Episode 730: How I Met Your Mother

“I’m their mother; they’re as much a part of me and everything I feel as they are of you.”

Nora is absolutely thrilled to see her mother, which makes one of us.

“I knew I would find you here!” she says, hugging Laura.

“You had a dream,” Laura nods, and when Nora asks how she knew, her mother chirps, “I had the very same dream!”

Nora says,”That’s so strange!” And Laura just smiles, and says, “I know,” and that’s the end of that particular topic of conversation.

As you know, there are no secrets between us, so I’m just going to put this right out on Front Street: in my life, Laura Murdoch Stockbridge Radcliffe Collins means precisely nothing. I don’t like her, I don’t care about her, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s the Cybermen.

730 dark shadows laura nora backacting

Here’s what we know: It’s 1897. Jamison and Nora’s mother disappeared a couple years ago, and their father has been telling everybody that as far as he’s concerned, she doesn’t exist. But Nora’s been getting weird communication from some desert otherworld, telling her that her mother is coming home. And here she is, Laura Collins, hanging around in the graveyard, and looking at the teleprompter pretty much once per line.

Now, if you’ve watched the early episodes of Dark Shadows, which you probably haven’t, then you know that Laura is actually a Phoenix, a mythical creature who dies in fire and is then reborn, every hundred years or so. Back in early 1967, Laura was introduced as Roger’s missing wife, and she tried to get her son David to join her in the flames, so that he could be a part of the endless cycle of death and regeneration. He decided not to.

So if the Laura who married Edward in 1897 is the same person who married Roger in 1967, then that means she married her own grandson. This is hands-down the most interesting thing about Laura, so it’s a shame that nobody ever brings it up.

Anyway, Nora wants her mother to come home, but Laura confers with the teleprompter and decides that she can’t.

“There is something I must do before I can return to Collinwood,” she says, but then she shows up at the door literally ten minutes later, so I don’t know what she was trying to be all cryptic about.

730 dark shadows edward laura door

One of the problems that I have with Laura is that she does not attempt to connect to the other actor in the scene in any way.

“Aren’t you going to ask me to come in, Edward?” she says, giving him a blank stare. “Please, say something!”

Edward puffs through his mustache and proclaims, “I think the most appropriate word I can think to say to you, Laura, is goodbye.”

And then she just drifts past him and comes right on in. “Well, if you wish to be unkind, I’m not going to stop you, I know I deserve it,” she says, which gets her practically all the way to the drawing room while Edward is still shutting the front door.

730 dark shadows laura roger blank

And then she just kind of wafts about the room, mostly looking at nothing in particular and saying things like, “In spite of everything I’ve done, this is where I belong.” She delivers each line as if it were individually gift-wrapped, and then she listens to the incidental music until it’s time for her to talk.

At one point she says, “I’m their mother; they’re as much a part of me and everything I feel as they are of you,” and it’s a complete toss-up whether that line ever made sense or not. I suppose it’s too late to ask now.

So Edward is just acting away, all on his own. She says that the children will want to see her, and he bellows, “How they feel is quite beside the point!”

“How can you say that?” she pouts, and then she stops acting until he’s done and it’s her turn again.

730 dark shadows laura pouts

Now, as regular readers know, there are three steps to getting the audience to like a new character: make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen.

Laura’s already got the friend part down, thanks to Nora, but she’s absolutely hopeless on the other two. She has no discernible sense of humor, unless the “part of everything I feel” thing was meant to be sarcastic, and she’s already on record as being opposed to Nora and Jamison attending Reverend Trask’s school. This is a serious mistake.

So far, the 1897 storyline has managed to successfully introduce new story threads on a weekly basis, and each time, the new idea is more interesting than the previous one. They went from the secret to the will, and then to Angelique, to Jenny, to Zombie Quentin and finally to Reverend Trask. At the beginning of this week, it looked like we were headed towards Trask’s school, which according to Nicholas Nickleby is going to be something pretty special, but then we got sidetracked on this Laura thing, and here we are.

Nobody minds if you interrupt a dull story and start up a more interesting one, but if you interrupt an interesting story then you’d better deliver. I know that there are a few things in this world that are more interesting than Reverend Trask — for example, one of them is furry, knows how to use doorknobs and starts with a W — but Laura is not on that list. Therefore, she is actively trying to derail plot development, and I have no patience with her.

730 dark shadows laura blank

Also: this.

I mean, come on. This is how she looks the entire time! Just completely blank. She might as well be Zombie Quentin; maybe we should burn some cypress and myrrh and see if it makes her go away.

730 dark shadows edward laura cry

At the end of the scene, she’s trying to make like she’s sad, and she’s just indicating all over the place. “I’ve been through so much suffering, so much misery,” she says, dabbing at her eyes. “I have no one else to turn to, nowhere else to go!” And then she closes her eyes and makes sniffy sounds. I can’t even.

730 cybermen moonbase

But some fans really like her, and they get excited about this story, because Laura is a returning monster, like the Cybermen on Doctor Who.

The Cybermen, as I’m sure you know, are the number two monster after the Daleks, who are actually worthwhile. Cybermen used to be people back in the day, but they all had total body transplants, and now they’re big metal not-officially-robots. There have been dozens of Cybermen stories in every conceivable medium over the last five decades, and if you survey their entire history, you will find, at most, one good one.

But they keep coming back, with the justification that people must like them, because otherwise why would there be so many Cybermen stories?

730 tomb of the cybermen awake

One reason why the Cybermen get more interest than they deserve is that they were introduced in the old black-and-white days, and most of their early appearances are in “missing episodes” that were wiped by the BBC and lost forever.

Missing episodes of Doctor Who do turn up every now and then, and for many years, the number one item that everyone hoped for was The Tomb of the Cybermen, a 1967 story that’s basically The Mummy’s Hand in space, with an archaeological expedition uncovering the fabled Tomb, and waking up all the sleeping Cybermen. People who’d seen it back in 1967 said it was the most thrilling and atmospheric Doctor Who story of all time.

Then in 1991, they found The Tomb of the Cybermen in Hong Kong, and it was released on video. Turns out it was okay. The sequence with all the Cybermen waking up looks pretty cool, but they don’t actually do anything; they just mill around for a while, and then go back to sleep. They hardly even get upstairs. Why didn’t we notice this when we read the novelization?

730 laura black and white

But there’s nothing so sweet as the thing you can’t have, and it’s exactly the same with Laura. She’s from 1967 too, back when Dark Shadows was black-and-white.

These weren’t “missing episodes” in the Doctor Who sense — the tapes were still sitting there, if anybody wanted them — but they might as well have been lost forever, as far as the fans were concerned. The reruns always started with Barnabas coming out of the coffin, just a few weeks after Laura’s original storyline went up in smoke. Everybody who’d seen the episode where Vicki saved David from the fire said that it was the most thrilling and atmospheric Dark Shadows story of all time. Apparently 1967 was a big year for atmosphere.

So Dark Shadows’ inaugural monster was a mystery, always just out of reach, at least until 1995, when MPI released the Laura episodes on video and it turned out they were okay.

730 dark shadows laura revenge

So when Dark Shadows fans say that they like Laura, they’re not really talking about the Laura that appeared in 1897, or even the Laura that appeared in 1967. They’re talking about the legend of Laura, the pre-1995 version that we all imagined — the crafty and powerful Laura who could lure us all into the flames.

And so she keeps coming back, resurrected on DVD and Hulu, always half-lit by the halo of legend, the returning monster from the missing episodes. The returning monsters will always return, no matter how disappointing and terrible they always turn out to be. This is, and will always be, their Revenge.

Monday: Mrs. Burns.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s a moment in the first act where Laura decides that Nora isn’t doing the correct blocking, so she grabs Nora’s shoulders and spins her around to face the camera.

When Quentin finds Jamison and Nora, there’s the cutest teleprompter moment ever. Jamison jumps up, grabs Quentin’s coat, and yells, “Quentin!” — and then forgets the rest of the line. He has to turn almost all the way around to see the teleprompter, and he makes a face and pulls on Quentin’s coat in frustration. It’s adorable.

There’s a squeak from the studio after Edward says, “How dare you come back to this house!”

Laura says that Edward’s looking well, and he says, “Spare me your flattery, Lawyer — Laura.”

In the final scene, Quentin hurries downstairs, looking at the scarab. As he gets to the bottom of the stairs in the foyer, his foot knocks into the stair post, and it sounds like something cracks.

Monday: Mrs. Burns.

730 revenge of the cybermen

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

37 thoughts on “Episode 730: How I Met Your Mother

  1. Diana Millay at is a horrible actress, and she is weird looking. Like an aging kewpie doll .
    Bad acting, makeup and plastic surgery choices!

  2. I’m one of the fans that find the conclusion of the original Phoenix storyline to be thrilling. Even my husband will “happen” to drift in to my office whenever I’m watching it.

    But, like EVERY storyline in those early days, it draaaaaagged to get there. And as much as I love the idea of the Phoenix, it definitely seems out of place here, and of course there’s the question of how it screws with the 100-year cycle (even moreso in a bit). Never had considered how much it screwed with the story track on 1897, but you’re right, it derails the Trask story.

    And don’t get me started on what had to have maybe happened in the original story.

  3. Bringing Laura back was always an odd choice to me. She didn’t mean anything to new viewers and anyone, like me, who had been watching before Barnabas, would be thrown off by the fact that there had never been a Laura Murdoch Collins before 1967 and they had actually traced her through history. Plus, it was implied that David was actually part of the reincarnation series, which meant Jamison should have been part of it, which suddenly meant that unless Carl got cracking, there was no one to keep the family line going. I don’t know of Dan Curtis liked Diana Milay or if they just realized it was another supernatural story that could fit in and went with it, but it wasn’t a logical choice.

  4. I don’t think Laura’s return here is intended to connect at all to the 1967 storyline. In fact, they move quickly to connect Laura to the series’s true star (Barnabas) and backstory (1795). They also add the Egyptian imagery, which is a bit different and more Universal horror. It’s sort of like when long-running shows would recreate early episodes from the black-and-white seasons. (THE AVENGERS did this at least three times.)

    Laura does facilitate a few other important plots. I’m sure they might have found other means of doing this, but she does effectively unite “Murder Club” (Quentin, Angelique, Barnabas, Magda) in a way that Trask alone would not have. And her presence will have longterm effects on Barnabas himself.

  5. AND – we’re supposed to believe Quentin was attracted to this humorless, lifeless mannequin of a woman – attracted enough that he had an affair with her despite the fact that she was married to his brother and the mother of his niece and nephew.
    Sorry but , I can’t believe EDWARD was ever turned on by Laura, much less sexy Quentin.
    I agree about how much fun it is to watch Laura try to take on Angelique though – it’s fun to see Angelique come up against somebody she can’t just bulldoze over.

    1. Laura is Edward’s wife, which was a big Freudian FU to Quentin, who clearly has “Daddy” issues with Edward. If he was genuinely attracted to her, the idea that she was dead or something more than human wouldn’t bother him.

      Edward and Laura don’t make sense, of course, given Edward’s too proper to marry someone with an elusive background.

      1. I wonder if Quentin’s daddy issues would have kicked in if Edward had been married to Julia or Mrs. Johnson. I doubt it. Although, that would have raised Quentin’s kinky cred considerably.
        Maybe Lela Swift directed DM to play Laura with that flat affect as would befit a supernatural/dead/whatever creature. If so, she nailed it.

        1. I think Millay improves in the role, but I also think she’s not a natural fit for what the show had become by that point.

          Oh, Laura’s beauty is also what TVTropes might call “informed attribute.” Even Angelique refers to her as one of the great Collins beauties. She’s supposed to be stunning, though at least the current viewers don’t seem to think so.

  6. Dark Shadows 1897 does seem to go out of its way to make Laura seem unappealing, doesn’t it? Diana Millay could be quite sensuous and gorgeous, though. Check out some of the men’s magazines photo shoots for which she posed provocatively in the 1950’s.

    The original Laura storyline had many great moments (not just at the end), but, as JasonB pointed out, it dragged on a little too long. I think the same could be said about the 1897 flashback.

    1. I appreciate the argument that 1897 went on too long, which is certainly true if looked at as a specific story (Barnabas going back to save David Collins). However, I think unlike 1795 or even 1840, 1897 had potential as a permanent setting for the series. A lot of plot points were rushed to conclusion in the last few weeks of 1897, which leaves the flashback on a down note, I think.

      But if they’d been bold enough to stay in 1897 indefinitely then I think they could have ended the Petofi story without Quentin running off to New York (or maybe leaving temporarily to give Selby a break) and Barnbas going back to 1795.

      I think even the Leviathan story would have worked better in 1897 with the more compelling cast of characters.

          1. But, there’s a time paradox that I never thought of before…..

            If Nicholas had the idea for the Leviathans in the Present….

            Why would they emerge for the first time in 1795?

            And…another plot possibility.

            Wouldn’t it be better for everything if Barnabas got back to 1897,

            And, using that cast, with the Leviathans, create an almost PT story.

            It ends with the cairn and Barnabas,

            And now he’s in the present, with Julia questioning how he got back.

            The Leviathans have the track record.

            And Nicholas takes notice.

            Two thoughts that I might have pitched in the writers’ room.

      1. Stephen, I really enjoy your commentary. Yes, I think you are right: the 1897 setting and characters worked really well on Dark Shadows. I almost think of 1897 as being a separate series altogether. I like the fact that the writers started including some comedy in the scenes. They did this a little before, with Nicholas Blair, but this particular canvas was like such a wild card and it was fun to watch.

  7. The thing about Laura is that idea of an immortal being marrying into the same family (and marrying her own descendants) is intriguing enough that you overlook the pacing and the bad acting. How long has been Laura coming in and out of the same family? And what is the deal with the bonfire with her children? How does the family continue if she keeps doing it? You might posit a narrative in which Laura is the one constant in the DS history, and Barnabas and Quentin interlopers that interfere with it. And maybe she is connected to the Leviathans who have been around for a long time (might be – they are reptilians, and thus diurnal, needing the warmth of the sun e.g. Ra, Laura’s god). And they are opposed by two creatures of darkness: Barnabas and the werewolf of that era.

    Now if Laura keeps coming back, having two children, and sacrificing the one to strengthen the heritage of the other (a nastier version of “Sophie’s choice”) then you do not need to worry as to how did Jamison survive originally when Barnabas and Angelique were not around to stop her.

    Anyway, that’s the way I am doing it in my reboot….

  8. I may be in the minority here but I think Laura popping up in 1897 is brilliant. Yes, it throws some of the continuity out of whack but let’s face it: the original Phoenix story didn’t make much sense in the first place and continuity went out the window a long time ago. Anyway, I think Diana Millay is great and though I would be hesitant to classify her as a classic beauty she’s certainly interesting to look at.

    To me the thought of having Laura, Barnabas, Quentin, Angelique and Trask in one storyline at the same time is enough to make me squee in delight.

  9. Laura is certainly a sinister character – she’s scarier than Barnabas, Q. & Trask combined. There’s just something ultra frightening about a Mother who is intent on killing her kids. And NO – immortality is not a good enough excuse, Ms. Phoenix.

  10. Originally the Phoenix was never envisioned as part of the 1897 storyline. Diana Millay had stopped acting to begin a family in 1967, with her role then on Dark Shadows intended to keep her working for as long as she could during her pregnancy, but it was only meant to be temporary. Then in 1969, following the separation from her husband, she called Dan Curtis to ask if she could return to the show in her former role, so they fit her in.

    No one complains about the other retoolings of events and the times in which they were to have taken place. In the pre-Barnabas era Josette was said to have jumped from Widow’s Hill around 1830, and that she had come to Collinsport after arriving from France as the bride of Jeremiah Collins and even that Jeremiah himself had been the builder of Collinwood (the new house). This was the outline from the Art Wallace story bible Shadows on the Wall. But to suit the story as they went along, she instead dies in 1795. Also, before they “return” to 1795, take a look at the death dates of the plaques in the Collins mausoleum–Naomi’s date of death is 1821 (born 1761, which would have made her Barnabas’ age in 1795), but to suit a new storyline it’s changed to 1795 instead. Joshua’s death is recorded as having come later, in 1830 (birth year 1855), but according to revised Dark Shadows chronology, he died in 1805 (with birth year revised to 1730). Also when Professor Stokes arrives at Collinwood in 1968, he informs Barnabas and Julia in the drawing room that Ben Stokes died at a ripe old age in 1830–but when the 1840 storyline gets going we’ll see that Ben lived to an even riper old age and is still alive and kicking then, at least for a little while.

    So a little ripple in continuity never hurt anyone, especially with Dark Shadows, which has always been about parallel time, long before they even introduced the very concept into the show. They make it up as they go along, and change old “facts” to suit new stories.

    I like the way Laura strolls into the Collinsport diner that first day in 1966, all mystery and intrigue, taking strength only from coffee and cigarettes… and from watching other people light theirs….

  11. I think DM’s “attitude acting” is hilarious.

    Disdain for everything she comes in contact with, including the script, the cameras, and TelePrompTer.

    And she and Lara in the same room is sheer joy for me.

    I’m in the minority here. So what.

  12. Who’s in the Laura & Angelique Club?

    Just us. The Minority. So What.

    Laura is so full of herself, to have the two of them on the same screen broke my TV.

    It was happy to oblige.

    It was in the minority, too.

  13. I don’t mind the old Cybermen episodes (especially the Ark in Space miniseries) and I rushed out to get Tomb of the Cybermen as soon as it was released 😉 . I will say though I hate them in the new series which honestly has lost their throughline any sense and we’re instead presented with Daleks lite in which they even get their own version of “Exterminate” in “Delete,” super powerful no way to stop Cybermen (boring), a father’s love can defeat Cybermen (forget every other father they tried to take over, they were clearly rubbish who didn’t love their kids), and really developed on Earth Cybermen who in a non-inventive, pre-space travel world, seriously what was their end plan? In other words, you are exactly right.

    As far as Laura goes, is there a reason 1897 HAS to be 1897 which didn’t they do 1867 which really was a far more interesting time to mess with people and would have worked better with the 100 year date.

    1. You are right, 1867 would have fit, but gramaphones weren’t invented until 1877, so Quentin’s big signature piece would have been wrong. Now that never stopped them before, but that’s one thing. Plus maybe the fashion was more interesting in the late 1800s. Basically they started with Quentin in a certain costume not knowing how big a hit he’d be. Then they had to work his backstory around his (and Beth’s) clothes.

  14. Now, one cycle later, I absolutely love Millay all through the scene in the drawing room.

    She uses her voice to bring it, and well.

  15. Say what you will about face of stone, what she does with inflection, tone, pitch, it makes what was on the page turn gorgeous to my ear. I love that witch. She even beats Angelique.

  16. Danny for once we part company in regards to the Phoenix, and I think Laura has won the most votes here…. Creepiest, most original DS character ever. Yes, DM was stiff but I think it works for the character. Wish Laura had been Quentin’s wife in 1840 instead of boring Samantha.

  17. Too many villains in 1897. I like Laura, but we could have done without both her and Angelique. At the very least, should have picked one or the other.

  18. Actually, if it were not for Diana Millay and the Phoenix story line, DS would never have lasted long enough for Jonathan Frid to go from an obscure Canadian actor to a 1960’s TV star with a classic TV show-one of the most classic–and Lara Parker, David Selby, and the rest would never have gone as far in their careers as they did.

    I am surprised that no one has found the main problem with inserting the Phoenix into the 1897 story line–by that time Angelique had become integral to the show-and I don’t mind giving Lara Parker full kudos–maybe the best horror actress/actor in TV history. But her character is derivative. No room for another blond female supernatural being at this stage of DS to Laura is basically “jobbed out here”.

    I have read but not been able to confirm that Dan Curtis was planning to bring Diana Millay back for one more throw with the Phoenix but the show ended before that was possible.

    Even Katherine Lee Scot however was not able to confirm that for me.

    Ok, I have often accused people for being “marks” for being way too much in favor of this or that character. Now I will be guilty. The only good thing about that botch of a DS movie was that Laura Collins (although not the Phoenix) defeated Angelique at the end of the movie.

  19. I’m completely in the camp of those who could very happily do without Laura. I found the original Phoenix story line tedious thanks to DM’s glazed-over eyes staring endlessly into flames, her unchanging expression, and her dour personality. She took a story that could have been interesting and turned it into a bore.

    In the current story, the very idea of sexy, passionate Quentin being attracted to and running away with an unlikable block of wood like Laura is just laughable. And Edward! I suppose I could see a scenario in which Laura married Edward with some ulterior motive. But I don’t see anyone other than an imbecile like Dirk being attracted to her for more than a week.

  20. Also, the story makes no sense that I can tell, but if I was a stickler about that, I wouldn’t be watching much of the show, would I?

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