“For a moment, when I first saw him, I felt a stirring in me.”
Looking back, I think the thing that really matters is that we did it together, you and I. It was hard, of course; anything that’s really worth doing is hard. But we stuck with it, day after day, and we were strong, and now we’re reaching the end of this journey together.
This is the last week of the Dream Curse, Angelique’s three-month battle with story progression. The witch’s spell created a chain-letter dream which passed from one person to another, until practically every character on the show had the same slow, pointless dream sequence. Then they had to describe the dream, in detail, and tell us all about how petrified they were of this entirely unscary experience.
But finally, after almost three months of this tedious nonsense, we’ve reached the final week, where we’ll see the last two iterations of the dream. And then the Dream Curse will be over, thank goodness, and there will never be another boring storyline on Dark Shadows ever again.
Today’s thrill ride begins with ex-vampire Barnabas Collins — the ultimate target of this terrifying curse — sitting around the house in his fantastic burgundy smoking jacket, reading a book.
This is the show’s way of saying, yes, this is a spine-tingling adventure serial, but we still allow the characters to take breaks every once in a while. Dark Shadows believes in maintaining a reasonable work/life balance.
He’s interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected visitor — Victoria Winters, girl governess. She asks if she can speak to him for a moment, and he says, “Of course, I’m delighted to see you. I haven’t seen you for several days.”
Now, over the last few months, I’ve nominated several things as “the problem with the Dream Curse”, but here it is, my final answer.
The problem with the Dream Curse is that it’s never been clear who this storyline is really about. The dream moved from one character to another, so the person who was absolutely obsessed with it during a given run of episodes would pass the baton to the next character, and then drop out of the story.
Presumably, this has been a story about the eternal, devastating kaiju battle between Angelique and Barnabas, but he’s the last person to have the dream, so it’s been hard for him to be directly involved. There have been long stretches of episodes where the dream just kind of puttered along on its own, without Angelique or Barnabas even being involved.
If you think of the Dream Curse as a chain, then Angelique is standing at one end of the story, and Barnabas is all the way down at the other end. The most exciting moments in the story were about Professor Stokes confronting Angelique directly, and Barnabas wasn’t even around that week.
But as the Dream Curse draws to a close, they’ve decided that this is actually a story about Barnabas and Vicki — the romantic, desperate loner who’s terrified that his sins and mistakes will be visited upon the woman he loves, destroying her as it has so many others.
This is kind of a tough sell, because these two have literally not had a single scene together in two months. The last time they even talked to each other was back in May, just before the mad-science experiment brought Adam to life.
Angelique announced a couple weeks ago that Vicki would be the dreamer who carries the curse on its final step to Barnabas. This is supposed to be ironic and devastating — the woman that Barnabas loves becomes the key to his destruction.
Unfortunately, this passionless pair have a hard time pulling this off. When Barnabas says “I’m delighted to see you, I haven’t seen you in several days,” he’s not the amorous lover smoldering with desire. He’s the kindly old uncle, who would have been just as happy sitting quietly and reading his book.
And still, after all this time, he keeps her at arm’s length. The best way to create a bond between two characters is for them to share dramatic secrets, and it’s not happening. She already knows that the woman who calls herself Cassandra Collins is really the wicked Angelique, but Barnabas keeps refusing to let this relationship take another step.
Vicki: I’m certain that she’s only making this Dream Curse happen because she wants to hurt you.
Barnabas: Yes, I know.
Vicki: Why would she want to harm you, Barnabas? That’s the part I don’t understand.
Barnabas: I… don’t understand either.
Vicki: Could it be because you look so much like the first Barnabas Collins?
And then they just change the subject, and start talking about something else.
The blocking in this scene reinforces how disconnected these characters are. It begins with Vicki sitting in one chair and Barnabas in the other — and then every time a character says something upsetting, the other person turns away. They keep standing up and sitting down, rearranging themselves in a sequence of awkward tableaus.
And then this happens.
Vicki: Sometimes, I’ve thought of going hundreds of miles away, where she couldn’t possibly find me. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, because —
Barnabas: Because of… Jeff Clark?
Vicki: Yes. I can’t leave him. Barnabas, I’m sorry.
Barnabas: Please, don’t apologize. I know how you feel about Jeff, and I’m… trying to accept it.
So that’s just death to all possible interpersonal drama, now and forever. “I’m trying to accept it”?
This is supposed to be the scorching love affair that powers the show’s central love triangle. Barnabas, Vicki and Angelique should all be operating at maximum melodrama, as we race towards the climax of this epic soap opera storyline.
I mean, it’s lovely that Barnabas is being mature for the first time in two hundred years, but then where does this leave us?
Also — why can’t you bring Jeff with you? The entire Vicki/Jeff story revolves around the fact that Jeff has amnesia. He has no job, no family, and no ties to anyone on the show except for Vicki. He is the most portable character you could ask for.
Sure, he’s annoying, and maybe she doesn’t want to be on a long bus ride with the guy. But she needs to step up her game.
So then Angelique goes and raises Sam from the dead, so he can tell Vicki about his dream.
That’s how brittle this anemic storyline has become. The villain stands at the grave of a freshly-murdered supporting character, and brings him to life for one more agonizing moment. And what does she want him to do? Go tell somebody about a dream he had once. It’s not even like this dream is particularly special — it’s exactly the same dream that nine other characters have had so far.
He doesn’t mention Maggie, or anything in his life that’s left unfinished. He doesn’t want to reach out to the friends and loved ones he’s left behind. The only question on the table is whether he’s going to relate the same dull story to Vicki that everybody’s been talking about for three months.
In lieu of a plot point, Angelique tells Sam that if he doesn’t talk to Vicki about the dream, then she won’t let him rest; she’ll curse him to walk the Earth for an eternity, never at peace.
This is apparently a big issue in the dead community; they’re always going on about wanting to rest in their graves. They won’t shut up about it.
So Sam appears to Vicki at the Old House — newly risen from the world of the dead — and the first thing he does is sit down in a chair. Honestly, how much rest could you possibly need?
Tomorrow: The Interpretation of Dreams.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
After telling the dream to Vicki, Sam says, “Her powers are so great, I could not disa– obey.”
Behind the Scenes:
This is David Ford’s last appearance on Dark Shadows; he’s been on the show since August 1966. After DS, Ford spent some time in an off-Broadway production of Harold Pinter’s Tea Party, and then found success in early 1969 in the original Broadway cast of the musical 1776. Ford played John Hancock in the show, and reprised the role in the 1972 film adaptation. He spent a year on another soap opera, Search for Tomorrow, and then he did a lot of commercial voice-overs, and that’s about it.
Tomorrow: The Interpretation of Dreams.
— Danny Horn