Episode 815: The Time Television

“Count Petofi, do you think this is some sort of a carriage ride?”

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a mad god, an assassin and a vampire walk into a basement. The mad god says, “Look into that cupboard, Mr. Collins! What do you see?” And the vampire says, “I see the inside of the cupboard.”

All right, it’s not that funny, but you have to admit you haven’t heard it before. It’s kind of hard to believe that we’re hearing it now.

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas hand

Let’s take it from the top. Well-intentioned vampire Barnabas Collins has traveled back in time to the year 1897, using the I Ching and the power of positive thinking. His original mission was to stop the vengeful spirit of Quentin Collins from haunting the present-day family, and killing young David with some kind of mysterious slow-acting spook virus. Barnabas was never particularly clear about how he was going to accomplish this vague and puzzling goal, and since then, to no one’s surprise, the storyline kind of wandered off and got all tangled up in a garden hose.

Lately, the show’s mostly been concerned with Count Petofi, a crazy old wizard who was forcibly divorced from his magical right hand by a gang of angry vengeance gypsies. After a hundred years as a unidexter, he’s finally been reunited with the Hand, and now Barnabas is an unwilling guest at the weirdest office party in history.

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas aristede champagne

Delighted to have the legendary hand back on the legendary wrist where it belongs, Count Petofi instructs his consigliere to break out the champagne, which I assume they’ve been keeping in the mini-fridge for the last hundred years.

But Barnabas refuses to relax. There’s a lot of unfinished business, like for example Jamison, who was in rough shape the last time we saw him. The boy was possessed by Count Petofi’s spirit for the last couple weeks, and now that Petofi’s back in his own body, what price the kid?

Petofi is pretty comprehensively unbothered on this issue, but Barnabas insists that Aristede promised Petofi would make sure Jamison was all right.

“I gave him the Hand,” Barnabas says, “as long as he would assure me that he was empowered to deal for you.”

“Indeed?” Petofi raises an eyebrow.

Aristede shrugs. “It seemed the only thing to do at the time.”

There’s a moment’s pause, and then Barnabas blurts out, “Well, did he not have that word?” He’s acting like this is a matter of contract law, rather than a lunatic fairy tale that’s spinning out of everyone’s control.

815 dark shadows aristede petofi barnabas sneer

So the triumphant villains strut and sneer and toast their success, leaving Barnabas to sulk and complain. He wants straight answers, and Petofi is determined to be cryptic and thrilling.

So Barnabas tries on a tactic that’s pure Bugs Bunny’s Arabian Nights, playing on the genie’s outsized ego. “I know why you refuse to cure Quentin and Jamison,” he declares, “because the power in that Hand is gone, now that you have it back!”

“Indeed,” says the mad god, who it is unwise to tease. “Shall we show him, Aristede?” This is Barnabas’ cue to run as far and as fast as he can, but you know what Frid’s like with missing cues. Not his strong area.

815 dark shadows aristede petofi barnabas hand

Now, this reminds me of an interview that I read in a soap magazine a while back, where the actor said that the hardest thing about acting on a soap opera is finding a reason to stay in the room.

There’s so much time to fill on a daytime soap, and so much of it is filled with talking. Sometimes, you end up in a scene with the person that your character hates more than anyone else, and you need to fill an entire episode with conversation, even though any normal human being in that situation would have left the room after two minutes.

The sensible thing for Barnabas to do is go back to the cottage and check on Jamison. But instead, he keeps on standing here, letting the evil wizard do what he likes. Petofi grasps Barnabas’ hand, and announces, “When I take my hand away, there will be marks where my fingers have touched you. Until those marks have disappeared, you will no longer be able to indulge in your favorite trick.”

“I have no tricks!” Barnabas says, and then it just goes straight-up schoolyard.

“Go ahead, Mr. Collins,” Petofi smirks. “Try! Disappear! For our sake, so I will know I have some power left.” Barnabas hesitates, and Petofi twists the knife. “It was you who doubted my powers. Now you can test them — or are you afraid?”

Barnabas says, “No, I’m not afraid! But I will disappear! Because I must know what has happened to Jamison.” He doesn’t actually say I’ll do it cause I want to, not because you tell me to, but that’s what’s going on.

815 dark shadows aristede petofi barnabas disappear

And then the most marvelous thing happens. Barnabas walks over to the back of the set, and his light goes dark. He stands there for a long moment, clearly expecting to turn into Chromakey…

815 dark shadows barnabas surprise

And then he registers astonishment as the light comes back up, indicating that the moment has passed.

It’s one of the most explicitly theatrical things they’ve ever done on the show, and I love it. Barnabas still has control over the lighting, at least, but the special effects are no longer on his side.

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas aristede uber

We cut away for a scene with Quentin and Jamison — the kid’s still in bad shape, by the way — and when we come back, Barnabas is still standing by the wall, looking like a guy who can’t understand why his Uber driver is still seven minutes away.

This is the real “find a reason to stay in the room” moment, for Barnabas. He’s already signalled his intention to leave, but he can’t tear himself away. The light is better over here.

815 dark shadows petofi quentin barnabas theater

This is followed by another theatrical moment, as Quentin enters the secret lair just so that Petofi can reveal his Hand again. They’re going to send Quentin back home to Jamison in a minute, but they need to have a scene where they show Quentin that Petofi’s been restored, because he’s the other lead character, and it wouldn’t be fair if he had to learn about the big plot twist second-hand.

Petofi says that he’ll save Jamison for a price, but he only wants to speak to Barnabas. Quentin is dismissed, and now he can go back to the cottage or wherever. This is actually the last time we see Quentin today; he just showed up to do a couple reaction shots. This is still Barnabas’ turn.

815 dark shadows barnabas petofi power

Once they’re alone, Petofi unleashes his power move. A supervillain is only as powerful as his ability to move the plot forward, and Count Petofi is the greatest of all.

Barnabas demands to know Petofi’s price for saving Jamison, and the mad count swaggers around the set. “So brusque, Mr. Collins,” he says. “So much to the point… when you and I have so very much to discuss.”

Barnabas replies, “I don’t undertand any of this; I can’t imagine what it is.”

“The future, Mr. Collins!” Petofi smiles. “Simply put — we have the future to discuss.”

“Whose future?”

“Yours… and mine. Where will we be in the year — 1969?” Petofi chuckles. “Do you ever think about that? I find it fascinating to speculate about 1969, don’t you?”

Oh, it’s wonderful. I know that all I’m doing today is transcribing, but this is that rare and beautiful thing — a perfect scene. Count Petofi has the item that he came for, and it would be easy to just wrap up the storyline and let everybody get back to what they were doing before he showed up. So this is his moment to make the case that he deserves to stay on the show, and he nails it with a four-digit number.

815 dark shadows petofi aristede barnabas book

And then they just stand around and say absurd things to each other for the next three minutes.

Petofi shows Barnabas the impossible book — that history-destroying volume of the Collins family history, printed in 1965 and left on a bookshelf in the Old House drawing room in 1897 because after all this time, Barnabas is still not that good at keeping secrets.

So Petofi says that the price for releasing the Collins family from their Hand-made delusions is to let him tag along on a one-way journey to the future, so that he can give the slip to his gypsy tormentors. And for the first time in this sparring match, Barnabas lands a blow.

“With all the powers that you claim to have,” he asks, “why are you so afraid of the gypsies?”

Petofi spits, “There is no need for you to know,” but we’ve already figured it out: he needs a weakness.

The mad god is running the board right now. He knows everything, he can do anything, and he doesn’t care about anybody but himself. He dismissed one lead character, and denied the other the use of special effects. He holds the keys for the next several months of story. So this is a good moment to establsh that Petofi is not all-powerful, that the seeds of his destruction have already been planted.

I told you, it’s a great episode; you really can’t beat it. The show has been this good before, but it’s very rarely been better.

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas cupboard

And there’s one more amazing trick to perform, another fable of power and powerlessness to tell.

“I cannot take you back there!” Barnabas insists. “I don’t even know how to get there myself!”

“But you intend to return,” Petofi purrs.

“I intend to try.”

“We can try together.”

“Together!” Barnabas cries. “Count Petofi, do you think this is some sort of a carriage ride? I don’t understand the powers that I used to get here; I had no formula written down. I merely used my concentration. Now, you, with all your powers, should be able to figure out a quicker, and smoother way.”

And Barnabas smiles, like he’s just thought of the Bugs Bunny’s Arabian Nights trick all over again. That didn’t work last time, and it ain’t gonna work now.

“Look into that cupboard!” says the mad god. “Soon you will see — your own death!”

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas television

And wouldn’t you know it, it turns out the cupboard is one of those Time-Space Visualisers. The furniture switches on, and we watch in astonishment as Dark Shadows finally lets us do the thing we’ve been missing for almost six months.

They let us watch Dark Shadows.

815 dark shadows julia book

What’s the one thing that we’ve missed, all these months away from home? Dr. Julia Hoffman, that’s what.

And here she is! just sitting there reading a book. Today we’ve seen a man spot-glue his own hand on, and seeing Julia is even more exciting than that. I’m not going to bother to explain why; if you don’t understand the critical part that Julia plays in making this show work, then you must be brand-new and you’ve got a lot to catch up on. Julia is pivotal. And I didn’t realize how much I missed her, until just this moment.

I love the 1897 time trip. I love Quentin more than I can express. I love Count Petofi, and His Amazing Time Television. But all of the current malarkey is extending the storyline beyond its natural boundaries, and we really should have been home by now.

Does anyone remember the dream that Jamison had three months ago, where he learned about the three steps that led to Quentin’s death? The first was finding a silver bullet at Collinwood, which happened back in June and had absolutely no significance. The second was that the one person who could have helped him was murdered. That was Julianka’s death, which happened in mid-July. We are currently at August 8th and holding, and there’s no sign that we’re getting any closer to the third event, which was what this whole storyline was supposed to be about.

As I said, I don’t really mind because I love what they’re doing now, but there has never been, and will never be, a successful Dark Shadows storyline that does not include Julia. Don’t get me wrong, Magda has done a bang-up job as the brownface substitute, but Julia’s been sitting around in the Old House for the last six months, reading her way through what must be a whole library by now. This problem needs to be rectified.

815 dark shadows david julia stop

In the vision, David limps downstairs, struggling to muster his strength. He moans Quentin’s name a couple times, and takes a step towards the door.

Julia’s response is to run up to him and say, “David, David, why are you out of bed? No, David, stop that!” Which I love.

It looks like whatever Barnabas thinks he’s doing in the past to save David from the malign influence of Quentin’s ghost, it’s not working. We’re six months into this project, and the kid is still dragging himself around, trying to follow Quentin’s irresistible summons. So that’s been a complete waste of time. I assume Chris is still stuck in werewolf form in the secret room of the mausoleum; I hope they come around every couple days with some food, a fresh bucket and one of those big comedy butterfly nets.

815 dark shadows julia david faint

Julia manages to wrangle David towards an armchair, wailing, “The only thing you can do is reject him! Listen to me, listen to me!” Then she gives a sharp “DAVID!” as he collapses in the chair.

So what does Julia do with an unconscious ghost-afflicted eleven year old? Same thing she does with everything else.

815 dark shadows julia sedative

That’s right: she gives him a sedative! She doesn’t even have to fill the syringe with anything; she’s got a whole medical bag full of sedatives, ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

She jams it in his arm, he rouses just long enough to emit another plaintive “Quentin,” and then he falls asleep, possibly forever. Doctor Julia Hoffman has done it again.

815 dark shadows petofi david barnabas television

The vision fades, and Barnabas is thunderstruck. “Is David dying?” he cries. “Tell me, Petofi. Is he dying?”

And then they do the most extraordinary twist in today’s twisted tale: Count Petofi has no idea what Barnabas is talking about.

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas vision

“David, dying?” says the puzzled Count, blinking behind his owl spectacles. “David? David?”

“You caused that vision to happen!” Barnabas insists. “You have that power; you must know.”

Petofi growls, “But you saw your own death, Mr. Collins!”

815 dark shadows petofi barnabas change

And we watch Barnabas’ expression change, as he realizes what’s just happened.

“You did not see what I did!” he says. “You cannot see what you have caused!”

This absolutely delights him, as it should. The time television was supposed to be Petofi’s greatest trick of the day, the moment when Barnabas realizes that he’s entirely at the Count’s mercy. Instead, the trick has revealed Petofi’s own weakness — and while it’s not clear right now how that weakness helps Barnabas’ cause, any advantage is welcome.

815 dark shadows petofi aristede barnabas oops

They play it as a major slip-up, and Barnabas takes real pleasure in the moment.

Petofi walks stiffly over to the champagne, muttering, “How can you be sure, Mr. Collins?”

Barnabas cocks his head. “Who was in it?”

“David,” Petofi says, like he’s been caught cheating.

Barnabas grins. “Who else?”

“I did not recognize the others.”

“There was one other. What was the name mentioned? What name you know?”

“Yours,” Petofi allows. “Yours, I presume.” It’s humiliating.

The moment of weakness doesn’t last. Soon, Petofi is threatening Barnabas with the continuing disintegration of the Collins family, and demanding a seat on the I Ching Express, which is some sort of a carriage ride. But we’ve just seen a major flaw in the Count’s fiendish plan, and he doesn’t even realize it.

For all of his miraculous powers, Count Petofi can’t see Julia Hoffman coming. That’s a mistake that others have made in the past. There are no known survivors.

Monday: Midsummer.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, the camera suddenly zooms in on Barnabas’ face.

Barnabas perplexes Petofi with the wrong cue:

Petofi:  I owe you my word on nothing, sir.

Barnabas:  But you already have!

Petofi:  (pauses, stunned) What do you mean?

Barnabas:  (realizes that was the wrong line) I gave you… the Hand, don’t forget — (checks the teleprompter) — that saved your life.

Barnabas tells Petofi that he must release everyone at Collinwood from his spells, and that “Edward and Quentin” will return to what they were. He means Edward and Jamison.

In the cottage, Quentin frets over Jamison, who’s unconscious on the couch. The couch is at a different angle from its usual place, and you can see an electrical cord on the right. At the end of the scene, you can see the camera’s shadow as it pulls in on Jamison.

Quentin leaves Jamison and the cottage, and runs over to the mill set. As we switch to the mill, Aristede is pouring Petofi champagne, and Petofi is offering Barnabas some. You can hear Quentin’s footsteps as he arrives at the set and steps into position at the top of the “staircase”. As Barnabas steps forward and says “I have made the greatest mistake of my life,” you can see Quentin’s shadow moving around on Petofi’s head. Ten seconds later, they play the “door opening” sound effect, and Quentin walks down the stairs and enters the scene.

When Aristede jokes that Jamison isn’t worth saving, Petofi chuckles, “How evil you are, Aristede. You’re always so much more vicious than my own.”

Barnabas tells Petofi, “But I cannot take you back there! I don’t even know how to get there myself! I — my reason here was — was vital.” A moment later, he says, “I don’t understand the powers that I have to get here.”

After Barnabas leaves, Petofi puts down his glass of champagne, clinking it against the other glasses on the table with a clatter.

In the final scenes, Magda is wearing the same makeup as Julia, including the blue eyeshadow.

The final dramatic sting comes in too early, before Petofi finishes saying his last line. Then the same music cue repeats again, too late this time, past the final fade-out.

Monday: Midsummer.

815 dark shadows petofi aristede barnabas last

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

19 thoughts on “Episode 815: The Time Television

  1. Having viewed this episode just recently, it was here that I noticed how comparatively thin Thayer David is in his role as Petofi. His Matthew Morgan of 1966 had a middle girth that stretched halfway across the Collinwood drawing room, as did Ben Stokes. And though not as much so as the previous two characters, Professor Stokes in 1968 tended to be somewhat rotund. We like our arch villains to be lean and mean.

    The time television is a fascinating and original sci-fi touch, which seems to rely on astral projection if each person sees something different. Barnabas thus becomes a boomerang of astral projection; it was his means of getting to 1897, and now his astral self, having projected into the past, for a moment looks back on the place from which he traveled.

    That’s why Barnabas could see what was really happening that moment in 1969 – because he, that is, his astral self, has a place, a host body, in that time. Petofi, who has no place in 1969, could thus only see his own wishful thinking.

  2. I do love the non-disappearance of Barnabas moment. It’s exactly how they would stage an actual disappearance if they had post-production visual effects. Barnabas moves into position and there’s no awkward cut-away to another character as he dashes off to the blue screen. Of course he goes nowhere because they didn’t have post-production, but no matter.

    It’s also interesting that they went to the trouble of redressing the Old House from 1969 back to 1897 for the last scene with Magda which lasts all of 45 seconds. With all the stories of actors breathlessly dashing from set to set and huge cameras trundling along with trailing cables, now they have furniture and stagehands hanging out on the periphery waiting for their cues.

  3. The funny thing about Barnabas’s rhetorical question is that time travel at Collinwood actually is some sort of carriage ride. Vicki travelled by séance, Eve via witchcraft, Barnabas the I Ching. Someone else will soon transcend time by the same method. Not to mention there’s a certain temporal staircase blinking in an out of existence.

    Petofi does not have full command of his Hand. He will later say: “Not even I understand all the powers of this monstrous thing,” and “There are some things even I will make this Hand do.” It favored Tim Shaw, and lashed out against Evan Hanley. Either the Hand has a will of its own or it is too powerful for anyone to control. Not even the Count, who is not of course its rightful owner. The Hand belongs to the gypsies. They enchanted the severed hand of a werewolf sorcerer, making it the most magical talisman in the world.

    It was really the Hand of Dan Curtis, the second most magical hand, which gave Barnabas a vision of the present, reminding the audience what is at stake and reintroducing us to blood specialist / psychiatrist / historian / necromancer Julia Hoffman. As Danny said, Petofi cannot see what’s coming. Emissaries of Satan ask this woman for advice! She has brought the dead to life, and vice versa. Her best friend is a vampire. She lives in a mansion over a hellmouth. Count Petofi doesn’t stand a chance.

  4. It favored Tim Shaw, and lashed out against Evan Hanley.

    My pet theory is that Tim’s use of the Hand was fairly superficial — cheating at card games, simple stuff. The Hand doesn’t really care about that and it takes little or no effort on its part. Contrariwise, the good folks at Collinwood are trying to remove gypsy curses or enslave it to their Satanic bidding, etc., and it certainly has something to say about that, usually expressed by literally rearranging a face.

    Also, after 100 years with the gypsies and then a prompt relocation to rural Collinwood, maybe the Hand was grateful to Tim for taking it to New York. Bright lights! Big city! You’ve got the legs, I’ve got the magic, let’s make lots of money!

    1. I always figured that the Hand could sense one’s intentions. Evan was corrupt, which did not amuse the Hand. Tim meant to be good, but was given a rotten deal in life, by Trask, and other misfortunes, so I think the Hand took pity on him and tried to balance things out.

  5. This is a near-perfect episode, in my opinion. I love the fake-out on Barnabas’ exit, as well as the stumbling Thayer David does trying to out-wit Barnabas after his vision fails.

    It’s a wonder they never tried the time-television in 1840. The only thing that could make this episode better would be Angélique.

  6. I’m so glad that, of all the possible years Petofi could obsess over, it happened to be 1969.
    It was an amazing year, of both good, and bad. On the good side, there was Woodstock and the first landing on the moon. On the bad side, the concert at Altamont, and the Manson Murders. A year of extremes, if ever there was one.
    I always thought Jeb Hawkes might have been inspired by Charles Manson.

    1969 was even more extraordinary for me, because that’s the year Norman Lear came to my little hometown of Greenfield, Iowa, to film the movie Cold Turkey. I got to be an extra in the crowd scenes at the end, which took all night, until the sun came up.
    Cold Turkey can pass for a light hearted-farce about a town that stops smoking for a month, to win $25,000,000, but there is a far darker social commentary, lurking just beneath the surface.
    It’s often so edited for TV that you don’t get the full impact. Dick Van Dyke plays a “heroic” pastor, who helps the town win the prize, but behind closed doors, he’s a egomaniacal monster.
    On TV, they usually don’t show the bizarre scene where his belittling of his wife causes her to fantasize about screaming at the top of her lungs, on the roof of her house, with dumbfound neighbors gawking in disbelief at her public breakdown.
    It posses some very heavy philosophical questions, but leaves the answers to interpretation. It’s also funny as hell.

    I’ve always wished that Petofi could have finally made it to 1969, only to find, to his horror, that 1969 was the LAST place he wanted to be. I imagine him experiencing severe “future shock”, or maybe an accidental LSD trip, to the point that it leaves him a harmless, babbling basket case, locked up at Windcliff, in the care of Dr Julia Hoffmann, where he is haunted by, among other things, the ghost of a very angry Aristede.

    1. i could picture Petofi having such a bad trip, that he cuts of his own magic and throws it in the fire, ending his reign of terror, and leading to his bitter end, as a patient at Windcliff.

    2. Not that it matters to anyone not from Iowa or a student of architecture, but the selection of Terrace Hill in Des Moines to be the millionaire’s home in Cold Turkey is why it’s our governor’s mansion today. Cold Turkey is definitely worth a look. It’s cool you were an extra in it.

    3. Richard,
      I’m from Iowa, I grew up in northwest Iowa, and I remember seeing “Cold Turkey” in theater with my parents around the time that it came out, I think sometime when I was in 3rd grade (1970-71). The curse words and really adult themes just went way over my head.
      I recently got the DVD and saw it just this past spring. Yes, darker social commentary is right. And the nod to having Nixon visit.
      Also it was so amazing how Norman Lear had a repertory company, as so many of the actors in “Cold Turkey” later become Lear’s sit-com stars, either in starring roles or contract/episode players, such as of course Jean Stapleton, that guy who played Frank Lorenzo (one of the Bunkers’ neighbors), that guy who was the tall English interpreter at the UN and neighbor at the Jefferson’s deluxe apartment in the sky (who played a hippy in “CT”), and of course Charlie from Mary Hartman (MH2). Wsed to live in Wisconsin and before I moved out here to LA, I got to be an extra in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” I was in the same room with Johnny Depp, in a courtroom scene in Darlington, WI, which stood in for Crown Point, IN. My buddy was at the WI State Capitol, which stood in for the U.S Capitol, and got to be in a hallway scene with Christian Bale. Hooray for Hollywood, Iowa, Dark Shadows, Cold Turkey!
      BTW – are you single? Do you smoke?

    1. It rocked the whole country. I was 12 years old, in rural Iowa, and it was the most horrifying thing I had ever heard of, at the time.
      The reason Jeb reminds me of Manson, is that he was a leader of bizarre, evil cult.

      1. Yes, it was horrible and especially so for those in the entertainment world – remember how Steve McQueen started wearing a gun after the murders?
        Those people were scared out of their wits.
        With Grayson’s Hollywood connections, I bet it really hit the Hall family pretty hard, too.
        Dan Curtis probably knew Roman Polanski – Fearless Vampire Killer that he was.
        Not to mention the influence of Rosemary’s Baby on the entire industry.
        I totally get the Jeb Hawkes – Manson connection. I never thought of it before , maybe cause Jeb doesn’t have CM’s crazy eyes.

  7. The David Hofstede Dark Shadows video reviews use the expression Count Petofi’s Magic Cupboard. I like Time Television, too, even if it does make me think of an 800 number with operator Judy standing by to take credit card orders.

  8. Possibly, time in 1969 is passing at a different rate than it is in 1897? (It sort of worked that way for Vicki’s 1795 excursion.) It would explain why David, who was fading fast when Barnabas got on the I Ching Carriage Ride, is still drooping around the Old House not quite dead, moaning for Quentin, after months of temporal tribulations. Do you suppose that for each of the 1897 episodes, that only twenty-two minutes of time has passed in the Swinging Sixties? Perhaps it’s only the next day in 1969, and the rest of the family went into town to have dinner and drinks at the Collinsport Inn, leaving Julia to sedate David (er, babysit. Babysit, of course; it’s just that sedation is HOW Julia babysits.)

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