“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.
But when you’re gaslighting a ten-year-old, it’s good to diversify, and use all the available talent. And the real kicker to the scheme is revealed when David tells his father about the bat attack, and Roger notes that the window is closed and bolted.
So the bat came in through the window, messed with David, flew out again, and then closed and locked the window from the outside. How would you even think of training a bat to do that? It’s genius. Advantage: ghoul.
Unfortunately, that pretty much signals the end of anything interesting that might happen in this episode. The bat attack was thrilling and intense, as you might expect, but it’s gone now, and there’s nothing left to do but have unfulfilling conversations with grown-ups.
Roger walks over to the Old House to apologize to Barnabas for David’s recent break-in, and then halfway through the scene, it pretty much falls to pieces. It’s one of those good old-fashioned slow-motion disasters that make watching Dark Shadows such an invigorating experience.
Roger tells Barnabas that David is obsessed with the idea that there’s something spooky in the Old House basement. Barnabas starts to stammer, which is always the sign that he’s about to get script-adjacent.
Sure enough, within a couple sentences, he’s saying “uh” after every few words, and directing panicky looks at the teleprompter. Roger, like a true professional, just pretends that everything is fine, and makes no attempt to resuscitate.
At this point, the director makes the unusual decision to go in for a tight close-up on the actor who’s in visible distress.
Roger: Sarah appeared to him last night in the middle of the night, which, of course, provoked his coming here this afternoon.
Barnabas: Well… oh. What did that mean?
Roger: She supposedly warned him to stay away from this house. There’s danger here for him, she said.
Barnabas: That was… Well.
He turns away, frantically searching the prompter for a reasonable on-ramp back into the conversation.
Barnabas: What else did she say?
Roger: That’s all she said, as far as I know.
Barnabas: Of course. It…
At this point, you can hear people walking around in the studio, and the squeak of a door. It sounds like the crew have decided that this scene is a mess, and they might as well leave early and beat the rush hour traffic.
Barnabas pivots again, and makes another random stab at a line: “It must have been a dream!”
“Of course it was a dream,” Roger sighs, skipping a page or two ahead in his mind. “He’s had a succession of nightmares. One of them was about you.”
Yeah, no kidding, Barnabas says. I think I’m living it, right now.
He starts lighting some candles, because it’s always nice to keep yourself occupied while you’re figuring out what to say.
Barnabas: The legends of Collinwood… seem to have affected his mind. Perhaps he should be sent to a special school, where he would get special… care… and attention.
He turns toward Roger as he’s lighting the fourth candle, and it doesn’t catch.
Barnabas: At least… until these… hallucinations are gone.
So he still can’t remember his lines, plus now he’s holding something that’s on fire. This isn’t going in a positive direction.
Back at Collinwood, Dr. Woodard has a scene with David that goes on approximately forever, and then he goes downstairs to report back to the grown-ups.
Woodard: Physically, he’s fine.
Roger: And mentally?
Woodard: I’m not sure. Roger, it’s just possible — barely possible — that David isn’t imagining these things that have been happening to him.
Roger: How is it possible?
Woodard: Well… I can’t explain what I mean. All I can say is that I find everything David tells me strange, but interesting. Extremely interesting!
So, that’s great; now they have to find a new doctor. Nothing’s going right today.
To wrap up, here comes Sarah Collins, the Chromakey Kid. She’s got a Haunted Mansion-style blue-green spotlight today, and it looks fantastic, actually.
She appears in David’s room, and tells him that he should stay away from the basement in the Old House. Now, the only reason he even cares about this is because of the dream he had last week, where she showed him the coffin in the Old House basement. She keeps showing up and telling him secrets, and then getting mad because he talks to people about ghosts and secrets. He’s getting some seriously mixed signals.
And then she’s got a whole new ghost secret for him to not tell people about — a wooden toy soldier that she wants him to keep nearby. This is yet another ghost prop; she seems to have access to an unlimited number of spectral antiques.
Sarah disappears, and then we’re pretty much back where we started. Ta-da!
Tomorrow: Safe? Safe!
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Roger’s in the foyer when he hears David upstairs screaming for help. Instead of going up the stairs to his son’s room, he goes into the drawing room and asks Liz, “What is it?”
The camera wobbles noticeably as Barnabas invites Roger to sit down.
David has some pronoun trouble when he talks to Dr. Woodard: “She told me something that surprised me a lot — that Willie Loomis is innocent. She told me that she didn’t do anything that she was supposed to have done.”
There’s a dialogue flub when Sarah gives the toy soldier to David:
Sarah: It used to belong to someone.
Sarah: Someone who played with it, a long time ago.
David: Sarah, I promise I’ll keep this.
Sarah: I want you to promise that you’ll keep it, and not give it away.
David: Yeah, I will keep it. It’s really keen, Sarah.
Tomorrow: Safe? Safe!
— Danny Horn