“I used to be a rational man, but things have been happening here that do not have a rational explanation.”
So here’s a puzzling question: Why is Angelique white?
I mean, you can follow the chain of associations that led Dark Shadows writer Sam Hall to the French Caribbean. In Hall’s second episode on the show, it’s revealed that Barnabas visited Barbados, where an Indian taught him the secret magic number of the universe, giving him the power to “unlock all the rules that bind you mortals to your daily, dull lives.”
Then, a few weeks later, when the writers decided to explore the story of how Barnabas became a vampire, it’s easy to chart the course to Martinique. The vampire curse is the result of a magic spell, and Hall’s already been thinking about the association between spells and the Caribbean. But Barbados was colonized by the English, and Josette Du Prés is French, so the backstory moves to Martinique, a French colony.
But Angelique doesn’t mess around with European magic — all that “eye of newt, toe of frog” stuff. She doesn’t fly on a broomstick, or live in a gingerbread house. Her magic has a strong Bayou flavor — she uses voodoo dolls, love potions and zombies, which are all associated with Haitian magic. So, following that thought to its logical conclusion, Angelique should be Haitian, or Island Carib, or pretty much anything besides blonde and blue-eyed.
But if she’s supposed to marry Barnabas, then that’s problematic, because it’s January 1968, and America be crazy.
The first interracial romance on daytime TV was on One Life to Live, starting in October 1968 — a relationship between an Italian woman, Carla Benari, and an African-American intern, Dr. Price Trainor. ABC received some angry letters about this, and the show was boycotted by some affiliates in the Southern states. About six months in, it was revealed that “Carla” was actually Clara Gray, an African-American woman who’d been passing for white.
Other things that people made a big deal about in 1968: a Petula Clark variety special where Clark touched Harry Belafonte on the arm, and a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura were forced to kiss by telekenesis.
So a major storyline about Barnabas Collins marrying a Haitian voodoo priestess is seriously not going to happen. Instead, Dark Shadows has the hapless mortal marry a pretty blonde, who’s secretly a practicing witch. I wonder where they got that idea from?
Well, maybe from Bewitched, the popular ABC situation comedy that in January 1968 was in the middle of its fourth season.
In today’s Dark Shadows episode, Barnabas is just on the verge of confirming that his wife is a witch, and it’s not going to sit well with him. It might help if they get some advice from Darrin and Samantha Stephens, and see what a healthy mortal/witch relationship looks like.
So let’s take a look at a contemporary Bewitched episode — “If They Never Met”, which aired in late January, 1968.
On Bewitched, Samantha Stephens has the life that Angelique is dreaming of — a house in the suburbs with a young executive, plus a little baby sorceress in the nursery upstairs. Darrin loves and accepts Samantha, and he hardly even cares that she made his dark-haired ex-girlfriend marry his uncle and then jump off a cliff.
The only fly in the magical ointment is Samantha’s meddling mother, Endora, who loves playing tricks on her son-in-law. As today’s episode opens, Samantha is giving her mom a dressing-down for covering Darrin in shaving cream, and putting a live chicken in the coat closet.
By the time Darrin is ready to leave for work — banging into a multiplying front door, and then getting into his car, which transforms into an undersized toy — he’s pretty fed up with the whole experience.
I mean, at least she doesn’t turn his father into a cat — that doesn’t happen until next season, and it’s Darrin’s mother who turns into a cat — but still, it’s pretty annoying.
When Darrin gets to work, he finds that Endora’s put a live cobra in his briefcase, which terrifies an important client and gets him fired. He charges home to confront his wife.
Samantha: You shouldn’t take my mother’s lack of credibility out on me!
Darrin: Why not? You two hang together, don’t you?
Samantha: “Hang” together? Just what do you mean by that?
Darrin: Well, you know what I mean. When you get right down to the nitty-gritty, we know where your sympathies lie. Broomsticks are thicker than water!
So it turns out that Barnabas doesn’t have a lock on the witch-vixen issues. It makes me wish that Barnabas and Darrin could join a support group for guys who are married to witches. I wonder if there’s a “Spell-Anon” meeting they could attend.
Then Samantha asks a question that she doesn’t really want to hear the answer to.
Samantha: Maybe you’d be happier if you’d never met me, is that what you’re trying to say?
Darrin: You said it, I didn’t!
Samantha: What do you mean by that?
Darrin: Make of it anything you want!
And then — blink! — Darren disappears.
After a moment, Endora pops in to explain that she heard what they were arguing about — apparently thanks to the communications monitoring by the National Sorcery Agency — and she arranged for Darrin to get his wish. Now, he’s in a world where he and Samantha never met.
So now they’re taking an uncertain and frightening journey into an alternate timeline, to see if Darrin really is happier without Samantha.
And hey, guess what? He’s doing fine. He has a big office and lots of golfing trophies, and he’s about to be made a partner at the agency where he works.
And, worst of all — he’s engaged to Josette.
Technically, her name is Sheila, but she’s pretty much the same girl. Samantha recognizes her as Darrin’s old girlfriend, and she’s furious when she sees them carrying on as if he hasn’t got a supernatural wife at home.
Just like Josette, Sheila has a wealthy father who’s connected to Darrin’s job, and they’ve got a luxurious honeymoon planned.
Samantha snarls, “I wonder how she’d look with that putter wrapped around her neck,” so apparently Angelique isn’t the only witch with a killer instinct. Sheila should probably stay away from clifftops. Maybe even avoid the beach entirely; it’s better to be safe.
But it turns out Darrin isn’t completely happy with this fantasy life. He sneaks away from his engagement party, feeling like something’s missing.
Sitting at a bar, Darrin admits that he doesn’t really think he loves Sheila. “Maybe I’m expecting too much,” he sighs. “Maybe I’m looking for magic.”
Samantha can’t bear seeing him like this, so she makes a quick costume change, and bumps into him as he’s leaving the bar. He apologizes for his thoughtlessness, and buys her a drink.
And, obviously, you know how it develops from here. In this new timeline, she’s under a lot of time pressure — Darrin’s going to marry Sheila in just a few days.
So Samantha gets things rolling by using a toy soldier to make Darrin choke. Then she sends Darrin and Sheila a skull in a wig as a wedding present, and gives Sheila a magic potion that makes her fall in love with Darrin’s uncle. Darrin kills his uncle in a duel, and Samantha raises Darrin’s uncle from the dead to scare Sheila off for good.
And from there, it’s pretty much happy ever after. It’s just that easy.
Tomorrow: Plan A.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The wall of Collinwood’s basement is cracked, as if it’s old — but Collinwood was just finished a couple weeks ago.
Barnabas says to Ben, “I have an an– question to give you, and I want you to answer it truthfully.”
Also, when Samantha and Endora are flying, you can, like, totally see the wires.
Behind the Scenes:
Vicki’s jailer, Mr. Prescott, is played by Tom Gorman, who shows up in various fill-in roles in 18 episodes during 1967 and 1968. This is the only one who has a name. In other episodes, he plays a bartender, a Blue Whale customer, one of the Collins family servants who carries Barnabas’ coffin, and a judge. He plays Mr. Prescott again in a second appearance in November.
A note from local prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night: “The interview room of the Collinsport Gaol is redressed from Barnabas’ first room at the Old House — originally the set for Roger’s cannery office in 1966. It has the same two windows, the same two-foot-high run of wood paneling along the lower part of the back and left walls, the same vertical dark brown strip of wood paneling in the corner at stage left, the same two doors, the same L-shaped wood-paneled block in the corner at stage right, and the same fireplace just inside the door of stage right. The set is redressed again as Joshua’s office at the shipyard in episoe 434.” PotN is amazing, isn’t he?
Tomorrow: Plan A.
— Danny Horn