“According to my calculations, only one more person must have the dream.”
I knew this was going to be hard. When I started this uncertain and frightening journey through Dark Shadows, I knew that the Dream Curse storyline was waiting for me, and it was going to test my endurance more than anything else on the show. But here I am, six weeks into the story, and I just looked at my episode guide, and I’m only halfway through. We’re currently at the beginning of June 1968, and the Dream Curse ends in mid-July.
I know I keep saying “Here’s the problem with the Dream Curse,” but here’s the problem with the Dream Curse: characters just saunter in and out of the storyline, and it doesn’t seem to matter. The allegedly terrifying chain-letter dream sequence moves from one character to another, and once they’ve passed the baton on to the next person, they drop out of the storyline.
Remember when it was a big deal that Mrs. Johnson needed to go to Boston, so she wouldn’t pass the dream on to Jeff? Or was that David? Or Julia. I’m pretty sure it was either Julia or River Song. No, wait, that’s Doctor Who. I’ve got this written down somewhere.
Anyway, now it’s Carolyn’s turn. Willie broke into Carolyn’s bedroom yesterday to tell her about the dream, but then she bit him on the hand, and told him to get out of her room. That is actually my personal nightmare, that people will bite me when I start telling them about the Dream Curse. Readers of this blog: Please do not bite me.
As today’s episode begins, Carolyn is asleep, and she hears a knock at the door. She gets up to answer it, and we see her from two angles at once, a nice visual trick that we haven’t seen before. It looks like she’s doing a musical number on a 1970s variety show.
Willie told Carolyn that his dream began with a knock at the door, but then she got bitey, and she didn’t hear the rest. So when she gets up to answer the door, she refuses to open it, and that wakes her up.
This is a very bold stance for the character to take. Not opening doors goes against everything that Dark Shadows believes in.
She opens her eyes, declaring: “I will not have that dream.” So that’s our conflict for the day: a woman at war with her REM cycle.
Happily, Julia’s on the case. She’s the most interesting character on the show, and she can’t stand to see this boring story go on for one more day.
So she’s called in Professor Stokes, a new and equally eccentric character, who’s supposed to be an expert in the occult.
Julia: The dream keeps coming closer and closer to Barnabas.
Stokes: Yes, I’m sure it does. Whoever started the dream is determined that Barnabas Collins die.
Julia: Or something worse happen.
Stokes: Is there anything worse? Do tell me.
But Julia doesn’t want to give away the real secret — that Barnabas has recently been released from his vampire curse, and the dream is supposed to turn him back into the living dead. Julia is a mythopoetic trickster figure, and all she knows how to do is lie.
Julia: I didn’t mean — it was a pointless remark.
Stokes: I don’t think so. No remark about Barnabas Collins ever is. The more I study the dream — the pattern of it — the more I realize that.
Julia perks up.
Julia: You’ve reached some conclusions, then?
Stokes: According to my calculations, only one more person must have the dream — a woman. And that woman may make it possible for Barnabas Collins never to have the dream.
This is a wonderful and utterly insane thing to say, and look how pleased he is to say it. How could you possibly make calculations about this?
His explanation is classic Dark Shadows necrobabble, pulling random conclusions out of the air. He takes a photograph of Josette’s portrait out of his pocket.
Stokes: Here is something I want to show you. Tell me who this woman is. Do you know?
Julia: Yes, it’s Josette du Prés.
Stokes: But who does it look like?
Julia: Why — it looks like Maggie Evans!
Stokes: Exactly. But it’s not; it’s Josette du Prés, a love of the first Barnabas Collins. This picture was one of the first clues I had. When I met Maggie Evans, I wondered why she should be the first to dream. The witch has a sense of humor. To get at Barnabas, he started with Josette.
Julia gets all stiff and weird again.
Julia: But — Maggie is not Josette, and this Barnabas Collins is not the same one who lived in the 18th century.
Stokes: But they are interchangeable, aren’t they? They look the same… act the same.
Again, that’s an absolutely insane thing to say. How could he know that 1968 Barnabas acts the same as 1795 Barnabas? What could that possibly mean?
Stokes: My curiosity about Barnabas Collins is partly the result of my reflections on the dream. In order to verify my assumptions, I must know certain personal facts about him.
And then he makes a series of weird guesses about Barnabas’ mental and emotional state at the various times when people were having the dream. Here’s the key observation that impresses Julia: “Was Barnabas Collins going through a difficult period in any way, when Dr. Lang and you had the dream?”
This is nonsense, the kind of vague leading question that psychics throw out when they’re doing a cold reading. It’s like saying, “You’re sometimes insecure, especially when you’re with people you don’t know very well.”
Stokes is using that technique for the same reason that the fortune-tellers do — because it’s impossible to say no to a question like that. People are always going through a difficult period, for one reason or another, and that goes double for soap opera characters. So Julia agrees with him, and that means that he’s brilliant, and he can be trusted.
Another thing to note: in all of the lines that I’ve quoted, Stokes refers to “Barnabas Collins” — the full name, every time. He uses it like it’s an incantation, making it sound like a big deal every time he mentions Barnabas.
This is all part of the ritual. It’s the magician warming up with a few card tricks, before calling upon the spirit of the Horned God.
And look at what strange magic they’ve made. They call Carolyn over for a visit, and tell her that they want Willie to tell her about his dream. By now, the most outlandish conversations have become commonplace.
Carolyn: No, I won’t. You cannot ask me to have that dream.
Stokes: But we want you to have it in a controlled situation, Miss Stoddard.
Again, absolute nonsense. What did you say you’re a Professor of?
They actually talk Carolyn into letting Stokes hypnotize her, so that he’ll appear in her dream as the beckoner. Fortunately, this is not even the weirdest thing to happen to Carolyn this week.
It works, of course. Professor Stokes has conjured up a new version of the Dream Curse storyline, where it actually matters what happens in the dream.
Carolyn wakes up, and she tells Stokes about her dream. Now he’s jumped the turnstiles, and taken control of the storyline.
Stokes: When I was a boy, I used to envy St. George, because he had found his dragon to battle.
Julia: And now you’ve found your own dragon, Professor.
Stokes: Yes, the occult is much more interesting than any medieval cave… and much more dangerous.
So there you go, that’s the new plan. He’s going to turn this tepid mess into a story, with an actual conflict at the heart of it.
The mystic warrior settles in for a magic power nap, using actual magic powers. My hero, Professor Stokes.
Tomorrow: Dream Beater.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The sub-theme that plays over at the shot of Collinwood at the beginning of the show is played at the wrong speed for the first eight seconds. Then it fades out, and returns five seconds later at the correct speed.
When Stokes is talking to Julia about the resemblance between Maggie and Josette, he says, “The witch has a sense of humor. To get at Barnabas, he started with Josette.” Later, when Julia refers to the witch as “she”, Stokes says, “You’ve decided she’s a woman. I rather counted on that myself, but then I’m a romantic.” But Stokes already knows that Cassandra is the witch. Barnabas told him that in episode 488, and tomorrow’s episode hinges on the fact that Stokes recognizes that Angelique is Cassandra.
Carolyn’s dream ends with the sight of her own gravestone. Her birthdate is listed as December 8, 1948. We saw Carolyn’s listing in the family history in episode 267, and her birthdate was listed as July 16, 1946.
Tomorrow: Dream Beater.
— Danny Horn