Episode 283: Role Playing

“Does the name Collins mean anything to you?”

Dr. Woodard is visiting Windcliff Sanitarium for another needlessly combative progress report on Maggie’s treatment. This is the third time we’ve seen him at Windcliff, and each time, he’s been verbally arm-wrestling for control over the case with Maggie’s doctor, Dr. Julia Hoffman.

Today, Dr. Hoffman wonders what would happen if they took Maggie to the Eagle Hill cemetery, where she was found sleepwalking before her abduction. The suggestion makes Woodard erupt in fury.

Woodard:  To begin with, Eagle Hill cemetery is right outside of Collinsport. Somebody’s liable to spot Maggie. But more important than that — subjecting her to an experience like that might very well drive Maggie to the point of no return.

Julia:  I realize there are risks involved.

Woodard:  Risks! You are playing around with a girl’s mind. You can’t take risks like that!

So, just another day at the medical conference, really. In fact, this scene is so similar to Woodard and Julia’s previous bouts that it’s easy to miss the fact that they’ve actually swapped personalities.

283 dark shadows woodard alarmed

In Julia’s first two episodes, Woodard was interrupting her unhurried treatment plan, first bringing Sam and Joe for a visit, and then showing Maggie a sketch of Sarah.

In both cases, Julia objected to pushing Maggie too fast; they needed to take their time and not risk doing further damage by forcing her to confront memories that she wasn’t ready to face. Her catchphrase was that she was planning to take each step “in due time”.

But as we saw in yesterday’s episode, Julia is now grilling Maggie for memories, pushing through moments that are clearly frightening her. By the end of the episode, Maggie was begging Julia not to take her to the cemetery.

Within the space of four episodes, Julia’s most well-defined characteristic — her caution about the pace of Maggie’s treatment — has made a 180-degree turn. Now, Julia is the reckless one. So… what happened?

283 dark shadows grayson happened

Well, for one thing, Grayson Hall happened. They’d originally planned for this character to be a man, Dr. Julian Hoffman. The first time Woodard referred to the character, back in May, Hoffman was a “he”.

There are a couple of popular legends about Dr. Hoffman’s casting. The first is that the producer’s secretary mistyped the name on a casting sheet, accidentally turning Julian into Julia, and this inspired the producers to rethink the part.

The other legend is that there was another actress originally cast in the role who was fired before she appeared on the show. Grayson had an abbreviated audition, got the job, and was told to show up at the studio the next day for her first episode. (Unfortunately, nobody seems to remember who the other actress was, or why she was fired; even Grayson’s biographer doesn’t know.)

And so — through some set of mishaps that after the fact seems like the power of destiny moving in a mysterious way — Grayson Hall shows up on the Dark Shadows set, and demonstrates what happens when you hire an actual actor to play a role, ignoring decades of standard soap opera procedure.

You can see the difference in this scene. We’ve seen a lot of Woodard lately, and he can really only do three things — fret, criticize and apologize. Julia has a much wider emotional range, and at least five times the number of facial expressions.

283 dark shadows blackmail implosion

The other thing that happened was that the vampire storyline took a two-week break, while they wrapped up the blackmail story. I don’t know what happened backstage that resulted in Julia getting an emergency recast the day before her first episode, but there was a two-week gap before we saw her again. This may have been enough time to rethink what they were going to do with the character.

Plus, those two weeks of interminable Liz-contemplating-suicide episodes couldn’t have come at a worse time for the show. It’s July, the kids are home watching TV all day, and the vampire storyline is attracting a lot of positive attention. It can’t have been easy for the producers during that period, watching Jonathan Frid’s fan mail pouring in just at the time that they were keeping Barnabas off screen for two weeks.

283 dark shadows more show

So here comes Dr. Julia Hoffman, plot accelerant.

Woodard:  Julia, your scientific detachment is admirable, in itself. But it cannot become so important to you that you forget you’re dealing with human beings.

Julia:  Is this going to be another lecture?

Woodard:  No, no, no… All I’m trying to tell you is that you have no right to subject Maggie to an experience that might affect her sanity permanently.

Julia:  I just finished telling you I wasn’t going to do it.

283 dark shadows miss jackson

Dr. Woodard finally leaves — and as soon as the door closes, Julia’s on the phone, asking the nurse to bring Maggie in. Julia hustles Maggie out the door for a field trip.

So Julia just said to Woodard that she wasn’t going to take Maggie to the cemetery, and she’s already breaking that promise a few seconds later. He’s probably not even out of the parking lot yet.

283 dark shadows vicki box

Now over to Collinwood, where Vicki is sitting in the drawing room, staring at Josette’s music box again. Is she aware that you can listen to something without looking at it?

I guess they’re trying to express that the music is influencing her in some hypnotic supernatural way, but it just looks like she’s the most boring person in the world. I’d hate to see what would happen if Barnabas gave her a potted plant; she’d probably never leave the house.

283 burke music box

When Burke comes over, Vicki tells him that today is Josette’s birthday, and she wants to go to the cemetery to put flowers on her grave. He responds to this suggestion with the appropriate level of contempt.

Burke:  I don’t think we ought to visit the grave of Josette Collins.

Vicki:  Why not?

Burke:  Because it’ll only encourage you to think about her more, maybe to believe in her more. And you shouldn’t, it’s not good for you!

Vicki argues her case.

Vicki:  Right or wrong, Burke, it’s her birthday, and somebody should do something to remember it. I want to put those flowers on her grave. It’s something I feel I must do!

Now, that’s not actually much of a rebuttal; in fact, it pretty much proves Burke’s point. But this is a soap opera, a narrative universe where men never win arguments. They head out to the cemetery.

283 dark shadows field trip

So obviously these two plot strands are headed toward a collision.

Julia and Maggie walk around in the cemetery, but nothing seems to ring a bell for Maggie. Then they hear someone approaching, so they hurry away. Everybody in Collinsport thinks that Maggie is dead, so they can’t risk being seen.

283 dark shadows vicki sees maggie

But of course Maggie turns back for a moment, and Vicki catches sight of her face. She gasps — it’s Maggie!

So I guess it’s not completely fair that Vicki looks like such a fool these days — she really is seeing all of these things that people think she’s imagining. This is a fairly extensive gaslighting.

Still, nobody told her she had to stare at the music box for hours every day, so I’m not going to bother to defend her sanity.

283 dark shadows julia mausoleum

Trying to duck out of sight, Julia brings Maggie to the Collins mausoleum, which happens to be the place where Maggie spent a night locked in a coffin. She starts to get restless, and Julia realizes that she recognizes the place.

Julia looks around at the stone plaques on the wall, and notices Sarah Collins’ grave marker.

283 dark shadows maggie risk

Julia asks Maggie some questions about what happened here. It gets a little stressful.

Julia:  Try to remember when you were in this place before.

Maggie:  I can’t! I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t stay here!

Julia:  Why not?

Maggie:  Because he’ll kill me!

Julia:  “He”? Who’s he?

Maggie:  I’ll die!

283 dark shadows maggie you're okay

Maggie gets increasingly panicked.

Julia:  Who are you talking about, Maggie?

Maggie:  I’ll DIE!

Julia:  No, Maggie. You’re with me, you’re safe with me, Maggie. Can you hear me? You’re safe!

Maggie:  I’ll die!

Julia:  All right, Maggie, we’ll go now. We will go. We’re going, Maggie, we’re going.

So I guess technically all of Dr. Woodard’s pessimistic predictions at the beginning of the episode came true. Somebody did see Maggie, and she was pushed into another nervous breakdown.

Still. Screw that guy.

Tomorrow: Doctor Who.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Towards the end of the first scene, Woodard says, “You’ll forget about this business of the cemetery,” and Julia says yes. The camera cuts back to Woodard, and it’s pointed at his elbow. The camera quickly pans up to his face.

There’s a future continuity error during Vicki and Burke’s visit to the cemetery. Vicki tells Burke that Jeremiah Collins buried Josette in an out-of-the-way spot because he was angry: “He felt that she deserted him when she killed herself.” When we see these events later in the series, Jeremiah dies before Josette does.

When she’s in the mausoleum with Julia, Maggie says that she doesn’t recognize the name Collins. Even if her memory has regressed to childhood, she’d still know the Collins family. The town that she lives in is called Collinsport.

Tomorrow: Doctor Who.

283 dark shadows maggie mausoleum

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

11 thoughts on “Episode 283: Role Playing

  1. Dan Curtis recalls the casting of Grayson Hall during the Q&A session of the 2001 Dark Shadows convention:

    “Yeah, it was Dr. Julius Hoffman. And, uh… I’ll tell you exactly how it happened. Was written into the script and it was said on the air. And, this doctor was gonna be showing up in a week or whatever the hell it was, I don’t remember. And Sam came in, with his wife. Sam Hall. Was one of the writers. Grayson Hall. I saw her, I said, ‘Oh, she’s gotta be on the show. Look at that FACE! We’ve… we’ve GOT to put her on the show!” They said, ‘Well, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna?….’ I said, ‘She’ll be… Dr. Julia Hoffman.’ And everybody said to me, ‘You can’t do that! We were on the air, you said Dr. Julius Hoffman.’ I said, ‘WHO CARES? Nobody’s gonna remember!’ People don’t listen anyway….”

    And so, the face that launched a thousand spooks was cast, and the rest is Dark Shadows history.

    1. As well, “Julius” Hoffman was never said on air; another incorrect claim by Curtis. And the “Julia/Julian” typo story has never been proven with any hard evidence that I’ve seen.

  2. But I thought Sam Hall got hired after Grayson had been on the show awhile? Didn’t she have a party after the strike and that’s when he was hired? Or am I confused?

    1. Yeah, that’s an odd lapse in Curtis’ memory. Grayson joined the show in episode 265, and Sam’s first writing credit is 357. It happened the other way around.

  3. “Still. Screw that guy.”

    Haha. I feel the exact same way. But he still makes me laugh every time he is on the show.

    I am getting little tired of the Maggie breakdowns. I hope they dissipate soon.

  4. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Hoffman at this point. She seems a little off, almost as if shes trying to figure how the character is going to play out. She hits her stride when she and Barnabas begin to interact, in my opinion

  5. There’s a wonderful Grayson Hall moment at the beginning of this episode. When she is talking to Dr. Woodard, he says “You know, sometimes I get the distinct impression that you’re avoiding me.” Now most actors would respond “AVOIDING you? Why would I be avoiding you?” Grayson chooses to read it this way, “Avoiding YOU? Why would I be avoiding you?”, subtly inferring that he isn’t worth the energy to avoid. the first reading denotes respect and friendship, but the actress goes for condescending dismissal. Nice moment.

  6. Josette’s tombstone reads (I think) Born 1800, Died 1822. That’s also a pretty significant continuity problem later on, isn’t it? It does however fit in with Barnabas’s statement to Willie that Sarah’s death in 1796 occurred “long before” he met Josette.

  7. At some point, Vicki ought to do some sort of… oh, I don’t know, governessing? All she seems to do lately is sit around staring at that music box and arguing with Re-Burke. Of course we’re only seeing twenty two minutes of her day, perhaps I’m being unfair – – she probably has a very active lifestyle. I bet she goes scuba diving a couple times a week.

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