Episode 1046: Woke

“There’s such a fearful unreality about this place.”

It’s alive! as Dr. Frankenstein would say. It’s alive! Well, partially.

Cross-dimensional eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has been pulling the old wall switches and setting the apparatus humming in the basement again, trying to restore life force to a young woman who’s low on get-up-and-go.

For the last few months, the lady in Stokes’ back parlor has been flat on her back, donating her élan vital to prop up the dangerous regime of soap-vixen sorceress Angelique. Barnabas, always open to new experiences, has decided to inexplicably fall in love with this comatose couchsurfer, who so far has opened her eyes once and is otherwise resting in peace. So he’s kidnapped the girl, strapped her to some mad science junk in the Old House basement, put several minutes of lightning through her veins and then stroked her face, all of which managed to get her to open her eyes again.

Now, in a perfect world, Roxanne would leap up onto the table and do a high-kicking musical number, like the frog in the Looney Tunes cartoon. “Hello ma baby, hello ma honey, hello ma ragtime gal! Send me a kiss by wire — baby, my heart’s on fire!”

This doesn’t happen. She just opens her eyes, stands up and looks around with a bland expression. The world is still just as imperfect as we always feared it would be.

We’re three weeks away from the conclusion of the Parallel Time storyline, and as usual these days, we’re wrapping things up using the process of elimination, gradually killing off the more energetic characters until we’re left with a vampire, a villain, a deus ex machina and a small clutch of terrified refugees. It’s an odd time to introduce new faces, but if this is the exit ramp then so be it.

Barnabas is utterly thrilled to see Roxanne come to life, and he helps her get up on her feet. She looks at him, and blinks, and somewhere in the world, a witch falls.

So this part is promising, at least. Roxanne exerting herself means that Angelique starts leaking life energy, dragging herself along the ground a la Christina’s World, reaching for the phone cord so she can call Stokes and say what the hell.

Any action on Roxanne’s part means that we’re a step closer to being rid of this parallel dimension version of Angelique, which is entirely fine with me; this storyline has been crawling along for months without really knowing what it’s aiming for. Angelique has been posing as her own twin sister in order to either seduce, destroy or imprison her once-husband Quentin, and get his new wife to either leave the house, jump from a window, ask for a divorce or get hung for witchcraft, a scattershot goal that’s been hard to track. If Roxanne getting up means Angelique going down, then maybe we can cut our losses and get Barnabas and Julia back to their home dimension.

Still, I’d like to see a little more cooperation on this end. Roxanne doesn’t say a word, just staring straight ahead. Barnabas manages to lead her upstairs to the drawing room, but she’s not giving away a lot in terms of reaction.

Here’s how the conversation goes. Barnabas opens with, “You are very lovely.”

This is the response: eye contact and occasional blinking.

“Can you understand what I’m saying to you?” he asks. There is no evidence that she can.

“Can’t you tell me who you are? Can’t you communicate with me?” She can’t.

“If not,” he says, trying to salvage something from this train wreck of a first date, “try in some way to tell me where you come from, what it is that Stokes has done to you.”

As far as I can tell from here, she does not try. In general, if “can’t you communicate with me” doesn’t get a response, then asking for more detailed information is probably not going to get you anywhere.

And this, right here, is the worst moment of all. This is the problem.

Barnabas decides to jog Roxanne’s memory by showing her a charcoal sketch of her that he found in the secret room of the Collins mausoleum last week. And when he goes to pick it up, she just keeps staring straight ahead, not even reacting to the fact that the person she’s supposed to be interacting with has moved to another part of the room.

So it’s not just that she can’t communicate; she’s hardly reacting to any stimulus at all. Barnabas has had more productive conversations with oil paintings. This is what it looks like when you’ve run out of ideas.

To be fair, she does perk up a little when Barnabas unrolls the artwork. She actually looks at it and smiles, and reaches out to paw at the artist’s signature. Written in large block letters at the bottom, it says CLAUDE NORTH, and I guess this means she can read.

“Yes!” Barnabas says. “Yes, you recognize the name! Claude North is important to you! Why? Can you tell me who he is?”

She can’t. Verbal communication is still not operational. Maybe he could get her a pen, or some Scrabble titles.

This isn’t going anywhere in particular, so Barnabas puts the picture away, and she slips right back into bland stare mode. He positions himself in front of her, to create the illusion that she notices he exists.

“I’m going to take you out of the house, and take you to someplace you may recognize,” he says. “Don’t be afraid of me. I only want to help you.”

She is not afraid of him. Being afraid is not the issue.

So I think at this point we have to face the fact that this is not going to be the shot in the arm that the current storyline needs. The main character of the show is signaling that he’s falling in love with this girl, and she is not participating in any noticeable way.

I mean, I know, she just opened her eyes, they’re doing a thing. I get that. This is supposed to be mysterious: the victim of a fiendish scheme, unable to communicate. The audience is supposed to lean forward, assessing each little clue, intrigued by the unfolding.

But there’s nothing here, and it comes off as desperation. It doesn’t feel like this girl is full of thrilling secrets; it feels like they cast an actress and then forgot to give her a character to play.

As we’ve discussed before, there are three steps to making the audience like a new character: make a friend, make a joke and make a plot point happen. This gives her value in the narrative — someone to talk to, a willingness to entertain, and a reason for the audience to pay attention to her. Roxanne is currently one for three.

She’s making a friend, kind of, although it’s more accurate to say that a friend is trying to make her. The joke, obviously, is off the table. But the real problem is the plot point, which she absolutely refuses to even attempt.

By keeping her bland, silent and mysterious, the show is telling us: this person has nothing to contribute. The only thing that matters is her existence. She’s not a character at the moment, she’s a prop.

It doesn’t even feel like a “pretty girl in peril” plot, because we don’t have anything to compare this to. We’ve seen characters lose their identities before, and it’s a reliable way to generate audience sympathy. The best example is probably Maggie getting kidnapped and brainwashed by Barnabas — temporarily becoming a dizzy love slave in a wedding dress, and then reverting back to childhood after the ordeal was over.

Not being able to recognize yourself or understand the world around you is a scary situation, and in Maggie’s case, the audience could empathize with her struggles. But Maggie was already a character that we knew, with strong relationships and a coherent personality. If she was first introduced as the overgrown child-Maggie, with no previous glimpses of her actual character, she would be annoying, just a sad, crazy girl that we didn’t know or like. The story worked because we had a basis for comparison between regular Maggie and this new, damaged parallel Maggie.

When Barnabas leads Roxanne into the mausoleum, they do give us a little bit of a reaction — she’s scared, and needs to be coaxed into the secret room. Unfortunately, that hesitation doesn’t give us any new information — anybody would be nervous, being led into this spooky place by a stranger.

We finally get something unique out of her, although it’s hard to know what to make of it. This room is where Barnabas found the charcoal sketch, so he knows she has some connection to it. Someone’s been living here — there’s a bed and a table and a bottle of milk — and Barnabas’ guess is that the occupant is Claude North, another stranger that we know very little about.

Barnabas finds a dagger in the room, and he shows it to Roxanne — and she brightens up, staring at the murder weapon like it’s a puppy. So now we know that she likes knives, I guess, if that helps.

Tomorrow: The Invention of Feelings.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Barnabas asks Roxanne, “Can you understand what I’m saying to you?” someone in the studio coughs. There’s also a cough after Barnabas’ voiceover in the secret room of the mausoleum: “Someone else has been in this room since I was here!” The nice thing about being a Dark Shadows character is that you’re never really alone.

When Barnabas brings Roxanne into the mausoleum, you can see one of the studio lights peeking into the top of the frame.

Angelique and Stokes talk over each other in act 2 — Stokes says, “If she recovers her powers of speech…” as Angelique is saying, “What are you talking about?”

Angelique tells Stokes, “I’ve come too far to have everything destroyed by some — by your fear for some ordinary man!”

Tomorrow: The Invention of Feelings.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

38 thoughts on “Episode 1046: Woke

    1. For a second I thought it was one of those foam bats, and he was going to play Whac-A-Mole on her until she responded.

    2. Yes, that’s quite a visual in the screen cap there. Score another one for Danny, you’ve got an incredible eye.

  1. I hate to tell you this, Barnabas, but you appear utterly idiotic pursuing this pretty young thing. It’s no mystery why she won’t pay much attention to you: The girl hasn’t eaten any solid food in months! Please take the starving child to the Collinsport Inn. Buy her a nice big roast beef sandwich!! Then she’ll tell you everything you want to know about her past. Oh, Barnabas, you are such an old fool!

    Then after 3 or 4 cups of coffee, Roxanne will perform the song and dance, just like Michigan J. Frog in the 20-second video link below:

  2. I have to admit, it never occurred to me to take any of my first dates to a mausoleum…not even the date who was a little scary. I settled for dumb things like a piece of pie at Denny’s or something like that. But then, i never slept in a coffin, either.
    Has anyone noticed that for being on her back for several months, Roxanne has amazingly nice hair. And i’m pretty sure Barnabas didn’t put that blush in her cheeks. Just sayin’

    1. “… Roxanne has amazingly nice hair. …”

      I agree Roxanne does have nice hair. And stylish too.

      HAIRSTYLES: A point of information for those of you not-yet-alive in 1970: I can attest that Roxanne’s hairdo — very short hair with those short little wisps at the back of her neck — was extremely trendy at the time around 1970. Short hair for women was beginning to become quite popular, either by having their own hair cut short, and/or by wearing a wig. So Roxanne’s hair was very much in-style.

      WIGS: It’s also worth noting that various styles of WIGS for women were another big hair trend circa 1970.

        1. “Even in Parallel Time!”

          GOOD ONE! Thanks! 🙂 You’re correct. The fashions and hairstyles in Parallel Time should be different from Regular Time, right?

          Now will someone from wardrobe pleeease take a quick run over to Ohrbach’s to get Roxanne a few different outfits to wear? Or is she going to wear nothing but her light blue pajamas all week? 😉

      1. HAIRSTYLES: A point of information for those of you not-yet-alive in 1970: I can attest that Roxanne’s hairdo — very short hair with those short little wisps at the back.

        Was this style popular because of Rosemary’s Baby?

        1. I’m not sure where short hair on women originated, but I would say the popularity comes more from the likes of Twiggy and Goldie Hawn in this period.

          1. I wore my hair short from about 1968 to 1971 but I was definitely in the minority. I did wear a “fall” that allowed it to be long whenever I wanted. I don’t recall that there was one particular inspiration for cutting it short. The first time I remember seeing a similar hairstyle to Roxanne’s and being told it was a shag was seeing Jane Fonda in Klute.

      2. I’ve always felt that the shag was like the mullet, in that people were trying to have two haircuts at the same time.

        1. @Melissa (I’m 4 years late….)

          Shag was my immediate reaction to her hair style. The shag didn’t come into vogue as early as 1970 though. Shags and mullets were things that were simply bad fashion.

          I don’t recall going short based on Mia Farrow or even that early. Short hair seemed to come in a couple of years later, like 1974, much like the shag. I didn’t live out in the sticks either.

          As an aside, why did they never write good roles for Quentin, post ghostie? He was a drunkard, womanizer, mean, and yelled a lot, in any time. Amazing how women would fall for a guy like him. I guess because he was so handsome. What a waste of Selby’s talent. (This has been bugging me and I’m up to 1970 RT now.)

      3. Speaking of style; Carolyn’s outfit in this episode is so cutting-edge she’d have been totally au courant even two or three years later. Nancy Barrett is a knockout (as usual) in this episode.

        1. Yes, as usual! Such a contrast between the total blank of Roxanne and the emotional response of Carolyn! But Will’s body is in the house? Do they not have coroners and morticians in parallel time? Surely the police would be called and the body removed? And yet it appears Barnabas and Carolyn are going upstairs to see Will’s body.

    2. Are you suggesting Stokes is a dab hand with a makeup brush? I do suppose he’s got to do something between sedating Roxanne (that’s Doc-tor Hoff-man’s job!), dealing with Angelique’s near death chills and getting plastered at the Eagle. Maybe if he lets Roxanne’s looks fade the same thing will happen to Angelique.

    1. 330 minutes; or 19800 seconds. Give or take an advertisement for Eva Gabor wigs, or Sta-Puf fabric softener. (Not that I’m counting.)

  3. Scattershot goals.

    I think you may have it there, in a nutshell.
    The problem with Parallel Time – the problem with the Leviathans.
    And not just haphazard for the characters, but for the writers, who kept varnishing themselves into corners, then changing the story to work their way out.

    Worst part is, I will wager it’s going to happen again.

    1. What I’ve pinpointed as the problem with Parallel Time is that the writers didn’t have the actors they needed to progress the story at the times they needed them, hence the padding with the Is She Or Isn’t She Angelique and The Strange Case of Cyrus Longworth and John Yaeger. With David Selby on holiday it’s the mystery of Claude North, which makes no logical sense even for Dark Shadows. At least it’s not Noah Gifford, for which we can be eternally thankful.

      Not long until all the players will be assembled for the final run of episodes of 1970 Parallel Time, which will ride into the blazing sunset to do whatever, since I’m long past caring unless Big Finish do something with it.

  4. I may be mistaken but I seem to recall from Donna Wandrey’s input that her shag (as that hairdo was called) was part of the reason she got the job. Again I think had she been introduced sooner or if (God forbid) PT had lasted longer she would have been a really good love interest for Barnabas. But that potential isn’t yet seen in her silent intro.

    It’s not mentioned but I also think that Nancy Barrett had very strong performance here.

    1. Tony, Donna Wandrey did say that during an interview after her audition, she was asked why she thought she should get the part and she said because she was a redhead with short hair and that there weren’t very many of those on TV.

      She really is a beauty in these still shots that Danny posted.

  5. My nit-picking is showing again…

    Where, pray tell, has the mad science lab in the Loomis House basement come from? It might have been more believable if Barnabas and Julia were using the Longworth lab (even though Cyrus was doing something completely different; after all, mad science IS mad science, regardless of the goal). Did Julia attend the estate sale and pick up the equipment for a bargain price? Cyrus’ lab looked to be mostly glass, bubbly liquids, chemistry set – and he smashed it up before he died. The Loomis lab is electronics and bright lights, with a gurney.

    I suppose if anyone can put together a mad science lab in a hurry and on a shoestring, all while pretending to be someone else in a parallel universe, it would be Dr. Julia Hoffman!

        1. It’s possible. When we go to 1841 PT, we discover that Collinwood had been built in the late 1600s, 100 years earlier than in RT.

    1. Well at least Loomis House has electricity! Julia’s original mad science lab back in 1967 had flaming torches on the walls.

  6. Barnabas, do you think you can find a coat to put over the nice ladies filming nightgown before you take her out to the cemetery and into the mausoleum in the middle of the freaking night?

    I mean, okay, I can understand not wanting to borrow an entire outfit out of Carolyn’s wardrobe, even if they’re close enough in size. But surely either Carolyn or Will has an old coat lying around the house, or a robe, or a shawl, a throw? Failing that, could you maybe at least throw your own coat over her shoulders?

    The next time somebody starts going on about how quickly and Gallant Barnabas is, I know my eyes are gonna be rolling. Has she even got shoes on?

    1. I bet the Collinsport Afghan isn’t doing anything right now…but nobody ever uses that thing for keeping warm, anyway.

      Barnabas seems to take ALL his dates to that mausoleum, sooner or later; perhaps it’s part of his courtly charm?

      It would have been great to have had the “secret chamber” in PT be Angelique’s old trysting place – mirrored ceiling, California King bed with purple satin sheets, orange shag carpeting, blacklights, wet bar, hookah…

  7. That is my all-time favorite cartoon–I’m so pleased to see it again. I think it would be great if Roxanne reciprocates Barnabas’ affections and then turns out to be a horrible harridan. How utterly delightful . . .

  8. Roxanne isn’t much of a character, but I don’t think we need much of a character in her place. There are already several larger-than-life figures in the story. We do need a reason why Barnabas can’t stay with Carolyn and have a conversation that would leave her with nothing to do but stay home and drink, a reason why Julia can’t stick close to Angelique when doing that could alleviate Angelique’s suspicions and foreclose that avenue of story development, and a reason why Angelique keeps having scenes with Stokes. Roxanne provides all three of those things simply by wandering off.

    Indeed, Roxanne could do those things even without appearing, simply as an off-screen character who is mentioned from time to time. There are a couple of advantages to showing her- with the repertory theater approach, if she were under the sheet the whole time we would keep speculating about which actress they are going to bring back when her face is revealed. And she gives us a chance to see Barnabas trying something new. He’s trying to form a relationship with someone who is not a member of the family, not raw material to be Josette-ified, and not a tool for him to use in whatever harebrained scheme he’s mixed himself up in. He’s no good at it, of course, but it’s interesting to watch him try. So I would put Roxanne a couple of steps up from the Portia Fitzsimmons level in the hierarchy of functional supporting characters.

  9. I originally thought Claude North was going to turn out to be a pseudonym of PT Charles Delaware Tate, and that the charcoal drawing was what brought Roxanne into existence, which is why she acts like someone who was born yesterday.

  10. She may have been comatose, but Roxanne is sporting a very trendy ’70s shag haircut. Jane Fonda and David Cassidy would be proud.

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