“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.
In late September 1967, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians went on strike against ABC. The actors’ union, AFTRA, told their members to honor the strike and not cross the picket lines.
So ABC Studio 16 was dark for over a week, with no end in sight — the union wasn’t even negotiating. Dark Shadows had been taping episodes about two weeks ahead of broadcast, but they were rapidly running through the backlog.
Dark Shadows executive producer Dan Curtis, fearing that a break in broadcast would kill the show’s fragile momentum, asked the cast to cross the picket lines. AFTRA woud impose fines on any actor who broke the strike, but Curtis offered to pay all of the fines personally if they’d come back to work.
Everyone in the cast came back, except for two actors — Robert Gerringer, who played Dr. Woodard, and Daniel Keyes, who played the crazy old cemetery caretaker. They were replaced with different actors, and the show continued, with ABC executives doing the technical work in place of the striking technicians.
This incident is important to the developing story of the show for three reasons.
First, it’s interesting to see how much Curtis and the cast cared about the show, and wanted to make sure that it continued, even at the cost of breaking with the union.
Second, they lost six days of production because of the strike, so this episode was taped only three days ahead of broadcast. That’s crazy close, and if any other problem came up that caused a delay, they’d be off the air. They taped one episode on a Sunday to catch up, and then they stayed about four episodes ahead until the next summer.
Last and pretty much the least, we have a new Dr. Woodard, because Robert Gerringer wouldn’t cross the picket line.
This isn’t him, by the way. This is Dr. Fisher, a psychiatrist who only appears in this episode. He never returns, because we already have enough pointless skinny white guys on the show.
David asks Dr. Fisher if he’s a psychiatrist, and Fisher says, “Yes. Does that word scare you?”
Well, not really, David thinks. I have other things to worry about. A vampire’s trying to murder me, I don’t have a lot of room in my schedule to be startled by occupations.
The scene goes on for several minutes, but I can sum it up in one line.
Dr. Fisher: David, I’d like you to tell me about your dream one more time.
So let’s move on.
Downstairs, we’ve got the new Dr. Woodard. Even with a new face, you can tell it’s the same guy, because he’s doing the thing that Woodards do best, namely: reviewing the case with Burke.
Woodard: Fact number one: when Maggie Evans was found, she was suffering from a very strange neck wound. Fact number two: when Willie Loomis was found, he was suffering from a very similar type neck wound.
Actually, Willie was bitten on the wrist, so this is a continuity error — although the Doctor’s just regenerated, so maybe there’s some residual timey-wimey energy floating around.
Dr. Fisher comes downstairs, and gives his report. It turns out that David is afraid of death.
Fisher: It might just be possible that David has never accepted his mother’s death, and because of this, death is more terrifying to him than it is to most people.
Now, David’s mother died in front of him, only seven months ago, consumed by fire and shrieking for him to join her, so I’d say that’s a mark in the win column for psychiatry.
Dr. Fisher explains his interpretation of David’s fantasies. The “Barnabas” and “Sarah” of David’s dreams are reflections of his ambivalent feelings about mortality.
David’s companion, “Sarah”, is an attempt to make friends with death. The vision of “Barnabas” is his fear of death — sometimes safely locked away in a coffin, but then rising up again, fangs bared to gobble the boy up.
Liz: But why Barnabas?
Fisher: Perhaps there’s something about him — his height, his shape, the shadow he casts — that frightens the boy.
At this point, Dr. Woodard says, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Stoddard, but I’ve got to go somewhere and do something immediately.”
I know just how he feels; if I was at a party with a psychiatrist, I’d probably do the same thing.
And so, in the end, Dr. Dave Woodard — here representing our fear of bland recasts — goes back to the Collins family mausoleum, which represents our fear of the story going in circles and ending up exactly where it was a week ago.
Woodard looks at the names on the stone plaques, which represent the ending credits which will be on the screen thirty seconds from now.
And then he turns — and there’s little Sarah, representing a decent Friday cliffhanger, and the promise of actual story development next week. See you Monday.
Monday: Talk Show.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When they’re sitting on the couch together, Burke addresses Dr. Woodard as “Dr. Hoffman”.
Liz fumbles as she says goodbye to Dr. Woodard.
Liz: Doctor, I want to thank you for all of the time and attention you’ve devoted to David’s problem. Let’s hope that we’re closer to… a situation now than we were before.
Woodard: A solution, I’m sure we are.
In the reprise on Monday, we’ll see that Sarah was supposed to say “Hello, Dr. Woodard,” and then Woodard would turn around in surprise. But Sarah didn’t say anything in the final scene today, so it looks like Woodard turns around for no reason.
Monday: Talk Show.
— Danny Horn