Episode 343: The Apparatus

“I wonder what I’ll be like, as a human being?”

Okay, now we’re talking. Right out of the gate today, the first thing we see: dark red liquid bubbling in a glass jar. It’s connected with tubes and wires to a bunch of other equipment, and there’s a grinding motor noise that indicates that there’s some kind of complicated machinery at work.

Backing up a step, we see Dr. Julia Hoffman in a pale blue lab coat, squinting at equipment and making adjustments. She’s in a basement room, with brick walls, exposed timbers and huge cobwebs. The doctor uses a pair of tongs to grab chunks of dry ice, and she drops them into a huge bubbling cauldron.

That cauldron is full of more dark red liquid. It’s a bubbling cauldron of blood. This is mad science, we’re actually watching mad science.

343 dark shadows julia cauldron

And it’s about damn time. They’ve been sitting on this “finding a cure for the vampire” story for a month, just letting it simmer in the background while Barnabas and Julia dealt with one manufactured crisis after another. We spent all that time arguing in the drawing room, and there was a bubbling cauldron of blood downstairs that we didn’t even know about.

343 dark shadows julia barnabas science

Barnabas walks into the room, and Julia turns off the motor. He objects.

Barnabas:  Why did you do that? It was magnificent!

Julia:  I only wanted to test it.

Barnabas:  Well, obviously, it works!

And he’s right — if it’s bubbling and making a noise, then that means it works. He must have taken an elective in mad science.

Julia:  No, there are still a few details to fix.

Barnabas:  But you explained to me previously that it only needed a test to prove that the acids had activated. Well, I’d say that you’ve succeeded admirably… as you always do.

343 dark shadows barnabas julia activated

And he’s right, it is magnificent. Just look at it, bubbling away. Acids are activating all over the place.

But Julia isn’t happy; she doesn’t want to go on with the experiments anymore. She’s done. The other day, she helped Barnabas kill Dr. Woodard, because Woodard had learned about these experiments. A first murder can rattle anyone.

343 dark shadows julia barnabas hope

But it’s too late to turn back; he’s already got a speech prepared.

Barnabas:  I’m sorry, but you’ve given me one irretrievable gift… hope.

He walks a few steps, and strikes a pose.

Barnabas:  The hope of becoming human again. The hope of being able to love, and not destroy. Even the hope itself is a hint of what it must be like to be a human being.

I love this scene. Remember what I said the other day about Joe Caldwell being a great writer? He’s writing four of the episodes this week. Yesterday was the obligatory useless law enforcement episode that they still think they need to have after a murder, but the rest of the week is this: Melodramatic speeches about what it means to be human, delivered by a vampire in his secret basement laboratory.

343 dark shadows julia barnabas change

It’s an impossible scheme, really — to take the psychopath who took obvious pleasure in cold-blooded murder only two episodes ago, and guide him through a moral reboot that will make him the hero of the show. But maybe there’s a science behind this madness after all.

Barnabas:  If I can love and not destroy, surely forgiveness can be found.

Julia:  For what you’ve done?

Barnabas:  Perhaps not. But let me love first, as a human being loves, and if there’s still no forgiveness, well, let me take the punishment… not as a monster, but as a man.

343 dark shadows barnabas human

And that’s the point, really, that he’s got a desire to change. That’s not quite the same thing as remorse, but it’s pointing in the right direction.

Then he walks over to the huge bucket of bubbling blood, and says, “I wonder what I’ll be like, as a human being?” And you can just feel the acids activating.

343 dark shadows vicki burke terrace

Over at Collinwood, Vicki and Burke are having another little quarrel about where they’re going to live when they get married. They’ve been doing a lot of this lately. She doesn’t want to quit her governess job and leave David right now, because he’s become emotionally disturbed, and he needs her.

Vicki and Burke have had a series of conversations about this, and they don’t seem to be getting anywhere. It usually looks like they’ve reached some kind of understanding by the end of a given episode, but the next time we see them, they’re back at it. This is what they do now.

343 dark shadows vicki burke barnabas

But there’s a larger agenda at work here. Vicki and Burke can stay trapped in this little circular argument for as long as they like, because ultimately the writers aren’t invested in helping them work it out.

This is a soap opera, and what really matters is the love triangle, an experimental apparatus lashed together with tubes and wires, connecting a tangle of loose storylines.

On their own, Burke and Vicki don’t generate a lot of heat. She’s young and pretty and not very bright; he’s wealthy and he wants to marry her. They have no obstacles in their way, and they’ve spent the last several weeks trying to determine which enormous mansion they’ll move into after the wedding.

343 dark shadows vicki barnabas terrace

But when you get a third party involved, there’s a chance for some interesting chemistry.

Unfortunately, the Burke/Vicki/Barnabas triangle was pretty comprehensively nerfed more than a month ago. Vicki told Burke to stop being suspicious of Barnabas, Burke gave in, and the storyline just kind of rolled over and died.

343 dark shadows julia triangle

But it turns out that wasn’t the real love triangle after all. Burke’s about to be taken off the board, and the real triangle is Barnabas, Vicki and Julia. That situation has a lot more potential, because Julia has a hypnotic medallion, several terrifying secrets, and a bubbling bucket of blood. Chaos will ensue.

Like any mad science experiment, it’s hard to say exactly how the love triangle is going to end up. But it bubbles and it makes noise, and that’s a good place to start. Let’s chuck some more dry ice in there, and see what happens.

Tomorrow: Haunted.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the start of the first scene, while Julia is adjusting her equipment, someone in the studio has a loud coughing fit.

When they come back from the titles, it sounds like Barnabas and Julia started the scene too early. Barnabas begins the scene by saying, “Nonsense! You’ve done nothing but take chances,” which doesn’t relate to anything. This has happened a few times since episode 333, when a scene started while Dr. Woodard was halfway through the word “-peared”. They need to get a handle on the timing.

When Barnabas brings up Woodard’s murder, Julia says, “I didn’t kill anyone.” Barnabas is supposed to say, “You handed the hypodermic needle to me,” but he messes up the rhythm of the line. He puts stress on the wrong end of the sentence, so it comes out as “You handed the hypodermic needle to me,” which doesn’t mean anything.

As you can see in the picture above, there’s a huge boom mic shadow obscuring Julia’s face during the entire terrace scene. It’s still there every time they cut to her reaction.

Alone on the terrace, Julia is supposed to be startled by a ghost, which appears and vanishes using a Chromakey effect. But they mess up the timing, so Julia turns around and screams after the ghost has already come and gone.

Behind the Scenes:

Peter Murphy plays the ghost of Dr. Woodard here, silently gesturing to Julia on the terrace. Murphy started on the show a couple weeks ago, as the recast for the crazy old Caretaker. We’ll see him again next week, standing in for Burke in Vicki’s dream.

Tomorrow: Haunted.

346 julia woodard ghost

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 343: The Apparatus

    1. When the camera pans right in the basement laboratory, I believe we are looking into the Old House set from the direction of the secret bookcase. You can see a chandelier and the hint of windows above the door.

    1. That’s a good question! That one totally sailed by me. Something is making a thumping motor noise, which Julia turns off when Barnabas comes in, but it’s not clear what it is. I don’t know what would power a generator. My guess is that it runs on pure narrative convenience.

  1. I guess Julia got all the equipment into the room before Willie was shot — otherwise, she hired the same people who set up the Bat Cave.

    Let’s pause for a moment to reflect upon Julia’s medical credentials: She apparently treats her patient while he’s still fully dressed and not apparently connected to anything. Medicine is also practiced in a room filled with cobwebs and dust.

    Oh, and she appears to have started treating someone of an ailment without ever asking the patient how he happened to contract the ailment (“Curse from vengeful wife? Yes, I’ve seen this sort of thing before.”)

  2. What got me about the “secret basement laboratory” was it was lit by flaming torches on the walls–in spite of the fact that Julia clearly has some kind of generator down there.

    (And shouldn’t Woodward and Burke have stumbled across the laboratory when they were searching for coffins down there a few weeks ago? )

  3. I’m watching this episode right now and got a huge laugh out of Julia turning around and screaming at nothing. Gotta love the technical limitations of 1960’s daytime TV.

  4. And so the intrigue begins. It’s obvious that Julia is in love, or better said infatuated with Barnabas. This is such a great storyline and Frid I think is at his best here, basking in Julia’s adorance while knowing full well it is unrequited. I am kind of disappointed though that this side of Julia is shown. She’s so much more interesting as a manipulator not a manipulee.

    1. I think she is playing both sides. She is mad love with Barnabas, dead or otherwise…lol. But on the other hand, she relishes pissing him off because he is too not smart to realize it. The plot thickens.

  5. Julia turns and screams at nothing. Then says over & over, “There was nothing there!” Way to point out your bad timing. We noticed! We noticed!

  6. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Julia saying twice that,’human beings don’t often love without destoying.’ The world is a vampire, indeed! 😉

  7. I love the way Julia wet her handkerchief in the birdbath, and then her face with it, just before the ghost of Dr. Woodard made his house call! Maybe she hopes bats bathe there too and that Barnabas would respond to her eau de batbath! 😉

  8. Danny, you said, “As you can see in the picture above, there’s a huge boom mic shadow obscuring Julia’s face during the entire terrace scene. It’s still there every time they cut to her reaction.” In this case, you’re wrong. I just watched this episode and that’s the shadow of a tree branch that’s moving in the breeze. A similar shadow is cast upon Vicki in the same scene. And when you think of it, why would a boom mic be hovering over Julia? She’s separated from the others and has no lines in that scene.

  9. I have 5 “laboratory” (emphasis on the British pronunciation that Monsieur Frid opted for) observations:

    1) The first two scenes appear to have been mounted and filmed with literally NO REHEARSAL. I have never seen slower cue-pick up and line delivery anywhere in the eps since #210, and that’s saying something.

    2) For the first 10 minutes, I thought I had crossed-over to Mystery-Science Theatre 3000 and was watching Joel, Cambot, Gypsy, and Crow do one of their notoriously irreverent comedy sketches.

    3) Julia missing the “ghost” cue and screaming that there was “nothing there,” is one of those unfortunate moments in a 1967 TV show that would have been an immediate meme today.

    4) If we are going to put up elaborate “laboratory” equipment DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA, it might behoove us to set it up in such a way as to not constantly UPSTAGE OR EVEN HIDE THE ACTORS FROM VIEW. This is what we affectionately call Blocking 101.

    5) Can I get one of those bubbling cauldrons with dry-ice cubs for my basement? Would go really well with the dungeon I recently put in.

    1. They do run the closing credits over footage of the apparatus, so I suspect that hiding the actors was intentional. The following episode will go into depth exploring the helplessness of all the characters at this point in the story, and visuals that put the actors out of our view set us up for that theme.

  10. Agree with Barry that the opening scenes were incredibly sloppy, even for this show. At some points it seemed like they were making it up as they went along, which I suppose isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

  11. I think it’s pretty cool that Barnabas picks up a piece of dry ice with his hand and drops it into the bubbling cauldron. After he turns human, he won’t be able to do that anymore without injuring himself. Quito the zombie butler on Strange Paradise also can handle dry ice without burning his hands. Maybe it’s a soap-opera-monsters-only skill.

    Burke tells Julia that Vicki was upset by David. How did Julia know which David he meant: Woodard or Collins?

    Barnabas: If I can love and not destroy, surely forgiveness can be found.

    I expected Julia to reply: “how did you know my name was Shirley before I changed it to Grayson?”

    1. Generally everyone refers to Woodard as “Dave” and David Collins as “David” (with an occasional “Davey”), so I think everyone in the scene is pretty clear on whom he’s talking about.

  12. Sure, Barney’s back to giving Julia pretty compliments again; then next week it’ll be back to “incompetent”, “bungler”, and “fool”.
    Oh, what am I saying, he’ll be raging again in a half hour.

  13. If I were Barnabas, I’d be concerned about cobwebs and dust falling into my medicine cauldron.
    I would also criticize the bunglers and fools that blocked the laboratory scene for allowing the actors to be obscured by test tubes. The last time I saw such a scene was in the notorious 1934 horror/exploitation flick “Maniac.”

    1. Maybe they had to adlib that scene for some reason. I’m sure it didn’t go down the way they wanted it to.

  14. The other day Joe Caldwell made me think of Macbeth. Today it was Hamlet and Claudius musing about guilt and forgiveness for murder. He thinks Julia won’t commit another murder, but can it really be called murder if she ends someone who already died 170 years ago?
    I thought the Barnabas and Julia scene at the end was really good, with her hinting about her feelings for him and his sardonic response.

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