Episode 530: Requiem for a Dream

“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.

530 dark shadows barnabas reading

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.

530 dark shadows barnabas vicki visit

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.

530 dark shadows vicki barnabas passion

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.

530 dark shadows vicki barnabas why

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?

Barnabas:  Possibly.

And then they just change the subject, and start talking about something else.

530 dark shadows vicki barnabas frightened

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.

530 dark shadows barnabas vicki blocking

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?

She nods.

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?

530 dark shadows vicki barnabas leave

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.

530 dark shadows cassandra sam grave

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.

530 dark shadows vicki sam dead

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.

530 dark shadows vicki sam sitting

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.

530 dark shadows barnabas cassandra shame

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

17 thoughts on “Episode 530: Requiem for a Dream

  1. Originally, Barnabas was a deranged stalker. The pre-1795 backstory implied that Josette loved her husband and creepy Barnabas pursued her and would have turned her into a vampire against her will (“rape” metaphor) if she hadn’t killed herself. The “reboot” of Barnabas changed all of this: Josette actually loved him, and it was Angelique who ruined everything. The problem, though, was that Jonathan Frid and Kathryn Leigh Scott had no real chemistry.

    I argue that Frid only had chemistry with Grayson Hall and Lara Parker, and that’s probably for the reason you mention above — they shared dramatic secrets, they bickered, they collaborated, and so on. That makes a couple interesting to watch.

    In comic book terms, Barnabas has a secret identity that we all know and that’s far more engaging than his “public” persona. Batman’s flirtations with Catwoman or Talia are electric because they both share the dark world. Lois Lane and Superman as a frustrated couple is more interesting than Clark Kent pining after an oblivious Lois.

    Barnabas sitting and reading the book is a moment that always frustrated me. It’s not even a book about “how to stop the dream curse.” Think of all that Stokes has done and is doing. He’s far more a protagonist than Barnabas at this point, who just sits around and wants danger to leave him alone. 1897 and 1840 are more compelling because they’ve discovered that Barnabas is less interesting as a “lovelorn” romantic than he is as the family busy body — obsessed with saving Chris Jennings, David and Quentin Collins and so on.

    From a structural standpoint, if you outlined the remainder of 1968, it plays out more as a tragedy starring Nicholas Blair — the villain protagonist. We almost risk a retread of 1967 when the formerly interesting Burke Devlin is duller than dishwasher and simply reacts while the more dynamic villain drives the story forward.

  2. I brought this up in an earlier post but I’ll do it again: my main problem with 1968 is the horrendous pacing of the storylines. Set up a story, then one or more of the characters is offscreen for weeks, then pick up the story again when it’s convenient. They want to be dramatic – clearly, that’s what they’re going for with Vicky being the last in the chain. But as you mention, Barnabas and her haven’t even had a scene together for weeks, if not months. Like they’re nudging the audience – “Remember, Barnabas is in love with Vicky???” but they can’t be bothered to show us by building and exploring the relationship between the two. This period really is a prime example of plot-driven drama instead of character-led drama and I think it’s very weak.

    1. I agree. I do think a major cause of bad pacing in a storyline is non-engaged, reactive protagonists. Barnabas stops wanting anything after he’s cured. Trying to preserve the status quo is not that interesting and that’s all Barnabas is doing. He doesn’t move the story forward. The episodes where Stokes is involved in the Dream Curse and against Cassandra were gripping to me, but the writers chose to drop it for whatever reason.

      Things pick up when Nicholas seizes control of the storyline as primary antagonist (essentially “demoting” Angelique).

      1. Yeah, agreed. Theoretically, Barnabas is fighting against Angelique’s desire to turn him back into a vampire. There is some drama to be gained from that, but it really only pops its head towards the end of the storyline. As someone earlier mentioned, we don’t get a good sense of how Barnabas feels about being human again or how horrible it would be for him to be turned back into a vampire. Again, it’s just a thing the writers assume the audience would accept, without laying any of the groundwork.

        DS’s first year had its problems, but they did a better job of telling character-driven storylines. And they also did a better job of juggling the large cast of characters and alternating between the storylines and subplots than the 1968 era which consistently loses many characters for weeks at a time.

        1. 1968 had the problem of trying to reconcile two dissimilar goals: To make everyone forget about Barnabas being the villain in 1967 while providing continuity for 1967. Small wonder that they ended up sputtering and running in circles.

          1. Yeah. I think it was a good idea to make Barnabas human since they had kind of painted themselves into a corner. And honestly, I’m surprised at how long he remained human. But I don’t think they really did anything interesting with him once he was human (and you could have). He pretty much acts the same.

            1. The Barnabas of 1967, pre 1795 flashback, is drastically different from the Barnabas of 1968 after Lang cures him. Just watch some of his scenes with Julia. However, 1795 gave us enough time to get used to a “nicer” Barnabas so we don’t get the “in-universe” light switch it would have been for the guy who almost strangled Julia in episode 364 to the one just a few days later.

              But yes, once he becomes a vampire again in 1897, he behaves about the same — just with cool powers.

          2. Maggie regaining her memory is one of the oddest decisions when you consider that it involves telling the audience (even showing us in flashback) Barnabas at his worst. Even the crimes Barnabas committed in 1795 were either directly vampire related (blood lust) or trying to cover up his vampire secret. Maggie’s abduction was bizarre psycho killer stuff. Why trot that back out?

            1. Maggie regaining her memory should be the equivalent of an atomic bomb explosion. NOTHING would remain the same after that. So, they fumbled it, and let her lose her memory again. Talk about wasting a great plot point.

              They should have to come up with a good way to defuse that bomb, and let Nicholas do it, is NOT a good way.

              (I did come up with a nice solution, which involves Barnabas having only a hazy memory of 1967 while Maggie has become a US Representative and, as a politician, what she really cares is that no one lets it be known that she was EVER at a mental institution, and is quite willing to deep-six anyone who threatens to, and that includes Barnabas…)

            2. My guess is that it’s to remind the audience of what may happen if he does revert, that it would not just be Barnabas himself who would be affected, and possibly destroyed, but also whoever else he randomly fixates on. Therefore, the stakes involved over Angelique’s attempts to transform Barnabas back to what he was are underscored as very high indeed.

        2. Yes, it’s more compelling later when Angelique attempts the same goal (reverting Barnabas) but this time she’s the vampire and he’s her victim. Aside from the role reversal, the impact is greater because we see him slowly slipping away and forced to do things for her that he doesn’t want. Also, if Barnabas becomes a vampire, this might kill Adam, which would threaten Nicholas’s plan.

          I recall Barnabas mentioning something about he’d “lose Vicki forever” if he reverted, but he never had Vicki nor does he have any shot at her, so that tension is imaginary.

        3. Another thing I prefer from the early episodes are that the stories had a satisfactory CONCLUSION (Roger’s car accident, Bill Malloys murder, Laura’s grand exit, Jason Maguire, Burke’s justice for the manslaughter charge). And they would have gone into Vicki’s parentage too if Barnabas hadn’t upset the status quo and resulted in more fractured and incomplete storylines.

  3. If Barnabas had really wanted Vicky, he would have done something about it earlier, since it’s been over a year since he first set his focus around her exclusively. But as with the second Burke Devlin, the writers have been hesitant to concoct an effective rivalry between him and Jeff Clark. And, of course, the actors who play Vicky and Maggie are too young to be portrayed as love interests of Barnabas–at least Lara Parker is within the same decade as Frid.

    I also agree that he has no chemistry with Vicky or Maggie Evans, or anyone really, at least not in THAT way. Frid is very charming and elegant in his mannerism, but his portrayal of Barnabas is decidedly asexual. Frid and Grayson Hall do make for an appropriate-looking couple. You could easily imagine them as married with grown children–but you could never imagine them as being romantic with each other, at least not now, as they are both well settled into middle age, though you can appreciate that they would once have had that romantic spark. But if the show had gone that route, paired Julia as Barnabas’ love interest, perhaps then the teenagers of the time would not have tuned in, as it would have been like watching someone’s parents.

    Barnabas is not romantic in terms of physical chemistry, but he is instead a Romantic figure–that is, that sense of indescribable longing is a fundamental theme that defines his existence. The quest is always more important than the conquest. If Barnabas gets what he wants and becomes satisfied, the audience will lose interest in him, finding instead the endless longing for love lost and times past more in keeping with his Romantic nature, because with these elements there is always the possibility of a conflict in the making. Whether or not we see him as the anti-hero or irresponsible and selfish or an outright callous villain is not important–he is the show’s main Romantic figure, and his existence bridges the long and troubled history that defines the Collins family, and serves as the basis for the upcoming 1897 and 1840 storylines.

    1. Excellent post. You’re totally right, there isn’t any romantic chemistry between Barnabas and any other character, especially once human. The closest we got to anything sexual was that creepy-uncle moment with Carolyn, and all he wanted then was comfort. Asexual, indeed.

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