By Jessica Ritchey
Beauty and the Beast
Season 1, episodes 7 and 8: “Nor Iron Bars a Cage” and “Song of Orpheus”
Original airdates: Nov. 13 and Nov. 20, 1987
The sins of the Father emerge in this pair of episodes as Roy Dotrice’s patriarch comes to the forefront. First in the signs of his animosity toward Catherine thawing, and then in getting some crucial pieces of his past revealed. Those pieces go a long way to humanizing his often prickly behavior toward, well, just about everyone except Vincent.
“Nor Iron Bars a Cage” finds that well-trod ground of a character receiving a job offer in a far off place and spending the episode deciding whether or not to accept it. An opening in Providence, as in Rhode Island, becomes available for Catherine. It leads to several heavy-handed scenes with Vincent in which she surmises that with a name like Providence, what can she do but accept? She starts to pack, and Vincent tromps through the park at night for a sulk—where he is felled by multiple tranquilizer darts from a university professor who’s been obsessed with catching him.
Father reluctantly informs Catherine of Vincent’s disappearance, sending her off on the investigation trail. Meanwhile, the professor is starting to grow a conscience while his partner, a deranged grad student (played Christian Clemenson, who would go on to play the delightful, Aspberger’s afflicted Jerry on Boston Legal), can hardly wait to break out the vivisection knives [Grad students are always deranged. -NK]. Catherine discovers his whereabouts just in time, and after a scuffle leaves the two captors dead, she sprints him back Below. In his chambers, she reads a resting Vincent Wordsworth’s “Surprised by Joy,” the promise to stay with him always unspoken between them.
The mad professor and his unscrupulous grad student make for the kind of pulpy stuff the show was always careful not to lean on too much, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. The urge to do more fantastical, adventurous stories always chipped at the edges of the show, and it could be done without sacrificing the romance or the relationships. After all, the best genre stories are ones whose incredible events are grounded in well observed human behavior, something the show was good at.
“Song of Orpheus” is Father’s story. After decades Below he finally ventures above to answer a mysterious newspaper ad. He has the grave misfortune to walk into the scene of a murder just as the cops arrive; unwilling to give any answer that might risk discovery of the tunnels, he’s sent to jail to ruminate on his past. This time it’s Vincent who informs Catherine of Father’s disappearance. Her investigation leads her to the discovery that that the man who is now Father was once Jacob Wells, a blacklisted doctor who lost everything and retreated to the literal underground. And the ad was placed by a woman named Margaret, once his wife, now dying and wanting to make amends.
Dotrice makes the most of this one: his shock at receiving the message, his misery in confinement, the frank distaste when he has to grudgingly accept Catherine’s help or face life behind bars. And finally, any resentment he might feel towards the woman who abandoned him evaporating in an instant when he sees her waiting in his study carved among the rocks.
There’s also a nicely telling line between him and Catherine when he thanks her for her help on the steps of the subway on his return to home. She promises she would never hurt Vincent like Margaret hurt him when she left. He still can’t accept that—or maybe he’s too wise to—and warns her that she can hurt Vincent because “part of him is a man.” It’s the first time we get a sense of what Father thinks Vincent actually is. And while it might not be flattering it is revealing that his overprotective behavior is based on the not unreasonable fear that only he understands that part of Vincent, and only he can control it.
Next week, that voodoo you don’t do so well, actually, and children will listen.
- A tabloid story about a “monster” being caught in Central Park leads Catherine to Vincent. It might have been neat to get more of a sense of Vincent sightings leading to a new urban legend in the city.
- It was nice seeing office computer expert Edie (Renn Woods) get a little more to do than just deliver exposition; it was a shame they didn’t do more with her either.