It is the night before Christmas Eve and in the basement of a large department store the toymaker sadly puts away the last of the reject toys, toys which the management knows will never find a home. Once the toymaker leaves, the toys spring to life and Quincy the doll (Tommy Steele) starts singing, oblivious to the fact that he is doomed. The other toys attempt to bring him back down to earth by pointing out that at nine o'clock the next morning they will be incinerated in the furnace, but Quincy sees a ray of hope. He will travel to the top floor of the store to meet Santa Claus - surely he can help them?
Nothing to do with Jack Klugman, Quincy's Quest has stayed in the minds of many of those who saw it as children, whether they were enchanted by it or scared. Resembling Thames Television's try at creating a new Wizard of Oz, at times it looks like a Sunday night variety show, but this was in fact a Christmas Special for 1979, the brainchild of that perennial entertainer Tommy Steele who co-wrote the script as well as starring. It's brightly coloured and charmed millions at the time, yet there's an oddly morbid tone about it which may explain why it frightened kids of the day.
Taking the traditional form of an escapade that throws up obstacles for our hero to overcome, the film stops frequently for musical numbers, nothing too catchy but they perform their function. Once Quincy is free of the basement (which makes you wonder why the rejects didn't simply run away if it was that easy to escape) he finds himself in the corridors of the store, and encounters a collection of "perfect" playthings who aren't interested in him. Someone who has taken an interest, alas, is the Witch, whose shadow we see and cackle we hear.
It's up to the Witch, for reasons best known to herself, to stop Quincy, and although he has been warned by his friends to watch out for her (and robots as well) he seems oblivious to the danger until it's almost too late. He meets a ventriloquist dummy agent of the villainess who after, yes, a musical number puts him on a model train that is heading for a bridge and another train going in the opposite direction. As if that isn't enough, Quincy is also sent into battle as a toy soldier when his new girlfriend Rebecca (Mel Martin) wants to see him in uniform - cue a message about the futility of war.
The potentially scariest bit is that Rebecca is actually the Witch, and transforms into her (actually Eastenders star Gretchen Franklin) when she sees her reflection in a mirror. In amongst all the class conflict (rejects vs perfects) and anti-war lessons there's an improving theme about forgiveness, as Quincy doesn't mind that Rebecca went over to the Dark Side as long as she regrets it; once he has survived the onslaught of robots at any rate. Although there's an enthusiastic charm about Steele - the project was ideal for him - a lot of Quincy's Quest is as cosy as an episode of Sapphire and Steel. But it is at least an original Christmas tale that isn't too cloying, and notable for being directed by Robert Reed of The Brady Bunch fame if nothing else.