Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 17


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 309

Barnabas notes that his dosages are increasing and becomes violent when he hears that Burke is becoming suspicious about him. His mood sours further when Julia announces that he’s missed another appearance by Sarah. Later, Vicki cajoles Burke into apologizing to Barnabas. Julia reports more activity that she attributes to Sarah’s ghost. Barnabas convinces himself that he will be visited next.

The show is three months out from the (literally) history-making 1795 flashback. Given how far in advance the plot was mapped out, the finer points of the transition are all falling into place, and they rest on the shoulders of a young woman less than twelve years old. Barnabas is, as he has been since his introduction, obsessed with the past, but that obsession is less and less on Josette and instead centered on his actual true love (although not a romantic one): Sarah. Because of her age and the resume that (doesn’t) come with it, Sharon Smyth’s acting abilities were understandably limited. However, this didn’t slow down the program; the writers are too clever for that. Sometimes in drama, it can be more powerful to be talked about than seen. Sarah’s charm and influence profoundly affect her immediate community of adults, and seeing that in how they behave and reflect is the proper measure of her reach. Jonathan Frid shows us that with increasing frequency, and this episode solidly reintroduces the anguish that makes him the restrained vampire that he is, strangling Julia notwithstanding.

In Barnabas, we appreciate the monster created by Josette and Angelique, but who was he before that? It could be argued that this, in 309, is the real Barnabas. It’s astounding to think that the man we see played by Frid is only supposed to be twenty-five. That means that Sarah was in his life for almost half of it. Yes, he’s close to his uncle and Ben Stokes, but beyond that, the Barnabas we meet in 1795 is arguably isolated from the world of swagger. Other than the time he spent swingin’ in Martinique, Barnabas seems to have grown up isolated in Maine, diligently toiling in his father’s shadow and mold... although somewhat undercooked compared to the turgid, copralithic pater noster. When we first meet Young Collins in Vicki’s flashback, he seems like an angelic cross between Buster Brown and Eddie Haskell. Pretty naive.

Pretty, pretty naive.

In this episode, in the present, Barnabas reacts with shock and deep pain to the fact that Sarah appears to everyone but him. He knows it’s a punishment -- maybe the cruelest. He also knows why. He loved Sarah more than any other because, as the snare that catches so many others, she was someone who needed him. And up until Angelique, he was able to be there for her. It can be an enslaving thing, but there is something magnetic to knowing that you are both needed by someone and can make them truly happy. Beyond Jeremiah -- a man just as busy out on the town -- and Ben -- whose friendship (and maybe the law) was forbidden thanks to social class -- we know of no other companions for Barnabas. Although we don’t see it, we can infer that his connection with Sarah came from an intensely bonded relationship, somewhere between siblings and parent/child. He could protect Josette only to a certain extent, and the limit of his responsibility came from respect; she’s a responsible adult, after all. However, Sarah’s youth and naivete demanded his protection. And not just in danger. If Barnabas felt isolated, imagine how Sarah must have felt? No fleeting moments with Jeremiah. No Ben Stokes at her side. A remote father simply looking for a human prop, and a mother ten years too old to be dealing with yet another child. Sarah’s only company? Just the insanity of Abigail.

And Barnabas. Human compassion alone explains his fealty to her. She had been let down by fate and the birth order. She wasn’t going to be let down by him. Jonathan Frid explores the truth of Barnabas’ failure with mournful sensitivity, and along with his early monologue of Josette’s death by the sea, the character’s memories have wound the propeller for 1795 to take off and soar.

309 is also delightful. Burke explores his future as a hectored husband when Vicki nags him into apologizing to Barnabas for suspecting him of nogoodnikness, and Barnabas earns the right to ask one of the paranoid’s favorite questions -- about the innocence (or lack thereof) of Vicki’s suspicions towards him. He even gets a believably honest acquittal from her. Then, the curl up with the family history.

Even Barnabas gets a good day now and then. Part of one, anyway.

This episode was broadcast Aug. 31, 1967.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...