“Perhaps — in the mastery of science, in the mastery of modern medicine — you will find your best hiding place!”
Previously, on Dark Shadows — Barnabas Collins, knocked unconscious in a car accident, was brought to the Collinsport Hospital, and is now under the care of Dr. Eric Lang. Observing the patient’s lack of pulse and impossibly low blood count, noting the presence of two puncture wounds in Vicki’s neck, and blessed with the unique ability to add two and two, Dr. Lang identified Barnabas as a vampire, halfway through yesterday’s episode.
Dr. Lang confronted Julia with his conclusions, and insisted that they work together to treat Barnabas’ condition — and by the end of the episode, Lang surprised Barnabas by whipping open the heavy curtains and exposing his panic-stricken patient to the late-afternoon sunlight.
And now Barnabas is fine.
Well, that was easy. And now I guess the show’s over, and we can all go home. What were you guys planning to do for the next three years? Cause I’d figured I was going to watch this vampire show.
So it goes without saying that the pace of plot development on this show has suddenly skyrocketed to an unbelievable degree. Back before the 1795 flashback, Julia was giving Barnabas “treatments” for two and a half months — and even then, they didn’t actually work.
But yesterday, it only took half an episode for Lang to uncover Barnabas’ secret, and then he cured Barnabas during a commercial break.
For a soap opera writer, story development is a valuable natural resource, which needs to be spent carefully because you never know when you’re going to have another idea.
In the last week, since Vicki returned from her trip to the past, they’ve essentially taken all of the existing story elements — Julia pretending to be a family historian, Barnabas having hypnotic control over Carolyn, David being driven insane by his vampire cousin — and they’ve dragged those ideas out back and set the whole heap on fire, just to see how pretty it looks as it burns. It’s breathtaking.
But as everyone knows, magic always comes with a cost. Yes, it took a month for Julia to confirm that Barnabas was actually a vampire — but that month of episodes included lots of opportunities for Julia to be clever, funny and brave. As the story slowly developed, we all fell madly in love with Julia. She basically ended up with the keys to the whole show, and she earned that role, every day.
So if Dr. Lang thinks that he can jump the line, and step straight into the middle of the most interesting story on the show, then he has a lot to live up to. Remarkably, he’s actually being positioned as a replacement for Julia in the storyline — an incredibly bold move for a brand new character.
Unfortunately, the cost of this fast-paced change to the status quo is that Lang doesn’t have any time to develop likeable character traits.
As we’ve discussed before, for a new character to be accepted by the audience, he needs to do three things: make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen.
Lang nails the plot point, so that requirement is taken care of. But he doesn’t have any friends — we’ll see him interact with several people this week, and he’s either manipulative (with Barnabas and Vicki) or outright hostile (with Julia and Jeff).
And he is absolutely incapable of making a joke, unless you want to make the case that his entire performance is a satirical riff on self-absorbed actors with more confidence than talent.
In fact, Addison Powell is The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows. We documented this undisputed fact several months ago, when Powell had a one-day role as an 18th century judge. He was terrible then, and — if such a thing is possible — he is even worse now.
For one thing, the guy can’t find his light. Yeah, this is Dark Shadows, where the boom mic is always in the way, and they don’t stop for retakes. Everybody gets a boom shadow in the face every once in a while. But Addison Powell is tall, and seems incapable of registering when he’s in the right place. (Helpful tip for actors: If you can’t see the light shining on your face, then the light can’t see you. Move a step to the right, and see what happens.) This is going to come up a lot.
But more importantly, Powell only makes one acting choice — whether to be loud or really loud. He bellows his dialogue as if every line is a ship-to-shore SOS.
Here, have a slice.
Lang: WHO BESIDES Dr. Hoffman knows.
Barnabas: No one.
Lang: What about this woman, ANGELIQUE, that you mentioned, who’s PREVENTING your cure. What about her.
Barnabas turns away, which provokes Lang into hollering at the top of his voice.
Lang: PLEASE, Mr. Collins. YOU MUST TELL ME! I MUST KNOW WHAT I’M FIGHTING!
Faced with a storm of this magnitude, Barnabas tries to equalize.
Barnabas: SHE WAS A WITCH! I MARRIED HER BEFORE I REALIZED WHO SHE WAS, AND WHAT SHE WAS! And her curse made me as you found me! Oh, if I could only find some place where I could hide from her spirit.
Lang dials it up even higher.
Lang: Mr. Collins! PERHAPS — IN THE MASTERY OF SCIENCE, IN THE MASTERY OF MODERN MEDICINE — YOU WILL FIND YOUR BEST HIDING PLACE!
Barnabas: She will FIGHT you!
Lang: NO! I WILL DEFEND YOU, MR. COLLINS!
So, holy cow. Boys! There are other patients in this hospital, and they might appreciate a little peace and quiet. Also — and I hate to be a stickler about this — you left the balcony window open. Do you really need to be screaming about witches and curses right now? Keep it down!
Of course, there’s a disadvantage if an actor chooses to emote that fiercely during a friendly chat, which is that it doesn’t leave you anywhere to go. Later in the episode, the portrait of Angelique instructs Roger to cast a voodoo spell on Dr. Lang, causing him to feel a sharp pain in his head.
Naturally, Lang skips the “headache” phase, and goes straight to brain hemorrhage.
The pain recedes, but Barnabas is concerned — he’s been on the receiving end of Angelique’s remote witch-slaps himself.
And then we get a chance to see Addison Powell really express himself artistically.
He drops to his knees, and really gets into it. This is what you do as an actor — you hit your mark, and you tell the truth.
There’s really nothing I can say about this moment. You just have to step back, and watch the man work.
Tomorrow: The Odd Couple.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the recap scene, Barnabas is wearing a different dressing gown. The dialogue is also cut down to speed up the scene, but it means that Lang’s line doesn’t really make sense: “Mr. Collins, I’ve been trying to tell you — I have given you many injections of new and experimental drugs.” At that point in the teaser, Barnabas has been conscious for three lines of dialogue. How hard have you been trying to tell him something?
When Lang touches Barnabas’ wrist, he says, “Yes — there is still a faint pulse-beat.”
Roger comes back to himself, after a brief episode of thinking that he’s Joshua Collins. Liz is surprised that he doesn’t realize what he said, but Roger chuckles: “Now, you don’t expect me to remember to forget what I say; I have an admirable memory for my own conversation.”
When Roger and Liz are visiting with Barnabas, Lang comes in and says, “I’m sorry to intrude, but actually all I wanted was just to leave off this medication.”
Tomorrow: The Odd Couple.
— Danny Horn