Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Case of the Meddling Medium

So I’ve decided to start a community on Livejournal for Perry. I keep finding fans there and I determined we need a place to play. If you’re on Livejournal, drop on by! In fact, if you’re not on Livejournal, come sign up! It’s awesome.

And I’ve finished the Halloween story. That’s definitely a weight off my mind, and off the month’s schedule. It should be easy to just work with blog posts and the remaining pieces of the ten-part writing challenge, particularly since the latter will be spread throughout the rest of the month.

Meanwhile, I’m putting up the Halloween story in several parts, since it ended up way too big to be a long oneshot. It’s an ensemble piece, but Della seems to have become highly prominent.

Also, you may notice I changed the blog’s background. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and thus spotlight characters from all throughout the series run and not only the original Core Five. It seems highly appropriate, especially since two of my favorite characters are not part of the original Core Five.

I determined to take the paranormal episodes of Perry in the order they aired. But since The Dodging Domino has no supernatural elements and instead takes place right at Halloween, I’m undecided whether it will be a part of my series or if I’ll spotlight it later, perhaps on Halloween.

The first time Perry delves into the paranormal is season 5’s The Meddling Medium. And I think it is rivaled only by The Fatal Fetish for a creepy and chilling presentation of the paranormal.

The Meddling Medium takes place at a large and isolated mansion. The lady of the house, Sylvia Walker, is consumed by a desire to contact her dead son Thomas. Her nephew Philip Paisley shows up and promptly seems to go into a trance, delivering a message from Thomas via automatic writing. The message consists of a poem Thomas wrote right before his death, which only his mother Sylvia ever saw. Immediately she is convinced that Philip has really been in contact with Thomas. Over the ensuing months, Philip moves in and repeatedly goes into trances and delivers further messages.

Sylvia’s daughter, Bonnie Craig, is not convinced in the least. She is certain that Philip is pulling off a cruel fraud for reasons of his own, but she can never prove it.

One evening, when Perry is visiting the house at Bonnie’s request, it all comes to a head. Philip goes into a mood and refuses to keep trying to enter the trance that night. He tells Bonnie that she should do it instead, if she’s so convinced he has no powers. And, hoping to prove him a fraud, she goes to the table to do so.

She ends up in a trance-like state herself, and writes a verse, backwards to boot. Perry holds it up to the mirror and reads what sounds like a warning on Philip’s life. Philip leaves in disgust to take the in-house elevator to the bottom of the hill. Thomas was killed in that elevator before Philip insisted it be repaired. But tonight something has gone wrong again. Philip dies the same way Thomas died before him. And Bonnie is accused, especially after it’s revealed that she was seen going in the direction of the elevator with some tools.

There’s the matter of her death note, too. Of course, there’s no way for Perry to prove that Bonnie really went into a trance to write it. But he learns he may be able to legally prove whether Bonnie has ESP, and hence, may have written her macabre message after sensing the thoughts of someone else in the room. With the help of a parapsychologist friend of David’s (who played himself, by the way; he really was a parapsychologist!), an elaborate test is prepared and okayed by the judge. It does eventually prove that Bonnie has miniscule ESP abilities, and due to an electric Faraday cage, reveals the true murderer—an electrical expert—to boot.

Hamilton’s opinion on the paranormal is consistent throughout the series, which, while being a little detail overall, is something I’m impressed with the writers for remembering. The great Samuel Newman wrote two of the paranormal episodes (in fact, the two I find the eeriest), but he did not have any involvement with the other two. In this episode, Hamilton makes a hilarious quip about Perry utilizing ectoplasm and other macabre methods to build his case. And throughout the subsequent ESP test, Hamilton looks very skeptical, although he says very little.

The uncut version of the episode reveals to the audience from the beginning that Philip is faking his trance. The usual, syndicated version of the episode leaves this out, making the audience unsure of whether it’s real or not. But in any case, Bonnie’s trance is very much unexplained until the very end when her ESP is confirmed. The scene where Bonnie writes her mirror message of death is, I think, the creepiest scene in any of the paranormal episodes. The last thing the audience is expecting is for her to space out, let alone to write something like The fraud whose hoax turned hope to dread, shall take his place among the dead.

Even the house looks eerie. The exterior shots of the mansion on the hill, complete with a raging lightning storm, look like something out of an old horror picture.

I wonder to whom the title refers, anyway. “The meddling medium” could either be Philip, meddling by pulling off his fraud, or Bonnie, meddling by unwillingly inserting her own trance in place of Philip’s. Or it could even be, I suppose, the medium Philip asks for help in faking a trance.

The Meddling Medium was most likely intended to be a Halloween episode. It even aired towards the end of October. And I give it a very high approval rating. It’s a perfect Perry episode to watch on a dark, cold autumn night.

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