Episode 242: A Mystery in Science

“Now, look here. There is no such thing as a mystery in science.”

You think you’re having a hard day? Try being Dr. Woodard for a minute. He made several house calls, examined the patient, asked questions, ran tests, played with his glasses and organized an impromptu blood transfusion. Then his patient was kidnapped right out of the hospital, and he doesn’t even have a diagnosis.

And now Burke comes into the office — without an appointment, thank you — and demands answers. This is what health care used to be like, just everybody scolding each other.

242 dark shadows burke microphone

Burke’s worried about Sam, but not worried enough to remember his lines past sentence number four. Have I mentioned that Mitchell Ryan was drunk a lot? I’m not being a jerk, he really was. Ryan was an alcoholic, and in two weeks, he’s going to get fired for showing up at the studio drunk.

So we’ve only got a couple more chances to witness the spectacle of a hung-over Mitch Ryan desperately swimming upstream, as an overly-optimistic writing staff decides to let him carry three-quarters of a dialogue-heavy episode. Enjoy it while you can; there’s a replacement Burke on back-order, and he’s not nearly as much fun.

Burke says that Sam’s going to go off the deep end, worrying about Maggie’s disappearance. “Look, I’ve done everything I can for Sam,” Woodard claims. “Sedatives, advice, talk… even threats.” That’s what you might call an experimental treatment protocol. I’m not sure what the next step is after threats, medically.

So Woodard wiggles his eyebrows and puts on his glasses, and then he looks at the microscope and pretends that he’s writing something down. “Don’t you think I’m doing everything I can?” he asks.

“Oh, of course you are, Sa– Dave,” Burke says, and then he just loses contact with his lines completely. “But… well…” He looks at the teleprompter for help, and then says, “Can’t you give me something to tell?” It’s beautiful.

Now, if you’ll recall, Maggie disappeared from the hospital over a week ago. You hear doctors talking about losing a patient, but Woodard takes that literally; he actually went and lost a patient. Now he’s squinting into the microscope like he expects to find a signed confession from the kidnapper hiding behind some platelets.

“I heard you, uh — were taking blood samples,” Burke observes. “Maggie’s blood.”

“Yeah,” Woodard says, “but a blood sample isn’t going to help us find Maggie.”

“Then what is it going to do?” Burke snaps. I don’t know, dude; you’re the one that brought it up.

Burke dusts off a healthy chunk of real estate on the doctor’s desk, and claims it as his own. “If you’re about to make a diagnosis…” he begins, and then it’s Woodard’s turn.

“I hope I’m about to,” Woodard frowns. “I’ve made slides from the sample of Maggie’s blood, and I’m gonna get Hoffman, one of the best men in the field, to come and examine them.” That means that Hoffman’s about to.

“You think he’ll know, after he examines the slides,” Burke says. He’s getting a grip on how medicine works.

Woodard harumphs, and says “Maybe,” and then he stands all the way up and walks away from his desk.

So that’s the show’s first mention of Dr. Julian Hoffman, one of the best men in the field, who’s destined to become one of the best women. A month from now, the introduction of Dr. Julia Hoffman will change the show completely, using her intelligence, her charisma, her facial expressions and her bold eccentricity. Burke will be forgotten, and Woodard will be lost, and Julia Hoffman will rise above them all. Just wait and see.

But that’s a month from now, so we still have to deal with this mess.

“Take it easy, now, Burke,” says the doctor. “Just sit down.” Yeah, there’s no hurry; this story isn’t going anywhere.

“Of course, I don’t understand the disappearance,” Woodard says, “but there’s things in those slides that I understand even less.” I don’t know what we all had to sit down for, just to hear that.

“But if this Hoffman is such a top-flight doctor,” Burke says, “what’s the problem?”

“Well, suppose he sees only what I see,” Woodard answers.

“And what’s that?”

“Well, you wouldn’t understand the technical terms even if I told them to you,” Woodard says. None of this is getting Maggie diagnosed any faster.

Okay, let’s try it again, from a different camera angle.

“Look, Burke, for what it’s worth, I’ll tell you this much right now. Up to this point, those slides indicate hat there’s a — well, a pretty heavy skirmish going on between Maggie’s red and white corpuscles. But then…”

“Then? Then what?”

Woodard shakes his head. “There’s something going on in Maggie’s blood that… well, it’s got me completely baffled!”

The interesting thing about this scene is that this you could see this on basically any soap opera with a doctor in it, with General Hospital being the obvious touchpoint. People are badgering the doc for a diagnosis, and the doctor knows that nobody’s allowed to get an answer to any important soap opera question until Friday at the very earliest. They’re making a big deal about Hoffman, and she’s still five Fridays away, which is pretty much the average turnaround time on soap opera plot points in mid 1967.

But the unspoken subtext is that this isn’t a soap opera doctor scene, and this isn’t a soap opera doctor show — at least, not for much longer. Woodard is baffled and frightened, because he’s looking out the driver’s side window, and objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. This perching on your desk and fretting business is not going to work for much longer. Dr. Hoffman will see to that.

“Now, look here,” Woodard says, clinging to the familiar as hard as he can. “There is no such thing as a mystery in science! It’s just ignorance. The fact that we’re not able to put a name to Maggie’s ailment simply means that we don’t have the proper knowledge.”

242 dark shadows burke microphone

For some reason, Burke gets it into his head to argue about whether they should call this a mystery or not. You know how sometimes you lose track of what you’re talking about halfway through a sentence, so you just keep going and hope for the best? That’s Burke’s whole life right now.

“Now, maybe something like a blood sample, when you examine it under the microphone, it doesn’t show any mystery at all. But suppose it does. Suppose it, it, it…”

(He checks the teleprompter.)

“… it indicates that something so extraordinary is happening that mysterious is the only word to use.”

Well said. You meant microscope, by the way. Not microphone. That’s a different thing.

242 dark shadows liz lamp

Mercifully, Burke gets a little break halfway through the episode, as we check in with the blackmail story over at Collinwood. There’s really not much to say about it today; it’s just another reprise of the same material they’ve been doing for a couple weeks. Roger expresses concern, Liz stonewalls, and Jason smirks. At least we get another look at the Ralston-Purina lamp; that’s always fun.

242 dark shadows smashed window

And here’s the really frustrating thing — while we were spending all that time at Collinwood, somebody broke into Woodard’s office and trashed the place, bursting through the window and stealing Maggie’s blood samples. They went and had a whole action sequence, and we didn’t even get to see it! What a ripoff.

Surveying the wreckage, Woodard says, “Do you realize what this means?” Yes, it means your storyline has ground to a halt again. Want to try another recap?

Tomorrow: Blood Drive.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Pretty much everything that Burke says, especially the “microphone” line.

Also, Woodard tells Burke, “Do you realize what this means? It means Maggie never left that office under her own power.” He means the hospital room.

Tomorrow: Blood Drive.

242 dark shadows dead microphone

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

12 thoughts on “Episode 242: A Mystery in Science

  1. Also loved how Dr Woodard kept referring to Dr Hoffman being an expert and if ANYONE could figure it out, “HE” could….then comes Grayson Hall ;)=

    1. Yes! I probably should have mentioned that, but I was too wrapped up in Burke’s problems today. I can’t wait until I get to Julia joining the show… still a few weeks away, but the countdown has begun.

  2. It probably never entered the writers’ minds that fans would ever pay attention past the previous week or retain any details. And never in their wildest days would they have thought we’d be watching their show in the 21 century and analyzing each episode. That’s about as crazy as time travel!

  3. I like that in the wreckage of Dr. Woodward’s office (see the last screen cap), the desk lamp has been carefully strewn so as not to break the glass shade; and what the devil is the doctor using salad tongs for? Did he just walk off with them from the hospital cafeteria?

    1. John E. Comelately,

      Yes. I also like that a picture has just been left askew on the wall. Taking it off the wall and hurling it across the room or even just smashing it onto the floor I could understand, but merely turning it to the right a few degrees?

  4. Danny, these entries are great—the best I’ve read about Dark Shadows anywhere. So glad you’re still doing it.

  5. Oh, how I loved Mitch Ryan! I have seen where he said he hit rock bottom about now and should have been fired. He did change and went on to be Greg’s dad in “Dharma & Greg”, among many other things.

    1. He has such a great sense of humor. In a recent DS Zoom reunion featuring Alexandra Moltke-Isles the cast were speculating about the fate of Burke Devlin and the possibility he survived the plane crash when Ryan chimed in with: “I died. In prison. Of alcoholism.”

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