“Trying to transcend that other time level can be very dangerous!”
Eccentric mass murderer and explorer of the outer realms Barnabas Collins is pacing the Collinwood drawing room, frowning heroically and making excuses. He’s been having one of his spells again.
His friend Julia takes a lap around the track. “Barnabas, why did you do it?” she wails. Barnabas drank Megan dry a few weeks ago, and now he’s about three-quarters of the way through Sabrina.
“I stayed at the Old House, and fought the urge to leave,” he says, striking an apologetic pose. “And then she came to me.”
“You couldn’t help yourself,” Julia observes.
Barnabas swivels, and snaps, “Do you think I do this by choice?”
“No, Barnabas,” she reassures him. “I know what you’re going through.” Yeah, he’s going through the entire female supporting cast, is what he’s going through.
And then they have the kind of conversation that justifies why we keep pointing the camera at Barnabas and Julia.
“Julia,” he considers, “for the past hour, I’ve been thinking of that room in the east wing.”
She furrows. “What does that have to do with it?” she asks, because she’d forgotten all about the east wing, where they’ve recently discovered a door that offers sporadic glimpses into a parallel universe. That’s how outré these people’s lives have become, where they can lose track of major discoveries in quantum mechanics taking place in their own house.
“Julia, if I could only transcend that time warp that exists in that other room!” he sighs, because everything is always about Barnabas. “If I could only get to that other world of time!”
“Do you think that going back to that other world, that other level of time would change things?” she asks, one-upping on the terminology again.
They keep coming up with new monikers for the miracle in the east wing, including that time warp, that other world of time, that other level of time, that other band of time, and that other agglomeration of time. The phenomenon doesn’t actually have anything to do with time, per se, but that’s what they’ve decided to focus on.
“It might be a way of saving Sabrina’s life,” Barnabas says. “And it’s possible, Julia, just possible, that –” And then he runs out of words. Barnabas Collins has memorized his lines up to this point, and no farther. “I might be…” he struggles, “well, not the same as I am here, but quite normal, and able to live in the daylight.” It’s close enough.
“Barnabas,” Julia says, “trying to transcend that other time level can be very dangerous! You could get trapped there forever!”
But Barnabas doesn’t care. He’s out of time, out of ideas and out of dialogue. Any time level that he can force his way into would be better than the time level he currently lives in.
But it’s more complicated than that, obviously. It usually is. These people have been dashing back and forth between time levels for what we might as well refer to as years; that’s how they let this Schrödinger’s cat out of the bag in the first place.
So if we’re going to run the good ship Collinwood into a sandbar, and leave it there while the cast shuffles off to Tarrytown to shoot some goddamn Warner Brothers epic, then we might as well take inventory, and figure out which universes we’ve already visited.
Because you can’t keep puncturing haphazard time tunnels through the fabric of everything without doing some kind of damage to the time band you’re standing in. Rupturing the localized dimensional fabric creates time eddies that skitter up and down the timeline, spawning feedforward loops and generating spurious meanwhiles.
It’s like I keep telling Vicki: there are consequences to time travel. In fact, you usually get the consequences first; that’s the whole idea. But Vicki never listens.
So we’re back to the seance again, which was the show’s first use of time travel — or, looked at from another angle, the ninth.
Chronologically, I think the first time travel departure was Barnabas traveling from 1796 to 1970 via Leviathan cairn on the night of Josette’s death, followed by Vicki and then Eve, both en route to 1968, and then there’s the 1840 and the 1897 trips, and then, at last, the first use of time travel.
So here we are, in 1967, sitting around a table and touching each other’s fingers for four months, while Vicki slips away between two artificially-extended ticks of the clock. Pictured above is the world that Vicki left, with poor old Phyllis Wick taking a seat in Vicki’s place.
You remember Phyllis Wick, of course — everyone does, except the Dark Shadows writers circa December 1968. She was the girl on the train that Dan Curtis dreamed about, a young governess heading to Collins House, hoping to link her past with her future, or the other way around. And then along comes Victoria Winters, kicked through time by some cosmic travel agent disguised as the ghost of a little girl. And it’s Phyllis’ first day on the job, too. How are you supposed to fill out a timecard for something like that?
And then here we are, four months and one tick later: the parallel world that Vicki returned to. Nobody’s moved, but they’re all sitting in different chairs, and Roger and Barnabas are in different positions. It’s a subtle change, I’ll admit, but that’s how parallel works sometimes.
And there’s Barnabas Collins, suspicious and unhappy, trapped in a world he never made. He’s from Vicki’s original level of time, where Phyllis Wick lived and loved and hanged and died, and that’s what Barnabas remembers. But now he exists in this new parallel place, where Phyllis fell and Vicki landed.
Barnabas has shifted existences, placed in this world to catch Vicki when she falls, as she travels by noose back to 1968. He has two choices — the Vickiverse versus the Wickiverse — and Barnabas can’t remember which side he’s on. It turns out this Parallel Time thing isn’t new, after all.
So here, in this tricky moment of time, we should play a few rounds of Parallel or Not Parallel, just to keep everything straight.
We’ll start with an easy one, the commercial for the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game from summer 1969. Parallel or Not Parallel?
The answer is Parallel, of course. This could never happen in our universe; the kids are having a social event in the Collinwood drawing room, and nobody’s drinking sherry.
Let’s try another. The night when Barnabas didn’t kill Nathan Forbes after the crossbow incident: Parallel or Not Parallel?
The correct answer is Not Parallel, because this didn’t unhappen in the second place. This was an alternate time thread that Barnabas snipped off with scissors when he brought Kitty back to 1796, so she could turn into Josette and drink a Drano cocktail. This one’s hovering in the obverse, stuck in that stopping-off place where Mr. Best stores his spare parts.
And the altered-state Carolyn, who appeared for one episode in September ’68: Parallel or Not Parallel?
Obviously, this one is Parallel, it’s staring us right in the face. Another Carolyn Stoddard, falling out of an overturned carriage and into Tony Peterson’s arms. That’s why she had her mouth open for most of the episode; she’s from a world where Collinwood is a bungalow, and she can’t figure out where all these rooms came from.
At the end of the episode, Parallel Carolyn was returned to her home universe, taking Tony with her. They were young and foolish and so desperately in love; once he got over the shock of descending the stairway into time, he proposed to her, and they were married the next day. It was a beautiful wedding, up till the part where she cracked his carapace with her raptorial forelegs, and bit his head off.
But how about all those reprises at the beginning of each episode, where people are wearing different clothes, or saying different things, or entering the room through a different door? Parallel or Not Parallel?
The answer is that these are both Parallel and Not Parallel at the same time, a platoon of secret Schrödinger’s cats, waiting for their moment to strike. Just around the corner, armed with poison and Geiger counters and mad science apparatuses, they’ve heard about Angelique making Joshua trade places with a cat, and then back again. When that cat disappeared, they say, these artificial felines, where did it go? What other world of time, what stopping-off place, what hellish never-realm of Carolyn Stoddard’s other selves?
Where is Phyllis Wick? they yowl into the night, at nobody in particular. What is the Great Unwinding? And whatever happened to Dr. Julian Hoffman?
And finally, fatally, that zero-hour of time crime: the ghost of Peter Bradford, hanged and angry, postulating pasts that couldn’t be and never were. Parallel or Not Parallel?
The answer is that yes, this is Parallel Peter, leaking through the crack in a glass that hasn’t broken yet. The Jeb from our universe never set foot in the seventeen-nineties, but Peter knew a Jeb who died at Widow’s Hill — and just for a moment, Jeb remembers him, the parallel man who tricked Vicki, and kicked off a whole new chain of consequences.
Peter is a PT cruiser, on a joyless joy-ride from one time band to the next, passing through the past where Phyllis Wick died on the gallows, the world where Danielle Roget pined for Peter, and that other level of time where the life and death of Barnabas Collins happened just like William Hollingshead Loomis said that it did.
Barnabas wasn’t a vampire there, in that Life and Death situation, so he couldn’t transport the Leviathans’ burden to 1969. Stuck in a century where absolutely everything is an antique, the Leviathans had no shop to take shelter in. So they hid as best they could, with their box and their book and their ancient grudge, and they grew a different Jebez Hawkes.
She’s not Carolyn, the big bad grumbled, because deep down in his DNA, he knew he had a bride somewhere. But she smells like Carolyn. She’s the next best thing, this Winters chick, and she can lead me to the world she came from, where my wife is waiting. But it all went wrong, as it always does, and always will, because Vicki ruins everything.
And the vibratory shields between Collinwood and Keystone City, weakened by trip after trap across the timelines, finally cracked open in the east wing, and PT-Peter, strange visitor from another world, tried and failed to take his revenge on a man who never heard of him, until just now.
It can’t be you, said Jeb, and it couldn’t, but it was.
And somewhere, in the darkness, the thrice-killed man raises a toast to another life tangled in time. He has everything he wants now — a new world, several new wives, and a job at The Somerset Register.
But Phyllis Wick and the missing cat, whatever became of them? Somewhere, in some other band of time, there’s a nice normal soap opera about love and power and money and extramarital affairs, a show where a different William Loomis opens the mystery box, and the only thing that comes out is Jingles the clown. Phyllis and her time-shifted pet could finally settle down in Somerset with Parallel Megan, and open an antiques store. They just need to find the right door.
Monday: The Clone Wars.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Sky tells Carolyn, “I’m afraid, Mrs. Hawkes, that there is no excape!”
When Julia asks, “Barnabas, why? Why did you do it?” the camera tries to follow her as she crosses the room, but there’s a wall in the way; they have to cut to a Barnabas close-up instead.
Julia tells Barnabas, “Quentin told me that you’d given him your word!” Barnabas replies, “I gave him my word!” He means “I kept my word”.
Julia says to Barnabas, “People in the town are being worried about the attacks now.”
When Barnabas appears, it takes Sky a long time to come up with the line “I gotta get out of here.”
Sky tells Barnabas, “Nicholas made me do it!” Barnabas asks, “What has he made — what has he promised you in return?”
When Barnabas opens his eyes and finds the PT room has changed, the camera pulls back quickly, revealing a boom mic above Barnabas.
There’s a closeup on The Life and Death of Barnabas Collins today, and it’s really clear that it says “William Hollingsford Loomis,” but everybody says “Hollingshead”.
In the last moment, when PT Carolyn asks Barnabas, “Who are you?” there’s a camera and teleprompter visible behind her.
On his last episode, they still misspell Geoffrey Scott’s credit as Geoffery Scott. I guess sometimes you just have trouble with names.
Behind the Scenes:
Christopher Pennock described filming Jeb’s death in The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition: “I did have talent for shameless, over-the-top, quasi-Shakespearean-chewing-the-scenery acting. No problem there. When I finally got a handle on Jeb Hawkes’ outrageous villainy, ‘zap!’ they tried to make him remorseful, sympathetic, loving and depressed about it all. Well, all those elements were simply too much for my limited scope as a 24-year-old actor. (But James Dean was 24, I’d think to myself.) I mean I barely knew my lines! By the time I was flung off Widows’ Hill, screaming to my death, I wanted to say, ‘But, I’ve got him! I’ve got the handle! I can do Jeb!’ Splat! I went onto the jagged rocks.”
Monday: The Clone Wars.
— Danny Horn