492 dark shadows adam face

Episode 492: The Terrible Twos

“Whether he’s ordinary or not is not the point. He’s a living human being, and we are responsible for him.”

It’s one of those weird nitpicks that people like to bring up in conversation — that “Frankenstein” isn’t the name of the monster; it’s the name of the doctor who created him. Then you say, okay, so what’s the monster’s name? And then everyone just stands around and looks foolish, until finally somebody says, gee, will you look at the time.

Because the creature doesn’t really have a name — he’s billed as the Monster in the Boris Karloff movie, and sometimes people will say “Frankenstein’s monster,” but those aren’t satisfying names, and everybody knows it.

The name “Frankenstein” exists in this weird middle space, suspended between creator and creation. And when you think about it, they’re kind of the same thing anyway, aren’t they? The doctor is the one who thinks; the monster is the one who acts. It’s the ego and the id. “Frankenstein’s monster” and “a Frankenstein monster” are both true, at the same time.

So, this big guy who’s currently smashing up the laboratory — is he Barnabas’ monster? Or is this a Barnabas monster?

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491 dark shadows break adam

Episode 491: The Wonder Years

“Julia — what if he’s some kind of a monster?”

The story so far: Barnabas Collins isn’t a vampire anymore. He got cured, and he wants to stay cured. But the bloodlust is returning, as it usually does, and the witch who originally cursed him keeps giving him dirty looks, so last week, he did something even more reckless than usual. He got his pal Julia to complete the late Dr. Lang’s botched experiments, and try to transfer Barnabas’ life force into the empty shell of the doctor’s patchwork Frankenstein creation.

Obviously, this is a foolproof plan, as these fools have just proved. The experiment ended prematurely, with only part of Barnabas’ life force going into the creature. And now something new and terrible is unleashed upon the world.

I’d like to say that he has his mother’s eyes and his father’s nose, but he was pieced together from scavenged corpses, and it’s hard to trace where all the bits came from with any degree of certainty.

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Sam Hall: In appreciation

Sam Hall died on Friday, September 26th, at the age of 93. The news was announced, in a quiet way, on his son Matthew’s blog.

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that Sam Hall was the greatest writer on Dark Shadows — which I’m sure sounds like the faintest possible praise, but it means a lot to me.

Dark Shadows is the most surprising, and therefore the best, television show ever made, and Sam joined the show at a crucial moment — in November 1967, when the breakout character was just on the verge of breaking the show. The Barnabas storyline had turned the slow-moving soap into a hit, but the story was starting to run in circles, and it needed a change in direction. Sam brought wit, intelligence and fresh ideas to Dark Shadows, just when it needed it the most. He saved the show.

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490 dark shadows monster adam

Episode 490: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

“If we fail, well… then we must go through with it anyway.”

Yesterday, in my round-up of the Collinsport fashion scene, I neglected to mention the one guy on Dark Shadows who’s been breaking all the wardrobe rules — Adam, the patchwork Frankenstein.

Last week, mad scientist and artisanal monster enthusiast Dr. Eric Lang tried to bring his creation to life, squeezing Barnabas’ life force out of his vampire-cursed body, and using it to jump-start the new guy.

In a town with a mandatory “ties or turtlenecks” rule, Adam has brazenly flouted convention, clearly going full commando under his sheet. This bold sartorial statement has made him an eye-catching addition to the landscape, but it was also kind of a clue that he wasn’t planning to get up off the table until somebody found him something in extra-extra-large.

But in this episode — as Julia and Barnabas prepare to give the experiment one more try — Adam’s sheet is pulled all the way up to his chin, which means that he might have some clothes on under there. I think this might be the night we actually get this dude up onto his feet.

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489 dark shadows green nehru

Episode 489: Bein’ Green

“I have much too much work to do, to be bothered with dreams.”

Young David Collins has returned home, after a lengthy trip to Boston to recuperate from realizing that his cousin Barnabas was a vampire who planned to murder him. This was a major storyline six months ago, and it led directly to the séance that sent his governess, Vicki, tumbling through time to visit the Collins family of 1795.

Last month, when Vicki came back to the present day, the Dark Shadows writers used the opportunity to make a fresh start on the story — not so much tying up the loose ends as just cutting them off and pretending that they were never that loose in the first place. Everybody just stopped talking about how worried they were about David, and now he’s back from Boston, and everything’s fine.

But there’s something different about the boy, which is even more important than his slow-motion off-screen amnesia. David has come back to Collinwood wearing a Nehru jacket.

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488 dark shadows mirror barnabas

Episode 488: Pretty People in Terrible Trouble

“Well, so much for that little brainstorm.”

Today’s episode begins with another Great Moment in Monster Medicine, as Dr. Julia Hoffman injects some magic fluid into the patchwork Frankenstein that they’re planning to bring to life on Friday.

Looking on, Barnabas asks, “Why do you keep giving him these shots?”

Julia sighs, and says, “If he should begin to decompose, then he will be utterly useless to us.”

The logic behind injecting things into the dead is a little tenuous — the body doesn’t have a functioning circulatory system to move the fluid around. At this point, I think what we’re looking at is a rotting corpse with an exceptionally well-preserved shoulder.

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Episode 487: Precious Moments

“What gave you the idea that you had homicidal tendencies?”

Oh, great, a Dream Curse episode. Because we haven’t had enough of those lately.

If you’re joining us late, the Dream Curse is a magic spell that Angelique made up a couple weeks ago, and they’re trying to make it a thing. Maggie had a fairly tame nightmare that included Jeff; she told Jeff about it, and then he had the Dream. Jeff’s dream sequence included Dr. Lang; he told Lang the story, and then Lang had the Dream. It’s going to go on like this until it runs through the entire cast, which will take approximately forever.

You know, they say that there are no new ideas in Hollywood, but then somebody has one, and you kind of wish you’d never brought it up in the first place.

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Episode 486: If They Both Live

“We must not be emotional about his death.”

On Friday, Julia and Dr. Lang performed the experiment to free Barnabas from his vampire curse by transferring his life force into a Frankenstein monster. It went about as well as any DIY project, which is to say: It ran for about three minutes, and then ended in confusion, ruin and despair.

Lang had a heart attack mid-experiment and fell over onto one of his buzzing machines, and then something shorted out with a pop and a puff of smoke, and then there was electricity and life force just flying all over the place, and there was an earthquake and a flash flood and the box of scorpions tipped over and the sun got in my eyes and I think we need a do-over.

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Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

“How odd it is that I should feel this urge on this night.”

I hope everybody’s excited, because today’s the day that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s Experiment Day!

Yes, after weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached this historic episode — the day that Barnabas regenerates.

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Episode 484: Chekhov’s Gun

“Julia! Why am I leaving the room, Julia?”

So it’s been a rough ride, this returning to the present day. Deciding to do a lengthy 18th-century time travel story was a leap into the unknown, but once they’d started, they had a general outline to work from. They needed to turn Barnabas into a vampire, get Josette to jump off a cliff, kill pretty much everybody else in the cast, and hang Vicki as a witch. That was a plan that they could execute, if you’ll pardon the expression.

But returning to 1968, the writers face another weird challenge. They’ve decided to pretty much reboot every ongoing storyline that they had — hastily wrapping up, reversing or straight-up ignoring all of the old story threads.

This is a very unusual move for a soap opera. These last five weeks have basically been the equivalent of a season premiere, a narrative structure that even night-time shows weren’t doing in the late 60s. Dark Shadows has changed some core relationships, introduced new characters, and brought back Angelique as this season’s Big Bad. Structurally, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but thirty years early and from the monsters’ point of view.

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