Episode 1039: Barnabas, Julia and the Lady in the Back Parlor

“It never ends, does it, when one begins to unravel evil?”

Angelique’s dad owns a lady that he keeps lying on a table in the back parlor with a sheet over her, and about 95 percent of her life force is being projected, apparently through WiFi, to keep Angelique upright. This is an approach to grief that Kübler-Ross never saw coming.

But Angelique’s dad is some kind of brilliant crackpot voodoo science futurist, like Nikola Tesla running a psychic hotline. It’s all done with injections and candles somehow. I don’t know how he landed on this lady in particular.

So if Barnabas and Julia want to stop Angelique, which they do, then they have to deal with this weird setup. There isn’t any visible equipment attached to the lady on the table, so there doesn’t appear to be anything to unplug. Maybe they could jiggle her and look for an off button.

“So another innocent must die,” he groans, and Julia says, “Barnabas, I know what you’re feeling, but she’s not really alive,” which is debatable. Then she pulls a knife out of her purse and hands it to him, so he can stab a human being to death while she watches. In other words, it’s another Collinsport house party; this is why I never invite people over.

Barnabas raises the dagger as Julia pulls back the sheet, and all of a sudden there’s an issue.

Seeing him hesitate, she asks, “Barnabas, what is it?”

“She’s so beautiful!” he says, and Julia thinks, Oh, for fuck’s sake. Not this again!

Because this is Roxanne! and for the next six months, she’s going to be Barnabas’ new lady love. At some point, she’s going to get up off the furniture, and he’ll begin the process of projecting all his needs and desires onto this brand-new blank canvas. Last week, he said that he needed to stay here in Parallel Time so that he could help Maggie (who he was suddenly in love with), and now he needs to stay here in Parallel Time so that he can help this new girl (who he’s suddently in love with).

Barnabas has been crush-hopping with every new twist in the storyline over the last year; in the twelve months between June 1969 and June 1970, he’s been interested in Rachel, Kitty, Regular Maggie, Parallel Maggie and now this new lady. That’s a new woman every two and a half months. With the others, he at least had the excuse that they were all played by the same actress, and therefore were possible variations on Josette, but this new one is just pretty and immobile, which is apparently how he likes them.

He tries to rationalize by waxing philosophical. “In a world where there’s so much ugliness,” he declares, “have I the right to destroy her?” Obviously, this is another example of Dark Shadows’ ruthless morality; if this girl wasn’t pretty, she’d be dead by now, and good riddance.

Julia tries to talk sense to him, which never works. She says, “Whatever you feel condemns everyone at Collinwood to more of Angelique’s plots!” This is basically a description of the entire show from November 1967 on.

He says that he’s determined to bring this lady back to life, so that he can talk her into being a reincarnation of Josette somehow. Julia glares, “As we delay, whatever happens at Collinwood is your responsibility.” This is usually the case.

So the interesting thing here is that this is the period of the show when Julia’s love for Barnabas becomes part of the conversation, at the same moment that Barnabas’ random ingenue fever reaches its pointless peak.

On Monday, when Julia conspired with Parallel Will at the Old House, she said that she didn’t want to leave Barnabas in this alternate dimension. Will said, “I think I understand,” and Julia shot him a frigid look.

“As a doctor,” she said, “I’ve been interested in Barnabas for a long time.” She wasn’t fooling anyone. Her once-upon-a-time subtext has openly become part of the text, and everyone can recognize it instantly, even when they’ve just met.

This makes her more powerful — she can casually interrupt the storyline in a way that no other character can, because she’s so closely aligned with the main character. But even Julia can’t keep Barnabas away from the tedious ingenues.

Barnabas and Julia are the most important supercouple on the show, whether that’s explicitly romantic or not. For the last three years, he’s been hopping from one doomed romance to another, but his only real connection is to Julia.

Vicki’s long gone, Angelique keeps marrying random handsome dudes, and Josette kills herself over and over, trying desperately to convince him that he needs to move on. You don’t see Kitty Hampshire suddenly bursting through the time rift to whack threatening housekeepers, and when Peter’s ghost appeared in 1970 to reveal Vicki’s tragic destiny, he delivered the news to somebody else. Barnabas never found out what happened to Vicki, and that was such a non-issue that it didn’t even occur to me until just now.

But here he is, pulling the lever on another random slot-machine romance, and if you’re looking for ironic symbolism, you couldn’t find anything better than this. He’s now being romantically linked with a complete stranger who hardly has a pulse.

They don’t announce that he’s in love with her yet, of course, because it’s only been a couple minutes and even Barnabas can’t work that fast, but the rule of televisual narrative that we’ve learned to accept is that an unattached male character will automatically be romantically paired with any unattached female character who happens to appear in the same shot. This works even when the female is unconscious.

So that means Barnabas has magical lady-wakening powers, and he’s attuned to whatever frequency she’s emitting.

“I know that her mind sleeps, as the rest of her does,” he opines, “and when she wakes, she will be the same as she was before Stokes did what he –”

He breaks off, and looks up in wonder.

“Julia!” he cries. “Her fingers moved!”

And yeah, dude, we know. You moved them. You’re holding them in your hand right now.

Julia is “too old” for Barnabas, apparently, or not pretty enough, although when you get right down to it, he’s too old and not pretty enough for the parade of young girls they keep wheeling past him. They never love him back; after 1795, every woman from Vicki on has another suitor who they would be perfectly happy with. If he left them alone, they’d go and marry Jeff, Joe, Tim, Edward and Quentin, which they were planning to do before Barnabas came along. They would be fine.

But he always returns to Julia, his after-life partner, who runs to the rescue no matter how many blank slates he decides he’s in love with. There’s no way to resolve this tension, which is good, because resolving things on Dark Shadows usually means that somebody falls off a cliff. Widow’s Hill is where the happy endings go to die.

Barnabas begs the girl, “Speak to me! Tell us who you are!” But she can’t, because she isn’t anyone. She’s just the pretty lady on the table, served up like the next course on a tray.

The only one who actually speaks to him is Julia, urging him to disappear before he’s caught drooling over today’s special. And he leaves in a shimmer of Chromakey, as he always has, and always will.  

Tomorrow: Stupid Mystery Theater.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

As you can see in the second picture in this post, the back parlor set wasn’t really made to be shot at that angle. There’s a bare section of drywall above the door which doesn’t have any wood paneling.

In the teaser, when Barnabas says, “So this is the body that has made Angelique live,” somebody offscreen coughs.

At the end of yesterday’s episode, Barnabas said, “It never ends, does it, when one begins to unravel evil?” In today’s reprise, he says “once one begins to unravel evil”. I like “when” better, so the quote at the top of the post is actually yesterday’s version. Just in case you were wondering, which you weren’t.

Julia says, “I feel as sorry for this girl as you do.” Barnabas replies, “Sorrow isn’t all what I feel!”

Barnabas tells Julia, “You can hum here — come here any time you like!”

Roger says that Cyrus has named him as the executive of his estate; he means executor.

Angelique tells Bruno that someone is interested in him: “someone at the main house… someone who is much more innocent than she seems.” She means less innocent.


Behind the Scenes:

This is Donna Wandrey’s first episode as Roxanne; she’s listed in the credits, although she doesn’t have a speaking part and nobody on screen knows her name yet. This is her first TV credit.

In The Dark Shadows Companion, Wandrey contributed her memories of the audition: “It was the first real thing I did on TV that lasted longer than 60 seconds. There were two blonde women with gorgeous long hair to my left, and two dark-haired women on my right. And here was this short-haired redheaded thing in the middle. After we had read, we were asked why we should get the part. I though, well, I can’t just say I want to work. I went to school. I hadn’t done really anything that was important. And everyone else said very serious things. I thought, OK, you’ve blown it by now, you might as well go for it – and I said ‘Because I have short hair and there aren’t many short-haired women working in TV.’ I was cast the next day.” So that’s how that happened.

There are eight people in today’s episode, which is a rare and expensive event. They spread the cost out with a four-person episode a couple days ago, and another four-person episode next week.

Also, a props moment: when Roxanne’s eyes open, it’s implied that she’s seeing through Angelique’s eyes — and the first thing she sees is my favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp, which is featured in the drawing room today.

Tomorrow: Stupid Mystery Theater.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

59 thoughts on “Episode 1039: Barnabas, Julia and the Lady in the Back Parlor

  1. “After we had read, we were asked why we should get the part… And everyone else said very serious things.”

    Here’s a fun exercise: What are the “serious things” that the other actresses might have said about playing Barnabas’s latest sleepy ingenue?

      1. There is a “sleeping beauty” fetish that Dan alluded to a few years ago that would have made Ron Sproat turn cartwheels. But of course he was gone by then.

        1. Before I met the man who was to become the love of my life, I had a short-term (VERY short-term) relationship with a guy who wasn’t interested in sex except in the middle of the night — like around 2 or 3 a.m. — after waking me from a sound sleep. The first time struck me as sexy, but when it soon became clear that it was his fetish and sex under any other circumstances didn’t interest him in the least, I gave him the boot. I never thought of it as a “sleeping beauty fetish” (probably became I’m no sleeping beauty) but rather a sort of somnambulance roleplay whereby he could psychologically or even subconsciously dismiss homosexual acts as something beyond our control. Then again, perhaps the two are part and parcel of the same thing, although I think with a sleeping beauty fetish there’s the appeal of presumed helplessness and innocence.

          Oh, and I hope that’s not an instance of Too Much Information. I mean, it was nearly 40 years ago. 😉

      1. I suspect Grayson was the only Jewish girl in the whole DS cast, yes? Curtis went for WASPs and Swedes. Shirley Grossman probably slipped in because she had another name.

        1. Gosh, I never thought about that – you may be right.
          I just figured a little nepotism can go along way in these interview situations so, why not mention your Aunt Shirley – the show’s star!

        2. But ummm…Dan Curtis’ real name was Daniel Meyer Cherkoss. He apparently thought Grayson was fantastic – correctly, of course!

    1. Heh. “Seriously, I will sleep with anyone to get this part,” maybe?

      But didn’t Danny post something about how the actress who auditioned for the Eve role was also obsessing about the other auditioners’ long hair?… and how she landed the role because she teased her own to make it appear all wild? Clearly there must’ve been a serious sorta hair fetish that the DS casting director(s) shared.

  2. It’s Julia’s fault.

    All she had to do was hand the knife over; she didn’t need to pull the sheet off. Barnabas could have stabbed her, THEN found out how beautiful she was after it was too late.
    And since when is Barnabas all “I can’t destroy another life”? This is Mr. “(insert name here) must DIE!” What a time for his moral compass to start working.
    This sudden bolt from Cupid means only one thing – we’re stuck with PT for a while yet.

    Angelique is bound to notice how much time “Hoffman” is suddenly away, and where did that new green coat come from? Shouldn’t SOMEONE be doing the housekeeping?

    And Roger is the incestor, er, executor of Cyrus’ estate? I’m trying to recall when they even had a scene together…wouldn’t Quentin (the rich guy, Longworth’s best friend) be a better choice? Guess the “I think you murdered Angelique” thing made him distrust Quentin?

    And what about the “life force draining” that Angelique was doing before we found out about Roxanne? Is that still a thing, or is Angie just counting on her dad to keep sedating the girl in the back parlor? What are they feeding Roxanne? And when does she get to go to the bathroom? Maybe that’s why she keeps waking up. “Strength of the human spirit”, indeed – she just has to have a tinkle!

    1. No one went to the bathroom on TV until All In the Family came along. I think this is where the supernatural mumbo jumbo comes into play here. Roxanne was probably in some kind of low level suspended animation. When Julia used the I Ching to travel to 1897 for many days her physical body remained in 1969. Did it need food or water or need to be taken to the potty in the absence of her astral self?

      1. No one went to the bathroom on TV until All In the Family came along.

        Hawaii Five-0 can be credited with acknowledging bathroom use before All in the Family did.

        1. Bewitched, too. Tabitha either “went” or was about to in the car on the way back from a dr.’s appointment! Samantha pulls the car into the driveway, grabs little Tab and runs into the house saying, “Why didn’t you go at the doctor’s?!”

      2. Julia planned ahead; IV liquid diet cleverly disguised as a purse, & adult diapers; Willie did the changing.
        If she’d planned far enough ahead, she would have gotten a room at Windcliff (but you have to book too far in advance – and they’re pretty crowded).

    2. “This sudden bolt from Cupid means only one thing – we’re stuck with PT for a while yet.”

      And, as a teen watching this back in 1970, I was so mad that Barnabas didn’t do the deed and we could leave PT. Then again, Curtis hasn’t carried out the PT Collins family bloodbath yet. I think that his destruction of the family here, in House of Dark Shadows, and in an upcoming storyline means that he was really sick of the show.

      1. Well, that really is the classic melodrama tragedie finish, killing off everyone…problem is, that’s not soap opera friendly, not much “continuing story”. DS did try to bring in new blood, but did seem to be knocking them off just as fast. I mean, Dameon Edwards predeceased his first episode! By a year!

    3. Shouldn’t SOMEONE be doing the housekeeping?

      There’s always the staff that’s mentioned, yet unseen, and I get the idea that they’d be glad if Hoffman disappeared for long stretches at a time. It’s just a hunch.

      1. Or started handing out sedatives.
        This new gig could be great for Julia, if her contract includes medical, dental, optical, four weeks paid vacation, and her own car. (And today is probably Hoffman’s day out anyway, given Julia’s luck in the last episode.)

      2. The Collins family had the first Roomba. It was run on the power of the I Ching and looked like one of David’s toy robots.

  3. Using a dagger was great for visual melodrama but surely Barnabas and Julia would have realized they’d have a bloody mess on their hands. Surprised Barnabas didn’t go back to his default method of strangulation. Wouldn’t have needed to lift the sheet. Same with torching the body.

  4. HAPPY 51st BIRTHDAY, DARK SHADOWS!

    Your original broadcasts on ABC only spanned a little less than five years, but your legacy lives on. This blog is just one example.

  5. It’s a curious thing that since late sixty-eight, with the start of the Quentin ghost story, whenever they bring on a new actor it’s almost always as a silent entity, and it’s a good many episodes, weeks even, before they are ever heard to utter a line. I wonder if this non-speaking aspect of their appearances initially affected how, or if, they were payed per episode.

    1. I would guess that if an actor is signed to a long-term contract (i.e. David Selby, James Storm, Kate Jackson, Terry Crawford), when they played non-speaking ghosts, they probably got paid the same as if they were speaking. After all, they were contracted actors, not extras. It’s a good question, though.

      1. That’s the kind of thing I wonder about, those behind the scenes details. Because if the writing team wasn’t planning stories beyond the next two weeks, how would they know whether a newly hired actor would be in it for the long term? Jonathan Frid was only doing it in the beginning to pick up a few bucks while waiting for his teaching job to begin that fall. Dennis Patrick has mentioned that in the beginning he didn’t have to sign a contract, but that later he did and this made it harder for him to leave the show when he wanted to. If Donna Wandrey was signed to a long-term contract, then how come she didn’t appear in any 1971 episodes? We know from Alexandra Moltke’s experience how difficult it was to break a contract with the show.

        1. Yeah, I wonder about those administrative things, too. Like Crawford being called back to play Young Edith to fulfill a contract obligation she didn’t realize she still had.

        2. Maybe we will someday have the chance to ask David Selby, Jim Storm, or Kate Jackson this very question about non-speaking ghosts being paid the same or less than performers with speaking roles. I’ve been to a few of the DS conventions in LA, but never stand in line for autographs or asked questions during the Q&A portions. I don’t know why.

          As for the idea that the show was only written two weeks ahead of production, I know that must be true to a degree, but when you look at the beginning of Quentin’s haunting of Collinwood, there was clue after clue after clue about his story in the past. So I think they knew that Selby would be on the show to do the flashback, albeit longer than they’d planned. I would also think that if Selby bombed as a speaking character, they’d wrap up the flashback story quickly and write him out.

          It’s my understanding that actors are/were signed for 2 year contracts (I think Joan Bennett and Alexandra Moltke were signed for 5 years), but the producers can cancel the contracts at the end of any 13-week cycle.

  6. Danny, i love your approach to all this: “This is an approach to grief that Kübler-Ross never saw coming.” Is Barnabas have a complex mental-health issue going? I know teenage boys who are more stable. You’d think after nearly 200 years, he could grow up a little in respect to his dating interests. On the other hand, Julia Hoffman expects him to do the deed. She could just as easily take the knife back and do it herself, if we are going to be a-moral about all this. lol

  7. DANNY: “Julia is “too old” for Barnabas, apparently, or not pretty enough, although when you get right down to it, he’s too old and not pretty enough for the parade of young girls they keep wheeling past him. They never love him back; after 1795, every woman from Vicki on has another suitor who they would be perfectly happy with. If he left them alone, they’d go and marry Jeff, Joe, Tim, Edward and Quentin, which they were planning to do before Barnabas came along. They would be fine.”

    SER: So, here’s the question for the group: Is Barnabas Collins meant to be attractive? Yes, we all know the housewives and soon the young teen girls watching the show found him attractive, but a few years from now, Woody Allen will be somewhat of an unconventional sex symbol.

    Barnabas obviously isn’t Quentin, who is overtly written as hot. Frankly, I think Barnabas’s, well, “Fridness” is a key part of his appeal — one that later remakes miss by treating Barnabas as a slightly more mature Quentin (i.e. a “heartthrob”). Ben Cross’s Barnabas was meant to be attractive (and God help us, there were quite a few topless scenes). Alec Newman was attractive (and also young). And although Johnny Depp was hidden under goofy makeup, the actor himself is a fairly famous heartthrob. Unlike Fridd, if Depp had simply taught acting at Yale, he’d have been the “hot professor,” not the “shy retiring, confirmed bachelor” professor.

    Barnabas, Vicki, and Burke wasn’t even a “real” triangle. Vicki loved Burke completely and Barnabas was the geeky guy with the hopeless crush who stalked her. Even Rachel was sort of interested in Barnabas in the “my cool gay best friend way.” There was no overt passion. However, Frid really only had chemistry with Parker and Hall.

    I dunno. I kind of like my Barnabas as an awkward dork, who stumbles over his words. Roxanne is interesting, though, because she is clearly directed to come off as “sexually attracted” to Barnabas (even more so in months to come). And of course, Roxanne is barely into her 20s, so it’s really off-putting.

    1. Definitely MEANT to be attractive – the perception of it is up to the individual viewer. I saw it as his supernatural magnetism getting all the birds.
      And as we know, none of it worked with Maggie Evans.

    2. I’ve noticed that for the most part, when female characters speak flatteringly of Barnabas, they tend to mention his charm, his grace, and sometimes his kind, soulful eyes.

  8. Exactly right. This is the last straw. I mean, for a guy who’s supposed to have an undying obsession about one woman, he gets a lot of crushes. He falls for every 20-something he sees. Literally! It’s infuriating. I wish someone could make up their mind about whether this guy is going to be obsessed about Josette, or is he going to just be a skirt-chaser? I suppose this is just your usual, bog-standard case of the guy who SAYS he loves only one woman, but in practice he loves all of them. Yawn. They’re a dime a dozen. Barnabas could’ve been something interesting and unusual, but no.

    Even my 10 year old daughter groaned and said “I’ve gotta get out of here” and then actually got up and left the room when Barnabas started with this crap.

    1. Crap, indeed! Honestly, what does this girl have that a hundred others don’t? Maybe he just wants her because she’s unconscious – Barnie, they’re ALL cute when they’re unconscious. I hope she has an annoying “Lina Lamont” voice – ‘He waans me ta mearry him, an eye can’t stannum!’
      Besides, she probably has a life of HER OWN! Maybe a boyfriend? Or, with that shortie hairdo, she might have a girlfriend…just saying. Not passing judgement.

      1. I remember a DS festival with a sketch in which Barnabas looking for Roxanne, ends up with Rosanna Rosannadanna..

        It inspired me to write a humorous piece in which the latest Josette turns out to be Rosanna Rosannadana, who once she rises as a vampire, complains that without mirrors she cannot see if there is a booger hanging from her nose…

        1. “I thought I was gonna die!”

          Rosanna can just use the ‘finger check’, like Barnabas did…

      2. He certainly does have an alarming penchant for wanting girls with no autonomy. And now he even wants one who is literally unconscious!

        Here the show would’ve had an opportunity to show how warped this mentality is, but they don’t do it. They just go on to glorify it as romantic. Truly bizarre.

  9. Danny, when you mentioned Vicki in passing, it made me think of a “what might’ve been” something that I find delightful to consider. What if when they pulled the sheet back, it reveal — ta-ta-ta-DUMMM — parallel-universe Victoria Winters, played by none other than Alexandra Moltke. Oh, that would have been something! But, alas, of course, it was not to be.

    1. It reveals ta-ta-ta DUMMMM! PT Istvan in drag. (Admittedly, it’s not much of a possibility, but the shock value alone would be worth it.)

      1. It reveals ta-ta-ta DUMMMM! PT Istvan in drag. (Admittedly, it’s not much of a possibility, but the shock value alone would be worth it.)

        Johnny Romano, QUEEN of the gypsies!

    1. According to her My Scrapbook Memories of DS book she and Dan Curtis didn’t have the talk about leaving DS until later but it seems possible the signals were there and likely had been for a while after she left the show temporarily during the summer of ’69. But I think the intro of a non-Josette love interest was more a matter of the writers had done all they could with the Barnabas-Josette doomed love storyline. Look at how Josette’s ghost appeared to Barnabas in early 1970 to tell him that he needed to move on. That didn’t mean they were quite ready to see KLS go. An major 1840 character was originally written for her

    2. but Vicki was a non-Josette love interest, and that happened as soon as Maggie proved too wilful to comply with his plans for her.

      1. That’s true. But I also remember him making a big speech at the time about how while Maggie had resembled Josette on the outside Vicki was more like Josette because she possessed the same inner qualities. So she wasn’t a Josette clone in the same manner as Rachel or Kitty, but Barnabas, at least, believed that his attraction to her was partly based on a favorable comparison with Mlle. Dupres.

        1. Sure. I see this as him intellectualising something that is really just him jumping on the next available, but he wants to romanticise it. He’s full of it, and it’s always about what he wants, not what they want.

      2. Barnabas saw Vicki as Josette 3.0. His entire awkward courtship was designed to re-create Josette, even though he had failed with Maggie to make Josette 2.0. Roxanne doesn’t come with any whiff of Josette – but she has her own baggage.

  10. As you can see in the second picture in this post, the back parlor set wasn’t really made to be shot at that angle. There’s a bare section of drywall above the door which doesn’t have any wood paneling.

    Or was it a popular PT interior design decision?

    1. Cutting edge interior design!
      Other PT elements are; having walls that end at 8 foot, with a grid and studio lighting mounted above every room; boom microphones at about 7 feet up (that arbitrarily dip down to 6 feet or even lower); and large ABC-TV cameras that careen through the house randomly.

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