Unfinished Last Express Prequel

Browsing through my storage room in an attempt to avoid working on my current project, I stumbled across this printout of an unfinished screenplay I’d started, then abandoned, back in 2002.

Entitled “Red Serpent,” and set in 1904 Paris, ten years before the events of The Last Express, it would have been an early adventure of Robert Cath (still in medical school) and his best/worst friend Tyler Whitney (upgraded in this version to Cath’s half-brother — a change I don’t think I’d make today).

The plot bears a more-than-slight resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, which would be published the following year. No plagiarism was involved.  I’d guess that Dan Brown and I had been reading the same pseudo-historical “research,” including Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh (who did, in fact, sue Brown for plagiarism, and lost). Whereas Brown treated their theory seriously, my approach was more tongue-in-cheek.

I’ve posted it here in case it interests anyone — as a glimpse into the early, rough-first-draft stages of the creative process. Mostly, the stories we read are ones that survive all the way to completion. This one, for many reasons, didn’t.

1909whiffsRereading the screenplay fragment today, I can see why I abandoned it. There are things in it that I like, but it’s not really of a piece with The Last Express. It’s more fluffy and lightweight. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a movie in the Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code spirit, or a spoof of that kind of movie. And, while I enjoyed the two main characters, I can’t quite see them growing up to be Cath and Tyler as Tomi Pierce and I originally conceived them.

Also, in 2002, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (the game) was gearing up production at Ubisoft Montreal, and my excitement for that project was growing while my sense of conviction on this one was dwindling. Ultimately, I dropped “Red Serpent” to give me more time for POP. It was the right decision.

Posted on Aug 12, 2009 in Blog, Film, Last Express | 12 comments


  1. 8-12-2009

    i am looking forward to reading it. thanks for being so open.

  2. 8-12-2009

    It’s not bad at all. Also interesting to know you were thinking of a prequel. I personally had imagined the next chapter would be what happened to Cath (and Anna?) during WW1 or in the 1920s and probably set in the Middle East.

    While reading the draft, I thought for a moment that Pandora might be the girl on the motorbike who helps Cath reach the train at the start of The Last Express… but I guess that’s part of a different story…

    Talking of sequels and prequels, I can’t help thinking that (commercially successfu)games such as Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Assassins Creed are heavily influenced by TLE. And I am equally confident that an updated and expended version of TLE would be a massive hit on the PS3.

  3. 8-12-2009

    I remember enjoying The Last Express a great deal. Come to think of it, I wish I could find my copy of it, so I could at least attempt to play it again. (I suspect OS issues and such would throw a wrench into the works.)

    Any chance we might see The Last Express show up on GOG.com or the like?

  4. 8-13-2009

    I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing it with everyone.

  5. 8-14-2009

    Sounds pretty darn cool. I’ll have to read through it. I’m intrigued. :)

  6. 8-14-2009

    Wow! Thanks so much for it, I will read it as soon as I can.

  7. 8-18-2009

    This is so thrilling to be able to see what you were working on at the same time of Prince of Persia: SOT. I’m sure you give yourself too little credit. I can’t wait to read it.

  8. 8-19-2009

    For me, there’s never such a thing as a worthless Last Express story. Thanks a bunch for providing this for us, Jordan. I already have a feeling that I’m going to eat it all up (even if it IS more of a satire than an adventure drama).

  9. 8-25-2009

    Just finished reading the script (when I should be studying for my first year medical school classes!)…as you said, rough in spots, but a nice piece of work. I managed to find a copy of TLE, and I’m looking forward to playing it when I get the time (having grown up on Karateka and POP). Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. 10-27-2010

    I remember writing a rough plot for a sequel to The Last Express set in 1915, Ethiopia. Robert Caith’s business in Jerusalem (whatever that was about) has lead him to Ethiopia, so he arrives in French Somaliland and gets a ride on the Djibouti-Dire Dawa railway. Unknown to him, a disguised Iyasu V is also travelling back to Addis Adaba after mysterious activites in Djibouti. The politics had to do with Iyasu V wanting to join the Central Powers and drive the Italians out of northern Ethiopia (today’s Eritiea), agents of the allies wanting Ethiopia to remain neutral, and the remains of the legendary Bronze Serpent of Moses. So yeah, it was pretty much the Last Express all over again but on a pathetic and bankrupt rail line instead of a luxurious one. Actually there is a lot of crazy politics behind the railway, including British and French colonial rivalries, and even Russia trying to get a piece of Africa (seriously).

    I had never thought of a prequel before, I was too busy writing fan fictions on what happened next.

  11. 9-25-2012

    Hmmmm… “KickStarter”(?) ;o)

  12. 9-20-2013

    It certainly wasn’t a bad script, but I think you made the right decision. The Last Express stands as a glimpse into a much larger world of adventures that is constantly, but unobtrusively, hinted at (PS: Still angry about Cuba).

    I think neither a prequel or sequel would add anything to the original game because somehow, thanks to all the questions unanswered, it feels like all those adventures exist somewhere, even if they don’t even exist in the writer’s mind. Showing would be ruining the magic of The Last Express.

    PS: Thanks for making my favorite video game.

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