Saturday, October 15, 2016

To Dream the Impossible Dream

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): I hardly need to tell you how the story ends.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): Just tell me when the story ends.

As I wrote a few weeks ago about the episode that kicked off the ninth season of Frasier, I have felt for a long time that the show really didn't utilize the opportunities that having a psychiatrist as the central character presented.

I'm not saying Frasier never used psychiatry as an element of its stories — it was usually present but in more of a supporting role. The series seldom tried to get inside Frasier's head.

It did 20 years ago tonight in "The Impossible Dream," when Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had a recurring dream in which he and a co–worker, KACL food critic Gil Chesterton (Edward Hibbert), were sharing a seedy motel room bed. In the dream, Frasier awoke in a room with a crescent moon lamp on the bedside table, a tequila bottle and a tattoo on his arm with the single word "Chesty." He heard a shower running, then the water stopped. The first time this happened, Gil emerged from the bathroom. The second time it was a well–endowed young woman who came into the room, smiled and apologized, saying, "Wrong room" — after which Gil appeared on screen and told Frasier they were going to a different motel.

Frasier, of course, was a devout heterosexual, but these dreams had him wondering if perhaps his subconscious was trying to tell him something about his sexuality. Well, it built up to that.

Most psychiatrists believe that, once a recurring dream has been correctly interpreted and its meaning has been brought to the surface, the dream will no longer occur. It will have served its purpose. So Frasier and his brother (David Hyde Pierce) went on a tortured journey to interpret its meaning.

First, Frasier concluded, through a kind of free association, that his subconscious was telling him that he had been too rigid about his diet. But that turned out to be wrong. Then he and his brother concluded that it must have something to do with their late mother, but that wasn't right, either.

All the while this was going on, Frasier was trying to deal with an extended dry spell in which he had been getting no callers who truly challenged him.
"In this dream of yours, were there any cigars, bananas or short blunt swords?"


It was a late–night conversation with his father (John Mahoney) that persuaded Frasier that his dreams were a subconscious effort to flex his analytical muscles while waiting for the challenging calls to return.

Frasier thought he had resolved the problem — until he went to bed that night and a form of the dream returned — only this time there was no tattoo on his arm and no tequila bottle in the room.

In the dream there was a knock on the door. A bewildered Frasier said, "Come in," and in walked Dr. Sigmund Freud, who complimented Frasier.

"I gave you a complex psychological problem," he said, "and you solved it."

A flattered Frasier said there were so many questions he wanted to ask. Freud said there would be time for that later, that there were more important things to be done first. And with that he squirted his mouth with breath freshener and hopped into the bed with Frasier.

The impossible dream still had not been solved.