Episode 791: Sign the Paper

“No, Judith — you’re not mad, you’re just… burdened.”

Reverend Trask is comforting his distressed wife. “Now, Evan here has a paper that will lift a great deal of that burden from you, as soon as you sign it.”

But Judith is too upset to focus. “I can’t read anything right now!”

“There’s no need to read it, Judith,” her husband explains. “Just sign it.”

She says that she needs to talk to her brother Edward first, but the Reverend and his lawyer-accomplice shake their heads. Edward, they say, is dead. He’s not, actually — at least, he looked okay, the last time I saw him — but Trask and Evan seem pretty sure about it.

“Why can’t I remember?” Judith cries. “What’s happening? Everything is going to pieces, I want it to stop!”

“Judith, it will stop,” Trask says, “when you sign the paper.”

“Sign the paper,” Evan agrees.

Judith turns to look at Trask’s dead wife Minerva, who’s just sitting there, glaring at her with undisguised loathing.

“She keeps staring at me,” Judith mutters. “She’s watching me, and waiting. What is she waiting for?”

Trask insists, “Judith, sign the paper. That is the only way I can make you stop seeing this phantom that doesn’t exist!” He picks up the pen, and puts it into her hand. “Sign the paper, Judith. Sign the paper!”

Now, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but I’m starting to get the feeling that they want Judith to sign the paper. This has all the earmarks of being one of those sign-the-paper parties.

791 dark shadows evan judith trask sign the paper

And to be honest, Judith wants to sign the paper, because this is Joan Bennett’s ticket to summer vacation. Judith signs the paper, and then she gets shuffled off to a sanitarium for however long it takes for Joan to recuperate after being on Dark Shadows for another year.

And when Judith goes, Minerva goes too. She glares her last glare, and then retires to the world of the dead, to join Dirk, Rachel, Carl, Pansy, Laura, Edith and Jenny. And we might as well add Sandor and Angelique to that list; they’re not dead, but they might as well be, for all the screen time they’ve had.

There’s been a fairly thorough house-cleaning lately — in fact, if we count Judith, Sandor and Angelique among the fallen, and we might as well, then Dark Shadows has killed off half of the cast that they started with in 1897. It’s pretty brutal. They only have eleven functional cast members now, and some of them are Tim Shaw.

767 dark shadows jamison barnabas i ching

The thing is, they didn’t realize they were going to stay in 1897 this long. Barnabas used the I Ching at the beginning of March, to pass through the doors of perception and wash up on the shores of the late 19th. The plan was that he’d stay here for about four months, wrapping up sometime in mid-July.

Barnabas would meet Quentin, they’d battle some enemies together, and Quentin would acquire the werewolf curse. By late June, Barnabas would be desperately trying to lift Quentin’s curse, when he’s suddenly exposed as a vampire, and hunted by the family. Ducking and weaving heroically, Barnabas would discover the cure for lycanthropy, avert Quentin’s death, and come home in triumph, saving David and Chris. Then after that, it says “something mysterious happens” and the rest of the paper is tic-tac-toe games and some spilled coffee. The Dark Shadows writers never really got the hang of making plans.

And this is actually a great example of why they didn’t bother, because it’s the summer of 1969 and the world is full of surprises.

791 dark shadows quentin cards

Quentin is a hit. I mean, they were expecting him to be popular — they have eyes, of course Quentin’s going to be popular — but they didn’t expect him to be “hit record on the Billboard Hot 100” popular. They’d already lived through the crazy Beatlemania-style reaction to Jonathan Frid back in May ’68, but now they’ve got two monster heart-throbs, and the ratings just keep going up.

So it gradually dawns on them, sometime in — I’m going to say May, for the sake of argument — it dawns on them that their plan for the end of 1897 is a terrible idea. Barnabas is going to cure Quentin from his werewolf curse and then go back to the 1960s, leaving Quentin behind? They should absolutely one hundred percent not do that.

That means they need to do some course-correction. The first couple weeks of June are very clearly pointing in the direction of the original plan, and then it suddenly swerves, and heads into unknown territory.

Now, I don’t actually have any backstage knowledge about this at all. My grand unified theory of What Happened to the Original 1897 is based entirely on the clues in the show. Let’s do a little storyline forensics.

765 dark shadows barnabas beth intel

We’ll start with the end of May, when the original plan is in effect, heading towards a mid-July conclusion. Magda has cursed Quentin, and made him a werewolf. But Beth reveals the big secret: Jenny really does have twin babies, Quentin’s children, who are living in town with Mrs. Fillmore. Magda realizes that her curse will be passed on to her own sister’s children, and now she wants to lift the curse.

Barnabas is late to this party — he spends May fighting with Laura and Dirk, and by the end of the month, he doesn’t even realize that the strange animal in the woods is a transformed Quentin. But he finds out that Beth bought a silver pentagram from Ezra Braithwaite — a clue that takes us all the way back to February, before he came to 1897. The mysterious child’s coffin that he found buried in the woods, with a pentagram around the dead boy’s neck — it’s connected to Quentin, of course, because it’s 1969 and everything is connected to Quentin.

Beth refuses to tell Barnabas anything, so he bites her, and then she spills the whole story for him. He’s all caught up now — werewolf, two kids, the curse, the whole deal. And that’s the end of May.

791 dark shadows barnabas magda old woman

At the beginning of June, we get the first crack, where you can see them heading towards the story that never happens. Continuity errors are just prophecies that never came true, and the first unforced error is in episode 766.

Magda:  I did think of someone who might be able to help us. An old woman who lived in the forests near Ozhdon. The one who turned the Count Petofi into a werewolf. That old woman knew more about these things than anyone in the world, I swear it.

Barnabas:  But she was an old woman when you were a child!

Magda:  It’s true. She’s dead now, for sure. But she had a daughter — Julianka! That was her name. If that daughter is alive, maybe she knows something of what her mother knew.

Barnabas:  Well, where is she now?

Magda:  Ah, who knows for a gypsy, the world is wide for us. But she is a member of the Romana family, and not long ago, there were some in Boston…

791 dark shadows barnabas magda maybe

So that’s the setup for the third act of 1897. Magda will be off the show for two weeks, traveling to Boston, and when she comes back, she’ll bring the old gypsy’s daughter, Julianka, and she’ll be able to remove the curse.

“Well, let’s hope that she’s not too far away,” Barnabas frets. “We have no idea how much time Quentin has, before his destiny catches up with him. It could be tonight, it could be tomorrow, it could be any time. We must act quickly!”

And it’s funny that he says that, because tomorrow is going to be even more conclusion-focused.

791 dark shadows david quentin dream 2

Here’s the next day, episode 767. This is the one where Jamison tells Barnabas about his strange, prophetic dream.

In Jamison’s dream, David Collins — his unborn grandson — is having a morose last birthday party, before he dies of being possessed by a ghost. David’s father and aunt are shushing each other and making insincere excuses, while his apparently mad cousin Carolyn drops hints that he’s dying.

It’s all terribly bleak, and the only thing that perks the party up is the late arrival of Quentin’s ghost, who’s a strange admixture of the fearsome silent Quentin of 1969 and the sexy rogue with hurt feelings who we’ve grown to love.

A dream sequence is always a good opportunity to drop some new knowledge on the audience, and Quentin delivers the bad news.

791 dark shadows david quentin dream 1

David:  I don’t want to die!

Quentin:  Well, nobody wants to die. But you can’t pick and choose, David. I didn’t want to die either. But I had to.

David:  Why?

Quentin:  Three things happened. If I could have changed any one of them — if I could have known what they meant, while they were happening — maybe I wouldn’t have died when I did.

David:  What three things?

791 dark shadows quentin dream

Quentin:  The first was the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood.

David:  A silver bullet?

Quentin:  Mm-hmm. And then the one person who could have helped me — who could have kept me alive — was murdered.

David:  Who was it?

Quentin:  I can’t tell you everything. Not yet.

David:  What was the third thing?

Quentin:  Ah. That — that was the worst. The one person in this world that I truly loved turned against me. After that happened, there was practically no time left for Quentin Collins.

768 dark shadows quentin first
So there you have it, we’re just three steps away from the end of the storyline. This is the way you talk when you’ve started to work out how this is going to wrap up in six weeks.

And they even take care of the first step by the end of the episode. Quentin finds the silver bullet — dropped by Magda, when she was werewolf-hunting the previous evening — and he gets all upset about it, blaming Barnabas and losing faith that he’ll ever be cured.

Once they set up this “there were three things” motif, they have to build on it, from one step to another. That means step 2 should happen before the audience forgets all about step 1 — let’s say, in two weeks, when Magda brings Julianka to town. The old gypsy’s daughter is obviously “the one person who could have helped me.” Magda was just saying yesterday that Julianka was Quentin’s only hope, a prize worth a couple weeks’ round trip to Boston.

Julianka will try to help Quentin, but then she’ll be murdered somehow, and Barnabas will say, Aha, this is thing two — reminding the audience about the three things. This gives us a couple weeks’ countdown to the one person in the world (Jamison) that Quentin truly loved (ie, Jamison) turning against him (wonder who that’s going to be, oh right, Jamison). And then Quentin’s destined to die, but Barnabas saves him somehow, ta-dah, end of storyline. So there you have it, a nice clean four-month story that gets us back to 1969 just in time for whatever they’re going to do next.

773 dark shadows minerva tim last

We’ve got a couple weeks to kill before Magda comes back with the old gypsy’s daughter, so we spend them systematically exterminating the secondary cast members.

Episode 770: Dirk dies, and rises as a vampire.
Episode 771: Carl’s fiancee Pansy is killed by Dirk.
Episode 772: Tim poisons Minerva.
Episode 774: Dirk attacks Tim, Rachel and Judith.
Episode 775: Judith shoots Rachel.
Episode 776: Edward stakes Dirk.
Episode 780: Barnabas kills Carl. Edward and Trask accuse Barnabas of being a vampire, and the vampire hunt begins.

And it’s okay for them to indulge in this blood orgy, because pretty soon we’re going to head back to the 60s, and we’ll find Mrs. Johnson and Ned Stuart and Willie Loomis and Maggie Evans and Professor Stokes, all of them alive and ready to get going with whatever the next story’s going to be. It’s not like they’re going to have another four months in 1897 with half the cast dead and the main character hiding in a cave.

791 dark shadows magda barnabas good news

Except that’s exactly what they have, as of mid-June. It’s episode 778, and Magda comes back from Boston with a surprise.

Barnabas:  You’re back sooner than I expected. What does that mean? Good news or bad?

Magda:  Good news! Oh, very, very good.

Barnabas:  Then you’ve located the daughter of the old gypsy!

Magda:  No, but it don’t matter now.

Barnabas:  What do you mean?

Magda:  I went to Boston, and I asked King Johnny Romana where she was. He said she was dead. Dead, like her mother. The one who cursed Count Petofi.

Barnabas:  I was afraid of that.

Magda:  King Johnny Romana knew a way — a sure way of ending the curse!

Barnabas:  And what is that?

Magda:  You will see, Barnabas. The end of Quentin’s curse rests right here, in this box.

783 dark shadows barnabas magda hand cave

So that’s when the original conclusion of 1897 went out the window, Magda coming back with a body part instead of a whole lady. Julianka is dead, and now Barnabas is on the run, stuck in a cave and doing a one-man Addams Family revival.

And then we have a couple weeks of Hand shenanigans, filling time while they figure out what’s supposed to happen next. For one thing, it’s time for Joan’s summer vacation, so after Judith and Trask’s wedding, he immediately begins plotting to send her away to a sanitarium. And once she signs that damn paper, they can start introducing the new cast members who’ll keep the story running for another four months.

794 dark shadows julianka barnabas grandmother

There’s one surprise guest after another all week, and probably the most surprising of all is Julianka, who they just said was dead three weeks ago. She looks amazingly healthy, considering how dead she was in June, and she’s also a lot younger than we expected.

Julianka:  My grandmother — my great-grandmother — began the curse, when she put it on Count Petofi. She passed the secret on to my grandmother, who passed it on to my mother, who passed it on to me. I am the only one who knows. And I cannot reveal it.

That slip — “my grandmother — my great-grandmother” — obviously, it’s just a blooper, like all the other line flubs on the show, but there’s something beautiful and revealing about it. Three weeks ago, Julianka was the old woman’s daughter, and suddenly she’s the great-granddaughter. It’s no wonder she finds it hard to explain her own backstory; it keeps changing.

So that’s how quickly things have been changing backstage.

June 2nd: Julianka is the old woman’s daughter, our only hope.
June 18th: Julianka is dead, sorry.
July 7th: Julianka is alive, and now she’s the great-granddaughter.

Three versions of the same character, in five weeks. That’s why long-term planning on soap operas is a waste of time.

784 dark shadows barnabas evan morning

Now that they’re changing direction and keeping the show in 1897 for a while, there’s some urgent repair work that needs to get done. For one thing, Julianka needs to die in order to be Quentin’s long-delayed “second thing.” That means we’ll have to remind people that the first thing happened over a month ago, although by now “the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood” is a minor detail with absolutely no significance.

But the crucial problem is the vampire hunt. Barnabas has been hiding out from the Collins family for weeks now, and it kind of feels like they’ve forgotten about him completely.

They need Edward and Trask focused on sending Judith to the sanitarium, so “our cousin is a creature of the living dead who’s killed several members of our family” fades into the background for a while. The original plan was for the vampire hunt to happen at the climax of the saving-Quentin story, a couple of thrilling weeks that would end with Barnabas escaping back to the present day.

But now we’ve got weeks and weeks sprawling out in front of us, and you can’t leave the main character of the show hiding in a cave all that time… Can you? I mean, Ron Sproat could have done it — he would have absolutely adored it — but the writing team has moved beyond Sproat’s infatuation with locking up main characters in rooms.

So what we’ve got here is a show that’s prematurely executed half of the cast, and a main character who’s only allowed to interact with maybe four other people on the whole show. This is not a promising start for several more months of thrilling storytelling; something has got to be done. And we can get started on that project, as soon as Judith signs the paper and gets out of the way. Sign the paper, Judith!

Tomorrow: Dances with Wolves.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the reprise, Quentin sits by the gramophone and recites the lyrics to his hit single, “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)”, and messes up two lines. First, he says “Shadow of the Night,” a mistake that you would think was impossible to make. Then he finishes the first verse with “calling me to you” instead of “calling you to me”.

Quentin approaches the Chromakey Minerva, who vanishes. As Judith says, “You saw her!” the camera cuts to a shot with the boom mic visible at the top left.

At the start of act 2, when Evan and Trask rush into the drawing room, you can see a camera with the teleprompter moving around the foyer.

This is a good one: as Evan begins his black mass ritual, a member of the crew runs in front of the camera, right through the scene currently in progress. As he goes past, he snarls, “Jesus, lady — what…” and then he’s gone.

In the final scene, as Quentin watches Aristede approach, the boom mic swings into view at the top left.

Tomorrow: Dances with Wolves.

791 dark shadows minerva judith stare

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 791: Sign the Paper

  1. I wonder why they would have the vampire hunt if they were to end it so soon. And the Trask/Judith storyline must have had some other ending, perhaps Trask killed by the werewolf?

    I’m guessing that Angelique would have hypnotized Edward to simply chain Barnabas in his coffin in the mausoleum and then forget about him instead of killing him or he has a change of heart as Joshua did.

    This is Joan Bennett’s longest vacation- 4 months.

  2. Near my grade school, there was a store – more like a hole in the wall that all the kids raced into before the bell would ring to buy gum and chips and whatever. How the owner ever put up with that mass of screaming lemmings pushed up against his counter every morning I’ll never know.

    One day, I got sucked into the store by my friends. And there on the counter, I spied the packs of cards of Quentin “suitable for framing.” Of course I wanted them! Dark Shadows! My favorite show! Quentin! “Suitable for framing!”

    But ten cents might as well be ten thousand dollars if you have no money, and I didn’t, I never did, my parents were working poor and anyway would just as soon entrust their kids with matches than with money.

    I don’t know how long I must have stared at that display.

    But I had to get to school, and as I settled into my desk for another astounding day of third-grade spelling, math and what passed for geography lessons, I turned to talk to my neighbor – and heard something land with a slap on my desk.

    A pack of Quentin cards. “Suitable for framing.”

    I looked up and already Rob, a blond-headed boy, was scooting away. “I thought you might like these,” he said over his shoulder.

    And that was my very first gift from the first boy who ever liked me. Turns out “Dark Shadows’ ” magic had a long reach after all.

      1. Yeah, Mark — that is an absolutely adorable story. And it’s a really beautiful example of how a show like Dark Shadows isn’t just a show — it can become part of your life story.

  3. I believe it’s a crew member or stage manager hissing, “Jesus, Lacy!”, and the “What?” is coming from Jerry Lacy, who, in his rush to get to his next entrance (tower room scene), has crossed camera line.

  4. An excellent analysis of where 1897 fell apart — a victim of its own success. The second half really did feel like an afterthought. The show never fully recovered.

    1. Ah, but I prefer the second half of 1897. The key I think is to not try to view 1897 as a clearly constructed story of its own or a logical “response” to the haunting of Collinwood. In many ways, it’s one of the keys to enjoying DARK SHADOWS as a whole (don’t try to make sense of it all).

      1. Me too. Of course I love the whole 1897 trip, but for me, Dark Shadows is at it’s best when Petofi and Charity Trask, possessed by Pansy Faye, are on the scene.

        And it won’t be long until we get to my favorite heart-stopping moment, at the end of episode 830.

  5. Maybe there’s nothing inaccurate about it (I don’t know one way or the other)). but “Johnny Romano” sounds so much more like a stereotyped Mafia Don name than a “King of the Gypsies” name that I can never get used to it. And for a short while on the show, you hear it SO MANY times (or am I exaggerating the second thing because of the first thing?).

  6. You bring to life so many thoughts I’ve had of this show. I love your blog and thank you for working so diligently on it.

    When I finally watched all of 1897, it really baffled me how LONG it went on, when it clearly started out as a quicker trip. Though I do love what’s to come, and I daresay much of it is more brilliant than anything they might have had planned for a return to 1969!

    Your point about soaps not doing long term planning sticks with me…currently one of the (four) remaining soaps is 5-6 months ahead in FILMING. (Let alone planning/writing.) It’s ridiculous. If Dark Shadows had done that, the show would have lost Quentin, who’d have been done filming before he aired (as a human).

    I also love the bloopers you point out – many are cut out of the DVDs that I have (since I foolishly and expensively bought them when they were first released). Some are there, but you mention some I’ve never seen/heard. (Makes me want to spend the money to buy the Coffin set…sometime….)

  7. Danny’s step back to examine the 1897 storyline comes at an interesting time. When 1897 began, there was a period where I could have imagined Quentin filling the role of Evan Hanley here and attempting to drive his sister out of her mind for his own financial gain. I could also see him drugging Tim Shaw and forcing him to kill Minerva Trask — especially if blackmailed by Trask. But that will-stealing scoundrel Quentin no longer exists.

    I’ve wondered before if the intent all along was to make Quentin a werewolf. There is evidence on both sides of it during the 1968/69 “Quentin’s Ghost” story. Rewatching these episodes, it does feel like for the first few weeks, they go through a different major plot thread every few days and introduce a new threat (Angelique, Zombie Quentin, Laura, Trask) before bringing back the werewolf, who was always good for fun times.

    This begins my favorite part of the storyline, though, and it almost completely belongs to Quentin. Aristede’s arrival heralds the physical debut of Count Petofi as an antagonist and gives us a few weeks of The Maltese Falcon with Quentin as Sam Spade. Perhaps this is unintentional but Quentin — more so than Barnabas — feels like a very “noirish” character. Neither Barnabas nor Frid regain control of 1897 — at best, he’s a strong second to Quentin. Danny identifies the main challenge: Barnabas no longer can interact freely with the rest of the Collins family.

    1. Quentin seems “noir” because he’s very modern in his desperation, getting drunk and listening to his music, watching his life fall apart, feeling like a helpless cog trapped in something bigger.

      Barnabas is very old school, much more inclined to mask his feelings. He likes to act like everything is under perfect control:
      “So what, if there ARE witches and warlocks and werewolves and Frankensteins in the basement, I couldn’t be more serene!”

  8. Soaps may do long term planning but there are times they veer off course on the spur of the moment. General Hospital in 1978 was to have Luke Spencer on for a few weeks, but he got popular, so they kept him on full term.

  9. Perhaps the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood became insignificant because when Quentin found out about it he was supposed to have interceded with Oscar, or something.

    I wonder if Joan Bennett took a long vacation every year because she got tired of eating chicken soup for lunch. Kathryn Leigh Scott has mentioned that Bennett would have her cook prepare it and she would bring it to the studio every day in a Tiffany shopping bag. Though in a newspaper write-up done at the start of the series run in 1966, Bennett indicated that she got her chicken soup from a vending machine in the ABC building. If she’s now taking 4 months off, then she must really be tired of chicken soup for lunch.

    Sometimes I wonder what the show would have been like, how the various stories might have played out, if certain cast members didn’t have other interests outside the show, like for instance John Karlen with his other TV and theater projects. His portrayal of Carl is always a joy to watch, as it’s easily his most colorful character, as well as most volatile and still vulnerable. Going from white trash Willie to spoiled gentry joker Carl and making it all believable–that defines a solid acting talent. But, of course, Dark Shadows only paid $330 an episode, and Karlen’s appearances were relatively few and far between, and he did have a family to support. Then again, Karlen has admitted that he never really wanted to be on a soap opera, that he always wanted to make something of himself, to be somebody, so it’s likely that he was always striving for a professional life beyond Dark Shadows.

    I wonder whether, at the time, the cast members and creators envisioned a long future for the show. Or perhaps they were so caught up in the day to day evolution that they never gave it much thought.

      1. Nevertheless, there’s a lifestyle associated with such an income. For instance, after Lara Parker started as Angelique on the show she got herself a charge card at Saks Fifth Avenue or one of those upscale department stores as well as a high rent apartment in the city. Then when her character was killed off, she was crushed when she realized she would have to give these things up, at least for a while. Likewise for John Karlen, who took to frequenting expensive restaurants where he would order such items as “champagne and frog’s legs” as he admitted. So even with regular appearances at a decent wage you might still find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, and as Karlen indicated, he had ambitions beyond the world of soap opera. He only took the job on Dark Shadows to begin with because he didn’t even have to audition for the part of Willie and was told by his agent it would be temporary (because Barnabas was only supposed to be around for 6 weeks).

      2. Carl appeared in only 11 episodes, so that’s $3,630 in 1969 dollars and $22,000 in 2015 dollars. That’s for the whole 1897 storyline, though, which covered 185 episodes.

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