16.5.11

Tales From the Darkside 206: The Satanic Piano


It's a star-studded episode of Tales From the Darkside this week, by which I mean it has at least one person I'm familiar with from my childhood spent watching sitcoms! In this case, Lisa Bonet, who plays the daughter of a formerly successful musician who, when the episode opens, is struggling with whatever the musician's equivalent of Writer's Block is. Lisa is working on music of her own, but Bancroft (that's the musician's name, BTW), is too busy getting bad news about his new contract to help her with it. It seems the record company doesn't like his new material, and he's increasingly worried that he's becoming irrelevant, which naturally causes friction with his daughter, who represents the younger generation whose musical tastes are out of step with his own abilities!

Yup, things are looking pretty bad for Bancroft when he gets a phone call from one 'Wilson Farber', who offers him an instrument that can turn his entire life around! If that weren't sinister enough, the show cuts to Wilson's lab, which is decorated with black candles. Oh, and the dead body-

-of the last musician who tried to play this groundbreaking instrument. So while the premises of the two plots are extremely similar, it's doubtful that this 'Satanic Piano' is going to actually allow Bancroft to craft anything as jaunty or successful as “Ass in Your Pants”. I guess we'll see soon enough!

Reporting for duty at the creepy lab, Bancroft discovers walls covered in fetishes and spells, as well as a computerized keyboard. According to Wilson, it can offer everything a modern digital processor can, with an additional feature that nothing else can boast - but before I get to that, let's just take a look at Wilson, the mad scientist character:

Lab coat over a 'Rock This Town' t-shirt. How can you not trust this guy?

So, what's so special about the magical synthesizer? You don't even have to play the music! All you have to do is think about the song you want to write, and the machine creates it for you! Oh, okay, so this is less Ray Smuckles, and more Jack Morgan.

Excited to have the burden of actually doing work taken from him, Bancroft demands to know how much the machine costs. Wilson offers it free of charge - for now - and at some indeterminate point in the future, they'll come to an arrangement that will ensure that he gets to keep it... forever!

So will he have to sacrifice his soul, or his daughter? I'm guessing daughter, since the next scene shows her looking on, disappointed, while he works late into the night on his magic synthesizer.

He ever gets jealously protective when he discovers her using it the next morning - she's naturally suspicious about the fact that it's capable of playing her own song straight from her head. If anything, I feel like she should be more alarmed and frightened by the thing. She's an artist too, however, and senses the creative freedom the machine offers. The machine, for its part, waits until everyone has left the room before eerily turning on and revealing that its electronic display is actually a swirling vortex, presumably with some manner of hell at its center.

What has the machine discovered that's got it so excited? The daughter's song, of course - which causes Wilson, who's psychically linked to the machine somehow, to explain that it's her that the machine wants, not Bancroft! Not exactly where I thought the episode was going, but close enough, right?

Bancroft brings his agent home that night to show off the device, and the agent offers a little background on Wilson - it seems that he used to manage a heavy metal group, and led them from merely name-checking Satan into actual devil worship, a seemingly great idea that unexpectedly turned tragic when the lead sing died onstage. Bancroft isn't given pause by the story of his business associate's murderous history, but he is shocked to discover that the synthesizer (since this is a new instrument and all, I really feel like it should have a name...) is gone. He rushes off in search of it, leaving his agent as the only one to notice that Lisa is also missing.

Bancroft finds his daughter and the device at Wilson's lab, and is finally presented with the terms of his arrangement. The machine will only be complete if it's able to drain a pure soul from a talented musician! Then it will be able to play music on its own... forever! Since this development will come at the cost of Lisa's life, Bancroft is having none of it!

Wilson tries to stop him, but Bancroft's love for his daughter enables him to concentrate hard enough on his own song that it confuses the machine. Overloaded by the competing geniuses in the room, the device short-circuits, giving Bancroft the opportunity he needs to spirit his daughter away before it explodes!

His hand was ruined in the process, but both father and daughter are able to make it out of the lab alive, with him finally realizing that his time has passed, and that he should start helping his daughter with her own musical career!

A heartwarming end to the episode - and just think, only a single mad scientist had to die for him to stop being so selfish!

1 comment:

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