“Now, I want you to try to keep making some sense out of this.”
Okay, so here’s a weird story:
A race against time at Collinwood, for night has come, and with it, a new threat — the rising of a new vampire. One man has risked his life, and his reputation, to end the vampire’s career before it can start.
Usually, I don’t pay much attention to the opening voiceover, but today’s is practically surreal. He risked his reputation? What does that mean? And since when do vampires have careers?
But that’s the weird story that we’re smack in the middle of.
If you’re joining us late, we’re in the basement of a haunted house right now, where an ex-vampire and his platonic mad scientist pal are bringing a female monster to life, so that the Frankenstein man that’s hiding in the ex-vampire’s family’s mansion won’t kill a time-traveling governess. Meanwhile, a sinister warlock has turned the ex-vampire’s ex-wife into a vampire, apparently for his own amusement, and now she’s gone and turned the warlock’s handyman into a third vampire. This used to be a show that made sense.
That’s what happens when you start telling a story that’s not supposed to stop; it ends up tangled in its own narrative. At the moment, the characters are actually having an argument about which plot thread to pay attention to.
Barnabas: There must be some connection between Nicholas and Tom Jennings!
Julia: Barnabas, you’ve got to stop thinking about this.
Barnabas: I can’t think of anything else.
Julia tries to remind him of the other story thread, but things get a little hazy.
Julia: Barnabas, think of Vicki. Adam kidnapped her, brought her ring here, to prove… but what about next time?
Yeah, good question. What the hell are you talking about?
But a Dark Shadows scene operates along the same lines as a round of golf. If the ball goes in a sand trap, you don’t pick it up and start over. You play it as it lies.
Julia: Barnabas, if anything happens to you, what will happen to the experiment?
Barnabas: Well, you can do it.
Julia: Can I? Can I control Willie? Can I deal with Adam? I can assemble a body, yes, but that’s only part of it, Barnabas. You’re the other part. Barnabas, you have responsibilities. You must face them.
This has to be the only television show ever made that would refer to completing a god-defying experiment to reanimate the dead as “responsibilties.”
Barnabas sighs, and says, “You’re right, Julia.” Then he walks across the room, and regards the half-constructed monster on the slab. “Adam has allowed us so little time.”
And then the camera fades, and we go over to Collinwood, because apparently that’s an acceptable way to end a scene on television.
Really, the only thing that matters right now is that the relationship between Barnabas and Julia is getting even more intense. Less than a year ago, these two were running around scheming to kill each other. Now, they’re partners, and it’s so much fun just watching them work together.
At one point today, Vicki comes over to talk with Barnabas about something or other — I don’t really listen to Vicki when she talks — and Julia comes upstairs from their dungeon workshop.
Barnabas is about to walk Vicki out to her car, but Vicki says that it’s not necessary, if Julia’s waiting for him.
Julia: No, actually, I was just reading — doing research, really.
Barnabas: Yes, Julia and I have been working on a project. A book about Eric Lang.
Julia: And there’s something in this journal that I don’t understand.
This is a new and completely unnecessary lie to explain why Julia’s spending time at the Old House — unnecessary because she’s always at the Old House anyway, and if there’s anything that needs to be explained right now, it’s why she’s wearing a lab coat, not why she’s carrying a book. I think these two have started to lose their grip on what needs to be explained.
There’s another dull Vicki scene at Collinwood, and by the time we get back to the Old House, Barnabas is getting ready to leave. He uncorks some Fridspeak on his way out.
Barnabas: I’m going to meet Willie. We have things to do. His courage is lost as it is, when I’m late like this. Now, I want you to try to keep making some sense out of this.
And then, oh, just look at what they do.
Julia: I wish you and Willie didn’t have to go out tonight.
Barnabas: Well, we must. Adam is impatient.
Julia: Be careful.
Barnabas: Don’t worry. Will you be here later?
Julia: Do you need me?
Barnabas: Oh, tomorrow morning will be soon enough.
Julia: All right. Then I’ll just go downstairs and close up. Good night.
Barnabas: Julia… I’m very grateful for everything you’re doing. Believe me. Good night.
He leaves, and she smiles, and then we fade to a shot of a radio. It’s on Julia’s workbench downstairs, and it’s playing a lush orchestral arrangement of “Love Is Here to Stay”. There are seriously not enough Tumblrs in the world to hold all these feels.
So that’s what holds things together on this show, when the lunatic plot contrivances pile up so high that you can’t see daylight. As reckless and irresponsible as the producers are, they pay attention to the one thing that really matters — keeping the interesting people together.
I love these two, which is bizarre, because I kind of hate Barnabas. It can’t be explained by science. I just love them.
Okay, so here’s a weird story:
Many years ago, when I was in high school, my mother walked into the room while I was watching Dark Shadows.
She looked at the guy on the screen, and said, “Is his name Don?”
I said, yeah, that’s Don Briscoe, and she said, “I thought so. I knew him, when I was in grad school. He asked me out once.”
Seriously, true story. She said that they were both getting a master’s in English — he was at Columbia University, and she was at Barnard, which is right across the street. He asked her out on a date, and he was very handsome, and very nice, but he wasn’t Jewish, so she said no.
At the time, I had no way to verify this, and I never really knew what to think about it. I mean, she knew the guy’s first name, but maybe she confused him with some other brown-haired guy named Don.
But now I have this excellent book called Barnabas & Company, which has extensive bios on everybody in the cast. It turns out that he really did get a master’s degree in English at Columbia University, and that means that Don Briscoe is kind of my dad.
This weekend: Another New Beginning.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
I corrected this for clarity in the quote above, but Julia actually tells Barnabas: “I can assemble a body, yes, but that’s only part of it, Barnabas. You’re the only — the other part.”
Barnabas refuses to put electricity in at the Old House, so what is Julia’s radio plugged into? I know, they must have a generator down there for all of the mad science gear, but really, maybe it’s time to just call a contractor and get it over with.
In the last scene, Julia is writing in the basement laboratory, and she hears somebody walking quietly down the stairs. Finally, she turns around, and sees Tom walk out of the shadows behind her. Unfortunately, the lighting isn’t quite low enough around Tom, so the audience can see him perfectly clearly, standing still at the back of the set, during the whole time that Julia is listening to him walk downstairs.
This weekend: Another New Beginning.
— Danny Horn