MONSTER OF THE WEEK: The Demon Child Lily
(This one feels seasonally appropriate.)
“The Devil Child” is the odd one out for this show, so far the only episode that does not feature a giant monster – but it still retains the thriller/sci-fi bent, so it is very much an episode of ULTRA Q (it definitely feels like one where the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits inspiration is the most apparent.) The plot hovers between the standard ghost and ESP fare, but never commits to either, making it very much its own thing – you have a pseudo-scientific explanation for an out-of-body experience (I love how devoted our recurring scientist character is to replicating a magic trick he saw, like a real killjoy) that slowly becomes a tale of id vs ego (with the id eventually attempting to literally kill the ego.) Interestingly, it does this using a very small child, who usually don’t have their own morality figured out, but seems to propose that they still have a mediating capacity, which this week’s “unbalancing” messes with – I think the innocence factor is meant to make the audience more forgiving of the accidental weirdness that leads to injury and death, but also makes it more unsettling; after all, it’s about a child who doesn’t understand what’s going on, even when she finally meets her sociopathic id doppelganger. Although I’d never call it especially unnerving, it definitely tries – the special effects are never particularly consistent, but the actual shots fit the atmosphere (the fact that the special effects aren’t convincing might help this as well – I’ve always found that things that look completely unreal can often be incredibly creepy in the right contexts.)
The dynamic between the girl and her father, too, I found quite compelling and strangely sweet. The weird events only take place because the magician father has found a trick involving hypnotism to really spice up their act, but accidentally taps into something he doesn’t properly understand when he begins going to the hypnotism well a little too much – but he’s never really acting selfishly, as he honestly thinks he’s helping his child, and is absolutely devastated when he learns that things may go catastrophically wrong. Like some of the other episodes I’ve watched, it’s not so much a morality play (unless the moral is “hypnotism can’t solve all your problems, dingus”) as it is one of man brushing up against some unknown force entirely by accident – and in this episode, while there is a scientific basis for the phenomenon presented, it’s not an accident of science, but some other activity. Nature, whether internal or external, plays a part in everyone’s life – and can go haywire.