|Index||3 reviews in total|
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
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.
I would agree with Paul Andrews--early in the "Quincy" series the show
was much more oriented towards solving crimes and as the show
progressed, it became much more of a soap box for social issues. While
the issues might have been quite laudable (such as sudden infant death
syndrome in this particular show), the program became less and less
entertaining as well. And, often the show was simply preachy.
Tyne Daley and Robert Ginty star as two parents who sadly have to deal with one of their twins dying from SIDS. While this is a serious tragedy, an even greater pain is inflicted on them when a complete jerk-face of a coroner incorrectly diagnoses the child as having died as a result of child abuse! So, Monahan is brought into the case and when Quincy finds out about this rush to judgment, he is naturally furious! The end result of this is that the parents are really screwed up and the young coroner has lost his nerve. Can they all overcome this? Not a terrible idea for a story but as I said above, this was NOT entertaining. A bit of light humor or tension would have made this one better. Instead, it's heavy-handed and anything but entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Quincy M.E.: The Night Killer starts one night as accountant Bill Estes
(Robert Ginty) arrives home to discover Benjamin one of his five month
old baby twins dead in his crib while his wife Madeline (Tyne Daly) is
asleep in the bedroom. All the signs & indications point to crib death
or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS for short) as it's known, with
Quincy (Jack Klugman) in court for the morning a young up & coming
pathologist named Bab Gage (Jonathan Segal) takes it upon himself to
perform the autopsy & is horrified to see evidence of Benjamin having
been battered to death. When Quincy gets back from court he is enraged
to find out that Gage has already involved the police & Lt. Monahan
(Garry Walberg) before performing a proper autopsy which proves that
Benjamins injuries were sustained post mortem, or after death. Quincy
sets out to do all he can to help Bill & Madeline get over the
devastating loss of a child...
Episode 4 from season 6 this Quincy story was directed by Jeffrey Hayden & one has to say that you can maybe trace the demise of the once brilliant crime detective series Quincy down to this very episode. The first five seasons of Quincy were highly enjoyable apart from a few misfires here & there with a great mix if crime drama, murder mystery, race against time scenarios, some great supporting character's, a real sense of humour & a wide variety of story lines that at times got a little heavy handed & preachy but were generally entertaining. Season six is where all that started to disappear & it all started to go wrong, season six is when the wholly moralistic story lines started to take over & the successful murder mystery style plots were abandoned, while busy trying to make some sort of social statement or highlight some official or bureaucratic inadequacy the production team for me lost what made me fall in love with the show in the first place. I happen to think that The Night Killer is the first of the extremely heavy handed, sombre & moralistically charged episode, the fact that it's an episode of Quincy seems irrelevant & there's no humour, no murder, no crime, no mystery, no intrigue & the story feels like it happens in spite & around Quincy rather than because of him & his persistent quest for the truth & justice. Here the production team decide to tackle the mysterious phenomenon of crib death (or cot death as it's known here in the UK) & the effect it has on the family & it's a really heavy issue that I don't think will be particularly entertaining to anyone. I don't like the moralistic episodes & I definitely don't like this. As far as I am concerned The Night Killer marked the start of the end for Quincy as a show & it pains me to say that since there are so many episode that I enjoy.
When I saw that this episode was called The Night Killer I was looking forward to a good murder mystery in which Quincy has to help track down a serial killer or something along those lines but the thirty second preview before the opening credits dashed my hopes & I knew I was in for a long fifty odd minutes as the title turned out to be more metaphorical than literal. Tyne Daly of Cagney & Lacey (1982 - 1988) fame, she was Lacey by the way, makes the first of her three guest appearances on Quincy while Robert Ginty makes the first of his two although beating them both is Jonathan Segal who appeared in six different Quincy episodes. As usual Klugman puts in a great performance & is probably the sole highlight of this episode.
The Night Killer is the beginning of the end of Quincy, the show would continue to go down the social issue route & gradually abandon more & more of what made the show so great to start with. All I will say is if it isn't broke why fix it? It's no surprise that the show didn't last too long after the production team tried to 'fix it' is it?
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