Episode 742: Home Alone

“It’s a very casual kind of love, isn’t it, Quentin?”

I’ve got a special guest star writing today’s post: Joe Lidster, co-producer of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audio dramas, co-writer of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, and writer for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. I told him that I would write a post about some of the recent DS audios if he would write one of this week’s episodes, and somehow that worked.

My name is Joseph Lidster. I have been summoned by Danny Horn to write something about Episode 742. And on this night of horror and intrigue, I will discover that I’m not as clever, as concise or as witty as Danny but that I bloody love Dark Shadows.

742 dark shadows dirk laura hug

The thing I hate most in soap operas is when someone tells someone the truth. It’s boring. If Bob asks Sue how she is and she says “fine”, then “fine” should be the one thing that Sue isn’t.

Of course, this often leads to those unintentionally funny scenes of two characters smiling and hugging before one of their smiles twists into an anguished frown for the benefit of the audience (this is a regular occurrence in British soap operas — it’s the modern-day backacting). But even with those truth-hugs, it’s simply far more interesting. Does the audience know that Sue isn’t fine? And if Sue isn’t fine then why is she telling Bob she is? It’s mystery, it’s intrigue, it’s story.

632 dark shadows amy chris learned

Not that boring telling-the-truth scenes is a problem in Dark Shadows. Because, especially at this point in the series, nobody is telling the truth and the truth-hugs are there to reveal big pointy teeth. And, crikey, if only that happened more often in soaps. I love EastEnders to bits but if just one truth-hug could end with the reveal of vampire teeth rather than an anguished frown that would be amazing.

When I asked a friend (Stuart Manning, the previous producer of the Dark Shadows audio range) to show me some of the series, he showed me the first episode and, to be honest, I struggled with it. I later asked him to show me another episode — “something in colour, something a bit more… fun” — and he showed me the first episode of the 1897 storyline. (I’ve since gone back and watched those early episodes and, obviously, I adore them!) Danny’s already explained in previous blog posts just why 1897 works. And I think this episode is a perfect example of why I love Dark Shadows. It’s naughty.

742 dark shadows laura quentin smirking

This is an episode where the parents have gone out for the night, and the kids are just doing what they want. Everyone in this episode is either lying, being controlled, controlling another, kissing, making nefarious plans, praying to Egyptian Sun Gods or just generally being sassy.

There’s so much smirking! The opening scene has Laura smirking as Quentin tells her he knows she’s dead. And she doesn’t deny it; she just mocks him. Then Quentin’s smirking when boring old Dirk comes in to save Laura. He doesn’t attack him or anything; he just mocks him. Beth smirks when she catches Barnabas stealing from Quentin’s room.

742 dark shadows barnabas charity smirk

And perhaps the darkest smirking is when Barnabas is listening to Charity saying that she knows why he’s summoned her but that she really wants to go to her father and could he please just let her go and, rather than just immediately biting her, he sadistically stands there listening to her pleas, and smirks. You really can tell Mum and Dad aren’t around; the kids are playing with their food.

I still struggle to comprehend how Dark Shadows didn’t get complaints. Here in the UK, we had Mary Whitehouse, who famously campaigned against anything (especially in Doctor Who) that went against Christian family values. I’m guessing that there wasn’t a similar lovely lady over in the US? Just look at what everyone’s up to in this episode!

742 dark shadows beth quentin kissing

Laura has come back from the dead to burn her children. Laura accuses Quentin of only wanting to protect his nephew so he can get his hands on the family fortune, and he doesn’t deny it, and he’s having an affair with one of the maids. Beth — well, she has some morals, pointing out that Jenny is still Quentin’s wife and that he should respect that — before kissing him again.

And Barnabas. Barnabas, our hero. Our hero who’s gone back in time to save his family. And who in this episode turns into a bat, steals a book, prays to a non-Christian God and, as mentioned above, toys with a young girl before biting her. This is our hero?!

742 dark shadows charity

I love Dark Shadows. I love the bonkers opening scene of this episode where Quentin is triumphant because he has a telegram proving that Laura died, and Laura’s just standing there calmly and correctly pointing out that she’s there. “The proof is me! A living, breathing human being!” I love how Quentin reacts to Dirk’s arrival with a witty comeback before strutting out in his cape.

I love what a fantastic actress Nancy Barrett is. Charity isn’t just Carolyn in an old-fashioned dress. The way Nancy holds herself, the way her face moves, the tone of her voice — she’s an entirely different human being! It’s fantastic!

I love how Quentin wants people to realise he and Beth are having an affair. I adore Beth’s smirk when she catches Barnabas stealing Quentin’s Egyptian Book of the Dead, and then her delight in telling him she’ll be most happy to tell Quentin he was there.

742 dark shadows chromakey laura

And I love the ending! Barnabas summons up a spirit of Laura, Charity runs out screaming (clearly purely because Nancy isn’t in the next episode), Quentin runs in and says, “Oh no, oh my God,” then the spirit of Laura screams and disappears, and Barnabas looks directly at the camera and waits for the closing credits. I’ve no idea what’s going on but it’s just brilliant. Danny might not be a fan of Laura or Beth, but both of them are glorious in this episode.

And you know what? Maybe it’s because of the fact that everyone’s misbehaving beautifully, but Jonathan Frid is astonishing. He doesn’t flub a single line. There are two bloopers involving him which he deals with effortlessly. And he’s smirking along with everyone else — gloriously stealing books, summoning spirits and biting innocent young Christian girls. If you ever meet someone who wants to know why he was so popular then show them this episode. He’s not brooding, he’s not moaning about how sad his life is, he’s not chatting to people over a glass of sherry — he’s brilliant, clever, joyful and a real bastard.

742 dark shadows barnabas camera

And this is why 1897 works. There are no responsible adults. Everyone’s a bit of a bastard. And everyone’s having fun. It’s addictive. It’s joyful. It’s bonkers.

Episode 742 is Dark Shadows.

Tomorrow: Stand Next to Barnabas.

Check out Joe’s own brilliant and joyful Dark Shadows work
on the 13-part serial Dark Shadows: Bloodlust,
and the thrilling Dark Shadows audiobook line.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In their first scene, Quentin says, “I really have — I really can’t believe you’ve come back for the children,” after Laura asks him if he’s been able to make up his mind yet. There’s also some occasional discoloration to the picture.

The camera has trouble focusing on Charity when she talks to Dirk at the bottom of the stairs.

At just after 11 minutes into the episode, the scene cuts to Quentin and Beth slightly too early, before returning to Charity reading her Bible and then straight back to Quentin and Beth.

When Barnabas is snuffing out the candles, one of them stays lit so he has to try again — which Jonathan does without flinching. You’d think they’d stop having “snuffing candles out” scenes.

After Laura disappears, Dirk calls her name one too many times — with his final “Laura” being played over the next scene. Jonathan Frid is about to speak, hears “Laura”, pauses and then just starts again. Like I said earlier, Jonathan Frid is on good form this episode!

Tomorrow: Stand Next to Barnabas.

742 truth hug

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Joe Lidster

19 thoughts on “Episode 742: Home Alone

  1. In honor of Frid and given Barnabas’ affliction this blog should be retitled “Dark Shadows Every Night”.

  2. This country has plenty of Mary Whitehouses, but (contrary to what you often hear) they aren’t just religious people by a long shot, and they aren’t just “politically correct” people by a long shot. In fact, when it comes to things like entertainment, when you aren’t hearing the “P.C.” warn you about un-P.C. stuff, you’re hearing the un-P.C. people warn you about the P.C. stuff!

        1. Do you think so? We had Robin of Sherwood with tons of black magic in it in the 1980s and other spooky shows. I think it is shame it was never shown over here- I think it’d have been a HUGE hit. Us Brits invented the gothic genre in the 18th century, we “get” the genre, we “get” this show- well I know I do! I find the old spooky mansion familiar, the references to Jane Eyre, Frankenstein- well they are from my culture.

  3. “I love how Quentin wants people to realise he and Beth are having an affair.”

    One of my favorite parts of the Quentin/Beth storyline is after Beth is fired, she just goes on openly living at Collinwood ad Quentin’s mistress. Everybody else is too preoccupied with their own personal dramas to notice or care.

  4. I was 15-16 during this run and my stepmother was very, very into censoring my books, TV, movies, etc. But she worked and wasn’t home to monitor this and once I was able to prove that, unlike other soap operas, there were no illegitimate babies, no not knowing who the father was, no obvious sex she didn’t care. As long as nobody was hinting that sex might be fun or acceptable outside of marriage all was good. People killing other people, trying to kill their kids, turning into vampires and werewolves was all good fun.

  5. Great post Joe – question – when is the new audiobook coming out with Mitch Ryan and Kathryn Leigh Scott?? As a great fan of the pre-Barnabas episodes I’m looking forward to this one…

  6. “The way Nancy holds herself, the way her face moves, the tone of her voice — she’s an entirely different human being!”

    Yes, Nancy is one of Dark Shadows greatest chameleons,
    one of their secret weapons.

    The character of Carolyn alone goes through many changes, especially when her mother goes to the hospital, and she is put in charge, for the first time.
    She’s suddenly no longer the little girl, she begins to feel the weight of the adult world. It goes on from there. She goes from being a girl who toys with men, to being a girl who got her fingers burned, and her feelings hurt, by dancing with the Devlin.

    We see her grow up, and the toll life takes on her.

    1. And Barrett’s Pansy Faye is Dark Shadows at its best. She really hits it out of the park, with Pansy.

      1. Charity P. Faye is my DS Number One All-Time, Guvnuh. Even with all the airtime that the song ate up, I can’t look away. I want to see her with her hair down, though, and just where does she ever do?

        Same with all the Angeliques. Do they ever let their hair down?

  7. Diana Millay does seem to be coming into her own once again as Laura around this time. I think the turning point was episode 740, when she is moving into the cottage, that scene with Magda. Funny that, having Laura back in the cottage just like in 1967, having her sit by the fire looking into it the way she did then. In these episodes, there is more character, more confidence in her dialogue, more of a lilt–the way in 740 she tells Magda to get rid of the portrait: “I told you put it away, now do it!” You can tell she really enjoyed playing the Phoenix, and though it was never really intended but because Dan Curtis wanted to fit her back into the show at her insistence, she really is a fine mix into 1897–the more supernatural craziness, the better!

    1. Yes she is good- has some very cutting dialogue. She doesn’t seen as powerful as in 1966 though- there she was physically hurting people with her powers- with that spooky eye thing she did.

  8. More Laura and Dirk, ugh. What’s the opposite of a soap opera power couple? A black hole couple? Yes, that’s it, the two of them just sucking all the light and heat and energy out of the universe.

    1. Excellent description, Straker. Most apt.

      I find that since the Laura story was forced on us, everything just seems to have come un-moored. Of course, if we could have more scenes with Chroma key old-timey Laura screaming, Charity screaming and high-tailing it out of the Old House, Quentin dissing Dirk…but no Dirk and Laura…I’d feel much better about everything.

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