Episode 408: A Compromising Physician

“If you want to destroy someone, destroy me!”

So bat-bitten bad boy Barnabas Collins is upstairs dying, although it seems like more of an aerobic experience than you’d expect.

He’s standing at his bedroom door, calling for Josette. She’s already standing right next to him, so it’s not clear what else she can do to help. Apparently, this is what the show is like now, just sweating and yelling and chaos.

408 dark shadows sick 2 josette barnabas

Barnabas can be an erratic conversationalist even at the best of times — but when he’s not feeling well, he just falls utterly to pieces.

Barnabas:  Where is Josette? I heard her voice. I called to her!

Josette:  I’m here! I’m here!

Barnabas:  I called to her! Where is she?

Josette:  Barnabas!

Barnabas:  Josette… Josette… where are you?

Josette:  Barnabas!

Barnabas:  Josette!

Josette:  Barnabas!

Barnabas:  Josette!

Josette:  Barnabas, I’m here; I am Josette!

Barnabas:  No… Josette is far away by now.

Well, then why the hell have you been yelling her name for the last five minutes? God damn, dying people are annoying. You don’t have a lot of time left. Are you, like, a hundred percent sure this is how you want to spend it?

408 dark shadows confused barnabas josette

The conversation continues along these lines for some time. Personally, I can’t get enough of it, and lucky for me, there’s plenty.

Josette:  Yes, I’m here! It’s me! Don’t you recognize me?

Barnabas:  Here? You mustn’t be here. You must go away from here…

Josette:  Barnabas! What’s happened to you?

Barnabas:  Soon, I will die.

Josette:  No!

Barnabas:  Please… you must go away immediately.

Yeah, and then come back, so I can tell you to go away again. This could go on for weeks.

408 dark shadows syndrome barnabas josette

So, apparently, Barnabas has a bad case of Caretaker’s Syndrome, a rare and irritating malady that renders the sufferer entirely unable to have a rational conversation about anything.

Caretaker’s Syndrome can result in a variety of complications, including: you must go away, there is danger here, the dead must rest, and you must never come here.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from Caretaker’s Syndrome, please talk to your doctor about treatment options. And then go away, you must rest, and so on.

408 dark shadows answers natalie angelique

Anyway, in all the confusion, everybody piles into the sickroom. There’s Angelique, the evil witch who’s currently engaged in the process of transforming her husband into the living dead. And then there’s the Countess Natalie Du Prés, who’s even scarier.

Because, as much as Angelique wants to be a terrifying she-goddess of destruction, she still has to talk to people sometimes, and that’s Natalie’s strong area. The Countess can talk anybody into anything, just by raising an eyebrow or two.

408 dark shadows plague natalie josette

Natalie demands to know what’s wrong with Barnabas, and why Angelique didn’t tell anyone that he was sick.

Angelique, backed into a corner, comes up with a brand new bonkers idea. She tells them that Barnabas has the plague.

I’m serious; that’s what she says. “The plague.” And then everybody acts alarmed.

408 dark shadows cavemen natalie angelique

So let’s run through a couple of historical facts about “the plague”, starting with: It never got anywhere near Maine in 1795.

In the 1340s and 1350s, bubonic plague spread through Europe like wildfire, killing off half the population — an estimated 75 million to 200 million people — in just seven years. Now, 75 million to 200 million is a pretty wide range for an estimate, which just goes to show how messed up life got in the mid 1300s. They couldn’t even count the number of bodies; anybody who tried would just fall over sometime around 3 million.

The last major outbreak in Europe was in Marseille, France, in 1720. It never touched America, except for a weird outbreak in San Francisco in 1900.

But this is the TV version of history, where everything that happened between cavemen and the Civil War is all mixed together, just a big mash-up called “the past”. We’ve already got the Salem witch trials of 1692 popping up a century too late, and now a medical diagnosis from the late Middle Ages. Next up: a visit from Caligula, Joan of Arc and a velociraptor.

408 dark shadows useless natalie angelique

Angelique doesn’t want them to call in a doctor, but Natalie says that they must, and that’s the end of that subject. Unfortunately, the doctor is just as useless as Dark Shadows doctors always are. They don’t even bother to give this one a name.

“At least he’s responsive to the se– the sedative I gave him,” the doctor says, stumbling over his very first line. He continues, “He’s sleeping soundly, but, uh —  the re — at the moment, anyway.”

Now, I don’t know a lot about the casting process, but I’d say if the guy can only deliver one out of his first three sentences, you should probably say thanks and move on to the next candidate.

408 dark shadows doctor what

“Frankly,” the doctor says, “I’m at a loss to explain fully his condition,” which is ungrammatical but not a surprise.

Here’s what he knows: “Obviously, he’s been bitten by a rodent. A rat, probably. Always a hazard in a port town.”

Now, that may be true, but I bet even in a port town, you’d have a hard time finding a rat who could climb all the way up a guy’s body to bite him in the neck. That’s a pretty specialized rat skill.

Natalie asks how they’re going to treat Barnabas, and the doctor basically says he plans to take him out into the woods, cover him with leaves and try to forget.

“You must understand, Countess,” he says, “that much lies beyond the experience and education of my imperfect science.” Yeah, no kidding; especially in this town.

408 dark shadows panic natalie

Obviously, nobody else in the room thinks that abandoning Barnabas on the side of the road is a good idea.

The doctor says they have to take precautions, but this is what Natalie is for.

Natalie:  Before you begin to cry “plague”, you should have more evidence. This could be an isolated case, and it could remain isolated, here at Collinwood.

Doctor:  Well, I… I’m not sure my ethics could allow such a risk.

Natalie:  And what would happen to your reputation as a man of good and solid judgement, if you were to create havoc and terror in the town for no reason?

So the doctor caves, obviously, and Natalie thanks him for his sound decision.

Doctor:  Well, the good of my client is gratitude enough, Countess.

Yeah, that’s great. They’re called “patients”, by the way. Not clients. Dumbass.

408 dark shadows pleading vicki josette

Then it’s off to the courthouse, where Josette meets with Vicki, who’s being put on trial for witchcraft. Josette has come to plead with Vicki, begging her to take away the curse she’s put on Barnabas.

408 dark shadows witch josette vicki

Vicki stands up, strikes a pose and says, “You think I’m a witch, don’t you?”

Yes! Of course I do. Everyone thinks you’re a witch. You’re in jail right now because we all think you’re a witch. How is this not getting through to you yet?

408 dark shadows destroy josette vicki

But it’s a sweet scene, at least from Josette’s side. She’s ready to offer anything to spare Barnabas.

Vicki:  But I can’t help! Don’t you understand, I’m not a witch. I’m not!

Josette:  Please, Miss Winters! If you want to destroy someone, destroy me! Life is meaningless now, I have no hope!

That’s a desperately sad thing to say, obviously, but at least somebody in that relationship is willing to sacrifice something. Barnabas’ plans always involve murdering somebody. If they ever do get hitched, it’ll be a mixed marriage — selfish and unselfish.

408 dark shadows stupid josette vicki

And then, once again, Vicki does something desperately stupid.

Vicki:  You must leave here. Go away at once. You’re in terrible danger.

Josette:  That’s what Barnabas told me!

Vicki:  I don’t know if you can change the past, but you must go away from here now.

Josette:  Why?

Vicki:  Because a terrible fate awaits you here — a terrible death. And it will be soon.

408 dark shadows book josette vicki

I mean, are you kidding me? Again, with this nonsense.

Vicki:  In my room, there’s a book that I brought with me when I came here — it’s a history of the Collins family. You must find it, and read it. It tells what lies ahead. And perhaps, by some miracle, knowing it would change it.

So there you go; now the idiot governess is specifically trying to wreck history. She won’t be happy until she rips a huge gash in the fabric of space and time. It’s no wonder we’ve got Harriet Tubman freeing the Israelites during the Prohibition era. The world is broken. Victoria Winters has ruined us all.

Tomorrow: Spoilers.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Absolutely everything that the doctor says and does.

Behind the Scenes:

Regular blog commenter Joanne points out: “This combination of vampires and the plague reminds me of the classic movie Nosferatu. In both the original silent version and the brilliant 1979 remake the arrival of the ghastly Count Orlock from his native home in the Carpathian Mountains to the port city of Varna is accompanied by the arrival of the plague. The cause of the outbreak was the swarm of rats that had infested the ship in which Orlock had made his journey. So maybe that crackpot doctor that examined Barnabas was onto something with his ‘rats in the port city’ theory…” (That’s really cool. Thanks, Joanne!)

The doctor is played by Jack Stamberger, who spent ten years on the CBS soap opera Love of Life, which is fondly remembered by no one. Stamberger also made guest appearances on Kojak, The Rockford Files, Route 66 and One Potato, Two Potato. This is his only appearance on Dark Shadows, thank goodness.

Tomorrow: Spoilers.

408 dark shadows yelling josette vicki

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

46 thoughts on “Episode 408: A Compromising Physician

  1. How stupid is Vicki? How can she not get that most people think she is a witch??? I do hope that velocaraptor remembers its lines better then the doctor.

  2. I’m in the habit before heading to bed, of checking here to see if a new episode has been reviewed, and love ending the day with laughter. Thanks for the burst of mirth tonight with “Next up: a visit from Caligula, Joan of Arc and a velociraptor.” Most times the laughs and pure enjoyment of your writing makes up for the sound thrashings you (and some reader commenters) give Vicki. I see from the other night that we have people hating on Roger Davis too. I’m taking all the actors as they were, as they played it, and know that if not for their quirks or aberrations (Jerry Lacy’s word), Dark Shadows wouldn’t be Dark Shadows.

    1. I’m reserving judgement on Roger Davis so far, because it’s been a while since I’ve seen any of those episodes. I have some half-remembered fondness for Peter. I think it’s when the character loses focus that Davis starts to become an issue…

  3. Now I’m going to try and see this from Vicki’s point of view…way back in the pre-Barnabas days Vicki was held hostage and nearly strangled by insane Collinwood caretaker Matthew Morgan. During this event she experienced a ‘divine intervention’ as the ghost of Josette Collins came to the rescue and saved her life by literally scaring Matthew to death. Josette was at that point in the series a larger than life legend that had presided over the Old House (along with her portrait) for over 150 years. So naturally Vicki would trust Josette to help her out again in this new jam she’s gotten herself into. Another poster to this site mentioned several months ago that the real Josette never really lived up to her legend. If the writers had known in advance the direction the show had taken I bet that the portrait of Angelique, not Josette, would have been hanging over that mantlepiece.

        1. This is why I think ‘time travel’ gets to be problematic when the writers ‘jigsaw’ the plot as they go along due to having to rewrite the ‘big picture’ from the way they originally envisioned it. Even though she is in the past Vicki still retains memories from HER present time and sees Josette as the ‘ghost’ that she would have become. But of course at the jail scene Josette is still alive and this would be her first time meeting Vicki – but in the natural order of things these two would have never met in Josette’s lifetime.

          1. Joanna, trying to resolve the time travel paradoxes will give you a headache… Just wait until you get to Edith Collins… Then your head will explode.

            1. Actually I’m rewatching the series and am almost up to the point of starting the 1897 storyline. Thanks for the heads up..

        2. Joanne and Pedro raise some fascinating points. With all her love of the Collins’ ancestry, Vicki did feel a special kinship with Josette. And given how ghost Josette did save her life (and also David, from Laura), it makes sense, in Vicki’s head, to try to return the favor.

          Wrecking the space-time continuum? Meh.

          As much as I love 1795, I always thought the plotting was off-kilter. The curse should have been allowed to work its way through the family – with Sarah, Abigail and Naomi even – falling first, with tension ratcheting as both Barnabas and Vicki try to prevent the ultimate tragedy – and Angelique’s greatest victory.

          Josette’s death should have been the devastating climax to the story, along with Vicki going to the gallows. The 1990 reboot more or less gets that right.

          1. Funny you should say that. Prior to watching the 1795 story, I just assumed that Josette’s death was the climax (with Barnabas getting locked up in the coffin taking place shortly thereafter), since so much importance had been placed on this event. So I was quite shocked when that happened and I realized there was still about two months’ worth of episodes still left! Mind you, I enjoyed the rest of the storyline immensely, but was still surprised that Josette’s death happened relatively early on.

            I wonder if at one point her death was meant to be closer to the end but then they decided to extend the 1795 story since audiences were responding favourably to it.

          2. Did Abigail love Barnabas she was not at his death bed when he died. She seem to have less emotion for Barnabas than Joshua who survive because of his inability to love at least verbal or think he could love someone. Abigail I’m guessing died just of heart attack by seeing the vampire Barnabas not for love of him though its possible see did care for her nephew.

          3. I like the placing of Josette’s death because it marks a definite change in Barnabas. It’s when he gives the “I’m through loving!” speech and clearly starts the path toward the cold character we meet in 1967. The story really picks up at at that point, for me.

      1. “The ghost was a different time line.”

        Same timeline, just past and present. Parallel time 1970 would be a different time line then

        1967/68 but parallel time 1970 is the same timeline as parallel time 1841.

  4. True, but people in the Us are aware of the 1300’s plague would still have fears and that plague still killed people in the 19th century in China. Also, unknown to most people unless you read Edward Gibbon in those days the earlier Justinian plague of the 6th century wipe people out. So, early US Americans would fear plague if their was even a limited outbreak.

  5. When I was a teenager we used to have a series of “Dumb Dora” jokes. They were rather pathetic. For DS maybe we need a series of “Dumb Vicki” jokes. Dumb Vicki was so dumb! How dumb was she? She was so dumb that when Josette begged her to remove the curse from Barnabas she stood there and said, “You think I’m a witch don’t you?” Oh honestly! Why didn’t she say, “Why would I curse Barnabas? He’s only been kind to me. He helped me get my job as governess. He interceded for me with Trask. He untied me from the tree Trask tied me to. He hid me from Trask. He tried to find someone to defend me. Why would I repay his kindness by cursing him now? I have NO MOTIVE for witchcraft! And doesn’t it make sense that if I were really a witch I’d free myself??” But no. She only makes herself look more and more guilty by mentioning a book from the future. I don’t know what that girl uses for brains.

  6. Nothing says “I’m not a witch” like “I have a book that predicts the future.” Meanwhile, you know I worship and adore you, Danny, but I’m gonna have to rap your knuckles for the “nobody remembers fondly” crack at Love Of Life. This is the soap that introduced the world to young, hunky Christopher Reeve. It had an opening credits melody that still pops into my head from time to time. So at least one person remembers it fondly… 🙂

  7. Ah…ah…ah…I’m an English teacher and an editor…please forgive me….it’s a curse…but the Grammar Nazi in me must say that you are incorrect when you say the doctor’s line–“Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain fully his condition”–is ungrammatical. It is grammatical. I think you’re thinking that “fully” is in the wrong place, but it’s not. That adverb could go in a number of different places. I suspect the writers were trying to avoid a split infinitive (“to fully explain”), but split infinitives are really not ungrammatical, either. The sentence may be somewhat inelegant, but it’s grammatical. Perhaps a better version would have been, “Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain his condition fully.” Then again, having this bozo say something inelegant is just par for the course.

  8. Also, on more important matters, maybe all the wacky historical anachronisms can simply be explained by the fact of Vicki’s presence. The second she showed up in 1795, the timeline must have been altered.

  9. Was Angelique describing the Black Death, AKA Bubonic Plague, or just using a cover-all term? I thought it was the latter.

    Also, way to disprove claims you are a witch by telling them about your secret magical book from the future! Wouldn’t it be funny if Vicki’s meddling changed the book to say Barnabus was killed by a witch named Vicki? 😀

  10. I had completely forgotten all the episodes that came between the placement of the curse and the actual vampire moment.

  11. I think the sad thing about the Vicki situation is that she could have had a lot of genuinely interesting motivations and goals and reasons for acting the way she did in 1795, which could have then led to her actually having things to do other than react…but they were too sure that she needed to be kept at arms length from the actual focus of the show to actually consider letting her do anything interesting of her own volition. It was also silly to send someone into the past as a viewpoint character so that the audience could learn something cool about the past without actually letting said viewpoint character be invested in the same story the audience is.

    I mean, I actually like Vicki a lot, but I seriously don’t blame her actress for getting fed up with this kind of crap.

  12. This is all just poor writing. It’s amazing how far creativity and intelligence have come in 50 years. I get that its difficult to do an everyday show, but these writers are really not creative enough to work the story around their original plotline. If this show were being written now, I am sure they could have figured it out. The world was a much simpler place in the late 60’s (chaotic, but simple). Being a screenwriter was probably more about writing skills than creativity. Hence whenevet they come to a plot point, like how did Barnabas end up a vampire, they just throw a bunch of ideas together and pick one. Kind of like Buddy,Sally and Rob on the Dick Van Dyke show.

    1. Not meaning any disrespect, but having been around in the late Sixties and remembering them pretty well, it does not seem to me that they were simpler – just different. I would say that the music and the comic books were more fun then. I would be inclined to say that I miss Dark Shadows, except that with the recent Big Finish productions, we actually have a rather acceptable current version of it.

  13. Regarding the plague issue here, it doesn’t seem completely implausible that Barnabas’ condition could indeed be a form of the plague. While the Bubonic variety is typically the one that comes to mind, there are 2 other forms it can take: pneumonic and septicemic. All three are caused by the same bacterium, but signs and symptoms vary depending on the location of infection.

    The Bubonic Plague was indeed the most common and virulent form that attacked the lymph nodes. Pneumonic Plague was centered in the lungs and Septicemic Plague was in the blood. While the Bubonic variety was typically the 1st on the scene of an epidemic, it wouldn’t take long for someone with an already compromised immune system (or just with poor hygiene, and there were more than a few) to have the bacterium spread to other systems/organs whereby turning a 30-90% mortality rate into 100%.

    Barnabas could plausibly have been bitten by a bat with plague-fleas and the wound was an instant infection-route to the bloodstream. Septicemic Plague can take effect rather quickly so that there’s not even enough time for full symptoms to appear before the infected person dies. But one associated symptom that Barnabas is displaying is his wound that continues to bleed. Inability for the blood to properly clot is always a sign for concern 🙂

    1. Hey, Joseph – that’s interesting about the 3 forms of plague. I really do love history and learning new details like this. Maybe a real 20th century doctor should’ve been the one sent back in time instead of “Vapid Vicki”; Julia would’ve been perfect to have been tending to Barnabas here!

    2. Joseph: Septicemic Plague was the disease dramatized in the 1945 Val Lewton horror classic ISLE OF THE DEAD, with Boris Karloff.

  14. So here I am, time traveling backwards from June 2018. I emailed myself some of the episodes I most wanted to comment on once I had caught up.

    As a mostly lifelong resident of the Rocky Mountain West and South West and a biologist, I just want to point out that bubonic plague is alive and well in the prairie dog colonies. (It’s carried by fleas.) It’s not so great for the prairie dogs but it’s mostly a nuisance disease for humans. A few people a year are likely to catch it. As long as the doctors can put two and two together, it’s usually easily treatable with antibiotics. I did see one story on Monsters Inside me, where a couple went back to New York and the doctors there were not fast enough to catch on.

    Also, pets can get it. Sometimes the first indication is a sick cat. Animals can die from it so people who don’t take a sick barn cat to the vet don’t might never know they have active plague cases on their property. For what it is worth, cats have a higher tolerance to the plague than people. They have a better chance of surviving it even if they don’t get treatment, but the fatality rate for cats is still pretty high without antibiotic help. You can just look up “prairie dogs and plague” to see the full reality of it. After you do that, if you still have a hankering for reading about diseases in the Western US, look up “Hanta Virus”. That’s the one to worry about.

    Anyway, there was a lot of stuff that was catching and fatal back in the 1780’s. A fear based response is not surprising. The black death was probably still a possibility in the minds of people although I think there were more likely deadly infections the DS writers could have chosen from if only they had the Internet back in the 1960’s. 🙂


  15. Danny–you never cease to please and entertain. “Caretaker’s Syndrome” brought the house down here. I had to put down the laptop and recover. That is such a spot-on diagnosis of poor Barnabas. I wonder if it’s catching. Perhaps it will transmit to Vicki in the Collinsport “Gaol” and she can finally, inexorably, go bat-shit crazy and leave all of us to our own devices.

    This episode generated a HUGE amount of blog postings here and so many are incredibly interesting. Particularly given that, as I write, we are about 3 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the thought or notion of the kind of death and destruction that historic “plagues” wrought is almost inconceivable. I am certain that when the word was dropped in just about any context back then, people recoiled in horror and quickly “socially distanced” themselves down the street and into the next county.

    It is rather remarkable and completely hilarious that the show has such an abysmal track record with doctor characters. On most soaps, as everyone knows, doctors (“The Doctors”) and health-care workers (“General Hospital”) are usually the “Guiding Lights” of a show’s mythology and ethos. DS has one fumbling, bumbling, no-nothing after another. About the only thing worse for them are their……LEO’s. Police and investigators don’t fare much better.

    Quick question: why go to the trouble of showing the album picture of the ORIGINAL Josette from the ORIGINAL Josette painting when the actress looking down on it currently playing the 1795 Josette looks absolutely nothing like her? I would think they might have avoided this clash in contrasts by simply not referencing the picture itself. Seems odd to me how sometimes the writers bring on the story line and plot paradoxes themselves with such errors.

    Already the 1795 Story Line Thus Far is ripe with inconsistency from the #200’s and #300’s mythology. We still have to see a number of things before we get out of here–including the death of Sarah, Josette and Barnabas’ mausoleum imprisonment.

    1. Barry: I was thinking myself about our current plague, Covid 19, and couldn’t help but relate our ongoing fears of this pandemic virus to how the people of Collinsport must have reacted to the reality of a similarly deadly and infectious disease. Contagion represents, arguably, humanity’s most ancient and pervasive fear, second only to that of death itself, the two being so closely related. No wonder disease motifs are so prevalent in the horror genre, from literature like Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and Stephen King’s THE STAND to movies like CONTAGION and PARASITE.

  16. On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to ask the following: does anyone know who some of the BRAVE ADVERTISERS were that graced their presence during the commercials? I would love to know what kind of products ran in the 7 or 8 minutes that the show had to lend itself to being able to pay the cast, crew and production.

  17. When Dr. Fumblemouth mentioned that the wound was caused by the bite of a rodent, I though they were heading toward a diagnosis of rabies, which of course is transmitted by bats (among other creatures). In most cases symptoms of rabies would take a lot longer to appear but still it seems more plausible than (dun dun DUUUUN) “the plague.”

  18. This episode contains its share of unintentionally funny moments.For example, Barnabas and Josette continually calling to each other in the opening scene (“Josette!,” “Barnabas!,” Josette!,” “Barnabas!” “Josette!,” “Barnabas!”) reminded me of that old spoof of soap operas, “John and Marsha”: “John!,” “Marsha!” “John!,” “Marsha!,” “John!,” “Marsha!”

    Then, we meet the doctor, who hilariously has no tact whatsoever. When the Countess asks if they should expect much hope, he tells them, “I would say there is no hope at al!” He then advises them to guard against optimism. What kind of bedside manner did he learn at medical school?

    Finally, we have Dumb Dora Vicki, who incredibly doesn’t understand that telling everybody she has a book that has recorded the future of the Collins family is like throwing red meat to the superstitious witch hunters of the world. Unfortunately, Josette and her Aunt Natalie aren’t much brighter. They remain completely blind to the facts that make Angelique the obvious witch. Hell, even the late, great Ray Charles would have seen it, and Stevie Wonder would have confirmed it!

    1. I’ll defend Natalie and Josette here. Angelique is someone they have known for years and Josette considered a “friend”. Plus they have an perpetrator that has already been identified by a “known” “reputable” witch finder, who did actual tests that identified Vicki as being the witch.

      IRL, people find it far easier to believe that someone unknown and who shows up in suspicious circumstances are “bad” people as opposed to people they have known for years and who has not behaved badly as far as they know. How many people talk about how the neighbor next door was a “nice, quiet” person right after they have been arrested for being a serial killer.

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