“Loathsome I am, and evil. You can mock me for that, but leave my pain alone.”
Okay, it’s all blowing up. Dr. Woodard knows everything! He stole Julia’s notebook, and he’s read all about her experiments. Now Barnabas appears in Woodard’s office to confront him, and Julia’s there too, with a hypodermic needle full of blue look-like-a-heart-attack poison.
You know, there’s a better than average chance that something might actually happen today. This time I mean it.
But more importantly — Joe Caldwell’s back! This episode marks an important turning point for the show, so it’s good that we’ve got one of the best writers working on it.
If you haven’t been following the shakeup on the writing team, here’s a quick recap. There’s usually a three-person team writing the show. Malcolm Marmorstein was fired in August, and by now it’s mid-October. The other two writers — Ron Sproat and Gordon Russell — have been struggling a bit. The pace of the show has picked up considerably, and they’re burning through story a lot faster than they used to, with big cliffhangers every Friday.
So Joe Caldwell is here to fill in for two weeks, while they hire a permanent replacement. Caldwell is a New York playwright who worked on Dark Shadows for a couple of months before Gordon Russell joined, and he wrote some of the best episodes we’ve seen so far, including the “Exit Strategy” episode and Julia’s introduction.
So with Caldwell filling in, we’ve got a strong writer who’s done great work on the show, but doesn’t have any real investment in what’s going to happen two weeks from now. Let’s see how that goes.
To kick off, we’ve got a little game of supernatural chicken. Apparently, ABC doesn’t want the show to use the word “vampire”, even though this has been a full-time spook show for four months and counting. Caldwell pokes the bear a little.
Woodard: Are you going to kill me?
Barnabas: You’ve given us no alternative.
Woodard: For a moment, I was afraid I had.
Barnabas: What do you mean?
Woodard: Death wasn’t my worst fear. I prefer death to…
Barnabas: To what? Say it!
Woodard: You know to what!
Barnabas: Say it! I dare you!
Woodard: To being something like you are — something loathsome and evil!
Barnabas: Tell me more!
Woodard: I’d prefer anything rather than becoming… the undead.
So close! Woodard fumbles on the five-yard line.
Okay, so they can’t say the word yet, but Caldwell unearths something new.
Woodard: My only regret, Barnabas, is that I won’t live to be able to destroy you.
Barnabas: I see. So you’ve read the notes! Then you realize I have the power to turn you into something not unlike myself.
Wow, they haven’t gone here before. They alluded to this power during Maggie’s abduction story — Willie even built a coffin for the new “Josette” — but this is the first time Barnabas has threatened to turn someone into a vampire just for pissing him off.
Then Julia makes kind of a complicated suggestion.
Julia: Barnabas, if my experiments are successful, we can undo all the harm.
Woodard: Please, Julia.
Julia: But that way he wouldn’t have to kill you.
Woodard: I don’t want to live if it has to be that way.
So — okay, wow. It’s a little unclear, but it sounds to me like Julia is suggesting that Barnabas turn Woodard into a vampire — or at least a half-dead blood-slave, like Willie was — and then she can reverse it when she figures out the cure.
This makes sense to Julia, because she’s an alchemist, and she believes that the experiment she’s working on is both a material cure and a spiritual one. If Barnabas can be cured, then he can also be redeemed, and that redemption can extend to his followers and assorted victims.
But it’s still the weirdest possible suggestion that anyone has ever made. She’s basically live-tweeting her ongoing grief process.
Woodard shoots down the idea, and makes a startling suggestion of his own.
Woodard: Barnabas, if you make me into something like yourself, I swear I’ll find a way to destroy myself. But first, I’ll find a way to let people know what you are.
Barnabas: You believe that your free will would remain after my little treatment?
Woodard: Yes. Enough of it will remain. Enough of yours remains. If you chose, Barnabas, you could destroy yourself. You certainly could turn yourself in.
Woodard: No, of course you won’t. But you could. And I would.
And boom goes the dynamite.
Because that suggestion — that Barnabas has a choice, and he could choose not to hurt people — challenges everything that we’ve seen over the last few months. We’ve been seeing things from the vampire’s point of view, as he swats away one threat after another. But it’s been a long time since anyone’s suggested that he could just stop trying to cover up his crimes at any cost.
This is essentially a rejection of the “reluctant vampire” excuse, because for all his emo posturing, we never have any reason to believe that Barnabas is unable to stop. He doesn’t seem to have any built-in timetable for when he gets hungry — the one time he’s attacked a girl recently, Willie accused him of doing it because he felt scared.
In fact, Barnabas was bragging a couple months ago that “I have certain distinct advantages” over an ordinary man. He thinks he’s better than people. This is not reluctant. This is self-absorbed.
That’s why this moment is seen as a turning point in the show’s development. It’s not because we lose the beloved Dr. Woodard, and his unique take on life in Collinsport. Woodard is just one of the guys that stands around and speculates; most of the things he says are completely interchangeable with Burke, or Sam, or Sheriff Patterson.
No, this is an important moment because Joe Caldwell has come back after a few months away, and he’s noticed how far the show has drifted from any connection to human values. This is his critique of what Dark Shadows has become, and his challenge for the future.
When Julia takes the hypodermic from her purse, Woodard is horrified.
Woodard: Doctor Hoffman. One of the brightest, and — I thought — bravest doctors I’ve ever known.
Woodard: So much good you could have done. The lives you could have saved, Julia! The suffering you could have helped!
When Dr. Woodard was first introduced, he was supposed to be the Van Helsing character, tracking down the undead creature who’d been snacking on the locals and knocking some wood through its heart.
But the vampire was popular, so that storyline was postponed, and ultimately Julia was brought in as the substitute Van Helsing. And now Woodard can see that the Van Helsing figure has turned into a cringing Renfield, and all he can feel is contempt.
Julia: I can’t!
Barnabas: You no longer have a choice.
Julia: He’s my friend!
Barnabas: You no longer have friends.
Woodard: He’s right. You no longer have any friends, Julia.
It’s rock solid. I told you Caldwell was good. He doesn’t get this kind of material to work with all the time, but at the moment, he’s the writer who can take a dramatic conflict like this and just knock it out of the park.
Finally, Barnabas gets impatient and grabs the needle. But just before he’s about to finish the job, Woodard cries, “Sarah!” and points over toward the corner.
And it works! Only for a moment, but it’s long enough for him to make a mad dash for the door.
Barnabas grabs Woodard, and pushes him up against the door.
Barnabas: Is she here?
Julia: No. No one is here.
Barnabas: You dare mention her name to me?
And he stabs Woodard in the shoulder. The doctor crumples to the floor.
Barnabas looks down at his fallen enemy, and delivers one of the best lines he’ll ever get.
Barnabas: Loathsome I am, and evil. But leave my pain alone.
Oh, it’s lovely. High drama, at 3:30 in the afternoon.
They’re digging themselves into a hole right now, and it’s going to be hard to climb out. The two most popular characters on the show have just murdered a guy in cold blood, on screen, and he tells them exactly what he thinks of them before he goes.
But that line holds the key to redemption — not just for Barnabas, but for the whole show. When the new writing team assembles, three weeks from now, “leaving Barnabas’ pain alone” is the exact opposite of what they’ll do.
They’re going dig into that pain in stunning detail. And that’s how they save the show.
Tomorrow: Shadow of the Bat.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Julia walks around Woodard’s desk to approach Barnabas, you can see a boom mic dip into the shot for a moment.
Barnabas has a nice mysterious Fridspeak line: “You were a little less efficient than I expected, but you were fine, considering our entire success.”
At the Blue Whale, Sam points out the clear silhouette of a bat hovering right outside the window. Sheriff Patterson looks right at it from a few inches away, and says, “What, what?” as if he can’t see it.
When Sam and the Sheriff find Woodard’s body in his office, the Sheriff picks up the phone and says, “Operator, give me the hospital; this is the Sheriff.” Isn’t this the hospital? In episode 236, this office set is clearly a room in the Collinsport Hospital.
Tomorrow: Shadow of the Bat.
Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967
— Danny Horn
35 thoughts on “Episode 341: The Night of the Doctor”
This is such a grim episode, even by DS’ standards, and I applaud your recognition of what it means for the show and the characters. Dr. Woodard was a force for good, albeit an ineffectual one (as so many of the virtuous are here in the DS universe), and his death marks a turning point in particular for Julia. She thought she could master and even cure evil. Now her hands are as bloody as Barnabas’, and the audience can never look at her the same way again.
One of things I love about this blog is because it is just as you say, MP. AND it is all-original, not a mere repeat of ‘things picked up on teh innerwebz.’
Now that Julia has added accessory to murder to her list of experiment-related felonies, (actually, based on my extensive LAW AND ORDER viewing, this is probably still Murder 1 for her, even if she didn’t insert the hypodermic. She prepared it. She was in on the plan from the start and even prevented Dave from escaping when he’d distracted Barnabas with the Sarah fake-out), I still wonder what she ultimately hoped to gain.
She tells Dave about the benefit her experiments could have on “medical science.” Is vampirism an epidemic requiring a cure? In 291, she talks about eliminating death. Is her plan to “cure” only the negatives of Barnabas’s condition (bloodlust, aversion to sunlight) but keep the positives (immortality, ability to turn into rubber bat on a string)? And since, great doctor she is, she never asked how Barnabas became a vampire, I don’t know how she plans to cure death by giving other people the “good parts” of his condition.
There’s also the problem that she could never tell people what she did without exposing Barnabas and her host of criminal activities.
But it’s not really about making sense. As you note, Julia is an alchemist — it’s best to look at the cure on a metaphorical level. And when you do that, you can see that her choosing Barnabas and the cure over Woodard and morality is basically her choosing love and passion over rationality.
So good! I love your analysis.
After a few busy weeks, I’m finally able to dive back in… And what a wonderful analysis to come back to. It’s interesting, because even as I’m reading your excellent thoughts on the moral quandaries faced by DS characters, I’m talking to others about similar situations in modern soaps in general, and General Hospital in particular.
Of course, they cannot tell what would happen ahead, because imagine what it would be like after Woodard tells Barnabas that he could turn himself in and Barnabas answered “I did. I was willing to die. Instead I was tortured for two hundred years, chained in that coffin.”
Which would give a different slant in Barnabas’ doing anything not to get caught.. Anything not to end up chained in that coffin again… Of couse, the question is how come he is not a complete vegetable when he comes out….
But then, the writers could not know that.
Still, as you say, people remember this death, and chafe that it was not resolved. It helped that it was Peter Turgeon and not Gerringer. There are those who say that had it been Gerringer, they would not have been so willing to forgive Barnabas…. But they would have kept watching.
So, this was a plot point that was forgotten in the years ahead, though fan fiction writers can do their bit
You mentioned a few days ago that it was odd to see Julia suddenly act as if she was in love with Barnabas. I think it was partly because in the late 1960’s the writers could not quite wrap their minds around a female doctor killing for science. But a woman killing because she was in love? That made sense.
I have seen this four times (when it was show, during the syndication when you saw it, on ScyFy twice) each time I tell myself that I can not believe that I could ever forgive Barnabas. Then I do every time after the 1795 story.
awesome analysis. thank you. enjoying these so much!!!
Damn…that is a fantastic recap! I’m stuck at episode 301 on Hulu right now, trying to find my way through the Vicki dream house crap. This recap is like a light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait!
Dark episode on “Dark Shadows.” Very good — only distraction were the poor scenes with the sheriff and Sam.
I am new to Dark Shadows — I started watching at episode 209 (when Barnabas first appears) and I just finished episode 341. I think this was one of the great episodes, almost as good as the one when Maggie escapes.
I plan to watch the entire series right up until the end and then watch episodes 1 thru 208. Would it have been better if I had started right from episode 1 instead?
If you’re enjoying the show, then you should keep on watching it. There’s a lot of really good stuff coming up very soon.
This idea that you have to watch a TV show from the first episode is actually a modern invention of DVDs and streaming. In 1967, especially on daytime soap operas, you start watching whenever you start. Nobody expected you to go back and start over, because there was literally no way that anybody could do that. So don’t worry about it; just enjoy the show. 🙂
It does seem to be a turn for the worse in Julia’s character but now she and Barnabas are joined at the evil. I wish I could agree with believing that Caldwell did have a vision of how he thought this should all play out, but all of the interviews I’ve scene of the creative forces behind the scenes make me believe this was all just kind of worked out as they went along, probably based on ratings.
Damn, that was good. Uncomfortable, but good. It’s just three people in a room, but it’s riveting. I can’t help but wonder how much better past, slow-moving storylines would have been with a few Caldwell scripts thrown in the mix.
I’m still waiting for that epiphanic moment when Barnabas becomes even slightly likeable – he’s sure as hell interesting, but at this point I just cannot see how he ever becomes the hero character I know he ends up being. The line about leaving his pain alone is great – but he’s saying it to the body of the guy he’s just killed, which drains any sympathy it might have otherwise garnered.
Conversely, I really feel for Julia right now. I feel like I’m watching a strong, independent person getting sucked into an abusive relationship they didn’t realize they were getting into, and that they’re powerless to escape; when she tries to resist, saying she can’t kill her friend… It’s heart-wrenching.
And, once again, the dodgy realisation of an ambitious cliffhanger is redeemed by a perfect do-over in the teaser! Just like the episode where Barnabas comes into Maggie’s room for a snack, they nail his appearance in Woodard’s office the second time around. It’s a pity we don’t get to see this version in colour.
Undead at last! It has been roughly 150 episodes or whatever since Dr. Peter Guthrie used the word. So they did not use the word “vampire.” As I have said, undead is the word that David was trying to find and couldn’t. Finally, Woodard got it.
I was very upset by this episode and the previous episode when I first watched them, because (1) Barnabas takes a turn for the extremely cruel, forcing Julia to do the one thing she said she wouldn’t for…what? Why does he do this to her? Misery loves company? He’s teaching her a lesson? He put on his extra-evil shoes when he got up?
Then, (2) Julia, the smartest, sharpest, strongest character on the show suddenly gets weak and prone to falling into plot holes. Her moral decline could have had a more graceful, satisfying arc. Here, it takes an immediate plunge for fairly arbitrary reasons. She thinks Barnabas’ unmasking will be her own downfall? She can’t lie her way out of that one? “The ghoul made me do it!” – It’s just that simple.
And (3), the vampire in this vampire show I’m watching is FINALLY going to kill someone, but he requires a poison to do it and even then tries to force someone else to do the killing. Isn’t killing in his nature? Doesn’t he crave blood? I feel like I’ve been craving one type of horror/suspense from this show forever, and they decided to deliver something else, something darker, something that was just naked cruelty – not so interesting.
BUT – after a couple of weeks, I re-watched these with a friend, and knowing what was going to happen, I enjoyed them much more. What’s happening doesn’t make a lot of sense plot-wise, but once they decided to do it, this execution was great, the dialogue was interesting, and it was a million times better than watching Vicky do anything with Burke.
This is low point for Julia and Barnabas as they are both full of themselves. The next low is the experiments.
This is a great episode. Does Barnabas remind you of the character Louis (played by Brad Pitt) from “Interview with a Vampire”? Louis was a reluctant vampire, too. Both vampires are tragic and romantic. Did Anne Rice watch “Dark Shadows”? Just thinking!?
Sheriff: (on seeing Dr. Woodard) “Do you remember exactly how long ago?”
Sam: “About three whiskeys ago.”
And what is Sam’s mentality. He had his daughter kidnapped for months, he gets worried about the doctor in a few minutes, but someone screams outside and, while everyone else runs out, he puffs his pipe nonchalantly!
This Dr. Woodard seems to have a hard time remembering what Maggie’s prescription was. I know, he’s flustered and preoccupied and all that, but I kept waiting for him to burst out to Sam, “Dammit, how should I know, I’m literally an entire different person now!”
When Sam and the new Sheriff break into the office and see Dr. Woodard sitting in his chair – this had to be some of the worst acting in the show up to this point. They were just wallowing all over that crime scene. I think the actor who plays Sam is actually the worst one on the show, but a bit more skilled at fudging his lines… It was so bad, I may have to watch it again!
This is hands-down the worst Sheriff Patterson. BTW, those bat squeaks are preposterous – bats don’t squeak.
After weeks-long build up and the scene we all know is coming, when it finally arrives, alas, drops ker-plunk into the dramatic abyss of nothingness. It’s a shame, really, because the murder comes off as a lackluster affair. A scuffle at the door as the good Doctor Woodward tries to escape, and Barnabas blocks, shoves the Windex needle (awesome, Danny!) and then Dave slumps to the floor and it’s over.
There are so many ways they could have done in him that would have been more interesting. And if Barnabas does require fresh blood all the time, I would think that that would definitely have been a consideration. We haven’t had discussions about bite marks in a long time, for that matter, we haven’t seen any bite marks since Maggie. At some point, they really do need to lock down the Rules of the Road as it regards vampirism, and I don’t know when the word actually gets uttered for the first time, but there had better be a big-time dramatic sting waiting behind it.
Still, the moral quandaries presented to Julia to really rub it in are fascinating. Barnabas is definitely taking a victory lap in the post-murder dialogue. And Julia’s continuing to hear, “you have no friends anymore,” echo in her consciousness is an attempt to present her with a Freudian kind of psychosis moment of regret and shame.
The Barnabas “loathsome” line is a great moment of sheer, unadulterated melodrama 101.
And then to have to cut to The Blue Whale for the next scene seems criminal in itself. The reappearance of The Bat (not just a ride at Kings Island anymore) seems sophomoric and incongruous (again no real rules have been established for The Bat, so we don’t really know what powers it possesses).
I agree with Danny, the Caldwell writing is solid when the principle actors are on screen. But when the supporting cast shows up, as seen here today with Sam and Sheriff Patterson, things really come off hackneyed and scattershot. I wish Sam would smoking so frenetically and maybe he just needs to be shipped off to a rehab somewhere. Alcoholism storylines become big on soaps a little later, like THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and ALL MY CHILDREN. Sam would have been a great “tortured artist” type to send to Betty Ford for treatment.
This is the real Barnabas – self-centered, cruel, sarcastic, remorseless. The part where he sneeringly baits Woodard (“Say it! I dare you!”) is melodramatic villainy at its best. If only they could’ve continued with this characterization…
Turgeon did a much better job with his scenes than I would have expected based on his few previous performances. Still, it’s a shame Gerringer couldn’t have finished the story arc.
Barnabas is careful to make Julia remove from the crime scene her Windex syringe and red notebook, but he leaves his fingerprints on the desk and the doorknob. Also, we’ve previously seen that the only item in one of Dave’s desk drawers is Julia’s list of vampire-curing supplies from the medical warehouse. If the Sheriff searches Dave’s office, won’t he find that list, wonder if it’s important and learn about the experiment that way? Julia should have taken that list with her, too.
What else is on Woodard’s desk? If he’d realized Barnabas was a vampire, shouldn’t Dave have grabbed two test tubes or rulers or pencils or two long, thin somethings to try to ward off Barnabas with a makeshift cross? It might not have worked, but he should at least have tried.
Did Sam and the Sheriff even check the doorknob of Dave’s office to see if it were unlocked? It looked to me as though they rapped on the door and then moved directly to breaking it down without ascertaining if the door was unlocked.
The Sheriff cancels his call for an ambulance simply on Sam’s say-so that Woodard is already dead. Seriously? Why does the Sheriff believe that the town drunk is qualified to make that determination? Shouldn’t a doctor, not an inebriated painter, examine the body before they write Dave off as a goner?
I don’t mean to pick on Sam, but: what a hypocrite! He makes fun of women who get hysterical when they see a bat on the docks, but he gets all worked up, too, just seeing a bat on the other side of a glass window.
Good points. Sam is ridiculous.
They just showed this on Decades yesterday, and I had forgotten how mind bendingly dark this episode is, even in comparison to some of the Maggie/Josette episodes. The thing that puzzles me about Barnabas’ behavior here isn’t that he’s cruel and sadistic — we’ve seen him be both before — but how gratuitous his cruelty and sadism towards Julia is. When he beats Willie or puts Maggie in the coffin or cell, if you ask, “What does Barnabas accomplish (or at least, think he accomplishes) by doing this?” there’s a clear answer. I’m not sure what he thinks he has to gain by aggressively rubbing Julia’s face in how morally compromised she is — especially given that Willie isn’t around, and in a couple hours he’ll be helpless in his coffin and totally at Julia’s mercy.
When my husband saw this episode, he turned to me and asked, “Your mother let you watch this?” Well, some of the earliest memories I have of tv are her soap operas where murder and adultery were standard plotlines. So, yes. The difference with Dark Shadows is that they get away with it.
I really did not remember this episode and it may have been that I missed it. It may also be that I blocked it from my mind. If it had been the original Dr. Woodard I think it would have been worse, though this is really hard to watch. I still remember how upset I was when Dr. Guthrie was killed by Laura Collins. This is worse because I was a big Julia fan and it’s hard to see her do this. At the time, of course, we didn’t know that she wouldn’t be caught and punished. That was what usually happened to murderers on soaps.
I wonder when the decision to kill off Dave was made? When Gerringer refused to cross the picket line? (Spoilers) Vicki gets her happy ending destroyed when Moltke won’t return. One apparently does not cross Dan Curtis.
Your husband’s comment cracked me up. I used to watch this after school and no one noticed anything. I am watching on library DVD’s and reading the posts first.
My mother actually discovered the program and had my sister and me watch! We were 14 and 10 at the time. I can’t tell you how many times watching it now, I’ve called my sister and asked her if I had nightmares watching back then!! I was 10!
Is this what causes Julia to chop her hair off, like Joan of Arc?
Extra points to Joe Caldwell for all the moral complexity he managed to work into 15 minutes of a character facing death at the hands of a vampire – excuse me, an undead person – and his best friend, who has presumably taken the Hippocratic oath. It had some of the air of the best Twilight Zone episodes when Rod Serling took on moral questions in tight, two- or three-character scenes.
Of course, all that cerebral intensity goes out the window when the Hardly Boys, Sam and the Sheriff, show up at Woodard’s office. In the same situation, Barney Fife would come off looking like Sherlock Holmes next to them.
As for the murderers – sorry, Julia, plural – watching them after the deed was like seeing a riff on Macbeth where Barnabas got all of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s ambition and aggression and Julia got all of both Macbeths’ guilt, right down to seeing and hearing ghosts that no one else can. A little remorse from Barnabas would have been nice, but his sneering jabs at Julia was completely in line with the bleakness of this episode. Now, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…
Yes, this episode was dark and I was loving every minute of it! I have been wanting Barnabas to get rid of Woodard for weeks. Since the busybody, crabby faced, gullible good doctor started investigating and invading peoples homes at all hours of the night, I have personally wanted to punch him in the face (Burke too). All these self righteous characters are fair game for Barnabas.
He’s a vampire for cryin out loud! All these people are measuring him by human standards, forgetting that there’s not much human left in him. Survival is key and he is going to use the tools he has to stave off extinction. Very few animals or humans are going to choose to destroy themselves, especially for vague noble reasons. The dialogue was brilliant and JF delivered it masterfully. When he is on screen, it’s almost impossible to look at anyone else.
I think the “reluctant vampire” thing is a post-1795 retcon. There is very little of it early on except for his “Why didn’t you protect me?” speech to Josette’s portrait in an early episode.
Caldwell really brings some fire to Barnabas, goading Woodard on. And I thought of Macbeth, too, Robert.
This is about my sixth? time watching these early episodes and I never find scenes with Barnabas and Julia boring. Pre-1795 is my favorite period of the show. Yes, it’s uneven and eventually the writers reach a point where they just have to stop time and reboot the relationship, but Frid is at his best when he’s playing Barnabas as a villain, I think. You can’t pin down Julia’s character anymore than you can pin down her area of medical expertise. She’s always doing unexpected things. (Who would have anticipated her offering to cure Barnabas? Or helping him murder Dave?) This is possibly the period where it best earns a reputation as a horror show and they do it so well that it stands up to multiple repeat viewings.
The question of whether Woodard’s office is in the hospital or not is a valid one, I think, but we actually don’t see it in episode 236 as you suggest, Danny. All the hospital scenes in that episode are in the hallway outside Maggie’s room or in Maggie’s room. We’ll have to look back at other episodes to see if there are any where his office is clearly in the hospital.