The teenagers went nuts when we brought Jonathan on. That’s when the show took off.
This is what Joseph Caldwell (one of the original writers of Dark Shadows) said about bringing Barnabas Collins as a main character. According to the writer, the producers wanted a vampire that would appeal to the teenagers, which would get them glued to the TV screen for as long as the show lasted.
And they found the right way to do it, since Joseph Caldwell said that Barnabas is actually a metaphor for compulsive sex. Barnabas is a vampire, so his instincts are the ones of killing – he does that in order to survive, but this doesn’t mean a bit that he actually wants to do it, or that he receives a greater pleasure from doing it.
Furthermore, the writer says that Barnabas is very sympathetic for a killing machine, but that doesn’t make him weak at all. Instead, this makes him more humane. As Joseph Caldwell says, he didn’t want to play the metaphor too much – instead, he wanted to present situations with which the audience (regardless of the age) could relate to.
In a way, all the writers wanted to make the viewers forget that they were seeing a vampire on the screen. As Caldwell jokingly said, stop me before I suck more – it is pretty obvious the fact that the show’s success wouldn’t have been the same if the story didn’t take place mainly in the contemporary society in Maine.
So the origins of Barnabas are, in a way, the origins everybody saw: he was nothing else than a means of improving the audience.
However, this doesn’t diminish at all the work and the importance of the character not just in the show but in the entire history of television. As said before, he is a metaphor for compulsion. Nonetheless, he is also a metaphor for the struggle of fighting that compulsion.
Ultimately, it can be said that Barnabas is where the contradictions meet.
As a bit of trivia, concerning also the vampire’s origins, the same Joseph Caldwell said that they drew plenty of inspiration from works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, Rebecca and even Bela Lugosi’s movies. This prompted some fans to say that Dark Shadows didn’t have writers, but thieves.