At the end of the 2010 spring season, NBC canceled longtime staple Law & Order, a program that had run on the network for twenty consecutive seasons and been instrumental in wresting away viewers in the critical 65-and-older demographic from competing network CBS and the upstart Bingo Channel. The storied program has since become the most syndicated show in the history of television, often airing a cumulative seven hours between TNT, AMC and Bravo on any given weekday, not to mention providing the basis for Sam Waterston’s lucrative insurance commercial career. The show’s current heir-apparent is Law & Order: Los Angeles, a show that uses the exact same premise as Dick Wolf’s original brainchild, albeit with a different cast and setting. This incarnation of the show, however, was not the only Law & Order spinoff that NBC considered. Other possibilities entertained by the network’s brass included Law & Order: The Nuremberg Trials—a program premise which was ultimately deemed too risky to air—and the decidedly less provocative Law & Order: Cases in Torte Law, which was agreed to be too boring, even by Law & Order standards. One premise that was given some degree of consideration by the NBC program executives, though, was the intriguing Law & Order: Puritan New England, a show that promised to grip viewers with plots “ripped from the headlines of late 17th century Massachusetts.” This particular premise made it as far as the scripting stage, and though it was never filmed or aired, the pilot script written for the project is considered by many to be one of the better ones in a canon that contains nearly a thousand such scripts. This daring script is transcribed in its entirety below.
COLD OPEN NARRATOR In the Puritan justice system, the People are represented by two separate yet equally important Groups: the Constables, who investigate crime, and the presiding Judges, who prosecute the God-offending dregs, condemn their sinful actions, and punish their grievous crimes. These art their Stories. Dun-dun EXT. RURAL NEW ENGLAND ROAD – MORNING Two women in period dress speak in an animated and lively manner as they casually stroll down the rural road. GOODEWOMAN #1 …but my husband cares not for Bread, it seems, ’less the stuff be cover’d by a goode and healthy Mold of several days. GOODEWOMAN #2 And is that all that ails you? I fear how you would act when confronted with a real Crucible, if this trifling matter vexes so! GOODEWOMAN #1 Well, my goode husband and I have also consummated our Love but thrice in seven years since Marriage,— I fear that I may soon seek’st base Fornication with the neighbors’ slave ’twere it not for…— God’s blood, look’st there! GOODEWOMAN #2 What is it? GOODEWOMAN #1 ’Tis the proctor, Constance Putnam! He plows his Field on the Sabbath! GOODEWOMAN #2 Good Lord! Quickly, fetch the Constables! Help…help! EXT. CONSTANCE PUTNAM’S FIELD – LATE MORNING In the midst of Mr. Putnam’s large, damp field are two investigators. The older of the two, Constable Steadfast Handjobb, is an ostensibly grizzled veteran of the force. The other, younger constable is Increase Friction, Handjobb’s young-gun loose-cannon occasionally-sarcastic partner. The junior of the two constables is examining Mr. Putnam’s field with the finest forensic equipment of the day, which is to say a magnifying glass. INCREASE FICTION Look’st tho’ this Field were plowed not an hour ago. Steadfast Handjobb picks up and handful of dirt and tastes it, looking contemplative. STEADFAST HANDJOBB Yea, and with a plow, too. What is ostentatiously a forensics person, or the closest period equivalent thereof, enters the frame. FORENSICS PERSON We’ve ropeth’d off the entire Field, and placed little cones within all the plowèd Furrows. HANDJOBB Find’st thou anything? FORENSICS PERSON Yea, come hither. The two men walk to another area of Mr. Putnam’s field and peer down at the ground. FORENSICS PERSON Knowst thou what this is? Constable Handjobb bends down once again and tastes the substance in question on the ground. HANDJOBB Yea, ’tis horse Droppings.— The Perpetrator must have made use of such a beast. FORENSICS PERSON Didst thou really have to taste…— The unnamed forensics person’s statement is interrupted by an off-frame interjection. FRICTION Handjobb, come hither! HANDJOBB Yea, what ails you? FRICTION Look’st. The camera peers down to reveal a handful of squash seeds in the furrow of the field. HANDJOBB Squash seeds…— look’st like this was about more than merely plowing one’s Field. Here ends the cold opening and begins the show’s opening sequence, which features several clips and images in montage of the show’s cast accompanied by a reinterpretation of the classic Law & Order theme played in a pleasant air of the period. Eventually, the opening sequence ends and the drama resumes. EXT. RURAL NEW ENGLAND ROAD – NOON Constables Handjobb and Friction stand abreast of each other, and face the two women from before, whom they are interrogating regarding the developing case. HANDJOBB So, ye both claim to’ve seen a man plowing the Field of Mister Constance Putnam nary an hour ago? GOODEWOMAN #2 Yea…— ’twas awful, a truly terrible sight. HANDJOBB Not just plowing, Goodewoman. We found minute Seeds of squash in the Furrows;— therefore, we believe that he planted as well. GOODEWOMAN #2 Plowing and planting on the Sabbath? I would have never guessed that Mister Putnam was such a man. FRICTION But art thee sure it was Putnam that was plowing? GOODEWOMAN #2 Yea. GOODEWOMAN #1 No doubt;— it was the goodeman’s field, after all. FRICTION But did’st thou actually see it was Mister Putnam, beyond doubt? GOODEWOMAN #1 I must confess, I could’st not clearly view the goodeman’s face, due to the large buckl’d hat he was wearing, which obscur’d his Visage. Constable Handjobb scribbles down some notes on a piece of parchment. HANDJOBB Well, we want to be sure ’twas him;— it is a very serious thing he stands accus’d of doing. GOODEWOMAN #1 Well, Constable, Mister Putnam owns some seven hundred acres of land;— I know of no man who would willingly plow so many Furrows and sew his seeds within, let alone illicitly…—how I wish a goodeman would do such things to me. FRICTION Well, regardless ma’am, we must be certain of the Accusation. Hast the Goodeman Putnam any neighbors that we may interrogate? GOODEWOMAN #2 Yea, one: a Goodeman by the name of Prudence Mather. He lives four miles up the road. HANDJOBB Might he have witness’d anything, you reckon? GOODEWOMAN #2 Like I said, he lives four miles up the road. HANDJOBB Thankee, goodewomen. EXT. PRUDENCE MATHER’S DOORSTEP – AFTERNOON Constables Handjobb and Friction, who are quite out of breath from their miles-long trek, stand before the door of what is ostensibly Prudence Mather’s home. Friction knocks on the door while Handjobb reaches to his overcoat pocket to produce his period-accurate badge, which is printed on a piece of rolled up parchment. Prudence Mather comes quickly to the door, and opens it to the exhausted constables. HANDJOBB Constables Handjobb and Friction, police. PRUDENCE MATHER What bring’st thee here, Constables? FRICTION We’re here investigating a Matter relating to the plowing and planting of Mister Putnam’s Field. MATHER Oh? HANDJOBB …—An act which occur’d on the Sabbath day, today. MATHER My God… HANDJOBB Did’st thou see anything suspicious today,— anything pertaining to the plowing of the Field in question, or to Mister Putnam? FRICTION An horse,— or other Beast of burden,— perhaps? Or a conspicuously large burlap Sack that might’ve held seeds? MATHER No, I did’st not. FRICTION Art thou sure? Lying to a Constable is a damnable Offense in the Eyes of God, I’ll have thee know. MATHER Yea, I’m all but certain;— his property and mine art separated by a small forest: look’st for thyselves. Mather points to the side of his house, to indicate the forest of which he speaks. HANDJOBB Damme. FRICTION Well, dust thou know anything that might be relevant to our Investigation? MATHER I do know that Mister Putnam often enjoys visiting his brother, Verity Putnam, on the Sabbath Day. Perhaps speak’st with him? FRICTION Yea, thankee, and where does Mister Verity Putnam live? MATHER His Property lies on th’ other side of Towne, sirs. HANDJOBB And how far be the trek there? Mather thinks a moment. MATHER Hm, no further than eight or nine Miles, I should think. Handjobb sighs. HANDJOBB Thankee, good Sir. Dun-dun EXT. VERITY PUTNAM’S DOORSTEP – LATE AFTERNOON Handjobb and Friction stand before yet another doorstep, this time of Mr. Verity Putnam, once again in physical exhaustion. Handjobb knocks on the door, which is answered shortly. VERITY PUTNAM What seem’st to be the Problem, Constables? Constable Handjobb exasperatedly unfurls his parchment badge. HANDJOBB I’m Constable Handjobb, and this is Constable Friction. We’re here to inquire upon the actions of your brother, one Constance Putnam. V. PUTNAM ’S that so? And what begs this inquiry? FRICTION We believe your brother might be involved in a Sabbath-plowing-and- planting incident. V. PUTNAM ’Sblood, that’s so unlike him. Dust thee think that I were also involved? FRICTION Nay, sir, we were curious as to whether or not your esteemèd brother were here at all today. V. PUTNAM He was not here this day, nay. HANDJOBB Hast thou any idea as to where else he could have been? V. PUTNAM Well, my brother was not the most devote of Church-goers, though he still did attend Mass more often that he did not: tho’ he were not here, perhaps he was in attendance at the Church. FRICTION And which Church would that be, sir? V. PUTNAM The one near Towne’s centre HANDJOBB And how far’s that from here, sir? V. PUTNAM ’Tis not a long journey,— but a few Miles towneward. HANDJOBB Thankee, sir. Varity Putnam closes the door behind him, and Handjobb and Friction step away from the gentleman’s door. FRICTION We really must obtain ourselves a Wagon. HANDJOBB Aye, you’re telling me. INT. PURITAN CHURCH – EVENING Handjobb and Friction sit before one of the local reverends, and are visibly quite tired from all their running about throughout the day. HANDJOBB G’evening, Reverend. REVEREND G’evening. What brings thee here? HANDJOBB My Partner and I were wond’ring…— REVEREND ‘Partner?’ Ye twain aren’t of a gay disposition, I hope? Handjobb answers quite nervously. HANDJOBB Oh, nay, nay goode Rev’rend, we are Constables. FRICTION Yea, and we’re here to inquire about the attendance of one of your Parishioners. REVEREND Whom would that be? HANDJOBB One Constance Putnam, Rev’rend. Was he present at this day’s Service? REVEREND Nay, I can’t say that I remember him. FRICTION That resolves it then. REVEREND Resolves what? HANDJOBB Rev’rend, we believe that Constance Putnam may very well have plow’d and planted his field today, on the Sabbath. REVEREND Bless me, what is this world coming to…? HANDJOBB I know Rev’rend, ’tis a tragedy.— Yet thanks to you, we’re about to take this Bastard down. Friction, let us to’t! FRICTION ’Tis Sunset, Handjobb. HANDJOBB Aye, well…we shall apprehend the Sinner on the morrow, then! Dun-dun EXT. CONSTANCE PUTNAM’S DOORSTEP – MORNING Constable Handjobb and Constable Friction are accompanied by a number of unnamed, less-important constables outside the home of Mr. Constance Putnam. They are all armed with muskets. Handjobb and Friction press themselves against the wall on either side of Putnam’s door, and prepare to forcibly enter the residence. HANDJOBB Ready, goodemen? Three…two…one…enter! Handjobb, Friction, and the other constables dramatically storm the Putnam house amid much shouting and clamor, eventually coming upon Putnam with his family at breakfast. PUTNAM What is the meaning of this? FRICTION Constance Putnam, thou art under arrest for the Plowing and Planting of thy Field…— PUTNAM But I haven’t plow’d today yet! FRICTION …On the Sabbath. PUTNAM But ’tis a Monday! HANDJOBB Thou would do better, to not object or resist. We have witnesses that profess it so, and Evidence that condemns you. He produces the horse droppings from the day before and presents it to Putnam. HANDJOBB I suppose thou can tell’st me what this is? PUTNAM This entire thing is absurd! HANDJOBB Take him away, Friction. Friction produces a miniature stockade into which Putnam is placed, much to the horror and grief of his onlooking family, which is quite large. (Screenwriter’s Note: cries of ‘Oh no!,’ ‘Nay, Father!,’ ‘Please, tak’st him not!’ etc. from his family may be added extemporaneously upon shooting.) FRICTION You’re coming with us, goode sir. Thou hast the Right to Silence, anything thou say’st can and will be us’d against thee in a goode and lawful Court; thou hast the right to a Lawyer, tho’ why thee would want such a thing is beyond me… FADEOUT EXT. GROUNDS OF THE COURTHOUSE – DAY Handjobb and Friction stand next to a man—who is seen to be a prostrate Putnam—pressed between two boards with large rocks being placed on top of the upper board. As this happens, the two constables are interrogating the compressed Putnam, with the implication being that this has gone on for quite some time. PUTNAM I am innocent, I tell ye! Innocent! HANDJOBB We have witnesses confirming they saw a Figure plowing thy Field, and yet more witnesses confirming that ye were not anywhere thy could’st have been upon that day! Confess to your Crime! Confess! PUTNAM I shall not! HANDJOBB Friction, add another boulder t’ the boards! FRICTION Yea. Friction moves to add another boulder to the board, but he is interrupted by an offscreen interjection from what is revealed to be Putnam’s attorney, Continence Pynchon, who has just arrived. CONTINENCE PYNCHON Cease this at once! HANDJOBB On what Authority? PYNCHON On that of the Court, sir. Pynchon produces a piece of parchment from his coat pocket. PYNCHON This barbaric Pressing ye perform is only to be done in matters concerning Murder, Rape, Theft, Witchcraft, Adultery, Usury, Embezzlement, and Tom-peeping thro’ a lady’s Window;— my Client stands accus’d of no such Crimes. HANDJOBB And who might’st thee be? PYNCHON I am Mister Putnam’s hir’d Attorney, Continence Pynchon, here to defend him ’gainst the false accusations levied upon ’im. HANDJOBB False accusations, sir? PYNCHON Yea,— now I suggest thee stop crushing my Client ’neath those boards, so that I might defend him in the Courthouse. Pynchon walks away self-assuredly toward the building. FRICTION How I hate lawyers. PUTNAM Speak’st for thyself. INT. COURTHOUSE – DAY Putnam and Pynchon sit across the table from the local attorney Samuel Williams, who will be presenting the case against Putnam on behalf of the public. (Screenwriter’s Note: ideally, the part of Samuel Williams should be played by someone roughly analogous to, but decidedly not, Sam Waterston.) SAMUEL WILLIAMS Mister Pynchon, if convicted, your Client shall be hanged by the neck for his crimes ’gainst Man and God;— we will lessen the punishment to but being drowned in the creek, if he but admit to the Accusations. PUTNAM I shall do no such thing! PYNCHON Hold your tongue, Mister Putnam….— He shall do no such thing, sir! WILLIAMS Very well then;— there is no choice, then, but to press ahead with the Trial. PYNCHON Do not be so hasty, Mister Williams: it so happens that my client has a certain amount of Knowledge regarding a local Coven of Witches. WILLIAMS Witches? What part could Sorc’ry possibly play in this Matter? PYNCHON A fiaire amount;— ye need only listen to Mister Putnam’s Testimony. Dun-dun INT. COURTHOUSE TRIAL CHAMBER – DAY Presiding over the trial chamber of the courthouse is one Judge Hawthorne, an old, fiery, and decidedly puritanical man. Sitting before Judge Hawthorne behind a very heavy and embellished period table is Putnam, who is flanked to his left by Pynchon, his attorney. Williams, the prosecuting attorney, sits behind another period table next to the one which the other two men sit behind. JUDGE HAWTHORNE Mister Constance Putnam, ye stand accus’d of plowing and seeding thy Field on the Sabbath Day. However, thy attorney has informed me that you claim this Act of which you stand accus’d was performed under the influence of Daemonick Sorcery from a local Coven of Witches…— Those in attendance gasp in shock, leading Judge Hawthorne to bang his gavel in an attempt to call his court to order. HAWTHORNE Order in this Court! Order! … Now, Mister Putnam, can’st ye produce any Evidence supporting this claim of yours? PUTNAM Well, goode sir, I cannot in Faith say’st so, but…— look’st! Look’st there! ’Tis an evil Apparition of a Plow! HAWTHORNE Where!? PUTNAM There! ’Tis there! HAWTHORNE I can’st not see it. At this point Constance Putnam falls to the floor and begins to roll around, as if he were on fire. PUTNAM Aggghhh! WILLIAMS Your Honor, I really must object to this… HAWTHORNE Objection upheld: Mister Putnam, if ye must be afflictèd by an evil apparition, I suggest ye do it seated. Putnam abruptly ceases his flailing, and returns to his seat. PUTNAM Yes, your Honor. HAWTHORNE Now, whom in this Towne belongs to the Witches’ Coven you claim to exist—? WILLIAMS Actually your Honor, my objection was in regard to the Nature of the Goodeman’s Testimony itself, which the prosecution feels has little to do with the matter he is being tried for, and, furthermore…— HAWTHORNE Mister Williams, what reason have you to object to the Testimony of Mister Putnam, ’less the goodeman’s Testimony implicates yourself in the Hellish Accusations being levied? WILLIAMS Judge Hawthorne, I can assure thee I am no…— PUTNAM WITCH! Putnam frantically points toward Samuel Williams. PUTNAM WITCH! This sudden accusation is met with gasps and cries from those in attendance, leading Judge Hawthorne to bang his gavel yet again. HAWTHORNE I’ll have Order in this Court! Order! … Mister Samuel Williams, thou art accus’d of practicing the Dark Arts, having Consort with daemonic ambassadors of Hell, and having carnal Knowledge of the Evil One;— Constables, take him away! He shall stand Trial on the morrow for his Crimes. INT. COURTHOUSE TRIAL CHAMBER – DAY Samuel Williams sits behind the table that Constance Putnam sat behind the day prior with a look of despair and dejection on his face. Judge Hawthorne bangs his gavel to bring the court to order. HAWTHORNE Mister Williams, ye stand accus’d of practicing Witchcraft. How dust thou plead? WILLIAMS I am not guilty. HAWTHORNE A likely assertion, Mister Williams. WILLIAMS But I am no Witch! HAWTHORNE Mister Williams, you of all people should’st be aware of the Protocol for the Interrogation and Sentencing of suspectèd Witches: the more the suspectèd party denies, the more likely they art a Witch. WILLIAMS Oh. Dammit. Hawthorne authoritatively and confidently bangs his gavel. HAWTHORNE Take him away. He is to be hang’d by the neck on the morrow. The foreboding, minor-keyed music that plays upon the sentence of every Law & Order episode begins here. FADEOUT EXECUTIVE PRODUCER DICK WOLF …
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This article was chosen as the Best Alternate Namespace Article in the January-February 2011 Poo Lit Surprise writing competition.