Takin’ Over the Asylum (1994) s01e02 – Fly Like an Eagle

This episode seemingly takes place soon after the first one—Ken Stott is giving David Tennant DJ lessons—but apparently in the meantime Stott’s had a chance to look at the station’s accounting since he took over. There’s a subplot about hospital money person Sandra Voe wanting to see Stott’s books for running the radio station and it really seems like he’s only been there two or three times and he brought his own records. When we do get around to seeing the book props, they’re entirely filled out—it’s a plot point getting them filled out but not their content. It’s strange TV show logic in a show seemingly dedicated to not doing such narrative efficiencies.

For example, Stott gentle but still awkward courtship of Katy Murphy. He’s trying to get her interested in the radio station but she’s seemingly not at all.

Meanwhile, Tennant’s got a subplot about his dad—James Grant—ready to take him out of the hospital but only if Tennant gets a job and moves to Perth (Scotland, presumably). And he doesn’t want to hear about Tennant’s wild dreams of becoming a radio DJ, which it turns out would suit the hospital just fine too. See, according to Voe, the hospital never intended for the patients to get interested in the radio station, but other outside volunteers. Don’t trust the patients, she tells Stott.

So it’s hard for Voe not to be a villain this episode. Even when Stott gets a workplace nemesis too. The biggest plots are Tennant and his dad and Stott and work. Everything else is just in-between, but very nicely balanced. Again, Donna Franceschild’s script, David Blair’s direction—excellent work. Stott’s so broke he can’t even pay for the TV license, which majorly pisses off grandma Elizabeth Spriggs, and he’s got to figure out how to sell some windows fast. Because he’s already lied to boss Roy Hanlon, which super-salesman Neil McKinven has noticed and now McKinven has got Stott in his crosshairs.

Luckily, Stott’s got a subplot with guest star Liz Smith as an annoying old lady who he just can’t shake and it’s all going to work out fine. Or at least fine enough to get us to another episode in the end.

Most of the plot lines come together at the end for a bit of a Tennant showcase and gets the series through its first act.

Stott’s still good, Tennant’s still charming—the episode’s a little shaky figuring out how to incorporate Stott’s home and work with the hospital, but it’s finding its footing and has figured out how to get Ruth McCabe on the radio team permanent. The subtle character development is outstanding; the show’s able to get to big dramatic moments without them ever seeming too much. Something about Blair’s direction tempers it all perfectly.

“Takin’ Over the Asylum” is working out to be a rather good show.

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