“You don’t know what it’s like, suddenly seeing yourself walk into a room.”
Everyone’s talking about it! Here’s what people are saying about Parallel Time, opening Friday:
“I can’t help but be fascinated by that room, and everything I’ve seen there!” — Barnabas Collins
“Somehow, we must discover the secret of this room!” — Roger Collins
“You must take me to that room immediately, I want to see this for myself!” — Professor T. Eliot Stokes
“There must be something very special in the east wing, because suddenly everyone’s so interested in it!” — Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
I will regret this, I’m sure. I will regret all of this. The upcoming Parallel Time storyline will fail in some spectacular way — like Adam did, like Nicholas Blair and Count Petofi, and all the other disappointing men in our lives — and I’ll end this period of the show trying to figure out how it all went wrong, as I always do.
But this feeling, right now, this tickle of heightened expectations? Give me this. Even if it’s only for a little while. Just give me this.
It’s a wardrobe.
Dark Shadows is a show about time travel. It started as a “gothic romance” show, and became a “spooky monsters” show, but if you look at the five years of the show as a whole, they spend more time exploring the use and abuse of time travel than anything else. Dark Shadows is a science-fiction show.
In fact, looking at the story structure as a whole, it’s one science-fiction show in particular. This is a story which is told in chunks, divided by transitions where the main characters move from one place and time to another. Barnabas and his companion — either Vicki or Julia — visit a new time and place every so often, and they get involved with whatever’s going on. They explore, they fight monsters, they solve problems, and then they move on to the next story. Dark Shadows is just like Doctor Who, if Doctor Who always took place in the same house.
But Doctor Who isn’t hard sci-fi — it has very little interest in explaining how the new worlds and inventions and creatures actually work. Doctor Who is fantasy, because it works on an emotional level, rather than a logical or rational one. The magic wand is called a sonic screwdriver, the evil goblins have machine parts, and everyone uses science words instead of magic spells, but they’re still witches and monsters and spells. And the most fantastical element of the show is the TARDIS, a magical wardrobe that you can step into and be transported to another world.
And here, on Dark Shadows, at the moment when they’re using a concept like parallel universes, they don’t use science — or even mad science — to travel across the gap. They just use an ordinary door, that you can walk through. It’s ridiculous and illogical, and that’s why it feels more real than a scientific explanation ever could.
It has a theme song.
Every time somebody opens the magic doors and sees into the other world, we hear a beautiful, haunting music box tune.
I don’t think the song has any lyrics, so I made up my own, which sound like all the other lyrics that I ever come up with.
Parallel and spooky, it’s parallel and spooky.
Why is it so spooky, so parallel and spooky?
Parallel and spooky, it’s parallel and spooky.
Don’t you think it’s spooky? And also parallel.
Julia is a villain.
Grayson Hall is the most interesting person on this show or any other, and her characters have the power to shape the nature and tone of the storyline, through her influence on the other major characters. In 1897, Magda was reckless, amoral and whimsical, and that influenced Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique to think in the same way. But Julia is more focused and driven, and when she showed up in 1897, all of a sudden the other three started problem-solving. Coming back to the present, Julia was cast in the role of detective, and everything in the show became a mystery for her to solve.
And now, for the first time, Julia is a cold, aggressive antagonist. In the first three glimpses that we get of Parallel Time, the scene is Julia walking into a room and telling somebody not to do something. I don’t know what that’s going to mean for the story, but it’s terribly exciting.
The colors are different.
These days, everybody on the show wears dark green, dark blue, tan, and occasionally burgundy. When they want a splash of bright color, it’s usually lime green, or a little purple.
But Parallel Time is pink and orange, colors that we’ve never really seen on the show before. The Parallel Time room is dominated by huge orange curtains, and Elizabeth is wearing pink. I know that sounds silly, but Liz appears in three of these Parallel Time scenes over a week and a half, and each time, she’s wearing the same thing. You don’t put on that cardigan three times in a row by accident. They’re making a point.
This new color scheme does actually carry through, once Barnabas enters Parallel Time. As we’ll see next week, there’s a big flower arrangement in the foyer of Parallel Collinwood, filled with pink and orange carnations. They’re using a parallel universe to experiment with some new styles.
The room switch is a great effect.
Just a couple years ago, it was incredibly difficult for them to pre-tape part of the show and edit the parts together, so they would go to incredible lengths to avoid it. Now they do it four times a week, and it’s believable and exciting. They’re getting a lot better at making a modern television show.
Willie is smart and angry.
Willie was never the cringing Renfield that people sometimes say that he was; he was soulful and sad. But this week, he does cringe and whine about the things that Barnabas orders him to do, and it’s not a good look for him.
Happily, there’s a new Willie waiting for us in Parallel Time. He talks and walks and moves around the set with a confidence that our Willie doesn’t have anymore. This is always the most exciting part of a new repertory-theater time travel sequence, waiting to see what the new Roger will be like, or the new Professor Stokes. And this time it’s even more fun, because they have the same names, except for David, who’s called Daniel for no reason at all, except to mess with us.
There’s a mystery about “the original Barnabas”.
We know that in this new world, Barnabas married Josette and had children, which means that the choices that set Parallel Time on a separate time band may have happened in 1795. This is the first time in a long while when I’ve actually wanted to hear people talk about Josette.
Angelique is important again.
It’s been a while since Angelique was actually pivotal to a storyline. She was a lot of fun in 1897, but the story was never really about her. In fact, they kept forgetting about her for long stretches of time, and then they’d have to reintroduce her when they wanted her to do something. Her role in the Leviathan storyline was similar — she was interesting when they pointed the camera at her, but it wasn’t her story.
But in Parallel Time, Angelique is the star that everyone else orbits around. The entryway into this particular wardrobe is Angelique’s room, where she rules from on high, even when she’s not there in person.
They’re also talking a lot about Quentin in these PT scenes, which is another welcome change. Quentin was underused in the Leviathan story — he had some nice fight scenes with Jeb, but he was secondary at best, and he has nothing to do with the resolution of the story. A Quentin/Angelique story would suit me right down to the ground.
There’s fam dram.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about how boring the present-day Collins family has become, as I always end up doing when we spend any significant time with them. They’ve been nerfed for years — always friendly and supportive with each other, and trying to do the right thing. A few months ago, it looked like we were heading for some actual conflict between Elizabeth and Carolyn over Paul’s return, but that got swallowed up by Leviathan nonsense.
But the family in Parallel Time hates each other, hooray! They talk about money a lot in these PT trailers — Quentin is the rich one, Elizabeth and Roger are the poor relations living in Quentin’s house, and Carolyn and Will are flat broke. We’ve seen some intriguing squabbles so far; I want more.
It’s also nice to see, for once, that in our universe, Roger and Liz are allowed to know about the crazy supernatural thing happening in their house. There’s a scene in today’s episode with Julia, Roger and Liz standing around in the east wing and having a Parallel Time party, which is adorable.
They’re still pushing the boundaries on the effects.
There’s a shot in today’s episode when they mix pre-taping with Chromakey, for a fantastic effect that they couldn’t possibly have done, even six months ago. Roger watching himself walk towards the door is thrilling and memorable. It doesn’t quite work, of course — the camera was too close, and it looks like PT Roger is the wrong height — but that’s the point, really. If the effect wasn’t messed up somehow, the first time they tried it, it would mean that they’re not challenging themselves enough.
And that’s true for the whole storyline, really. Once more into uncharted territory, with new effects and colors and conflicts. It won’t work, of course; nothing ever does. But they keep on doing it anyway.
Tomorrow: What’s Cooking.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There’s a camera fault during the opening narration; the screen goes green for a moment.
PT Roger tells Liz, “Angelique and I were — shared something very special together.”
Talking to Roger in the PT room, Barnabas gets a little lost in a complex bit of dialogue. Roger asks, “You’ve never seen yourself, have you?” Barnabas replies. “No. Nor has anyone else seen me, or mentioned me. But I know that Barnabas Collins, my ancestor, who lived and died well over a century ago, is somehow involved in all this. But not the Barnabas that you know — he’s not involved in this, and doesn’t exist in this room, and whatever lies beyond it.” If I didn’t already have an unbeatable quote for the top of the post, “He doesn’t exist in this room, and whatever lies beyond it” would have been the next best thing.
In the PT room, when Roger tells Liz that they’re “just looking around,” someone crosses in front of the camera, ducking to stay out of the shot.
After Barnabas bites Sabrina in the Old House, she returns to the cottage, wearing a colorful scarf that she didn’t have in the previous scene. The implication is that Barnabas has a collection of scarves that he keeps around so his guests can walk home without anyone seeing their bite marks.
Tomorrow: What’s Cooking.
— Danny Horn