“You had no right to break out of here and kill Paul Stoddard!”
Here’s the thing: Teenagers are terrible. They’re selfish, entitled, self-righteous, irresponsible and rude. Honestly, the only good thing you can say about them is that adults are worse.
So here we are, approaching the teenager’s bedroom — the “Chosen Room,” apparently, add “overly dramatic” to the above list — and it’s January 1970, so he’s probably doing something countercultural in there, like smoking something, or balling someone, or turning into a hideous acid-spitting tentacular failure demon.
We knock on the door, not sure what to expect…
And there he stands, the dark angel of Altamont, saying: Please allow me to introduce myself.
Now, the reason why the pigs are here, with all their hang-ups and inadequate auras, and giving everybody a plastic hassle, is that Paul Stoddard was killed last night in a fairly comprehensive fashion — crushed and burned, and drenched in sticky substances that no one dares identify. And Sheriff Davenport, on the right track for the first time in history, has followed his nose all the way up to the murderer’s bedroom door, along with antsy civilian Julia Hoffman, who is not officially part of the police force.
Julia says that Paul was murdered by an x-dimensional blasphemous outer space Frankenkiller who’s pretending to be a dead 13-year-old boy, which just goes to show what she knows. The deplorable alt-earth starchild man-murderer is actually pretending to be a live 24-year-old man, and here he is.
“What are you doing in here?” the Sheriff asks. He’s not sure what he was expecting to find in this room, but this isn’t it.
“Why shouldn’t I be in here, man?” the creature smirks. “It’s my own room.”
Now, when he says “man”, he doesn’t mean it like, “Hey, man, what’s happening.” He means it like, To Serve Man, as in the cookbook.
The Sheriff is caught off guard, but the undocumented alien warlord is a little nervous as well. He knows this is a big deal — his introduction on the show he plans to invade and control — and he doesn’t want to screw it up.
Sheriff Davenport asks for his name, and the monster says, “Hawkes, Jeb Hawkes. Short for Jabez.” Then Davenport calls him “Mr. Hawkes,” and Jeb says, “Just call me Jabe.” So that’s a thing we’re not going to call him.
“All right, Jeb,” the Sheriff says. “Let’s get this straight. You say you’ve come from out of town, and you’re a photographer. How did you find this place?”
Jeb says, “Well, I was just passing by, and–” (checks the teleprompter) “– came in.” He smacks his lips. “And, uh — Mrs. Todd, uh — I asked her if she had any rooms in town, she suggested I stay here. So here I am.”
Now, I’m not pointing out this little stumble to make the guy look bad; on Dark Shadows, a bit of artful teleprompter access is actually a plus. Jeb is supposed to be entirely self-assured here, but there’s an undercurrent of sheer panic just below the surface that makes the scene more dynamic. Dark Shadows characters are always a little bit on edge, and that dark energy powers the show.
His real name is Christopher Pennock — (call him Jabe) — and it’s no wonder that the cast is suspicious of him, because he’s supposed to be the new monster heartthrob. He’s following in the large and ungainly footsteps of Robert Rodan, Don Briscoe and David Selby, taking on the role of the handsome hunk with a terrible secret and a rising body count. This has been going on for years; once Dark Shadows figured out that Barnabas was here to stay, they started emitting regular casting calls for the next big Thing.
He has to be handsome, and he has to be menacing, and no pressure or anything, but the last time we did this, the guy was a non-stop seductive charisma machine with a hit record and his own trading card set, so anything you can do along those lines would be great. Look, all we want is another instant sensation who can be the grand marshal at Baltimore’s “I Am an American” parade in six months or so. Just get every single member of the audience to fall desperately in love with you by the end of your first episode. Is that really too much to ask?
Because Gloria Stavers from 16 Magazine keeps calling to find out when we’re getting a new Dark Shadows dreamboat, and we are scared of her, because she is scary.
So it’s a high-profile gig for Chris, and this is basically the second time he’s ever been on television. He had a small-to-medium part in John Osborne’s A Patriot for Me, which ran on Broadway for six weeks in 1969, but his only screen credit at this point was a day player role on Guiding Light.
In The Dark Shadows Almanac, Chris wrote about the tension of this moment:
“My two years on DS were simply the richest, most stimulating, challenging, and terrifying of my life as an actor. At least, so far.
“Imagine going from an ‘under five’ spot on Guiding Light to suddenly… ‘you’re Chris!’ – a big, juicy role as a fiendish, dominating, seductive Leviathan on Dark Shadows! (‘Remember, Chris, he’s got to be likeable.’ ‘But he’s a monster.’ ‘Yeah, but he’s got to be a likeable, sexy monster.’ ‘Okay, no problem. I can do that.’ ‘Try to act like Roger Davis!’)”
So imagine that; on top of everything else, they told him to act like Roger Davis. It must have been a nightmare.
But at least he’s got a game plan, thanks to a solid introductory script that gives him the opportunity to be both a monster and — well, I’m not going to say “likeable”, but definitely appealing to one of the major Dark Shadows demographics. The housewives may not be sold on him right away, but Jeb is making a major play for the 16 Magazine teens in the audience, through the medium of sassing back to every grown-up he runs across.
Right here in his first scene, he gets the chance to diss Julia, who you would imagine is undissable.
Jeb: Hey, is there something about me that bothers you?
Julia: No, of course not.
Jeb: Then quit staring.
Julia: I’m not staring.
Jeb: Yes, you are. You’re also asking a lot of questions.
Julia: I’m terribly sorry. I was just trying to be friendly.
Jeb: I’ll find my own friends.
You see what I mean? Like all reality show contestants and other villains, Jeb isn’t here to make friends, he’s here to play the game.
And he’s playing to win, against everyone and everything in sight. In the next scene, he’s tearing into his human father, Philip.
Jeb: But you weren’t so brilliant upstairs, were you? Gaping, and staring at me. Making me do all the explaining.
Philip: I had no idea! How could I have known how much you had grown, or what you would look like?
Jeb: Did you think that I’d let them come up, and see me the way I really am? You are an idiot!
Philip: Perhaps I wouldn’t be so much of an idiot, if you let us know what you planned to do.
Jeb: Maybe I just didn’t want to let you know. Maybe I just wanted to see you sweat it out.
There’s no way to win this argument. Everything that Philip says is idiotic, any crack-ass decision that Jeb makes is beyond reproach. This conversation isn’t about anything in particular, it’s just dom/sub play with a baby world-crusher who’s trying to figure out how hard he needs to hit somebody before it hurts. Jeb Hawkes has an innate, unquenchable need to dominate and humiliate everyone around him. That is the only thing he wants.
This is actually a big change from Adam, Chris and Quentin, the previous candidates for likeable, sexy monster. Quentin wanted a whole bunch of things, mostly pleasures of the flesh — lots of money, lots of brandy, lots of pretty domestics to chase and seduce — but he didn’t really care what happened to anybody around him. If people would just hand over all the lucre, liquor and ladies that he required, he would be perfectly happy to debauch in peace. Meanwhile, Adam and Chris just wanted to be left alone.
That is not what Jeb wants; he is a uniquely social animal. When he’s left alone for more than sixty seconds, he’s restless, pacing around the shop, occasionally breaking things to pass the time. Jeb only exists in relationship to other people. He needs somebody to sneer at.
So here’s round three in Jeb’s endless championship grudge match with everyone: an unnecessary tussle with Barnabas, who’s supposed to be his boss.
Barnabas: You shouldn’t have done it. Any of it!
Jeb: What are you gonna do this time? Lock me up in my room? Arrange for another funeral?
Barnabas: Talk to you as an adult — I hope.
Jeb: Go ahead, talk.
So that’s the standard grown-up/teenager negotiation, right there. All of a sudden, Barnabas has an overgrown adolescent on his hands.
And he’s horny too, so that’s going to be difficult to manage.
Jeb: Let’s talk about Carolyn. When can you bring her to me? I want her brought to me!
Barnabas: How can I bring her to you? She’s at Collinwood, under heavy sedation, and trying to forget her loss. The loss that you caused her!
Jeb: She’ll forget him. She’ll forget everyone, when she meets me. When can you bring her to me?
So that right there is an incredibly productive little story point that’s so interesting that Jeb is currently relieved of any responsibility to make jokes or friends. He thinks that he can snap his fingers, and have a grown woman delivered to his door, immediately after murdering her father. What is she going to say, when he starts talking to her like this? All of a sudden, there are approximately four different upcoming scenes that I can’t wait to see.
Jeb: Hey, if you’re so concerned about Carolyn, Mr. Barnabas Collins, why don’t you give her away yourself?
Jeb: You heard me.
Barnabas: But the book says —
Jeb: Oh, tear up the book!
Barnabas: You cannot do that!
Jeb: I can, and I will! Because I’m not Joseph, or Michael, or Alexander anymore. I’m an adult now. And I want Carolyn. Fast!
And oh, Lord, preserve us from “adults” who have to yell “I’m an adult now.” Barnabas is stuck with an inhuman monster with an adult body and out-of-control hormones, insisting that the rules don’t apply to him anymore. In other words, Jeb is every teenager that ever lived, and like every teenager, that makes him the most dangerous creature on the planet.
Monday: The Dynamics.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Davenport forgets his final couple of lines, and just leaves them out:
Davenport: Now, there was an odor in that room — it was a faint one, but it was the same odor that we found clinging to Paul Stoddard’s jacket. So… I’m not really satisfied. And there are things that I have to do.
Julia: What —
Davenport: Right away.
Julia: What else?
Davenport: Well… (gives up) That’s not important now. I’ll have to do these things right away. Good night, doctor.
Barnabas scolds Jeb: “Not only did you — did you give us trouble, with your rash — your rash behavior, but killing Paul Stoddard!”
Then Jeb and Barnabas talk over each other:
Jeb: When can you bring her to me? I want her —
Barnabas: Bring her to you —
Jeb: — brought to me!
Barnabas: How can I bring her to you?
Julia tells Quentin, “I suppose in some way, Amanda was given a second chance at life! When that chance failed, all trace of her lice disappeared!”
Quentin coughs at the beginning of act 3.
Julia says, “Quentin, what you need is a new interest, and more important — Quentin — the important thing is that you’re here!”
Jeb opens the door for Davenport, and the bell falls off the door and drops to the ground with a clatter. This is actually a nice moment, where it plays as if Jeb is so strong that he destroys things without meaning to.
Philip asks Jeb why Davenport came back, and Jeb snarls, “Because you did! Something wrong!”
Behind the Scenes:
The picture of the Dark Shadows dreamboats is from 16 Magazine, naturally, from March 1970. The little bio of Christopher Pennock includes a surprising piece of information: “His TV credits include the role of Dr. Ross on The Guiding Light and, of course, his portrayal of Derek, a man of supernatural power who emerges from ‘the thing in the box’, on Dark Shadows.”
So — who the hell is “Derek”? It’s possible that was originally the character’s name, before they made the wise decision to change it to Jeb. Or the 16 writer made something up, as they often do.
Another 16 moment — in the next issue, April 1970, there’s a picture of Pennock, with the caption: “Gloria [Stavers, 16‘s editor in chief] snapped this picture of me in my favorite Afghanistan jacket the very first time I visited the offices of 16.” They just introduced him in the magazine last month and didn’t know his character name, so that “very first time” was probably two days ago.
Also: There’s no on-screen explanation for why Sheriff George Patterson was recently replaced by Sheriff Davenport, but at the end of today’s episode, Davenport gets a call:
“Oh, hello, George. No, I’ll be leaving right away. No, I don’t think there’s any point in your coming over tonight. But come in early in the morning, will you? Yes, it’s going to be a big day.”
This might be a reference to Sheriff Patterson, although Davenport’s dialogue suggests that “George” still works for the police. If Patterson retired and Davenport became the Sheriff, then “George” probably isn’t Patterson. I don’t think you can have two simultaneous Sheriffs, although who knows with Collinsport’s police department.
My interpretation is that Sheriff Patterson was removed from office because of his stunning record of 100% failure in making any legitimate arrest, despite working in the lawbreakiest town in America. Davenport took over as Sheriff, and Patterson probably just comes in to make the coffee.
Monday: The Dynamics.
— Danny Horn