A Young Doctor’s Notebook: Rock Bottom

daniel-radcliffe-jon-hamm-a-young-doctors-notebookPreviously on A Young Doctor’s Notebook: Jon’s heroin habit was discovered as Dan’s got started. Dan also managed to save a girl’s life by performing a tracheotomy under pretty awful circumstances.

Jon’s gone way around the bend and is now doing shot after shot of morphine while the police hammer on his door. He finishes off the third (!!) one just as they manage to get in and the policeman who’s been interviewing him assesses the situation and tells the others to fetch a doctor.

1917. Dan’s famous because of the trach and now everybody wants to see him. He gets through them quickly—including one guy who has malaria, according to Dan, which I think is a rather unlikely diagnosis in this frozen hellscape. Drops, gargle, and syphilis are all popular responses from Dan. He’s clearly getting hardened to his work, because when he tells one mother that she and her three young children have syphilis and the mother whines about having to return for treatment, he offers to hand her a spade so she can dig the three little holes herself. If that doesn’t get through to her, nothing will.

Dan goes and tells Pel that he’s going to open a new syphilis clinic. She tells him they don’t have the room, personnel, or resources for it. He says he’ll write for more supplies, and then he gets annoyed because the woman giving birth on the table whom Pel’s attending to is taking a little too long. He grabs some forceps so he can hurry things along. Later, he asks Pel if the kid was supposed to look like that, and she tells him no, but then, forceps don’t belong in a baby’s eye. Eeeek! He brushes that off, hustles her out, and gets ready to hit the dispensary for more sweet, sweet morphine, but first Feldcher comes in dragging the malaria guy, who stupidly took all the quinine he was prescribed in one go, thinking it would get him better faster. Pel goes to get the stomach pump.

Later, Dan stamps out a cigarette with his vomit-covered shoes (blech) and, finally alone, he goes into the dispensary, where he finds Jon, looking like hell, curled up on the floor. As Dan goes for the hard stuff, Jon asks if the stomach pains are still there and observes that Dan’s been hitting the morphine the same time every day. Dan says he’s had a long hard day and he just wants to unwind. Jon suggests he try a book—Leopoooold Leopoldivich left an extensive library that even includes Turkish erotica.

Dan wakes the next morning to find Jon poking the fire, his shorts soiled, the Turkish erotica open on the floor, and Feldcher hammering on the door. Dan freaks as he tries to tuck away the drugs and the erotica, wailing that he’s a disgrace to the university. Feldcher hammers away and when Dan opens the door, Feldcher tells him the hospital’s closed for the day because of the blizzard. Dan tells him that he didn’t have to wake him up to tell him he didn’t have to wake up for work, slams the door, and crawls back into bed. Because Feldcher has no knowledge of social cues, he keeps yelling through the door, asking what Dan wants to do for the day. Dan grasps for the first thing that pops into his mind and says he might just have a nice bath.

A nice bath in this place apparently means hauling a giant tin tub into the room, which won’t fit properly through the door. It does give everyone a chance to note the rather foul smell in the room, which Feldcher thinks is due to the lid being left of a jar of pickled sprats. Anna finds the erotica, and she seems rather appalled when Dan tells her it’s Leopooold’s.

They finally decide to use their brains and put the bath in the operating room, where Feldcher creepily looks at Dan in it and observes that the bath is big enough for two men. For a moment it seems like he’s going to ask to join Dan, but then he just asks if Dan minds if Feldcher goes back to his room. Of course Dan doesn’t. As soon as he’s gone, Jon rises from the water like the Birth of Venus. Dan looks sadly at him, then over at the keys to the dispensary and decides he’s going to give up the drugs. Jon doesn’t think he can do it but Dan’s determined.

Feldcher comes bursting back in and tells Dan that a letter’s arrived from the local agronomist. Instead of handing the letter over or seeing what it says, Feldcher launches into a story of how a local clerk fell in love with the agronomist’s daughter and got her attention and won her hand by buying a really dazzling pair of trousers. And now they’re to be married that very weekend. Feldcher finally gets around to looking at the letter, and it turns out she’s gone and fractured her skull in a very, very bad way. The letter’s from some other doctor who has no idea what to do. Dan whines about having to leave his bath and go out in the blizzard, grousing he’s going to get pneumonia. ‘It does look cold in there,’ says Feldcher, looking down rather inappropriately.

Dan’s on the road again, and it’s about time for his morphine fix. Jon VOs that morphine is really habit forming, but a little habit isn’t the same as addiction. No, no, addiction’s a more clinical term. Dan pulls out the dispensary key, looks at it, and then tosses it aside into the snow.

A little later, the man driving the carriage tells Dan they can almost see the light at the postmaster’s. Well, you could if not for the blizzard. Dan asks if there’s anything else to see in the town and the guy says he hears they have a whore now. Wow, really coming up in the world! Also, with this area’s syphilis problem, I doubt it’ll be long before Dan sees her.

Dan arrives at the agronomist’s house and is met by a young and eager doctor, who’s really happy Dan’s there. All he can say about the young woman’s condition is ‘it’s a really big hole in her head.’ He just graduated, you see, with really great grades! Dan tells him to stop saying that, because it means nothing where they are. Dan goes to examine the patient, who’s laid out, unconscious, on a divan. The other doctor gets ready to take notes as Dan removes the bandage on her head. He takes one look and asks if the other doctor has morphine. He measures out every last drop the guy has and administers it. The other doctor keeps taking notes, figuring they’re going to do some exciting surgery, but eventually it dawns on him that this is a mercy kill he’s seeing. Dan packs the kit up, the girl convulses momentarily, and dies. Dan’s relieved, the other doctor’s upset. Dan goes to start gorging on the wedding feast, because he missed dinner and is starving, but when he goes to start tucking in, he finds the clerk in his hideous trousers, looking down at the blood all over them, wildly exclaiming over it. The other doctor accidentally tells him the girl’s dead and he becomes distraught. Other doctor suggests they give him a bit of morphine to calm him down and Dan tells him to go ahead and administer it. The poor other doctor struggles to do so, with the guy flailing around a bit wildly, while Dan starts eating and twitching and clearly going into withdrawal.

The carriage driver bursts in and announces the whore died the previous week of syphilis (called it!). Dan hands him his doctor’s bag and stomps out.

Later, Dan’s roused from a late-afternoon nap in the carriage by the driver shouting at the horse. Seems they’re lost. He goes off to try and figure out where they are and Jon asks Dan why he didn’t hang around in town and have an intelligent conversation. Dan doubts he’d have been able to have that with the other doctor with his stupid little notebook. Jon reminds him that he used to love his little notebook, but now he’s a complete mess and would die in the snow for a shot of morphine. Dan starts desperately going through his bag while Jon tells him it’ll only get worse. Dan shouts at him to shut up and gets out of the carriage to search the snow for the key he tossed. Jon tells him he’s not going to find it and Dan punches him in the face. The two tussle for a while and Jon finally gets the upper hand, telling Dan he’s lost everything: his livelihood, his friends. His friends now are Pel and Leopooold, because they’re dead and he can use them to score. Dan manages to free himself by jabbing Jon in the thigh with a needle, and when he scrambles away he gets his hands on a pistol and points it at Jon, shouting at him to shut up. Jon tells him to go ahead and shoot, because he’s dead anyway. They hear wolves howling off in the distance and Dan panics, shooting blindly into the woods and crawling around as he begins to hallucinate. He imagines he finds an empty cigarette box and a newspaper with his picture and a headline about a promising young doctor being found dead in the snow. He panics some more and finds a severed foot and then a person who says something I can’t make out. He backs away and runs into Leopoooold Leopoldivich, who starts talking about strangulated hernias. Dan tells him to F off and shoots him dead, smiling creepily.

He opens his eyes underwater and gets up out of the tub, fully dressed. He eyes the dispensary door while Jon VOs about how wonderful that first hit is. The door won’t open, and he collapses into a fetal position on the floor.

And then we’re (presumably) back to reality as Dan rinses his face from a basin and looks up at himself in the mirror. How much of the last half of the show was real and how much was some crazy morphine dream is anyone’s guess. It seems he did actually go to the agronomist’s, because he brings Pel some ham before having some more terrible sex with her. It’s so terrible she suggests they just finish in the morning. While she sleeps, Dan nabs her dispensary key.

Now back on the happy juice, Dan writes his letter requesting funds to create the Leopold Leopoldivich Syphilis Clinic at the hospital. We get one last shot of him lying in bed, blissed out, all warmly lit, full of promise, before it dissolves to Jon, pasty faced, sweaty, strapped down for his electroshock therapy. Mmm, electroshock therapy in Soviet Russia. Good times!

You guys, I loved this show. Yes, the gore was a bit much, but this is the type of odd, quirky humour I love. Strange, dark, uncomfortable, but funny. And it’s nice to see Daniel Radcliffe taking on these weirder roles now that Harry Potter’s over. He should do comedy more often, he really has the timing for it.

Thanks for reading, now on to the next one!



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