Bad Medicine: The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

Hypnotism booklet coverThe second episode in this Dark Adventure Radio Theatre anthology is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, in which a doctor uses Mesmeric control over a dying subject to keep him in a sustained trance state–for months after death.

The episode is also kind of a DART rerun. A downloadable MP3 version of this audio drama was made available last fall, and I reviewed it then.

I’m not going to cover the unchanged parts of this episode again, but I’m going to note the differences.

As in the earlier version, the story has been transplanted to the 1930s, but the framing story with the radio interviewer is gone. Instead, Dr. Michael Quinlan (still Sean Branney) is facing an emergency hearing of the New York State Medical Board to review “purported breaches in ethical conduct” related to the experiment with the late M. Valdemar. The Board will decide whether or not to revoke Quinlan’s license based on its findings.

Dr. Quinlan has come prepared to account for himself; he offers the notes of the medical student Lionel (Jacob Andrew Lyle), who first accompanied him to attend Valdemar’s death-bed, as evidence. This leads into the first flashback scenes, where Lionel and Quinlan discuss the validity of Mesmerism and are summoned to Valdemar’s (Matt Foyer) home before his anticipated death.

Although I haven’t done a direct line-by-line comparison, the flashback scenes of Valdemar’s death and Quinlan’s use of Mesmerism to keep him in a trance indefinitely, are pretty much the same as the MP3 version. The principal cast is also the same. And Valdemar’s voice remains nice and gloopy as he decays. So that’s all to the good.

These scenes are interspersed–or interrupted–occasionally by the doctors on the Medical Board as they ask Quinlan questions and he defends his actions.

The ending has an interesting take on the Board members’ judgment of Quinlan, which I think improves the audio drama and gives it an extra little kick: It’s not so much what he did that they object to. “We understand that horrors must sometimes be endured in the name of progress.” It’s the “reporting,” how rumors of it got out to the general public and created such an outcry of repulsed feeling. In spite of their efforts to hush the whole thing up, at least one member of the Board expresses an interest in being there if Quinlan ever does try to do this kind of experiment again.

M Valdemar propsProps related to this story include:

  • A clipping from a 1930s New York newspaper. One of the articles on the front page concerns Dr. Quinlan’s experiment, but others on the front and back are also related to medical persons exhibiting questionable behavior in their practice or personal life. Even when the articles have nothing to do with doctors, they make interesting reading.
  • A prescription form filled out for a medicine made up of syrup of alcohol, cannabis, chloroform, and morphia. That’ll put you right to sleep for a good long time. No refills.
  • My favorite thing among the props packaged with this disc: a nifty little pamphlet on how to hypnotize people. I’m going to try it out on the cats first to see if I can get them to leave the plants alone, before I move up to human subjects.

Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.