Episode 700: I Ching the Body Electric

“Is this some kind of black magic?”

Fire in the lake: the image of revolution.
Thus the superior man
Sets the calendar in order
And makes the seasons clear.
Professor Stokes, this I Ching that you’re studying. How does it work?

For the last few months, Dark Shadows has concerned itself with two big storylines — the werewolf, and the haunting of Collinwood.

Currently, our sexy young wolfman, Chris, is all locked up in the secret room of the Collins mausoleum, unable to change back to human form.

Meanwhile, the spirit of avenging ancestor Quentin Collins has chased the family out of Collinwood, and they live in exile. Quentin is holding young David, the future of the Collins line, in a hidden room somewhere in this utterly haunted house, and we fear the worst. Both stories have reached a crisis point, and Barnabas and Julia have absolutely no idea what to do next.

So here comes Professor Stokes to tell us absurd things about Chinese divination, because wisdom comes from far away, and besides, seances are so 1967.

700 dark shadows barnabas stokes room

We’re finally in Quentin’s room, the secret hideout in the west wing where the children have been communing with dark spirits. Barnabas and Professor Stokes are rummaging around, hoping that a clue will present itself. Things look bleak, but you never know what you’ll come up with after a good rummage.

700 dark shadows stokes wands

Suddenly, Stokes says, “Good Lord.” This can’t be good; Stokes is not easily perturbed. Pulling a brace of mysterious artifacts from a pigeonhole, Stokes announces, “I know a great deal more about Quentin Collins than I did a few moments ago.”

Steadying himself, Stokes asks, “Have you ever heard of I Ching?” Barnabas says no, obviously, because it’s a Chinese thing, and who even knows any Chinese people?

Now, as it happens, I know a great deal more about the I Ching than I did a few moments ago, because I just looked it up, and it’s an actual thing. I know, I thought it was made up too.

700 dark shadows stokes cast wands

But no, I Ching is a real Chinese divination technique developed in the Western Zhou period, circa 1000 BC-ish. It was used as a method of revealing divine intentions through the interpretation of randomly-generated numbers and patterns. And you know what the Western Zhou period was like; they were nuts for divination.

So now that you know that the I Ching is an actual part of Chinese history and culture, you should please excuse the following dialogue.

Stokes:  It is the oldest known book of divination and mysticism, written in China long before the time of Confucius. It is also the most dangerous.

Barnabas:  Why do you say that?

Stokes:  Because it is the least understood. Even Confucius, with all his wisdom, could not master it. So, Quentin Collins practiced I Ching… and I would guess his motives were anything but pure.

Barnabas:  Is this some kind of black magic?

That happens to be one of my all-time favorite lines in Dark Shadows, because it’s such a delirious, slap-happy moment of late 60s cultural insensitivity.

I mean, imagine if Professor Stokes reached into Quentin’s desk, said “Good Lord,” and then pulled out a Chanukah menorah.

The Professor turns to Barnabas, his face ashen. “Have you ever heard of Chanukah?” he asks. Barnabas has not.

“This is a menorah. It is one of the oldest artifacts of the Jewish faith, inspired by a rebellion in the 1st century BC. It is also the most dangerous.”

“Why do you say that?” Barnabas asks.

“Because it is the least understood. The ancient Maccabees only had enough oil to last for one night — but the light burned for eight nights.”

“Professor,” Barnabas gasps. “Is this some kind of black magic?”

700 dark shadows barnabas ko hexagram

So, for the record: No, it is not black magic, and you’re a very silly television show for suggesting that it is. But credit is due, because the basic description of I Ching is actually correct.

There are six wands, each with a broken line on one side and an unbroken line on the other. You toss the wands in front of you, and then they’re arranged to form one of 64 hexagrams.

By the end of today’s episode, Barnabas gives it a toss, and Stokes announces, “It’s the 49th, or Ko hexagram, called the hexagram of Change.”

And guess what? The 49th really is the Ko hexagram of Change. They get the pattern right and everything. So that’s nice, at least somebody borrowed a book.

Now, the change that the 49th hexagram is referring to is a revolution — a social transformation that should only be attempted when every other avenue has failed.

For example: let’s say that your afternoon television show has been doing a crackpot adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, a novel that’s long on atmosphere and short on plot points. You’re planning to do the final scene of the novel later today, which means that now you need to come up with a completely new story.

We’ve arrived at the same problem that the show faced in November ’67, when Barnabas was on the rise, and they got to the point where they needed to either kill the vampire, or let the vampire klll some Collins family members, starting with the ten-year-old. They’ve now painted themselves into the exact same corner with Quentin.

So let’s cast these wands on the table, and see if the six lines of the Ko hexagram can divine what Dark Shadows is going to do next.

700 dark shadows amy maggie trance

1st line (base): Unbroken.

Changes ought to be undertaken only when there is nothing else to be done.

Amy:  Professor Stokes is wrong. David is at Collinwood.

Maggie:  I’m going to tell Barnabas and Julia.

Amy:  No! If they go back to Collinwood, they won’t find him. He wants you to find him.

Maggie:  Did he tell you that?

Amy:  You’d better go, Maggie — soon! — or David won’t be there anymore. Only Jamison will be there.

Maggie:  Jamison?

Amy:  Yes. That’s who Quentin wants David to be.

700 dark shadows stokes reading

2nd line: Broken.

When we have tried in every other way to bring about reforms, but without success, revolution becomes necessary. But such a thoroughgoing upheaval must be carefully prepared.

Barnabas:  Is there enough light, Professor?

Stokes:  Everything’s splendid, thank you. I would prefer to be alone, if you don’t mind.

Barnabas:  How much time will you need?

Stokes:  An hour or two with these books should tell me how and why Quentin Collins used I Ching. When I know that, we can decide on a course of action.

700 dark shadows david maggie stairs

3rd line: Unbroken.

When change is necessary, there are two mistakes to be avoided. One lies in excessive haste and ruthlessness, which brings disaster. The other lies in excessive hesitation and conservatism, which is also dangerous.

Maggie:  David, come to me? Please, come to me!

David:  I can’t!

Maggie:  But you want to?

David:  Yes.

Maggie:  Then you can! David, just walk down the stairs, and into my arms! You can, if you try!

700 dark shadows david maggie must

Not every demand for change in the existing order should be heeded.

Maggie:  Before we go… there’s one thing that you must do. You’ve got to send Quentin away.

David:  I can’t!

Maggie:  David, you must!

700 dark shadows david maggie turn

On the other hand, repeated and well-founded complaints should not fail of a hearing.

Maggie:  You have to send Quentin away. Now, I want you to turn around, and look into that door.

David:  No, I don’t want to look, Maggie! I don’t!

700 dark shadows david maggie success

When talk of change has come to one’s ears three times, and has been pondered well, he may believe and acquiesce in it.

Maggie:  David, you’ll never be free, unless you send him away! Now turn your head around, and look through that door.

(David turns. The door slams shut.)

700 dark shadows david maggie won

Then he will meet with belief and will accomplish something.

Maggie:  David, we won! We won!

(David falls down, unconscious.)

700 dark shadows barnabas julia authority

4th line: Unbroken.

Radical changes require adequate authority. A man must have inner strength as well as influential position.

Barnabas:  How long do you think he has?

Julia:  A few hours. Possibly until morning.

Maggie:  But there must be something you can do!

Julia:  If only we had a way of communicating with Quentin Collins.

Barnabas:  There may be a way, Julia.

700 dark shadows maggie barnabas no time

5th line: Unbroken.

A tiger skin, with its highly visible black stripes on a yellow ground, shows its distinct pattern from afar. It is the same with a revolution brought about by a great man: large, clear guiding lines become visible, understandable to everyone. Therefore, he need not first consult the oracle, for he wins the spontaneous support of the people.

Barnabas:  Maggie, I want you to go up to David’s room, and stay with him. Under no circumstances are you to leave his side. Is that understood?

Maggie:  Yes… what are you going to do?

Barnabas:  I don’t know, myself. I don’t have time to tell you, anyway. Julia, come with me.

700 dark shadows barnabas stokes julia tell me

6th line (top): Broken.

We must be satisfied with the attainable.

Barnabas:  Professor Stokes, this I Ching that you’re studying. How does it work?

Stokes:  Why do you want to know?

Barnabas:  I’ll explain it to you in a moment. Tell me how it works.

Stokes:  The I Ching is a means of sending one’s soul into the infinite. As you can see, each of the six wands is solid black on one side, with a white dividing line on the other. They are shaken, and tossed. When they fall, they’re arranged to form one of 64 hexagrams.

700 dark shadows hexagram door

If we should go too far and try to achieve too much, it would lead to unrest and misfortune.

Stokes:  At this point, the subject sits, closes his eyes, and begins a period of the most intense concentration, picturing in his mind’s eye a door, with the hexagram painted on it.

700 dark shadows open door

For the object of a great revolution is the attainment of clarified, secure conditions…

Stokes:  He must have the willpower to continue, until he sees the door appear to open, away from him. When and if that happens, he rises from his body, and passes through the door.

Barnabas:  To find what?

Stokes:  Whatever one sees or experiences on the other side of the door, is believed by the initiated to be seen with the soul’s eye, to be experienced by the astral body.

700 dark shadows barnabas door

… on the basis of what is possible at the moment.

Barnabas:  Is it possible by using I Ching to make contact with Quentin Collins?

Stokes:  Beyond the door… anything is possible.

And so, the revolution begins. Happy Chanukah.

Monday: The Most Important Thing About Quentin.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When the door with the hexagram opens, you can catch sight of the stagehand opening it, glimpsed through the crack in the door.

Monday: The Most Important Thing About Quentin.

700 dark shadows barnabas coffin

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

29 thoughts on “Episode 700: I Ching the Body Electric

  1. “Okay Dokay, Mr Peabody, everything’s ready! Our electric bill is paid for the next year. and Mrs Kravitz has our cat. The WABAC is all warmed up, and we’ve got plenty of sandwiches.”

    “Excellent, Sherman. Set the WABAC for 1897, Collinsport, Maine. A cold, damp, nasty little fishing village/Hellmouth, conveniently located on the New England coast. We’re going to see what happens when two, or more, sides of the same coin come face to face.
    By the way, Sherman, did you happen to catch Mrs Kravitz’s first name?”

    “You bet, Mr Peabody, it’s ‘Ubiquitous!'”

  2. GREAT episode#! No matter what. 60’s tv trivia nonsense Richard is babbling about. For some reason I Always new the I Ching was an actual practice, it had to be on the radar in the late 60’s . Every other mystical experience or practice was.

    1. Well, a thousand pardons, Laura, for intruding on what is now, apparently, your blog. This has been a very welcoming place, but if you’ve decided that’s not the case anymore, I can certainly leave.

      1. I’m not sure how this got heated, but everybody should be nice to each other. There might be some people from the Western Zhou period reading; we don’t want to look bad in front of them, do we?

        1. splendid way to turn down the fires, Mr. Danny. you’ve outdone yourself in the last week, too many times to count.

      2. For the record, I think Richard’s response was entirely reasonable, given Laura’s needless attitude toward him.

    2. The WABAC machine, from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” is a stock pop culture allusion, and very apt here. It refers to DS’ use of time travel as a standard plot device. When I think trivia, I think something fairly obscure, like the lyrics to the “Everglades” theme song, vice a famous reference to a show in perpetual syndication.

    3. I’m sorry I offended you Richard, I read the comments and the blog at 430 this morning. What I said seemed funny at the time.
      I do however hold these episodes very dear to my heart, so maybe snark was my under lying tone.but I really thought I was being funny. I won’t comment again so early in the morning. Forgive me Richard. I really didn’t mean to be hurtful.

  3. Wait a minute! Barnabas has already mastered the use of ‘the secret magic number of the universe’ courtesy of his warlock buddy from Barbados – this should be old hat to him…

  4. The scene between Maggie & David on the stairs of Collinwood is chilling and so well-executed. As a kid, I had no idea I was watching the climax to “The Turn of the Screw” – I just knew I was terrified for Maggie. One of my favorite DS episodes, one that has lingered all these years.

    1. Yes! But they didn’t kill David – I guess that was too much for afternoon TV aimed at the teen/tween audience.

      I’m sure the writers didn’t fully intend this (since I think there’s been full turnover from that episode to this), but it is highly reminiscent of the Vicki/Laura/David scene in episode #191.

    1. “Where is the head?”

      “Willie has not finished renovating it. You have to use the chamberpot.”


    p.s. The hexagram door is probabally the entrance to electrical transformers&equipt room. (@ WABC PERHAPS?) MK

  6. Along with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I Ching was very popular with the acid test crowd of the late 1960s. You bet it was something that New York-based TV writers would have been familiar with, encountered practically at every cocktail party, in every salon and on almost every street corner of New York. Carl Jung wrote an introduction to a very popular translation of the I Ching (by Richard Wilhelm). People who did not have traditional wands (originally stalks since ancient China was an agricultural society) often used coins. There are traditional Chinese coins that are used, but you can also use Western pennies.

  7. Just a fantastic run of episodes from about 690 to now. Even with Frid having more trouble than usual with his lines they’re still great.

  8. I’m not inclined to bash Vicki, but I thought the Maggie/David scene on the stairs was much more compelling and frightening than the Vicki/David/Laura confrontation. Part of it had to do with the staging (Vicki looking in at David and Laura through a window versus Maggie on the stairs), but the difference was also in the writing (making Maggie stronger and less inclined to just plead with David) and in Kathryn Leigh Scott’s acting.

  9. About damn time! Overall, I thought this storyline was pretty boring. While it did start to pick up the pace towards the end and the end itself actually being pretty good was actually pretty good, the problem I had with it was that it dragged on for so long. I fell asleep watching some these episodes. Admittedly, part of the reason for why I didn’t enjoy it is because I’m not really a fan of ghost stories.

    But now that’s over with, time for 1897. This seems to be often regarded as the show’s masterpiece, the Dark Shadows equivalent of the Empire Strikes Back or the 2rather of Khan. I personally think 1795 is the show’s masterpiece(certainly both Dan Curtis and Johnathan Frid seemed to think so), but I will wait and see.

  10. I know you’ve been focusing a fair bit on the “when did they think of travelling back to 1897”, and why they spent all this time on building up Ned and Sabrina when they were going to bail out on that bit of the storyline… allow me to suggest one possibility.

    They decided a week or two before this episode that they were going to do a trip to 1897 — but they were thinking of it like the second trip to 1795/6, not the first. Not uprooting the entire show for months, but a week or two to give them some clues about what Quentin was so peeved about, before returning for a showdown in the present.

    Only once they’d committed to the idea and started breaking the story in-depth did they realise just how much they could milk it…!

  11. Oh, and I adore how Stokes walks in and immediately turns the show into a particularly bonkers episode of Doctor Who. Suddenly everyone else is guest-starring in his show. And Barnabas’ response to “What are you going to do?” with “I don’t know myself — I don’t have time to tell you, anyway” is possibly the most Doctorish bit of thinking anyone in the show has ever shown!

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