Episode 347: Mad Science

“Did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal?”

The doctor is advising prudence. She asks the patient, “Are you sure you want it this way?”

“I am through arguing the point,” he sniffs. “The treatments must be accelerated without further comment.”

She reminds him that she will not accept responsibility for the consequences.

“If we don’t hurry,” the patient says, “it will soon be morning. Now, begin the treatment.”

And then she fastens the straps on his electric chair.

347 dark shadows julia barnabas electric

Because today, my friends, we are flipping the mad science switch. Dr. Julia Hoffman has spent the last few months working on a cure for Barnabas’ condition, and this is what she’s come up with. Last week, we saw the first version of the apparatus — a rat’s nest of beakers and tubes, all hooked into a bubbling cauldron of blood.

But somebody from the National Institute of Mad Science must have sent a stern note to the props department, because they’ve upped their game. Everybody knows that if you want to tamper in God’s domain, you have to go electric.

347 dark shadows oscilloscope

So let’s do a quick inventory of the new additions. We’ve got an oscilloscope going…

347 dark shadows julia black box

There’s a black box with some switches and knobs…

347 dark shadows jacob's ladder

And then, naturally, we’ve got a couple of those Jacob’s ladder spark gap deals that create zappy electric arcs.

(By the way, a quick trivia question about these Jacob’s ladders: What are they actually used for, besides monster movies? Answer: Nothing.)

347 dark shadows frankenstein

This might seem like a lot of needless expense, but the equipment is the whole point. Mad science is all about the spectacle. When Julia first pitched her experiments to Barnabas, she said that her first task would be to “purge his arterial system”, which sounded enough like actual science words to ring false in our ears. I’m pretty sure I understand enough of the phrase “I plan to alter the cellular structure of your plasma” to know that it’s probably not going to work.

So it’s best for everyone if they just stop explaining. Who needs science words when you have switches and dials and things that go zap?

347 dark shadows julia toolbox

Essentially, the mad science toolbox is medieval alchemy, plus whatever equipment you have lying around the basement. The mad scientist has special faith in the mixture of water, fire and electricity.

First you brew up some boiling fluids, because the bubbling looks like you’re bringing life to an inert substance. Then you pass an electrical charge through it — I apologize if I’m getting too technical here. Finally, you plug it into your vampire, turn it on, and then you just walk around tapping on things.

347 dark shadows julia barnabas it works

And, what do you know? It works! It totally works.

Barnabas:  I can’t explain it, but I’m changing.

Julia:  How? What do you mean?

Barnabas:  All through me, as if new blood was rushing through my veins… new, young, fresh blood.

Julia:  Try not to get too excited.

Barnabas:  I can feel myself coming alive. It’s working!

So, there you go. Arterial system: purged.

347 dark shadows julia barnabas system

Barnabas is walking around with a big silly grin.

Barnabas:  There’s a room at the top of the house that looks out across the cliffs toward the sea. I will go up there, and I will watch, and then the sun will rise.

347 dark shadows barnabas the sun

Barnabas:  I will stand there, and I will watch the pale sky grow lighter and lighter — the colors of pink and blue, and then a golden light — and I will watch it come up out of the sea! The sun! The sun!

347 dark shadows julia barnabas cured

Oh, it’s fantastic. I could watch these two do this all day.

Julia isn’t as pleased as you might think she would be. Apparently, she’s concerned that she pushed the treatments too fast — she doesn’t want him to run outside to play in the sunshine, and end up a pile of optimistic dust. Still, you’d think she could crack a smile for five seconds. I think she’s mostly worried that if he’s cured, she won’t have a hold over him anymore.

347 dark shadows barnabas julia unfair

But, looking at it from her perspective, it’s completely unfair. She did all the work, and who does he want to share his first sunrise with? Vicki Winters.

So now Julia has another problem. Here’s how she goes about solving it.

347 dark shadows vicki a thousand colors

In the morning, Julia talks to Vicki about her plans to restore the west wing of Collinwood.

Julia:  I was rummaging around, and I think I found the missing part for the chandelier in the foyer. I’m not sure, but we’ll have to see if the crystals match. Isn’t it beautiful?

Vicki:  Yes.

Julia:  It seems so clear — but if you look, there are a thousand colors inside. Can you see them?

347 dark shadows vicki julia crystal

She leads Vicki over to the lamp, and asks the most natural question in the world.

Julia:  Did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal?

Apparently, Vicki hasn’t, which isn’t much of a surprise. She doesn’t get out much.

347 dark shadows crystal

And then they do the most extraordinary thing. Julia is spinning the crystal in front of Vicki’s face.

Julia:  Keep searching for the center. Look deeper and deeper.

Vicki:  It’s lovely.

Julia:  Let the colors flow past you, one after the other. Don’t stop… keep going… deeper and deeper, toward the center.

Vicki:  Deeper and deeper.

But we’re looking at the crystal from over Vicki’s shoulder, and Julia isn’t looking at Vicki. She’s looking at us. She’s hypnotizing us.

347 dark shadows julia hypnotize

Julia:  When you reach the center, you will hear the tinkling of crystal. Do you hear it?

Vicki:  I’m getting tired.

Julia:  Don’t stop… deeper and deeper… The sound will come. Search for it. Listen for it. Find it.

And we hear the tinkling crystal sound.

347 dark shadows hypnotic crystal

Once we find the center of the crystal, we see a pulsing kaleidoscope effect, shooting rainbow colors at us. She’s hypnotized the audience, too.

So I think this is a new, crazy milestone for Dark Shadows — the show’s first big non-mimetic sequence. We’re seeing and hearing something that doesn’t exist anywhere but in a character’s mind.

Dream sequences don’t really count, because that’s basically just a regular scene with some mist around the edges. In the dreams, we’re still looking at the sleeping character from the outside; we don’t see the dream from the character’s point of view.

There have been a couple moments like this before — Willie heard a pounding heartbeat sound when he was opening the chained coffin, and David saw the flashing eyes on Barnabas’ portrait.

But this feels more intense — a sustained sequence when they’ve made the specific choice to bring us into the character’s hypnotic state.

And now I will invoke my traditional reminder: This is on network daytime television, at 3:30 in the afternoon. ABC-TV is hypnotizing housewives.

347 dark shadows vicki julia coffin

Julia leads the mesmerized Vicki all the way over to the Old House, and down into the basement. She makes Vicki open the coffin, and she sees Barnabas — immobile, with a sickly yellow-green light on his face to accentuate the grotesque shock of this moment.

Julia tells Vicki, “What you see here, you will never forget, and you will never remember.” And then they head back to Collinwood.

347 dark shadows vicki barnabas

And here’s the super crazy thing: there’s still a whole other act left in this episode. Dark Shadows — the series that everyone thought was slow-paced, even by the standards of 1960s soap operas — is just zipping through the plot points. A couple months ago, the beats that they’re playing today would have taken a week. And there’s still another shock coming.

The sun sets, and Barnabas comes to Collinwood to see Vicki. She should be happy to see him, and tell him about her progress on the renovated west wing. But she has a vague feeling of dread, and his presence makes her uncomfortable.

Sensing that she’s disturbed, he reaches out a hand to comfort her — but then he suddenly pulls away, and rushes out.

347 dark shadows julia barnabas chair

He finds Julia in the basement laboratory, just chilling on the electric chair. He asks her if she notices anything different about him. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so he shows her his hand.

347 dark shadows barnabas old hand

“Look again!” he shouts. “You and your treatments! Look closely, and maybe you’ll see me age before your very eyes! My hand! The hand of a very, very old man!”

It’s phenomenal. This is what the show is now. This is what they do.

Tomorrow: Mission Accomplished.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Julia first shows the crystal to Vicki, she says, “Isn’t it beautiful?” Then she completely forgets what she was going to say, and takes a very obvious look toward the camera so she can check the teleprompter.

Also, during Vicki and Barnabas’ scene, he garbles a couple lines:

Vicki:  What was the request?

Barnabas:   Well, it’s a rather stupid one, but, I’m afraid… but I’ve been thinking, this superstition of yours, of Widow’s Hill…

Vicki:  Yes, I suppose I have been a little bit silly.

Barnabas:  Well, this may even sound more superstitious, but if you could only come to think of it as a place of happiness and light.

Tomorrow: Mission Accomplished.

347 dark shadows cowering

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

12 thoughts on “Episode 347: Mad Science

  1. Time for the Dick Smith makeup. These are some great episodes. DC was on fire. All this on daytime tv. A show way ahead of its time.

    1. Another story like that is the Roger Corman movie THE WASP WOMAN. In both stories the patient accidentally causes most of the trouble instead of the “mad scientist” causing it

  2. Barnabas’s sudden desire to accelerate the treatments might have made more sense if Burke were still around and an active threat (i.e. the impending wedding). He notes in 346 that Burke could return and he wants to seize the moment while Vicki is “lonely and vulnerable” (classy) but that’s a stretch.

    Perhaps the writer in me never took to the “died in plane crash” elimination of the character. It lacks any real dramatic intensity.

    Once Burke is gone, the other major adult male characters are Roger, Sam, and Joe. I don’t see Roger staking Barnabas, and although Sam and Joe have a legitimate bone to pick with the guy who kidnapped Maggie Evans, they don’t know that. Not to say that a male character has to be the one to stop Barnabas, but this is 1967, so it just feels like they’re saying, “There is no real threat to this character anymore.”

    1. Guys don’t do anything on soap operas anyway. Women always make the big decisions. When Burke gets mad, he makes phone calls. When Carolyn gets mad, she brings a gun to her mom’s wedding.

  3. Personally, I think the idea of a treatment plan that includes bondage is an excellent idea, and I wish the writers would explore the theme further. 🙂

  4. The entire hypnosis effort by Julia could so easily have been ruined if someone…. anyone at all….had walked into the drawing room in the middle of it. It’s like the other residents of Collinwood are conveniently “nowhere to be found” at the critical moment. Roger, Elizabeth, David or Mrs Johnson could have inadvertently blundered in in the middle of it. Even Carolyn could have come back early from her silly coffee-making errand and asked if they wanted cream.

    Just seems odd that Julia would pick a wide-open, frequently visited place like the drawing room for a private thing like trying to hypnotize somebody. I mean, she didn’t even close the doors! Too funny….

    On another topic, the writers sure don’t have much of a storyline for Carolyn today. All she does is chat with Vicki for a minute and spends the rest of the episode making coffee. LOL

  5. We’ve entered one of my favorite DS periods — the lead-up to 1795. The show had been dragging, but starting with Dr. Woodard’s death, it’s good viewing every day.

  6. This is amazing. You are right Danny they are zipping through plot lines like crazy. How exciting must it have been watching this every afternoon after a long day of the 3 R’s.

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