“I should go to Collinwood, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!”
So, what do you do with a guy who just refuses to understand what kind of story he’s in?
I’m not talking about a Mulder-Scully dynamic, where the tension between belief and skepticism is the whole point of the series. I’m talking about a guy who’s standing smack in the middle of a spook show, and he can’t get his mind around the fact that there’s a witch who’s trying to kill him, even though she’s already openly attacked him using her magic powers. I’m talking about a guy who needs to have the situation explained to him over and over, plus he’s obnoxious and a terrible actor and he shouts all the time.
All right, it’s Lang. I’m talking about Dr. Eric Lang. He’s driving me crazy, and he’s got to be stopped.
I’ll start at the beginning. Barnabas is minding his own business, when there’s a knock at the door and in comes Dr. Lang, all perturbed and hollering as per usual.
Lang: Barnabas! Are you all right? What about the accident?
Barnabas: What are you talking about?
Lang: The message that you left on my answering service.
Barnabas: I left no message.
Lang: The message said for me to come over here, no matter what time it was. Are you positive?
Barnabas: Of course I am.
So right away, we’ve got a problem. What do you mean, “are you positive”? Either you leave a message for someone’s answering service, or you don’t. It’s not that much of a gray area.
But the real problem is that Lang doesn’t even acknowledge that Barnabas is wearing a brand-new deep purple robe, and he looks stunning in it. I know things can get hectic on this show, but come on. Open your eyes.
Barnabas: Are you here, listening? Are you watching us, Angelique?
Lang does an exaggerated double-take, looking around the room.
Lang: Barnabas, wouldn’t we be able to see her?
Barnabas: You have no idea of her powers, none!
Lang: Well, I don’t understand! Why does she want me here?
Barnabas: I don’t know.
Lang: It doesn’t make any sense.
Barnabas: Oh, yes, it does, believe me. It makes sense to her, or you would not be here.
Lang: Barnabas, I really don’t understand any of this.
Okay! Dude, we get it. You don’t have a lot of sorcery experience. It’s not necessary to say “I don’t understand” every time the other person in the scene takes a breath.
But here’s the real problem.
Barnabas: Do you have your talisman with you?
Lang: Well, yes. I think so.
Barnabas: Make sure you do.
Lang: I think I put it in my pock–
And then he does this elaborate pantomime on the theme of Guy Who Can’t Remember Where He Put His Talisman.
Lang: No, wait — or did I take it out when I was working —
Barnabas: I told you to carry it with you at all times!
Lang: No, wait, wait! Let me — let me think.
And then he puts his fingers to his temple to indicate that he is taking a moment to think. I swear to God, this guy.
He finally comes up with it.
Lang: No, it’s in the desk.
Fortunately, it’s been about 170 years since the last time Barnabas shot a guy in the face, so he’s out of practice.
But, for Pete’s sake. What’s it doing in the desk? It’s the thing that’s keeping a witch from murdering you. How can you not tell the difference between your pocket and a desk?
Now, really, this is just ordinary plot-mandated stupidity, and it’s not worth getting bent out of shape about it, but Addison Powell is The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows, and at a certain point you just run out of patience.
Here he is, closing out the scene by indicating: I wonder if there’s an invisible witch watching me right now. Look at this clown.
So they rush back to Lang’s house, and guess what, it’s time for Addison Powell’s stirring rendition of Guy Who Can’t Find Something in His Desk.
He starts rooting through the desk, pulling out files and papers.
Lang: I’ve got to clean out this desk, one of these days… It must be here.
And he just keeps rummaging through the drawer.
Finally, Barnabas says, “It isn’t there, is it?” And Lang takes that as a cue to start scrambling around again. This sequence goes on for approximately eight hours.
As he does in any crisis, Barnabas heads straight for Plan A.
Barnabas: I should go to Collinwood, and find her, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!
Barnabas: It’s my only way of getting free of her!
Barnabas walks to the door, and Lang calls after him.
Barnabas: It could be done, and no one would know! She would simply disappear.
Lang: There’d still be a lot of questions.
Barnabas: Not necessarily.
And that’s when you realize Barnabas actually meant it. He was about to head for Collinwood. That’s how his brain works.
The strategy meeting is interrupted by Jeff, who’s carrying a suitcase.
Lang: Oh! Hello, Jeff.
Jeff: What happened to me?
Lang: Well, you, uh — you fell asleep.
Jeff: Fell asleep? I was supposed to be packing.
So on behalf of the audience, I would like to say: wait, what? It’s still the same night that Julia hypnotized Jeff? They really know how to live it up in Collinsport; the nights last forever.
And the amazing thing is that everybody is still wearing a tie. Jeff says that it’s nearly dawn, and here they all are, hip-deep in neckwear. Jeff actually woke up and put on a tie, just to go downstairs and yell at Lang. We even saw Barnabas wearing a tie while he was relaxing at home in his purple dressing gown. Was it a rule in the 1960s that everybody on television had to wear a tie?
But let’s move on to the next scene, where there are even more pressing fashion concerns. Jeff was living at Lang’s house, but now that he’s quit his job, he needs a new place to stay. Vicki arranged for him to stay in the spare room at Maggie’s house.
And, oh my god — she’s wearing the skirt.
You remember the skirt, obviously. It’s impossible to forget this skirt. Maggie wore it in one episode six months ago, and I still haven’t recovered.
I don’t usually pay this much attention to the outfits, but it’s just that kind of episode today. There’s not really that much happening, so they’re distracting us with wardrobe. It’s working pretty well.
And then it’s pretty much all Dream Curse from here. This is an experimental storyline that they’re trying out, where they just do the same two scenes over and over until they run out of audience.
Last week, Maggie had a dream about Jeff — he led her down a hallway to a dark room, where she opened a door and saw a glowing skull. When she sees Jeff today, she feels compelled to tell him all about the dream.
The weird thing about this storyline is that telling people about your dreams is pretty universally recognized as one of the most boring things you can ever do. And yet, here we are.
So it’s only a matter of time until Jeff dozes off, and guess what, he has the same dream that we’ve just been hearing about.
In Jeff’s dream, it’s Dr. Lang who shows up at the door, to lead Jeff into the nightmare.
So Lang takes Jeff to the mysterious room, where it’s all doors and candles and smoke.
I’m kind of torn right now, because if I really want to represent what this episode is about, I should be going into way more detail on this dream stuff. Half of the episode is Maggie describing her dream to Jeff, and then Jeff having the exact same dream that Maggie described.
But the problem is that I don’t have a punchline, or an insight, or anything. Usually, I can craft some kind of point out of the raw material that the episode hands me, but this Dream Curse stuff is a real challenge. The dream scenes take up a big chunk of the running time, but they don’t really connect to anything, so the episodes end up like this one, just a rambling shaggy dog story with no unifying theme.
So all I can do at this point is to say: hey, look, Jeff’s asleep and he’s still wearing a tie. It’s not funny, and it doesn’t really mean anything, but there you go.
And then he wakes up, and it was all a dream! But I guess we knew that already.
Tomorrow: Free Willie.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Maggie and Lang both misquote the poem that we hear recited at the beginning of each nightmare. The lines should be:
“Through sight and sound, and faceless terror,
Through endless corridors by trial and error,
Ahead, a blazing light does burn,
And one door leads to the point of return.”
When Maggie describes her dream to Jeff, she says, “A blazing head of light will burn.” In Jeff’s dream, Lang says, “Through night and sound.”
Also, the smoke from the dream set spills over into the Evans cottage, so when Jeff wakes up from the dream, he’s still surrounded by a thick carpet of fog.
Behind the Scenes:
The green “tortoise lamp” that was first noticed in episode 237 appears on Lang’s desk today. It was in Jeff’s room two episodes ago. We’ll see it again in episode 513, when it appears in two different places. (Thanks to Prisoner of the Night.)
Tomorrow: Free Willie.
— Danny Horn