Sitcom Mission

Blog #35 - Thunderer Script

Published 23rd November 2011.

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Emily Houghton, Cian Barry. Copyright: Richard Davenport.We get a huge number of people asking how best to lay out their script, so here's a copy of The Sitcom Mission 2010 winner Thunderer by Bryn Mills, as it was sent to us (but slightly adapted to fit this website's formatting - obviously it's just shown as one page here, but was broken up into pages in the delivered version. Plus, the title page on which Bryn put his contact details is not included here).

As you can see, we're not format fascists. We don't care if you've got the latest edition of Final Draft, but that said we would prefer to receive scripts as a PDF. Just make it as funny as Thunderer and we'll be happy.

The pictures you see are from the performance of the script at The Sitcom Mission final, with Cian Barry, Emily Houghton and David Fynn.

Thunderer - Episode #1 - "Unmentionables"

by Bryn Mills.

Setting

The late 19th Century, in the Fleet Street offices of the Daily Jupiter, a national newspaper.

Main Characters

Ephraim Hardwicke : The editor. 50, forthright and possessed of enormous mutton chop whiskers.

Amy Peasgoode : The first female journalist on Fleet Street. 28, well bred but disturbingly modern for the age, especially-

Samuel Mason : Editorial assistant. 22, an earnest and rather naive clergyman's son.

Characters In This Episode

Inspector Grunwick : Metropolitan Police Detective, 45.

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, Emily Houghton.

Scene 1 - Int, Jupiter Offices, Day

Amy is sitting at her desk. Enter Samuel

Amy : Good morning, Mr Mason.

Samuel : Good morning, Miss Peasgoode. Has the editor arrived yet?

Amy : Not yet.

Samuel : Then... we are alone?

Amy : (coyly) We are, Mr Mason.

Samuel : (plucking up courage) Then may I enquire... Are you engaged this evening, Miss Peasgoode?

Amy : Indeed I am! My Christian Ladies' Health and Purity Fellowship and I propose to put on our bloomers, take our stiff-springed bicycles over to Horsham and ride at the most thrilling speeds down Cobbly Lane. Several times, if necessary.

Samuel : It strikes me that your ladies group often seek out rough ground for your bicycling, Miss Peasgoode. Last week, if I recall, you rode repeatedly up and down Bumpy Avenue at Bexley, and the week before it was-

Amy : Orgasm Hill at Sidcup, yes.

Samuel : If you will forgive me, Miss Peasgoode, I mentioned your sporting activities to my father, and in his latest stern and berating missive to me he expressed his opinion that such activities are not at all suited to the frail constitution of your, s..., your s-

Amy : Sex?

(Samuel doubles up with embarrassment, and possibly lust. He places his top hat on the floor and stamps on it. Regaining his composure-)

Samuel : Your, yes. He tells me that women are by nature delicate, and fragrant, and best suited to gentler activities such as needlework, childbirth and manufacturing match heads from noxious chemicals for 18 hours a day.

Amy : Then while your father's outdated opinions hold such dominion over you, Mr Mason, your attempts at courtship shall go unrequited.

Samuel : But Miss Peasgoode-

Thunderer. David Fynn.

(Enter Ephraim)

Ephraim : Good morning, gentlemen.

Amy : Good morning, editor.

Samuel : Good morning, Mr Hardwicke.

(Ephraim sits at his desk)

Ephraim : I trust you are both well and have lost no relatives to the cholera overnight?

Samuel : No, editor.

Amy : Only distant ones, Mr Hardwicke. Would you care for a brandy-and-water?

Ephraim : Good Lord, woman, it is before nine in the morning and I had a particularly heavy evening at the Temperance Society subscription dinner last night. So just the brandy for me, thank you.

(Amy pours him a glass of brandy. Ephraim drinks)

Ephraim : Let us proceed with the business of the day. Miss Peasgoode, it has been brought to my attention that our weekly missive from Paris has been the subject of some sniggering in public houses and barrack-rooms owing to its title, "Our French Letter." I do not pretend to understand the cause of this ribaldry, but I will not have my organ be the target of crude innuendo and thus I propose to withdraw these articles forthwith.

Amy : Yes, editor.

Ephraim : In its place we shall run correspondence from a chap I know in Malaya, who provides a most fascinating account of plantation life. Let us run it under the by-line of "Our Rubber Johnnie."

Amy : As you say, sir.

Ephraim : What else have we for the edification of the reading public? Mr Mason, has Master Clarkson's latest carriage review arrived?

Samuel : Yes sir. (Consults manuscript) His opinion of the latest model is that : it is gay, anyone who would willingly ride in it is gay, and that the mere act of being hitched up to it would be sufficient to render one's horse gay.

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: David Fynn, Emily Houghton.

Ephraim : He likes it then! It does make a change from his usual griping. Now, what else. (Examines papers on desk) Dear Lord, our artist tests my patience. Look at this! (Brandishes drawing) I ask him to provide a mildly amusing cartoon to illustrate our editorial line that Mr Gladstone is quite silly, and what does he present me with? A drawing of Mr Gladstone with the words "Quite Silly" written upon his hat!

Samuel : What is wrong with that, sir?

Ephraim : It's far too funny! This isn't Punch! Send it back to him and tell him to come up with something a bit less clever-clever. Mr Mason, pray go down to the printing-room and tell the compositors not to set this.

Amy : Oh Mr Hardwicke, may I not go?

Ephraim : My dear Miss Peasgoode, the printing room floor is no place for a young lady of your refinement. You must understand that our operatives and mechanics are drawn exclusively from the working classes - many of them are not related to even a single bishop!

Amy : But I should dearly love to see them at their work!

Ephraim : But the strong language, and uninhibited references to parts of the body!

Amy : I'm sure they won't mind.

Ephraim : Do not defy me, Miss Peasgoode. Mr Mason, attend to it presently. Now, let us assign our reporters to the burning news stories of the day. I see that the Reverend Morely is delivering an address on temperance and chastity to the League of Purity and Decency - Hopkins can cover that. Jenkins can cover Lord Peterborough's talk on purity and decency to the League of Temperance and Chastity, and we'll send Bailey to cover the Queen's visit to the exhibition of paintings of nauseatingly wholesome family groups at the Royal Academy. That should do it.

Amy : Oh Mr Hardwicke, could I not be assigned to cover one of these stories?

Ephraim : Certainly not! Such rough-and-tumble occasions are no place for a lady!

Amy : But sir, you have hired me as Fleet Street's first intrepid lady reporter, and yet I am confined to this office day after day writing vacuous columns on mimsy womens' issues, like how much opium to give your restless baby, and whether Marie Lloyd is a slag.

Ephraim : Very well, let me see if there are any stories concerning women to be covered... (Consults papers on desk) Ah, I perceive that another prostitute has been horribly murdered in Whitechapel. Prostitutes are women, are they not?

Samuel : I believe so, sir.

Ephraim : Well, apart from that one at St. Pancras with the Adam's apple who wouldn't give me change from a florin. Very well, you may go to Whitechapel. Mr Mason, pray accompany her.

(A clock strikes nine)

Ephraim : Nine O'clock. I shall repair to my club for luncheon. I shall return at four, unless we decide to have a drink afterwards.

Scene 2 - Ext, A Back Court in Whitechapel, Day

Inspector Grunwick of Scotland Yard is standing in front of the door of a mean one-room apartment. Enter Amy and Samuel

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, Emily Houghton.

Samuel : I do not wish to question the editor's judgement, Miss Peasegoode, but I am not convinced that this fetid Whitechapel court is a suitable environ for a lady such as yourself.
Amy : Oh, I am quite used to it. I often visit such areas as part of my work for the Committee For The Betterment Of The Moral Condition Of The Lower Orders Whether They Like It Or Not, handing out instructive pamphlets on scientific diet and correct posture.

They approach Grunwick

Grunwick : Move along now, move along. Nothing to see here. (Beat) Unless you like seeing murdered prostitutes, that is. (Notices Amy and Samuel) Inspector Grunwick, Scotland Yard. How can I help you, gentlemen?

Samuel : Samuel Mason and Miss Amy Peasgoode, Inspector. Representative of the Daily Jupiter.

Grunwick : Press, eh? Vultures, preying on human misery and degradation, that's all you are. (Shouts off screen) Constable! Contain that crowd! Tell them it's four shillings a look, or they can hop it! Now, what can I do for you?

Amy : What happened here?

Grunwick : The poor unfortunate fallen girl in here has been murdered most brutal, miss.

Amy : Did anyone see what happened?

Grunwick : A passer-by did report that he saw the ghastly silhouette of a figure, clad in a hat and cloak, tearing at the poor girl with a butcher's knife, miss.

Amy : Oh! What fiend could do such a thing?

Samuel : Yes, he should have removed his hat immediately upon entering a lady's presence indoors. Tell me, Inspector, do you have any account of the unfortunate creature's last hours?

Grunwick : Well, we asked about the public houses in these parts, and we've got a witness who says that the deceased was seen last night lollygagging with a masher for a tosheroon's worth of snecklifter.

Samuel : Er, what does that mean?

Grunwick : I have no idea, sir. But we do have a later witness who says that she was then seen having sex with a man to get money for drink. After that, all we know is... (gestures to window)

Amy : Have you any clues as to who could have perpetrated so foul a deed, Inspector?

Grunwick : We've got a few things to go on. A footprint from a size 9 cavalry boot, bearing the mark of Twilling and Son, bootmakers to the Royal Family. A dropped handkerchief, soaked in blood and embroidered with the royal crest. A German to English phrase book. A ten shilling postal order, inscribed "To my Grandson on his birthday, with love, Queen Victoria." And a mysterious chalk inscription on the wall, saying "At least I haven't got a withered arm like my cousin, who's in charge of Germany." So weighing up all that, we think the Jews done it.

Samuel : (Unconvinced) A... bold deduction, Inspector Grunwick. May we examine the crime scene?

Grunwick : We can't run the risk of the evidence being contaminated. You can have a look through the window though.

Samuel : Miss Peasgoode, I must warn you that so horrific a sight will undoubtedly cause you to swoon. Rest assured that I will be on hand to catch you.

(All three look through the window. Samuel swoons)

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Emily Houghton, Al Constantine.

Amy : (Unfazed and un-noticing) Oh, dear. Inspector, would you say that that is a pancreas upon the mantelpiece?

Grunwick : I would say that it is rather a spleen, miss,

Amy : Thank you. (Scribbles in notebook, then notices Samuel) Mr Mason! Do recover your feet, and please recall that it is not only your own person but the reputation of the Daily Jupiter that is soiled when you disport in this excrement-filled gutter!

(Amy helps Samuel up)

Grunwick : If that will be all, gentlemen, I've got an omnibus-load coming down from Hampstead for a perv who are due any minute, so if you will excuse me...

Amy : Thank you Inspector.

(Exit Amy and Samuel)

Scene 3 - Ext, A Street in Whitechapel, Day

(Enter Amy and Samuel)

Amy : So, Mr Mason, what make you of this vile crime?

Samuel : A mystery indeed. I say that to solve this conundrum, we must call upon the greatest mind ever known to the world of criminal detection.

Amy : You mean-

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Emily Houghton, Cian Barry.

Samuel : Yes! Mr Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street!

Amy : Mr Mason, as I have told you on several occasions now, Sherlock Holmes is an entirely fictional character, like Captain Nemo or Oscar Wilde.

Samuel : Then we must solve it ourselves! Pray tell me, Miss Peasgoode, who do you think can be responsible?

Amy : Is it not obvious?

Samuel : Not really, no.

Amy : Consider the evidence, Mr Mason. The Royal bootprint? The Royal Handkerchief? The Royal Inscription? The Royal Postal Order?

Samuel : No, I can't see where you're going with this one.

Amy : Surely this evidence points directly to the Queen's notoriously debauched grandson, Prince Albert Edward Victor Clarence Albert.

Samuel : Miss Peasgoode, this cannot possibly be! A person of Prince Albert Edward Victor Clarence Albert's background and heritage could never commit such a crime as this!

Amy : So you believe that Prince Albert Edward Victor Clarence Albert's birth and parentage preclude him from any suspicion of wrongdoing?

Samuel : Indeed I do! Consider : Prince Albert Edward Victor Clarence Albert was born into a family with a history of hereditary mental illness; his parents, who were cousins, starved him of affection and turned him over to strict Prussian tutors who beat him mercilessly for his stammer; and since reaching maturity he has been allowed to indulge his every licentious whim without consequence. Now, tell me, what in that background could possibly have acted to make him into a psychotic killer?

Amy : Then whom do you suspect, Mr Mason?

Samuel : I don't think that Inspector Grunwick is barking up the right tree with the Jews thing. Yet I cannot think who else may be the monster.

Amy : I neither.

Samuel : Unless... Unless... Could the perpetrator have been right under our noses all the time. Could it in fact be none other than... Inspector Grunwick!

Amy : What earthly reason have you to think that?

Samuel : He's the only other character we've met. Unless... Unless... Could our own Mr Hardwicke in fact be the killer?

Amy : Mr Mason, I do think that you mistake our calling. We are journalists. It is not for us to solve this crime, but rather our task - nay, our sacred mission - must be to report the facts clearly and honestly, without fear or favour.

Samuel : Miss Peasgoode, I am humbled. You are perfectly correct. Let us return to the office and reverently perform this highest of duties.

Amy : Think we could manage a lunch at Smithson's Chop House on the way and swing it on expenses?

Samuel : Oh, absolutely.

Scene 4 - Int, Jupiter Offices, Day

Samuel is at his desk. Enter Amy, carrying a letter

Amy : Oh Mr Mason, our Royal Mail must truly be the envy of the world! Barely an hour has passed since I wrote to the Bishop of Greenwich asking for his opinion on this outrage, and here is his reply by return of post.

Samuel : True, Miss Peasgoode. And just imagine how much more speedy it will be in a century's time! Are the Bishop's views characteristically forthright?

Amy : They are. He says that the fault for this offence lies with the shameless women who disport themselves so brazenly in the street, inflaming the lusts of weak-willed men beyond toleration, and that in turn their wantonness is occasioned entirely by the corrupting influence of the demon Alcohol. He adds that I sound like a spirited young filly, and would I like to meet him in his chambers for a bottle of sherry and a snog?

Samuel : Sound moral leadership indeed!

Amy : (Typing) That concludes my story. My first piece of real news reporting! I am so excited - pray, Mr Mason, do sub-edit it for me!

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, Emily Houghton.

Samuel : With pleasure. (Reads) This really is a first class piece of writing, Miss Peasgoode. Allow me to make a few amendments to the language you have used, though, in order to protect the sensibilities of our more genteel readers.

Amy : Why so?

Samuel : The Daily Jupiter is a respectable newspaper found in the finest drawing rooms of the land, and must thus address its readers as though in those environs. According to Mr Hardwicke you should use only such terms as you would while addressing a beloved aunt.

Amy : My beloved aunt consumes twenty strong cheroots each day, and once bested six Limehouse Chinamen in an opium smoking contest.

Samuel : I rather suspected that she might. Imagine, then, that you are addressing my beloved aunt, who regularly faints upon hearing the word "limb".

Amy : Please do show me how this process is done, Mr Mason.

Samuel : Well... I shall substitute "beastly frightfulness" for "frenzied sex attack"... "Frightful beastliness" for "pattern of deep abdominal lacerations".... "Unmentionables" for "ovaries".... "Unmentionables" for "prostitutes".... And "unmentionables" for "Jews". There, you see. Decorum is maintained without doing violence to the meaning of your piece.

Amy : I clearly have much to learn from you, Mr Mason.

Enter Ephraim, with proof sheets

Ephraim : Ah, Messrs Mason and Peasgoode.

Samuel : How was your luncheon, sir?

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, David Fynn.

Ephraim : Most convivial. The Archdeacon really has led the most fascinating life. You will perceive that the first proofs are up from the compositors - I urge you, Miss Peasgoode, to shield your eyes from the lead story. 'Tis not fitting that a maiden's eyes should rest upon such things.

Amy : Really? Why is that?

Ephraim : It is a most thrilling account of a battle fought in the Transvaal between the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Zulu hordes. While it does not specifically say that the Zulus were naked, it makes no mention of any clothing and so we must assume that reading it will bring to the mind ungodly images of Zulu members swinging freely in the warm South African breeze.

Amy : (Looking at proofs) It doesn't specifically say that our soldiers were wearing any clothes either.

Ephraim : That is even worse! Ungodly images of Welsh members swinging freely in the warm South African breeze will corrupt you utterly and leave you no more moral or Christian a woman than any of my numerous French mistresses! Now, have you a story for me from Whitechapel?

Samuel : Indeed, sir! Miss Peasgoode has written a sensational, yet thoughtful, account of the murder, and I have composed a most pithy and apposite headline to accompany it.

Ephraim : Let us hear it then.

Samuel : "Most Horrid Murder Of A Female Unfortunate In Whitechapel - While Evidence Points To Queen's Grandson, Metropolitan Police Suspect Hebrew Race - Bishop Of Greenwich Ascribes Moral Decay Of Area To The Malign Influence Of Strong Drink"

Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, David Fynn, Emily Houghton.

Ephraim : I meant the headline, Mr Mason.

Samuel : That was the headline.

Ephraim : It wants a certain brevity, I feel. Replace it with "Jews Kill Flooze - Bish Blames Booze!"

Samuel : As you say, sir.

Ephraim : But this is splendid work, Miss Peasegoode. As a reward you may deliver your copy to the compositors yourself.

Amy : (Excited) Oh, thank you! And may I also deliver them a lengthy talk on the necessity of extending suffrage to women of the respectable classes?

Ephraim : Just the copy, if you please.

Amy exits

Ephraim : Well, Mr Mason, it seems that my faith in young Amy was well placed.

Samuel : Indeed, sir. She is the most fearless, bold and skilful reporter!

Ephraim : Then we should hide her light under a bushel no longer. I think we shall be seeing a good deal less of Miss Peasegoode around the office from now - it shall just be we chaps together!

Samuel looks distraught

Samuel : She... did faint a lot though.

Ephraim : Ah! I thought as much. Well, perhaps it would be ungallant of us to further expose her to the rigours of the outside world just yet.

Samuel smiles guiltily. Ephraim checks his pocket watch.

Ephraim : Half past four. I must repair to my dinner appointment.

Samuel : With whom are you dining, sir?

Ephraim : Tonight I am a guest of the Society for Dietary Moderation, so I expect it will be a late one. Good evening - I shall leave you to put the paper to bed.

Ephraim exits

Samuel : Ah, if only I could...

Thunderer. Image shows from L to R: Cian Barry, Emily Houghton.

Amy enters

Amy : If only you could what, Mr Mason?

Samuel : If only I could... find my pencil.

Amy : It is here in front of you! Really, Mr Mason, what would you do without me?

Samuel : I do not know.

Amy : It has been the most thrilling day, but I must hurry for my omnibus.

Samuel : Good evening, then, Miss Peasegoode. Do... think of me while you are bicycling.

Amy : I will.

Amy exits. Samuel sighs and sits back dreamily

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