Welcome to the Friday The 13th The Series rewatch. Each day throughout October, we’ll watch one episode of the seminal 1987 television series and tackle the highs, the lows and Micki’s hair (of course). Now step into Curious Goods and peruse our cursed antiques, won’t you?
S01E07: “Doctor Jack”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: A series of slashings leads the group to surgeon Dr. Vincent Howlett (Cliff Gorman) who loves the limelight. To complicate matters, a woman named Jean (Elva Mai Hoover) is seeking revenge on the doctor for her daughter’s murder.
- Director: Richard Friedman, who just directed “The Great Montarro”
- Writer: Marc Scott Zicree makes his Friday the 13th debut
- Famous Guest Star: By this time Gorman had already starred in The Boys in the Band and 1984’s notorious virgin/madonna exploitation flick Angel
Cursed Antique of the Week: A victorian scalpel, thought to have belonged to Jack the Ripper
Setting: Ravenbrook Hospital
Best Death: With only two to choose from, I’ll go with Howlett’s, even if it’s a boring stab wound that ultimately kills him and not getting zapped by the defibrillator
Quirkiest Add-On: I have so many questions about the opening scene: why is the flower seller peddling his wares in the middle of the night? Why does he refuse his customer change? Why does Howlett opt to kill this man in the middle of a crowded area? It’s a very confusing set-up
Character Bits: Jack (Chris Wiggins) is injured so badly that he winds up needing surgery!
Corny Finish Line: Ryan (to Jack) – “The best part is with him out of the way, Howlett won’t be sending you a bill”
80s Fashion Closet: The clothes and hair in this episode are OUT OF CONTROL. Micki (Louise Robey)’s hair has never been so close to god and her shit brown shirt/jacket with three quarter sleeve and belt is hideously ugly. The most offensive article of clothing, however, has to be Ryan (John D. LeMay)’s excessively baggy jeans and XXL dog & dot sweater.
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: Virtually nothing! I am SHOCKED
This is a slight step up in quality from “The Great Montarro” if only because there’s no mystery hampering the plot. It’s pretty clear from early on who the villain is and Gorman imbues Howlett with a good amount of evil narcissism. The murderous doctor isn’t exactly a nuanced character, but I would put him on par with Le Croix from episode two, who was a decent killer motivated by power, money and/or greed.
I guess I should also cop to the egg on my face. In the very last rewatch episode, I complained that the series needs to stop endangering its core cast because it’s not believable that any of will come to harm. Flashforward to this episode and low and behold Jack immediately falls down a (short) elevator shaft, winds up needing surgery and is recuperating in a wheelchair at episode’s end. Obviously you can’t have one of the three come to significant harm each episode, but Jack’s arc here helps to sell the idea that these adventures are perilous.
What Doesn’t Work…
Seven episodes in and it’s becoming clear that Friday The 13th writers regularly supplement a subpar A-plot with a bizarre secondary one. When it’s batshit crazy a la Birdie nearly killing a homeless man in “A Cup Of Time“, I’m all for it. When it is grief-stricken homicidal mom Jean (Hoover) attempting to fire a gun in an abandoned hospital hallway? Um…
While I appreciate that Jean’s story fits into the main story more closely than some of the others we’ve seen <cough “The Great Montarro” cough>, it’s not seamless. Questions abound: how does Jack keep her locked up in the hospital without admitting her? Why isn’t she arrested by the police? All in all, Jean only really matters when it comes to the end of the episode when Micki and Ryan face off against Howlett in the derelict hospital hallways, but it would have been easy enough to excise her role entirely, which begs the question why she’s here in the first place.
This is, however, a minor complaint in comparison to the most egregious one: WHY DOES THIS EPISODE INCLUDE JACK THE RIPPER? Apologies for the all-caps, but this historical component plays like writer Zicree read an 80s microfiche (“he had surgical precision” mmhmm; “he might have been a doctor” ohhh, I can use that) and then whipped up this cockamamie treatment. The inclusion of the Ripper adds literally nothing to this episode; “Doctor Jack” would have worked just as well if it were about a scalpel that allows its wielder to save lives masterfully in exchange for semi-frequent kills (which is — shocker — what the episode is actually about!). Instead the inclusion or poor use of Jack the Ripper sets up a completely unnecessary expectation that is never paid off.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- Oh how I do enjoy spotting reused sets! Not only is the alley gate that Howlett cuts through the same as “Hellowe’en“, the elevator that Jack falls down is the same as the one Lewis died in back in the pilot!
- Is that Jason’s machete on display in Jim Bronson (Michael Copeman)’s knife shop?!
- I can’t believe that there’s mention of pictures of Micki and Ryan with monkeys at the zoo, but we are never shown them. What a tease
- According to Howlett, being able to cut open a man from groin to sternum and not be arrested = surgeon power! Yeah, no wonder this guy became a homicidal maniac
- It’s surprising that the first time we see Howlett, his surgery & speech are actually part of his job interview. Another odd story choice
- Cribbed from my actual notes: “So where have they locked up this delirious mother? ‘Cause it’s not like you can just find empty beds in a hospital”
- The blackmail/coercion that Dr. Price (Doris Petrie) employs to force Howlett to perform a surgery he’s not ready for — in order to solidify his role and re-establish the reputation of the hospital — suggests that Price is actually the villain
- It is unsurprising that Howlett must not only perform Jack’s surgery but keep him alive when he realizes who he is, but it still works for me
- Micki, Ryan and Jean make the cardinal slasher mistake when they get the upper hand on Howlett: they knock him down and then run away instead of finishing him off. Kick the shit out of him and be done with it!
- You can see the defibrillator death coming a mile away, but what surprises me is that Micki waits until Howlett nearly stabs her. Girl, that’s dangerous! It would have been better to zap his hand, arm or head rather than wait to zap that scalpel!
- How is Ryan not in jail considering the number of times he has picked up a murder object? Dude, don’t pull the knife out of the dead guy
- I’ve added a new section up top, but in case you missed it, the episode ends on this corny one-liner: “The best part is with him out of the way, Howlett won’t be sending you a bill”
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode eight: “Shadow Boxer”