Boxland Medical Instruments

13 May 2009

This is the first of a new feature that I'm going to start running called From the Vaults. I've spent the last two years on and off getting my stacks of old paperwork organized and neatly filed away into the proper binders and boxes. In doing so even I was awestruck by how much there is and, incidentally, how little of it has actually made it online.

So this feature will showcase different bits of design and minutiae that I think might be interesting to discuss while giving me a reason to show some things that might otherwise have remained tucked away far from the eyes of others. Let's say that I was mildly inspired by my writeup on the Andy Black logo I posted two weeks ago. I'd like to do this as a regular feature over the summer. It might be weekly or it might be every other week. It all depends on what I come up with.

I hope you find this stuff interesting.

Volume I:
Boxland Medical Instruments

This first installment of From the Vaults takes us back into the pre-Y2K world. Ten years ago I was feverishly at work scribbling out designs for the Jimmy Joe and the BOX movie that, at that time, I still believed I might actually make. That belief did not live to see the new millennium but it was a good thought exercise while it lasted, seeing nearly four years of work being accomplished before I gave up on the project and moved on with my life.

One sequence in the movie would have seen the protagonist, Jimmy Joe, shortly after being sucked into the alternate dimension accessed via a wormhole located in a television box in his basement. Upon his arrival in this alternate BOX dimension, he would have been subjected to a series of horrific and shameful medical examinations, undergoing the most grotesque and penetrative testing that I could depict on film while keeping it family-friendly. At the end he would have been rewarded with a lollipop and a pat on the head for being so brave, as the BOX locals tended to be a load of pretentious gits.

Long story short, what I needed was a terrifying and sadistic doctor's office. Some creepy location to show Jimmy Joe having a very bad day after arriving in a strange universe. This lead to a number of designs for possible medical instruments to feature in the sequence and act as set dressing. The process began with a handful of medical instruments being designed in August 1999 and a load of others being sketched in the spring of 2000. The intent was not to establish a specific design ethic but simply to create the most wicked and complex-looking tools possible. In fact, they may not all be Boxian in origin and may hail from many different cultures throughout the universe. Their functions may not be entirely evident and that is on purpose: you shouldn't be able to figure out what exactly most of these are actually used for, making them a little creepier due to the mystery. What follows are my medical instrument designs for the long-deceased Jimmy Joe and the BOX: The Motion Picture.

The Drawings.

Boxland Doctor's Needle | August 13, 1999

I'm not a particular fan of needles by any stretch. I mean, I can handle being poked by them but I'm not keen to liking it. That might explain why I thought my doctor's office needed a gigantic, ceiling-mounted hypodermic injector. It would have been attached to the ceiling by a swivel mount and featured a number of hinges along the body to give it the most flexibility. Its size can be worked out from the handle on top of the stage just before the nest of three-foot long needles.

Note the date and notation. It was Hitchcock's 100th birthday and I was plunked down watching an Alfred Hitchcock Presents marathon on the telly. Drawing creepy medical equipment seems almost fitting. The "JJTB" that you see on some of these drawings refers to Jimmy Joe and the BOX.

Boxland Medical Equipment | August 13 & 15, 1999

Another pair of designs, the first also from Hitch's birthday. It's a small little device with a giant spike emerging from a vented casing. Who knows what it does. It's probably not worth it to find out.

I still like the second. It's another hypodermic needle only this time a little bit smaller than the implement pictured above. I love the idea of a needle so big that it has to be mounted on an assault rifle-styled unit. Imagine a team of doctors pursuing their patient while armed with these things.

Boxland Doctor's Office | January 2, 2000

The year 2000 had rolled around and I had survived the firestorms that ravaged the Earth in the wake of Y2K. No special intention other than a random blink of inspiration lead to my first post-Y2K drawing being a quick scribble of the doctor's office set.

It's really nothing special, consisting of a few easy-to-build setpieces in a generally nondescript room. Despite all of my grandiose visions for the Jimmy Joe movie I remained well aware of my budget restrictions that didn't give me much leeway for large and impressively decorated shooting sets. Outside of that giant needle, which would have been the priciest set dressing here, the room is filled with an exam table and a few equipment carts that could have been built from foam-core and painted to look life metal. Dark lighting would have made up for other shortcomings while adding atmosphere. That's a good combination.

Boxland Medical Tool | March 23, 2000

Another hand-held unit, this one was nicknamed the "Praying Mantis" for obvious reasons. For the vast majority of these designs I didn't set out to draw anything specific from a pre-conceived vision. These drawings are mostly random ad-libbing while scribbling nasty-looking medical devices. That this turned into a mantis-like set of razor-sharp calipers was just the way things happened to flow at that time.

The mantis' "arm" is a sort of trigger that the index finger would hook around. Had a real prop been built this piece would probably have been rounded a bit more for comfort.

Boxland Medical Tool | March 23, 2000

Here's another medical instrument that can serve no positive purpose. I like to think that the spiky bit in the center would spin, sort of like a nasty four-pronged drill bit. Also, that backwards-facing blade mounted in the middle of the grip is probably a bad idea. The tool is for mutilating the patient, not the doctor.

Still, I like the simple eloquence of this one. In comparison to the wildly complex and biomechanical designs in this series, it's nice to have something straight-forward and and even Earthly in design. That, I think, makes this slightly more terrifying than some of the others. It's an uncomplicated device whose intentions we can probably guess.

Boxland Medical Instrument | April 6, 2000

This begins a series of drawings produced in quick procession when I should have been paying attention to class in high school. Some priorities are simply more important, you know!

I kind of imagined this one as using that twin blade for cutting while employing that laser in the center for blasting. Between the two of them you have a combination of high and low tech methods of ripping flesh and severing limbs. Like the giant needle that started us off, this is a ceiling-mounted unit, being far too large and unwieldy for a handheld contraption.

Boxland Medical Instrument | April 11, 2000

Another large ceiling-mounted machine that does something or the other. Maybe the prongs on the tips are able to cut and mend flesh while a laser in the center (if that is, indeed a laser) cauterizes the wounds. In any event, I suspect this one is for delicate work that the doctor's grubby fingers might get fouled up over.

I'm happy with myself for leaving the panels on this thing blissfully blank. I have a tendency to add details to break up empty space and sometimes I just need to relax a bit and let less equal more.

Boxland Medical Instrument | April 12, 2000

Probably a variant of the above unit that I drew the day before, this is another huge device hanging from the ceiling.

You'll notice that a lot of these sort of look like faces or heads. Mostly animals. The blade and laser above is fairly bat-like. This one resembles the head of a bird, with a sharp pecking beak. Later equipment will continue this trend.

Boxland Medical Instrument | April 12, 2000

Here's a small handheld device with an ergonomic grip. Its design was influenced as a more organic variation on the phaser from the original Star Trek series. You can spot the emitter located within an inset in the nose as well as an adjustment knob on the top near the back. Not to mention the general shape and overhanging back end. While it may not have been the intention to do a tribute to a classic prop when pencil hit paper, by the time I got going it was quite deliberate.

The tricky part to building this as a physical prop would have been that clear dome on the top, a decided change from the phaser. The dome looks in on some inner mechanisms and would have looked spiffy in spite of construction difficulties.

Boxland Medical Tool | April 13 & 14, 2000

This is a gigantic piece of worrisome equipment. It can serve no logical purpose, which is exactly the whole point of its design. Again, like so many others, this is attached to the ceiling and can be lowered for use. I nicknamed this one the "Tucan," based on the big ole beak on the top part.

Y'know, it's just big enough to fit a head between those piercing jaws.

Boxland Medical Tool | April 18, 2000

A rifle-like piece of equipment, this time going in a much more biomechanical direction. I'd like to think that parts of this device were grown for this purpose by its creators. Of course, it is nearly devoid of any emitters, prongs, or anything that could make this an effective tool. It's got that puny little claw underneath but it doesn't have much reach. By the way, the forward grip is based on the Velociraptor's sickle claw.

This is where the tools began to loose any immediate signs of purpose. The function of the needles I did in August of '99 can be sussed out. On this one it's more difficult, leaving its usage ambiguous.

Boxland Medical Instrument | May 5, 2000

There's something instantly sinister about devices that resemble pistols and a biological pistol is no different. Like the last tool, this one's purpose is just as vague but that's just fine. It should be a mystery.

Out of all the designs presented here I like this one best. It has the best lines and looks really lightweight and easy to handle.

Boxland Medical Instrument | May 8, 2000

Another incidental animal, this one bearing a resemblance to an Iguanodon. Unfortunately, while it's another of those pistol-grip handheld devices, this one just looks way overly front-heavy and difficult to use.

But maybe that's its point. It's a very fancy bludgeon.

Boxland Medical Instrument | May 15, 2000

And so we come to the end with the drawing that will be nine years old in two days. This is an unusual handheld tool that features business ends both above and below the grip. In hindsight maybe this one would be held sideways, all gangsta' style. The lighter sketch above the instrument is a quick scribble showing how the hand holds onto the grip with the index finger on the trigger.

This one sports the "retro spaceship fins" that I put on a lot of my biomechanical designs. They never serve any apparent purpose but they sometimes look good.

At the end of the day the doctor's examination scene probably never would have made it off the drawing board had I actually pulled enough strings together to get the Jimmy Joe and the BOX movie off the ground. I hold no grudges about this project never transpiring because, as I look back on the scripts and plans from today's perspective, I can see nothing but a pile of weakly-assembled ideas that needed to just be scrapped and the whole project restarted from scratch. However, by the time 2001 rolled around, I had officially abandoned the whole thing. A new millennium meant a clean start on all my projects.

Still, I'm happy with these designs. It's too bad that it's taken them nine years to see the light of day -- and then only in drawing form -- but it's better late than never. Some of these work; some not so much. Hopefully you enjoyed glancing at them and reading my thoughts about these terrible devices. My only gripe about them is that, given that they were supposed to be the products of a culture not of the Earth, then maybe they should have been even more bizarre and even less recognizable. I needed to, ahem, think outside the BOX.


Engaged 9 September 2009 | Updated 9 September 2009