Episode 265: Doctor Strange

“In the name of sanity, what’s going on in Maggie Evans’ blood?”

Good news: As a special treat today, we’re going to leave Collinsport and travel a hundred miles away, to a private sanitarium called either Windcliff or Wyndcliffe. (Or possibly Wyndcliff. We never see it written down, and nobody can agree on how to spell it. Someone asked the writers once, and they said they didn’t care.)

Even more good news: Maggie is now under the care of Dr. Julia Hoffman, who’s shining a penlight in her eyes and pretending to hypnotize her.

“Concentrate on the light,” she says. “Raise your right hand.” Maggie starts to move her left hand, and the doctor corrects her: “Your right hand. Raise your right hand.”

Maggie raises her right hand. “Very good,” the doctor says. “Lower your right hand.”

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t Maggie know which is her right hand? Also, what kind of voodoo medical care is this supposed to be?

265 dark shadows julia maggie

In other words: welcome to the television show formerly known as Dark Shadows. After ten months of stumbling around, the producers have managed to fall backwards downstairs into a hit show. They’ve got a vampire all set up, plus a spooky ghost girl, so now it’s time for whatever the hell this turns out to be.

The doctor is still shining her light in Maggie’s eyes. “Do you know who is speaking?” she asks.

Maggie falters. “Doc-tor…”

Still with the light. “Yes, Doctor. But do I have a name? What is my name?”

Maggie isn’t sure, so the doctor tells her: “Doctor Hoffman. Doc-tor Hoff-man.”

This is actually one of the great character introductions of all time — during the first two minutes of the show, she basically hypnotizes the audience, and then slowly repeats her character’s name over and over. Doc-tor Hoff-man.

265 dark shadows woodard sam

Back in Collinsport, Sam is worried, because he hasn’t been allowed to see Maggie. And who’s responsible for that? Doc-tor Hoff-man.

It’s been several days since Dr. Woodard came up with the brilliant idea of telling everyone that Maggie’s dead, while she recovers from her ordeal with his weird blood-specialist/hypnotist friend. Apparently, it’s not going as smoothly as he’d expected.

Woodard urges Sam to be patient, but Sam can’t stand this anymore — he’s got to see Maggie, just to make sure that she’s okay. He’s going to drive up to the sanitarium with Joe, and find out what’s going on.

265 dark shadows car 1

So then we see Sam and Joe driving their make-believe car up to Windcliff. The car doesn’t really go anywhere, but Joe moves the steering wheel back and forth while fake tree branches whirl past the back window.

265 dark shadows car 2

First there’s a tree on the right side, and then a tree on the left side. Then right again, and left again, and apparently that means we’re driving somewhere.

This is an effect that can only be described as awfulsome, and I for one am entirely convinced by it. Sometimes an appreciation of the awfulsome is a requirement for enjoying Dark Shadows.

265 dark shadows julia not amused

At the sanitarium, Dr. Hoffman is not amused. “I’m sorry to be so abrupt,” she tells Dr. Woodard, “but I can’t say I’m happy to see you, or Mr. Evans and Mr. Haskell.”

“I didn’t think you would be, doctor,” Woodard says. “But I still think that Sam Evans’ feelings should be taken into consideration.”

265 dark shadows woodard julia

Julia takes a deep breath, and rises to her feet as if it’s taking every ounce of her energy. “I am not interested in Mister Evans,” she hisses. “My only concern is with Miss Evans.” And then she just stands there rigidly and stares into the middle distance.

So, basically, she’s amazing. This is Grayson Hall, and she’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, on this show or anywhere else. She was a stage and movie actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1964 film Night of the Iguana. But she lived in New York and didn’t want to move to Hollywood, so when she was offered a few weeks’ work on Dark Shadows, she took the job.

She ends up staying on Dark Shadows for four years, and practically takes over the whole thing. And here in her first episode, you can already see why. On a soap opera, the most interesting actors are rewarded with more screen time, and Grayson Hall is always the most interesting person in a scene.

Woodard appeals to her sympathies, begging her to give Sam a chance to see his daughter. Julia heaves an enormous sigh, and then picks up the telephone and asks the nurse to send in Sam and Joe.

265 dark shadows sam joe

The boys enter nervously, like they’re being sent to the principal.

Julia sits at her desk and glares at them. “Good afternoon, Mr. Evans,” she says. “This is an unexpected pleasure.”

But she seems to be in a forgiving mood, and she agrees to let them see Maggie.

265 dark shadows julia advice

She fixes them with a look.

Julia:  I must warn you, however, that it could prove quite… painful. Both to you and to your daughter.

Sam:  Well, isn’t that more or less to be expected?

Julia:  Pain does not always come in the way we expect. I just want to be sure that you’re ready for what may happen.

Sam:  And what do you think might happen?

Julia:  I don’t know. If I knew, I wouldn’t have to allow you to see your daughter so I could find out.

And then she gets up, crosses the room and stands next to her aquarium.

Because that is how Doctor Julia Hoffman rolls.

265 dark shadows fish

And look at that face. I’m using lots of screenshots for this episode, because it’s impossible for me to describe how Grayson Hall uses her face. Her expression changes every second; she’s in constant motion.

Curious, commanding, sarcastic, angry — she is absolutely determined to act the hell out of every moment. She’s terrifying. I think she’s moving parts of her face that nobody else even has.

265 dark shadows more fish

On his way upstairs, Sam offers a mumbled, “Thanks, doctor.”

“Reserve your thanks for afterwards, Mr. Evans,” Julia replies. “I have a feeling they’re going to be a little more hesitant.”

And she stares off into space and plays with her aquarium implement.

265 dark shadows angry fish

Dr. Woodard is concerned.

Woodard:  Do you really mean you don’t know what’s going to happen and you’re going to let them go up there and see her?

Julia:  I know exactly what’s going to happen.

Woodard:  What do you mean?

Julia:  Oh, it’ll be terrible. For her, for them…

Woodard:  Well, then why are you letting them go?

Julia:  It’s the only way to convince them not to meddle.

I have to assume that this is not necessarily the character as the writers originally expected her to be, because nobody can expect a thing like Grayson Hall arriving in your life. You just appreciate it, and try to stand at a safe distance.

265 dark shadows maggie doll

Sam and Joe visit with Maggie, and guess what, it’s terrible. It really is. She’s staring off into space and clutching her doll. She doesn’t even acknowledge them.

They say hello, and try to ask her questions. She drifts over to the window, singing.

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.

265 dark shadows lock her up

She clutches at the bars on the window.

Take the key, and lock her up…
Lock her up! LOCK HER UP!

She starts to howl.

Take the key, and LOCK HER UP!

She’s screaming, hysterical.


265 dark shadows falling down

So, yeah, I’d say Dr. Hoffman pretty much nailed it.

This is a genuinely upsetting scene, probably the scariest thing they’ve ever done on the show.

265 dark shadows julia face

Downstairs, Julia is still messing with Dr. Woodard.

Woodard:  Have you been able to find any hint at all of what’s going on with the girl?

Julia:  Mmm, yes.

Woodard:  Well, is there anything you’d care to tell me?

Julia:  Not at this time.

265 dark shadows julia distant

And that’s all she’ll say. Yes, she’s starting to understand Maggie — yes, she’s discovered something in the blood samples — yes, she has plans for what to do next.

But when he presses her for details, she closes up, and says, “Not at this time.” She’s driving him crazy.

265 dark shadows sam julia

Finally, Sam and Joe shuffle back into the principal’s office.

Julia:  I’m sorry you had to come so far, for such a brief visit.

SamWell, I guess we shouldn’t have seen her.

Julia:  She was very frightened, wasn’t she?

Sam:  Yeah.

Julia:  And it was very painful for you, as well.

Sam:  I don’t want to talk about it.

265 dark shadows julia trust me

JuliaThen perhaps you’ll allow me to say one thing.

Sam:  What’s that?

Julia:  Trust me. Trust me to let you know when it’s advisable for another visit.

Sam:  I had to see her.

Julia:  But you didn’t see her.

Sam:  What?

265 dark shadows julia hasten 2

Julia:  Was that your daughter? That poor, frightened child? Most certainly it was not.

She sighs.

Julia:  It may be a long time, Mr. Evans, before you can see your daughter. Until that time, may I observe… that your absence may hasten the day.

Her face freezes into a pointed stare. Sam turns, and walks out of the room.

I wish I could say that this is the moment when the new Dark Shadows is born. Yesterday’s episode started to redefine Barnabas’ role, and today we’ve met his new sparring partner. These are two impossible creatures, theatrical and fierce and unpredictable. This show is just on the brink of becoming Dark Shadows.

But not on Monday. Coming up, we’ve actually got two solid weeks of Liz, Jason, Carolyn, the wedding, and whatever’s buried under the floor in the basement. Thankfully, that’ll be the end of the blackmail storyline, finished and forgotten.

And this craziness? This is what’s waiting for us on the other side. See you on Monday.

Monday: Jump Start.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Dr. Woodard’s plan is that everyone thinks that Maggie’s dead — the only four people who are supposed to know that she’s alive are Woodard, Sam, Joe and Dr. Hoffman. But clearly the staff at Wyndcliffe know that this is Maggie Evans; the nurse calls her by name. We know that Maggie’s picture was featured in the newspaper in Collinsport, and the story of her abduction must be interesting enough to be newsworthy in the Wyndcliffe area, only 100 miles away. They couldn’t even try to give her an alias?

Behind the Scenes:

Nurse Jackson is played by Alice Drummond, who appeared in four episodes between June and August. This was Drummond’s first credited role. She appeared on some other soap operas, including Ryan’s Hope and Where the Heart Is, but her most memorable role is in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, where she played the elderly librarian who’s frightened by a ghost.

Expert prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night notes that the green “tortoise lamp” that was first noticed in episode 237 appears twice in this episode — in the Evans cottage, and on Julia’s desk at Windcliff. It shows up next week in Jason’s room, in episode 270.

Monday: Jump Start.

265 dark shadows julia more fish

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

12 thoughts on “Episode 265: Doctor Strange

  1. You can tell this Doc-tor Hoff-man is going to be a powerhouse from Day 1.

    Love the bit with the aquarium and little fish net. Julia was one of the few humans who could hold her own with the supernaturals.

  2. On the interview with Joe Caldwell of the big coffin box set (disc 108) he tells the story of how Julia Hoffman came about. He suggested the name Julius Hoffman for the character of the doctor, and producer Bob Costello jokingly commented Julia Hoffman, which Dan Curtis jumped on, and here we are now. She was also due to die in a vat of acid, but she was such a popular character she stayed on for pretty much the rest of the show.

  3. Thank you, thank you! I found DS dvd’s in my library a couple of years ago and started watching from day 1 for a while. I used to watch this every day after school and had forgotten about Doctor Hoffman until I saw this episode again, and many future ones. I think Grayson Hall was fantastic, too. There was no one like her! I saw her recently on an old Night Gallery episode. Not the best story but again, hard not to watch her.

  4. Why doesn’t Maggie know which is her right hand, you ask? Because she’s regressed to childhood and kids often have trouble figuring out right and left.

  5. Have to say, this was the episode that prompted me to buy the complete series box set, though not for Grayson Hall, although she is as awesome as you say, but for the hysterical poor man’s process on the drive to Windcliff or Wyndcliffe. (Or possibly Wyndcliff). Nothing gives me as much pleasure as the thought of those two crewmembers waving those branches! Also, got to mention the ride back. Hey, it’s nighttime, so just dim the lights and throw a few flashlights in the actors’ laps!

  6. Gentlemen: Start your engines. She’s off and running. Can there ever have been a more stentorian and bizarre introduction to a character on daytime soaps? What’s up with the fixation on the fish aquarium net? The first time I watched this, I had to rewind it a few times to make sure she wasn’t trying to EXTRACT something from it. In the world of acting, we call this “business.”

    “Uhhhhhh-yes, Ms. Hall………..try and look like you really don’t give a damn about virtually ANYTHING Doctor Woodard has to say, or for that matter, the two other bumpkins he drug up here to Windcliff with him! Maybe the aquarium is a good place to lose yourself for a few minutes.”

    I thought she was trying to turn the fish net into one of those grade-school origami projects that you manipulate with your fingers.

    Poor Sam and Joe: they don’t stand a chance against the Arch Wit and the Arch Eyebrows of Dr. Hoffman……………………………………………

  7. Doctor Julia Hoffman (rocking the hair helmet & lab coat with flipped collar) is in.
    And DS is ready to operate!

    And is it just me, or is the camera really loving Joel Crothers? What a profile! (sigh)

  8. “And who’s responsible for that? Doc-tor Hoff-man.”

    “This is an effect that can only be described as awfulsome”

    “I think she’s moving parts of her face that nobody else even has.”

    “Yesterday’s episode started to redefine Barnabas’ role, and today we’ve met his new sparring partner. These are two impossible creatures, theatrical and fierce and unpredictable. This show is just on the brink of becoming Dark Shadows.”

    i’ve said it before and doubtless i’ll say it again. i simply love you Danny. you quite do me in.

    sigh *

  9. I saw DS as a child when it was airing on ABC, but not at first because I was only 9 when it started and I didn’t know about it then. But I distinctly remember that I didn’t like Julia Hoffman at all. Her weird crying, her stilted way of talking, her gravelly screams and hand gestures were objects of laughter for my sister and me. It wasn’t until I was older and started watching it from the beginning that I began to understand that Grayson Hall was as much a boost to the show as the vampire. She rarely had to check the prompter and she jumped from character to character like she was changing shoes. I absolutely loved her as Magda. I’ve read interviews from Jonathan Frid where he said what good friends they were off set. It shows. The way they play off one another is fantastic. So glad they decided not to make Hoffman a man…..

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