Episode 245: Tragic Malady

“This is gonna be soft and soothing. And you’re gonna listen to it, and you’re not going to hear anything.”

Here’s today’s supervillain human resources moment: Barnabas has promised Dr. Woodard a sample of Willie’s blood. I guess it’s basically the same concept as a mandatory drug test, but Willie’s taking it pretty hard; he’s shaking and sweating and begging Barnabas to reconsider. The doctor saw a “skirmish” going on in Maggie’s vampire-infected blood, and Willie’s convinced that his blood will reveal the same thing.

Now, I’ve seen television before in my life, so the fact that Barnabas is clearly not concerned about the situation means that he probably has some kind of plan in mind.

The interesting question is: Who are we supposed to be rooting for?

245 dark shadows barnabas willie

Going by the Dracula playbook, we’re halfway through Chapter XII. The vampire’s dined on Lucy’s jugular several times, and she’s under his hypnotic control. But Professor Van Helsing is on the case, and he’s starting to understand what’s really going on. By this point, we should all be firmly on Team Van Helsing, praying that he can figure things out in time to save the girl.

But here’s the crucial difference — in Bram Stoker’s novel, this is the point when Count Dracula disappears from the narrative. He remains just offstage, lurking in the shadows, and the next ten chapters are all about how awesome Van Helsing is.

Van Helsing is witty and sharp, with a funny accent and a quick mind, always thinking three steps ahead of everyone else. When Dracula moves offstage, Van Helsing steps forward and takes command.

245 dark shadows burke woodard

But it doesn’t work out that way for Dave Woodard, a bargain-basement Van Helsing if there ever was one. He’s not a bad character, really — he’s got a kind of gruff charm, and he gets the occasional funny line — but the daytime-TV format isn’t helping him.

Traditionally, the soap opera doctor doesn’t experience a lot of lightning-bolt insights. They’ve got to keep the show going, half an hour five days a week, so if he makes a quick diagnosis and cures the patient, then they have to go out and find a whole new sick person. At a certain point, they run out of characters, and people have to get amnesia so they can start all over again.

Besides, they’ve got new viewers tuning in because they’ve heard about the vampire. It’s okay for Stoker to stash Dracula offstage in the middle third of the novel, because you’ve already paid for the book and you’re pretty much stuck with it. On daytime TV, if they want people to watch their vampire show, then they need to produce the vampire on a regular basis.

So on one side, you’ve got Barnabas — drinking blood, hitting people with his cane and impersonating his own great-grandson. On the other side, you’ve got Dave Woodard, squinting into a microscope and talking about how baffled he is. There’s simply no contest. Advantage: ghoul.

245 dark shadows barnabas willie woodard

This demonstrates one of the major priniciples of long-form narrative: The most interesting character is the most important character. There’s a fierce natural-selection struggle going on in every long-running series, whether it’s a TV show, a book series, a movie trilogy or a superhero comic. The boring character is left out of the reboot.

So here’s Barnabas, explaining why Willie should let Woodard take a blood sample:

“Now, Willie, look at it this way. This could, in some remote fashion, help Miss Evans. And it may help you. Now, unknown to yourself, you may have some very… tragic… malady.”

Yup, we’ve got a nice big helping of Fridspeak today, and strangely enough, the fact that Jonathan Frid can only remember half of his lines at a time makes Barnabas even more fun to watch. You find yourself paying extra attention to him, because there’s no way to predict what he’s going to say next.

For example, when Woodard reassures Willie that lots of people are afraid of giving blood, Barnabas says the following five things:

#1. “Now, in a way, isn’t that understandable?

#2. “After all, blood is the life force.

#3. “It reaches into the deepest recesses of both the heart, and the brain.

#4. “It is the familiar of our complete being.

#5. “To surrender even one drop of it is to suggest a partial surrender of one’s utmost self.”

Now, can you guess how many of those sentences were actually written down in the script like that? Of course you can’t. Nobody can.

It is the familiar of our complete being! The other actors must have been terrified every time he opened his mouth.

245 dark shadows dance vicki burke

Meanwhile, at the Blue Whale, Vicki and Burke are on another super-grim date, slow dancing as they recap every single thing they ever knew.

Vicki thinks she hears a dog howling. Burke explains, for the fifth time today, that there must be a connection between Willie’s blood and Maggie’s disappearance. And somewhere, just offstage, Abraham Van Helsing is whispering, “No, no! Be more eccentric! Develop a funny accent! Or all is lost!”

245 dark shadows blood slide barnabas

Later, Barnabas explains that he switched Willie’s blood sample with another slide that he stole when he trashed Dr. Woodard’s office a couple days ago. Willie is relieved.

And then Barnabas knocks him to the floor, and accuses him of being “unloyal”. Because that is how he rolls.

Monday: Family Planning.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Vicki and Burke are dancing, she reacts to hearing a dog howl. Burke says he doesn’t hear anything, which isn’t a surprise, because they forgot to play the sound effect.

There’s a really nice, clear boom mic shadow by the stairs during Barnabas and Willie’s first scene in the Old House foyer.

Monday: Family Planning.

245 dark shadows boom mic shadow

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

14 thoughts on “Episode 245: Tragic Malady

  1. I was squealing with glee watching johnathan searching for his line ‘tragic………malady’ LOL awesome.

  2. How can Barn possibly know what sample he stole?

    Woodard: Loomis, I have some bad news for you.

    Loomis: Y-yes?

    Woodard: Better have a seat, son….I must tell you: you’re a cow.

    1. The first thing I thought of was Dr. Woodard telling Willie that his blood hormones indicated that he was pregnant.

  3. #1. “Now, in a way, isn’t that understandable?

    #2. “After all, blood is the life force.

    #3. “It reaches into the deepest recesses of both the heart, and the brain.

    #4. “It is the familiar of our complete being.

    #5. “To surrender even one drop of it is to suggest a partial surrender of one’s utmost self.”

    I’m not so sure this is actual Fridspeak. Yes, it’s kind of gibberishy, but it does make grammatical sense and some sort of syntactical sense. Frid delivers it smoothly and with confidence, unlike his halting fumblings when he can’t remember his lines. When he says this, it’s in a close-up shot, and he’s looking down. My guess is that he is reading it directly from a script. Also, this is Joe Caldwell’s first script (or first credited script–he did some writing on earlier Ron Sproat scripts, if another website is accurate). Maybe this is Caldwell exhibiting the enthusiasm of a first solo outing. Dr. Woodard has a couple of hi-falutin’ and rhetorically “poetic” (and gibberishy) speeches of his own in this episode.

    Also, might this episode be marked as the first one to demonstrate the “reluctant” or “sympathetic” vampire in Barnabas’s character? In this episode (in another speechy series of lines), when Dr. Woodard and Barnabas are discussing the “madman” who broke into Woodard’s office and stole the blood sample, we get this exchange:

    Dr. Woodard: You know, it’s the peculiar magnificence of the human spirit that’s required to provide the potential for such corruption. [See? This is like the Barnabas “blood is the life force” speech–who talks like this???]
    Barnabas: Yes, I know what you mean. Whoever he is, he must certainly be, at one and the same time, more than a man…and less than a man.
    Dr. Woodard: You seem almost sorry for him.
    Barnabas: Sorry? No, I’m not sorry. The truth is, I loathe him. I loathe him very, very deeply.

  4. Very late note. Just watched this episode (again) and I’m not sure we were supposed to hear the dogs howling the first time Vicki did. That’s why it was so dramatic when Burke heard the dogs. He had convinced himself and possibly Vicki it was just her imagination.

  5. Very late note. Just watched this episode (again) and I’m not sure we were supposed to hear the dogs howling the first time Vicki did. That’s why it was so dramatic when Burke heard the dogs. He had convinced himself and possibly Vicki it was just her imagination.

  6. Barnabas is seriously messing with Willie’s mind in this one. So much of what Barnabas says has double meanings, even triple. Of course he’s playing with Woodard too, but Woodard never realizes it.

    For one thing, just after Willie’s blood is taken, Barnabas makes creepy blood comments, ending with “…surrendering your utmost self” and his next line “Now, you had no choice.” I suspect this is all meant more for Willie than for the doctor. Willie had no choice but to surrender his utmost self.

    Barnabas delights in repeatedly demonstrating his control over Willie, all to the doctor’s approval. When Willie flares up momentarily at Dr. Woodard’s remark about understanding being frightened, Barnabas immediately brings Willie to heel with a harsh word and harsher look.

    Later Barnabas jerks Willie’s chain some more, just because he can, and to tighten his control even more. It’s classic Stockholm syndrome type stuff. The victim is abused and in absolute fear for his life, and yet any lessening of the captor’s threats or violence can be perceived as mercy, bonding the victim to his captor.

    His shirt in Barnabas’ menacing grasp, Willie swears he would never, never betray Barnabas. He is only thrown to the ground instead of being choked or beaten. Barnabas proceeds to make Willie feel stupid and disloyal and dishonorable and undeserving of future protection. Add enthrallment on top of that. Oh, and the police having Willie as their top suspect, and Jason having beaten and threatened to kill Willie, even though Willie was trying to protect him.

    It is actually pretty amazing that Willie has held up under the strain. He is in full-on survival mode, and yet still has the decency to try to shield Maggie and others insofar as he can, given his powerlessness.

    Hey, what was up with Barnabas saying Willie’s blood is a “delicate little flower painted on glass”? He says it twice (once to Woodard and once to Willie) while looking directly at the slide. That doesn’t come across as a remark about blood in general.

    1. Oh. Barnabas was using yet another method to get Willie under his thumb: verbally emasculating him with the “delicate little flower” reference to Willie’s blood on the slide. But I think Willie was so relieved that he missed the diss.

  7. Dr. Woodard is so very adorkable with his love of the microscopic appearance of “hideous malignancies”. I wish this actor had portrayed the character the whole time.

  8. Interesting how we as audience are having our loyalties twisted; pitying a character that until recently was entirely reprehensible and hoping the undead bloodsucking kidnapper won’t be found out! (Though judging by the ‘authority figures’ of the doctor and the sheriff, there’s not much chance of that.) The best parallel to it is 1931’s “M”, starring Peter Lorre.
    No wonder the ratings were going up. There really was nothing else like it.

  9. Re: Dracula. When a much younger man I wrote a vampire novel (who hasn’t?) DRACULA had been a fave since 6th grade, but I decided my little book was going to be very different. It was, in fact, set in a sort of alternative ancient Ireland. To that point, though I’d read DRACULA several times I was baffled by some of Stoker’s choices. Doing it myself, I slowly began comprehending his choices as the best was to proceed as I was making similar and independent choices myself (though mine wasn’t in letters and diary entries and it was intentionally semi-comic). Never tried peddling the thing.

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