Episode 341: The Night of the Doctor

“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.

341 dark shadows barnabas woodard campbell

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.

341 dark shadows barnabas say it

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?

341 dark shadows woodard undead

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.

341 dark shadows julia all the harm

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.

341 dark shadows woodard please

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.

Barnabas:  Never!

Woodard:  No, of course you won’t. But you could. And I would.

And boom goes the dynamite.

341 dark shadows barnabas woodard boom

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.

341 dark shadows barnabas woodard calls

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.

341 dark shadows julia hypodermic

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.

Julia:  Don’t!

Woodard:  So much good you could have done. The lives you could have saved, Julia! The suffering you could have helped!

341 dark shadows julia hypo

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.

341 dark shadows barnabas woodard look

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.

341 dark shadows barnabas kills woodard

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.

341 dark shadows barnabas loathsome i am

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.

341 dark shadows julia woodard dead

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

19 thoughts on “Episode 341: The Night of the Doctor

  1. 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.

    1. 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.’

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

    1. 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. 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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!?

  12. 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!

  13. 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!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s