“Why should he be afraid of a harmless piece of jewelry?”
Yesterday, Julia was just minding her own business in the drawing room, trying to hypnotize David into forgetting that his cousin is a vampire. But he recognized her medallion from the prophetic dream that he had the night before, and he ran out of the room screaming.
Shocked, Elizabeth says, “Miss Hoffman, I hope you can explain all of this,” but there’s not much to explain. All Julia has to do is show them the medallion, and David freaks out again. He gets sent to his room. End of story.
So it turns out that it’s super easy to terrorize a child. This show is like a how-to manual on gaslighting ten-year-olds. I can’t wait to try it; somebody get me a ten-year-old.
But life is easy for monsters, if you know how to lie and you live in a world of goldfish.
This entire episode — and, frankly, a good chunk of the next six weeks — is about David trying to get the grown-ups in his life to accept some basic facts about the world around them, and then remember what they’ve learned for more than five minutes. This turns out to be trickier than you might expect.
For example: Everybody knows that there’s something strange about Sarah, the mysterious little girl who seems to know all of the secrets in town. Vicki’s had several long conversations about this, especially in episode 307, which was practically a Master’s thesis on the subject. She also knows that the description of Sarah matches the little girl that she saw at the top of the stairs at Barnabas’ costume party, which happens to be the night that Vicki was personally possessed by a ghost during the seance.
But here she is, taking up space in David’s room which he doubtless requires for other purposes, saying, “Do you understand that what happened downstairs was nothing more than a strange coincidence?”
Just look at his face. That’s the look of a ten-year-old boy who’s thinking to himself, “Man, I’m too old for this shit.”
So that’s why we’ve got Burke and Vicki in the drawing room, doing another lap around the goldfish bowl.
Burke: It beats me what could be frightening the boy. Have you talked to him about it alone?
Vicki: Yes, I tried to, just before you got here.
Burke: What did he tell you?
Vicki: The usual. Nothing.
And oh, how I wish David was drinking a glass of water, because that is a cue for a spit-take if I ever heard one.
Nothing? Are you kidding me? Last night, he told you that his cousin is one of the living dead. If you don’t believe him, fine, but you could at least try to remember it. Maybe you should carry a little pad around or something so you can jot down notes.
But David’s getting reception problems everywhere he goes. He manages to find Sarah out in the woods, and says that he has some questions for her.
Sarah: What is it?
David: I had a dream last night.
Sarah: What kind of a dream?
And then she acts like she had nothing to do with it, which is mild-to-severe head-scrambling. Didn’t she participate in the dream? I mean, I know it was his dream, but everything in it turned out to be true, so I assumed that she used some kind of magical ghost powers to make it happen.
Just as they’re getting somewhere, Burke shows up, and Sarah disappears. This cues up a whole new goldfish conversation.
Burke: She must be very shy.
David: Oh no, it isn’t just that. I don’t think she wants anybody to know.
Burke: Know what?
David: That she’s a ghost.
Burke: A ghost? Oh, come on now, David. You don’t really mean that, do you?
At this point, David is well within his rights to just start walking in any random direction, and keep on going until he finds a new family. David believes in ghosts. The two of you have discussed this before. In fact, I think that may have been the subject of half the conversations these two have ever had.
The problem, really, is that any science-fiction or fantasy show that takes place on present-day Earth has to account for the fact that monsters and/or aliens exist in this narrative universe, but that hasn’t changed people’s daily lives in any noticeable way. So while the main characters may encounter the BEMs on a weekly basis, the rest of the world just carries on as usual.
The danger is that after a while you start drifting into the problematic Doctor Who-style universe, where aliens invade England every single Christmas, but everyone keeps reacting as if it’s the first time. Eventually, you have to come up with history-eating cracks in the wall, just to explain why anybody is still willing to live in London.
That’s even more of a danger on a soap opera, where the imperative to recap for new viewers overrides all other concerns. Today, the goldfish can’t even sustain a thought from one act to the next.
Burke: He’s certainly behaving strangely, and some of the things he says are just beyond belief. For one thing, he says that his little friend Sarah is a ghost.
Liz: A ghost? Burke, do you think we ought to have him examined by a doctor?
No, not particularly, but the rest of you might want to schedule a quick check-up. Once again: David believes in ghosts! This is not a new fact!
Okay, one more, and then I’m going to make like a Chromakey ghost and disappear. The episode ends with a visit from Sarah, who appears in David’s bedroom.
Sarah: You said you had more questions to ask me.
David: Well, I want to know where you took me in my dream.
Sarah: I don’t know what you mean.
Yeah, me either. What were we talking about?
Tomorrow: Look! A Ring!
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There’s an offstage clatter from the studio during Vicki and David’s conversation in David’s room. It happens just as David is saying, “I don’t want her to come near me anymore.”
At the start of the last act, Burke is coming downstairs from David’s room. He steps through the door on the upstairs landing and closes the door behind him — but then we hear a person in the studio saying something, and Anthony George thinks that he’s come in too early. He goes back through the door, then opens and closes it again to start the scene.
Behind the Scenes:
There’s a little Dark Shadows milestone today — this is the first episode when they use Chromakey effects to make a ghost disappear on camera. Before this, they would just cut away from the ghost, who would walk off the set. Chromakey ghosts are way cooler.
Tomorrow: Look! A Ring!
— Danny Horn