Tales From the Darkside 214: Dream Girl

The episode opens with a woman on the phone, demanding to know someone's whereabouts. We quickly assume, based on the fact that the woman is pacing in front of a painted backdrop and that there are directors chairs strewn about, that the missing man is an actor without whom the stage production cannot possibly go forward. It seems the actor isn't the first to disappear either, an electrician went missing earlier in the week as well! The woman, who we can now safely assume is the director of the play, takes out her frustration on the nearest warm body, a loafing janitor too busy reading magazines to bother cleaning up the stage.

The janitor is none too happy about this development, and takes a moment to glare menacingly at the camera while getting back to work. This can't possibly turn out well. A flash of light later and we've been transported into a garden scene, complete with green bench and fountain. The director is understandably confused, having been transformed from this:

To this:

Forced to take on the role of a Germanic serving wench, the director is horrified to find that while she has full consciousness of her actions she lacks all control over her body. Some malevolent force compels her to bring a tray of coffee to the janitor who, now in a wig and preposterous outfit, seems to be playing the part of a cruel millionaire. Sitting next to him is the pretty actress from the cover of the magazine he was reading. This seems to raise the question: are we watching the janitor's perverse fantasy from the point of view of one of the characters in it? That would be an interesting twist, although it's probably not the way they're going seeing is the next thing that happens is a man in a suit shows up to give a flower to the actress.

The man, naturally, is the actor who's gone missing, Sid. In the janitor's fantasy he's a doctor who has been reduced to getting a job as a maƮtre d'. The director tries to catch his attention but is unable to do so. They're both controlled to completely by the janitor's powers. We get further insight into the janitor's mind as he forces Sid, now costumed as a peddler, to apologize time and again for saying that he wouldn't amount to anything. It's all so pathetic that even Sid eventually revolts, castigating the janitor for his poor choice of scenario and dialogue.

This angers the janitor enough that he finally leaves, allowing Sid and the director a chance to chat. Oh, and Sid turns out to be the writer of the play, rather than an actor, as I'd assumed. Although, in my defense, I'm not sure why the show can't go on without the writer. After all, the play is already written... Sid has figured out that there trapped inside the janitor's fantasies, but that hasn't given him any insight as to how they might free themselves from them. Before they can make a move they're trapped in another scenario, in which the director is harassed by a randy workman and has to be rescued by the janitor. Randy workman is a new character, possibly the electrician mentioned earlier.

In the aftermath of the fight the janitor comes on to the director and is quickly rebuffed, which, for no good reason, leads to a catfight between the director and the actress. The actress eventually explains that she's a prisoner in the janitor's fantasies as well and has no choice but to take part in his sick games. You know, even with the comment about the missing people at the beginning, this is looking less and less like something supernatural, and more and more like a depiction of someone's diseased fantasy life.

The janitor returns, hoping to snatch away the actress for a more private encounter, but everyone teams up to pull her back. They're seemingly able to thwart him, however briefly, allowing them a moment of repose and conversation.

The second man is, in fact, Joe the electrician, who's been trapped in the janitor's mind for some time, it seems. He even has some backstory to offer about how he used to work on an ocean liner - it seems the janitor had asked him for a job recommendation, and he had laughed in the fellow's ugly face. The janitor wasn't manly enough, in Joe's estimation, to work the high seas. Which is a nice explanation for the janitor's fantasies of oppression and control. For my part I didn't know ocean lining was a particularly manly profession but then again hey, it was the 80s.

The director thinks that they're not trapped in a fantasy at all - but rather one of the janitor's dreams! This would explain why everything goes slow motion and feels like moving through molasses – the characters had mimed slow motion earlier, but I wasn't able to discern that that was what they were trying to get across. This leads them to two conclusions: first, that whenever he's just sleeping and not actually dreaming they're free to talk and do as they will, and secondly that they could snap him awake they'd be freed from the dream. Or, in my theory, they might cease to exist since they're only figments of his imagination.

Hopefully the first will turn out to be true.

Finding themselves backing costume, they know the dream is about to start – taking their opportunity they search the set until they find the napping janitor. The director shakes him awake, and finds herself back on the set, safe at last.

Or is she? Assuming that the metaphysical dream world is completely real, the director immediately downs a handful of sleeping pills and takes a nap, figuring, based on nothing but wishful thinking as far as I can tell, that she'll be able to have her own lucid power dream where she enslaves the janitor. Why this is a priority, I'm not entirely sure.

Sadly, things don't go entirely as planned, because Joe the electrician beat her in going back to sleep! As the episode ends the director is now trapped in his fantasy world, where he's the captain of a Cruise ship and the janitor is nothing but a waiter! It's chilling and all, except for the fact that she now knows the rules of the dream world and should be able to defeat Joe just as easily as she had the janitor.

But other than that, you know, scary.

No comments: