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A serious topic which I wish had been addressed from the crime angle
The Night Killer begins with a young couple, Bill and Madeline Estes (Robert Ginty and Tyne Daly), struggling with the pressures of balancing work, marriage and raising their newborn twin boys. When Bill arrives home from work one evening, he discovers one of the boys is not breathing and has succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To make matters even worse, a young doctor in the coroner lab, Bob Gage (Jonathan Segal), identifies some evidence of injury to the baby which prompts him to contact Lt. Monahan (Garry Walberg) alleging abuse by the devastated parents before receiving the results of additional tests or checking with Quincy (Jack Klugman). When the allegations are discredited, Quincy blasts Dr. Gage for not following through before reporting a crime which makes him question his abilities. Meanwhile, the parents struggle to cope with their son's death while also having to closely monitor the breathing of their other son while he is sleeping.
This is a tough episode for me to critique. On the one hand, I think the Quincy production team did a fine job in highlighting a tragic and heartbreaking issue for which there was probably a general lack of knowledge and understanding at the time. That said, I think this could have been a much stronger story that remained more true to the series if they had pursued it from the criminal angle where Quincy was trying to expose a parent who had harmed their baby and was trying to cover it up as SIDS. I understand what they were trying to do with this approach in showing the devastating effects of a crib death which were compounded by the accusation and the guest stars do a good job in conveying this, but between the presence of Tyne Daly and the huge emphasis on the breakdown of the marriage after the fact it just felt more like a Lifetime Network dramatic movie rather than a Quincy episode. Even the fantastic Patricia Barry as the doctor could not make the group therapy scenes watchable for me.
Overall, this an episode that addresses a very serious topic and I think all involved did a good job in portraying such sensitive material, but the story goes pretty far off base from what many fans of the series appreciate and tune in for which is a good murder mystery. If that is what you most enjoy about Quincy, this probably isn't an episode that will be to your liking.
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