“We’re all on the same side, aren’t we? My side.”
I address myself and those here with me to the powers of darkness, he said.
I call upon the flame to summon you, he said.
I call upon the raven and the viper and all the dark creatures of nature to draw you like a rising mist from out of the darkness of the earth, he said.
And he said it over an active hellmouth that spews out vengeance-vowing fire demons on the regular. What could possibly go wrong?
And so, reborn once more and rising from the flames like a — hang on, sorry, that’s the other one. Well, rising like something that is very, very similar to a phoenix, here comes Angelique, the supervillain soap vixen who we saw burned alive only two months ago, on this very program. She gets knocked down, but she gets up again; they’re never going to keep her down. Ta-DAH!
She’s been summoned back to ABC Studio 16 by Quentin Collins and his lawyer friend Evan Hanley, who honestly should have known better. They are about to learn several important lessons, all at the same time, mostly in the area of not doing the thing they just tried to do, plus not being a dick about it afterwards.
This all started because Quentin stole his dead grandmother’s will before it was read, and he’s not planning to give it back until it says different things. But he’s getting hassled by this long-lost cousin from England named Barnabas, who just showed up and is apparently in charge of the lighting and the soundtrack. Now it gets dark and Quentin hears kettle-drum heartbeats wherever he goes, and you can just imagine how fast that kind of thing can wear on your nerves.
So Quentin and Evan were talking things over, and Evan’s bright idea was, let’s do an unholy ritual, calling forth — and this is a direct quote — “someone from the flames of the netherworld.”
And here she is! Her name is Angelique, and she’s part of Dark Shadows’ new storyline quality control system. The last year of the show was a bit of a patchwork, so the new plan is just to load up the canvas with interesting items and then see what happens.
Now, this is actually a new version of Angelique that we haven’t seen before — Angelique: The Sequel. Her original character arc began with her introduction in 1795, and the terrible sequence of events that decimated the Collins family. Then her arc continued in 1968 — still loving and hating Barnabas, but doing it in a different century and with a different wig. The second trip back to 1796 was supposed to be the grand finale, bringing her back to her original place of power, and then getting rid of her once and for all. The witch burns, a fitting conclusion, credits roll, the end.
They could have just left her there, and moved on; it would have been a satisfying, complete story. So bringing her back now, at the start of a whole new storyline, means that Angelique is now a constant. She’s the Daleks, basically; we’ll never be rid of her. From now on, every Dark Shadows storyline will have a place for Angelique, one way or another.
Evan and Quentin have no idea what this mad creature is, but the kids at home do, so she’s free to act like a special guest star who’s under no obligation to explain herself.
Evan: Who are you?
Angelique: I’m obviously the one you sent for. Who are you?
Evan: I’m Evan Hanley; I am a lawyer.
Clearly unimpressed, she moves on.
Angelique: And you?
Quentin: My name is Quentin Collins.
At the sound of the name Collins, Angelique breaks into a grin.
Angelique: Are you a lawyer too?
Quentin: No. I’m merely a man of larger expectations than life has hitherto offered me.
Angelique: I see.
Evan: Well, I don’t. Now, will you please tell us who —
Angelique: When I’m ready, Mr. Hanley. (She turns back to Quentin.) Quentin — Collins, you say?
Angelique: And this place?
Quentin: It’s called Collinwood.
She looks around, wide-eyed.
Angelique: Yes. Yes, so it is.
As it happens, Angelique isn’t the only femme fatale clambering out of the fireplace today. This is also the first episode credited to Violet Welles, a new Dark Shadows writer who’s been ghost-writing some of Gordon Russell’s scripts. Here’s her story, from a late-1980s interview printed in the fanzine The World of Dark Shadows:
I was a press agent then. I had been working with Gordon Russell; I’d been ghosting for years on everything he’d done. Dan Curtis had a sort of horror series, an hour anthology series that he was doing that I think never actually got on. Gordon was doing a show called Mr. Splitfoot and I worked on it with him. It never got on the air.
And it came time for a story conference with Dan Curtis, and Gordon said, “Look, you’ve worked on the script as much as I have, you come to the story conference.” So I came and we talked and at the end of it, I knew they’d been looking for a writer for Dark Shadows because Gordon told me this. It was nothing that particularly interested me.
So we talked, and at the end of the story conference, Dan Curtis said to me, “How’d you like to be one of the writers, how’d you like to write for Dark Shadows?” And I said, “Nonsense, I’m a press agent, I have three shows on Broadway, and I have this and this and this.” What I didn’t know was that in television, the rule is if you’re unavailable, you must be had. So Dan Curtis pursued me and insisted that I do it.
And for a while, I was being a press agent and writing for Dark Shadows. And finally someone said, “You know, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You’ve got to do one or the other.” So I went to Dark Shadows.
So three writers — Sam Hall, Gordon Russell and Violet Welles — are going to be the Dark Shadows team for the next year, through 1897 and the Leviathans, up to the first week of Parallel Time. And starting right now, this is going to be the longest sustained run of really good episodes that the show ever has. This is the magic team.
You can tell right away that we’re in good hands, because Angelique is driving the scene, and specifically driving it in Quentin’s direction. Angelique is the character in the scene who knows exactly what we know, which means, Lord help us, she is now the audience identification character. Happily, she’s interested in the same things we are — flirting with Quentin, plotting against Barnabas and forgetting that the other guy exists.
At one point, Evan says, “Madam, will you permit me to interrupt you –” She snaps, “No, Mr. Hanley, I will not permit it,” and then she turns right back to Quentin and stares into his eyes.
This is what happens next.
Angelique: Quentin Collins, I am very grateful to you for having helped to bring me here. And I want you to know — from now on, you and I have the same enemy.
Quentin: Thank you.
Evan: Don’t thank her yet! Not until we know a little more about who she is, and what she’s up to.
She turns around, and sighs.
Angelique: Did you say something?
Evan: I think a few questions are in order here.
Angelique: My dear “lawyer” — I don’t think so.
Evan: Well, I do! We know nothing about you.
Angelique: There’s nothing you need to know, except that I have some very mysterious powers, which I’ll be glad to demonstrate for you.
Evan: I am not interested in that.
Angelique: Perhaps someday you will be.
And then she magically throttles him for about a minute, smiling the whole time.
Quentin cries, “What have you done to him?”
“Nothing more than I do with my friends when they annoy me,” she chirps. “With my enemies, I can be even more ruthless!”
And then she gives them a look, which offers them a full year’s subscription to Why You Shouldn’t Try to Call People from the Flames of the Netherworld Digest.
Quentin asks Angelique to release Evan from his predicament, and she finally agrees. “Whatever you say,” she smiles. “After all, we’re all on the same side, aren’t we? My side.”
And the thing that’s most satisfying about this sequence is that Angelique is basically humiliating Nicholas Blair and kicking him off the show.
Evan is a dime-store version of the charming devil who dominated the show last summer, building up an impressive mystique and then allowing it to slowly dissolve into a disappointing puddle. And it’s clear that we’re supposed to make that connection, because Evan’s “flames of the netherworld” gag is a direct continuation of Nicholas’ shtick.
Just before Nicholas left the show in November, he was running his own black mass ceremonies, using the blood of the owl, the raven and the bat. Now the new model is invoking the raven and the viper and the dark creatures of nature, as if exploding in a shower of diablo ex machina taught him exactly nothing about how to be a more interesting character.
And Angelique has exactly no patience for it anymore. Paying attention to Evan means taking her eyes off of Quentin, which is the last thing anybody wants. Right now, looking at Angelique looking at Quentin is the only thing that matters. We really are on the same side: Violet’s side.
Tomorrow: The Neverending Story.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the start of the teaser, Evan and Sandor are clearly standing still, waiting for their cue to begin acting.
As act 1 begins, Angelique is seen in the flames, which means Lara Parker is standing in front of the camera that’s doing the Chromakey effect. Then the camera has to stay on Evan and Quentin’s reaction, so that she has time to run over to the cottage set. This would have worked smoothly, except that you can clearly hear her hurried footsteps as she races to the set.
In act 2, Evan asks Sandor when he’ll finish forging the will. Sandor says, “I’ll do it when I can,” and then remembers that’s not the cue Evan’s waiting for. He adds, “I’ll do it when I’m ready,” so that Evan can say, “Well, may I suggest that you go now and get ready!”
When Barnabas finds Sandor forging the will, he crumples it up and walks to the fireplace to burn it — but the fire isn’t lit. At the end of the scene, Barnabas goes ahead and throws it into the fireplace anyway.
Barnabas says that he’s here to see Miss Drummond. Quentin asks Barnabas to help himself to brandy — “and make sure Miss, uh — Rachel, or, uh — Miss Drummond — has some too.” The line was supposed to be “make sure Rachel — or Miss Drummond,” so that Quentin could emphasize that he’s on a first-name basis with her.
Tomorrow: The Neverending Story.
— Danny Horn