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Episode 467: Physician, **** Thyself

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

467 dark shadows pain barnabas lang

The pain recedes, but Barnabas is concerned — he’s been on the receiving end of Angelique’s remote witch-slaps himself.

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And then we get a chance to see Addison Powell really express himself artistically.

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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.

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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.

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Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

11 thoughts on “Episode 467: Physician, **** Thyself

  1. Looking at these stills of Addison Powell’s hyperanimated facial and body language exaggerations, one might assume that he studied acting at the Edward D. Wood, Jr., Theatre and Film Institute for Method Acting. But with a witch and a devil’s emissary on the way to stir things up and rack up points for the visiting team, perhaps a mad scientist is just what’s needed for the home team. Because Julia does not have the B-movie recklessness necessary to ensure that Barnabas has a home field advantage by curing him of his condition to put him out of the opposition’s reach, in addition to whipping up a new spook to distract the visiting team captain. Without Dr. Lang, Barnabas’ chances would be nil against Cassandra and Nicholas. So perhaps the viewer should simply take stock and learn to trust the Gorton’s Fisherman….

    1. Hysterical – this could have been Lang in a parallel universe where any competent medical board would have stripped him of his license to practice medicine. The Gorton’s theme fits perfectly with the fishing town of Collinsport.

  2. I will give Dr. Lang this: He decided to treat a vampire’s condition with a massive blood transfusion rather than large quantities of bubbling acid. Julia certainly had spectacle but I’ll give the medical competency award in this area to Lang just for the simplicity.

    Addison Powell performed his lines as if he was in a B-movie that we’d later see riffed in MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. As a fan of both B-movies and MST3K, I do enjoy Powell’s performance on a camp level, but that’s the problem: Camp is the one element that weakens DARK SHADOWS. Every other sort of genre mash-up works: Peterson as Bogart, Petofi’s Hand as the Maltese Falcon, the Wolfman, and even Jekyll and Hyde, it all works because there is an earnestness to the proceedings.

    I’ve argued that DS’s reputation as a “campy” series can be traced to the entire Dr. Lang storyline (Adam, Eve, even the otherwise unrelated Dream Curse). There’s even something campy about Nicholas Blair — though Humbert Allen Astredo is a wonderful actor. But there’s just something about Blair that screams “camp.”

    I couldn’t put my finger on it but I think the issue might be that neither Blair or Lang would have worked on the pre-1795 DARK SHADOWS. Barnabas Collins — who was a vampire by the way — was able to function in normal, everyday scenes with Burke Devlin. Once Lang and Blair arrive, it’s no longer a soap opera set somewhat in the real world. It’s DARK SHADOWS.

    1. Perfect analogy – I much preferred the episodes where the supernatural and the ‘real world’ co-existed (early Barnabas, Laura the Phoenix, even the Dream Curse could fit into this category). Lang and his upcoming story are just too bizarre for my liking.

    2. Plus I think Barnabas worked pre-1795 because the vampire reveal was done slowly (aside from the initial coffin-popping) and even the Maggie kidnapping had resonance in the real world (at the end of the day she was kidnapped and locked up by some psycho). So he was able to acclimatize to the establish DS world better. With Dr. Lang it’s a case of BANG! Mad Scientist!!!!

      Nicholas Blair is a bit different. I think he could have worked pre-1795 – in black and white, away from his borderline garish make-up – but the introduction would have to be tweaked a bit.

      1. I think you hit it out of the park about pre-1795 Barnabas. The vampire aspect is there but presented mostly through his never appearing during the day. He rarely dematerializes or turns into a bat… more of that comes later. And everything he does regarding Maggie is rooted in reality — even attempting to turn her into his former girlfriend (a few tweaks and it’s not something we haven’t seen on CRIMINAL MINDS).

        During 1967, DS clearly takes place in a world without vampires or at least where the idea that they exist is so far-fetched as to not be considered even when Maggie has bite marks on her neck and calves are showing up drained of blood. (It’s also left unclear as to what Barnabas does with the women he’s attacking. Are they killed and if not, they don’t appear to be under his power as Carolyn was.)

        He’s almost a different character, presented differently than the HODS Barnabas or even the vampire Barnabas we see later in the series.

        As for Blair, I agree that he might have worked pre-1795 but he would have needed to be rooted more in reality. A businessman like Burke Devlin but who practices witchcraft rather than someone actually from hell.

        1. Yeah, Blair would have needed another angle – like he wanted to take over the Collins business, but using withcraft. You need to tie it into the real world in order for it to resonate, like with Barnabas and even Laura Collins, really. At the end of the day, the story was about her coming back and trying to get her son – a very familiar soap trope. She just happened to be some kind of phoenix creature. Even Angelique’s motivations were rooted in the real world – she wanted to take Barnabas away from Josette.

          But Dr. Lang….well, he’s building a Frankenstein creature. There’s really no other way of looking at it.

          1. Yeah, grounding the characters and their motivations in the real world is key. Blair’s plan to “rule the world” through Adam and Eve never resonated with me for that reason. Yet his destroying Joe’s life so he could pursue Maggie did. Precisely because it’s essentially a traditional soap opera story at its heart (Shady guy gets rival “addicted” to drugs or drink or something to force him out of the way).

          2. Blair could come seeking a powerful artifact for his magic, and determining that it is buried under Collinwood, would be seeking to evict the family so he can dig under it. Treasure hunts people understand. As for Lang, he could be a researcher on how to suppress immune responses for transplants, and he has crossed quite a bit of ethical lines for it. The Frankestein monster is an experiment on how to have all those disparare parts remain together wihout tissue rejection. And his interest in Barnabas might be predatory – using him for his experiments.

  3. Hmm, for some reason I thought Barnabus had been cured by Julia, who threw open the curtains and revealing the room in glorious color for the very first time!

  4. WOW! No more brake parts and fountain pens for this show! It’s really amazing how much this show has transformed in 467 episodes. That seems like a lot, but for a soap, it’s not really that many.

    And yes — the pacing is now too fast. It’s a bit out of control. I think the best pacing for DS was that period from Dr. Woodard’s killing to the seance. I was actually fine with the pacing during the Maggie-Barnabas / Liz-Jason period, but I could see that being too slow for most fans. But this is making even 1795 look a bit slow — and they really flew through that. They are changing direction not by the week but by the day. That kind of defeats the purpose of a daytime drama.

    Not feeling the rest of y’all on Addison Powell, except maybe during the witchcraft sequence. It looks more bizarre in still photographs than how it played out on the screen to me.

    He was roughly 47 when playing Dr. Lang. I think he’s a handsome, striking-looking man who clearly grayed very early. Maybe that’s clouding my judgment. But I kind of like him, at least so far.

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