WRITER: Tim Rose Price
EXEC. PROD: Richard Evans
PRODUCERS: Graham Leader
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Sims
In 1870's Australia, a gang of hardened frontiersmen works to build a telegraph line across the harshest landscape on earth, in order to connect the isolated new territory to the modern world. When their leader John Dunraven has a near-fatal accident, he is saved by the indigenous Kaytetye people, whose way of life 'The Line' will inevitably destroy. Alongside the Kaytetye, Dunraven now commits to destroying 'The Line' and everything he had previously believed in.
The Red Centre of Australia. 1870s. Another day burning itself out. A Repeater Station on the Overland Telegraph Line comes under attack from the Kaytetye, the local Aboriginal people, led by Thangale (20s).
We cut back to the building of the Line in this most remote section, where no white man has ever been, and trace the process of first contact that leads to this event. On the one side an epic milestone in man’s progress, the technical equivalent of space travel and the internet, and, on the other, the decimation of timeless culture.
At the heart of the story is the relationship that develops between John Dunraven (30s), inspirational section leader and Pwerle (20s) mixed race, expert in bush medicine. Dunraven is a Darwinian, a man of science. Pwerle, a Kaytetye woman, is a portal for him into another world – a parallel universe – where mystery and spirit replace measurement and deadlines.
He struggles increasingly with his growing feelings for her and her ‘irrational’ world of creation myths. His confusion is taken full advantage of by his second-in-command, Terence Musker (late 30s), a hard-bitten racist and religious bigot. The men begin to turn to him for clear leadership. Musker has been waiting for this.
Dunraven has to fight hard to regain his authority, treating innocent Kaytetye interference with increasingly draconian measures and eventually building his section’s Repeater Station directly on the site of the Kaytetye sacred spring – where the world was made. It’s an attempt to suppress his own doubts. It doesn’t work.
Pwerle is his conscience. Everything begins to unravel and when at last he speaks out in favour of bypassing the Kaytetye spring the men turn violently against him and he becomes a hunted pariah.
He joins forces with the Kaytetye and together with Thangale plans the destruction of everything he once believed in. In the weird half-light of an eclipse, Dunraven sets dynamite charges round the Repeater Station. But Musker discovers him and kills him, shooting him three times ...
... and we are back at the start - with the attack on the Repeater Station led by Thangale. Musker is there on the veranda and Thangale puts a spear through him. The spearhead is made of a piece of shiny white porcelain from one of the Telegraph Line’s insulators.
A Caption records the horrific reprisals that took place after the attack -
- and then we discover the survivors, including Pwerle, who is carrying Dunraven’s baby in her arms.