Episode 434: Down Our Throats

“Neither Mrs. Collins nor I have any desire to influence the judges emotionally.”

Today, Nathan Forbes — the only really cute guy on Dark Shadows right now — is alone in his bedroom, and then another guy bursts in and starts getting physical with him. You’d think that this would be, like, my favorite scene ever, except that it’s Peter, who’s just angry and scowly and depressing.

Yesterday, Nathan promised that he’d testify on Vicki’s behalf at her boring old witchcraft trial, but then he turned around and testified for the other side instead, because the prosecutor promised to put in a good word for him with the Collins family.

Nathan is a liar, and a coward, and an opportunist, and he probably cheats at cards and doesn’t wash behind his ears. None of that matters. Didn’t you hear me? He’s the cute guy. They only have one.

434 dark shadows why peter nathan

So here comes Peter, all eyebrows and anger.

Peter:  Miss Winters never said she would kill Abigail Collins.

Nathan:  Did the court grant you a recess just so you could tell me that?

Peter:  Why did you lie?

Nathan:  I told you what I remembered!

Peter:  You couldn’t have remembered that, because it never happened! You had another reason for saying it, and I want to know why!

434 dark shadows stereo nathan peter

Then he walks around to the other side of Nathan, and tries the same line from the other direction.

Peter:  I want to know what it was! Why did you lie? Why?

Okay, Peter, I think we’ve identified the piece of information you’re fishing for here. Nathan lied. You want to know why. That question doesn’t get more interesting just because you’ve moved to the other side of the room.

434 dark shadows lie nathan peter

We break for the opening titles, and when we come back, this is where we start:

Nathan:  Victoria Winters told me that she would kill Abigail Collins. Why would I lie?

Peter:  That’s what I want to know!

And oh my God are you kidding me right now. Because the thing is: I already know why Nathan lied, and it’s not even that interesting of a plot point.

So there’s no way for the audience to be on Peter’s side in this scene. They’re trying to establish him as the crusading hero in this storyline — the determined young man who’s willing to put everything on the line for the truth, to save the woman he inexplicably loves. But if they want us to root for Peter, they’re doing it backwards. He’s not the audience identification character here. He’s just the shouty, squinty guy who keeps yelling the same question.

434 dark shadows yelling peter

It’s actually ridiculously easy to get the audience to like a new character — so easy that it’s amazing any TV show ever gets it wrong. The new character needs to make a friend, make a joke, and make a plot point happen.

That’s it. It’s a three-step process. Julia’s first episode was a perfect example, and so was Tony Peterson’s introduction. They were witty and smart, they each established an alliance with a regular character right away, and they instantly changed the story just by walking into the room.

As for Nathan, it took him a little while to gel, because he didn’t seem to have a big story impact at first, but he was super cute and funny, and he was already a family friend.

434 dark shadows mouth peter

And then there’s Peter. To his credit, he’s scored one out of three — he’s friends with Vicki, a core character — and that’s better than nothing.

But he’s not funny. I don’t think he’s said a single amusing thing this whole time. He had one cute scene a few weeks ago, with the “bird planes” line, but besides that, he’s never even cracked a smile. Even crazy, ranting, black-clad Reverend Trask has a light moment now and then. Peter is a non-stop rage machine.

And he’s not even making a plot point happen. He’s basically just a shadow of Vicki, shouting and scowling on her behalf. If Vicki had been representing herself in court this whole time, she would be in exactly the same situation as she is now. Peter hasn’t changed a thing.

That’s another reason why this scene is so annoying. The audience knows that Peter isn’t going to learn anything, because there’s nothing for him to learn. Nathan’s storyline has nothing to do with Vicki and Peter. This is a snipe hunt.

434 dark shadows throats peter nathan

So it’s clear that if the soap opera magazines and internet forums existed in 1968, the Dark Shadows fans would be complaining that the producers are trying to force Peter down our throats. That’s the phrase that soap fans always use when a new character starts getting a lot of air time, and they haven’t made a joke, a friend and a plot point.

Dark Shadows is clearly trying to present Peter in a heroic light. We’re supposed to find him romantic and exciting. But he’s a petulant little creep, and he doesn’t do anything. The signal to noise ratio is all wrong.

434 dark shadows crass nathan peter

And then they go and do something that’s just unbelievably crass — they start a fight between Nathan and Peter, and Peter wins.

434 dark shadows fight peter nathan

I call no way. Nathan is at least a couple inches taller than Peter, and he’s clearly stronger and more physical. Plus, this is a guy who fights dirty.

You simply can’t be Lieutenant Nathan Forbes — roguish charmer with an eye for the ladies — without pissing off the occasional husband or boyfriend. The fact that Nathan is still alive and unscarred is proof that he can handle himself in a situation like this.

But Peter smacks him in the face, and Nathan goes down, and stays down. He just sits there and rubs his face, instead of punching Peter in the crotch, which by the way he is in exactly the perfect position to do.

It would be so easy for the show to fix this. Unfortunately, it requires telling Peter that he’s fired, and nobody wants to have a conversation with the guy. Maybe they could write him a letter or something.

Tomorrow: Next Stop Kansas.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 3, Nathan trips over a line: “Mr. Collins, I honestly loved… loved your niece.”

At the start of act 4, Naomi tells Joshua, “Peter Brandon was here.” She means Peter Bradford.

At the very beginning of the closing credits, you can see a person’s shadow on the right side of the screen. The shadow quickly moves away.


 

Behind the Scenes:

A note from resident prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night: Joshua’s office at the shipyard is a redress of a set that’s been used several times, including Roger’s office at the cannery, Barnabas’ first bedroom at the Old House and the interview room at the Collinsport Gaol. A couple of props have migrated from Barnabas’ old room: “The barometer is hanging between the two windows of the far wall. Above the fireplace, there’s a model ship mounted on the wall, a three-masted sailing ship with four sails on the main mast and two sails each on the foremast and mizzen mast (not to be confused with the model ship that rests on the mantlepiece of the Collinwood drawing room of the period, which also has three masts, but with five sails on each — the one that rests atop the armoire cupboard behind the sofa in the Collinwood drawing room of the late sixties. In Roger’s office and Barnabas’ first room, the main entrance was through the door at stage right, but in the Collinsport Gaol and Joshua’s office, the main entrance is through the door at stage left.” I keep telling you how amazing PotN is.

Tomorrow: Next Stop Kansas.

434 dark shadows fix nathan

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

25 thoughts on “Episode 434: Down Our Throats

  1. I get so frustrated with trying to watch Roger Davis ‘act’ I feel like banging my head against a wall. What was Dan Curtis thinking when he hired this arrogant loudmouth? The show mostly had great success with bringing on new characters (i.e. Laura Collins, Jason McGuire, Angelique, Quentin in upcoming episodes). Mr Curtis must have owed someone a favor on this one. It really was a black mark on the otherwise brilliant portrait that was Dark Shadows.

    1. Totally agreed. I wonder if Peter may have been more of a success if he’d been played by anyone other than Roger Davis. I can’t stand his voice and it seems he can’t speak a line without yelling it. Added to this is the way he constantly gropes his co-stars both male and female. I think your point about Dan Curtis maybe owing someone a favour is well taken.

      1. Alternatelty maybe they thought he was “hot” and would please the female viewers. Would be interesting to know what the reaction to him was back in the day. I mean, he is sorta pretty but that’s all ruined as soon as he opens his mouth.

        Also Danny, wanted to point out this is the episode where Naomi tells Joshua she’s going to testify for Vicky, without his approval. It’s a great bit for Joan and the character and I love the way she triumphantly walks out of the house at the end (of course, we don’t actually see said testimony, which annoys me to no end, but still, a nice moment of growth for Naomi).

        1. The first time I saw him was as an adult watching much later since I didn’t see this part of the storyline when I was a kid. I did think he was handsome and as you said as soon as he opened his mouth that was all over. There was no real eye candy for me in the 1795 storyline, no Willie, and Quentin wasn’t on yet. I also wish we’d seen Naomi’s testimony. But I can imagine what Trask must’ve said. “You’re here against your husband’s permission? Why you rebellious wife you! Your honour, I submit we throw out this woman’s testimony on the grounds that she is a rebellious wife!”

          1. Now Alias Smith and Jones I know, which was a Maverick level show until sadly one of the 2 leads committed suicide, so Roger Davis was the lousy replacement that messed things up so it got cancelled shortly thereafter. I didn’t recognize him. Thanks.

      2. I was also shocked at the way he manhandled the other actors. If I was Alexandra Moltke I would have walked off the set. In upcoming episodes his ‘treatment’ of his female co-stars far exceeded the limits of respecting their personal space.

        1. That’s funny, I’ve never noticed that he touches the other actors. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that; I can’t believe it’s slipped by me so far.

          1. This increases more and more as the show continues. The worst is Ned Stuart who manhandles his own sister who is in a catatonic state. And yeah it’s shout until my ear drums bleed!

  2. That fight is total bullshit. In the middle of a witch-trial during an 18th century interlude of a vampire soap opera, it somehow manages to be the most unbelievable thing onscreen.

    I second the awesomeness of Naomi’s last scene. She’s become so much stronger a character since Sarah’s death – it’s a shame it took something as horrifying as the death of her children to bring it out of her (starting with that great scene with Joshua in the mausoleum, her denouncing his coldness and him breaking down – a married couple finally coming to understand each other through tragedy). The whole thing’s wonderful – that theatrical double-take before she leaves, the fact she doesn’t bother to close the door, that gorgeous green gown… fabulous.

    1. Great analysis of Naomi’s growth in character, as demonstrated by her rebellion against her husband and decidng to do the right thing by testifying on behalf of Vicki. Like you, I would have liked to have seen her testimony.

  3. I remember Alias Smith and Jones because Peter Duel was so popular and after his suicide, Roger Davis took over but it never took off. I had no idea, at the time, that he had ever been on Dark Shadows (not that I watched it then). A few seasons ago I caught a few episodes of Love on a Rooftop – also with Peter Duel and Judy Carne. He seemed to be quite the charming guy, an adjective not often associated with scowly Roger Davis.

    1. And yet to those who did like him (both of them), Davis was charming. Dan Curtis evidently liked him personally. So he did not need to owe anybody a favor.

  4. Roger Davis wasn’t all scowly on Alias Smith and Jones, and wasn’t half bad, but his looks were too close to Ben Murphy’s for a good contrast. They looked like brothers, one with curlier hair than the other. The chemistry worked and was established between Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. Filling that role would have been tough for anyone.

  5. Jaclyn Smith moved from Roger Davis to Dennis Cole which, improbable as it may seem, would have to be considered a step down.

  6. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I happened to like the fight scene between Nathan and Peter: At last, some action! I agree, though, that the taller and stronger looking Nathan, a navy man who had been no doubt trained in hand-to- hand contact, to boot, would have, in real life, kicked Peter’s ass.

  7. For some reason I never caught this until today, but Naomi’s comment that Abigail “was a businesswoman without a business to run”..Yes! Totally! Take away the religious fanaticism and give her something else to focus on. Imagine being called into HER office. Also, not trying to reduce my appreciation to simply her appearance, but in 1795 Joan Bennett was absolutely beautiful. She dressed so matronly as Elizabeth you would never realize how petite she was.

  8. I was really looking forward to hearing Naomi’s testimony. I guess the point was to show her defying Joshua rather than defending Vicki?

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