Episode 660: The Secret to Time

“What do you think I am, Mr. Collins, some sort of travel agent for time?”

“I will find the secret to time,” Barnabas says, because that’s a thing you say.

660 dark shadows barnabas present

Girl governess Victoria Winters has gotten herself into another scrape. Her new husband turned out to be the lawyer from her witchcraft trial in the late 18th century, because that is a thing that happens. On their wedding night, he disappeared into the time vortex, and she followed, traveling back to the night she was hanged as a witch, because that is a thing you do.

So guess what, she’s getting hanged again, and everyone’s terribly worried about it, except it happened 170 years ago, so it’s kind of a done deal. But try telling Barnabas that.

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“When it happened the first time,” he says, “there was nothing I could do to save her, but now I will!” Julia asks how, and Barnabas says, “By going back — by reliving those days when I first lived!”

So we’re already off to a roaring start on this episode, which is at least ninety percent people saying ridiculous things about time.

For example: “I will banish all those years between then and now! And I will be with Vicki, at her side, tonight.” And that is exactly what he does.

660 dark shadows barnabas unique

You see, because of his own unique nature, the barrier of time and space is no wall to Barnabas Collins. Or, at least, that’s what he seems to believe.

Julia cries, “You can’t simply will yourself back into the past!” She’s trying to talk sense to him. This never works. Barnabas just says, “How do you know that?” and then you’re left standing there, looking foolish. Nobody said this was going to be on the test.

But this is Julia, who has an answer for everything. “Because we’re part of the time we live,” she insists. “It’s the only time that exists for us!”

superman 146 bb

And then Barnabas starts meanwhiling.

“Part of my life is being repeated right now, this minute,” he says. “This house stands in another century, as well as in this one.”

Julia has no response to this. There’s nothing you can say to somebody who’s meanwhiling.

660 dark shadows barnabas through time

“My father walks into this room, calling for my servant Ben… I can almost see them, hear them… Over and over again, they play out their lives. Only I escaped, and I can thank Angelique for that.”

Julia sighs. If his crackpot theory is correct, then that means they’ll be having this conversation over and over, preserved and repeated for all time, like it’s a scene on a DVD, or available on YouTube for $1.99. And what are the odds of that?

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“Barnabas,” she says, “what good will it do to go back there? You can’t change history.”

He says, “Why not?” and I suppose the guy has a point. Why not, indeed?

660 dark shadows barnabas collins

So they do what pretty much everybody did in 1969 when they had a really difficult problem on their hands, namely go over to a friend’s house and ask him for some magic leaves.

Of course, you can’t just go, ask for the stuff and then leave. There’s always got to be some introductory palaver.

“I don’t like it,” Professor Stokes says. “It’s too straightforward, somehow. Ghosts are seldom so precise.”

superman 146 ee

Barnabas exclaims, “Professor, Vicki is not a ghost! She left this century alive!” And if you can find any sense in that particular statement, you’re welcome to it.

Stokes ends up shouting, “What do you think I am, Mr. Collins, some sort of travel agent for time?” It’s a pretty tense scene, because at any moment, one of these people might suddenly remember that they’re a grown-up.

660 dark shadows barnabas unbending

Barnabas points out that Professor Stokes gave herbs to Jeff Clark, which got him in touch with his past self.

Professor Stokes says, “Mr. Collins, naturally I’ve devoted a great deal of thought to that rather amazing evening,” and then get a load of this.

“Now, I’m convinced that there actually is a Jeff Clark, roaming about this planet at this very moment. His body was possessed by the spirit of Peter Bradford. When that spirit returned to his own time, he returned the borrowed body to wherever he took possession of it. I know it’s a rather complex explanation, but I’m sure it’s the true one.”

And that’s the guy who isn’t trying to score herbs tonight.

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And the great thing about that moment is that they just came up with an entirely new time travel concept to add to the pile, and they don’t even need it right now.

When Vicki traveled back to 1795, she displaced Phyllis Wick, who came and sat in Vicki’s seat while she was away. When Angelique used a spell to send Eve back for a brief visit, Eve’s body disappeared from the room, and reappeared when she was done.

Now Stokes is postulating another method — grabbing a dude off the street, and walking around in his body for a while — and I can’t recall anybody even asking. At this point, they’re just making up loopy time travel theories to fill up a spare minute of screen time.

660 dark shadows barnabas change history

Finally, Stokes reminds Barnabas that it was Vicki’s choice to go and do whatever it was it turns out she went and did.

“She is a romantic,” Barnabas sighs. “She thought everything would change, but she — she never planned on being trapped in her own history. I know her well enough to know that.” And I guess we’re just going to have to take his word for it.

Monday: Greatest Hits.


Today’s illustrations came from the following stories:

  • “Return for Revenge” from Dark Shadows #3 (Nov 1969)
  • “Superman’s Greatest Feats!” from Superman #146 (July 1961)
  • “No Witnesses in Outer Space!” from Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #81 (Feb 1968).

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Barnabas trips over the word “Carolyn”, and makes kind of a meal of it.

At the end of Barnabas and Julia’s scene in act 1, there’s a door opening and closing sound effect, and then a clatter from the studio. A few seconds later, there’s also a loud squeak. There’s also a clatter when David and Amy discover Peter’s grave.

Celebrating the cancellation of their Boston trip, Amy says, “Barnabas said he would never take us away.” She means, “Quentin said Barnabas would never take us away.” David is so confused that he stumbles over his next lines.

Barnabas tells Julia, “Professor Stokes sent, and helped Peter Bradford back to the past.”

Back in April 1968, Vicki found Peter Bradford’s tombstone, and it had the wrong date on it. It said he died on April 3, 1795, when it should have been 1796. This time, they’ve corrected the error by drawing a “6” on the gravestone with a black magic marker.

Barnabas urges Stokes, “Professor, you must help me get her — get me back to her tonight.”

There’s a lot of coughing in the studio. There’s one cough after an act break, just as the shot of the empty grave appears, and then there’s several brief coughing fits when Barnabas and Stokes argue about the herb. Then, when Barnabas says that he’s from another century, Julia pretends to cough in order to distract Stokes’ attention. It sounds like there’s a real epidemic going on at ABC Studio 16 today.

Amy asks, “What are you going to do, Barnabas?” He responds, “I’m not sure. But I know one thing I’m going to do. And one thing you’re going to do — you’re going to go find Mrs. Johnson, and wash your hands, and have your dinner.”

Barnabas insists that Vicki is being hung “tonight”. She was actually hanged at dawn.

Why would they carve a tombstone that says “Victoria Winters, hanged as a witch in 1796” and then bury her in the cemetery next to her lover, who was hanged for murder? In the Salem witch trials, the accused witches were buried in shallow graves near the gallows, because they were considered unfit for Christian burial.

Monday: Greatest Hits.

660 dark shadows roger clock

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 660: The Secret to Time

  1. Danny, I sense a restlessness for 1897 to begin…Me, too. But I don’t mind a return to 1795, with the makeup and wardrobe of it. The only thing missing being Barnabas’ bloody face. Still don’t see how that was too much for the kiddies.

    1. I look forward to 1897 for many reasons, the clothes being a big one. I’m very into Impressionism, Art Nouveau, the look of things from before 1897, to at least 1912, and beyond.
      I love the way the Titanic looked, very long and low and elegant. The front bow is a hard, blunt vertical line, but the stern has curves, and is graceful enough to be French.
      Today’s cruise ships look like fat bloated top-heavy white monstrosities. And I hear they are flammable floating death-traps of misadventure and disease.

      A good place for Count Petofi’s eternal slap on the wrist, to spend forever on a broken down contemporary cruise ship, in a hurricane, with that knucklehead, Aristede, where all of the staff, and half of the guests, are gypsies.

    2. I only remember 1795. After that, I don’t remember anything. Watching the series on Amazon, this is was all new to me. I could go back starting from 1897 and watch a 3rd time.

  2. Oh, time travel and its paradoxes. Barnabas did not worry too much about crushing butterflies in the past, did he? So, after one of those trips he finds that mankind has been enslaved by a 30 feet giraffe….

  3. Love those hilariously inaccurate renderings of Jonathan Frid in the Dark Shadows comic:

    “Today, the part of Barnabas Collins will be played by Mitch Ryan.”

  4. I was going to click on the next post, and then I realised there is no next post. Then I realised I didn’t start at the beginning, so it’s going to be okay.

  5. The thing about Stokes Jeff/Peter theory is to explain to us why he looks the same. One of those Quantum Leap look in the mirror and see somebody else scenes would have helped. Hey, maybe THEY were the ones leaping Sam.

    I’ll also point out this willing yourself back there time travel is exactly the method Christopher Reeves (see what I did there with the Superman reference) character used in “Somewhere in Time” and it worked for him.

    I do like Stoke’s point that it’s too straight forward for a ghost. That does seem to be the case. 🙂 I also liked yesterday’s point about Vicki’s reaching out might have caused Burke’s crash. But I do think if there are ghosts they find out stuff that they didn’t know before they died. If you don’t get to learn stuff by eavesdropping, what’s the point of flitting about forever? You should get some fun out of it.

  6. What was with all of the smoke/fog on the collinwood drawing room set in this episode after they returned from Stokes? This blooper wasn’t mentioned

  7. Re: the coughing while Stokes and Barnabas are talking, and then Julia standing up and coughing. I don’t think she was pretending (to distract Stokes). I’m pretty sure what was Grayson Hall having a coughing fit during the scene, and then when the camera goes back on her and she stands up, that’s another real cough.

    More bloopers: During the first scene when Julia and Barnabas are talking in the drawing room, you can see a ladder standing outside the window.

    As Barnabas and Julia are starting to leave the cemetery and before Barnabas turns around to go back to the grave, a lot of shuffling is heard, no doubt the crew placing Victoria Winters’ headstone on the set.

  8. Also, there’s a huge tape edit in the drawing room scene when David and Amy come running back to Collinwood from the cemetery. They are standing and starting to tell Barnabas what they saw (the open grave next to Peter Bradford’s grave), and suddenly they’re sitting on the couch, and Barnabas is saying that the grave was filled when they came back.

  9. This is all very amusing. Meanwhile, there is also a Victorian era Grandfather Clock standing in the foyer of a 1796 mansion. How does that fit into the theories?

    BTW, they did have tall case clocks in the 18th century – they just didn’t look anything like the one in Collinwood.

  10. Here’s my theory – some of those teens are the street or some viewers wrote in and said that if Vicki goes back in time, she could be hanged. How can you show us that Vicki will not die and maybe get her “happily ever after” with Peter/Jeff? They sort of figured out to do this 1796 flashback on the fly, so they did not make arrangements to keep Betsy on as Vicki. Hence the Vicki re-cast for this brief journey – this is all about tying up a plot loose end, I think, in a crazy Dark Shadowsy-way.

  11. I loved the scene where Barnabas seeks herb from Stokes. But then Stokes scenes are always great fun for me.

    But I think the Prof. was just lying to Barnabas when he said the herb only transports people to the past who are legitimately from the past to begin with. How would anyone know that? How many people were tested with the herb to enable a conclusion like that?

    I think Stokes suspects that there is something very mysterious and perhaps anomalous going on with Barnabas, and he was bluffing with reply in order to draw Barnabas out. Stokes is curious like that.

  12. I know it’s not Frid’s biggest accent-slip ever, but the allegedly English Barnabas pronouncing ‘herbs’ with a silent H really grates on me…

  13. I love the moment when Barnabas outlines his plan to save Vicki. Step one is to overcome time and space, joining her in her in the 18th century. Step two…

  14. I thought it funny, and irritating, that Barnabas discussed the 1796 timeline as running concurrently with 1969. It was especially amusing that he said that they didn’t have much time, when in fact, with time travel, you have all the time in the world.

    However, I guess with Vicki’s gravestone suddenly appearing maybe that’s how time works: several timelines running at the same time in different times. No, sir, I don’t like it.

    1. Yes, I think they fall between two stools. If they’d gone the “hard science fiction” route and come up with some plausible-sounding way for time travel to work, that would be easy enough to accept. Or if they’d taken the supernatural fantasy route and just said, “At nine o’clock, Peter’s ghost will come for me as it came for Vicki!,” we could accept that. But instead, they spend as much time talking about time travel as it would take to outline the “hard science fiction” mumbo-jumbo, but none of that talk amounts to anything. So they get you expecting an explanation that never comes.

  15. And now it’s official: Eagle Hill cemetary has completed its migration to Collinwood’s backyard.

  16. After multiple scenes of temporobabble that would make Sapphire and Steel facepalm, Professor Stokes said “I don’t like it — it’s too straightforward”, and Kate and I laughed like hyenas.

    Actually, come to think of it, this bit of storyline is very “Sapphire And Steel”, in that it all makes a sort of instinctive sense that’s completely at right angles to actual real-world sense.

    Add to that the writers frantically throwing out a line to get Roger Davis back on the show as a regular, by raising the possibility of introducing the actual Jeff Clark, and it’s just a sublime bit of madness…

  17. I’ve been rewatching the series and just discovered your blog posts. OMG they are so funny! I was laughing hysterically about Barnabas trying to score “herbs” from Professor Stokes, and you of course mentioned that. Thanks for making even the tedious episodes amusing now, thanks to your narratives!

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