Quacks (2017–…): Season 1, Episode 1 - The Duke's Tracheotomy - full transcript

Victorian medics perform amputations and other gruesome operations in a theatre in front of the public.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Today, you will see one of our
great young surgeons in action.

A young man famous for performing

over 1,000 amputations and lithotomies.

A celebrated surgeon,
a knife of the night.

A true pioneer.

So, without further ornaments,
or adornments on my part,

let me now finally, and without any
further hesitation or reservation,

introduce you to Mr Robert Lessing!

Good afternoon.

I'm always astonished
that my humble skills

can bring in such a large
and distinguished crowd.

Hello, Sally, you in again?

The sad fact is that 40% of the operations

that happen in this room do
unfortunately end in death.

If that is something you're
unable to contend with,

gentlemen, ladies, please, I
suggest you leave the theatre now.

Thank you, Peters. Let me
introduce you to our patient today.

A Mr Joseph Smiles.

A brave haberdasher of this borough.

Now, Mr Smiles, let's tell
the ladies and gentlemen

what happened to you.

You broke your leg chasing a
thief across London Bridge.

That's right, mister.

My personal speed record for
a full amputation of the leg

above the knee is 92 seconds.

In order to minimise the amount
of pain Mr Smiles suffers,

I intend to break that record today.

This is more fun than Madame Tussauds.

Ben, thank you so much for
agreeing to do this again.

It should be more enjoyable for you
than when you tried that chloroform.

Oh, John, darling, my tooth's
hurting something rotten.

- Can you have it out?
- Annie, I'm just in the middle of something,

- can you come back tonight?
- No, I've got customers tonight.

- Can't you smash it out now?
- Oh...

You won't want to work after
I've pulled your tooth.

I've got to, ain't I?

- Will you pay me this time?
- Pay you in trade.

Did I hear someone talk money?

- Butterworth. How are you?
- Hmm...

All the better for that.

You got the money, Mr Sutton,
for the doings, for the arsenic

and the bleach powder and
the rest of it? Got the sue?

I do, yes, of course. I don't
have it currently here with me.

Oh, that's a shame.

Cos Mr Walker said if you said that,

I should stand on your head
and jump up and down a bit.

Then break your wrist.

Yes, well, I see. How about, um...

Have you two met? Annie,
this is Mr Butterworth,

Mr Butterworth, Annie.

How about... Annie, if
I pull your teeth now,

rather than be in my debt,

how about you offer Mr Butterworth
here some trade, so to speak,

and Mr Butterworth,

you and I could consider that
treat as some form of down payment?

Fair dos. Do I get my pipe sucked
before you smash her teeth out?

I'll let you two fix the details.

Coat's disgusting.

Some say the more bloody the
coat, the greater the surgeon.

I will first slice through
the flesh before sawing.

Brandy, please, nurse.



I like to smoke during the operations.

The smell of gangrene can be terrible.

- Sorry, mister.
- Mr Smiles, may I operate?

- Well... - I'll take that
as a yes. Time me, Sue!

Get off! Get off! I want my leg!

- No, you don't, it's going
to kill you. - I like it!

You cut his bollock off!

It's his own fault,
hold still. Pick it up.

This is good, isn't it?

Where is it?

Bite on that.

Please, trust me.

Found it!

What happens if you try to stop
him cleaning himself like this?

He gets violent and I have
to hit him with my big stick.

- Have you tried talking to him? - Eh?

To try to ease his troubles?

He's demented.

I think if you treat
people like an animal,

they'll behave like an animal.

Oh, so you're saying I should
treat him like an animal.

No, I'm saying maybe don't...?

Ah, Dr Hendrik? Dr
Hendrik, may I have a word?

And you are?

William Agar. One of the new alienists.

Ah, you're a mad doctor, are you?

Yes. In fact, you appointed me.

Oh, you work here, do you?

Yes, in the asylum. That you opened?

I wanted to ask whether I might
have permission to take Tom Birch

out for the day to the park.

Tom has an obsessive
compulsion for cleanliness

and can often become violent.

- As a result, he's frequently
beaten by the guards. - Good!

I'd like to attempt a new form
of Belgian therapeutic treatment

with Tom.

I'd like to talk to him.

Are you a Jew?


If you are, I'll put you in my book.

- I'm not a Jew.
- Are you certain?

Fairly certain.

I'd like to talk to Tom to try
to understand what plagues him.

I'll put your name in anyway.
To be on the safe side.

Caroline! Were you hoping
to find your husband?

- I believe he's still operating.
- I know.

No, no, it's you I wish to see.

- Oh, it's so...
- Oh, dear!

Whatever's the matter?

We had another one of our arguments.

I don't know if I should
be talking about this.

Please be assured that the
relationship between a patient

and an alienist happens
in the strict confidence.

If I can understand,
Caroline, perhaps I can help.

I feel like I'm a bad wife.

I'm often overly wilful and disorderly.

- I find my head is turned
by other thoughts. - I see.

(Inappropriate thoughts.)

(I see.)

- Do you sleep?
- Not well.

I spend the night tossing and turning.

Caroline, if you're willing,

I'd like to try an unusual
form of diagnosis with you.

This is a phrenology head.

Oh, I've read about this.

This is a science which believes

the mind of an individual
is contained in the brain?

That's right.

This model shows where the different
functions of the brain are located.

By feeling the contours of someone's head,

one can detect where certain
functions are enlarged or decreased.

This affects personality.

- And you believe in
this, do you? - I do.


May I...

touch your head?

You may.

He should have used some ether on Smiles.

Then you might not have
hacked off his tallywags.

Oh, yes, no, that's a good idea.

Do you remember what happened
last time we used ether?

You put that fat navvy to sleep
and he didn't wake up again.

That was bad luck, I got the
dosage wrong because of his fatness.

Oh, it was his fault?

- You're that Mr Lessing, isn't you?
- Yes, I am.

Becky? Come here. It IS that Mr Lessing!

These drugs can help. And you know it.

You turned an operation into an autopsy.

You'd rather the patients were screaming.

At least if they're screaming,
I know they're alive.

Have a seat, ladies. This is
John, he's a tooth-puller.

As opposed to being a testicle hacker.

- Have you started yet? - I'm going
to touch you now, Caroline. - Right.

There is...

Hmm! Yes! There is a small depression here

at the crown of your head.

This is the area that controls

respect of authority

and veneration to God.

Oh, my goodness, Caroline,

I can feel your cerebellar.

I've never one felt like it.

How do you mean?

The cerebellar is the seat of...


Of loving fondness

and marital...


Do you mean sexual love?


Yes, it's an area that's
always larger on men than women.

Well, normally it is.

What's wrong with mine?

Yours is enormous.

Like something you might feel on a bull.

I think this may to some degree

explain the unhappiness you're feeling.

Well, what should I do?

I shall need to think
what treatment to advise.

Thank you, William. I
found this very... helpful.

As I'm now your patient, will
you visit me again? Good.

I think we'd better not tell
my husband about your sessions,

- do you agree? Wouldn't want
him to worry unduly. - Mmm.

There you are, Mr Lessing,
two pints of the Squirrels.

I gather you've had another
week of successful operation.

True, I suppose.

The ladies can't get enough of
your amputations, can they, sir?

There is a matter I did want to
have a quick word about, if possible.

A personal medical matter.

I'm leaking sperm at night.

- Uh-huh. - My wife thinks that
if it continues, I may well die.

She suggested I shouldn't eat
fruit which I think is a good idea.

- It certainly is.
- And convenient for me too,

- because I never do eat fruit.
- Well done.

And then I had a good chat about it
with Dr Flowers on the high street.

Oh, yes, the king of the
quacks, what did he say?

Wear your culottes on your head

and drink some expensive turd water
that he happened to have on sale?

No, he told me that I should
take a large amount of mercury

four times a day.

And then he sold me a bottle
of it for three pounds.

- How's that working for you?
- It's made me sweat, dribble and vomit.

Which is very good.

- That's the filth
leaving my body. - Um...

What would you suggest, then, do nothing?

No, quite right.

I'd say take lots of mercury.

Maybe with some of your wife's urine.

- Ahh! - Ah, the mentalist
has decided to grace us.

Where have you been, listening
to someone open their mind?

No, I've been at...

.. at the... lecture.

William, this is Maggie.

She's got a fancy for my surgery skills.

- And this is, sorry, what's your name
again, love? - Rebecca. - Oh, Becky.

Girls, this is William, he's an alienist.

- You won't know what that means.
- Neither does he. - No-one does.

Unclench, sir. Down the hatch.

No, no, no brandies. I'm
not getting tight tonight.

- You're more fun when you do.
- No, I'm not!

Or, shall we try a smatter of this?

- Just come on sale, it's called Va Peru.
- Oh, it looks fancy.

It will restore health,
energy and vitality.

Oh, what's in it?

Red wine and cocaine. The Pope
likes it, he's endorsed it.

- What does cocaine do, any side-effects?
- Nothing major.

♪ The way to build a boat

♪ The way to build a boat

♪ For ink and silk can teach the world

♪ The way to build a boat

♪ The way to build a boat! ♪

That was lovely!

Right, who wants to come back to my place

and take nitrous oxide
till their balls fall off?

Before we go, I want to propose a toast...

.. in the presence of these whores, to us.

Because we are great men.

- Yes, we are.
- We are great,

and we will transform medicine for
the benefit of all mankind forever.

In the future.

To us!

- To us!
- To us!

♪ .. teach the world The
way to build a boat... ♪

- Hello, darling. Have you
had a nice evening? - Mm-hmm.

What have you been up to, have
you been to one of your talks?

I went to the local club dinner,

we discussed the links
between poverty and alcohol.

Shall we go to bed now?

- Darling? - Mm? - I was
wondering, would you like to visit

the John Frederick Lewis
exhibition with me this weekend?

No. Sorry, darling.

I'm far too busy to look at paintings.


Yes, well, tell me all about it, Mrs Pope.

I have a slight pain, a pressure...

.. here, Doctor.

- Would you like to examine me?
- Certainly not.

I have never needed to
examine any of my patients.

And as you are well aware, it
is not in the least appropriate

for a gentleman to touch a woman.

Now, indicate to me...

.. where the pain is. Hmm?

In fact, here.

- Here?
- Yes.

- There?
- Yes.

And it stings when I, you know...

No, I don't know.

Have a widdle.

- Does it hurt here?
- No.

What about these?


Clearly, you've got this
problem because you are a woman.

And I suspect you've been keeping
the wrong company. I can cure it.

You need to fast for a week,

ride a horse for two
hours a day, not Sundays,

and place a freshly-cooked baked
potato on the infected area.

Good day, Mrs Pope.

Matron, where is Mr Smiles?

I'm afraid the trauma of the surgery

was too much for his
frail heart, Mr Lessing.

He died in the night.

You did your best.

Hello, darling. Hello, John.

- William.
- Hello.

Have you come to see your husband?

In part, of course, yes.

And I've just signed up to one
of Mr Jasper's anatomy classes.

Are women allowed on those classes?

Well, someone's forgotten
to say they're not allowed,

so I'm going to be the first.

Well, that's good.

If you'll excuse me, I
must go to... the lecture.

What's the topic today?




Ah, the tooth-puller and the barber.

Discussing yesterday's
disaster, I've no doubt.

It wasn't a disaster, I
successfully removed Mr Smiles's leg.

Mr Smiles disagrees, or at least he would

if he wasn't being buried at the moment.

I wonder if some ether would have helped.

Listen, gentlemen, I don't
mind the patients dying,

that is to be expected.

What I do mind is when the
paying spectators aren't happy.

Now the Duke of Bedford is
here and for some reason,

entirely beyond me, is
insisting on seeing you.

Because I'm the best, that's why.

Mr Smiles begs to differ.

Or at least he would if he
wasn't being buried at the moment.

- What's the Duke's complaint?
- A small tumour.

He feels the time has come to remove it.

Should I have come earlier?

Oh, no, your Grace,
it's barely noticeable.

Yes, you should have come sooner.

You need the tumour removed, your Grace.

Or it will very likely prove fatal.

- They say you're the finest young
surgeon in the country. - Mm-hmm.

- A cool mind. - Mm-hmm.
- The steadiest hand. - Mm-hmm.

Can you remove it?

I can.

The challenge is that
during the operation,

there will be considerable
haemorrhaging that will

block your airways preventing
you from being able to breathe.

That will be the real threat to your life.

So, the procedure that I
propose is a tracheotomy.

I can puncture a hole in
your throat, your Grace,

and the placement of a simple tube...

will enable you to breathe
during the operation.

- Is it safe? - It's far more dangerous
to leave that tumour unattended to.

The Greeks used to perform tracheotomies.

We need to reclaim the skill.

The great American president
George Washington died on the table

because his surgeons feared
performing a tracheotomy.

I don't fear it.

Had I been there, the
president would have lived.

And so will you, your Grace.

- Will this operation be a first?
- I believe so.

We know of some French surgeons

that have contemplated a combined
tumour removal and tracheotomy

but so far none have yet dared attempt it.

Then we must beat the French to it, sir.

I offer you my face.

John, it's four in the morning.
Are you coming back to bed?

Maggie, can I ask you a favour?

Do you want to talk to my breasts
again like they're naughty children?

No, I want to watch you sniff
this until you pass out.

Good girl.

Want to take a seat?

I can get it right this
time, I promise you.

- I experimented on Maggie all
right. - Always reliable. - Robert...

Think what your reputation will become

if you operate on a member of
royalty and they don't feel pain.

- Is this to improve my fame or yours?
- It's to help the patient.

What if you get the dose wrong? If
you get the dose wrong and he dies?

I'm trying to stop you doing to
the Duke what you did to Smiles.

- Oh, shut up. You kill many
more people than I do. - What?

Last week you gave that Hindu boy
enough morphine to fill a horse.

He was dying anyway. You
kill people all the time.

I'm a surgeon, you're a dentist!

This is no time to conduct an experiment.

- And you've had permission for this?
- Yes, I have.

Honestly, Fitz, what harm can it
do? I simply want to read to Tom.

Hello, Tom.

If you'll allow me,

I'd like to read you some poetry.

This is called Frost At Midnight.

The frost performs its
secret ministry, un...

Fitz, get him off me!

- Shall I hit him?
- Yes!

- No, he don't like it.
- Hit him, hit him with your big stick!

There's five top surgeons in.

An opera singer, a couple of
jockeys. It's a good crowd.

The pain will be unbearable for the
Duke. And he's a member of royalty.

- And you need time.
- Yes.

This gives you time.

If we do this, it needs
to go like a dream, John.

It will, it will.

Then let's make history today.

Thank you for coming to see me, William.

- My emotions are in such turmoil.
- What's happened?

You can tell me, Caroline.

Mr Jasper invited me to see the
John Frederick Lewis exhibition.

- Do you know his paintings? - No.
- Oh, William, they're extraordinary.

- Are they? - You know, the
heat that comes off them,

the camels, the... the exotic
smell of the Egyptian bazaar.

I see.

But there was one painting
in particular which has caused

such chaos in my breast.

What, what, what, what, what was it?

It depicted two young
women who were bathing.

- In the female only part
of the house. - Were they?

And the unabashed
nakedness of the two women

coupled with an exquisite ability
to convey the arid landscape

of the Middle East was... breathtaking.

But it was while Henry and I

were sitting looking at this painting...

.. that he...


What happened, Caroline?

(He touched me.)

He touched me like this.

- Caroline...
- William?

- It is best if I leave now.
- Oh.

We will speak again soon, I'm sure.

Good day.

- That is the toilet.
- Yes. - Good day to you.

My lords, ladies and gentlemen,
and assorted members of royalty.

The operation you're about to see
has never been performed before...

Thank you, Peters, we can do
without the usual warm up today.

Good afternoon.

The surgery I will perform on his
Grace today is indeed historic.

The removal of a tumour,
combined with a tracheotomy,

and the assistance of ether as
an analgesic, is triply unique.

We live in a city of firsts,
in an age of miracles.

My friends from the newspapers
will be recording our achievements

for the eyes of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I
give you the Duke of Bedford.

There's nothing to fear, your Grace.

In fact, you'll feel a wonderful
sense of tranquillity,

and perhaps a little swelling of the head,

before sleep.

I am feeling for the correct place
of entry below the Adam's apple.

I'm now opening the hole...

.. so that I can insert
the breathing tube.

Well done. Robert, this is amazing.

The tracheotomy is now complete.

The Duke can now breathe without
the use of his nose or mouth.

I can now remove the tumour
without the threat of the Duke

suffocating on his own blood.

Oh, drat.


Ladies and gentlemen,
your attention please.

Run, get out, run, run for your lives!

Someone put it out, get a blanket!

- Remove the Duke.
- No. Leave him. Leave us.

He's asleep.

And he can't feel pain.

We did set fire to him earlier.

No-one said the journey would be easy.

But what you're doing is extraordinary.

We ARE great men.

You are.

John, when've we finished,

I might even have a little
of that cocaine wine.