LIVINGSTONE: Have you ever had a mission, Mr. Stanley? Yes, of course, one brought you here. Then you will understand what I’m talking about. (He picks up a stick and draws a line in the sand in front of the fire.) For 1600 years mankind has been searching for the headwaters of the Nile – the fountain of Truth and Life – arising, as Ptolemy wrote, in the Mountains of the Moon. (He draws a circle around the end of the line.) Here. Somewhere quite close to where we are now. (looking to the lake) And this lake, I believe, feeds that great river. (On the rippling lake beside them the full moon shines down.) If this is the Nile’s source and I discover it, then people will listen to me on a subject far more important than this one. (CLOSE ON Livingstone, as the flickering light plays on his lined and weary face, and lends a sparkle to his eye.) I have a secret mission, Mr. Stanley, one that will bring us out of the darkness we live in, into the light of Truth.
The true tale of Stanley’s search for Livingstone, and the heartbreaking backstories of these two men who may have been searching for each other their entire lives.
The original title for this first television movie from National Geographic was Out of Darkness, which I think was a more appropriate and less sensational choice. This film marks the only time that an actor whom I had in mind when I wrote a part actually ended up playing it – in this case, Nigel Hawthorne.
The story of Stanley’s search for Livingstone and the transformation that happened in Stanley after finding this sainted man is truly remarkable – as remarkable as was Stanley’s life before embarking on this mission. I was thrilled to write this film – the remarkable producer Robert Halmi took my wife and me on the most memorable research voyage of our lives, traveling to Kenya and Tanzania and Zanzibar – and I only wish that the whole of my 97-page script had made it to the screen. Unfortunately, production fell behind while shooting in Africa, and I would estimate that nearly a quarter of my script was dropped along the way. Stanley’s astonishing life-journey was severely cropped, and many of the action sequences not-terribly-effectively shot. The final film was severely criticized, treated much more harshly than it deserved, and I am only sad that the full story of these amazing men was not told. I still count this as one of my better scripts.