“Miss Winters, it was Abigail Collins who first recognized you as being a witch, wasn’t it?”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” says our learned colleague in the red robe, “we have had quite enough bickering between the two of you.”
You see? It’s not just me. Today’s episode has been on for less two minutes, and already everyone seems weary and put-upon. This witchcraft trial storyline is going to kill us all.
Victoria Winters, the time-traveling governess, has been visiting the year 1795 for the past few months, getting herself in more and more trouble every time she opens her mouth. By now, she’s already talked herself halfway to getting hanged; if she keeps this up, somebody’s going to invent the rocket-launcher 150 years too early, just to get her to pipe down.
I’m having a really hard time trying to follow how this make-believe 1795 witchcraft law is supposed to work. Every time I think I understand what they’re saying, they use words like “evidence”, and they lose me again.
Here, see what you make of this. Abigail Collins died mysteriously yesterday, and Reverend Trask is trying to pin a murder charge on Vicki. She’s being represented by Peter Bradford, boy detective, whose defense strategy mostly involves scowling and yelling.
Judge: There has not been sufficient evidence to warrant an additional charge of murder against the defendant.
Trask: And what would the court consider to be sufficient evidence?
The Judge mulls this over, like nobody’s ever asked this before.
Judge: If the prosecution can produce a witness to support its allegations that the defendant had reason to kill Miss Collins, the court would be willing to hear such testimony.
Which is just… what? How is that even evidence? I call no way.
But wait, it gets weirder.
Peter: Your honor, if Victoria Winters were going to kill Abigail Collins, doesn’t it stand to reason that she would have done it before Abigail testified, not after?
Judge: Your point is a logical one, Mr. Bradford. Unfortunately, human actions are not always based on such logic.
So it turns out that some TV shows know how to do trial scenes, and some of them just don’t. This is not part of the Dark Shadows skill set. Fortunately, they’re aware of this, and it’s a long time before we see the inside of a Collinsport courtroom again. Unfortunately, here we are now, waist-deep in this quicksand plot point, and it’s going to take them a minute to extricate.
So clearly we’re going to have to provide our own entertainment value today. For example: admiring the variety of different ways that Peter can scowl.
The court takes a recess while Trask goes out and finds somebody who’s willing to say that Vicki didn’t like Abigail. Since nobody liked Abigail, this should only take about three minutes; maybe four, if he stops to get a soda from the vending machine in the hall.
“What we need is a witness of our own!” Peter says, still scowling. “Somebody who can prove that you didn’t hate Abigail enough to kill her!”
But there’s nothing sensible you can say in response to a statement like that, so they just sigh and shuffle around, and wait for the scene to end. Then they break for a word from Ken-L Ration dog food.
But at least this storyline has Reverend Trask in it, and he’s always worth watching, because he is eternally on the verge of saying something crazy. This is how he opens his examination of Vicki.
Trask: Miss Winters… it was Abigail Collins who first recognized you as being a witch, wasn’t it?
Of course, Peter objects and the judge sustains, but who even cares. Keep talking, Trask; you’re saving the whole storyline. He starts over.
Trask: It was Abigail Collins who first accused you of being a witch, was it not?
Trask: What was your reaction to that?
Vicki: I tried to convince her that it wasn’t true.
Trask: Didn’t you hate her for what she was trying to do to you?
Trask: Come, now, Miss Winters, you’re not going to tell the court that you loved her.
Vicki: Well, no, but —
Trask: Then you must have HATED her! Enough to KILL her!
So that’s fun. But, really, the problem is that there’s nothing at stake in these clearly non-legal proceedings. There are no rules in this courtroom at all, no standard of evidence that can tip the scales of justice one way or the other. They just stand around and say things, and then they squabble, and the judge tells them to behave, and when they’ve done that for enough episodes, then the verdict will be whatever they want it to be.
Come on, come on! Let’s go do something else. Case dismissed!
Tomorrow: Down Our Throats.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
A lot of the actors stumble over their lines in today’s episode, including:
Trask: Your honor, the medical record also makes it clear that… that Mrs., uh, Miss Collins was, uh, in perfect health! Her — her heart had never bothered her once in her life!
Peter: All he has to do is find someone who’s… who’s willing to prove that you had a good reason for saying that — for killing Abigail Collins!
Peter: Is Lieutenant Collins — Lieutenant Forbes a man of his word?
Judge: Who is this new whitman — witness, Mr. Trask?
Peter: Under what circumstances did you have most of your conversations with Miss Collins? [He means Miss Winters.]
There’s also a moment in Peter’s scene with Nathan where Peter just completely loses track of where he is. Amusingly, this happens just as he starts using the word “remember”:
Peter: You remember that Abigail Collins was the first person to accuse Miss Winters of being a witch.
Peter: You also remember that, uh… (He trails off. Nathan just looks at him.) Look… you were the only one willing to help her, weren’t you?
Tomorrow: Down Our Throats.
— Danny Horn