Episode 535: The Point of Return

“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.

535 dark shadows vicki barnabas start

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas pill

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas water

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.

535 dark shadows julia barnabas sleep

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas door

Then there’s a knock at the door — Bang! Bang! Bang! — and Barnabas gets up to answer it.

535 dark shadows cassandra barnabas knew

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas lighting

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas cassandra fear

What happens after that?

Well, Cassandra leads Barnabas down the hall and through the door, and he says that he’s not afraid anymore.

535 dark shadows barnabas poem

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas doors

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas first

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.

535 dark shadows dream skull

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas feed

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.

531 dark shadows skeleton bride

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.

The housewives.

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas third door

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.

Right. Okay.

535 dark shadows barnabas guillotine

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.

Oh.

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.

Right.

535 dark shadows barnabas danger

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas four

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas light

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas third

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas afraid

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas follow

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas defiant

But Barnabas isn’t afraid.

No. He walks into the light… and it brings him back home.

535 dark shadows barnabas fine

And he’s okay. He wakes up. He didn’t die.

535 dark shadows julia barnabas won

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.

535 dark shadows barnabas bat

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 —

535 dark shadows barnabas neck

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.

535 dark shadows vicki julia impatient

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 535: The Point of Return

  1. Could VIcki have assumed that Angelique ran off from Collinsport pregnant? (acutally I am surprised there isn’t more fanfic about her having his baby on Martinique or something). Or perhaps she thought he had already had a child before meeting Angelique? (not impossible given that he was already 32).

    1. You do manage to provide a possible explanation that can save me from harming my TV the next time I watch this scene. Vicki doesn’t know Angelique died in Collinsport (she turns up at her trial later, after all). So, yeah, maybe Angelique Collins raised Barnabas’s child in England. And this was downplayed in the family history, so 1967 Barnabas would believe his ancestor made it to England.

      It still raises the question as why Angelique would try to kill her own descendant. No, the writers choose to prevent Vicki from learning the truth and Barnabas and accepting him, as Julia does, which might also lead us to believe in their relationship.

      1. The annoying thing is that The Magical Medallion of Julia Hoffman still exists. Vicki COULD have remembered and then Julia could have hypnotized her out of it. She was able to remove far more traumatic memories from Maggie. Considering Julia was protective of Barnabas and jealous of Vicki, removing the details of Vicki’s memories while keeping her memory of loving Peter intact would have been very in character. Instead Vicki became a brain dead idiot who couldn’t add 2+2 and never realized that if Barnabas died then this Barnabas couldn’t be his descendent. It was a real lapse in writing that probably is indicative of the fact that the writers were moving from the soap opera format and had no idea of what the heck to do with Vicki.

        1. I recently saw an interview with Sam Hall on one of the Dark Shadows DVD sets in which he mentioned that he had seen Alexandra Moltke and renewed a friendship with her after many years. He commented that he made an apology to her for writing such awful dialogue for her character. I’m sure she was just as frustrated as the viewers in having to say the words that are now branding Victoria Winters as an ‘idiot’.

          1. I can only speculate that Curtis wanted to keep Vicki as the pure “ingenue,” but it’s odd given how relatively smart she was pre-Barnabas (practically a Mensa candidate by comparison).

            We’ve discussed that unlike Quentin, Stokes was too “honest” and forthright to become a member of “Team Barnabas.” Yet, he was still smart, reasonably suspicious and capable of moving a story along. Ultimately, Vicki is guilty of the biggest crime a soap opera character can commit — being completely “good” with no secrets.

            I wonder what might have happened if Moltke had stayed on the show or if Betsy Durkin had worked out. The Haunting of Collinwood allowed Maggie to shine and be actively involved in a mystery rather than the passive victim Vicki had become. There was no reason to think the storyline would have been written differently for Vicki as governess and no one thinks of Maggie as an idiot.

            It was certainly convenient for Kathryn Leigh Scott that Moltke left and Durkin bombed as her replacement. Scott was “promoted” to Collinwood resident around the time that her natural storyline would have ended (even Joe was written out).

            1. It’s clear that Curtis had a fondness for the Victoria character, and Moltke herself since he asked her back after her pregnancy. Given that, though, you’d think he would have actually given her something to do! She’s given up on finding her lineage and she’s long stopped being the audience identification figure. Her romance with Barnabas is DOA and her relationship with Jeff/Peter is deathly dull. So what the heck is she doing????? Honestly, they might as well have killed her off back in 1795 because she’s really done nothing in 1968.

            2. Vicky was important to Dan Curtis in the symbolic sense, even if she was no longer the show’s protagonist, as she was the character in the dream that inspired the show. However, I think that Kathryn Leigh Scott would have been kept on regardless, because Curtis liked her and those “day one” core members of the cast must have held a special place of fondness for him. He certainly threw a fit a couple of years later when Scott announced that she was leaving the show. The Joe character was written out only because Joel Crothers grew dissatisfied and bored. I’m sure the Joe/Maggie storyline would have found new life the following year had he stayed on.

              But as it is, the Maggie character is then “merged” into the Vicky Winters character. Suddenly Maggie has acquired qualities she had never had before, like an education. Her suspicions of Collinwood and the “kooks–every one of ’em” is likewise replaced with a firm loyalty. She also, if not hopelessly naive, does appear hapless at times when things start to happen to her that used to happen to Vicky, like being trapped in a locked wing of the house courtesy of one of those mischievous Leviathan kiddies. And, by her final scene on the show, as she is being driven off to Windcliff by Sebastian Shaw, she is little more than a vegetable at that point.

              When Maggie becomes the new governess of Collinwood, the character of Maggie Evans effectively ceases to exist. She was recast in the role of Vicky Winters without actually auditioning for the part.

              1. I agree DC must have been fond of KLS – in addition to her talent and charms, she was the cast member who in effect proved the audience would accept cast members in multiple roles – as Maggie and Josette’s ghost, a part she volunteered for, initially at no pay. She was a team player in the best sense of the phrase, and given DS’ hectic production schedule, that must have been valued.

  2. Well done! One of my favorite wrap-ups.

    Regarding the exchange with Vicki, whenever I watch it, I want to throw something at the TV. She is the dumbest person alive, and what’s sad is that this wasn’t the Nancy Drew character from just early 1967.

    Vicki literally learned nothing from her trip to the past, as opposed to Julia who spent just a few weeks in 1897 and learned a great deal.

    Anyway, rant over. I do regret that no one ever, to my knowledge, examined the series as you have when memories were fresher and the writers were still with us. I do wonder if Nicholas Blair was an eleventh-hour attempt to save the storyline. Was even Eve considered as a plot point before now?

    Angelique, as a villain, has the limitation of her own self-interest. She’s not a super villain type like Nicholas, who’d bother with a scheme to “rule the world.” And while Judah/Gerard was driven by revenge, as she was as Cassandra, she never demonstrated a desire for power or wealth, which might have jumpstarted the Dream Curse storyline prior to Nicholas’s arrival. She makes no effort to become mistress of Collinwood, even when she drives Elizabeth crazy, she doesn’t take the next step.

    The writers later understand that Angelique is best as the trickster — someone whose loyalties can shift because her ultimate loyalty is to herself alone. She’s at her weakest as the “Starscream” to Nicholas’s “Megatron” because after a point, it defies logic that he would keep her around. She starts to make him look like an idiot.

    But in 1897, she hits her stride, and although a different characters, the PT Angelique is more compelling perhaps because she is a better chess player. And Barnabas is a more active protagonist at this point, which also helps.

  3. You do have to give Barnabas props here. This is the first time he really seems to go through with sacrificing himself for another person. Oh, he’s TALKED a good game before, he might have married Angelique, but he totally expected to dump her & run off at the first opportunity, etc., etc. So props for him being a grown up.
    I do think the big problem with the storyline is that Vampire Barnabas seems to be the same as non-Vampire Barnabas. I mean he doesn’t even seem to be taking strolls in the sunlight. It’s still night most of the time when he’s scurrying around. So why do we care. It’s like saying the point of the dream curse is to make him wear red underwear instead of blue underwear, who cares and how would we even know.
    I always figured the skeleton bride was Josette although I don’t know what the point of it is.
    Finally as always “Vicki is an idiot.” I wouldn’t credit Vicki with knowing what Direct Decedent means or that England isn’t where she’s standing.

    1. Yes, the “vampire Barnabas” vs. “non-vampire” Barnabas doesn’t have the distinction it should. The pre-1795 Barnabas was a cold, calculating monster but enough time has passed for the audience that no one believes or even thinks that he’ll become that character again as a vampire (and he didn’t when he’s a vampire in 1897, 1970, and 1840). We do remember the ill effects of Angelique’s curse from 1795 — “everyone who loves you will die” — but we also have no reason to believe that would affect anyone at present-day Collinwood. Certainly, becoming an undead creature of the night could throw a crimp into his romantic life, but that’s non-existent — for some reason, the series decided to remove any romantic triangle tension and have Vicki decisively declare her love for Jeff Clark. Barnabas isn’t in the running, so basically, there are no stakes. And that’s what’s been the death of the Dream Curse storyline.

      Barnabas was human for almost a year (April 1968 to March 1969 when the series goes to 1897). It was always a strange choice. As someone pointed out, Barnabas works best as a romantic figure (in the classic sense). It’s compelling to hear him pine for the sunrise but once he actually becomes human, then he’s just like us, who’d rather sleep in than bother to get up and see it. The scene when Barnabas is just hanging out reading a book underscores how mundane his humanity is when realized. Dramatically, now would be the time for Barnabas to be as exuberantly happy as possible — Vicki should be in love with him, they should even be planning a wedding, while Jeff is actively pursuing Vicki and she’s not sure if he’s Peter Bradford or not (instead, the series chooses to have her certain of this fact). Angelique’s curse could then threaten to actually do some damage. And the slow creep of the dream curse might then pay off with some suspense because it would come closer to Barnabas just as he’s coming closer to true happiness. Instead, he just stands still.

  4. It did seem from the outset that the Dream Curse was redundant in that it could never achieve what it was meant to given what the audience already knows about the significance of Adam’s existence in relation to Barnabas–“if they both live”.

    Very early on in the storyline when one of the doors is being opened and we see the headless monster, we hear the sound of macabre laughter–this sounds very much like Dan Curtis, which would be the only time we actually hear his voice on the show. I wonder if indeed it was Dan Curtis who volunteered for that particular voiceover.

  5. The Dream Curse was a double edged sword for me. It had great potential as a revelatory device – exploring the psychological makeup of various character fears, etc. It had some moments, for sure. But it ended up more as a chain letter from hell, drafted on smudgy mimeograph paper, but without the satisfying fresh smell of ink. On a side note, that sleeping pill that Barnabas takes looks suspiciously like a refugee from a bottle of Rexall Super Plenamins . . . .

  6. Oh, that reminds me, Doctor. I need to leave a check with you for the bill.
    Do you have a pen? I seem to have lost mine. Maybe I left it here? Silver, filigreed, very distinctive. It was a gift…

  7. The thing that really bugs me about the dream curse (okay, one of the many, maaaany things) is that it absolutely hinges on this repetition thing, with an extra bit each time – like those “I went on vacation”-type memory games. The characters keep talking about how they’ve had the same dream, and the whole idea of transmitting it is based on the fact that it’s the same each time, or there’d be no point in describing it in detail to the next person.

    But it’s not. It’s just not, and I find that even more frustrating than the storyline itself. I was willing to believe that perhaps we were only being shown bits of each victim’s dream, but then when Apparition Sam described it to Vicki, he specifically said Maggie was behind the third door (which, you know, I’m not even sure is accurate, but I really can’t face going back to his dream to check). We haven’t seen that headless dude in weeks, and now they can’t even be bothered to get the dick guillotine and the skelebride in the right order, and, and…

    I’m just really, really glad it’s over.

  8. You really are brilliant, Danny! Love your write-ups as much as DS itself; this one is particularly prize worthy. Thanks for crafting such a wondrously fun, informative resource.

    P.S.: That face slap looks and sounds so real. The flush on her cheek appears to visibly intensify and the cautious way she touches it afterwards … Awesome scene and flawlessly executed by them both.

  9. This was my favorite write-up of all to date! “I’m more of a Nielsen. I think it’s cancellation anxiety.” Brilliant.

    I agree with those who appreciated Julie’s bitch-slap. There was none of her usual halting there. It was great.

    Vicki has been showing some flashes of the reasonable person she was in the pre-Barnabus days while she has been interacting with Cassandra and Nicholas. But then she’s used as an inanimate prop in order to put forth some plot point and they lose me again with her. Also, Jeff. Ugh.

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