Episode 510: Some Enchanted Evening

“Do you still believe we cannot gain help from the dead?”

Professor Stokes steps to the phone, and places a call. “Julia, thank goodness it’s you,” he says. “You must come here immediately.”

“What’s wrong?” says Julia.

“I’m afraid I’ve just killed a man,” Stokes says, and then the opening titles kick in.

See, I told you that Professor Stokes is amazing. Can you believe this guy? This is how he starts an episode.

510 dark shadows stokes tony gasp

While they’re drawing the chalk outline around the latest victim, I’ll step back for a moment and sketch out what’s going on here.

On Friday, Stokes was visited by Tony Peterson, a hard-boiled Collinsport lawyer who’s recently come under the spell of the show’s sorcerous soap vixen, Cassandra. Stokes has been interfering in her plans, so she sent Tony to Stokes’ house under an assumed name to put poison in his drink. A suspicious Stokes switched the sherry, and now Tony is gasping his last on the Oriental rug. Advantage: Stokes.

And so the baton has passed to another new character who’s going to take over the show for a little while. This happens periodically on soap operas when the writers realize that they’ve got somebody who’s inherently story-productive on their hands. The other characters who have done a full-court press like this are Barnabas, Julia and Angelique. He’s at that level.

510 dark shadows stokes julia sherry

When Julia’s finished treating Tony — he survived, by the way — Stokes’ explanation is unbelievably rock-star.

Julia:  What happened?

Stokes:  Well, he was strange — nervous. I suspected him. When I went to the kitchen, it suddenly occurred to me that he’d have an excellent opportunity to tamper with the sherry, so when I returned, I switched the glasses.

It’s as simple as that. That’s the universe that Professor Timothy Stokes inhabits. When a visitor appears uneasy, you automatically assume that he’s planning to murder you, and you take the appropriate steps. That’s just basic hospitality.

510 dark shadows julia stokes this means war

Stokes, like all the best characters, just goes ahead and decides to make the story more interesting, and reality kind of warps itself around whatever the hell he thinks he’s doing.

Stokes:  Somehow, Cassandra Collins has him in her power.

Julia:  Obviously.

Stokes:  Now we know another facet of her personality. What she can’t do herself, she delegates others to do for her. We know now one person helped her. How many others have? When I said the other night that this was war, I was right.

Oh, man. There are others? We’re going to have to start switching glasses all over the place. I hope Mrs. Johnson has a new dishwasher on backorder, because this is going to get messy.

510 dark shadows julia stokes table

Amazingly, Stokes is so engaging right now that he actually dominates Julia, who’s accustomed to being the most interesting person in any scene. She’s forced to feed him straight lines, just to keep up.

Stokes:  We must find someone she cannot affect — and that means, of course, someone who is already dead.

Julia:  Already dead?

Stokes:  Do you believe in ghosts, Doctor?

Julia:  You really are being serious, aren’t you?

Stokes:  Quite. Even a witch will fear a ghost. Particularly the ghost of a witch hunter. Have you ever heard of a Reverend Trask? He was a witch hunter here, in the 18th century.

510 dark shadows julia oh yes

Julia has to pause, and consider this ridiculous question. Of course she’s never heard of some random eighteenth-century witch hunter. She’s Doctor Julia fucking Hoffman; she reanimates the dead. She doesn’t have time to collect trading cards of Witch Hunters Through the Ages.

But she plays along, nodding and murmuring, “Oh, yes,” because there’s absolutely nothing else that she can possibly do.

510 dark shadows julia stokes literal

She just keeps on throwing him softballs, to keep the scene going.

Julia:  This is very interesting historically, Professor, but I feel to see why —

Stokes:  Oh, I forget, you doctors are very literal-minded. Reverend Trask is extremely important to you and me, Doctor Hoffman.

Julia:  I’m sorry, I don’t see it.

510 dark shadows stokes julia murder

Then Professor Stokes does the most courageous thing I’ve ever seen anyone do: he crosses behind Julia, leans over, and forces her to turn her face away from the camera.

Stokes:  Picture a religious fanatic. A man whose one passion in life is to kill witches. Don’t you suspect it would be his one passion in death, too?

Fortunately, that happens to be history’s single most preposterous remark, because nothing else could possibly be interesting enough to justify making Julia turn around. This is a woman who has built her entire career around her uncanny ability to rotate her chin at any angle, in order to stay in her light. Seriously, you do not get between her and the camera. GRAYSON HALL WILL MURDER YOU.

510 dark shadows stokes julia composition

And then — impossibly — he does something even more ludicrous.

“This is my ancestor Ben Stokes’ memoir,” he announces, wielding what is clearly a composition book. “Somewhere in this book is the key to Reverend Trask.”

Only parts of Ben’s book have survived the centuries, but one fragment discusses Barnabas’ vow of revenge against Trask.

Stokes reads aloud: “Mr. Barnabas, in a rage because of the innocent girl sentenced to be hung, sent for… The name is missing.”

510 dark shadows stokes julia writing

Then Stokes looks off into the middle distance, as he fills in the missing name with a pencil. When he’s finished writing, he looks down at the page.

“Good heavens,” he says. “Trask. It isn’t even in my hand. It’s in Ben’s writing.”

And then there’s a huge dramatic sting, and we go to commercial.

510 dark shadows stokes julia magic

So that’s how powerful things can get, when you leave these two alone in a room for a whole act. They’re inventing new plot points on screen, in real time.

Stokes learns that Reverend Trask was sealed up behind a wall in “the coffin room.” Julia knows that this means the Old House basement, although obviously she doesn’t explain how she knows that.

So we’re propelled forward into the next story point — based partly on Stokes’ knowledge, and partly on Julia’s — and if there’s a missing piece, then Stokes is just going to sit there and write it himself. This is what the show is like now.

Today is Monday, June 10th, 1968. School’s out, and the summer of ’68 has now begun. And may God have mercy on our unrepentant souls.

Tomorrow: Séance Fiction.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the start of act 1, when Julia sits down on the sofa, the boom mic dips into the shot for a moment at the top right of the screen.

Thayer David (Professor Stokes) walks onto the set as the credits start rolling. He realizes that the camera’s on, and ducks back out of the frame.

Tomorrow: Séance Fiction.

510 dark shadows stokes credits

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 510: Some Enchanted Evening

  1. Cassandra’s manipulation of Tony Peterson reminds me of how the 1968 storyline compares to 1970 PT and, in my opinion, unfavorably so.

    Here, the supernatural (“witchcraft”) has totally replaced character motivation. In a standard soap opera, we’d expect to see the female villain marry some schlub for no reason other than to use him and to have an affair with a younger man on the side, who she also uses to her ends. Her “power” over them is her considerable charm and beauty put to sociopathic ends. Cassandra’s “power” over Roger and Tony is purely “magical” (Roger “snaps out of it” as soon as Cassandra loses her powers, for example).

    I think they found the right balance in 1970 PT: Angelique is still a witch, but her powers are not the only tool in her arsenal. Her servant Hoffman voluntarily aids her due to a twisted devotion — no voodoo necessary, and she manipulates all the other characters, including the male lead Quentin, using standard soap opera vixen tricks.

  2. Thayer David is really a versatile actor – he totally immerses in the roles he plays (Matthew Morgan, Ben Stokes and now the scholarly Professor Stokes) – he is definitely not typecast. I love how all of these people have diaries or journals or family histories to document every snippet of information that conveniently matches exactly with the info they need to further the storyline.

    1. Plus, he pronounces “memoirs” as “meemoirs” which makes him extra awesome.

      I will say the reintroduction of Reverend Trask as a means of battling Angelique was a stroke of genius. And I’m sure Jerry Lacey appreciated the opportunity to play Trask again.

  3. During the parallel universe of HODS, Stokes is present when Barnabas is freed from his coffin. He makes similar deductions and closes in on the villainous vampire. The best parts of the movie involve him… yet he dies, and it always pains me to see it.

    Conversely, Julia is so different from her TV counterpart that her ultimate fate doesn’t bother me. And unfortunately, the 1991 series decided to make their Julia far too similar to the HODS version.

  4. That desk where Stokes is seated and poring over Ben’s “meemoir” seems to have been borrowed from Frank Garner’s office who in turn borrowed it from Roger Collins’ office at the cannery. In fact, the living room of Stokes’ apartment is very similar in layout to those sets, with doors and windows and even the fireplace in the same location, and some of the props from those sets included as well.

  5. It is sad how Tony devolves. Originally he was a dynamic character that could see through Carolyn’s manipulations, and who might yet discover Barnabas’ secret.

    But now, he is just Cassandra’s dupe. All the pep is gone from him.

    1. Yes – after Burke was gone it looked like Tony would be filling his role as the ‘outsider Collins family antagonist’. And then he pulled a ‘Frank Garner’ and proceeded to ‘fade like an echo’ – I heard that line in a movie I saw last week and just had to find a way to use it in a comment…

      1. You’re not kidding. I was shocked when I saw the last episode he was in (not knowing it was his last episode) and then reading on the DS wiki that it was the final appearance of Tony Peterson. What an absolute waste of a characters. And clearly they liked Lacey because they kept using him, it was just Tony they had no idea what to do with.

        1. I liked Tony but I kept thinking of Trask every time I saw him. Maybe other fans felt the same way. Jerry comes back, but always as a Trask. Now I wish that Tony and Carolyn had stuck together. I’ve listened to some of Big Finish’s Tony and Cassandra mysteries and I liked them. But I saw a video from one of the conventions that Jerry and Nancy did as an older Tony and Carolyn meeting again. It was quite charming and it made me wish they had used Tony and Carolyn instead.
          Also, Professor Stokes is the best thing about this entire storyline.

    2. Also gone is the Humphrey Bogart impersonation he was cultivating during his initial fling with Carolyn. When she first visited him in his office he had the hat, the overcoat, the voice, everything. All that was missing was the cigar–though I believe Tony had the cigarette, held in the same pose as Bogey would have held it.

  6. Tony and Cassandra have quite a run together in several Big Finish Productions audio dramas. Their characters are veru nicely developed and build upon what we saw in the original incarnation of DS. They’re well worth a listen to any fans of the show … as are all the other CDs in the series.

  7. I enjoyed the little domestic dispute between Roger and Cassandra in this episode as she was clearly bored playing chess with her new husband and much more anxious to speak to Tony.

    Cassandra: Maybe chess isn’t my game.

    Roger: What is your game, Cassandra?

    She’s definitely not concentrating on keeping the home fires burning. Even bewitched, Roger realizes this ain’t much of a marriage for him.

    Nice little Sam Hall moment.

  8. Little bloopers like Thayer David entering the frame as the credits roll are favorites of mine. These were the reasons I watched Dark Shadows to the very last credit back in 1981-1982 syndication broadcasts. That, and to see if the year was correct.

  9. It doesn’t make sense for Cassandra to keep postponing the honeymoon. She’s not constrained by time and space like mortals, she should be able to keep a hand in the events at Collinsport no matter where she is.

  10. In defense of Prof. Stokes’s “composition book,” he does say that he has copies of Ben’s original manuscript pages pasted in the book so it makes a sort of awkward sense. The “spirit writing” or whatever you want to call it was a step too far for me, though.

    I find it interesting that Stokes has a portrait of office supply magnate W.B. Mason on the wall near his desk. Maybe he’s a stockholder and that’s the source of his income. Or not.

    1. That portrait caught my eye as well. It looks more like a portrait of Wyatt Earp. There is a photo of him that looks identical to this.

    2. Straker, I see the W.B. Mason trucks here around Hyannis and that bigger than life face on each of them. At some point I am going to compare both side by side to see which came first, the portrait of the logo. That portrait does get shared around on set. I have a similar convex mirror (made in early 1930s in Baltimore) so will be watching this episode closely.

    1. I forgot about this too, Walt Panrama. Thanks for bringing it up. The utter lack of explanation for Cassandra’s rejuvenation would seem to emphasize that the whole story line was merely a means to help David Ford read his lines more easily. And it didn’t even succeed at that!

  11. Ok, so yesterday I was moaning about this DS moving too fast and heading off into crazyland… and today, wow! another seance and Reverend Trask! Trask was one of my favorite characters in 1795, so I’m looking forward to how they will use him now. I’m sorry to hear that Tony won’t be around for too much longer, thanks to spoilers above, but I’m glad the actor will stick around.

    Nothing was the same when they got back from 1795. Tony was an interesting complex character before the flash backs, and now he too has paled. If Stokes can “spirit write” with Ben, why can’t Tony “spirit witch hunt” with Trask? Why do we need Trask, when we already have Tony? I like Trask, but I like Tony more.

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