As the series gets started, we’re introduced to Doctor Robert Lessing (Rory Kinnear). The surgeon is introduced to the audience waiting in the operating theater. Lessing chats up the crowd. Seconds later, Lessing’s current patient, Joseph Smiles (Tom Godwin), is introduced. Smiles has a broken leg, which Lessing intends to amputate. Moments later, John (Tom Basden) gets a visit from a harlot, Annie (Victoria Alcock). The woman pleads with John for medication to soothe her tooth ache. Butterworth (Osi Okerafor) enters and attacks John. He reminds the dentist that he owes money. Butterworth manages to make an arrangement between Annie and Butterworth to avoid being slaughtered on the spot.
John rushes to the theater to watch Robert’s operation. Robert saws through the man’s leg swiftly and without any analgesic. Meanwhile, alienist William Agar (Mathew Baynton) visits an asylum. There, he finds a patient that gets violent and is beaten regularly. William suggests speaking with the man instead of beating. Outside, William speaks with Dr. Hendrick (Rupert Everett) about the patient, Tom Birch (Adam Ewan). William requests permission to take Tom to the park. Hendrick suspects that William might be a Jew. He writes his name in a book and goes on his way. Seconds later, William runs into Robert’s wife, Caroline (Lydia Leonard). They return to Caroline’s home, where she explains she got into an argument with her husband. She admits her head often turns to other thoughts besides her husband.
William is given an opportunity to feel of the woman’s head. John and Robert hit the pub. They’re joined by two harlots. John tries to talk Robert into using drugs to numb his patients’ pain. William inspects Caroline’s cerebellar. He admits it is huge. He alludes to the fact that Caroline’s sex drive might be abnormal. Meanwhile, Robert speaks with the pub owner. The old man tells him that he leaks sperm at night. They discuss possible oddball solutions for the problem. Seconds later, William the alienist joins Robert and John. Before too long, the men begin downing alcohol and cocaine. William sings for a little bit, before he gives a toast.
When Robert returns home, he is confronted by Caroline. She asks him to go an upcoming art exhibit. Robert refuses and admits he doesn’t have time to look at paintings. Meanwhile, Dr. Hendrick speaks with an older woman. He learns that she is feeling stinging during urination. He gives her a cocky treatment. Moments later, Robert learns that Smiles passed away in the middle of the night. John reminds him that his medication could’ve helped. Hendrick quickly chimes in and ridicules Robert. He admits he doesn’t mind patient dying, but he wants paying spectators to be happy. He also informs Robert that the Duke of Bedford is there to see him. The man has a big tumor on his face.
Robert agrees to remove the man’s tumor. However, he also insists that a tracheotomy is essential. The Duke quickly agrees. That night, John works to figure out the right dosage of ether. In the morning, he pleads with Robert to let him administer the ether. Meanwhile, William is allowed to speak with Tom. The encounter quickly goes wrong. William is attacked. The guard saves him moments later. Robert agrees to let John give the Duke ether. William visits Caroline. She tells him about her visit to the art gallery. She really liked one of the paintings featuring two naked girls. William is forced to leave right away. Meanwhile, Robert tells the audience that he will be removing the tumor and performing a tracheotomy. The Duke is wheeled in.
John successfully puts the man to sleep. He rubs excess ether on the Duke’s shirt sleeve. Seconds later, Robert puffs on a cigarette. The Duke’s shirt catches on fire and it quickly spreads throughout the theater. The fire is ultimately put out, but the audience is forced to scatter. William arrives and enjoys the aftermath. He reminds the men that they’re revolutionizing medicine. Robert removes the tumor as the episode ends.
Quacks probably won’t be remembered a few months from now. Nevertheless, I found the first episode to be fun and humorous. The series probably isn’t historically accurate, but it did throw in a few facts here and there. The acting was surprisingly good considering the absurdity of the series. The episode was fast paced and kept me entertained from start to finish. I enjoyed it and give it a 7.5 out of 10.