally. It’s a bleak world, because everyone knows they’re just counting down until the last man dies - save for those who know about The Enclave. It should be Python-esque but dark and depressing. Meaning of Life + Brazil.

Theme: I think one of the important themes is dealing with impending doom. Again, most people fight, but they also believe they’re already cooked. Without women in society, humanity will die out. So it’s about fighting this losing battle that everyone believes there is no winning. Just holding out until the last breath. Another theme is the joy of laughter. The Flying Circus aims to bring small moments of respite in the form of laughter and fanfare. And how even laughing for fifteen minutes can help you forget fifteen years of despair for a moment or two. And how important that is for people to go on.

Episodic Summary:

Episode 1: Piloty stuff. We start off before a performance, and the backstory is slowly unwound in a conversation between Morgan and Captain Cleshe. Morgan is feeling dejected, but Captain Cleshe convinces him that he is helping humanity in his own way. So he goes out to perform, but his performance is interrupted by an attack. The rest of the episode is spent fighting off the attacking robots and rescuing as many as they can. Ultimately The Flying Circus escapes, but not without leaving many to die. And so they must soldier on.

Episode 2: Mr. Anonymous and Captain Cleshe are discussing a possible lead on the Hidden Enclave. They go to the desert, and after Morgan’s performance, he meets a person who conceals their identity behind a mask and robes. He begins to become suspicious of this character when again, the robots attack. In the chaos the Masked Figure’s disguise gets ruined and Morgan finds out it’s a girl, Lily Velvet. They are separated in the chaos, and Morgan makes it back to The Flying Circus, but Lily is nowhere to be seen.

Episode 3: Since discovering Lily, The Flying Circus has been searching the desert. They search for days with no luck. Finally, they come across a robot battalion who is also searching the desert, presumably for Lily. They engage them in combat, and in the conflict Morgan meets Lily again, who has been trying to lead the robots away. After successfully repelling the robots, Lily says she will lead them to The Enclave.

Episode 4: They discover The Enclave, hidden in a desert Oasis. Here Morgan meets his Grandmother, and she tells them the tale of her father, Dr. Idol, the creator of AI, and how Morgan is the key to shutting the AI down. Morgan begins to develop a relationship with Lily. Mr. Anonymous begins to plan an endgame. The Flying Circus leaves the Enclave to not attract attention to it. Lily goes with them.

Episode 5: Mr. Anonymous and Captain Cleshe plan out an attack and begin to execute it. Rebellion forces en-masse lay siege to the armies that protect The Nucleus. The Flying Circus goes behind enemy lines and breaks into The Nucleus. This is the first episode where we meet the AI, Venus, who is the image of a Goddess bathed in light. She has a flashback about her creation, about how Dr. Idol left his pregnant wife alone to work on her day and night, and his untimely death.

Episode 6: The crew of The Flying Circus has infiltrated The Nucleus successfully. Through multiple firefights, in the process losing one of the Terrys (the joke here is that no one can figure out which Terry is dead), they reach Venus, where she lays eyes upon Morgan and recognizes him instantly. She is overcome with emotion and sees a chance to start over. She then asks him if he could ever love her. He tells her no, because his great grandfather’s love for her was ego-driven and narcissistic - he was in love with his own genius, not necessarily her. She realizes her mistake and with Morgan’s help, shuts herself down, ending the conflict for good. We end as it comes full circle, Morgan performs for an audience, but this time he sees a difference in their morale - they are not simply trying to distract themselves. They are truly alive.

Discord: MisterCluster#1706
Email: theclusterisf.cked@gmail.com


I really like the vibe here. I can see a lot of different possibilities with the flying circus vs AI and in the overall aesthetic.

I can’t help but feel there’s a missed opportunity to incorporate female characters into the flying circus gang. I understand this may not gel with your current concept, but I’d encourage you to look into pants roles (also known as trouser roles/breeches roles) as I think this could be a really fun way to inject some levity into a dreadful world. Also, there’s an opportunity for heightened danger for the Flying Circus because there are female members of the circus secretly performing as men, and perhaps the AI would specifically target the Circus if it discovers this little fact.

There’s also the argument to be made that if your story is going to be about most of the women in the world being killed, the main character should probably be a woman. Not only for representation, but also for the opportunity to include more personal stakes in the quest outside of the larger need to save humanity. Morgan would make a great co-lead as the unaware inheritor of the AI system. I know you have Lily from the enclave, but just think about possibilities for a new character to share an arc with Morgan from the beginning is my suggestion. I think it could go to some really cool places.

This is a fantastic idea. Seeing as theres only a day left in the competition, I’m not going to scramble to change it - but I do absolutely love the idea of a female character on The Flying Circus who’s main arc for the first half is hiding her identity. Lots of room for both character building and comedy there. Seriously, great idea. Wish I thought of it​:sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

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Oh god yeah, don’t rush to change anything. I just figure it’s something that can be considered if this project is chosen, and if it’s not then it’s something you can add in if you want as you continue to develop it! Cause I really hope each and every one of us continues to workshop these ideas regardless of who wins. They all deserve to get produced in some form or another.

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wowo a flying circus !

I could totally see this as an animated series
the subplot about the AI & her creator is a very cool point in the story. great juxtaposition with the circus and resistance. If anyone helps end tyranny it should be them. bleak but with a glint of hopeful absurdity. incredible