“I was standing here, waiting for the end to come, and it never did!”
Clinical notes of Dr. Julian Hoffman, ABC Daytime.
Session recorded on June 28, 1968, for broadcast on July 12th.
Patient is a two-year-old daytime soap opera that has recently gone through major changes in focus and storyline. Patient has been plagued for several months by a recurring dream, which is interfering with story progression and audience engagement. Patient is sponsored by Bactine, the modern no-sting antiseptic, and by Ajax double bleach cleanser.
Tell me about the dream.
Barnabas is in the Old House, and he sits down in his chair. He’s decided that he’s going to have the dream, and he says —
Or, wait. Should I start with Vicki?
Wherever you like.
Okay. Well, Vicki’s had the dream now, and she’s supposed to tell it to Barnabas. It’s all part of this Dream Curse that Cassandra started. The dream passes from one person to another, until it reaches Barnabas, and then…
I’m sorry, you already know all this.
It’s come up before.
Sorry. I always feel like I have to explain everything at the start of every session. It’s annoying, right?
It’s a common habit.
I guess I’m always afraid that people haven’t been paying attention to me, you know? So I start to say something, and then I figure, well, everyone’s going to be totally lost. I think it’s because I used to be a soap opera.
You used to be?
Yeah. Well, I was raised soap opera. I don’t know what I am now. I guess I still am.
So, the Dream Curse.
Right. It’s just — it feels like it’s been going on forever. It’s been three months, you know? Just going from one character to another. And it hasn’t really worked, and I keep thinking, what am I doing wrong?
And then I realized — this whole storyline is about Angelique taking revenge on Barnabas, right? But Barnabas hasn’t actually done anything. He’s just waiting around. And I remembered what you said a couple weeks ago, about trusting my characters. Because, really, the characters have to be the ones to move the story. You were totally right. I can’t do it for them. I really believe that.
So I feel like I’ve gotten stuck on this Dream Curse story, and I need to wrap this up, just so I can move on with my life, you know? And I have to do it this week.
Because of the timeslot change.
Right. It’s happening on Monday. The new show — One Life to Live — that’s going to premiere in the 3:30 slot, and I’m moving to 4:00. It’ll be better for the kids — when school starts, in September, they’ll be able to get home in time to watch the show. So that’s good, I feel really good about that.
But I’ve got to get past this Dream Curse thing. It feels like this baggage that I’ve been carrying around. I don’t want to bring that to 4:00.
It’s just… I’m not going to do that anymore.
So it has to be Barnabas’ decision; he finally accepts that. Julia is trying to keep him awake, but he’s already taken a sleeping pill.
It sounds like he has a death wish.
It’s not really a death wish. It’s, like — do you remember when I was obsessed with tarot cards last year? In the tarot, “Death” isn’t necessarily literal. It’s a change. Something needs to change.
That’s a pretty mature decision, for Barnabas. He’s usually willing to sacrifice anybody but himself.
Well, if he’s going to be the main character, then this has to be his journey. He can’t just stand on the sidelines.
So he takes the red pill, and he goes to sleep, and everything goes green and swirly.
Then there’s a knock at the door — Bang! Bang! Bang! — and Barnabas gets up to answer it.
When he opens the door, there’s Cassandra. The beckoner is always the next person to have the dream, but this is the last one, so she’s the beckoner this time.
Barnabas says, “I knew it could only be you. But I expected you as Angelique, not Cassandra.”
He’s probably right. It should have been.
What do you mean?
Well, it should have been Angelique this whole time. I’ve got this popular villain character, and I’ve been hiding her under a wig.
I know that people really want to see Angelique. I’ve just been afraid that if she reveals herself, then the story has to end, and I won’t have any more story to tell.
Anyway, the beckoner is Cassandra. Beckoner. Is that actually a word?
I think so.
Beckoner. You know how if you say a word too many times, it starts to sound like it’s not really a word? Beckoner. Beckoner. It’s weird.
Is that something you’re worried about?
What, the word?
The repetition. If you repeat the same thing too many times, it loses its meaning.
Oh. I don’t know.
What happens after that?
Well, Cassandra leads Barnabas down the hall and through the door, and he says that he’s not afraid anymore.
He walks through the door, and Cassandra says the poem.
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.
And then he’s in a room that’s full of doors — all these different doors, and he has to choose. I think that’s what this is about. There are all these choices ahead of him — ahead of me, really.
I could basically do anything with this story; I just need to choose a direction to go. But I’ve been stuck at this point, because I’m not sure which way I should go. I’ve been putting off this decision for months.
And you feel like you’re ready for it now.
I think so. I have to be.
I just need to understand what’s behind all of these doors, and then I’ll know what to do. So I go to the first door, and I open it.
Or — Barnabas does. Barnabas opens the first door.
And behind the door, there’s a skull, with these huge eyes — just grinning, and staring, like it’s hungry. Like it’s going to devour Barnabas, with these hungry eyes. It’s going to watch him until it eats him up.
Is that something that you’re afraid of? People watching you?
No. I mean, that’s my job.
Getting people to watch you.
Yeah. And the ratings have been going up, and that’s really good — obviously, that’s good. But it’s a lot of pressure, you know?
Especially with the teenagers who are watching now. They’re so… eager. They expect a lot.
They expect more than the people who were watching before?
Yeah, definitely. They’re kids; they’re not stuck in the house like their moms. They want action — big story, all the time.
And now that I’m changing timeslots — it’s like that old saying, right? “When we move to four, there will be more.”
I’m not familiar with that saying. Where’s it from?
I’m not sure. I heard it somewhere. But it’s true. It’s like the teenagers are this huge beast, that needs to be fed. I have to keep coming up with more story, just to feed that beast.
So Barnabas closes the first door.
Yeah. He says that he’s not scared, but if you look at his face… he’s scared.
But he has to do this; he has to get this over with. So he opens the second door.
What’s behind the second door?
There’s a skeleton standing there. She has long hair, and she’s wearing a wedding dress, and she’s laughing.
She’s a bride?
Yeah. I think this is the other half of the audience.
Right. The first door is the teenagers, and the second door is the housewives.
Because I can’t just let the housewives stand there and rot. I mean, somebody has to buy the Bactine and the Ajax cleanser.
Why is she laughing?
I don’t know. At me? It’s like there’s this huge joke that I don’t understand.
So Barnabas slams the second door shut, and then — are you recording this?
I record all of our sessions, on videotape. It’s for our files.
Does anybody else have access to it?
About sixteen million people. It’s a 28.8 share.
Well, Barnabas opens the third door, and there’s a guillotine — the blade comes crashing down before he can slam the door shut.
It’s going to chop off his head?
No, he’s standing up. It wouldn’t chop off his head. It’s kind of… waist-height.
Does that mean something?
Well, if I was a Freudian, I’d say it was castration anxiety.
But you’re not a Freudian?
I’m more of a Nielsen. I think it’s cancellation anxiety.
We’ve talked before about your fears of cancellation.
Well, that’s normal, isn’t it? Everybody thinks about being cancelled.
I mean, there’s been three soap operas in my timeslot. The Young Marrieds was cancelled after 380 episodes. Then there was Never Too Young, and that only ran to 192 episodes.
I’m on episode 535 now. It’s practically more than both of those put together. Am I getting old?
They say that life begins at 400.
Yeah. And the ratings are still going up. I shouldn’t worry about it so much.
I mean, starting Monday, the schedule’s going to be General Hospital, One Life to Live and Dark Shadows. That sounds solid, doesn’t it? That’s a lineup that could run for decades.
So I think it’s okay. I just need to do what Barnabas is doing in the dream. I have to open these up, face my fears, and then move on to the last door.
The fourth door.
Yeah. I guess four is the magic number, whether I like it or not. I’m moving to four o’clock on Monday. Might as well open the door and see what happens.
So Barnabas opens the fourth door, and there’s this… light.
It’s huge. And it’s beautiful. It’s like the sun.
And it’s like… I’ve been staying in the shadows all this time, you know? The last few months have been this endless night, with all the characters falling asleep, and living their lives in dreams.
Behind the fourth door… I mean, it’s always going to be dark. Dark is my first name.
But I have to remember that I’m not afraid of the spotlight. I’m daytime television. I am not afraid of the sun.
So Barnabas walks into the light, and the light is part of him. It’s like his third eye, and he can see… everything.
Because everything is light. I mean, that’s what we are. Television is made of light.
And Barnabas is, like, this — seeker. This prophet.
And now he’s illuminated, and the third eye opens, and he’s aware of the whole universe. Does that make sense?
I’m sorry. That probably sounds completely crazy.
No, it’s okay. This is 1968. Everybody sounds like that.
Well, the important thing is that he’s not afraid. He just walks forward, into the light.
This whole thing, this three-month journey, it’s been about people who are scared of a dream, and a dream is just a story. They’ve been scared of a story.
Why would someone be scared of a story?
Because stories end.
And once the dream is over — once that story ends — then you have to come up with a new story to tell. And maybe you don’t have another story, maybe you’re not good enough to come up with a new story that’s going to be as interesting as the last one was.
Like, maybe you peaked in the 18th century, and you don’t have any stories left to tell, and the teenagers are just staring at you, and the housewives are laughing at you.
But Barnabas isn’t afraid.
No. He walks into the light… and it brings him back home.
And he’s okay. He wakes up. He didn’t die.
And maybe that’s the point. It’s like I was saying before. Death doesn’t have to be the end.
Death is just a transition, another episode, and you can move past it. You can face your fears, and walk into the light. You can let the story end.
Wow. That sounds like a breakthrough.
I think so. Yeah.
So what happens next?
Well, then Barnabas walks outside, and there’s this huge bat, and it swoops down and bites him on the neck.
And I think, really, what that means is —
I’m sorry, I’m going to have to stop you there. That’s the end of our session. I think we’ve made a lot of progress today.
Should I say the credits?
No, we don’t have time. We ran a little long today. Just do the copyright notice.
Dan Curtis Productions, Inc. Copyright © 1968. All rights reserved.
Monday: Advance Directives.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the first act, when Vicki runs into the drawing room and shuts the doors, the boom mic can be seen hovering above the foyer.
When Barnabas opens the second door in his dream (the skeleton bride), you can see the studio lights above the set.
When Barnabas returns to his chair at the end of the dream, Julia can be seen passing by in the background, taking her place by the window.
Barnabas tells Vicki, “I cannot allow you to go on torching yourself this way.”
Finally, this exchange is entirely baffling:
Barnabas: I am the one that Cassandra wants.
Vicki: Why you? What does she have against you?
Barnabas: I am a direct descendant of the original Barnabas Collins. I can only guess that all those who bear his name are destined to bear the same fate.
Vicki: Yes… the history books say that Barnabas Collins went to England, but he didn’t. He stayed here, and he died, soon after he married Angelique. He died in the Old House.
So — if Vicki knows that Barnabas died before having any children, how can she still believe that this Barnabas is a direct descendant of the original?
Monday: Advance Directives.
— Danny Horn