Episode 348: Mission Accomplished

“I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t dead.”

Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood. You can tell, because they’ve got the establishing shot up, and it’s dark blue. They’re playing the sub-theme music cue, and somewhere in the studio, fading film star Joan Bennett is standing in front of a microphone.

“Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood,” Joan says, in a world-weary tone which indicates that she’s one sentence into a three-sentence introduction, and it’s not going to get a lot better from here. “The earth hovers between night and day, as though terrified to bring into being the days and nights that lie ahead.”

And it’s amazing, watching it now, to think that there was a time when it was okay to open a television show like this. They don’t take practice swings like this anymore. When your show starts, you start the show.

“But time is indifferent to terror,” says Joan, and you have to admit she has a point. “And the earth obeys the primal command creating nights and days, creating the moment when fear no longer stalks… but stops to strike.”

In other words: it’s October 1967, and you don’t have a remote control. If the earth obeying primal commands isn’t a stop-the-presses level event for you, then you’re going to have to get up, walk across the room and do something about it.

348 dark shadows carolyn david not dead

We fade to a pretty, blonde girl asleep in her bed. A young boy is standing nearby, watching her, and he reaches out a hand to touch her shoulder.

She bolts awake, with a startled shriek. “Oh! David!” she gasps.

The boy shrugs, and says, “I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t dead.”

And you know what? That works. Simple, spooky, a nice little puzzle that would make you pause before reaching for the knob. You want to find out what he’s talking about.

I think they’ve figured out how to make Dark Shadows.

347 dark shadows carolyn david simple

This is Joe Caldwell’s last episode for a while, and I’m going to miss him. Caldwell is the best writer that they’ve had on the show so far — the first guy to figure out how to strike the right balance of plot complications, eye-catching spectacle and touching character-based moments.

When Caldwell left the team in June, it was on a high note — his last episode was the high-stakes, high-camp standoff between Julia and Barnabas, when she basically dared him to come to her room and strangle her. This kicked off the smartest, craziest story idea they’ve had so far — Julia’s secret experiments to cure the vampire.

But as the summer turned into fall, one of the writers was fired, and the other two started running in circles. They’ve hardly touched on the experiment story at all — Barnabas and Julia have just been defending their secret from an endless series of potential threats.

So Caldwell came back, bless him, and he’s spent the last week and a half showing them what a real writer can do. He started with Julia and Barnabas murdering Dr. Woodard, and then did some gorgeous character work, spending a whole episode exploring David’s helpless despair. They killed off Burke, and then Caldwell ramped up the intensity of the Barnabas/Vicki/Julia love triangle.

Most importantly, he brought us back to the mad science experiment, and the glorious, deranged spectacle of bubbling beakers, sparking electricity and a boiling bucket of blood. By the end of the day, they’ll have some exciting storyline momentum that can carry them through until the new writer shows up in November.

348 dark shadows carolyn awake

But let’s get back to Carolyn and David. He says that he’s sorry that he woke her up; he just wanted to make sure that she was all right.

Confused, she asks, “Why would I be dead?”

“People die,” he says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

348 dark shadows carolyn david soldier

Then he gives her the wooden toy soldier that Sarah said would keep him safe. He wants Carolyn to have it — she needs protection. He’s very urgent and insistent about it, so she takes the soldier, and tells him that he can go back to bed now.

348 dark shadows liz carolyn soldier

David leaves, and then there’s a lovely little scene, where Carolyn just starts to despair.

Liz:  Carolyn, what is it? Please, tell me.

Carolyn:  There’s nothing we can do for him.

Liz:  What are we going to do?

Carolyn:  If only he weren’t so quiet… It’s almost as if he’s listening to something we can’t hear, as if everything he says is a response to something else, and not to what’s really happening.

348 dark shadows carolyn amazing

Carolyn is fantastic, by the way. I haven’t had much of a chance to say that lately, because she hasn’t really had a storyline since they dug up her dad in the basement, three months ago.

This is another reason for us to be grateful to Joe Caldwell; he’s managed to put the spotlight back on the lovably dysfunctional Collins family, instead of bland outsiders like Dr. Woodard.

348 dark shadows barnabas hands

Meanwhile, things are cooking over at Julia’s secret laboratory in the Old House basement. Eager to get things rolling with Vicki, Barnabas insisted that Julia give him an accelerated treatment. She did — and now his hands are aging, as he becomes the centuries-old corpse that he really is.

This scene is pretty much a recap of yesterday’s cliffhanger, but there’s some lovely dialogue.

Barnabas:  I’ve been granted privileges given to few other men.

Julia:  What privileges?

Barnabas:  For most men, time moves slowly… so very slowly. They don’t even realize it. But time has revealed itself to me, in a very special way. Time is a rushing, howling wind raging past me, withering me in one relentless blast… and then continues on.

It’s dialogue that only Jonathan Frid can get away with. They’re playing to his strengths.

348 dark shadows carolyn david takebacks

I’m going to pick up the pace, because there are so many good scenes today. In the morning, Carolyn is visited by the ghost of Sarah Collins, who stops by to tell her that David was right, and they shouldn’t send him away to an institution.

Disturbed but oddly heartened by the experience, Carolyn goes to David’s room to give him the good news — she saw Sarah, and now she believes him.

He rushes toward her, in panic.

David:  No! No, you didn’t!

Carolyn:  I thought you’d be pleased that I’d finally seen her.

David:  I don’t want you to see Sarah! I don’t!

348 dark shadows carolyn david don't want

He breaks away from her.

David:  She came to Dr. Woodard, and he believed what I was telling him… and now he’s dead.

Carolyn:  David, Dr. Woodard died a perfectly natural death.

David:  He saw Sarah, and then he died. I don’t want you to see Sarah.

Carolyn:  David… doesn’t it matter that someone believes you?

David:  Everything I said was a lie. All of it! None of it was true! I made it all up!

348 dark shadows carolyn david help

He begins to sob, insisting that he made it all up. Carolyn holds him close.

Carolyn:  It’s all right… it’s all right. Now I can help you. At last, I can help you.

It’s phenomenal. This is just good soap opera construction. People that we care about, facing terrible danger, and desperate to help each other. I love it.

348 dark shadows barnabas julia chair

And Caldwell’s got one more crazy trick up his sleeve. We go back to the basement laboratory, where Julia is strapping Barnabas down for one more ride on the electric blood machine.

She wants to produce a counter-reaction, so that he goes back to the way that he was before the accelerated treatment. She talks about it as if it’s super easy to just make electricity go backwards. As they used to say on Doctor Who, she’s reversing the polarity of the neutron flow.

So we get one more scene of boiling fluids and electric zaps. Once the noise dies down, Julia turns to examine the patient…

348 dark shadows julia screaming

And that’s when the screaming starts. Thanks, Joe. You’ve been amazing.

Tomorrow: Secret Aging Man.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In Carolyn’s second conversation with Liz, there’s a moment when they both start speaking at once. Carolyn lets Liz say her line, “What made you change your mind?” A moment later, Carolyn puts the toy soldier down on her dresser, and it falls to the floor with a noisy clatter.

Behind the Scenes:

In an interview on one of the Dark Shadows DVDs, Caldwell says that he regrets leaving the show at this point: “I wasn’t on the show when Lara Parker came on, when Angelique came on, and I’m sorry now that I’d left to do that documentary, because I would have been there for a lot of the fun, when they went back in time, and that was too bad.”

That’s Peter Murphy again, standing in for the back of Barnabas’ head in the final shot. Tomorrow, we’ll see the full impact of Barnabas’ new course of treatment, which involves a lot of special makeup. They couldn’t stop the recording to do the makeup, so instead we’ve got Murphy in a hairpiece, seen from the back.

Murphy joined the show a couple weeks ago as the strike-breaking recast Caretaker. Since then, he’s been the ghost of Dr. Woodard, and Burke’s corpse in Monday’s dream sequence.

Also, there’s another sighting of the Petofi box in this episode — it’s on the table in the hall when Carolyn walks to David’s room.

Tomorrow: Secret Aging Man.

348 dark shadows op art

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 348: Mission Accomplished

  1. It amazes me how audiences then had no credibility problem with female characters sleeping in heavy makeup and elaborate hairdos. I loved the mobile in David’s room, remember having one just like it around that time.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a shame he didn’t really pursue acting beyond Another World. I always found him very believable in the wackiest scenarios, but then I was a willing participant in suspension of disbelief.

  2. I love the vivid colors in this episode. Carolyn’s room especially, but David’s room also and the clothing that Elizabeth, Carolyn and David are wearing. Thank goodness for color TV.

    1. Is it my imagination, or did Carolyn’s room get a modernized makeover? Her bed looks like a new ’60s bed.

      And yes, DS is on fire right now.

      1. “It must have been your imagination.” But no, it’s not imaginings. Carolyn’s room has been jazzed up a bit since we last saw it.

      2. We did see this modernized version at least one other time earlier, but it is definitely not the same room as when the show started. One other point about Carolyn’s room–the stuffed tiger on her bed will show up again later in the series in the playroom during the Gerard Stiles story line.

  3. It’s great how on daytime Tv in 1967 Barnabas and Julia can play out one of Television’s great kinky couples .

  4. Joe Caldwell’s writing brings out the acting chops of every DS actor. Little things I noticed: the perfect timing of the flute playing and when Carolyn picks up the toy soldier- the spacey way David stares at the mobile like he’s spiraling into the land of make believe. My heart hurts for him.
    Joan Bennett must have broken a taking a peak of the telepromtor record. And too many little touches to mention.
    Overall a brilliant episode.

  5. Joan Bennett looked very pretty and young in this episode. I think it was the hair down instead of a convoluted 60’s doo.

    1. BTW – Where exactly is Barnabas hooked up to all the tubes bubbling and the electronic equipment? Why does he need to be strapped into the chair? There likely are no answers. lol

  6. Danny–what is the Petofi box? I don’t recall any discussion about that until now.

    The chemistry between Carolyn and David in this episode is truly fantastic. They really are at their best together here.

    What are those pictures on the wall of Carolyn’s room? Looks like Martha Washington and her sister. And I could swear I’ve seen those move around as well. I think they use them in Vicki’s room as well at some point.

    The costume colors throughout this episode really rock! The yellow bedspread in Carolyn’s room, the green bathrobe of David’s, Liz’s burgundy dress, Carolyn’s lavender print nightgown and later teal dress: what an incredible palette of 1967 far out colors going on! The only thing that really needs to go is Julia’s hideous pale blue lab coat thingie she wears. My grandmother used to wear dust coats like that to clean her house but I don’t recall her ever performing “reverse polarity experiments.” She was pretty much straight-down-the-line Betty Crocker.

    1. Since so much time has passed likely you know the answer by now, but just in case, the “Petofi box” is the box that Count Petofi’s hand is in during the 1897 story line. (Danny has indeed referred to this as the Petofi box before, and it’s been on the show since, I believe, episode 2.)

  7. It’s a good thing Carolyn wasn’t really in any danger since it takes Liz about five minutes to arrive after the scream. Carolyn, by the way, looks particularly delicious in color.

  8. If only he weren’t so quiet… It’s almost as if he’s listening to something we can’t hear, as if everything he says is a response to something else, and not to what’s really happening.

    Sounds like Carolyn is diagnosing David as paranoid schizophrenic.

    Is this episode the first time we hear Sarah refer to herself as a ‘ghost?’

    Wasn’t the door Carolyn came out of in this episode just recently identified as Julia’s room: the last one on the left?

    Has David given much thought to his idea that Woodard seeing Sarah is what led to Woodard dying and that Carolyn might die now, too, now that she’s seen Sarah?

    Willie Loomis and Maggie Evans saw Sarah and were both deemed in need of psychiatric help. Sam Evans saw Sarah and that was dismissed as the imaginings of a drunk. (“Some people see pink elephants…”) Vicki believes she may have glimpsed Sarah briefly and so far she’s neither dead nor crazy… just deemed as being “on a hickory kick.”

  9. Did I hear that Vicki started rummaging around in the west wing? So SHE’S the one who woke up Quentin and Beth. I just knew it!

  10. Carolyn’s room seems a bit out of place in Collinwood. Light airy colors and a quilted headboard rather than all the dark heavy wood and draperies in the other rooms. Even Vicky’s room is gloomy compared to Carolyn’s. I can’t recall for sure, but I don’t think we see this room much more after this, if at all. I wish Carolyn would keep this hair color. The darker dye she uses later on is not pretty. Joan Bennett is always flawless.

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