Episode 602: The Neuralyzer

“And in another house, nearer the sea, the emotion is rage.”

I don’t usually take the time to appreciate the voice-overs that open each Dark Shadows episode, but every once in a while, they simply demand attention.

On this cold, clear night, one can hear the sound of the ocean at the great house of Collinwood — a sound which means peace to some, but rage and fury to others.

And in another house, nearer the sea, the emotion is rage — rage because one of the many plans conceived there is in danger of being stopped by a violent death.

I mean. You have to give it up for that. And today, I am filled with love for everything, even the weird voice-over. I’ve been pretty hard on our little cow-town spook show for the last few weeks, but today’s episode is super enjoyable.

In fact, I would say that this is pretty much a perfect episode of Dark Shadows, if by “perfect” I mean that it’s fundamentally flawed in several amusing ways. And I’m a Dark Shadows fan, so obviously that’s what I mean.

602 dark shadows nicholas stab

The first thing that happens today — literally, the very first shot — is that silver-tongued mastermind Nicholas Blair stabs an end table with a letter opener.

Nicholas is usually a cool customer, but he’s just found out that Barnabas wants to kill Eve, the new Bride of Frankenstein lady who’s central to his demonic domination plans, and he simply won’t have it. He stalks around the parlor in a full-on grouch, with angry thinks monologues sizzling out of his eyebrows.

You know, Eve stabbed that same table with a letter opener on Friday. That must be their stabbing table.

602 dark shadows nicholas adam rage

Then Adam comes in, and starts waving fingers around. He’s heard about Barnabas planning to kill Eve, and he wants to do something about it. The voice-over was right; the emotion is rage. That’ll teach you to dismiss voice-overs.

602 dark shadows adam nicholas stab

Nicholas says he’ll take care of it, which frustrates Adam so much that he picks up the letter opener, and he stabs the same table. Honestly, I’ve never seen a household so furious with its own furniture.

602 dark shadows adam nicholas sarcasm

Adam the un-bionic man is engaging his sarcasm subroutines, so Nicholas calms him down by showing off some of his tech. He indicates the decor.

Nicholas:  What is that?

Adam:  A mirror.

Nicholas:  Is that all?

Adam:  Yes.

Nicholas:  How do you know?

That sounds like a weird question, but it’s all leading up to his presentation on Apple’s new smartmirror, with telepathic touchscreen.

602 dark shadows nicholas adam mirror

The magic mirror is possibly the most successful special effect that they’ve done so far. I can’t say enough good things about it.

They’ve been playing with Chromakey for more than a year now, for all kinds of things — vanishing ghosts, floating body parts, pretending that they’re outside — but this is their best work so far. It’s simple, totally effective, and a perfect fantasy metaphor, which turns the mirror into a TV screen, and vice versa.

602 dark shadows adam nicholas appears

The lead-up to the effect is like a little magic trick. Nicholas draws our attention to the mirror, and we see Nicholas and Adam’s reflection. Then the camera cuts to them talking about the mirror — and while we’re not looking, the stagehands wheel in a portable bluescreen behind them, so it can be reflected in the mirror.

602 dark shadows nicholas chromakey

Cut back to the mirror, which is now set up for Chromakey broadcast.

602 dark shadows nicholas mirror

Nicholas says avada kedavra, fiddles with the antenna for a minute, and then they tune in Angelique, who’s crept into Jeff’s room for a midnight snack.

While Nicholas and Adam observe the scene, the camera pulls in tighter on the mirror, until the image fills the screen, and they just seamlessly transition into the new scene.

This is a really good effect, is what I’m saying. I don’t have a joke or an insight about it; I just really like this effect.

602 dark shadows jeff angelique bedtime

Anyway, what we learn is that sexy vampire Angelique is visiting Vicki’s ex-boyfriend Jeff, who apparently fell asleep fully dressed and with all the lights on. He’s got a jacket and tie on, and he’s even wearing shoes. Jeff wears more clothes to bed than I do when I go to work.

Now that I think of it, Jeff doesn’t even have a job right now, so I don’t know why he’s wearing a tie in the first place. Maybe he uses some kind of Transcendental Meditation version of LinkedIn. Angelique might be interrupting him in the middle of his networking trance.

602 dark shadows jeff control

He tells her to go away — he’s in love with Vicki, and he doesn’t want to hang out with soap-vixen succubi anymore. But she does her Jedi-vampire mind trick on him, and he stops resisting.

He smiles, and says, “What is this power you have over me?” like it’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen. And I know that I don’t actually like Jeff much, but — this? I don’t mind watching this.

602 dark shadows jeff angelique fantasy

I don’t want to get weird about it or anything, but there’s a pretty specific fantasy that they’re tapping into with these vampire seduction scenes, and I would personally be fine if they did this kind of thing, like, way more often.

602 dark shadows angelique nicholas jeff

At this point, Nicholas suddenly butts in, because if the scene got any better then you’d never be able to pry people away from the television set, and it would destroy the United States economy. You have to be very careful about things like that.

602 dark shadows nicholas jeff hypnosis

Anyway, it’s not like Jeff’s off the hook or anything. Nicholas snaps him into another trance, and just sits him down in a chair using the power of midichlorians or whatever. It’s shaping up to be a trying evening for Jeff — and he’s had people try to cut off his head before, so he knows from rough evenings.

602 dark shadows nicholas jeff interrogation

Nicholas sends Angelique home without supper, and takes the opportunity to gather some intel on her extra-curricular activities. Jeff tells him all about Angelique’s interference with the Bride of Frankenstein experiment, and then Nicholas thanks Jeff for being a good boy, wipes his memory clean with a damp towel, and sends him back to bed.

602 dark shadows jeff neuralyzer

So once again, Nicholas Blair uses his magic powers to shake a character like an Etch A Sketch, and undo any inconvenient story progression.

Now, I’m not opposed to breaking out the Men in Black neuralyzer every once in a while, but this is actually the fourth time we’ve seen this trick in the last five episodes. Carolyn and Maggie were mind-wiped last week, Harry got hypnotized yesterday, and now this.

I mean, it’s theoretically exciting to have a villain who’s so powerful that he can stop time and snap chunks off someone’s brainstem whenever he feels like it, but you can’t go to that well every single day. At a certain point, you need your villain to let go, and stop micromanaging everybody’s storage capacity.

602 dark shadows jeff nicholas prank

But the one thing that makes this scene work is that after Nicholas puts Jeff to bed, he comes back and knocks on the door, pretending that he just came over to see if Jeff wants to go out for a drink. For a moment, Jeff is haunted by the echo of the extraordinary “dream” he just had, but then he rubs his head and decides that everything’s fine.

So Nicholas is basically punking Jeff, which is kind of funny. The neuralyzer is a fun device in the Men in Black movies, because it makes the Agents look extra cool and powerful, and it invites the audience to see the world through their eyes. Our minds aren’t wiped by the memory flash, so we get to be one of the special people who know the real truth.

Also, Nicholas is apparently using his otherworldly demon powers to get Jeff to go out to a bar with him, because Nicholas is a baller. If he could just get the guy to stop rubbing his head all the time, then we could get somewhere.

602 dark shadows angelique nicholas instructions

And that’s not all the good stuff in this episode. I’m not even going to get into the scenes where Adam locks Eve in the basement for basically no reason, while she screams that she’s going to kill him, but it’s fun and shouty and you’re just going to have to take my word on that.

The thing that really needs to be addressed is the cliffhanger, when Nicholas gets home from his date with Jeff and tells Angelique his new story idea.

“There is a man,” he says. “He must become your slave. Nothing must prevent that from happening.”

602 dark shadows angelique nicholas more

She doesn’t know who he’s talking about, and he playfully chucks her under the chin.

“You know,” he smiles. “You tell me. Don’t be afraid! I promise you that you will have him.”

602 dark shadows angelique light

The penny drops, and Angelique is stunned.

“Barnabas?” she stammers. “Barnabas Collins?”

602 dark shadows angelique revisited

And there you have it, the best possible plot point. They’ve been keeping Angelique out of sight since she became a vampire in August, and now they’re finally ready to unleash her on the main character again, bringing the Barnabas/Angelique supercouple back to the front burner.

So every single person in the audience is guaranteed to be riveted by that ending. You couldn’t keep people away from tomorrow’s episode with a court order and riot gear. And it’s only Tuesday! There may be hope for this show after all.

Tomorrow: Television Without Pity.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s a camera glitch as the magic mirror pulls back to show Angelique approaching Jeff, making it look as if the mirror occasionally gets bad reception.

In the middle of Nicholas’ argument with Adam in act 3, the boom mic moves, and Nicholas’ volume drops for a few seconds.


Behind the Scenes:

Champion prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night explains today’s set:

“Jeff’s room was mostly recently Stokes’ apartment, which makes for at least the sixth incarnation of this set since it was first introduced as Roger’s office at the cannery in episode 45 back in August 1966, and it won’t be the last time we see this set redressed either. We first saw Peter Bradford when this set was dressed as the interview room of the Collinsport Gaol. Sometimes there was a fireplace in the right-side wall, and sometimes that part of the wall was just bricked over. In Jeff’s room, we’ll actually see the fireplace change from the right wall to the left at some point.

“The desk is from Jeremiah’s room at the Old House, where in episode 377 he’s seen sitting at a desk that is identical to the one in Jeff’s room — same color, height and width, with the shelving cabinet showing the same triple-pane window design, and the writing table itself fronted with the same design of letter slots.”

Tomorrow: Television Without Pity.

602 dark shadows angelique fangs

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

23 thoughts on “Episode 602: The Neuralyzer

  1. Angelique is the best vampire. Her encounters are hot, over the top, and even make Jeff Clarke interesting.
    Great recap today, I’m getting a table to stab at my house!

  2. Angelique’s vampirism plays as less subtly icky to me than, say, Barnabas and Carolyn or Barnabas and Charity or Barnabas and Carolyn in PT.. well, I suppose the list goes on. I think the problem is that it’s hard to imagine a similar “older man with a powerful, unnatural hold a younger woman” scenario in a modern soap (B&B, Y&R, DAYS) that’s not disturbing, especially if there’s a sexual subtext.

    However, Angelique as a vampire is a precursor to so many classic soap vixens who seduced otherwise straightlaced men. The scenes with her play out as sexy and I don’t hate myself afterward.

    1. I completely agree, barnabas and Carolyn were shocking, and all the female victims seemed to be in a trance after barnabas bit them. Joe and Jeff Clarke are like junkies aching for Angelique fix.
      Just suburb!

    2. I hated any pairing of Barnabas and Carolyn or any of Nancy Barrett’s other characters – there was something very unsavory about these encounters, even when Barnabas bit Charity who wasn’t a ‘blood’ relative – it just seems like Barnabas being a dirty old man. I can accept Barnabas and Angelique much more, probably because they were never related by blood only marriage.

      1. Lara Parker was still a good 13 years younger than Frid (Barrett was close to 20) but I think Parker always “read” as mature. I believed her with Barnabas without the relationship appearing to have an obvious power imbalance. That was one of my issues with the casting of Anthony George as Burke Devlin. He was much older than Mitchell Ryan had been.

        Frid’s Barnabas was an unexpected sex symbol. And his initial desire for Maggie was meant to be unsavory. This changed when Barnabas clicked with the female fans. He was paired with PYTs all from another generation.

        There was some inconsistency with Barnabas’s actual age. When he first arrives at Collinwood, he’s depicted as a wordly gentleman who is a contemporary of Roger Collins. But he comes across much younger during the 1795 flashback. It’s not just acting choices, either. He refers to having been a kid during the Revolutionary War (and it would have been the only plausible explanation for why he didn’t fight in it ). The tombstone for Jeremiah Collins, who was supposed to be the “same age” as Barnabas, backs this up. Best estimate is that Barnabas was around 32 in 1795, which makes sense for the story that was told.

        Not that future casting directors are going to call me for advice, but I think that’s the right age for Barnabas if they were to do a remake. If Quentin is his late 20s, you still have a “big brother” dynamic but without the 17 year gap of Frid and Selby, which is almost a paternal one.

        And you avoid Barnabas being involved with women half his age. Also, his “old world” charm would perhaps be even more affecting.

          1. Ryan was younger than George by about 13 years. George was born 1921, Ryan born 1934. I think Roger was supposed to be a contemporary of Burke Devlin, since they were supposed to be friends when Roger and Laura pinned the drunk driving on Burke. Edmonds was born in 1923, so George fit that part of the story better than Ryan. The big sin for George was that his Burke had zero chemistry with Vicki. He also had zero chemistry with Josette. I have wondered how the 1795 story would have played out if Ryan had been able to hold it together and if he had played Jeremiah. I’m guessing we would have been spared Roger Davis and the Jeremiah survives Josette history would have stayed intact with Jeremiah proving that Vicki and Burke were MFEO throughout history as well.

          2. No, I must have mistyped. Anthony George was born in 1921, so he would have been 46 when he was on DS. He was a quarter century older than Alexandra Moltke, and the relationship had an odd paternal aspect that was unsettling to me. Mitchell Ryan was born in either 1928, so he was still pushing 40, as Prisoner stated, but the chemistry between him and Motlke made the relationship less overtly icky.

            Per the DS wiki, the character of Burke Devlin was supposed to be in his mid 30s. His interest in a teenage Carolyn is still gross but reasonable for his antagonistic role in the early episodes.

        1. I agree with you Stephen, I think Barnabas is supposed to be younger then he appears. I always just assumed the stress of being one the undead “aged” him a little.

        2. That was just the times, when it was a still a television world of male-dominated writers and production staff and middle age men were being cast alongside girls young enough to be their daughters. In the beginning, the only male lead who was age appropriate to Carolyn, Vicki, or Maggie was Joel Crothers. Even Conard Fowkes (Frank Garner) was going into his mid-thirties when Alexandra Moltke was not yet even 20 and the character of Vicki Winters was just 18. By the way, in 1966 the character of Carolyn was only supposed to be 17, which makes the adult attentions of Burke Devlin especially inappropriate. In Art Wallace’s story bible, Burke Devlin was 32, but in 1966 when starting on the show Mitch Ryan was already 38, still way too old for Carolyn or Vicki, but just right for Laura (Murdock) Collins.

          In many ways, Dark Shadows was still rooted in the traditional old world of television in terms of how romantic relationships were written and cast, at least in the beginning.

          1. When you look back at movies and television spanning from the 30s well into the 80s, it’s not unusual at all to see a man in his late 40s romancing a girl in her early 20s – sometimes even late teens. And not just soap operas, but many, many dramas, romances and action stories. Heck, even an episode of Charlie’s Angels had Kate Jackson romanced by Dean Martin. And in most cases it was not meant to be icky or questionable – that was just society’s norm. So while we may raise an eyebrow at the thought of Barnabas ‘romancing’ Maggie or Vicki, it probably didn’t raise any alarms back then.

          2. and the character of Vicki Winters was just 18 I had forgotten that Vicki was only 18 at the start of the show. That actually makes replacing her with Maggie a little more tolerable. I misremembered Vicki as being college educated to be David’s governess, but if she had just graduated from high school that is a lot closer to Maggie’s education level. I know Vicki went to a high class school even though she came from an orphanage (boy does that sound wrong in today’s day and age) because Liz was sending money to support her (as opposed to letting a pretty infant get adopted by a nice couple, weird!) but her actual level of education wasn’t more than Maggie had received and Maggie went to the same school as Carolyn so it can’t have been that bad.

      2. If vampirism is associated with sexual overtones or however you want to put it, then biting your cousin is revolting and disgusting…what could Barnabas have been thinking?

  3. Are they actually replacing the mirror with a blue screen version on the wall, or could they be running a small blue screen on wheels in the mirrors reflection? Would that work? If you look into the mirror and it’s reflecting a blue screen?

    1. I think you’re right Richard. I can recall one episode from around this time where we can actually catch the reflection of the blue screen being wheeled in behind the actors looking at the mirror.

      1. That’s what I was thinking, too. I’m sure I remember a moment when you catch a blue screen just as it’s rolling into position. I think it’s with Nicky’s mirror, but not sure when.

  4. The one and only complaint would be something that could not be done.
    Vampire teeth should be sharp as knives.

    Smallville did this in Season Five Halloween ep, and Kristen looked UNBELIEVEABLE.

    But, I believed.

    A sorority house of vampires…..sadly, she was the only hot one.

  5. Seeing Angelique get all handsy with Jeff Clark is appealing for a couple of reasons. One, someone should be making the man with the worst physical boundary issues squirm for a change: he’s done it to all of his female castmates, especially in the 1795 plot.

    But it’s also nice to see some female power on display again. Julia has been a little sidelined, and all the other woman have been locked in various prisons. Angelique can almost feel like an avenging angel instead of the villain. Right now, she’s our madwoman in the attic.

    And speaking of handsy, could that memory wipe scene have been more homoerotic? When Nicholas ordered Jeff to the bed I thought things were going to move to second base. Gay or straight, sex with someone you’ve hypnotized is clearly rape, but you have to give the writers credit for boldness. And then Nicholas “stops by for a drink”!? It’s too wicked.

  6. The “seduction” scene between Angelique and Jeff was prime DS. Much more enjoyable than the parallel Joe scenes, because Joe really seems to mean it when he tells Angelique to leave him alone.

    With that scene with Jeff, it felt like he was “resisting” and talking about Vicki only in order to heighten the emotions and excitement when he does give in. Very erotic, actually.

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