Episode 833: 3D Printing – The Early Years

“I’m accusing you of painting a portrait of a wolf!”

“Things don’t always have to have explanations,” says Mr. Tate, and that might as well be Dark Shadows’ mission statement. “You don’t have to know about everything in the universe. Things just happen, it could be one of those things that –”

And then he’s cut off, by someone threatening to kill him. That happens a lot in 1969, when people start babbling about the universe.

833 dark shadows tate quentin kiss

So what are these things, and why did they just happen? Well, to start with, Charles Delaware Tate has been going around painting portraits of people without their permission. He was hired to paint a portrait of teen werewolf Quentin Collins, who didn’t want it and refused to have anything to do with it. But as you know, ever since Facebook, there’s no such thing as privacy anymore, so Tate did an image search for Quentin and then painted the portrait based on that.

And he did such a good job that it captured a piece of Quentin’s essence, which is amazing because he hardly even met the dude. I mean, Quentin’s pretty free with his essence in general, but there are limits.

This is one of those Dark Shadows not-really-adaptations of classic literature — in this case, Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray — where they take the original story to a chop shop and strip it for parts, turning symbolism and social commentary about art and society and decadence into bite-size plot points for their haunted house soap opera.

So now Quentin, who is nothing like Dorian except for being handsome, is now the proud owner of a magical portrait that turns into a werewolf so that Quentin doesn’t have to. And Tate, who is nothing like Dorian Gray’s Basil except for being an artist who talks about himself all the time, is apparently gifted with magical powers that he didn’t even realize he had. Quentin and Tate are on opposite ends of the same miracle, and you’ll have to excuse them if they’re a little stunned by the experience.

833 dark shadows quentin petofi plan

But this is what happens when you let something like Count Petofi into your life. The mad god of the Boston metropolitan area is that most dangerous of literary creations, the master planner. He’s smarter than everybody else, and he sets up complicated schemes that the participants don’t understand. He has wheels within wheels. He is Lex Luthor and Ben Linus and Moriarty and the Master, the perfect nemesis who can keep people coming back for the next installment because we can’t wait to see how his plan fits together.

The problem with a character like this in serialized narrative is that at some point he has to stop twirling his mustache, and actually deliver on the plan. And if you’ve been making up the story as you go along — as was the case with Lex Luthor and Ben Linus and Moriarty and the Master — then it requires some fancy footwork down at the other end, knitting scattered plot threads together, inventing retcons and backdoors and then announcing, Aha! This is exactly what I was planning the whole time.

600 dark shadows adam nicholas writers

They’ve tried this before on Dark Shadows, a year ago, when warlock Nicholas Blair showed up at Collinwood and started shooting his mouth off about his clever and diabolical schemes. He was very convincing in those early weeks, when everything was a raised eyebrow and a wave of the hand. But as the months wore on, it became clear that he didn’t actually have anything to offer, and there was a slow, sad decline as the air ran out of his storyline.

They finally settled on having him try to breed the local Frankenstein with a Bride, so they could create a new race of monsters that would serve Satan. This actually would have been a decent approximation of a scheme — it clearly wasn’t what they had in mind at the start, but it’s vaguely diabolical if you don’t think about it too hard — but by then, his chess pieces were already moving in directions that didn’t advance the plan.

For one thing, Adam was far too easy for Nicholas to manipulate. He believed everything that Nicholas told him, so there wasn’t much room for scheming. Even worse, setting Adam up with a new Bride meant taking him away from Carolyn, his only link with the Collins family and anybody the audience cared about. Setting up Adam and Eve on a dream date was a storyline cul-de-sac — basically, the three of them could go off and live happily never after, and nobody else on the show would even notice they’d gone.

833 dark shadows petofi quentin dream

But with Count Petofi, they’ve done the impossible — they’ve given the master planner character an actual master plan. Petofi introduced Charles Delaware Tate into the show six weeks ago, and set him to work painting Quentin’s portrait. Two episodes later, Charity saw the unfinished portrait change temporarily into the image of a werewolf — setting up the idea that would finally pay off today, when Petofi reveals that the magical portrait is the key to lifting the curse from Quentin’s shoulders.

Now, I know that it probably sounds ridiculous when I congratulate the writers for thinking ahead a whole six weeks in advance, but this is literally the only example of advance planning in the entire series. Everything else is accidents and retcons.

This is possible right now, because they currently have a dream team of writers — Sam Hall, Gordon Russell and Violet Welles — who enjoy working together and are all pulling in the same direction. When Ron Sproat was on the team, Sam and Ron were always arguing over style, pace and direction, which is why they ended up with a master planner who didn’t have a decent plan. But Sam, Gordon and Violet actually like each other, and hang out together to write the show. That opens up creative possibilities that the show never had before.

So when Petofi tells Quentin, “My plan is cosmic! So gigantic, so complex that the full implications of it will not be clear to you for a long time” — it’s not just hot air. I don’t know if I’d call it cosmic, but it’s the only time in Dark Shadows history that the word “plan” even applies.

833 dark shadows tate amanda portrait

And the astonishing thing is that there’s a whole other layer of this insane plot that’s going on in parallel.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the only magical element is the portrait of Dorian — and that magic comes from some vague molecular affinity that’s not meant to be taken literally. Dorian Gray isn’t a science-fiction story; Basil doesn’t have midichlorians or anything. Dorian spends a moment wondering how this miraculous thing has taken place, but quickly decides that it’s not worth wasting time on.

But Dark Shadows has nothing but time — five half-hours a week that need to be filled up with cliffhangers. So in this version, the painter actually does have mysterious magical powers. In fact, Quentin isn’t even his first customer.

833 dark shadows amanda tate customer

Two years ago, Tate painted a picture of a woman who he saw in a dream — his ideal woman, he says. And it turns out that Tate’s dream girl is Amanda Harris, who was introduced as part of the Tim Shaw/Reverend Trask revenge story.

In her first episode, more than a month ago, she told Tim that she refused to talk about her past, and that anything beyond two years ago was a sealed book. That didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but it turns out that was part of the writers’ diabolical scheme as well. Once Tate meets Amanda, he puts two years and two years together, and comes to some startling conclusions, all of them correct.

So once again, we see plot points laid out a month in advance, supporting the “magic portrait” gag, but also contributing its own parallel story thread. I don’t have anything particularly interesting to say about that; I’m just pointing it out because it’s unlike anything else that this show has ever done. I think this must be what it’s like when you watch a good television show. I’ve never actually experienced this before.

833 dark shadows tate fruit

Disturbed, Tate heads home to his studio, for one of the silliest scenes ever recorded on tape.

He decides to take his mind off things by sketching a still life, so he scatters some fruit on a table and makes with the pencil.

833 dark shadows tate vase sketch

He decides that there’s something missing in the composition, so he sketches in a tall vase…

833 dark shadows tate vase

Then he discovers, to his horror, that the vase he drew on paper has suddenly appeared on the table, his imagination made real.

And Charles Delaware Tate, like the Dark Shadows writers, stands there, stunned — looking at the astonishing thing that he’s created, and wondering where the hell it came from.

Tomorrow: The What’s-Thatters.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the beginning of act 1, Quentin stumbles as he walks through Tate’s door.

When Charity enters the drawing room to confront Amanda, the camera has trouble framing them — Charity is hidden behind the bell of the gramophone for a while.

I’m told that the vase that Tate creates at the end of today’s episode has previously been seen in his studio, although I’m not going to go back and look for it, because life is too short.

Tomorrow: The What’s-Thatters.

833 dark shadows vase

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

29 thoughts on “Episode 833: 3D Printing – The Early Years

  1. You’re told that the vase that Charles Underwear Tight creates in his studio was previously there, but you don’t have time to go back and look for it? Well, I will then, because my Friday and Saturday nights are that long.

    And yes, as the commenter above has mentioned, a bit of a sadness in hearing of the passing of Humbert Allen Astredo, and how ironic that his Nicholas Blair portrayal should be referenced in this post, the first such post since he has passed. Just days ago I was viewing shows from 1968 and thinking, “Ah, Humbert Allen Astredo is still alive!” It was regrettable that he wasn’t present for the Dark Shadows conventions. With his sense of humor and comedic timing, having at one point being a stand-up comedian prior to his work on Dark Shadows, he could have provided some memorable and lasting great moments for fans to treasure with his recollections. But I believe it was in the comments section of this very blog where someone mentioned that Mr. Astredo hadn’t been enjoying good health in later years. Let us cherish those still with us while they remain — not only in the world of Dark Shadows, but in our own lives as well.

  2. I’m very sorry to hear about it too, but it’s extremely fitting to find out here. (Coincidentally, I read about Louis Edmonds in a paper while watching a Dark Shadows rerun! Not one with him in it, but it was still fitting.)

  3. “I mean, Quentin’s pretty free with his essence in general, but there are limits.” –

    Is that at least partly a Dr. Strangelove reference?

  4. Petofi has the best plan of all the series antagonists. Even before he recovers his hand, he has set his sights on the future. Arguably, this is just a goal of “survival,” but the method of achieving it is far more exotic and interesting. We also have a compelling reason for him to remain in Collinsport, as the “secret” to the future is here.

    It’s unclear to me when Petofi commissioned Tate to paint Quentin’s portrait but I think there’s sufficient time once he learns Quentin is a werewolf. Yes, he wants to use Quentin to find the secret to the future from Barnabas Collins and later he wants something very precious from Quentin himself, but I do believe his original intent all along was to “control” Quentin as he does Tate and Aristede, and that is what makes him so fascinating a villain.

  5. Danny, I’ve disagreed with you before on this sort of point — as you put it here:

    Now, I know that it probably sounds ridiculous when I congratulate the writers for thinking ahead a whole six weeks in advance, but this is literally the only example of advance planning in the entire series. Everything else is accidents and retcons.

    I will always maintain that the whole Quentin’s ghost haunting Collinwood was planned from the very start — many weeks if not months in advance — to explain why Chris Jennings was a werewolf. The name “Magda” (an Eastern European name, commonly associated with gypsies, rather unlikely to crop up in the DS universe outside of the werewolf mythology) appeared near the very beginning of the haunting storyline.

    By the way, are you familiar with Babylon 5? It’s my all-time favorite example of a TV show that was plotted out meticulously years in advance, with only a few deviations forced by actors coming and going — and even those were very neatly handled via “trapdoors” planned in advance for each character “just in case.” A major burp in the proceedings was caused by the network cancelling the show after 4 years (when it was planned for 5), and then them getting picked up by a different network for the final year. That threw things somewhat awry toward the end. But, still, it’s well worth watching for that sort of advance planning on a TV series.

    One last thing, Danny — has anybody ever told you what a damn good writer you are? You come up with marvelous turns of phrases, analogies, and other nifty “literary” devices with remarkable consistency. It’s one of the main reasons I read every single one of your posts.

    1. Yeah, I loved Babylon 5, and I really respect the extra-crazy forward planning that J. Michael Straczynski did. Still, that was very much an outlier for TV, and I think the planning broke down significantly in practice. They replaced the lead character after season one because the actor was boring. JMS went on about his “trapdoors” and how it didn’t change any of his grand plans, but obviously it did. You don’t send your main character off on a vision quest to the past without doing some serious restructuring. And then the double-time season 4 and really quite awful season 5 was a great example of why five-year plans are not a good idea for television shows.

      On the upside, it was an awesome show, and way ahead of its time for complex storytelling. My “make a friend, make a joke, make a plot point happen” guideline is actually based on Babylon 5 at the beginning of season 3, when they introduced several new characters very quickly, and made absolutely sure that we liked them all, by making them friendly and funny and story-productive.

      1. I agree with you, Danny, about Babylon 5’s regrettable Season 5 and with the truly serious problem caused by lead actor Michael O’Hare’s departure after Season 1. I don’t know if you know the full story. It wasn’t merely because O’Hare may have been boring (personally, I didn’t think he was), but because he suffered serious and worsening mental illness that made a weekly role in a series untenable. He was able to appear in only two or three subsequent episodes in order to wrap up his story arc. All this was revealed only after O’Hare’s premature death in 2012. It proved a most unfortunate blow — not absolutely devastating, but indeed most unfortunate — to the overall plot. I’m convinced it would have been an even (and probably far) better show if that had never occurred.

    2. Just an observation–the “Magda” reference could have just as easily worked the other direction as well–that is, rather than having the name mentioned with the plan to actually have that character in the show weeks/months down the line, they could have just as easily gone BACK and retrieved the name once they decided to create the character that Grayson hall played. The mention of Magda’s name early on is no evidence at all that 1897 was planned. (And personally, I think all the right turns, secret tunnels, and bubble gum and duct tape we see in DS, including the 1897 story, is far more compelling evidence that the writers would not have been thinking that far ahead.)

  6. Humbert was wonderful as Nicholas Blair – he had the best evil grin! I always thought he’d be a fun date.
    If Petofi is able to perform his wizardry with or without his hand, why did he go to such lengths to get it back?

    1. I got the impression that Petofi still had powers without his hand, but that he was far more powerful with it than without it. Besides, if people were drawing on your power without your permission for all sorts of things that had nothing to do with you or your intentions, wouldn’t you want to put a stop to it? 😉

      1. Yep, I sure would. Once he got the hand back though, did we really see a big increase in his powers? Looks like he should have been able to transport himself to the future without Barnabas or anyone else’s help.

        1. Well, he needed the Hand to survive, first and foremost. It was established that if he didn’t get it back by a certain time he would die – that’s why he placed his body into a trance and took over Jamison. But I do think his powers increased when he got the Hand back – it seemed like he was more resistant to magical attacks, as seen by his immunity to Angelique’s spells and his ability to affect Barnabas’ powers (not sure if this has happened yet as far as the blog is concerned).

          Regardless, he wasn’t all powerful as his inability to see the future proves (he does not see what Barnabas and, later, Beth sees in his magic cupboard). So he did have some limits.

  7. I will always maintain that the whole Quentin’s ghost haunting Collinwood was planned from the very start — many weeks if not months in advance — to explain why Chris Jennings was a werewolf. The name “Magda” (an Eastern European name, commonly associated with gypsies, rather unlikely to crop up in the DS universe outside of the werewolf mythology) appeared near the very beginning of the haunting storyline.

    SER: I dunno. I used to think this, as well, but I thought Danny assembled a compelling case for Magda’s “curse,” which was mentioned during a seance, being what had confined Quentin’s spirit in his room. “My curse must remain” (or something like that). Quentin’s good and dead, so why would her spirit desperately want Chris to stay a werewolf?

    Watching the show without the benefit of hindsight, there are little to no clues that Quentin was a werewolf. That would have been “doubling” your monster fun (ghost and werewolf). Quentin also wants Chris out of the way because he’s Amy’s only other living relative — seems straightforward.

    Yes, there’s the child buried with a pentagram. That is a mystery given but not one immediately seized upon in 1897 until months later.

    1. I’ll concede you and Danny may be right, Stephen, although I still honestly believe that Quentin was set up to provide the explanation for Chris’s lycanthropy all along. The writers knew from past experience (Barnabas) that a very popular monster would need to have a good backstory provided, and with Quentin they could kill two birds with one stone. Of course, the haunting plot also served another very valuable function: since werewolves come out only with the full moon, some other major plot needed to be going on simultaneously to fill up the time when Chris wasn’t baying at the moon.

  8. When soaps became very popular in the late 70s and through the 80s, the networks began to exercise more control. Head writers and executive producers had to meet with executives from the daytime branch of the network to discuss current ratings and plans for the future. It’s interesting to speculate that if ABC had required long-range storyline planning from Curtis and Company, how would Dark Shadows have played out? Would it have been better will well thought out stories, or is part of the charm of the show that it is rather haphazard in the storytelling?

    1. It is better that executives never saw Dark Shadows at all. Leonard Goldberg, who first allowed Dan Curtis to broadcast the show, has a story about a meeting with the president of ABC and a chairman of the board. One day, they, the president and chairman, were eager to watch an episode of Dark Shadows. It must have been in 1968 or so, because Barnabas was out on the terrace with Vicki Winters, and the president and/or the chairman commented on what funny teeth Barnabas had…that the teeth were unusually long. And finally the strangeness of Barnabas’ teeth caused the president and chairman to suddenly abort the meeting. They’d seen enough and didn’t want to know anymore about it. Goldberg had obviously been given license to do what he and Curtis wanted, so long as they didn’t run afoul of the censors. But that meant, essentially, that the show was running completely under the radar. None of the higher ups had actually seen the show that was making the ABC network a ratings contender.

      Finally, in 1970 when the parents of the children who were running home to see the show every day got to find out what their children were watching when they took their kids to the drive-in to view House of Dark Shadows, this led to a drop in ratings.

      You could make those “invocations to Satan” in 1969 — provided that no one was watching. And in those days, no one was. Even shows like Dark Shadows, like the glorious childhoods of the time, were unsupervised. Just so long as you didn’t cause trouble, you wouldn’t get spanked. Otherwise, in 1969, you could roam free in the daytime.

      That’s another important reason why Dark Shadows could only happen once, back then in the times in which it was created.

      1. I agree. Agnes Nixon said that when she created One Life to Live for ABC in 1968, there was only one person in charge of daytime and that gave her a lot more freedom than when she wrote for the Procter & Gamble soaps on CBS and NBC. Her original cast of OLTL included WASPS, but other ethnic characters: African American, Polish, and a Irish Catholic woman married to Jewish man. She said she got very little if any pressure from ABC when it came to storylines back then.

      2. I’ve always found it both remarkable and delightful that my late mother, who was a very religious woman — very conservatively Christian — watched DS with me every day as a kid and enjoyed it thoroughly. She was as hooked on it as I was. She was always able to make a distinction between reality and “horror fiction” in movies and on TV. Besides, she saw the show as very much a battle between Good and Evil. I remember her saying on more than one occasion, “That Nicholas Blaire — he’s the Devil himself!” As for Barnabas, after the 1797 storyline (which was when she got hooked on the show), she regarded him as a basically good man who was turned into something horrible by an evil witch and did the best he could with a horrible situation, using his powers to help his family — which, of course, was pretty much on-target.

        As for those fundamentalists who railed against the show, she would say things like, “Haven’t they got far more serious real problems in the world to deal with than a TV show?”

        1. My religious mother and grandparents watched DS, too – raptly. All my friends’ moms watched the show and were all up into it like we were.
          And yes – we sure were unsupervised back then – we kids would ride our bikes all over town (without helmets) and my mother never knew where the heck I was.

          1. Same here. On Saturdays and weekdays during the summer months, my friends and I would be out playing nearly all day long, totally unsupervised, without any problems. We lived in a semi-rural area — I like to call it the “suburbs of a small town,” with farms within walking distance — so our adventures took place in the woods and in big open fields. Times sure have changed. Parents today under similar circumstances would probably be charged with child-neglect. 😉

            By the way, sorry about misspelling “Blair” in my post above.

  9. My mother had a very negative attitude about horror films and shows, but not to the point of saying no to them. And one time she sat and watched “Dracula Has Risen From The Grave” with me all the way through. (Evidently the slightly gimmicky idea of an atheist vampire hunter appealed to her.)

  10. Hi, Danny. Long-time reader, first-time commenter. I’ve really enjoyed following your blog as I make my way through the series. I wanted to ask whether you’ve mentioned that Amanda is an adaptation of Galatea, a character from Greek/Roman mythology. I searched the blog, but couldn’t find it anywhere. In the story, Pygmalion is a sculptor who creates a statue of his ideal woman and falls in love with her. Aphrodite/Venus, goddess of love, brings her to life. So even though we have to put up with another annoying Roger Davis character, I feel like we’re getting Oscar Wilde meets ancient mythology here. More narrative collision, hooray!!! 😉

    1. You know, I didn’t even think of that, and now I feel silly for missing it. 🙂 I’m just getting into the Leviathan story now, so I’ll have to work that into the Amanda/Quentin/Tate stuff that’s coming up. Thank you, and I’m glad you’ve started commenting!

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