“Don’t you realize that Quentin is a bad person?”
The next morning, Barnabas and Julia return to the Collins family mausoleum to collect their werewolf friend, Chris. But when the stone door swings open, they find that he’s still a snarling, well-dressed animal; he hasn’t changed back to a human again.
Half-beast and half-man, Chris is stuck in that moment of transition, and he can’t find his way back to where he was before. But who can?
It’s often the case, in the final days of a Dark Shadows storyline, that we find characters stuck somewhere, unable to move on. Elizabeth is trapped in a lie, forced to marry a man she detests. Vicki’s locked up in prison, sentenced to hang. Joshua seals his son up in a time capsule, because he can’t bear the thought of a hammer and stake.
And now, in this dark corner of the great estate, Sam and Gordon and Dan have an exciting werewolf storyline that started off really well, but they’re struggling to come up with a second act.
Barnabas and Julia have promised to help Chris overcome his condition, but to be honest, they haven’t really made a lot of progress. They shut the mausoleum door, and then they have a fairly cold-blooded conversation about whether it would be better to just put the guy down, and save everybody the headaches and rabies shots.
So if Dark Shadows is a daily soap opera adaptation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and obviously it is, then Chris is in the bardo, the intermediate stage between death and the next rebirth. This is ego-death, the surrender of his subjective identity, so that he can achieve transcendence and find another, truer self. Admittedly, it isn’t going that well.
Meanwhile, another member of the Jennings family is also caught between two worlds. Amy’s being intermittently possessed by the ghost of Quentin Collins, switching back and forth between scared little girl and gleeful child of the corn.
If we’re identifying archetypes today, and we might as well, then Amy is the spunky little orphan girl who stirs up all the trouble in this world. She’s the homeless kid who makes herself at home, and an hour later she’s hip-deep in whatever your family has spent decades trying to forget.
She’s Dorothy Gale, innocently strolling out the door with no idea that she just stopped a war by landing her house on one of the combatants. She’s Jane Eyre, letting the madwoman out of the attic to start fires and stop weddings.
On her first night at Collinwood, Amy literally found a skeleton in the cupboard, and then she dragged it outside, buried it in the woods, and started praying to it like an idol. Now she’s trapped in the middle of a dangerous game that she doesn’t know how to stop playing.
Something new is emerging here, a new way to experience life, but to get there, we have to be willing to break old patterns. We can’t leave everything locked away in secret rooms, behind all these sealed doors.
So it’s time to invoke our late 60s guru of spirit and sensuality, Jim Morrison, to lead us through the psychedelic experience of death and rebirth.
According to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, there are three separate bardos in that intermediate stage. The first is the chikhai bardo, the moment of (ego) death, where you see reality as it truly is. The second is the chonyid bardo, with its visions of enlightenment. And the third is the sidpa bardo, the bardo of rebirth.
Now, you can’t have a birth without somebody getting pregnant first, so the sidpa bardo includes karmic hallucinations of the yab-yum, with male and female figures passionately intertwined.
Or, as the Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek explained to Newsweek:
“There are things you know about,” says 25-year-old Manzarek, “and things you don’t, the known and the unknown, and in between are the doors — that’s us. We’re saying that you’re not only spirit, you’re also this very sensuous being. That’s not evil, that’s a really beautiful thing. Hell appears so much more fascinating and bizarre than heaven. You have to ‘break on through to the other side’ to become the whole being.”
That link between the spirit and the sensuous — that’s the unquiet coupling that produces new life, and leads us through the bardo, to the next stage.
So what we need right now is a vision of sex and death, which opens the doors of perception. Luckily, this is Dark Shadows, where all they ever do is open and close doors. This ought to be a snap.
So here’s Maggie Evans, another dangerous orphan girl, opening doors and dreaming her way through the west wing of Collinwood. There’s the known and the unknown, and in between, apparently, there’s a dusty storage room.
Maggie passes through the doors and enters the secret chamber, where she pauses for a moment to listen to a hit record. Then, like any girl in 1969 in a new environment, she looks around to see if Jim Morrison is there, because you never know.
And here he is, breaking on through to the other side, the up-and-coming master of yab-yum, Quentin Collins. He is death, and everyone he touches is removed from the world. And tonight, for the very first time, he is the link between the spirit and the sensuous.
So that is as good an explanation as I can give for where we are right now. This is the union that offers us the chance for rebirth. They don’t specifically mention this in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, but it’s not in The Turn of the Screw either, so I guess we can do what we like.
Tomorrow: I Ching the Body Electric.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas jumps a line:
Barnabas: (checks the teleprompter) We should be… expecting… something like this.
Julia: (checks the teleprompter) Oh, we should have expected something like this, Barnabas.
Somebody coughs in the studio as Amy asks Maggie, “Did you just get up?”
When Julia tells Maggie, “I’ll go and get Barnabas,” there’s a big crash.
In act 3, Barnabas says, “Come, Julia,” but she’s already walking to the door.
When Barnabas talks to Maggie in Josette’s room, there are several coughs from the studio.
The closing credits are out of focus, especially on Dan Curtis’ credit. At the Dan Curtis Productions logo, the credits shake before the scene fades out.
Tomorrow: I Ching the Body Electric.
— Danny Horn