“Whether he’s ordinary or not is not the point. He’s a living human being, and we are responsible for him.”
It’s one of those weird nitpicks that people like to bring up in conversation — that “Frankenstein” isn’t the name of the monster; it’s the name of the doctor who created him. Then you say, okay, so what’s the monster’s name? And then everyone just stands around and looks foolish, until finally somebody says, gee, will you look at the time.
Because the creature doesn’t really have a name — he’s billed as the Monster in the Boris Karloff movie, and sometimes people will say “Frankenstein’s monster,” but those aren’t satisfying names, and everybody knows it.
The name “Frankenstein” exists in this weird middle space, suspended between creator and creation. And when you think about it, they’re kind of the same thing anyway, aren’t they? The doctor is the one who thinks; the monster is the one who acts. It’s the ego and the id. “Frankenstein’s monster” and “a Frankenstein monster” are both true, at the same time.
So, this big guy who’s currently smashing up the laboratory — is he Barnabas’ monster? Or is this a Barnabas monster?
Well, whoever he is, he’s making a goddamn mess. Adam is about an hour old, and Barnabas and Julia left him in Dr. Lang’s laboratory, which is possibly the least child-proofed location in the continental United States. Just in this one room, they have electricity, breakable glass, boiling liquids, heavy machinery, scalpels, lead paint, asbestos and plutonium.
Obviously, it was only a matter of time until Adam hurt himself; the only suspense was waiting to see if he found the box of scorpions.
So he’s confused and upset, and now he’s wrecking the place.
It’s a challenging situation, and Barnabas, as usual, goes straight for Plan A. He’s going to go downstairs and get the gun out of Dr. Lang’s desk, and then he’s hunting for monsters. There’s actually a harpoon collection down there too, if he needs more firepower.
Maybe it’s best to just fetch as many weapons as you can carry; you never know what might come in handy.
Once they’re armed, Barnabas and Julia return to the lab to survey the wreckage. It’s pretty much a disaster area. Luckily, stagehands moved all the cool-looking equipment out of the room while we weren’t looking, so it wouldn’t get broken. You never know when you might need an apparatus, especially on this show.
But it’s all gone quiet, and Barnabas and Julia aren’t sure what to expect.
And then, oh my goodness, will you look at that. Adam finished his strenuous redecoration project, and then he just curled up under a sheet and fell asleep. It is the actual cutest thing.
But get a load of Dirty Harry, over here.
Barnabas: Well, at least he’s made it easy for us.
Julia: Made what easy?
Barnabas: Putting him out of his misery.
Wow, seriously? It’s always the guns. I don’t know how many times I have to tell these people; guns are not for parenting.
At least Julia gets it.
Julia: He’s like a small child, who came into the world fully grown. He doesn’t recognize anything, because he doesn’t know anything. We’ve got to find some way of communicating with him.
Barnabas: We already tried to communicate with him; it’s impossible.
Julia: A child doesn’t learn to speak in one day. He’s got to be given a chance.
Just to drive the point home, there’s a nice long shot of Adam curled up on the floor, obviously the picture of innocence. As always, Julia is the direct hotline between the writers and the audience.
Barnabas: Julia, this is no ordinary human being. We have no way of knowing if he’s capable of learning anything!
Julia: Whether he’s ordinary or not is not the point. He’s a living human being, and we are responsible for him.
Barnabas keeps blabbering on for another couple lines, but seriously, dude, this conversation is over. Look at her face. You know she doesn’t back down from that expression. This is not your first rodeo.
Julia: Everything he’s done so far has been out of fear. We’re responsible for that fear. We must make him trust us.
Julia: I don’t know, but we’ve got to. We gave him the life he has. I don’t know if we had the right to do that. But now that we’ve done it, I know we don’t have the right to take it away.
So that’s the official word, direct from the character who is always right about absolutely everything: Adam is a young child, and Barnabas and Julia are responsible for raising him. We have left the complex world of subtext and metaphor. They are Adam’s parents.
So that makes everything that happens for the rest of the week absolutely baffling, because Julia’s concept of appropriate child care differs from the rest of us in several important respects.
I mean, first she gives him a sedative, obviously, because why would you spend all that time in medical school except to give sedatives to every living thing you ever come across. That’s baseline for her; if you’re not going to give the guy a sedative, then why even bother showing up.
Now we can move on to the next phase of the operation.
Julia: He’ll sleep for twenty-four hours, at least. We’ve got to move him before that.
Barnabas: Move him where?
Julia: To the Old House.
Barnabas: The Old House?
Julia: Can you think of a better place?
Barnabas: I can’t think of a worse place.
And then, because this is Julia, she says something that is utterly surprising.
“Barnabas, I don’t mean to put him in the drawing room,” she smiles. “We can put him in the cellar, and lock him up until he begins to learn.”
Because… that’s what you do. I guess. You lock children up in the cellar. This is a well-known parenting technique.
So this is one of those moments that just perfectly describes what Dark Shadows is about. They very carefully set up a situation specifically designed to make the audience feel warmly towards Adam. I mean, the guy’s curled up on the floor taking a nap, and Julia made a speech about how they have to take care of him.
Then you cut to a “raising Adam” montage — reading a picture book to him, taking him to the park, showing him how to pet a dog, baking cookies, all set to a folk-rock pop song.
Or, on the other hand, you could act like Dark Shadows, which means: Do exactly the opposite of that. Lock him up in the cellar, and don’t feed him. What could possibly go wrong?
Tomorrow: Revenge of the Baby-Sat.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Something’s wrong with the opening establishing shot of Dr. Lang’s house. I’m not sure I can diagnose what’s happening, but it looks like they’re using a black and white picture of the house.
When Julia says that Barnabas can’t kill Adam, he says, “Are you out of his — your mind? Why, he’s like an animal!”
This isn’t really a blooper, but it’s funny to watch Barnabas and Julia having a philosophical conversation while they’re crunching breakaway glass every time they take a step.
At the end of the episode, just before Mrs. Johnson wakes up from her dream, there’s the sound of shuffling feet in the studio.
Tomorrow: Revenge of the Baby-Sat.
— Danny Horn