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01 September 2008 @ 09:17 am
Effects and Duration of Dr. Jurgen's Treatments in ILCK  
Poll #1251783 Effects and Duration of Dr. Jurgen's Treatments in ILCK

Ever since you first watched "If Looks Could Kill," years ago, how have you interpreted Doctor Sofia Jurgen's (the Baroness's) patients?

Norma, Agnes and Bernice were older when they became Sofia's patients, in recent years, and her full course of treatment made them become physically younger.
Norma, Agnes and Bernice were young when they first became Sofia's patients, decades ago, and her treatment sustained their youth.
Other (which I will explain in a comment).

A month or so ago, pj1228 and I had a delightful little debate on this subject on forkni.  After much canonical examination, we were unable to sway each other, and determined that canon cannot disprove either interpretation (cool, huh?).  Before I import my side of that here, and reveal which angle I championed, I want to learn what you think!  What is the mainstream perception on this?

Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on September 1st, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)
I've never really given any consideration to the first possibility, but you're right that there's no definitive canon evidence one way or the other. Now that you've raised the question, I can think of a variety of circumstantial elements supporting each position.

Mostly it just doesn't make any sense to me that it would make them younger, unless there was something more complicated involved. That's simply because being brought across arrests aging but doesn't reverse it, so it's a big leap for me to think that whatever causes that would go further in a living mortal who was otherwise not being changed as much. But now that you've got me thinking about it, not entirely out of the realm of plausibility.
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 2nd, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
"...being brought across arrests aging but doesn't reverse it, so it's a big leap for me to think that whatever causes that would go further in a living mortal who was otherwise not being changed as much."

I think this is a good point. Certainly, it never occurred to me—until the recent discussion on FORKNI-L—that anyone thought that Dr. Jurgen's patients had been...mmmm...youthened (so to speak). Rather, I saw this episode as taking a theme from folk legend. You know the one I mean:
A man is stolen away to fairy land, and lives there unaging for a century. Finally, he insists on returning to his own country, not realizing how many years have passed. Permission is granted; but he is warned not to set foot to the ground. For some reason, he feels compelled to break his word and leaps off his horse, only to age instantaneously through all the lost years.
Well, you can see the parallel—and it assumes that the women retain their youthful appearance, just as the man in the old story did.

I kept meaning to take part in that FORKNI-L discussion, but then would get sidetracked into something else, instead of taking the time to compose what would have been a very long answer. There were a few other comments I would have made—if I could only remember them now!
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: myrthawiliqueen on September 2nd, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
You know the one I mean:

I do indeed. *g* (I don't tangent as far as the insta-aging motif on that page, but definitely familiar with it.)

I'm actually having a lot of fun mentally playing out the other possibility, though. I haven't been on forkni in years, and don't know what points were covered in the discussion there, but the two things it occurs to me off the bat to account for are (a) how all three women are only now starting to have psychological problems, or at least they're only now becoming critical; and (b) Norma's Social Security check. I've always mentally explained the latter by benefits simply having kicked in because the right date arrived, of course -- I don't know how that works in Canada, and am not certain it's even called Social Security -- but it could point to her having been retired previously.
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 2nd, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
"(a) how all three women are only now starting to have psychological problems, or at least they're only now becoming critical; and (b) Norma's Social Security check."

Ah, yes. Things are starting to come back to me about that discussion—things I had in mind to say.

People did bring up the psychological problems, and connected the violent behaviour of the women to the rampage in the Raven by the brain-damaged kid, Joey, in "Fallen Idol". What I saw in both cases, though, was the timing of the violence: it only happened when the blood was wearing off, and a new treatment was overdue.

If you consider Joey, for example, Natalie had injected him with a dose of Nick's blood to excellent effect; but later on she refused to give him a second dose, even though he had realized that his mentation was starting to revert to its earlier level of retardation. Up to that time, he'd been behaving normally: both mentally, and in terms of his emotions. A bit manic on the computer, but wouldn't you be excited if you suddenly realized you could think like normal people? And wouldn't you be mad if someone refused to continue the treatment that made you normal again? Basically, it was only when the dose wore off that Joey got violent.

We see something similar happening with the women. They are distinctly antsy about needing their doctor. It suggests to me that she's out of touch, away from town even, and overdue to return. Hence they are overdue their treatments. The effects of the blood wear off at slightly different times for each woman, which might be a response either to slightly different dosages or to physiological differences between the woman (metabolism, perhaps; or tissue type, or something like that).

Each woman, as her treatment wears off, gets a manic episode. The first goes nuts in a department store, and gets shot. The second reacts violently to a (truly offensive) instructor at the health club. The last is only starting to get symptoms in the last couple of acts: we see her later in the tag when the blood has worn off completely, so we can't say if she had a manic episode in between: maybe Nick saw her through it.

What are the symptoms of blood withdrawal? Vision problems come first. (Joey seemed to be seeing things oddly too.) Irritability comes next. Then manic violence, triggered by something that can be quite minor. After that, you get a return to "normal", whatever that is: for Joey, it's being retarded; and for the women, it's being in early old age. Even the corpses revert at this point, which is the cute bit.

The point here is that the timing of their psychological problems has nothing to do with their age when Dr. Jurgen started treating them. It could have been twenty years ago or a hundred. Nor does it have anything to do with their appearance: they could have been old ladies youthened by the injections, or young ones whose youth was maintained.

Presumably, up till now, Dr. Jurgen has always given them their next injection before the full withdrawal symptoms developed. She may have been a bit late before (suggested by the fact that the women do seem to associate their symptoms with needing their doctor), but never this late. We have no idea what might have delayed her this time, of course. But her concern when she does come suggests that she does feel a responsibility for the women she treats.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on September 2nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
This makes excellent sense, and yes, I was making the Joey comparison too, since it's the only one available.
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 2nd, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
As far as the social security checks are concerned: I can't remember the exact wording in the episode. (Nor, I suspect can you!) It's not called "Social Security" here in Canada, I can tell you that: it's called the old age pension. There are actually two: the Canada Pension Plan is the one that you contribute to through your working life; the Old Age Security Program applies to everyone whether they've ever held a job or not (and is clawed back for people with high incomes). I think the second is the one that would correspond to "social security", though I can't be sure. You can find details here: Old Age Security Program.

Apart from the obvious real-world explanation, i.e. this is yet another Americanism in the show, one possibility for the use of the term "Social Security check" is that Norma was American. People do get pension checks sent to other countries if they live abroad. (See Social Security International Operations).

I know the Canadian pension has to be applied for. But I don't know that you have to do it in person; you could, I think, do it by mail. As far as the American pension is concerned, the office that Norma would apply to is apparently the one in Niagara Falls, NY. Again, it seems likely that she would be doing this by mail. She would need to send identification, such as her birth certificate and proof of address, but she'd be doing that by registered mail along with the application form.

Then the checks would start coming.
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 2nd, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
One thing that has struck me when I look at NAT's Episode Archives is the difference in appearance between the three women when the effects of Dr. Jurgen's blood wear off.

When Natalie opens the body bag in the morgue, Norma's body has aged to look as though she is in late middle age. Her hair is iron grey, and her face has some lines. She could certainly be 65-70, but not likely more than that.

When the blonde woman (I forget her name) is shot by Schanke and her body ages, she finishes up looking quite a bit older. Her hair line seems to have radically receded, and her neck is very heavily creped.

Bernice's hair is silver, but looks in good condition and plentiful. She has some wrinkles, obviously; but she could be anywhere from her early 60s to well preserved 70s. She and Norma could easily be contemporaries. I'm not so sure about the blonde.

As I recall the FORKNI-L discussion, much was made of the famililarity the three women had with each other. From this someone drew the conclusion that they must have known each other in life. I'm not sure that this connection is so certain. It would be a lot easier for Dr. Jurgen to treat them if they all were in close contiguity to her—which means with each other—and, as the years go by, they'd have more in common with their fellow patients than with those not privy to the secret. They'd have to keep moving on, just as vampires do, lest people notice that they don't age. This would promote their friendship: their fellow patients would be the only ones with whom they could talk freely.

I can see Norma (the idiot!) turning 65 and applying for her pension because she's entitled to it, not even stopping to think that it might endanger their secret. We see so little of her that we have no idea what her personality might have been like; and there are certainly a lot of people who can't bear to be done out of any money they feel they've a right to. What Dr. Jurgen would have said if she knew is another matter; but there's no reason to believe that she kept that close tabs on the three women.
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 2nd, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
It seems quite possible to me that the Baroness took actual medical training at some point. By the early to mid twentieth century women doctors were no longer such rarities. "Dr. Jurgen" could well be quite legitimate. We know that Nick has some level of medical training, for he passed as a doctor during the American Civil War (in "Unreality TV"). Vampires do use a lot of different cover stories, and at least some of them require a bit of background knowledge. So the Baroness might simply have become a doctor because she fancied the alias.

Once taking the training, though, Dr. Jurgen might well wonder about the nature and effects of vampirism, and do some of the same research that Natalie has done. In particular, given the importance of blood in vampire mystique, she might well be curious to see the effects of injections of vampire blood into live humans, as opposed to those drained to the point of death. And then try it out.

There are plenty of young women desperate to keep their youth. They pay a lot for "treatments" of other types, and the effects are often not immediately visible. Think of all those creams and potions that promise to reduce wrinkles and fade spots, but only over time.

I heard something on the radio recently that said that older women are far more cynical about the effects of such beauty products. Younger ones are more likely to believe the hype and buy them as a preventive measure.

So I can see Dr. Jurgen suspecting the likely effects, and picking out a woman to experiment on. It would presumably be someone she reasonably likes, since she's going to be creating a sort of "family" similar to LaCroix's, and will be seeing a lot of them. It would also be someone she thinks will be susceptible to the offer—someone who is acutely sensitive to the effects on her life that the loss of her looks will have as she ages. Having made her choice, Dr. Jurgen would offer this woman an "experimental preventive aging treatment".

She offers the same treatment to at least two others. There may, of course, have been yet more in the group at one time. We have no idea who might have dropped out after a while, before the youth-preserving effects became obvious, and simply returned to aging at a normal rate.

One thing is certain: none of the women knew the exact nature of their treatments. Dr. Jurgen was obviously being very careful that they not see that the liquid in the syringe was blood she drew from her own vein. So probably they just think she's giving herself the same experimental treatment she's giving them.
Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna: puzzleswiliqueen on September 5th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
As far as the social security checks are concerned: I can't remember the exact wording in the episode.

Nat: This was in her pocket.
Nick: What is it?
Nat: It's her Social Security check.

I might be paraphrasing slightly, but she did definitely say
Social Security. There was quite a bit of discussion about it at that time, as even many of us Yanks knew that didn't sound right!

The handwave of Norma being American is a nice option to have. Though a scenario in which that's the case and she was Miss Calgary Stampede is less likely. But not impossible. :-)
greerwatsongreerwatson on September 5th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
"...a scenario in which that's the case and she was Miss Calgary Stampede is less likely. But not impossible. :-)"

No, not impossible, I shouldn't think. She could have been Miss Calgary Stampede (if there actually is/was such a thing) in her teens, maybe; and then moved to the States and become an American citizen. You even have the possibility of an American girl's family emigrating to Canada, so that she spends her teens here; and then having her return to the States as an adult. She'd be an American citizen by birth, so she'd have no trouble moving there. Either way, it's not likely that she'd have been interested in Dr. Jurgen's treatment before her late twenties.

As for coming Norma's back to Canada more recently: well, I'm sure that Dr. Jurgen and all three of her patients would have had to move a lot. Like Nick, they could well have moved back and forth across the border. (Nick's fake background puts him last in Chicago.)

My family came to Canada when I was almost six and my sister was a baby. We both have dual citizenship. I still live here; but she moved back to England years ago. People cross borders all the time.

I can imagine them moving, with the documentation they use currently always referring back only to their last place of residence, cutting off the earlier domiciles. As long as people don't check too carefully, particularly into their apparent age in the last place they lived, they'd be able to get away with it indefinitely. That wouldn't stop them carrying "mementoes" which they keep private. (Nick does that too, after all. His apartment is full of mementoes.)