Episode 337: Time to Kill

“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.

337 dark shadows woodard books

But here comes a vaguely familiar face — the recently-recast Dr. Woodard. In yesterday’s episode, Woodard talked to the ghost of Sarah Collins, and now he’s on the trail of the deadly secret hidden in the basement of the Old House.

So he’s come here, wherever this is, to talk to this old guy, whoever he turns out to be.

337 dark shadows caretaker woodard surprise

The old guy shuffles back in, holding another book, and Woodard says, “Good evening.” The man registers surprise.

Old guy:  Who are you, and what are you doing here?

Woodard:  We met once, at the Eagle Hill cemetery.

Old guy:  Eagle Hill?

Woodard:  Yes, I was on my way to the Collins mausoleum.

Old guy:  Oh, yes. I remember.

So this is the crazy old caretaker that Woodard met last month. He’s a recast, too; it’s been a weird week.

You see, in September 1967, there was a strike against ABC from the broadcast technicians’ union, and the actors had to cross the picket line to appear on the show. To keep the show on the air, executive producer Dan Curtis offered to personally pay the fines imposed by the actors’ union.

But two actors wouldn’t cross the picket line, and had to be replaced — Daniel Keyes, who played the caretaker, and Robert Gerringer, who played Dr. Woodard.

337 dark shadows caretaker woodard thespians

So, looking at these two, let’s think for a moment about the time and expense that the show has taken — casting two new actors with no notice, paying $3,500 in union fines just for Woodard, and building this weird new “cemetery archives” set — all of that work, just so these two thespians can appear in this action-packed thrill ride of a scene.

Oh, and by the way — “We met once at the Eagle Hill cemetery”? That implies that the building they’re currently inhabiting isn’t in the cemetery. So where the hell are we?

337 dark shadows caretaker woodard curse

Dr. Woodard says, “You told me that there was a curse on the Collins family tomb. Do you remember?”

The caretaker probably doesn’t remember, but it sounds like the kind of thing that he’d say, so he goes along with it.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t know what the curse is. He says, “No one living can tell you why there is a curse on the Collins’ family tomb. Only the dead can do that. Only the dead.” And then he wanders off to the other side of the set.

337 dark shadows caretaker woodard dead

Over here, there’s stone columns, and more untidy heaps of books. What’s going on with these books, by the way? It looks like a pack of timberwolves came through here several decades ago, and the place never really recovered. Doesn’t the caretaker ever clean up the books, and put them away? What’s he been doing down here all this time?

Woodard, bless him, keeps trying to communicate.

Woodard:  You said that Joshua Collins had written something about the curse in a family journal.

Caretaker:  Yes, that’s true.

Woodard:  Is it still here?

Caretaker:  Somewhere, in the family archives. I haven’t looked at it for years.

Well, take your time, I guess. We’re already four minutes into the episode; it’s too late to turn back.

337 dark shadows woodard caretaker wolves

Woodard says that it’s important — he needs to see the records of the Collins family.

Caretaker:  It’ll take some time for me to get them all. The Collins’ records have not been disturbed for many, many years.

Woodard:  You take all the time you need. I’ll wait.

Yeah, evidently. And then there’s another 45 seconds of silently shuffling around and touching books.

337 dark shadows caretaker columns

The problem, really, is that the writers are running out of juice. Dark Shadows usually has a three-person team writing the episodes, but two months ago, Malcolm Marmorstein was fired, and he hasn’t been replaced yet. Ron Sproat and Gordon Russell have been trading off consecutive sets of five episodes apiece, and it’s got to be wearing them down.

They’ll get some temporary relief next week from Joe Caldwell, who comes back every once in a while to write a few episodes. But they need a third writer on the team. There are only so many caretaker scenes that you can do before the audience starts to investigate other entertainment options.

337 dark shadows caretaker reads

But this is a Gordon Russell episode, and Russell always tries his best. Here, he takes the opportunity to flesh out a little more of Barnabas’ backstory. Once the caretaker’s found the right book, it has some interesting information.

The caretaker reads aloud: “Sarah Collins, age ten, a child of singular cheer and enduring virtue. Departed this life after sickening with a fever. Deeply mourned by mother, father, and grieving brother.”

It doesn’t mention how much she loved singing “London Bridge”, but maybe that was a post-mortem development.

337 dark shadows caretaker woodard reading

Woodard finds another reference: “It says here that ‘Barnabas Collins suddenly went away to England, after surviving a brief siege of the fever which did most seriously deprive him of his strength and alter his personality.'”

Then he says, “It’s strange that both he and his sister were afflicted by the fever,” which is a very odd thing to say, especially for a doctor. Why would it be unusual that two members of a family had the same illness? I believe that’s fairly common; it’s called a contagious disease.

They finish the story — after Barnabas went away, his father ordered the mausoleum to be built in the Eagle Hill cemetery, separated from the other Collins graves. Barnabas went to England, and never returned.

And that, sorta-kinda, is the story that we see later on, with some tweaks to the timing of events.

337 dark shadows david woodard belief

Anyway, Woodard finally tears himself away from the dangerous charisma of the Eagle Hill caretaker, and visits David at Collinwood. He reassures David that he believes everything the boy said about Barnabas and Sarah.

David is delivering a rock-solid performance, especially in this moment:

David:  Do you think that Barnabas is…

Woodard:  Is what, David?

David looks down.

David:  … dead?

Woodard:  I don’t know. The thought of what he might be frightens me as much as it did you.

It’s good. Woodard is quietly hollering as usual, but the ten-year-old is selling this whole crazy situation.

337 dark shadows david woodard red shirt

And then Woodard makes a shocking rookie mistake.

Woodard:  David, I want you to promise me one thing.

David:  What is it?

Woodard:  That you won’t tell anyone about our talk tonight. I want it to be our secret, until I can get some more proof.

So there you have it; he’s doomed. He might as well say, “Let’s split up,” or “Don’t you worry, nothing’s going to happen to me.”

David:  Dr. Woodard, you’ll be very careful, won’t you? I wouldn’t want anything terrible to happen to you.

Woodard:  Don’t you worry, David. Nothing’s going to happen to me.

Oh, man. How redshirt can you get?

337 dark shadows barnabas woodard sister

Then Dr. Woodard goes over to the Old House to visit Barnabas, just to make sure that he’s the undisputed front-runner for America’s Next Vampire Victim.

He doesn’t really have any questions for Barnabas; he just sits down in an armchair and makes oddly-phrased observations, like “Perhaps part of the terror that David feels for you, and the fear, might stem from the remarkable resemblance to the original Barnabas Collins.”

Barnabas finally gets exasperated, and tells Woodard to leave. Woodard pauses, and then — in a move that would clearly have been a Columbo reference if it wasn’t for the fact that Columbo premiered four months later — he says, “I saw your sister Sarah tonight.”

Barnabas visibly starts. Collecting himself, he says, “You know as well as I do that I have no sister.”

Woodard smirks. “I might have been wrong,” he admits. “I thought she said ‘sister’. Maybe what she really said was ‘ancestor’.”

And then he sh-booms out the door like a diva. Dude is not long for this world.

337 dark shadows barnabas columbo

Meanwhile, out in the real world, they find a new writer.

Sometime around this period, Grayson Hall throws a party at her midtown apartment, to celebrate going back into production after the strike. At the party, Dan Curtis meets Grayson’s husband Sam, a playwright who, several years earlier, had written for the CBS soap The Brighter Day.

Curtis says that Dark Shadows needs another writer, and he offers Sam the job. Sam knows not to take a job offer too seriously, if it’s two in the morning and everyone’s drunk, so he tells Curtis to call him the next day and make the offer again. Curtis does, and Sam takes the job.

And so — in a strange, unpredictable chain of events — the technicians’ strike inspires the party, the party introduces Dan Curtis and Sam Hall, and Curtis hires Sam to replace Malcolm Marmorstein.

And then Sam Hall saves the show. Really, he does. Just wait and see.

Tomorrow: Think Like a Woman.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Dr. Woodard has the largest share of the dialogue in this episode, and he stumbles several times, including:

I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for, and what I’m doing here, but — well, I just know that… I’m reasonably sure that… well, that, uh, I’m reasonably sure that the — the secret of the Collins mausoleum has some bearing on some crimes that have been committed around here recently.

Well, David’s never given you any reason to… he’s never given any reason… you’ve never given him any reason, rather, to hate him. Have you?

He felt that perhaps part of the — the terror that David feels for you, and the fear, might stem from the remarkable resemblance to the original Barnabies Collins. (sic)

You can hear someone in the studio coughing during the caretaker/Woodard scene, just after Woodard asks the caretaker about Joshua Collins’ journal.

When Barnabas sits down in his armchair, one of the candles in the candelabrum next to him falls onto the table.

Behind the Scenes:

Last week, Julia’s description of a picture of a little boy and little girl implied that Barnabas and Sarah were close in age, and that he was a young boy when Sarah died. The backstory that Woodard and the caretaker uncover in today’s episode establishes that Sarah died around the same time that Barnabas became a vampire — so he must have been a grown man when she was a ten-year-old. This revised backstory is the one that’s used in the 1795 flashback.

Peter Murphy, the replacement actor for the Caretaker, begins a run of stand-in appearances. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see him as a ghost haunting Julia, Burke lying on a bed in Vicki’s dream, and the back of Barnabas’ head.

Tomorrow: Think Like a Woman.

337 dark shadows caretaker hello audience

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 337: Time to Kill

  1. A couple other huge bloopers this time–when Roger and Dr. Woodard look at the portrait of Barnabies (excuse me, Barnabas) in the Collinwood foyer, the camera pans too far to the right and we see the edge of the set. Also, what was going on toward the end when Barnabas and Dr. Woodard are sniping at each other in the Old House? Barnabas stands up and looks down at the good doctor while he berates him and says he’s sick and tired of being investigated and getting slapped in the face. Then all of a sudden he stops talking, and there’s an uncomfortable very long five to ten second silence when nobody says anything. Eventually Dr. Woodard stands up, and the back of his head fills the entire screen. (Then he says out of the blue, “I saw your sister.”)

    1. I thought that was an uncomfortable pause, too. Then I figured that Frid was waiting for nuWoodard to stand up. Bad directing. The camera needed to be further back so you could see Woodard stand up. That way the viewing audience would know something is still happening and that Frid’s image is not a freeze frame (twitches notwithstanding). Or nuWoodard should have picked up his cues faster and stood up with Frid.

      1. That’s karma for you. Humiliate Joan Bennett in one episode for missing a line cue, humiliate Sharon Smythe in another one for the same flub, and eventually it’s going to bite you on the ass when you screw up your own timing and don’t recover during the episode’s Big Confrontation with “Barneybees” Collins.

  2. This set was used a number of times before, first when Vicki brings her then-beau Frank Garner (what ever happened to that romance?) to it, later when Joe, Burke andFrank came to open the various graves of the various Lauras, and later when Laura appeared to the caretaker. The books were a jumble back then, too.

    1. Speaking of Frank…..did they ever explain his departure or did he just disappear after the Laura story? I thought he was better for Vicki…they were both corny smh.

      1. Frank actually left during the Laura story. The spark rekindled between Vicki and Burke, and that was more interesting, so Frank just disappeared and was never mentioned again.

      2. No, Frank Garner’s disappearance was never explained, but the disappearance of Conard Fowkes, the actor, as I understand it is that he jumped ship for a better gig at “The Edge of Night.” I had also read that he was gunning for a contract more like Joan Bennett, where he would basically be paid a salary no matter how many episodes per week he appeared in rather than per episode. That did not sit well with Dan Curtis.

    1. I found myself laughing at the “new” caretaker, because I kept imagining Tim Conway doing his little old man character.

      1. OMG, Robert! If Tim Conway had been playing the caretaker, they might have never made it through the filming on their extremely tight schedule with everyone cracking up!! ;-D

  3. Is there anywhere that’s a burial chamber and a building/library all in one? (And yes, we saw this weird place quite a few times during the Phoenix storyline).

    1. Very weird. I thought those Collins family records would be kept somewhere other than the local cemetary. Like an archive room in that giant mansion.

    1. Jen: agree re: redshirt – very strange image came to mind – Barnabas with a phaser blasting a hole in the middle of the good doctor…

  4. Wait, AFTER Barnabas ‘left’, the mausoleum was built? I thought they were hiding contraband in the secret room during the Revolutionary War.

  5. I must say I appreciated David in his scenes with the good doctor, at least he seems to belong, the actor playing the doctor was flown in, like he was in the break room servicing the coffee machine , someone said we need an actor stat! and this guy said” Hey I always wanted to be an actor, yeah what the hell ! “

  6. Caretaker to Dr. Woodward: “What are you doing here?” Not finding your light, that’s for sure!

  7. oh dear looks like the good Dr. will die by pillow suffocation or strangulation if he keeps poking at the vampire.

  8. Well, what’s really interesting about this era of the show is that at least Sproat and Russell really seem to amp things up since Marmorstein departed. While it is certainly imperfect on a number of levels, I for one really appreciate the cross-cutting between locations, the attempt to ratchet up the plot and bring it to a suitable climax in each episode. This past month or so the show has really become a show where at least SOMETHING happens each and every day. Recapping has taken a back seat to bringing things to a boil.

    Ah, how wonderful all of this would have been had there been a decent Doctor Woodard to take it to the heights it could have gone. While the Caretaker is not necessarily awful, he certainly is bland. And I actually wished they had developed that character more as he would have been an excellent victim for Barnabas to sink his teeth into. Plus he could have provided a lot more historical arcana and lore that would have laid the groundwork for some of the time-shifting that occurs later on.

  9. When Barnabas sits down in his armchair, one of the candles in the candelabrum next to him falls onto the table.

    I thought that was intentional Freudian symbolism.

    Wait, AFTER Barnabas ‘left’, the mausoleum was built? I thought they were hiding contraband in the secret room during the Revolutionary War.

    No, it appears the Eagle Hill Mausoleum wasn’t really built during the Revolutionary War after all. How about that!

    In the opening voice-over, it sounded as though Joan Bennett referenced “the valet of death.” I hoped that meant Willie Loomis might be back in this episode, but apparently it was ‘valley of death.”

    1. The story about the secret room in the mausoleum being used to hide family jewels and ammunition during the Revolutionary War is established later in the 1795 story line.

  10. You can tell that “executives” helmed this episode – witness the out-of-focus camera as Woodard enters the Caretaker’s room, and the poor camerawork at the end of Woodard’s talk with Barnabas.

  11. Sweet Lord, that pause!! You can practically see the flop sweat popping out on Frid’s brow and hear his internal shout of “Stand up, you fool! Stand up! Stand UP!!” He blinks, he twitches his lips two, three, four times. He starts to open his mouth as if to ad lib a line, then Woodard 2.0 finally rises. But that just adds insult to injury, as his head is like the moon doing a total eclipse of the Frid’s sun. Frid has the good sense to see he’s being blocked and like a good actor counters to the left. The camera shot changes, but the damage has been done. You can imagine Frid storming off the set and telling Dan Curtis, “If the writers don’t kill him off, I will!”

    That said, I wonder if the actor playing Woodard 2.0 was solely to blame. Could Frid have dropped a line, thus not giving the replacement actor — who’s already shown he’s a stickler for people getting their lines right — the proper cue? Could he have risen in the right spot but the call to switch cameras was later than it was supposed to be? Maybe it was a perfect storm of errors from multiple sources.

  12. The caretaker’s costume and hairstyle seem like they belong in Teddy Roosevelt’s era rather than the 1960s. I know he’s old but I’m seriously beginning to wonder if he’s one of the Dark Shadows Solid Ghosts, like Sarah. “Only the dead” indeed!

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