So, I’m a television writer. Well, at least I’m trying to become one. But it takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and – like anything – practice, practice, practice. To master the craft, one must first master the writing of a spec script (a script for a TV show currently on-air) that showcases your writing voice. Allow me to show you the way, as together we write a spec script for Black Mirror and pause at certain moments to let you know how this process goes.
INT. BATHROOM – MORNING
MATT’s blurry reflection comes into focus in the medicine cabinet mirror. He perches on the sink and groggily looks at his reflection. A digital readout appears on the mirror around his face displaying his name, “Matthew B.” along with age, height, weight, daily appointments, grocery list, etc.
For a show like Black Mirror, you can’t wait too long before hitting hard the theme of “technology is dangerous today.” So I’ve set this scene up in a bathroom in the morning. I mean RIGHT when you wake up. Can you imagine?
Matt sees all this “data” displayed for him but dismisses it, frustrated.
Good morning to you, too.
Matt reaches for his toothbrush in the cup by the sink, but it’s empty. No toothbrush to be found- strange. Matt definitely remembers using it last night and putting it back.
Where’s my toothbrush?
Almost as soon as Matt finishes saying “toothbrush” his fingertip hinges back and a toothbrush pops out. Matt jumps in surprise!
Matt looks around for anybody watching, then he slowly and cautiously pulls the toothbrush up to his mouth and starts brushing with it. Matt is pleasantly surprised, it works just fine.
See? We’ve established the first “weird technology thing” (henceforth “W.T.T.”) with the finger toothbrush. To further prove our theme, more exposition is still necessary. Let’s hit it again.
INT. KITCHEN – MORNING
Matt, now dressed in a button down shirt and slacks, goes through his morning routine before making his way out the door for work. He opens his fridge and looks around the interior. Holographic 3D models of the food items he needs to buy- milk, eggs, salsa- appear in their empty spaces.
Aw man, no milk.
Matt pulls his head out of the fridge and looks to his bowl on the table already filled with dry cereal.
Gotta have milk!
Just in that moment, a tube extends out of Matt’s sleeve, over the bowl of cereal, and starts pouring out milk! In fact, it PERFECTLY fills his bowl.
The tube retracts back into Matt’s sleeve and disappears. He frantically looks around and in his sleeves, trying to find evidence of what just happened, but finds nothing. Matt steps over to the cereal bowl, picks it up, and starts eating.
Wow, this is real milk.
Cool! Second W.T.T. By the third one we should have a sense of a pattern that will solidify the thematic mystery/intrigue of this episode.
EXT. DRIVEWAY – MORNING
Matt stands over his car engine, wearing a trench coat. Frustrated, he slams the car hood down. The engine is clearly busted, we can tell by his aggression.
Now how will I get to work?
Suddenly, Matt feels himself get three inches taller as wheels pop up from under his shoes- skate shoes!
Whoa! Skates out of the bottom of my shoes??
Matt gives his shoes and the road ahead a look of “well, here goes nothing” and takes off!
Have you noticed what I’ve noticed? Our story is eerily similar to the mid-80s to early-90s children’s cartoon Inspector Gadget. This happens more often than you might think. Best just lean into it and see how this plays out.
INT. POLICE PRECINCT – MORNING
MATT skates into the office of CHIEF QUIMBY.
GADGET! You’re late!!
No, no. Never mind, I can’t do this. I can’t write an Inspector Gadget story again. Let’s take a moment and hone back in on the general theme for every episode of Black Mirror:
The police phone rings wildly. Matt cringes at the future-like sci-fi sounding ringtone and picks it up.
Police Station. What seems to be the problem?
Yes. Okay, great – looks like we’re out of the woods. And we’ve done a lot of great work in this small space! Notice our reminding the audience that this world is subtly strange because the phone rings different but, like, also there are still phones. Plus, Matt cringes at the unfamiliar ringtone, just like we probably would, too. Relatable. And on top of all that, this phone call sounds like it will set up the main arc of the story: a mysterious crime case for Matt to follow.
PHONE VOICE (V.O.)
Hey Uncle Gadget! It’s me, Penny!
Your precocious and intelligent niece.
A dog barking is heard over the phone.
Brain is here too! He’s the smart dog.
Yeah, once Brain shows up there really isn’t much more we can do. I’m telling you this happens to me like all the time. I’ve only actually successfully written one script that didn’t end up being just a story about Inspector Gadget. And even that one still had a character who had a claw for a hand and whose face we never saw.
This sounds like the work of Doctor Claw!
Speak of the fucking devil.
Matt walks over to the coat hanger and puts on a grey trench coat and hat.
I’ll take care of this. I’m Inspector Gadget.
I should have seen this coming. I mean, I named the character “Matthew B.” You know, B as in Broderick, who played Inspector Gadget in the 1999 live-action movie?
Go, Go, Gadget Copter!
A propeller and handles pop out of Inspector Gadget’s hat and he crashes through the window, taking to the streets of the city in search of Doctor Claw!
OKAY FORGET IT. I’m done. See this is what I meant by I’m trying to be a writer. I can’t seem to break this one weird habit. I don’t even know that much about Inspector Gadget! I’m not sure I knew the police chief’s last name was “Quimby” until today. It’s like there’s a weird Inspector Gadget ghost living inside my computer and haunting it, stopping me from telling anything else but his story!
Actually, that’d make a pretty good Black Mirror episode.