“You can be sure that death is no better than life, so don’t look forward to it.”
And then he was gone. He was ashes, he was memory, he was a dream that never came true. More specifically, he left show business and went into real estate.
Adam Collins-Hoffman-Lang was born on May 10th, 1968, under somewhat adverse circumstances. His father, Dr. Eric Lang, was killed a week earlier, struck by the shrapnel of a previous storyline. His mother, Dr. Julia Hoffman, was a high-strung traveling psychiatrist and blood specialist of no fixed abode.
And Adam’s twin brother, Barnabas Collins, was hoping to offload all of his sins and hang-ups, not to mention 170 years of back alimony payments, and take up residence in his newborn brother’s king-sized carcass.
If this were a story, Adam would be Barnabas’ dark twin — a shadowy figure, terrifying and savage, imprisoned in the basement of a haunted house. Barnabas would keep his other half locked up tight, hidden from the world, trying desperately to repress the primitive instincts that guide his darker moments.
But this isn’t a story. It’s better than a story.
This is driving through a snowstorm, with one headlight out and a quarter-tank of gas, and you don’t have a map or a smartphone, because neither of those have been invented yet, and you don’t really know where you’re headed anyway. And then you hit a patch of ice, and the car starts to slide — and you’re spinning the wheel in slow-motion, desperately trying to remember what “steering into the skid” actually means…
The car comes to a stop, somehow. You’re on the shoulder of the road, and you’re not skidding anymore. So you turn off the car for a minute, because you need to just sit there and remember how to breathe. You’re alive. You still have no idea where you’re going, or how you’re going to get there, and there are more hairpin turns and icy patches in every direction. But you’re alive.
This is that feeling. The Dark Shadows writers don’t know where they’re going, and things have been out of control for a while. So they’re going to do whatever they need to do, even if it’s scary and messy, in order to get through this icy patch. They don’t really know how to do this, or what’s going to happen next, but they’re steering into the skid.
Pretty much the first thing Adam did after he woke up was wreck the laboratory where he was born, as all Frankensteins do. Then he curled up under a sheet and went to sleep, while his new family made plans for the future.
Barnabas: Well, he’s made it easy for us.
Julia: Made what easy?
Barnabas: Putting him out of his misery.
He didn’t go through with it, of course, because Julia reminded him that Adam is a living human being, sort of, and they’re responsible for him, in a way.
Seven months later, Barnabas finally pulls the trigger. It turns out your character doesn’t really need a “dark twin” if he’s already pretty goddamn dark to begin with, so Adam is surplus to requirements. Now the only question is, what song are they going to use to play him off the stage?
At the moment, Adam is in the process of [it doesn’t matter], and Barnabas knows that if he lets this continue, then Adam will [don’t worry about it], endangering the life of [she’ll probably be fine].
Faced with a dramatic, high-stakes choice between firing his gun or ever thinking of any other way to solve a problem, Barnabas shoots.
Considered as a shooting range target, Adam is making things pretty easy for everybody. He’s six-foot-six, he’s a few feet away, his back is turned, and he’s standing still. Plus, it’s not like this is the only guy Barnabas has ever shot before.
But Barnabas only wings Adam in the shoulder, and then I guess he doesn’t realize that it’s okay to fire your gun twice in a row.
So, as the wounded savage staggers out of the house and through the woods to the safe haven of his faculty advisor’s place, let’s take a moment to talk about Bobby Martin.
Bobby Martin was very briefly a member of the original cast of All My Children, which premiered on ABC in January 1970. The Martins were one of the core families in the original cast. When the show began, Dr. Joe Martin’s wife Helen had recently died, and he struggled to care for their three children — Jeff, Tara and Bobby.
Actually, make that two children. Bobby was mentioned several times in the first few weeks of the show, but he only appeared once. Agnes Nixon, the creator and head writer, decided that three was too many Martin children, so Bobby was dropped from the lineup after one episode.
Towards the end of that episode, Joe told Bobby to go upstairs to the attic and wax his skis, and he’d be up in a minute. Bobby went upstairs, and nobody ever mentioned him again.
The joke among All My Children fans is that Bobby is still up there somewhere. In fact, there was an episode in the 1990s that involved Opal being locked in the Martins’ attic, and during her ordeal, she came across a skeleton wearing a ski cap that said “Bobby”.
Adam is our Bobby Martin. This is the Great 1968 Wrap-Up, red in tooth and claw, and the sight of a wounded Adam limping towards safety is the tidiest bit of symbolism you’ll ever see.
Serialized narrative is a fierce battle of high-speed natural selection. Short-term characters that engage the audience can stay on the show much longer than anyone expected — they can even take over the whole thing, if they play their cards right — but if a once-promising character squanders his story points and bores the audience, he can disappear before the next commercial break.
In fact, that exact thing happened to Dr. Lang, seven months ago. He suffered a heart attack halfway through the first mad science experiment, and when we came back from commercial, Barnabas and Julia were just standing around in his lab, wondering what to do next.
Dr. Lang’s body simply evaporated while we weren’t looking, and they never mentioned a funeral, or a police report. Barnabas and Julia just went on with the scene.
Come to think of it, Dr. Lang is basically Adam’s father. I guess vanishing mid-episode is hereditary.
Anyway, Professor Stokes comes home, and he finds a gunshot Frankenstein crashing on his couch.
“You need a doctor,” Stokes says calmly, as if this happens to him all the time. For all I know, maybe it does; he wakes up in the morning and finds a unicorn in the garage, and then discovers a bunch of goblins nesting in an old shoebox in the closet.
This is a Sam Hall episode, so Stokes is delightfully quippy. “I won’t even ask you what has happened,” he says. “Curiosity is a most boring obsession. I’ll see that you’re taken care of.”
And when Adam screams that he wants to die, Stokes scolds, “You can be sure that death is no better than life, so don’t look forward to it.”
This is absolutely the right approach. If this must end, then let it end with Stokes.
So the Professor makes a noticeably sketchy phone call.
“Hello, Carl,” he says. “I’m glad to find you there. Stokes here, in rather an emergency. Can you come over immediately? I’m afraid I can’t explain — a gunshot wound, I should think. Yes, I know I can rely on your discretion. Good. See you soon.”
And then he hangs up, which is marvelous and strange. What the hell goes on around here, when we’re not watching?
Adam lurches over to the fireplace, and Stokes says, “Don’t move, you’re only making it worse,” but he’s been moving this whole time, and it’s already worse. This is about as worse as it’s going to get. Location is not the issue.
So yeah, Adam’s about to take that long walk upstairs to the attic, but his last scene with Professor Stokes is actually a lot more touching than his sudden exit implies.
Stokes doesn’t just patch up Adam’s perforated shoulder. He gives him a nice new shirt, and a pep talk.
Adam: Professor, I’m too ugly.
Stokes: That’s the simplest thing to remedy. Nowadays, anyone can make himself handsomer, if he wants to. I know a clinic —
And that’s when Professor Stokes gets a wonderful idea.
Stokes: Yes! If you don’t like the old Adam — we’ll make a new one! I need a project.
So damn it if Stokes hasn’t figured out the solution to this whole mess. Adam has to leave the show; the ruthless logic of serialized narrative natural selection demands it. But before he goes, Adam can receive the one gift that a smart, eccentric, fourth-dimensional character like Professor Stokes can bestow: a happy ending.
So whatever happened to Adam?
Well, first somebody’s got to go upstairs and polish those skis, that’s prio number one. Nobody can concentrate properly with dirty skis lying around; we’re not animals.
Once that’s squared away, Stokes will introduce Adam to one of his many shady medico acquaintances — could be Carl, it’s too early to tell — and they’ll scrape the Hollywood ugly off. Then Stokes probably gets Adam a postdoc at Amherst.
That’s not to say Adam’s new life will be easy. He’s still connected to Barnabas, through some kind of make-believe homeopathic midi-cholorian kung fu, and Barnabas is a loose cannon.
Six weeks from now, Barnabas is going to time travel back to the 18th century, and that means Adam’s coming along for the ride. He’ll get involved in some time travel shenanigans of his own, and then, just as they’re about to hang him — you know the 18th century, and hanging people — Barnabas jumps back to 1968, and Adam does too.
In fact, the next couple years are going to be a bit confusing for Adam, as Barnabas hops between the centuries, and off into parallel dimensions.
What would that do to a guy — getting tugged back and forth from one year to another, with no warning and no explanation, just an accidental tourist in the space-time vortex? Would it drive him insane? (Before you answer, keep in mind that he’s kind of insane already.)
And that’s nothing compared to 1991, when Adam turns into Ben Cross. And after that, he’ll become Alec Newman, and Johnny Depp, and Andrew Collins, and a whole bunch of comic books.
That’s the thing about dark twins, they don’t shake easy. For as long as Barnabas Collins exists, Adam will be there — sulking in the background, polishing his skis, and plotting his revenge.
Tomorrow: Bury Me a Little.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of act 1, the music cue fades as Julia pulls the switch, which makes it seem like the switch controls the soundtrack, too.
How did Professor Stokes magically procure a new outfit that fits Adam? And why didn’t anybody give it to him seven months ago? He looks amazing.
Behind the Scenes:
Robert Rodan didn’t have much of an acting career after he left Dark Shadows. As attractive and personable as he is, nobody had any use for a 6’6″ romantic lead. He did get a leading part in one movie — 1969’s The Minx — but the director couldn’t find a distributor, so he sold it to a porn producer who wanted to add some more sex and turn it into an X-rated movie. There’s a whole story about this in Barnabas & Company, which I’m not going to spoil, because it’s funny and you should already own Barnabas & Company.
Rodan moved to LA, where he landed a couple of commercials for Cheer detergent, and not very much else. He married, had three kids, and became a real estate broker in Southern California. In 2006 and 2007, he appeared in a couple of Big Finish Dark Shadows audios. He didn’t play Adam, but maybe someday Big Finish will get around to that.
The screenshot above is Mike Bersell, who played Bobby Martin on All My Children. I couldn’t find a picture of Bobby, because he only appeared in one episode in 1970, so that’s a screencap from a Rub’n’Glue commercial that I found on YouTube. Bersell has been a Chef de Cuisine at Disney World since 1988, which is delightful.
Tomorrow: Bury Me a Little.
— Danny Horn