“He will beg for death. Death will be a mercy.”
It always starts with a box.
Someone is always too greedy, or too curious, or too clever. They go looking for trouble, and they find it. They open the mystery box, and evil is loosed upon the world. And they don’t even clean up after themselves, which is just typical, isn’t it?
Barnabas and Julia go to her room to find the notes that she’s been keeping on her experiments, and they find that Dr. Woodard’s already been there. He’s pried open the lock, and stolen Julia’s notebook, and now somebody is going to have to do something terrible.
Continue reading Episode 340: Dave Woodard Must Die
“We’ve wasted enough time.”
Barnabas and Julia are bickering again. Dr. Woodard’s getting closer to discovering Barnabas’ secret — he’s met the ghost of Sarah Collins, and in yesterday’s episode, he eavesdropped on Barnabas and Julia talking about the notes that she’s been keeping on her experiments. Julia reports that she’s spoken to Woodard, and she didn’t get very far.
Barnabas sneers, “The next thing you’ll be telling me is that Woodard poses no threat.”
“No,” Julia says. “This time, I’m frightened, Barnabas. Dave behaves as if he’s on to something… and if he is, this could mean the end of everything, for both of us!”
Continue reading Episode 339: The End of Everything
“Stop thinking like a woman, and start thinking like a doctor.”
Here’s a lesson from Supervillain 101: Don’t sacrifice your only henchman.
I know it’s tempting, but seriously, try to keep it together. Willie was kind of a pain sometimes — prone to backchat, and not fully committed to the corporate vision — but on the upside, he did the occasional perimeter check.
So here’s Dr. Woodard, leaving the Old House after a mutually threatening conversation with Barnabas. He bumps into Julia on his way out, and says good night. As soon as she enters the house, Woodard takes four steps over to the window, and helps himself to their conversation.
Barnabas really should have a more complex security protocol by now. This is not a new problem.
Of course, it’s not easy to keep things on the D.L. in a soap opera, because the format requires a level of exposition usually reserved for 24-hour cable news channels. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiding from the Nazis, and an SS patrol is walking by with sniffer dogs and infrared goggles. You’re a soap opera character, and you never stop talking.
Continue reading Episode 338: Think Like a Woman
“The thought of what he might be frightens me as much as it did you.”
Well, there are books here, that’s something that I know. There are books on shelves, and they’re dusty, so this is probably an interior set. That’s a place to start.
The walls are made of stone, with big stone columns, and there are plaques on the wall that look like gravestones. Lots of cobwebs, naturally. Very dark, very shadowy.
There’s an old man with glasses who’s carrying a book. He shuffles over to the wall with the gravestones, peers at them, and then looks at all of the other walls, as if he suspects they might be up to something. Then he shuffles over to the bookshelves, and puts down the book that he’s holding.
I’m trying to describe this scene for you in as much detail as I can, because we’re currently one minute into this episode, and I have absolutely no idea what we’re looking at.
Continue reading Episode 337: Time to Kill
“Some people see pink elephants. He saw Sarah Collins.”
Young David has been running around for the last couple of weeks telling everyone some inconvenient truths, like for example that his cousin Barnabas is dead and sleeps in a coffin in his basement. This has not been the rocket sled to popularity that you might expect. Eyebrows have been raised.
But David has an adult ally, at last — Dr. Dave Woodard, who’s finally realized that something weird is going on. Unfortunately, the actor who plays Woodard just left the show unexpectedly, and the part has been recast in a hurry. Let’s see how it goes.
Continue reading Episode 336: Talk Show
“A patient’s fears are always real, because they’re rooted in the only ultimate subjectivity.”
Today’s episode opens with David in his bedroom, looking into his crystal ball and calling for Sarah. And since nothing interesting is going to happen for at least the next four minutes, I might as well tell you about the strike.
Continue reading Episode 335: The Shadow He Casts
“I’m sure that you can recognize the difference between a cellar with a coffin, and a cellar without a coffin.”
In 1948, James Thurber wrote a five-part series of articles for The New Yorker called “Soapland”, an in-depth look at the world of radio soap operas. One of the many strange things that he learned was that some listeners apparently had a hard time understanding that the shows were fictional. When a popular heroine on Just Plain Bill was going to have her first child, listeners sent hundreds of baby gifts to their local network stations, and when the child died, the stations received stacks of sympathy cards.
That stereotype of the half-deranged soap audience lasted for a long time, and every Dark Shadows-era interview with Jonathan Frid would include at least one paragraph on the weird mail Frid received from female fans, begging for a bite.
But from what I’ve seen, soap opera fans are exactly the opposite of that stereotype. There are currently two weekly magazines on newsstands that are exclusively devoted to documenting the behind-the-scenes mechanics of daytime television production, where producers and head writers are expected to explain and justify every single storyline and casting decision. Following a daily soap opera is like getting a graduate degree in Open-Ended Serialized Narrative in Theory and Practice.
This means that we’re constantly analyzing the soaps we enjoy, measuring the current state of the show against what we’d like it to be. We’re an audience of active backseat drivers. When a favorite character dies, we don’t send sympathy cards — we write letters and emails and furious tweets, actively campaigning to bring the dead back to life.
It’s not just that we don’t believe the characters are real. We barely believe that the show is real.
Continue reading Episode 334: All Those Dead People
“What would I be doing with a coffin in my basement?”
At the end of yesterday’s episode, young David broke into the Old House and went down to the basement, to find Barnabas’ coffin. But he was caught, and now the question is: Will Barnabas kill the boy?
The answer is no, obviously, for a couple reasons. For one thing, David’s been going around telling everybody that Cousin Barnabas Wants Me to Die — so if he suddenly disappeared, last seen heading towards the Old House, it would be tough to make a clean getaway. Even the thoroughly incompetent Collinsport police force could manage to connect those dots, given a good breakfast and a head start.
The other reason is that you can’t murder a child in cold blood on camera in a soap opera, even in the late 60s and even in this soap opera. I mean, we’re not animals.
Continue reading Episode 333: Those Meddling Kids
“The point is that I am in danger!”
It’s another relaxing evening at the Old House, and Julia tells Barnabas that she has another treatment ready for him. She’s trying to discover a cure for his vampirism, which would be hard enough even if she had a fully compliant patient. But Barnabas is feeling cranky, and when he’s cranky, he tends to get a little strangly.
Here’s his problem: young David is convinced that there’s something spooky hidden in the Old House, and a couple episodes ago, Julia caught the boy tugging on the locked basement door. She didn’t tell Barnabas about the encounter, because she knew he would freak out about it.
Yesterday, Roger mentioned the incident to Barnabas, and guess what? He’s freaking out about it.
Continue reading Episode 332: Safe? Safe!
“Cousin Barnabas hates me. He sent the bat because he wants me to die.”
So here’s a quick rundown of Barnabas Collins’ known vampire abilities. To start with, we know that he’s very strong, because he smashed through the window of Dr. Woodard’s office and trashed the place, and he can appear in upper story bedrooms without using the stairs. There’s the ever-present threatening dognoise, and he’s also got extra-strength dognoise, which he uses when he really wants to make an impression. He can make people hear a pounding heartbeat, he can make his portrait’s eyes flash, and he may also have some scattered weather-related effects.
And then Friday’s episode added a couple more tricks to his resume. Barnabas needs to discredit young David, who’s telling everyone that his cousin has a coffin in his basement. So now there’s a huge bat flying into David’s room, and acting like it owns the place.
Now, to be precise about this, it’s not clear whether Barnabas turned himself into a bat, or if he has access to some freelance bats who are available to terrorize children on a contract basis.
Continue reading Episode 331: Bat’s Entertainment