Episode 989: Scientific Progress Goes Boink

“At least the companions I pick are human!”

So here’s the method: First, you take a chemical synthesis. This can be homemade, or delivered from a chemical synthesis company. Either one, it just has to be worryingly potent. Turn on the apparatus, set those fluids bubbling in their beakers. Add some powder to the synthesis. Now it’s a compound. Approach some truths that are better left unknown. Pour the result into a juice glass, and down the hatch.

It’s a simple dramatic recipe, but I do have a few questions for the reckless chemist, starting with: Why test this on yourself first? You literally have a guinea pig right there in the room with you. Wouldn’t it be easier to jot down observations, if the composition that’s getting reoriented isn’t yours? Also, what were you expecting to happen? What was the beneficial outcome you were aiming for?

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But never mind the sensible questions. The answer is always going to be: it’s more fun this way. Nobody wants to watch the careful mad scientist, putting on gloves and protective goggles before tampering gently in God’s domain. We want action.

Cyrus here is a bit of a prick, patronizing, arrogant, thinks he’s better than everyone. He’s the kind who steeples his fingers while he considers how to put things in layman’s terms. He natters on, and then apologizes for nattering on, which is somehow even worse.

You want this smartypants to get smacked upside the head by unintended consequences, and that is exactly what he’s smacked by. Serves him right, too, the big stiff.

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This tale is familiar territory for showrunner Dan Curtis; he was working on a TV-movie adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde in 1967, while everyone else was casting Jonathan Frid and making Dark Shadows watchable. Imagine his surprise when he got back, and discovered it was a good show all of a sudden.

Dan’s version of Dr. J starred Jack Palance, who’s a famous actor except name three movies he was in. It can’t be done. Jack was fine as eyewear-inhabitant Dr. Jekyll, but it’s obvious that playing Mr. Hyde was a lot more fun. He’s more fun to watch, too. Hyde’s the guy who goes to bars, loosens up some already loose women, parties till dawn. Jekyll just stands there and doesn’t feel sufficiently repentant.

So that’s the suspense of this moment, when lip touches liquid. Suspense is the feeling that something is about to change the story you’re following, but you don’t know whether it’s going to be a good change or not. As always, you’re not afraid for the imaginary people in the story. You’re afraid that you’re going to be bored.

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For this first attempt, we’re left to sit in that suspense for another week. All we see is the drinking. He shoots, he scores, he falls to the floor, and the next thing you know, it’s morning, and we’re surveying the damage.

This is the opposite of the Strange Case that Robert Louis Stevenson made up, back when he didn’t realize he was on the Dark Shadows writing team. In the original, we hear about Hyde trampling over an eight-year-old girl, and the name Jekyll isn’t even mentioned for another four pages. But the adaptations have their own agendas.

The sequence in the teaser today is taken directly from Curtis’ 1968 version — Dr. Jekyll finds his smashed glasses on the floor, sees that his desk has been messed with, and then finds an IOU, signed by the other guy. Jack Palance had a bunny in a cage in the TV-movie, too. The original novella didn’t mention rabbits even once, which is just another thing that Stevenson didn’t understand about his own story.

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So here’s Cyrus, in full brow-furrow. He mixed himself a DIY cocktail of Red Bull, tequila, Viagra and DayQuil, and now he can’t figure out how there could be any adverse effects. Drinking stuff is an important part of the scientific method.

“Who is John Yaeger?” he furrows further, referring to the signature on the IOU. “He could be someone I met last night, after I took the compound! But I can’t remember anything about last night! Why? What could have gone wrong?”

So that’s where we are, personal responsibility-wise. It turns out 1886 was part of the 60s, too. Any sentence that includes “after I took the compound” is pretty much guaranteed to place the blame somewhere entirely else.

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If anyone’s interested, here’s what went wrong, as of two episodes ago: a true tale of lab coats in love.

Cyrus:  Now, one thing I must warn you, Sabrina — you’re very aware of my work habits.

Sabrina:  Of course I am.

Cyrus:  And you know how I tend to concentrate very heavily on my work.

Sabrina:  Of course, I know all that.

Cyrus:  And you don’t mind?

Sabrina:  Why should I?

Cyrus:  Well, some women would. It seems that my whole life is centered about my work… all my energies, and thoughts…

Sabrina:  Your devotion to your work is one of the things I like about you. Not the only thing. But one of them.

Which is interesting, because Sabrina — despite working in Cyrus’ lab with him, every day — doesn’t actually know what his work consists of. It’s not like he’s devoted to curing sick orphans or anything; he’s inventing a potion that makes people evil. A little due diligence on Sabrina’s part before accepting the proposal could have made all the difference.

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And now she’s traumatized and sitting in a chair, which I think is where we came in, as far as Sabrina is concerned. The first time we saw her, back in the other time band, she was gray-haired and freaked-out, and communicated mostly through a series of pained expressions. She finally got over it, thanks to a mixture of love and L’Oreal, but here we are again. Sabrina has lapped herself.

Here’s what happened: A brutal man broke into her apartment late last night, all hopped-up on some compound. The intruder grabbed her, choked her, and pulled the engagement ring all the way off her finger, and then he ankled, without even leaving an IOU.

Carolyn’s nearby, wearing an unbelievably up-to-date outfit, impatiently keeping an eye on the patient.

Carolyn:  Sabrina, is there anything I can get for you?

Sabrina:  I want Cyrus.

Carolyn:  I’ve been trying to reach him all night, but his phone doesn’t answer.

Sabrina:  I don’t understand!

Carolyn:  Neither do I. I’d better try him again.

So she picks up the phone, and in the middle of dialing the first digit, there’s a knock on the door and Cyrus comes in. That is some stunning phone service.

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But some people just live to complain.

Cyrus:  Sabrina!

Sabrina:  I’ve been waiting for you.

Cryus:  Oh, Sabrina, I’m sorry! But I’m here now. Can’t you tell me what happened?

Sabrina:  It was evil. Evil! It makes no sense! My ring! My ring!

Cyrus:  He took — your engagement ring!

Sabrina:  I don’t understand!

So I’m sorry, but I need to ask: what part of this is difficult to understand? A burglar stole your engagement ring. I mean, it’s shocking and terrifying when something like that happens, and I’m not trying to blame the victim or anything. But saying that it makes no sense is silly. It makes sense. You just don’t like it.

Besides, her boyfriend is supposed to be this big expert on good and evil; that’s why he’s doing all that work he’s so devoted to. Somebody in this couple has got to start understanding things.

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Or, I don’t know, maybe marriage isn’t such a hot idea for these two. There are a whole bunch of ways you can call off an engagement that you regret, and I suppose this one isn’t unknown in the annals of science. You get blackout drunk, you go over to your fiancee’s place, and terrible things ensue. You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out where this relationship is going. How blinded could you get?

Tomorrow: Let It Burn.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Paxton tells Cyus, “Nothing is impossible for an accomplished burger — burglar.”

In act 1, when we fade from Cyrus’ puzzled look to Sabrina sitting on the couch, they’re using a music cue that’s more appropriate for a pitched battle with a ferocious werewolf. It’s completely wrong for what we’re looking at, which is Carolyn keeping an eye on a motionless Sabrina, and they have to fade out, once Carolyn starts talking.

As act 2 starts, Sabrina is supposed to be asleep, but her eyes are open.

In the dream sequence, the camera pans down to the attacker’s feet, and we can see yellow marking tape on the rug.

When Will and Alexis hold hands, you can hear someone running in the studio — possibly Carolyn, on her way from the Collinwood set to Sabrina’s.

Cyrus looks for a cue, before he reads from his notes: “I’m certain that this foundation can control and shake to the very foundation the mind of man.”


Behind the Scenes:

Frank Paxton is played by Stanley Grover, in his only episode. Grover appeared in a number of Broadway shows that I never heard of in the 50s and 60s, including Wish You Were Here, Time Remembered and Let It Ride! In the 70s, he was an understudy in the original Broadway production of Company, and he appeared in The Desert Song and Don’t Call Back. He also appeared in the 1976 film Network. During the 70s, he started to appear on television regularly, first on soap operas — The Edge of Night, The Best of Everything and Somerset — and then primetime. He had guest roles on lots of shows, including Barnaby Jones, Dallas, Lou Grant, Falcon Crest, Hill Street Blues, Murder She Wrote, all kinds of things. He had a recurring role as a judge on LA Law, and that’s pretty much the limit of my interest in Stanley Grover.

Tomorrow: Let It Burn.

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Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

43 thoughts on “Episode 989: Scientific Progress Goes Boink

    1. Prisoner, I remember watching Evil Stalks This House back in ’81 or ’82. As I recall, it was broken up into half-hour installments and ran for five days in syndication.

      1. I think what got me to watch it in the first place was that each night it was hosted by Christopher Lee, because I’d already been a huge Hammer Films fan for a few years by that point. But now I can’t even recall seeing those hosting segments; having not seen this for over 35 years, all I remember is Jack Palance down in a basement with quicksand.

        The YouTube clip above is an edited version that ran on CBS in 1987. Originally, the total length from the 1981 mini-series was 96 minutes.

        1. Prisoner, since you’re a fan of the Hammer Films, are you familiar with a series co-produced by Hammer and 20th Century Fox Television for ABC called “Journey to the Unknown”? It aired on ABC for about 16 weeks in 1968-69. I really enjoyed it.

          1. No, I’m not familiar. I was born in 1966, so I have a few isolated memories of 1969, some of them to do with television, but alas 1968 in that regard is practically a total blank. I became a Hammer Films fan around 1978, with Horror of Dracula and then many others that were often shown on TV around that time, mostly on weekends.

            I wasn’t even aware of Hammer House of Horror, the 13-part British series from the fall of 1980, until a couple of years ago, when I discovered that Kathryn Leigh Scott was in one of the episodes. I even posted here in the comments section of this blog my delight on the day the DVD set arrived in the mail. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite horror anthology series — ever!

            I’ll have to look up this Journey to the Unknown — anything to do with Hammer Films is great with me. 🙂

          2. I couldn’t find it on DVD, but there are several complete episodes up on YouTube. Just saw a clip of the theme/intro — sort of reminds me of Carnival of Souls.

            Thanks for mentioning this — it’s got two of my favorite actresses, Carol Lynley and Stefanie Powers, so that’s an added bonus. I’ll start wading into these episodes tonight.

            I’ve got an isolated TV memory from around that time, and I’ve never been able to place it. A couple are speeding along in a car down a road at night, and all kinds of crazy things are happening outside that they have to dodge around, strange lights in the sky with some kind of missile weaponry — then they pass underneath a bridge and when they emerge through the other side they’re in broad daylight and are safe. Is that by chance from this series?

            1. Prisoner, that doesn’t ring a bell. As for Journey to the Unknown, check out these episodes: “The New People,” “Girl of My Dreams,” “Poor Butterfly,” “Somewhere in the Crowd,” “Matakitas is Coming,” “Paper Dolls,” and “Jane Brown’s Body.” The Carol Lynley premiere episode (“Eve”) is okay, but I’m surprised that ABC’s standards and practices would have allowed “Miss Belle” to air.

            2. PoTN, I am just guessing – possibly you’re remembering Star Maidens, a sexist British\German sci-fi series from Bray Studios? Or Gerry Anderson’s UFO series? Sounds like a scene from one of those, unless you think it might have been a movie.

          3. They showed it on ABC as paired episodes and ‘joined up’ the shows with host segments – I recall seeing Sebastian Cabot introducing Poor Butterfly (starring (hunky) Chad Everett), and The Indian Spirit Guide (starring (not very hunky at all) Julie Harris).

            1. John, they were later syndicated and paired up (two episodes together) for a two-hour time slot. And you’re right, Sebastian Cabot did host on of the 2-hour syndicated shows, as did Joan Crawford and others.

              But originally, it was an ABC weekly series that aired on Thursday nights, after That Girl. I watched it when it originally aired. That’s right, I’m old – almost 60!

  1. “In act 1, when we fade from Cyrus’ puzzled look to Sabrina sitting on the couch, they’re using a music cue that’s more appropriate for a pitched battle with a ferocious werewolf. It’s completely wrong for what we’re looking at, which is Carolyn keeping an eye on a motionless Sabrina, and they have to fade out, once Carolyn starts talking.”

    OH! You said cue FIFTY three? I thought you said sixty three!!!

    1. The cue they used was usually reserved for some of the more violent scenes. I guess Sybil Weinberger was tripping out.

  2. That’s a good point about how ignorant Sabrina- the lab assistant – is of even the most basic elements of Cyrus’ experiment. What are her duties anyway? Wash test tubes, sign for deliveries and feed the rabbit?
    She should turn in her lab coat.

    1. She has other duties!
      Falling in love with the mad scientist.
      Fawning on the mad scientist – “Oh, you’re so clever!”
      Distracting the scientist at exactly the the moment he needs focus.
      Screaming whenever anything the least bit unusual occurs.
      Fainting at the first inkling of any danger. Preferably in Standard Female Death Heap.
      Checking on any unexpected noises.
      Wearing revealing nightgowns when checking on any unexpected noises.
      Requiring rescue from all perils.
      Causing perils which require rescue.
      Tripping and falling while running from aforementioned peril; twisting an ankle should occur.

      See? Sabrina has a very full schedule!

      1. Yeah but Sabrina still only makes .77 cents to every one of Cyrus’ dollars.
        She needs to enroll in the accelerated Master’s Program at the Dr. Julia Hoffman Mad Scientist School for Women. then she can make the big bucks, like Julia.

  3. I think you’ve pretty much nailed thew difference between a stupid mad scientist and smart one.Dr Lang may have been abnormally loud and perpetually angry, but he wasn’t foolish enough to experiment on himself. While not a mad scientist Count Petofi wasn’t dumb. He made someone else use the IChing wands first before using them

    1. I often wonder about why these mad science dabblers tend towards self-medication. I mean, there’s hobos down on Skid Row, family pets, and (of course) lab rats galore to test on FIRST! Either egotism or stupidity makes them want to try it out on themselves, and it ALWAYS ends tragically. But, of course, it IS more interesting in dramatic terms…

  4. I can name 3 movies Jack Palance was in, in 5 seconds, and without looking anything up — Batman (1989), City Slickers, City Slickers 2.

    I guess YOUR point, though, is that Jack Palace was famous before Tim Burton put him in Batman as Jack Nicholson’s evil crime boss… but I can’t name any movie that Palance was in before 1989.

    Except, now, for that Dan Curtis Jekyll-and-Hyde thing, I suppose.

    1. The ones I remember were all pre-1980s – Shane, Sudden Fear, & Sign Of The Pagan (Jack played Attila The Hun!); he was nominated for Oscars for Supporting Actor for the first two. But then, I’m an OLD poufter…

        1. Since this is the Jack Palance arcana thread, I was hoping I might finally get to see again the filmclip of Dave Thomas playing Palance in SCTV’s sketch about what a Jack Palance sitcom would be like.

          Palance can also be connected back to “Strange Paradise.” Palance and SP cast member Jack Creley were once roommates. When Joan Crawford called Palance personally to request he co-star with her in “Sudden Fear,” Palance hung up on her, thinking it was Creley imitating Crawford and playing a prank on him.

          1. Since this is the Jack Palance arcana thread, I was hoping I might finally get to see again the filmclip of Dave Thomas playing Palance in SCTV’s sketch about what a Jack Palance sitcom would be like.

            You mean this? It’s not from SCTV, tho.

    2. Sword of the Conqueror, Torture Garden, Attack, Barnabas, Silver Chalice, and the already-mentioned Shane, Sign of the Pagan, City Slickers I & II, and Sudden Fear. And the Dan Curtis flicks. He got around.

      I’ve always believed the story about Palance needing plastic surgery on his face after an Air Force training accident, but Palance claimed the story was made up. Palance, quoted at Wikipedia: ” “Studio press agents make up anything they want to, and reporters go along with it. One flack created the legend that I had been blown up in an air crash during the war, and my face had to be put back together by way of plastic surgery. If it is a ‘bionic face’, why didn’t they do a better job of it?”

  5. Cyrus and Sabrina are basically the slightly dim lead couple in a Gilbert and Sullivan comic operetta.

    (Which, I guess, makes John Yaeger the Bad Baronet of Ruddigore?)

    1. You see? Dimwitted lab assistant, another prime candidate for testing the new chemical formula on. But perhaps not Sabrina, after all – her evil alter ego might turn out to be Ned Stuart. Now that would be scary!

  6. In my observations over the years there’s one word that gets overused at the beginning of a dialogue…and it’s very likely not in the script. Jonathan Frid, seemingly in order to give himself a little running start before delivering dialogue often says, “Well…” usually using the name of his scene partner, then a pause, or simply saying , “Well…”with a pause in order to remember his lines.

  7. It’s a simple dramatic recipe, but I do have a few questions for the reckless chemist, starting with: Why test this on yourself first? You literally have a guinea pig right there in the room with you. Wouldn’t it be easier to jot down observations, if the composition that’s getting reoriented isn’t yours?

    How would one know if the guinea pig turned evil? LOL

    1. It’s hair turns black and gets very greasy, and it wants to wear little guinea pig clothing and beat up other guinea pigs and steal their girlfriends.

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