“You can’t burn murder, Trask, or drown it, or even poison it. You can’t kill murder.”
Spirit of Joe Lidster, I invoke and conjure thee! Co-producer of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audio dramas and co-writer of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, I call upon the raven and the viper and all the dark creatures of nature to bring you here, so that we can watch an episode of Dark Shadows together.
Danny: Hello, are you there?
Joe: Yes, hello!
Danny: I’m currently speaking to you through my fireplace. Are you okay in there? Is it hot?
Joe: It is a bit hot. The reception’s good, though, for a fireplace.
Danny: We’re watching episode 805, and I’m glad that you’re here to help me today, because this storyline is getting harder and harder to explain. At the moment, Count Petofi is inhabiting Jamison somehow, and he’s enchanting everyone with a spell that exposes the truth of who they really are. So at the start of the show, we get Li’l Petofi going over his to-do list:
Edward Collins: servant.
Beth Chavez: in bondage to the vampire.
Charity Trask: slattern, who wants to sing and dance, and show a painted face to the world.
Oh, a fine lot. All of you!
Joe: I love David Henesy. I think he’s one of the best child actors. He’s brilliant in this.
Danny: Yeah, he’s great. And he’s making a handy checklist of what the plot’s going to be for the next couple weeks, and it sounds awesome. We need more checklists on television.
Joe: Oh, and our hero just hand-gagged him, and dragged him out of the room.
Danny: Yeah, he’s finally figured out, oh right, this is a little kid. I can just grab him and drag him around if I want to. You should be able to do that with any villain.
Joe: What, so all villains should be small?
Danny: Yes. So you could just bundle them out the door whenever you want to. It seemed like a good idea before I said it out loud.
Danny: So Barnabas locks Jamison in prison somehow, because the Collins family has 24/7 access to random cages.
Joe: And that’s in Collinwood, is it, this jail cell?
Danny: I have no idea where this is. It’s just one of those conceptual sets, where they put up some walls, and then you use your imagination. This is what I picture during all the Big Finish stories, actually; in my mind, they all take place in this cell.
Joe: Most of them do, actually.
Danny: Petofi is the only 150 year old man in juvenile detention. Have you ever done this yourself, by the way? Just taken a kid who you’re having a hard time with, and lock him up?
Joe: No. But to be honest, most kids are bigger than me.
Danny: Oh, that’s right. You’re really tiny; I forgot about that. Have you ever been locked up, then?
Joe: I’ve never been locked up in a cell, no. Not in this situation.
Danny: Not antagonistically.
Joe: And here she is!
Danny: Hooray, it’s Pansy, doing her Cockney showtune. So this is one of my big questions for you: Is this actually how English people behave?
Joe: Yes. We’re all — what did Petofi say? — slatterns. We are all slatterns.
Danny: A nation of slatterns.
Joe: But this is why I love this story, because basically Dark Shadows is full of two types of people. There’s your baddies and rebels like Trask and Barnabas, and then the poor people who are trying to be good, like Charity and Judith and Edward.
Danny: Right, the mundanes.
Joe: And what Petofi is basically doing here, is getting people stoned.
Danny: Yes, that’s right.
Joe: Because, if you look, Edward has never smiled once in the whole series. Two episodes ago, he gets turned into a butler, and he’s having the time of his life. And Charity’s spent her whole life being buttoned-up, and having her dad telling her what to do —
Danny: And now she actually has a personality. Or somebody else’s, at least.
Danny: Oh, but look what happens when you try to express yourself, you get slapped across the face. Because slapping is like medicine for women.
Joe: I’m not saying anything to that. But getting them stoned — is Woodstock happening now?
Danny: Yeah, Woodstock is about three weeks from now.
Joe: Because normally, you know, you say possession, and it’s somebody getting turned into an “I — Will — Kill — You” type person. But in this show, the baddie is casting a spell on all the goodie characters, and they’re just having a wonderful time.
Danny: Oh, and look at Evan.
Joe: Is this anachronistic? Scrabble?
Danny: Oh, everyone else is having fun, and he’s just sitting there on his own, playing with Scrabble tiles.
Joe: Well, he’s an odd thing, isn’t he? Cause he never moves into Collinwood, which pretty much everyone else does. You said it in one of your blog posts, you have to live there if you want a story. It’s actually what we’ve just tried to do, at the end of Bloodlust. What you want is, everybody either in a family group somewhere, or ideally living in Collinwood, cause everything happens in Collinwood.
Danny: And everyone needs somebody to talk to. Other soaps are usually set in a small town or a neighborhood, but Dark Shadows just has one huge house.
Joe: Whereas Hanley kinda sits around, in his nice house.
Danny: He’s either dabbling in the black arts, or he’s just fussing with a sad little handful of Scrabble tiles. Those are the two leisure time options for him.
Joe: It is a very nice house, though.
Evan: Demon or spirit, whoever you are, leave me in peace! I have had enough of it all.
Joe: This must be the first time ever in fiction, that a villain’s gone, you know what? Things are just a bit too scary. I’m going to stop. I think that’s brilliant! He’s gone, there are villains out there who are bigger and scarier than me, I’m just going to stay at home.
Danny: And this is how he planned to spend his day.
Joe: I have no friends, I’ll just play one-handed Scrabble.
Danny: We need to chip in and buy him an Xbox.
Danny: And then a tiny Chromakey vampire appears out of thin air in front of him, and he doesn’t really have much of a reaction.
Joe: Well, he hasn’t seen anyone for a while.
Danny: He just looks frustrated. This is my day off, leave me alone!
Joe: Oh, Charity’s back to normal now.
Danny: Yeah, Trask just slapped it out of her.
Joe: And now she’s no longer having fun.
Danny: Have they tried that with Edward? Just slap him across the face, see what happens?
Joe: I think they’ve just locked him up. Louis is on holiday, isn’t he? If I remember, he gets locked in that room for quite a while. And is Judith at Windcliff by now?
Danny: Yeah, she’s put away.
Joe: I like to think whenever Louis and Joan have time off, that they’re just going and having cocktails together. They sit there and watch Dark Shadows every day, not having a clue what’s going on.
Danny: And every time somebody looks stupid, and it’s not them —
Joe: They just say, Cheers!
Evan: I have found nothing in any of my books to protect me from your gaze. I hate these books, and all that’s in them. I hate them!
Danny: Wow, he’s really over it.
Joe: Oh, I love this moment — there’s a knock at the door, Evan asks who’s there, and Trask just yells, Reverend Trask! He’s so angry.
Danny: And Evan has to shoo an undead ghoul out of his living room, because his next appointment is here.
Trask: I came to discuss Edward and Jamison. Poor Judith’s madness seems to have infected them, too.
Joe: Look how happy Trask is, telling Evan that Edward and Jamison have gone insane.
Danny: I like that Trask has just decided, you know what? I’m a villain. It’s okay. This is a world of villains now. If I can murder everybody who’s in my way, I’m just going to go ahead and do that.
Joe: Jerry Lacy’s amazing, isn’t he? He’s actually quite terrifying. I bet if you’re a kid watching this, Trask is probably the most scary thing in it.
Danny: Yeah, that’s true. Just because he shouts the most.
Joe: Because he shouts, and he genuinely does seem quite evil. I’ve just been watching 1795 for the first time —
Danny: Oh, so you’re just seeing the original Reverend Trask.
Joe: And I just got to the episode where he basically smokes out Victoria, and Angelique is doing her spell in the bedroom?
Danny: Right, the exorcism, and “Victoria Winters, your name is known to fire!”
Joe: It’s amazing! It’s just a full on horror movie, and he’s absolutely terrifying!
Joe: I love Jerry Lacy, he’s a really lovely guy as well. When we did The Devil Cat, it was the last Tony and Cassandra audio, and it ends on kind of a definite note — there will be no more Tony and Cassandra audios. And he emailed us, saying, oh, you do still want to use me though, don’t you? And we’re like, Jerry, you’re one of the best actors in the world. We will find different ways to use you. Bless him, he’s so good.
Danny: And there’s ghosts. Or we’ll just make up somebody else named Trask. You were on Dark Shadows, you know how this works.
Joe: I would like to eventually grow a beard like Evan Hanley.
Danny: You think you could pull that off? it’s not easy.
Joe: I’d like to try.
Joe: Oh, it’s the Jon Pertwee title sequence. I love knowing how Dark Shadows works now. The idea that when there’s a dream sequence, it basically means someone has just run over to another set.
Danny: Right, and every dream sequence has to start with them waking up as part of the dream. Everyone starts the dream a little cranky, because they’ve just been woken up by something terrible.
Danny: So Petofi can bilocate now. What was the point of keeping him locked up?
Jamison: Trask has been telling so many lies about me! You know me, I’m Jamison. You’ve known me ever since I was a little boy.
Danny: You’re still a little boy.
Joe: This is genuinely creepy. I love that the villain’s evil plan is, I’ll make you realize the truth about yourself.
Joe: And it starts with a little boy, kissing you on the cheek.
Danny: Petofi just suddenly knows everybody’s terrible secrets. Beth is a slave to Barnabas, and Evan killed Minerva — and Petofi is a supervillain, so this knowledge is automatically available to him.
Joe: He strikes me as the most powerful villain they ever have.
Danny: Yes. Definitely.
Joe: He’s physically threatening, he’s mentally threatening, he knows everything, and he just brutally kills people.
Joe: Oh, this is lovely, now Charity just wants to play music. And then she slips again, into Pansy. I think Nancy Barrett is an astonishing actress. She’s so different as every character.
Danny: Yeah, she’s a secret weapon.
Joe: She really is physically a different person.
Danny: But Trask is correct here — as soon as a person starts singing, you turn into a Cockney girl and start piling on the makeup. That is what happens.
Danny: So tell me about Pansy’s accent, how does she sound to you?
Joe: Well, I don’t think Nancy’s trying to do a genuine English accent, is she? She’s doing broad Cockney showgirl, which absolutely fits in with Dark Shadows. Actually, on our audios, the problem we have with some of the younger actors, is that they try and do television performances, where I think people in Dark Shadows are doing theatrical performances.
Danny: Yeah, they’re mostly theater people.
Joe: So everybody is shouting, or talking in grandiose ways, or doing very broad Cockney showgirl acting. Which is why I think it’s brilliant. But with some of our actors — because they record separately from the American actors, we have to say to them, no, if you’re playing a Cockney, it’s a real “apples and pears!” Cockney type, because otherwise you’re going to sound really flat when you’re put together with Lara Parker, who’s giving her all as Angelique.
Joe: The one sad thing — I suppose because of how Dark Shadows is done, because you only have so many actors in an episode — but it would just be briliant if he managed to get everybody being comedy butlers and Pansy Faye, and they were all there in one episode, walking around talking rubbish to each other.
Danny: And that’s kind of where the show is going, a complete madhouse.
Joe: But Petofi’s giving you what you really want. So in Edward’s case, you’ve always been the stuffed shirt, trying to be the man of the house, and you’ve got these annoying siblings, and you’ve got Quentin running off and doing whatever he wants. Edward’s always wanted to have no responsibility, so he becomes the butler, where he’ll be told everything he has to do. And the same with Charity, she wants to have fun, she wants to live. I think there’s something — I don’t know whether it’s the show, or the period of history — but you don’t get many sexually aggressive women in Dark Shadows.
Danny: Yeah, that’s true.
Joe: And it’s lovely, because it’s all set up in the previous episode, where she says to Quentin, I’m too much of a lady for you. She’s absolutely tied to what society has told her she needs to be like. Petofi’s actually really nice, he’s doing good things.
Joe: At this moment, the baddie’s plan is making the boring nice good sensible people have fun. And now he’s making Evan confess to killing Minerva, and he says, well, of course I did it. There’s no angsty struggle.
Danny: And confessing to murder appears to be a more peaceful activity for him than just sitting around his house, where he’s all stressed out. All of a sudden, it just hits him: oh, I could just stop fighting, and give myself up.
Joe: Yeah, and he’s not playing Scrabble by himself anymore.
Danny: Right. I’ll go to jail, I’ll make new friends…
Danny: That’s the end of the episode, so we’ll do some post-game analysis.
Joe: One thing about Dark Shadows — when you’re a fan of Doctor Who, basically I could look at a book and tell you exactly how any episode of Doctor Who was made, and why the decisions were made.
Danny: Right, every episode has been comprehensively researched.
Joe: But you can’t, with Dark Shadows. So I would love to know, for example, when they decided Nancy Barrett was going to play Pansy Faye. Was it when they brought Pansy in?
Danny: My position is always: if it happened more than three weeks ago, they haven’t planned this. When Pansy first appeared, that was a couple months ago, there’s no way that they knew. I think they had to come up with a secret for Charity that Petofi could expose, and they thought: what’s the most fun thing that we could do with her?
Joe: And then she effectively stays as Pansy for the rest of 1897. Again, I think this is another testament to Nancy Barrett — she keeps Pansy human, even though she’s a bit of a panto character. A bit, that’s an understatement. But there’s always an element of sadness to her.
Danny: And she ends up having real feelings.
Joe: That’s one thing we did in the audios, when we revisited Pansy and Charity, we went, actually, they’re both nice people. Of course, we did horrible things to them.
Danny: That’s something that I liked in The Fall of the House of Trask — the idea that Pansy is still inside of her, and it turns out that Charity kind of likes that, and would miss her if she was gone.
Joe: Yeah, we thought, in a few years time, they’d be basically two old women with cats, who are very different — but get on very well, in a strange frenemy kind of way.
Danny: And from a writer’s point of view, it’s the same calculation that they did on the show, which is to say: why would we write a story about Charity that doesn’t have Pansy in it?
Joe: So you have Evan Hanley, who could be the big bad villain, but then you have Trask, Barnabas and Petofi all coming over, and there are three villains who are even bigger and badder than him.
Danny: This is actually an entire show about villains now. All the nice people are dead, or locked up, or possessed. Carl, Rachel, Sandor — and Tim was one of the nice people, and suddenly he gets the Hand…
Joe: Yeah, he suddenly becomes a baddie for no reason.
Danny: Well, everybody does, it’s sort of the only way that you can get noticed in 1897, if you turn evil. And then after a while, the nice people who are left are only “nice” in comparison to everyone else. Like Magda, she’s just put a werewolf curse on people. That’s the baseline now for how people behave.
Danny: So really, I think this is an episode about a typical day in Evan’s life, where he’s just sitting around at home, and one after another, all these villains come over to his house and mess with him. He doesn’t get a moment’s peace. As soon as one of them goes out the window, then there’s a knock at the door, and oh my god, who is this now?
Joe: You don’t get a break. And that’s the previous episode, isn’t it, where Edward comes home, and he’s like, oh, I’m just knackered, I’ve had a hell of a day, and Quentin says, it’s going to get worse, and he’s like, No, seriously, I haven’t got time for this. I’m just tired and had a really busy day.
Danny: Well, your vacation was that we let you out of the house for five minutes.
Joe: Right, that was it.
Danny: I like the idea of the bigger picture, which you do in the audios, where every single person that you run into in Collinsport — there are terrible stories happening, because you guys have created new stories and new villains, and they’re happening in essentially present day Collinsport — so everywhere you turn, even people who are in the background at the Blue Whale, you have to imagine that something like this is happening in their lives too. That’s not a date going on in the background, that’s a hostage negotiation.
Joe: Yeah, we did that this year. Every character did a cameo in at least one other story. They all have their own proper story to tell, but all the stories are bubbling away at the same time. In the Twinkling of an Eye is about Marie Wallace’s character, Jessica Griffin, who runs the Blue Whale, and in the opening scene, the barmaid is clearing glasses away from a table, and at that table is Amy and Hallie and David, plotting — which is part of another story, Tainted Love. So everybody in Collinsport is going through something.
Danny: And Jackie actually says that at the beginning of Twinkling, when she meets Nate, and says yeah, this is what happens in Collinsport. Every single human being in town has some kind of crazy problem.
Joe: Actually, that was quite a bit of tricksy writing we had to do, because we created Jackie as a bored teenager, but what teenager would be bored in Collinsport?
Danny: Yeah, she’s basically saying that the reason why she’s bored is because she doesn’t currently have a curse cast on her.
Joe: Right. She’s not being attacked by a wild animal, this is such a boring day.
Danny: Well, Joe, thank you very much for making my day more interesting; this was awesome. I now cast you back into the eternal darkness where you belong. Thank you, and begone.
Joe: All right, thanks. Talk to you later!
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the jail cell, Jamison says, “Please let me out, Cousin Barnabas. Please?” Barnabas replies, “I will — as soon as he leaves you alone. As soon as he is gone.”
The Chromakey Barnabas effect is not one of the good ones — the camera moves around, which makes it look like Barnabas is tiny and wobbly.
Barnabas fumbles with his lines when he’s giving Evan instructions. “So, listen to me now. You are not — going to lie to me. You understand that. [looks at the teleprompter] It will be very hard for you if you — if you don’t tell me the truth.”
When Jamison suddenly disappears after his conversation with Evan, you can hear something clatter in the studio.
Watch closely when Trask grabs the recorder away from Charity; he accidentally smacks her in the face with it.
Behind the Scenes:
This episode was skipped in syndication, because the video master was damaged, and Worldvision didn’t realize that there was a kinescope copy. Actually, both Tuesday’s episode (801/802) and Friday’s (805) were missing, which made this week a little hard to follow, for those of us watching the repeats on public TV in the 1980s.
When MPI was preparing the home video release in 1989, they salvaged the color videotape of 805 by splicing in about 30 seconds of kinescope footage for the damaged segment. The black-and-white kinescope section is sepia-tinted, so the transition is a little smoother.
My favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp, shows up today in the Collinwood drawing room. It’s sitting on the desk, for the big closing Chromakey shot. We last saw it at Evan’s place a couple weeks ago.
— Danny Horn