“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
24 thoughts on “Episode 565: Weird Science”
I think that Barnabas would be ridiculous enough to only get the basement wired for electricity but want to preserve the ‘ambience’ of the rest of the Old House. Love your Don Briscoe story – Don is a refreshing new addition to the show who is truly likable. IN (Don Briscoe and Humbert Allen Astredo). OUT (Roger Davis and Robert Rodan).
If Don Briscoe is your dad, Danny, do you get all furry under a full moon?
Asking for, uhh, science stuff.
I turn into all kinds of things. I’m versatile like that.
Something I don’t understand about why Tom chooses Julia. Is he under Anqelique’s control, and is she using him to get at Barnabas through Julia?
When I first saw this vampire/victim pairing it felt like a reverse version of Anne Baxter and Dustin Hoffman in ‘The Graduate’.
Yeah, it is Julia going cougar with Tom…
Fun fact. That Anne Baxter role was actually written by a personal friend of hers with her in mind for the role.
Grayson hall I mean.
She was promised the role at one point but it just never happened.
Grayson Hall was actually considered for the lead in The Graduate at one time.
Interesting.. I think it was actually Anne Bancroft not Anne Baxter like I mentioned above. It is definitely hard to picture Julia as a ‘victim’ in any type of situation.
I was just going to correct that mistake, six years later, Glad you beat me to it.
I think that Tom is following the first principle of fictional characters: Do whatever would be the most interesting. Julia’s been a peripheral character in both the Adam and the Cassandra/Nicholas storyline for too long. She should always be directly involved in the A-story.
What is happening in the different plot threads is going on precisely because Nicholas does not know he has unleashed counterproductive storylines: He wants Barnabas and Julia to build an Eve for Adam, and he told Angelique to feed on Tom, thus turning Tom into a vampire; yet he forgot to control Tom so that he doesn’t feed on Julia and potentially prevent her from making Eve.
If only Nicholas realized, he would probably stop or redirect Tom, but, for now, who on Team Barnabas is going to talk to Nicholas? We will have to wait for Nicholas to figure things out for himself. We know Angelique forgets to tell him things, but she probably doesn’t know what Tom is doing, either.
And that’s precisely why Barnabas was right to think about Nicholas and Julia was wrong to tell him not to.
On the table behind Julia – is that one of those plastic models of a human head, like in high school biology class? Granted, it IS a ‘Mad Science’ lab, but is a cutaway view of a cranium a useful referent? Guess if Dr. Lang had kept one of those around, Adam wouldn’t have had those stitches running across his cheeks!
I bet Julia hums “Dem Dry Bones” while she’s stitching. “…head bone’s connected to the neck bone, the neck bone’s connected to the shoulder bone…”
That is, when she’s not listening to The Jackie Gleason Orchestra playing ‘Love Is Here To Stay’.
I didn’t pay enough attention to Barnabas and Julia’s crazy dialogue at the beginning. Thanks for pointing out how crazy it is.
Danny is right about the electricity. That is an old radio (maybe 1940s or 1950s?) that would not have batteries in it. It needs to be plugged in. A generator is a must-be assumption.
Today and tomorrow (in the teaser/recap) I saw the same problem with Tom in the shadows but still being visible. The big problem is that his sleeve is rolled up, exposing his pasty-ass forearm that reflects any and all available light. Problem could have been solved if he rolled down his sleeve and maybe kept his hand flat at his side or behind his leg. He still would have been visible, but only to us in the 21st century and not so much to people watching on black and white TVs in 1968.
No surprise in the subtext of Danny’s story: His mother was smart (grad school at Barnard) and beautiful (Don Briscoe asked her out).
In the scene above where Barnabas is dressed to go out and Julia is in the chair, I could’ve sworn Barnabas said “Don’t willie. Will you be here later?” But maybe I was wrong.
I’m surprised you didn’t do a screencap of Julia’s expression after Barnabas tells her he’s grateful. It’s positively…sublime.
““I can assemble a body, yes, but that’s only part of it, Barnabas.”
Where does one learn that? Is there a “Body Assemblage 101” for psychiatry and/or blood disorder specialty students at the medical school Doctor Hoffman (and Doctor Woodard) attended? Are there advanced “Body Assemblage” courses there also where Doctor Lang learned his craft?
Doctor Hoffman must have already had quite a bit of experience with it, because she joined Doctor Lang after he’d already assembled most of Adam. In fact, all that was left to assemble was the face/head.
Med students take bodies apart in gross anatomy. That would help a person put one together, I suppose.
Watching this episode, I just realized the main relationship in DARK SHADOWS- Bossy Big Sister/ Bratty Little Brother. Liz and Roger are literally that, and each one’s struggle to safeguard their relationship by keeping the other in the dark about their shameful secrets is the background of every storyline in the first 209 episodes. Carolyn and David become the functional equivalent of a Bossy Big Sister and a Bratty Little Brother, and that’s the development that makes Carolyn a relatable character.
In Julia and Barnabas, we have the supreme example of such a relationship. They fall into it naturally; Julia is used to giving orders, and Barnabas is used to disobeying them. From the moment Julia lit her cigarette on the candles in the old house, she’s been Barnabas’ Bossy Big Sister, pursuing one plan after another meant for his own good. He’s been alternately pouting at her, raging against her, and clinging to her, at once resenting her demands on him and craving her validation for his narcissism. The climax of the episode, when they both know that a he-vampire is roaming about in search of a victim but it occurs to neither Julia nor Barnabas that Julia might be in danger, shows how deeply they have embedded themselves in these roles. Barnabas won’t even let Vicki walk to her car alone, and Julia, hearing the dognoise, understands why. But when Julia tells Barnabas that she will close up the lab and leave shortly after he goes out to join Willie, implying that she’s going to walk all the way back to the Great House by herself, he just leaves. Of course nothing will happen to Big Sis, she’ll always be OK.
That’s also why I don’t see how slashfic positing a sexual relationship between Barnabas and Julia can work. They are so much Bossy Big Sister and Bratty Little Brother that no matter how much time they spent telling themselves that they aren’t actually related, it would still be impossibly weird to try to be something else to each other.
Funnily enough, watching the scene where Barnabas is talking to Julia before heading out to rob graves with Willie, for the first time I could picture them as a couple–in this instance, of the old married variety.
Maybe that’s one way the show could have figured out a way to develop a happy couple- give us a twosome who’ve been together long enough that they’ve settled into a daily routine barely distinguishable from the grouchy relationship of Bossy Big Sister/ Bratty Little Brother.
There are moments when they seem to be trying that out. Magda and Sandor are sort of that way before Barnabas shows up and ruins their lives. David and Amy aren’t a couple, but when Quentin first shows up they grumble and snap at each other for all the world like an old married couple.
I haven’t seen those episodes yet (I watched the show patchily when it first aired but only now am working my way through the entire run). I’ll keep an eye out for this.