Monday, May 6, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 490

On the eve of Adam’s creation, will the dream curse give Julia an ugly wake-up? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia reels from the dream, and Barnabas fears what should happen if she shares it with Mrs. Johnson. Of course, Mrs. Johnson shows up, someone in a daze and claiming to have no dreams whatsoever.  Julia is relieved after sharing the dream, and at the same time, Barnabas reassures Victoria that if she likes him, she’ll love his cousin, Adam. What a coincidence that they won’t be around at the same time. Meanwhile, the attempt to bring Adam to life goes somewhat haywire, resulting in both Barnabas and Adam being alive at the same time.

I often wonder if Dan Curtis found himself in a position analogous to Barnabas and Julia around this time. Do any of the three of them know the nature of the pickle they’re in? The challenge facing all three is, “Once we’ve created the lug, now what?” He’s going to struggle and shamble and then eventually go away after several months of unresolved tension. That is, if it follows the model of the novel, which the whole thing does. Kind of.

This is the first case where following literary models limits, rather than liberates, the writing staff. However, in 490, they’re on the precipice, and all things are still possible. In fact, they skirt around a much more interesting storyline on the way, and things are memorably wacky before that, too.

In the cosmic meanwhile, it’s so nice to see the show settle into the perverse domestic comedy of Life with Barnabas and Julia. It’s even nicer to see the temporary role reversal of Barnabas hectoring Julia into action, nudging the doctor to work harder and faster. Clad in a robe for the climax, Jonathan Frid might as well be wearing a mask of cold cream and have his hair in curlers while he’s at it. With the Adam experiment doomed to the failure of mixed baggery, it’s in an episode of tense optimism surrounded by fatalism. Sleep gives no relief; the dream curse is now upon Julia, and that puts it one step closer to Barnabas. To what does she wake up? A plan so insane that no one would have anything to do with it unless it sat at the end of a year of compromises and terrible, seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time decisions.

Doomed when waking, doomed when sleeping, the option of just stopping and living with the ugly life of a vampire doesn’t occur to them. In the midst of this festival of fatalism -- beginning with the dream curse and ending with the horrifying realization that both Adam and Barnabas are still alive --  the show gives us one crucial reminder of why they’re doing it at all. It’s not a matter of escaping from Angelique; it’s escaping to Victoria. In doing this, though, the writers set themselves up for a trap. The storyline that would have been triggered had the Adam Plan been successful is far more interesting than what we get, and it can be sensed even if this is your first time with the show.

Imagine Barnabas showing back up in another body. Arguably a more powerful one. To Victoria, a more attractive one. It’s a new dawn, and one that thoroughly confuses Angelique. Maybe Jonathan Frid gets a vacation. Maybe he lives, but is reverted to the man he was before the experiment, so there are two Barnabi. I just know that the prospect of Barnabas reinsinuating himself into Collinwood as someone else is an intriguing potential that almost becomes realized. Maybe that’s what would happen if they were to do it today. But it’s vital to remember that all of these things were firsts for television, or almost–firsts. Moving on to Frankenstein is a logical step for the show, since, in our collective imaginations, that legend follows Dracula as if it were all part of the same word. The show borrows from Dracula only in the sense that both stories involve people who bite others and drink their blood. There might have been greater versatility in the storyline if they had played as fast and loose with Frankenstein . The potential of a man who doesn’t exist, inhabited by the soul of a man who perhaps should not exist is the real kernel of the drama. The writers were wise to pursue that early on. The story potential for continuing it is one of the great unrealized possibilities of the overall storyline. Yes, they re-visit it, with interesting results, during parallel time. But the spark of “It’s Alive” is a fleeting one.

This episode hit the airwaves May 10, 1968.

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