“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn