Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 5



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 469

Jeff, Julia, and Vicki open the coffin in the secret room after Jeff reveals that he somehow knew the latch was there. The coffin is empty. In the hospital, Barnabas has excruciating blood pangs, and Lang explains that he may have a permanent cure. Later, Julia visits Lang, who brags that he can care for Barnabas far better than she. As she leaves, Julia passes Jeff Clark. Lang is furious that he is being associated with Clark. Jeff explains that he saw Julia at Eagle Hill. Lang says the bodies there are far too old for his purposes. It’s clear that Jeff is being blackmailed to work for him.

With more than a week of revolutionary plot advancement under the show’s belt, the staff now settles back into a standard pace. In an interview with Violet Welles, I read that she, Sam Hall, and Gordon Russell would plot out the show months in advance, finally getting down to week by week, episode by episode, and scene by scene. The process was surprisingly meticulous. I think the formula breaks down a bit like this:

10% Last scene of the prior episode.
30% Covering prior plot points.
10% Review and advance secondary plot.
30% Revelation of one new plot point in prime storyline.
10% Foreshadowing future plot point.
5% Debate about prior decision or confession.
5% Major new decision or confession.

In this case, we spend a lot of time in the mausoleum as Vicki and Jeff sort of remember segments of 1795. The major new ground we cover is that Jeff is going to graveyards for Dr. Lang… and that the bodies in Eagle Hill are too old for the job. Hint hint. The discoveries, of course, are that the coffin is empty inside the secret room and that Lang may be able to permanently prevent Barnabas from having any relapses.

But is that really a revelation? No. Lang never said that Barnabas is permanently cured. This is the trick that DARK SHADOWS does. It doesn’t reliably deliver new information. Instead, it reiterates old information with slightly more context. The characters sometimes act like it’s the first time they’ve heard things, but in the case of Barnabas and his blood pangs, he has no reason to be surprised. Barnabas may have “seen” the recent episodes, but not all viewers have. And for more seasoned viewers, the show still entertains by covering old ground in new enough circumstances that it feels like the first time. Usually.

The hot scene in this one is the conversation that Julia has with Lang. This may be Julia’s real turning point. Up to this moment, Barnabas has been a thorn in her side that she’s niggled about to their mutual masochism. She’s poisoned him. Blackmailed him. Lang seems to sense this. He revels in pointing out the legitimate truth that he can care for Barnabas better than Julia. After all, he cured him in less than a day. It feels like two pimps arguing over an, um, employee. They both pretend to have his best interests at heart. They both pretend not to be engaged in vicious combat. One pretends not to be weaker. One pretends not to be gloating over it.

Julia’s loved Barnabas, but not exactly lost him. He was close enough for her to bully, torture, and be tortured by. He was a problem, yes, but he was all hers. Seeing her contemplate losing him to someone who can pull off what she only claims she MIGHT be able to do? Not only that, but someone who offers none of the minuses of romantic jealousy? She’s suddenly behind an eight ball the size of Collinwood. If she gets out from it, her relationship with Barnabas will never be the same. She’ll have to tap into her humanity, not her guile. They might even wind up equals.

On this day in 2063, Dr. Zephram Cochrane and the town of Bozeman, Montana will welcome the Vulcan surveyor T’Plana-Hath on what will be appreciated as First Contact Day. The T’Plana-Hath


This episode hit the airwaves April 11, 1968.

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