How The World Was Won — Episode 1: In the Beginnings
A Teleplay for a Three-Hour Episode of a TV Miniseries
Episodes dramatizing the life-and-death struggles of everyday people around the world bring to life the turning points of history, like the classic How The West Was Won, in this epic three-night miniseries.
- Episode 1: In the Beginnings
First Draft: May 5, 1989. Registered WGAw No. 408376.
- Sequence 1: Prehistory
- Sequence 2: Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
- Sequence 3: Ancient India and China, and the Hebrews
- Sequence 4: Ancient Greece and Rome, and Jesus Christ
- Sequence 5: Feudal Europe, the First Crusade, and Old-World Cultures and Religions
- Sequence 6: The End of the Dark Ages, and Native American Civilizations
- Episode 2: Reason and Revolution
- Episode 3: Challenges of the Century
Seq. 1: Prehistory
NARRATION: Before any image appears on the black screen, the narrator introduces the story: “The history of our world is the unparalleled adventure of the ancestors of us all — countless men, women, and children striving together and trusting in Providence to survive and prosper. It has been an epic struggle to conquer every conceivable form of war, famine, pestilence, and greed, in every corner of our world, since the beginning of time.”
Excerpts from Genesis accompany a montage of the Big Bang, the creation of our solar system, and the physical environment and organic evolution on planet Earth.
STORY: About 10,000 years ago, in the lush savanna that will eventually become the Sahara Desert, two early African tribal families — the Wind Walkers and the Rock Splitters — are gathered around a campfire for a ceremony celebrating the birth of a child to a young couple, Stalking Wind and Mountain Flower — the son and daughter of the tribal chiefs. Led by their elderly shamans, the two tribes sing and dance, re-enacting the events that brought them together (and that we will flash back to).
Two years earlier, in a year of much plenty, the Wind Walkers and Rock Splitters happened to meet each other at a stream. Unlike the others in the tribes, Stalking Wind and Mountain Flower speak to each other from across the stream and become quite taken with one another. However, they must go off with their respective tribes, on different sides of the stream.
As the campfire re-enactment continues, the next year the land was oppressed by a severe drought. Starving, the Wind Walker hunters spotted a herd of elephants, which they followed into the Rock Splitters’ territory (unwittingly, because the stream had dried). Following the smoke-signals of scouts, the Wind Walker men corner the elephants at the edge of a cliff. Striking flint, Stalking Wind and the others stampede the beasts off the cliff, for the kill. However, not having been seen by the scouts, the camp of the Rock Splitters lay below in the shadows; and the trumpeting elephants come crashing down, killing many of their elderly, sick, women, and children. As the sound of the elephants abruptly stops, the wails of the Rock Splitters come up from the base of the cliff, turning the Wind Walkers’ joy to anguish. At the edge of the cliff, they are horrified to see the devastation below; although Stalking Wind is relieved to see that Mountain Flower is unhurt (although she is confused by seeing him behind this tragedy). Suddenly, the Wind Walker hunting party is startled by a noise behind them: Coming back from a hunting trip of their own, the Rock Splitter men are rapidly approaching. The Wind Walker men run off; the Rock Splitters see the fate of their loved ones and chase after the Wind Walkers; and as running Stalking Wind is horrified to see over his shoulder, the slowest of their group is killed by a spear and descended upon by the now-cannibalistic Rock Splitters.
STORY: Seen in split-screen, the two tribes lament the loss of their loved ones; prepare weapons; war-whoop; and each declare that “the gods are on OUR side!”
The men of the two tribes meet and do ritualistic battle at the dry stream: As in other primitive cultures, this actually consists of much posturing and name-calling and little spear-throwing or arrow-shooting. However, as the day wears on, blood is actually spilled. Shocked, the two chiefs, with the advice of their shamans, call a truce; and Stalking Wind helps arrange an agreement for compensation for their losses, in the tragic accident and in the heat of the moment.
Impressed with Stalking Wind’s wisdom and courage and having seen the young man the year before talking with his daughter, the Rock Splitter’s chief arranges a marriage between Stalking Wind and his Mountain Flower, to seal the peace treaty between the two tribes.
Having relived this adventure, the two tribes by the campfire take pride in the newborn child, embodying their union, and joyously carry on with their celebration.
NARRATION: The Sahara is shown as the modern desert, a product not only of changing climate but also of agriculture, which is shown to have allowed hunter/gatherers to settle down.
A montage of the traditional ways of life of native peoples worldwide — including native Americans — reveals not only their differences but also their similarities.
The end of the Ice Ages is shown to drown-out many parts of the world, including the world of Noah, in the Middle East.
Seq. 2: Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
NARRATION: The geography and resources of the Four Cradles of Civilization are introduced.
The natural resources and heritage of Sumerian pioneers are reviewed, in a time-lapse view of traditional farming along the Tigris and Euphrates.
STORY: About 1775 B.C., in the temple atop the great “ziggurat” stepped pyramid of Babylon, Hammurabi the King presides over a particularly intriguing court case (As the parties involved are commoners and only their relationships are germane to the matters at hand, their names are omitted.).
Long thought dead, the first husband of a woman has returned from slavery, having been a prisoner of war to one of Babylon’s enemies; and he has reclaimed his wife, as prescribed by law. She, however, does not want to leave her daughter by her second marriage in the custody of her allegedly abusive second husband, as the law would also require.
The half-sister of the second husband confirms his bad character: He slandered her former fiance, allegedly to prevent that man from claiming a portion of their father’s meager inheritance. Instead of marrying, she became a temple maiden (and as such could herself claim a small portion of the legacy).
The stepmother of the second husband is very reluctant to testify: She is battered and scared, but Hammurabi reassures her and instructs her to tell the truth. The stepmother tells of how years ago, the man falsely accused her of adultery, allegedly to have her — his father’s concubine — thrown out of the household and, thus, unable to produce any competing heirs: The scarred-over brand on his forehead shows his allegations were proved false. When pressed to testify further, on a capital crime she alludes to, she refuses, out of fear; but Hammurabi orders her to tell all.
STORY: With his force of the law and his reassurances of protection, Hammurabi convinces the stepmother to continue her story.
In telling how her injuries were sustained in a fall down stairs, caused by her stepson and causing the miscarriage of her child (a potentially competing heir), the stepmother lets it slip that she has produced another heir, a son. With one last prodding from Hammurabi, the stepmother cries out that this son has been kidnapped by her stepson, to extort her silence about having seen him kill her master, his old father.
The first husband tells how, as a slave, he came across the boy, also enslaved; and when he earned his freedom, he also bought the boy’s. Produced in court, the boy testifies against the second husband.
Before Hammurabi hands down his harsh judgment, the mother of the evil-doer — the wife of the murdered man — confesses that the plot was all hers. Their family was in debt and in imminent danger of enslavement; and although she had caught the eye of another, rich man, who could pay off her debts, her proud old husband would not agree to a divorce. So, she enticed her son to kill her husband, his father, not for the inheritance but rather to keep their family out of slavery. She pleads for mercy for her son, embittered by years of poverty.
Although he understands the motives and has devoted his life to improving the lives of his subjects, Hammurabi shows no mercy in sentencing: The code is the unwavering word of the god of justice. For the various offenses — listed one-by-one, and punished as per the Code of Hammurabi — the mother and son are sentenced to death.
For serving Babylon faithfully in the army, re-uniting the unjustly enslaved boy with his family, and bringing this entire matter to the attention of the court, the first husband is rewarded with a pension and lands, which he invites all the others to live on.
Satisfied that justice has been done, Hammurabi praises the code, inscribed on a black stone and allegedly given to him by the god of justice, so “that the strong might not oppress the weak.”
NARRATION: The importance of the Mesopotamians’ invention of writing is given, as is that of their invention of the architectural arch and the wheel — both based on the circle, their symbol of eternity.
The daily lives within the four classes of the eternal “social pyramid” of ancient Egypt — slaves, farmers, artisans and merchants, and priestly rulers — are reviewed, with scenes of the strata superimposed on the Great Pyramid.
Seq. 3: Ancient India and China, and the Hebrews
NARRATION: The daily life, natural resources, and catastrophic fall of the mysterious Indus River Valley civilization are briefly presented.
The Chinese cradle of civilization is introduced.
STORY: About 1,000 B.C. in the Hwang Ho River Valley, an ancient Chinese prince and peasant — who happen to look remarkably alike — meet while ice-skating and, after fighting, secretly challenge each other to trade places.
Over the course of a year, the prince — undetected as the peasant — experiences the hardships and rewards of life on the good Earth (living in a humble village, harvesting bamboo in the hillsides, toiling under the sun in the millet fields, surviving raging floodwaters, and eating humble foods); while the peasant — undetected as the prince — experiences the luxuries and hazards of life in the royal court (living in the magnificent palace grounds, strolling through the lush gardens, learning about acupuncture and the other ancient Chinese arts and sciences, surviving raging warfare, and eating rich foods).
After traveling on a river road (past boatloads of river people and fishermen and past riverside fish farms), the prince (as the peasant) and the peasant villagers go to market in the fall, to sell their produce. However, a taxcollector takes most of their bronze coins; and the emperor, in an entourage with the peasant (as the prince) takes most of the taxcollector’s sacks of money. The prince and the peasant finally catch sight of one another again.
STORY: In the yearly celebration, the peasant (as the prince) stars in an exciting, colorful, musical, traditionally staged Chinese drama. Remarkably, the actors poetically speak and acrobatically dance-out the story of a corrupt monarch, neglecting his good subjects. The emperor rises in protest, forgives the “duped” “prince,” and threatens to arrest the theatrical troupe. However, in the audience the real prince rises; reveals his true identity; and confirms the charges made against the emperor. With the support of the people and the guards, the prince overthrows the emperor in the name of their good gods, as he cites ancient China’s Mandate of Heaven.
The peasant is rewarded by the prince with support for a sailing expedition to the mysterious land he has heard of to the east.
NARRATION: The apparent influence of the ancient Chinese on Native Americans along the Pacific Coast is revealed.
After dissolving from the nameplate of a Chinese junk (written with their complex picture symbols) to the nameplate of a Phoenician bireme (written with their simple alphabet), a montage reviews the heritage of the Near East and Mediterranean — including scenes from the Biblical stories of the Hebrews and miniatures of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Seq. 4: Ancient Greece and Rome, and Jesus Christ
NARRATION: The ancestry of the Minoans (with the “bull-headed” King Minos in his labyrinth), the Mycenaeans (with the Trojan Horse), and the ancient Greeks is reviewed.
STORY: About 490 B.C. in an ancient Olympic pentathlon, the handsome, muscular Athenian Pheidippides prevails. On a hilltop overlooking the festival in the valley at night, Pheidippides falls in love with the beautiful temple maiden Helen, composing the ode to his Olympic victory.
In the bustling marketplace of Athens, the now happily married couple comes across not only the things of the good life in Greece but also Pheidippides’ three friends — Hippias, a rich man; Codrus, a middle-class merchant; and Cecrops, a poor laborer — in a heated discussion. Pheidippides invites them back to his home, for wine and a “symposium.”
Back at home, Pheidippides and his fellow citizens discuss their democratic rights and responsibilities, as they consider the rumors of imminent war, with the Persian “barbarians” (Although she will not be allowed to vote, Helen helps the men form their opinion.). They decide to prepare for war, in defense of Greek civilization.
STORY: Learning that their forces will be outnumbered two-to-one by the Persians, the Athenian general Miltiades sends Pheidippides running off to the rival Greek city-state Sparta, for reinforcements against their common enemy.
After running the 150 miles to Sparta, Pheidippides is unable to convince the Spartan general to lend men to the cause: As the Spartan priest declares, these are some of their holy days; and their men are unavailable for military service. Pheidippides runs back with the bad news.
Without reinforcements, Militiades decides to take drastic action: He orders his men to abandon the traditional phalanx formation and, instead, to mount a wild running charge at the Persians, who are taken by utter surprise. With their superior speed, armor, and strength, the Greeks defeat the Persians in the spectacular battle of Marathon. However, the Persian fleet is sent to attack Athens, which Miltiades fears will surrender, not knowing of the Greeks’ victory at Marathon. Although there is not time for the entire army to march back home, Pheidippides, just back from Sparta, is sent running to Athens, to share the reassuring news of their land-based victory.
After running the grueling 26 miles back home, Pheidippides spreads the word of victory throughout the marketplace. Exhausted, he collapses and dies in the arms of his sad, yet proud wife.
NARRATION: It is told how after beating back the Persians — whose substantial contributions to civilization are not ignored — the free-thinking Athenians entered their Golden Age and established Western — and eventually world — civilization.
A montage reviews how the Romans spread the ideas and achievements of the Greeks in the arts and sciences and how the Romans also produced great accomplishments of their own, especially in public works, the military, and law.
A brief montage recaps the life of Christ (The beliefs of Christianity, like those of the world’s other major religions, will be brought-out in the next sequence.) and reviews how the Romans, at first oppressive, would even during their downfall preserve and spread the wisdom of not only ancient Greece but also Jesus Christ.
Seq. 5: Feudal Europe, the First Crusade, and Old-World Cultures and Religions
NARRATION: The backwards state of Europe during the Dark Ages is introduced — hordes of Germanic barbarians invade Roman settlements, trade is cut off, and a blend of cultures produces feudal Europe.
STORY: About A.D. 1086, peasant families work the land on a manor in France. Riding in with his men, Henri, an ill-tempered early French knight, claims that the peasants should be serving him. However, the peasants claim that they are bound to serve another. Incensed, Henri leads his men to burn the hovels and kill many of the peasants. Just then, in ride other knights, who stop the sacking, under the leadership of Louis, a chivalrous early French knight. After sending Henri and his men away and posting some guards, Louis prepares to leave; but he sees a boy of 7, Charles, crying, orphaned. Taking this as an omen from God, Louis takes Charles as the son he’s never had; and they ride off to the castle.
Although he is cared for by Marie, Louis’ lady, Charles is sad and scared; but that night, he regains his confidence upon hearing the tales of chivalry sung by a troubadour visiting the castle. Charles tells Louis he wants to become a knight, too; and although Louis tells him it is a long and difficult task, Charles proves himself worthy when trained by Louis as a page.
After being unable to settle their competing claims to the disputed piece of land in court, Henri and Louis are ordered by their lord, Godfrey of Bouillon, to engage in a trial by combat. After fighting with lances, battle-ax and mace, fists, and swords, Louis finally prevails over Henri, whose life he spares. As he turns to join Marie and Charles, Louis is set upon by Henri; however, in the nick of time, Henri is stopped by the appearance of a bishop, who threatens Henri with excommunication and his shocked people with interdiction if he tries to overturn the verdict that has come from God, in their trial by combat.
STORY: In A.D. 1095, Godfrey, Henri, Louis, and Charles (now a teenage squire) attend with other noblemen and clergymen the Council of Claremont: Now heeding the cries from the rival, Eastern Church, Pope Urban II incites the nine powerful Christians assembled to set aside their differences and unite, in a holy Crusade, to free the rich and sacred Holy Land from the hands of the Muslim Turks.
After many of their peasants go off on a Crusade of their own, following the charismatic “mad monk” Peter the Hermit, Louis and Charles — with Godfrey, Henri, and the bishop at the head of apparently “thousands” of other Crusading knights and clergy — arrive at the manor to bid farewell to Marie: They are off to free Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslims. Seeing them march off, Marie confides in their poor parish priest her concerns for what they will encounter in the strange lands to the east.
About 1097, Charles, Louis, Henri, Godfrey, the bishop, and the other Crusaders arrive at Constantinople, the exotic capital of the rich Byzantine Empire. They barely escape a fight with the embattled Byzantine Emperor — a proud rival to their Pope as leader of Christianity and protector of classic civilization.
Outside Constantinople, Godfrey’s forces meet up with those of three other Crusaders. When Peter the Hermit also shows-up and tells them of how most of his humble followers have been slaughtered, the Crusaders are emboldened to do their “noble” deed.
Applying new techniques of war — including the use of catapults and battering rams — the Crusaders lay siege to the Turkish stronghold of Antioch. Although Henri is killed in battle, Charles is wounded saving the life of Louis. After their bloody victory, Godfrey raves about his pride in his men; the bishop prays over the dead; the Turkish prisoners, to the surprise of Charles, also pray; and Louis knights Charles as a “valiant knight of Christendom.”
Later, in Jerusalem, Godfrey is made Protector of the Holy Sepulcher; and he and his fellow leaders of this, the First Crusade go off. Louis and Charles, however, gather their courage and enter an inn, for the night.
STORY: Inside this inn, at the crossroads of the Old World (ca. A.D. 1100), the Christian knights Louis and Charles boast of their culture and religion with the others dining around a round table: The atheist Arab innkeeper, a Muslim African prince, a scholarly Spanish Jew, a Hindu Indian merchant, a Taoist Indochinese naturalist, a Confucian Chinese trade minister, and a Zen-Buddhist Japanese samurai. After hearing of how different and yet similar their peoples and beliefs are, Charles offers a toast, which they all take up, “for GOODNESS sake!”
Sequence 6: The End of the Dark Ages, and Native American Civilizations
NARRATION: Against the backdrop of medieval Paris, it is shown and told how medieval Europe escaped the Dark Ages by contacts with other, more advanced civilizations, which helped stimulate education, craftswork, trade, and the rise of national governments — supported by taxes paid by the guilds of the re-emerging middle class.
A montage shows the great accomplishments halfway around the world, especially the roads and government-supervised activities of the Inca and the pyramids and religion of the Maya.
STORY: About 1475, in the slums of the magnificent city of Tenochtitlan, the wife of an Aztec forced into slavery because of indebtedness gives birth to a son, Aztlan, whom they vow to send to his uncle, so that he will be raised a freeman.
Aztlan grows into a man, with hard work in the fields of maize and with schooling in the Aztec ways.
About 1495, in an Aztec sweathouse, Aztlan’s uncle haggles with another man over arranging Aztlan’s marriage to the man’s daughter, the beautiful Coatl.
Together in the marketplace, Aztlan and Coatl let each other know that they have been eyeing each other for some time and that they are indeed in love with each other. Aztlan, however, tells her that instead of becoming a farmer, he has signed on with a trading expedition. Although he gives her the chance to bow out of the marriage, she declares that if he is to go see the world, she will go with him. They embrace passionately.
Aztlan and Coatl travel as two of the many bearers in a caravan, through a coastal jungle in southern Mexico. Suddenly, the trading expedition is ambushed by primitive warriors; and Aztlan and Coatl are left for dead.
With the empires’ glory on his lips and his personal vengeance in his heart, Aztlan leads his fellow Aztec warriors in a well-coordinated attack on the village of the hostile tribe, many of whom are taken as prisoners.
Back in Tenochtitlan, the prisoners are marched to the top of the highest Aztec stepped pyramid — for human sacrifice — as the emperor proclaims Aztlan a hero and now a noble.
About 1505, Aztlan and Coatl relax and enjoy the good life, with their precious daughter, on their lavish estate, as they are served by old slaves, who — known only to us (via a telltale birthmark) — are his parents.
NARRATION: The extreme hardships of daily life throughout prehistoric, ancient, and medieval times are recapped; and new ways of life — especially with more choice in the running of one’s own life — are promised to appear, with the birth of truly Modern Times, in the next episode.