“What are you doing here? Why have you suddenly materialized now, in front of me?”
It’s been six weeks since we started our uncertain and frightening journey into the past, and I think it’s safe to say that the audience of 1967 must have been wondering if they were ever going to get back to the present. The promotional bumper that ABC ran in the week leading up to this storyline promised that we would learn the secret of the chained coffin, but we’re a month and a half in, and we haven’t even been near a coffin, chained or otherwise.
And here’s the really unbelievable thing — there’s 13 more weeks of 1795 episodes coming. This is going to go on for another three months.
Which is fine with me, really. The storyline we left behind in 1967 had completely run its course. The modern-day Collins family had been nerfed beyond all recognition, and the only story left to tell was Barnabas threatening to kill everybody.
But here in 1795, Collinwood is brand new, and it’s stocked full of story-productive family conflicts.
Barnabas: It will do no good to walk out on me. My mind is made up.
Joshua: I will thank you to remember who is master of this house!
Barnabas: I am well aware of who the master is.
Joshua: Then kindly act accordingly!
Barnabas: I am going to marry the girl tonight.
Joshua: In spite of the fact that I have strictly forbidden it?
Barnabas: I’m sorry, father, but my instincts tell me that you are trying to keep us from being married as long as you can.
Joshua: I am a man of my word, Barnabas. Reluctant as I was to agree to this marriage, I will let you go through with it, in due time.
Barnabas: No, I know you too well. What you’re doing is playing for time.
Joshua: “Playing for time”? What on Earth does that expression mean?
And then they just stand there and keep yelling at each other. This is the best thing about 1795; there’s no shortage of yelling. These characters only communicate at top volume, especially Joshua.
Here are some more highlights:
If you proceed with this folly, my blessing is not the only thing you’ll be lacking!
The powers I do have are formidable, Barnabas, and I am prepared to execute each and every one of them!
You and the girl will leave my house by nightfall!
I am no longer your father — and you are no longer my son.
Oh, it’s delicious. It’s easy for us to get distracted by voodoo dolls, and people turning into cats, but while we weren’t looking, Dark Shadows turned into a really good soap opera.
For a long time, Dark Shadows was mostly about nice people having bad dreams and vague feelings of dread, and it was unwatchable. Soap operas need big problems, and big feelings.
And that’s what they’ve learned to do. Do you remember when they’d spend a whole episode arguing about whether Vicki should prefer candles or electricity? Look what they have now.
Josette: I will miss you, Barnabas. Do you think it was wrong for me to say that?
Josette: Well, perhaps we should leave it at that, then.
Barnabas: Perhaps we should.
Josette: I hope that what you are doing is for the best… and I hope that, in time, you will forgive me, and think well of me again.
Barnabas: Why did it have to happen like this?
Josette: Barnabas… I think I will be asking myself that question the rest of my life.
It’s a whole new show, full of passion and heartbreak. They’ve broken every possible rule for how a show should develop — basically throwing out their entire cast and starting over from scratch, using the same sets and the same actors.
By all the laws of television, this should have been a desperate last-ditch effort, the biggest shark-jump of all time. And instead, it’s a triumph.
Plus, they still get to be ridiculous, with witches and magic spells and walking corpses. They can do anything they want right now, embrace any story point that comes into their lunatic heads.
It won’t last, obviously. Nothing does. The downside of doing a big Shakespearean tragedy is that everyone dies, and you run out of characters.
So we’ll have to go home eventually, and the on-ramp for 1968 is going to be a lot more bumpy than you’d expect it to be, given the heights that they’re reaching here. But for now, and for the next 13 weeks, it’s a beautiful show. My favorite show.
Monday: Dialogue of the Dead.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
They’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping the cameras focused lately. The scene with Barnabas and Angelique talking to Naomi is especially bad; they really lose it in some shots.
Jeremiah’s ghost is perfectly visible in the Old House drawing room before the lighting makes him “appear”.
Monday: Dialogue of the Dead.
— Danny Horn