Episode 1189: Action in the Afternoon

“Free for an instant. Not free enough to run… Not free enough to forget.”

It’s not fair of me, I know. I’ve been cranky lately about the show’s slow pace, with an endless witch trial and a long series of pointless dream sequences, but this week, the show is making an effort to entertain again.

It’s Thursday today, and so far, we’ve had a death sentence, a murder, the discovery of an alternate dimension filled with Brontë characters, a cast member clubbed with a candlestick, and a kidnapping, and today we’ll get a jailbreak, a shooting and an invisible knife attack. I suppose this is technically what I asked for, and yet I’m still not happy. That will teach me to be more specific.

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Episode 1188: Don’t Panic

“Why do you think I brought you here? Why do you think I didn’t kill you?”

“Gabriel, something terrible’s happened,” Daphne pants, sprinting into the drawing room. And she’s right, something terrible has happened; it’s been happening for four years.

“What is it, what’s wrong?” says the orange man, startled. It’s been a bad few weeks for Gabriel, what with the debate disaster and his covid diagnosis and losing the suburban women. He doesn’t need any more October surprises; he’s had plenty.

“It’s Edith,” Daphne cries. “She’s dead. She’s been murdered!” Well, not murdered per se, but she’s been hanging out with Republicans, and none of them wear masks. “Gabriel, you were right, it was Gerard. He was out to dispose of her, and he nearly killed me, just now, in Edith’s room!” Gerard didn’t do any such thing, actually, but Daphne’s been the target of a disinformation campaign, and she’s got things all mixed up. She figures it’s either Gerard, or Hunter Biden; either way, it’s the second biggest political scandal in our history.

“I knocked him out with a candlestick,” Daphne continues. “I locked the door. I’ll get the carriage, and go for the police!”

“Now, wait a minute!” Gabriel tweets. “Now, wait, we’ve got to do this right.” He doesn’t mind that she’s going for the police, he’s all for law and order. It’s just that he can’t stop himself from interrupting women.

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Episode 1187: I Presume You’ve Never Heard About Something Called Parallel Time

“I refuse to allow my fears to be decided by the fears that exist in this house.”

Out on the wiley, windy moors of the East wing of Collinwood, Daphne Harridge follows the sound of a piano. It gets dark and it gets lonely up here, where the Collinses never tread. This wing of the house was closed off decades ago, and was probably never really occupied at all, because it turns out that the Collins family has a heartbreaking bloodbath every fifty years or so, which cuts down on the descendants something fierce.

But Daphne has bad dreams in the night, so she’s gone exploring, looking for the tinkling, impossible piano being played in an empty part of the world. Finally, she reaches the double doors to the room where the music must be coming from — but when she opens the doors, she finds that the room is deserted, just a blank studio space with an abandoned chandelier that even the spiders don’t pay attention to.

“I’m sure the music came from this room!” Daphne thinks, baffled. She leaves, shutting the doors behind her — but then she hears knocking, so she turns around and opens them again.

And there’s a fully furnished room, just sitting there, with chairs and lamps and all the trimmings. This is the real occasional furniture, which only appears occasionally. I don’t actually see a piano, so that’s still a mystery; it’s possible that there’s a piano bar that appears here on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and she just missed the changeover.

So here she is, a woman on the verge of a universal breakdown, catching sight of another world that was never meant to be. This may portend a splintering of the barriers between one universe and another, filling rooms unexpectedly with strange furniture of an unknown manufacture, rupturing causality and destroying interior design as we know it.

Daphne tries to catch her breath. “What’s happening to me?” she says, because obviously this is all about you.

Continue reading Episode 1187: I Presume You’ve Never Heard About Something Called Parallel Time

Episode 1186: Fuck, Marry, Kill

“But can anyone do anything anymore?”

“But we can’t just sit by and watch him die!” Daphne cries. She’s talking about convicted cow killer Quentin Collins, who she broke up with last week, although earlier today she told him that she loves him, so screw last week, I guess. I wasn’t crazy about last week’s episodes myself, so if Daphne wants to pretend that they never happened, I’m not going to fight with her about it.

“I have no intentions of doing that, Daphne,” says eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, reassuringly.

“What are you going to do?” she asks.

Barnabas takes a moment to think. He wasn’t prepared for that question; he usually skates by on vehemence alone. “I don’t know,” he admits. “At least we have a week to think about it.” This is bad news for the audience; we were kind of hoping for some plot development in this area. Quentin’s been in jail for six solid weeks so far; we thought maybe a verdict could pick up the pace a bit.

Anyway, Barnabas goes home, and Daphne drifts up the stairs. Pausing on the landing, she thinks, “Barnabas says he will do something. But can anyone do anything anymore?” That’s actually a pretty good description of the show, these days.

But that’s not really fair, because this is the week where things start moving again, and that means I have to start paying attention. While the trial’s been going on, I’ve been able to spread out and cover some of the other Dark Shadows stories that I need to get to before the show ends, like the HarperCollins novels. Last week, I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday, read another Paperback Library book on Thursday, and then whatever the hell that was on Friday. I’ve still got a lot to do — three more Lara Parker books, some more comics, another Big Finish audio, several more Paperback Library epics. So much to do, and only twelve weeks left to do it.

But this week, the writers have realized that they’re leaving 1840 pretty soon, so they pop the cork and events ensue. Suddenly, everyone is doing everything anymore, and here I am actually writing about the show again, what a nightmare.

Continue reading Episode 1186: Fuck, Marry, Kill

Episode 1185: Meanwhile, in 1971

“The screaming was unbelievable.”

There is another world.

There is a better world.

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Episode 1184: The Graham Crack-Up

“Being a mental patient seems to make anything possible.”

So we might as well gently check ourselves into an asylum, is what I’m saying. It’s about time, and it doesn’t appear like anyone’s going to do it for us. I think at this point we could all do with a little rest cure at a home for the mentally unwell, if only to hang out with the rest of the Dark Shadows fanbase.

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Episode 1183: Damn Daniel

“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”

Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.

I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.

In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Back at it again with the white Vans!

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Episode 1182: I Feel Ya

“Won’t anyone listen to me? That woman is dead, I tell you, she’s dead!”

“How now, Samantha,” says Gerard Stiles, on the battlements of Collinwood. “Stand and unfold yourself.” It takes a minute, but she manages it; a person like Samantha Collins can get herself pretty comprehensively folded.

You see, at the end of yesternight’s episode, the deceased Joanna Mills, Quentin Collins’ former mistress, showed up at the front door of Collinwood, and told Samantha, Quentin’s existing wife, that she wanted to talk to her sister Daphne, Quentin’s current mistress.

“What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,” Samantha said, addressing the spirit. “By heaven I charge thee, speak!”

“You and I know of each other, although we’ve never met,” spake Joanna, harrowing Samantha with fear and wonder. “I don’t mean to disturb you; I only want to see my sister.”

So Samantha allowed this dreaded sight into her house, because you don’t want to be rude, even to an apparition. In the gross and scope of my opinion, this bodes some strange eruption to our state, although now that I think about it, Samantha is responsible for strange eruptions pretty regularly, all by herself.

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Episode 1181: You, Again

“Is counsel willing to admit that this woman is alive?”

You know, I’ve never had much regard for 1840 Quentin as a tastemaker in romantic entanglements, having married Samantha Drew, a woman whose range of emotions extends from passive-aggressive bitterness to murderous rage. And then along comes the deceased Joanna Mills, Quentin’s second choice, who was clearly a lateral move.

Quentin is currently in lockup, on trial for witchcraft, of which he is only partially guilty. True, he traffics in dangerous occult artifacts and he built a time-traveling staircase, and it’s still an open question whether he murdered all those cows — I mean, if he didn’t, then why isn’t he out there searching for the real killer — but lots of people have occult interests at Collinwood, and Quentin’s hardly done anything, if you grade on a curve. I don’t think he even used the staircase, which works perfectly, so honestly he should be in 1969 right now, appearing on trading cards and making himself acquainted with a wider variety of females.

And now, here’s this dreadful boat-anchor walking into his cellblock, and he thought he shook her loose months ago.

“You’re not going to be here much longer, darling,” she assures him, in the clear, dulcet tones of a woman who will call you “darling” even if you ask her to stop. “I’m going to do everything in my power to help clear you! You’re in serious trouble, and you need me. I was always there when you needed me. Do you remember, Quentin?” He remembers.

She wants to go to Collinwood and talk to her sister Daphne, who happens to be third on Quentin’s hit parade, and the only one fit for human society. “I want to see Daphne as soon as possible,” she announces.

“Well, before you do,” says Quentin, “I think we ought to have a long talk.”

“I know, darling,” she smiles. “We have so much talking to do.” And Quentin thinks, ummmm yeah, it’s not that kind of talk.

Continue reading Episode 1181: You, Again

Time Travel, part 14: It Is What It Is

“People I love haven’t always loved me back.”

Six months ago, in July 1970, the Firesign Theatre released a record called Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, an avant-garde slice of psychedelic, time-traveling radio comedy that was mostly about a ’50s teen movie spoof called High School Madness. In the spoof, young Peorgie and his pal Mudhead investigate the theft of their school, Morse Science High, by their rivals, Communist Martyrs High School. Infiltrating Commie Martyrs, the two buddies find the mural from their school in a storage room, labeled “Mural: Auditorium, right rear. Heroic Struggle of the Little Guys to Finish the Mural.”

Meanwhile, six months later, as we cross the chasm between 1970 and 1971, that is exactly what lies ahead for Dark Shadows: a 13-week heroic struggle to wrap up this wild, untamed soap opera that has broken free of all ties to civilization as we know it. Dark Shadows has never really been about a girl on a train, a mad family and a lovestruck vampire. It’s about some writers, a mad producer, a cast of eccentric New York stage actors, and a lonely boom mic trying to break into show business, working feverishly on a shoestring budget to produce the strangest possible television show, for as long as they can get away with it. In the three months left between January 1st and April 2nd, they are going to finish this mural or die trying, or both.

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