The Montauk pilot is the Duffer Brothers' original script for what would become the first episode of Stranger Things. Though the script contains much of the same material as presented in the final product, there are various differences; most notably, this early iteration is set in Montauk, Long Island instead of Hawkins, Indiana, and was correspondingly titled Montauk. The Duffers also produced a Stephen King-style booklet to accompany the script, which was presented during network pitches.
The script begins by giving some background of Camp Hero, detailing how it was built in 1942 during World War II. During the Cold War, an alleged series of top-secret experiments took place there. The base was then shut down in December, 1980 for undisclosed reasons.
In Montauk, New York on the night of October 5, 1980, numerous scientists have been killed at the military base Camp Hero. The surrounding lab is in ruins. Dark clouds hang in the sky, with a low grumbling sound resembling the growl of a beast.
Meanwhile, Mike Wheeler and his friends, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Conley, and Will Byers, are playing Dungeons & Dragons. On Will's turn, the party encounters the Demogorgon. Lucas urges Will to use fireball while Dustin insists he cast a protection spell. Will decides to use fireball and rolls the dice, with it landing on the other side of the room. The boys try to see the outcome of the roll when Mike's mother interrupts, telling them they need to end the game. While Dustin and Will head downstairs, Lucas stays behind and peers into Nancy's room, staring at her reflection in a mirror. Once she notices his presence, she demands him to leave and slams the door in his face. In the garage, Lucas, Dustin, and Will banter about Lucas's crush on Nancy, much to Mike's dismay. The three of them leave, and Mike goes back inside the house.
On the way home, Dustin asks Will to race, stating the winner will get a comic. Will agrees and immediately rushes ahead leaving Dustin behind. Will continues down Mirkwood to his home. When he nears Camp Hero, he spots a dark figure in the road, frightening him. He crashes his bike and runs the rest of the way to his house.
Finally home, Will checks the house but finds he is alone, save for the figure that has followed him. He tries to call 911, but instead of a voice he hears a guttural sound on the other end. His attention is then drawn to the front door, where the lock unhinges by itself. He quickly rushes to the backyard shed and loads a rifle. Will aims it, coming face-to-face with the Monster. His nose and ears start bleeding before both he and the creature vanish.
That morning, Police Chief Jim Hopper gets ready for work. At the Byers house, Joyce is about to leave when she asks Jonathan where Will is. He doesn't know, but states he may have slept over at the Wheelers. Joyce calls, but Karen tells her he had gone home. Trying to hide her panic, Joyce says he probably left early for school and nervously hangs up the phone. Jonathan then leaves to look for Will.
At Montauk Public School, Mike encounters the bullies James and Troy. They make fun of his birthmark, but Mike just brushes them off. He spots Jennifer Hayes and obliviously stares at her. Noticing this, Lucas reminds Mike of their reflections rule. Mike then asks Lucas if he knew where Will was. He says no, but thinks he's most likely already in class. Mike's gaze drifts back to Jennifer, with Lucas again reminding him to use reflections.
At Long Island High School, Nancy is discussing with Barbara about her relationship with Steve when she finds a note in her locker. Doing what the note says, she meets Steve in the bathroom. While they are making out, the bell rings snapping Nancy back to her senses. Before she leaves, Steve invites her to a bonfire at Turtle Cove. At first she declines, but then says she may go.
Hopper arrives at the police station. His assistant Florence fills him in on all the calls they've received, among them being a call from Terry Ives, who had complained about activity at Camp Hero. In addition, she informs him of Joyce being unable to find her son, to which Hopper acts apathetically. Upon finding Joyce in his office, he begrudgingly starts typing up the police report. The two discuss Will's possible whereabouts, with Hopper believing he is either playing hooky or ran away to Lonnie's. Joyce insists Will would never do either of those things and urges Hopper to find him.
Back at Camp Hero, three agents are investigating the remains of the lab. An Engineer is looking over the surveillance footage when Agent One tells them to rewind a few frames. Upon doing so, they are able to see the outline of a creature, the same one that took Will. Agent Two questions what it is, with Agent One responding that Eleven would know. The agents then set off to find her.
A young girl emerges from the woods. She has a shaven head and is wearing a bloodstained hospital gown. She walks down the road until she wanders upon Benny's Fish 'n' Fry. While Benny is talking with some costumers, the girl sneaks in through the back door. While stealing fish, she hears someone approaching and tries to flee. However, she is blocked by Benny's rottweiler. Benny catches her and ponders over the strange girl.
The boys are in Mr. Clarke's class when they are called to the principal's office for questioning. Mike tells Hopper about Mirkwood and the boys offer to help in the search. Hopper forbids this, telling them to go straight home after school.
Benny gives the girl some fish and tries to communicate with her. While shaking her hand, he notices a tattoo on her arm reading '011.' He asks her what it means, but she refuses to tell him. With some coaxing, the girl indicates that her name is Eleven. While on the phone with Florence, Benny tells her how he believes Eleven has been either abused or kidnapped. Florence then gives him the phone number for Social Services. Meanwhile, Eleven is sitting at the table when she hears the annoying sound of the screen door blowing in the wind. She narrows her eyes, and the door freezes.
While searching on Mirkwood, Hopper discovers Will's bike. He concludes that Will was in a hurry and follows his footprints to the Byers house. Inside the house, Joyce is waiting for Lonnie to call. The phone does ring, but instead of Lonnie, his girlfriend Cynthia is the one on the other end. She tries to call Lonnie again, but is interrupted by Hopper knocking on the door. After searching the house for clues, his attention is drawn to Chester, the Byers' dog, who is whimpering in front of the shed. While in the shed, the light bulb flickers and goes out. He then hears a growling sound that seems to grow louder. Finally getting his attention, Deputy Callahan alerts Hopper to his bleeding ears. Hopper then urges Callahan to call Florence to round up a search party. In the shed, some sort of black moldy substance appears to be spreading.
While the Wheelers are having dinner, Mike protests the Chief's orders, saying he should be out helping look for Will. Karen completely forbids both Mike and Nancy from going out. When Nancy blames this on Will, Mike lets it slip about her relationship with Steve. Nancy and Mike storm away from the table.
In the woods, a search party is looking for Will. Hopper and Mr. Clark have a conversation, with Hopper telling him about his daughter. When Mr. Clark asks if she may be in his class, Hopper responds that she lives with her mother in the city. When he has walked ahead, a search party volunteer reveals to Mr. Clark that Hopper's daughter had actually died a few years prior.
Mike calls Lucas on his walkie-talkie, and they agree to meet each other in ten minutes. Mike sneaks out through the back door. While getting his bike from the garage, he encounters Nancy who is sneaking out through her window. They both agree not to tell their mom before going their separate ways.
While Benny is doing dishes, Eleven is feeding the rottweiler fish. The dog licks her face, causing her to smile. Benny remarks that a smile looks good on her and Eleven calls him “good” in return. He states he knows a few people who would disagree, and reveals a list of tattooed names on his arm, most likely belonging to his ex-girlfriends. Eleven points to a name reading 'Tommy,' saying it belongs to his little brother. Benny is confused, but before he can question further, he hears someone arrive in the driveway. A woman named Connie Frazier is at the door. After saying she is from Social Services, Benny lets her in. Connie shoots Benny, and agents swarm the restaurant. In the kitchen, Agent One kills the dog when it attempts to attack him. Suddenly, Eleven blasts the storage closet door open injuring the agents in the process. She laments Benny's and the dog's deaths, calls the agents “bad,” and then flees.
At the bonfire, Nancy and Barb are waiting for Steve. He finally shows up, but appears to be drunk and stoned. He leads Nancy away, leaving Barb behind. Meanwhile, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin meet and set off for Mirkwood.
Steve leads Nancy to a more secluded part of the beach. He pushes her down and begins removing her clothing. Nancy is hesitant towards Steve's advances, but he continues anyway. Back at the bonfire, Barb gets tired of waiting for Nancy and decides to leave. After starting her car, the radio cycles through various stations playing garbled, distorted noise and the car's lights flicker. Confused, Barb turns the engine off. A moment later, the back window shatters, the car's lights turn on, and a high-pitched sound is heard. Once the sound has faded and the lights have dimmed, Barb is gone.
When Jonathan arrives home, Joyce is working on Will's missing poster. They are consoling each other when the phone rings. Joyce answers it, but only hears the sound of someone's breathing. She repeatedly asks who it is, with the breathing only growing louder. At last, a distant voice belonging to Will responds. Joyce frantically asks where he is, but his voice is replaced with a new, inhuman one. A high-pitched sound emits from the receiver. Joyce drops the phone, her palm now seared. Jonathan quickly grabs the phone, but the line is now dead. A distant voice calls for help.
Barbara stumbles onto the beach, her nose and ears bleeding. The beach is empty but she can still hear the distant sounds of the bonfire. There is a thick fog, and the waves seem to roll in slowly, like time is distorted. There are pulsating growths all over the sand and blue lightning flashes in the sky. Barb hears guttural sounds coming from behind her. She turns to see a horde of shadowed figures heading towards her.
The boys are searching for Will on Mirkwood when Mike sees a figure in the middle of the road. He tries to avoid it, causing Lucas and Dustin to crash into him. Once he's back on his feet Mike shines his flashlight on the figure, revealing it to be Eleven. A rumbling sound is heard from overhead, making Mike look up at the sky. Joyce, Jonathan, and Hopper are looking up too. Dark silhouetted clouds roll in above the town, and blue lightning illuminates the sky.
The script ends ominously, saying “The storm is no longer coming. It's here.”
Differences from Stranger Things
The most notable and obvious difference between Stranger Things and its original incarnation is the setting. The Duffer Brothers originally wanted the show to take place in Montauk, Long Island (and for the show to correspondingly be titled Montauk) because they desired to recapture the "coastal-town Amity feel" in Jaws.Furthermore, the pilot is clearly heavily influenced by the books of Preston B. Nichols, such as The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, which was also set in Montauk. Stranger Things and his books cover a great deal of common ground, such as monsters, portals and children with psychic powers.
The setting was changed to the fictional Indiana town of Hawkins due to production reasons, filming in Atlanta. The Duffers would warm to this decision, as Atlanta felt more like "Anywhere, USA" and reminded them of their childhoods in North Carolina. Ross Duffer said they were also "excited" by the change for another reason; since Hawkins is "this little fictional world that we've made up, we can do stuff that didn't happen in real life".
While it is clear the pilot would evolve into "The Vanishing of Will Byers", the script also contains similar scenes to "The Weirdo on Maple Street". The script puts emphasis on some kind of electrical storm which has yet to be seen in the show. The Monster's victims originally bled from the nose and ears when in contact with it, in a similar fashion to Eleven bleeding when she exercises her powers. The script also suggests multiple monsters were planned for the first season.
Due to the setting change and the actors cast, some characters had to be re-written. One of the most altered characters was Joyce Byers. Originally, Joyce would have a Long Island accent, wear too much make-up, and be a lot more aggressive. When Winona Ryder was cast, the Duffers decided to instead base her character on Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Steve Harrington was also changed drastically from the pilot script. Due to Joe Keery's portrayal being more likable than the Duffers had planned, they rewrote his character from being a complete jerk to a guy being in the wrong crowd who eventually changes. Terry Ives was originally male, implied to be a conspiracy theorist, and had no direct connection to the lab, its experiments or Eleven. Dr. Brenner doesn't appear in the pilot script, with three agents taking his place - however, his introduction was likely planned later in the season.
Other changes were more subtle. Originally, Mike would have a birthmark on his cheek which bullies would tease him about. Mike would also have a crush on classmate Jennifer Hayes. Lucas' original surname was Conley, and he originally had a crush on Nancy. Nancy also seemed to be less compliant, sneaking out instead of staying home. Eleven was thought out as being more feral, being described as “more like an animal than a child.” The script's descriptions of each character's appearance were more or less disregarded.
- While Stranger Things takes place in early November of 1983, the original script takes place in early October of 1980. One of the reasons the year was changed to 1983 is because it was a year before the film Red Dawn was released, which focused on Cold War paranoia.
- However, the second season will take place during October, albeit around Halloween.
- It is possible the Duffer Brothers have re-incorporated their early concept of an electrical storm into the second season, as hinted at by the episode titled “The Storm” and the Super Bowl teaser.
- Camp Hero (or the Montauk Air Force Station ) was built to originally be a coastal defense station disguised as a fishing village.
- It is also where an alleged series of secret experiments were conducted by the US government. These experiments involved developing psychological warfare techniques and time travel. These allegations are believed to have originated from the book The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, which the author, Preston B. Nichols, claimed to have recovered repressed memories of his involvement in the experiments.
- When Mike talks to his father, he is trying to watch CHiPS, which was a TV series that originally aired from September 15, 1977, to May 1, 1983. A near identical scene appears in "The Vanishing of Will Byers", with Ted trying to watch Knight Rider instead. This change likely occurred due to the show's shift from 1980 to 1983.
- In the show, before Will leaves to go home, he tells Mike he rolled a seven and that his character was defeated by the Demogorgon. This scene is absent from the script.
- Also in the show, Will wanted Dustin's X-Men 134, while in the script he wanted Dustin's Uncanny X-Men 269. This would've been an anachronism, as that issue was released on October 10, 1990.
- The boys having a policy about “using reflections” could be a reference to how the Upside Down is a “dark reflection” of the real world. However, this concept was dropped and isn't in the show.
- Hopper's fan-favorite line, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation,” is not in the script.
- Before the boys were called to the principal's office, they are sitting in the science classroom where Mr. Clarke mentions the TV series Cosmos and quotes Carl Sagan.
- Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was a thirteen-part TV series partially written by Carl Sagan that originally aired from September 28 – December 21, 1980.
- When Benny is introduced, the script says “Benny Hammond”, however when he later tells Eleven his name, as well as when Connie Frazier says his name , it says “Benny Henderson.” This is either an error, or indicative that the Duffers had not yet settled on Benny's full name. It's worth noting that Dustin's surname is also "Henderson"; it's possible that Benny and Dustin were originally planned to be part of the same family.
Montauk Pilot written by the Duffer Brothers
- ↑ "Netflix Orders Mystery Series 'Montauk'"The Hollywood Reporter. April 2, 2015.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Stranger Things’ Duffer Brothers on ’80s Cinema, Fighting Over Kid Actors, and How They Cast Winona Ryder" Vulture.July 15,2016.
- ↑ "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" A.V. Club. July 13, 2016.
- ↑ "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2]" Variety. July 18, 2016.
- ↑ "'Stranger Things': How Two Brothers Created Summer's Biggest TV Hit" Rolling Stone. August 3, 2017.