Episode 761: After School

“This is no time to try to understand anything.”

This is a world of magical foxes, who approach young children and try to convince them to jump into a well. It’s a world where recipe books appear in the strangest places, filled with the most dangerous ideas. A world where stopwatches run backwards, where ancient stones murmur secrets in lost languages, where the walls are smeared with tears and blood and substances no one can explain.

This is a world where anybody — literally anybody — can address any god they can imagine, and get a fair hearing. In this world, “magic” is just another word for interior design, the careful placement of mirrors and candles and arcane symbols scratched into the carpet. Magic is so close to the surface here, it crackles and hums on the back of your hand. It will kill you. It will definitely one hundred percent kill you.

And the only rule that keeps this world turning is: Leave the mundanes alone.

761 dark shadows barnabas nora jamison

Honestly, it’s not that hard. The simple, non-magical mudbloods want to live in a world of logical explanations. They don’t want to know about all the terrible things on the other side of the veil. They want you to lie. Just give them what they want.

For example: here’s violent lunatic Barnabas Collins, cursed with the standard set of dead-person powers. He can appear and disappear at will, he can hypnotize just about anyone, and he has open access to the sound effects library.

At the moment, he’s trying to save two children in a locked room from being engulfed by magical flames that are mostly not actually there. While their father runs to get an axe — partly to chop through the door, and partly just because it would make him feel better —  Barnabas concentrates and wiggles his nose, and transitions right on through the door and into the line of fire.

“Barnabas!” the children exclaim. “Where’d you come from? How’d you get in here?”

“Never mind,” says Barnabas. This is the correct response. And then, just like that, the flames disappear.

“It’s going away!” the children say. “How did you do it, Barnabas?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Barnabas says, and he really didn’t. That’s how strong the ley lines are around this joint, you can trip the circuit breakers without even realizing it.

761 dark shadows edward jamison nora

The kids can’t explain where the fire came from, and Edward’s still outside in the hall, so Barnabas mumbles, “This is no time to try to understand anything,” and unbolts the door.

Edward rushes to embrace his children, and then starts looking around for logical explanations. “How did the fire disappear?” he asks, and all Barnabas can say is that it went out as mysteriously as it started. Then Edward asks where the kids’ mother is, and I’m not even going to bother to repeat the nonsense they come up with for that one.

Urgently, Barnabas says, “I suggest we take them downstairs and call a doctor,” and he says it in such a persuasive way that nobody bothers to ask, A doctor for who?

761 dark shadows barnabas edward lies

But Barnabas has been hanging out with Julia and other mythopoetic trickster figures for so long that he’s got a whole sequence of preposterous lies and distractions that he can unfurl at any moment. Edward presses Barnabas to explain how he got through a locked door into the room with the kids, and according to Barnabas, it couldn’t have been simpler.

Barnabas:  Well, it occurred to me that, after you went to get the axe, there was a ledge outside the window in that room. I knew there wasn’t time to knock down the door, so I ran to the other end of the corridor and got out that window, and made my way along the ledge to the window in that room.

Edward:  You did it amazingly fast.

Barnabas:  Well, I wasn’t even conscious of time. There wasn’t a second to spare.

Edward:  I see.

And now you see how useful a mundane can be. Barnabas can say things like “I wasn’t even conscious of time,” and Edward just goes right along with it. On Friday, Edward said that he didn’t believe in the supernatural, and now I guess he doesn’t believe in physical reality either. This is an astonishingly helpful attitude, from the perspective of the resident make-believe beasties.

So I can’t account for why Barnabas is trying so hard to sensitize Edward to the supernatural influences in his immediate vicinity.

Edward:  Do you have any idea what happened in that room between Laura and the children?

Barnabas:  There’s no doubt now about her supernatural powers. You’ve seen evidence of it yourself.

Edward:  Yes. I did indeed. I never believed that anything like that could happen. It doesn’t seem possible! And yet, if it is possible, what became of the body?

Barnabas:  Edward, the circumstances around her death make it impossible to explain by ordinary logic.

And meanwhile, all the gypsies and witches and werewolves and hobbits and ninjas are all giving Barnabas frantic hand signals, desperately urging him to ixnay, ixnay! Why are you deliberately punching holes in Edward’s belief barrier? Your own continued existence depends largely on the family’s shared delusion that you go to Bangor every single day from sunup to sundown, including weekends and national holidays.

But the most incredible moment in this conversation is when Edward says, “And yet I must find some way of explaining her death,” and Barnabas says, “Why?” as if we’ve untied the tow ropes around Collinwood and drifted away from the basic principles of human civilization. This is the fourth unexplained murder in the last eight weeks — Quentin, Jenny, Dorcas and Laura (and possibly Dirk, who the last time we saw him didn’t look at all well). Apparently death is a thing that just happens on the great estate, and everyone on the outside is just grateful that this rule doesn’t extend past the Collins family’s lawn.

761 dark shadows quentin evan call satan

And here’s another example of how people think as soon as they step on the grounds. Quentin went to see his friend Evan earlier this evening, begging for his help in breaking Quentin’s werewolf curse. When they were in Evan’s house, the lawyer said that he didn’t know anything that could help, but then he accompanies Quentin back to Collinwood, and all of a sudden he’s full of bright ideas.

“Quentin,” he says, “you and I are not exactly amateurs when it comes to practicing the so-called black arts. I suggest we conduct a ceremony, and try to summon the Supreme Power of the underworld.”

Quentin’s eyes widen. Even he isn’t this reckless, and he walks around with a garrotte in his pocket. “The Devil? Is that what you’re saying?”

“That’s what I’m saying. What do you have to lose by trying?”

“Nothing, but I –”

“Then let’s try!” Evan purrs. “If we’re successful, then your troubles will be at an end.” which is an opportunity for a [citation needed] if I ever saw one. Quentin really does have the most irresponsible friends.

761 dark shadows edward quentin unnatural

And later on, we get to see the results of Barnabas’ dangerous hammering at the belief barrier. Quentin has sent Evan home to practice the dark arts on his own nickel, but Edward buttonholes Quentin for a quiet word about family matters.

Edward:  I think the time has come for you and Carl and Judith and I to sit down, and try to reconcile all our differences.

Quentin:  And what has brought this on, brother?

Edward:  The realization that there is something unnatural about our lives.

Quentin:  Unnatural?

Edward:  What happened to Laura last night was something that went against the natural order of things.

761 dark shadows edward quentin reaction

And Quentin has this adorable reaction, where he looks all sensitive and misunderstood.

Edward:  And I want to make sure nothing as freakish and abnormal ever comes into our lives like that again!

Then Edward notices Quentin’s unease.

Edward:  What’s the matter with you?

Quentin:  Nothing. I’ve got to go, Edward.

Edward:  But I haven’t finished speaking to you!

Quentin:  You have now, I’m going to be late.

Edward:  What is so important, more important than family matters?

Quentin:  I don’t think you’d understand if I told you. But you may be interested to know that I’m as interested as you are in the natural order of things.

Then Quentin walks out, to go tell his friend that he’s ready to try Satanism.

And so it’s revealed that Dark Shadows is not actually a soap opera; it’s an early prototype ABC Afterschool Special. That’s why teenagers like it so much — it addresses the difficult issues that they deal with every day.

Quentin knows that he shouldn’t give in to his friend’s peer pressure, but nobody else understands him. If his family knew the truth about his terrible secret, they would turn on him, calling him freakish and abnormal. I can’t tell them, I just can’t! he says, wiping away a tear with one hand and accepting a Daytime Emmy with the other. I bet Jamison’s all broken up about his mother’s death, too; maybe we should go and check.

Tomorrow: Dark Shadows’ Agents of THEY.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The clock on Evan’s mantelpiece is stuck at 7:00 for the whole episode. We saw similar clock problems at Trask’s school a couple weeks ago, and this week the clock problems get worse. Time is entirely broken in Collinsport; naturally, I blame Vicki.

Quentin says, “Now, Evan — listen, I’m not asking you to perform a marracle.”

Edward tells Barnabas, “As far as I can see, you accomplished something that is humanly impossible.”

There’s a lot of Fridspeak in Barnabas’ conversation with Edward, including “I’m sure that she made the children make contact with her, and she tried to get them to go with her” and “Well, I can only assume that — well, that she died in that room, and consumed by her own flames.”

At the beginning of act 3, when Edward joins Nora in the drawing room, somebody’s shadow can be seen at the top of the stairs, moving around.

Edward asks Nora, “Have you been here sitting, thinking about your mother?”

When Evan pulls his cloak off of the coatrack, the rack wobbles amusingly for several seconds.

Behind the Scenes:

The figure that appears at the door at the end of the episode is played by Marc Ashton, in his only appearance on the show. I don’t know anything about him, and there’s no listing on IMDb or IBDb.

Evan’s place is made from a jumble of parts from other sets. I can’t really identify them, but I’m sure PrisonerOfTheNight could give us a catalogue.

Evan’s black magic speech is also recycled from parts of Angelique’s summoning in episode 627 and Nicholas’ black mass in 632.

Tomorrow: Dark Shadows’ Agents of THEY.

761 abc afterschool specials

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 761: After School

  1. It might not be high praise to many people here, but to me Dirk is the most interesting Roger Davis character. No matter how formidable Laura is, the moment she’s pitted against Angelique, you’re almost sure that Dirk is on the losing side. And he’s so enthusiastic about it, I can’t help liking him.

    1. Agreed. Roger Davis has gotten a lot of flak here in the comments section, and with the way he behaves onscreen, particularly toward his female costars, it’s easy to see why so many fellow cast members found him annoying to work with. But in my opinion he does his best work in 1897 as Dirk, especially when he goes off the deep end and takes to wielding that pistol–his lunatic gesturing, facial expressions, even vocal inflections, they’re all priceless. At last we get to appreciate the strengths of Roger Davis as an actor, and he is an actor of a certain talent, but without our appreciation being hindered in winding up disliking the actor when we’re supposed to like the character. With Dirk he’s just a servant, and an opportunist with his loyalties at that, so we aren’t compelled to feel one way or the other about the character; we can instead just enjoy the portrayal that Roger brings to the role, which is fun to watch as the character loses composure and disintegrates before our eyes.

  2. “Time is entirely broken in Collinsport; naturally, I blame Vicki.”

    “And so it’s revealed that Dark Shadows is not actually a soap opera; it’s an early prototype ABC Afterschool Special. That’s why teenagers like it so much — it addresses the difficult issues that they deal with every day.”

    Classic! I love it! Your blog is quite fun.
    Ciao! Summer

  3. Yeah, Dirk takes the cake.
    Unlike Roger Davis other characters, Dirk is fun. It’s as if the role was written specifically for him. I think he’s channeling Dwight Frye, at some point. Davis probably offered to eat spiders and flies, but they said no.
    His confrontation with Judith is a scream.

  4. These comparisons are tricky, but maybe Roger Davis has a little in common with Arch Hall Jr. He was groomed as a teen idol actor, and a lot of people really dislike him in those films (just see the MST3K episode of the movie “EEGAH”). But then he played a maniac in a movie called THE SADIST, and a lot of the same people think he was GREAT in that one.

  5. I have a lot of respect for Roger Davis’s work in Alias Smith and Jones. I’ve seen a LOT of recasting in my days, but I’ve never seen better. He brought in enough of Duell’s mannerisms that the change wasn’t too jolting, but enough of his own characterization that it wasn’t just one actor doing an impression of another.

  6. I apologize for breaking away from the Roger Davis conversation (which I do agree with btw, I’m suddenly not minding him at all as Dirk) but I just finished binge-watching this sequence of events that started with Barnabas emerging from the shadows of the graveyard to snatch a diary out of Laura’s hand up to Lucifer appearing at the veranda doors and my head is spinning trying to process it all.

    Out of this swirling mass of “kaiju stomping” I just witnessed, my stunned psyche can only formulate two thoughts:

    1) Quentin hitting on Angelique makes me “explode with manic glee”
    2) Satan has a cameo on an after-school TV show (I promise I thought of this before seeing the title of today’s post “After School” and I also totally recognized bits of dialogue from previous episodes in Evan’s conjuring speech)

    Watching this final chapter of the 1897 version of “Laura Collins is a Phoenix” story line as one fluid segment (thank you Amazon streaming no commercials!) I did want to say that Angelique’s mirror reference really stood out for me. I knew right away she was going to make a “refection” of herself to outwit Laura. I did not see this as a flawed scene or a lack of continuity or even a clever joke for those paying close attention and/or seeing it for the second time around. Quentin even reinforces the idea when he finds her double at the old house with his “How did you get here so fast?” reaction.

    Danny addressed this previously a couple of posts ago as a confusing plot device for first time viewers watching one episode cliffhanger at a time: that no one could possibly remember Angelique asking for a mirror once they eventually find out two episodes later it was actually her doppelganger that Laura burned.

    Or am I an example of Danny’s argument that Angelique’s line “I need a mirror” (did I already misquote it? hee hee) was not lost on me because I binge-watched it as one seamless story?

    And getting back to that sexy scene with Quentin zoning in on Angelique in front of Barnabas’ portrait: anyone who thinks he doesn’t also have chemistry with the uptight Beth just has to watch them kiss. That is not stage kissing..

    Ok I think I actually came up with four thoughts. The scary part is I finally went to bed after my 6-episode marathon, only to wake up still thinking about it and feeling compelled to jot down these notes when I should be thinking about work, my child, repairing the kitchen cabinets, etc etc etc. Danny discusses being walked-in on while watching this crazy show as a teen and the awkwardness of it all. I’ve been concealing from my family for months that I’m still addicted to a 1960’s gothic soap opera. They knew I started watching about a year ago after finding it for free on Hulu. At first it was the novelty of revisiting a cult show from my childhood and seeing it with fresh eyes and an adult perspective. Then I became so enthralled by Joan Bennet’s blue velvet lounging gown and elaborate updo and Jonathan Frid’s elegant take on an charming aristocrat visiting his relatives but who has actually been chained in a coffin, right there on their own estate for 175 years, i just had to share it with my inner circle. But now my aunt tries to catch me in the act of my continued obsession by saying things like “what are you watching on Netflix these days?” and I cover by not giving the real reason why I don’t have time for Netflix: My spare time is still devoted to DS.

    1. In situations like that, I usually say something about serialized narrative as natural selection for story, and this show is a really good example of how people tell stories on television in collaboration with the audience. At that point, people have forgotten that you’re talking about a vampire soap opera,and they’re eager to move on to other topics.

  7. There are only 3 episodes of DS which I saw during the original run: the episode where everybody is searching for Sarah, and Joe Haskell and Sam Evans find the empty swing, and I think Sam assumes that Sarah had just been swinging in that swing. (I even wrote a poem about that episode and posted it in the comments here — original air date August 30, 1967 – I would have just turned 6 years old a week before); the other was August 1970 – Barnabus and Julie have just returned from 1995 (I missed that time travel excursion), and they ask Hallie what year it is – I remember what I was doing that day – I was 8 and was over at a neighbor’s house. The 2nd episode was sometime inbetween the two – when Humbert Allen Estredo was casting a spell and a figure somehow appeared in the doorway, and this is IT! I was at my Grandma’s house – apparently on May 26, 1969 – age 7 – and my sister and I were in the living room, watching Evan apparently try to get Satan to appear and Grandma was in the kitchen. Grandma came out to see what had materialized in that doorway – I didn’t remember that he was invoking an appearance by Satan. I also didn’t remember anything about Quentin being there, I probably did not even know who Quentin was. I thought Evan had some other name for whoever he was invoking — but memories are faulty. Grandma was not too disturbed that my sister and I were watching this crazy show in the middle of the afternoon, and none of us took it too seriously. As I have stated before, the music was so spooky, and that if DS came on, I usually would quickly change the channel, just because of the music! Years later, in spring 1976, a local ABC affiliate did play reruns of DS, starting with Barnabus’s appearance in episode 210 after school, and I enjoyed watching that very much – vampires and DS were not too scary for me then at age 14 — they were cool — and I loved the match of the soap genre — I was already a big fan of both “As The World Turns” and “All My Children” — and the gothic/supernatural. Wow – now I have finally figured out the three DS eps I actually saw at least part of during the original run! My life is now complete…

  8. OK, just saw 762, where they did a repeat of Humbert Allen Estredo invoking the appearance of Satan, and Quentin fainting, and “Satan” appearing in the doorway, with a flash of lightning, thunder and a big gust of wind to blow those patio doors open (the scene I remember seeing in the original run at my Grandma’s house in Iowa when I was 7 years old and at the end of 1st grade) — I guess I must have switched the channel or either turned off the TV after that scene. Whether it was the end of 761 or the beginning of 762, I am not certain. I never saw who Satan was – and what a hoot that – thanks to Amazon Prime – I can see the scene in context now and that Satan turned out to be the hypocritical and villainous and unscrupulous Reverend Trask, who then uses Evan Handley in an elaborate blackmail plot to have Evan cast some kind of spell so that poor Tim Shaw will murder Reverend Trask’s wife Minerva. It is more than ironic that in a show with witches, vampires, werewolves, phoenixes, and warlocks, it is the Reverend Trask, a man of the cloth, who is the real villain.

  9. Danny, what a brilliant lead in. absolutely fabulous. and i, too, loved the reference to Vicky breaking time. Slocum, so very fun you are. Vanessa, thank you for those wonderful confessions and thoughts. my goodness, today, the comments are almost on a par with the blog. and today, that’s ever so saying something.

  10. I kid you not, my reaction to Satan at the French doors was, “That better not be Craig Slocum!”

    As for Dirk, I minded him less than the other Roger Davis characters but his constant glove-wearing and grabbing Laura did get on my nerves. I was happy to see he got a neck bite though; too bad it wasn’t onscreen.

    1. It’s a pity we didn’t get to see the Dirk biting in all its homoerotic glory, but Barnabas’s incredibly casual revealing of the body is so far my favourite Barnabas moment, even if it’s slightly jarring in the midst of his ‘family protector’ phase.

  11. That’s funny, DS Willie. I thought the same thing. Something about him looked a bit like Slocum to me.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Dirk’s skin was melted and fused to his gloves during one of his fire-watching sessions.

  12. Speaking of Barnabas as family protector… Is this the first time he’s directly used his vampire abilities to save someone (as opposed to more general powers that any old character can do, like shouting himself back in time or calling upon the wailing spirits of chromakey)?

    One bit that throws me in this episode is that Edward returns from his axe-hunt and immediately asks Barnabas if he can open the door – despite there being no rational way he could know Barnabas is now inside the room. I can understand his surprise and curiosity at finding Barnabas there being somewhat delayed until after the emergency, only asking Barnabas about it when they’re back in the drawing room, but he clearly expects him to be in there at the start of the scene.

  13. Does any line of dialogue sum Dark Shadows up more completely than “This is no time to try to understand anything”? Ought to be the subtitle of the series.

  14. So I got to thinking … does this mean 1968 Laura never happens, and Peter Guthrie, my first favorite character, lives? Also, if 1968 Laura doesn’t exist, wouldn’t that mean David’s existence would be canceled out and Barnabas will have suceeded in screwing up the entire ‘present day’ Collins family? Perhaps I am overthinking this. lol

  15. Humbert Allen looks so sexy with his grey streaked beard and deep tan. He is one good looking man. I agree with the other comments that Roger Davis is pretty good as Dirk. I’ve never been a hater as far as Roger Davis’ acting, I just don’t like his screechy voice when he gets excited. Also, once I saw the actor in the DVD commentaries, he is so obnoxious in real life that it colors my view of his performance now. He is easy on the eyes though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s