“How can I fight a presence?”
Angelique was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. Actually, there is some doubt about it, so I guess the story is, like, eighty-five percent wonderful.
Here’s what we know about Angelique: She was once the mistress of Collinwood, in this strange desert otherworld of Parallel Time, and she was married to the dashing, brooding Quentin Collins. Under her administration, the house ran according to a strict timetable, which included menu selection, flower arrangement, and daily adult-beverage tea parties in the drawing room for anybody with a Y chromosome who felt like dropping by while her husband was at work.
Angelique attracted a wide set of worshippers, and a smaller faction of detractors, mostly determined by gender. Men were drawn to her by the handful — Quentin and Will and Bruno and Roger and Cyrus, all of them eager to kiss or flirt or banter or gossip or social-climb, as per their proclivities. The females in the family seem to be the principal holdouts; neither Elizabeth or Carolyn were accepted into the queen’s inner circle, and they stand on the fringes, glowering and holding their tongues.
And then there’s Hoffman — perplexing, unexpected Hoffman, who breaks patterns and makes faces.
The principal pleasure of this introduction to Parallel Time is that we’re being dropped into a new soap opera in media res, which is the correct method. This new-fangled fad of watching every episode of a television series in order is fine for pampered millenials with no creative viewing skills, but in 1970, you watched whatever they broadcast that day, and if you couldn’t figure out what’s going on, then you weren’t trying hard enough.
If the Collins family history of Parallel Time is written down in a book somewhere, then it must have been taken to the distant past or eaten by chupacabras, because we don’t have access to it; all we can make are inferences.
It’s a world of siblings and cousins and hardly any parents, as if a whole generation of grown-ups vanished during the 1960s. There’s Quentin, who’s a cousin of Elizabeth and Roger, who are cousins of Chris and Amy, and nobody knows where any of them came from. It’s a clear case of spontaneous generation, which you’d think a soap opera wouldn’t encourage.
So if we want to understand what’s going on, then we’re going to have to use our soap opera televisual literacy to reconstruct what came before.
Here’s what we know:
Barnabas: In the time I come from, Julia Hoffman is a doctor.
Carolyn: Perhaps she’s happier then.
Barnabas: Maybe she is. But how did she happen to come to Collinwood?
Carolyn: With Angelique, of course.
Barnabas: They were friends?
Carolyn: It was hard to tell who was in charge of the other.
Barnabas: What do people actually know about Angelique?
Carolyn: Well, everything. She always wanted to marry Quentin. Always, since she was a child.
Barnabas: She lived here as a child?
Carolyn: Yes, her father raised her — Tim Stokes.
Carolyn: She outgrew him, once she became a Collins.
Barnabas: It’s all so similar — and yet so different!
Yeah, you can say that again. What on earth are you talking about?
The sentence “she lived here as a child” is the one that perplexes me. Do they mean in Collinsport, or on the Collinwood estate? What does Carolyn mean when she says, “Her father raised her — Tim Stokes”?
Those two sentences sound like Tim Stokes was the gardener at Collinwood, and he and his daughter Angelique lived in the caretaker’s cottage. That resonates a bit with our own timeline, because both Angelique and (Ben) Stokes were introduced on the show as Collins family servants.
Angelique always wanted to marry Quentin, and when she grew up, she managed to seduce him away from the upper-class girls that his invisible parents presumably preferred. That sounds like a story from a 19th century serial or a 20th century soap opera, a Becky Sharp / Erica Kane / Jane Eyre social-climber spectacular.
But they also say that housekeeper Hoffman “came to Collinwood” with Angelique, which is the part that’s hard to figure. How could you say that Angelique “lived here” and “came here,” in the same conversation?
So “Angelique lived here” must mean Collinsport, rather than the estate, because the gardener wouldn’t have had a housekeeper. The Stokeses must have been a well-off family from town. We’ve never seen anybody else from Collinsport who had servants, but presumably there are more mansions tucked away in a corner somewhere, maybe on the invisible farm with the Convenient Rooster, who crows at dawn to alert nearby vampires that it’s time to go to bed.
Now, going by the actors’ ages, Angelique was in her early thirties when she died, and her son Daniel is fourteen. So Angelique married Quentin when she was somewhere around eighteen years old, which has an appealing “scheming teen soap vixen” ring to it. But David Selby is twenty-nine, which would peg him as fifteen when he knocked up the wealthy gardener’s daughter, so that’s probably not a useful guide.
Still, if we take this version of Dark Shadows as an ABC soap opera from another dimension, there must have been an on-screen courtship between Angelique and Quentin. She knew him as a child and schemed to win his love, “outgrowing” her upper-middle-class father and taking over Collinwood. This is far too delicious a story to be part of the series bible; it must have happened on the show.
But that doesn’t mean the show’s been on for more than fourteen years, because Daniel was probably the beneficiary of “soap opera rapid aging syndrome,” a chronosynclastic condition which gives youngsters the chance to leap over the tedious toddler years and go straight from switched-at-birth infant to sexy high school dropout in record time. This is probably the third Daniel.
They’ve built Angelique a nice big set, full of flowers and furnishings and keepsakes, which you’d only make for one of the most popular characters on the show. There’s a huge portrait of Angelique above the mantel, which must have been painted fairly recently, and serves as a visual reminder of her long-sought ascension to greatness.
I keep coming back to Erica Kane as a model — All My Children’s bad-girl teen who married well, and became the show’s signature wealthy diva. Erica was introduced in 1970 as a fifteen-year-old heartbreaker interfering in other people’s love stories, and catfought her way to nineteen consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations.
Using that model, this show is probably eight or nine years old, opening with Angelique as a teenager who’s desperately in love with dreamboat Quentin. She’s raised by her father, who can’t offer her much in the way of positive female role models, and by her devoted housekeeper Hoffman, who’s essentially out of her mind.
Under Hoffman’s fierce tutelage, Angelique dismantles the relationships of her wealthy childhood crush, destroying all rivals and finally winning his heart. The clincher in the final love triangle is probably Angelique getting pregnant, forcing Quentin to choose her, rather than his other current option. Once they’re married, Angelique brings Hoffman with her to Collinwood, and the pair gradually take over the estate, producing an heir and then launching into a series of bitter rivalries and torrid affairs.
Knowing those two, they probably had something to do with the death and/or disappearance of Quentin’s parents, who used to live in that big suite in the east wing. The land grab probably happened during the funeral for Quentin’s mother, so everyone comes back from the cemetery to find Hoffman standing in the middle of Angelique’s new throne room.
Angelique’s death must have been a terrible blow to the show, removing one of the most important and popular characters. But they didn’t do a murder mystery storyline at the time — it’s now six months later, and nobody seems to know how Angelique really died.
So probably what happened is that parallel Lara Parker was pregnant, and the show didn’t have any use for a new baby. They “killed” Angelique and the actress left the show for six months, which gave them time to build a new love triangle for Quentin.
Maggie is a new heroine, apparently, introduced after Angelique’s “death”. She used to live in Collinsport, but moved away as a child, and nobody on the show has met her until now. Their meeting and courtship, which apparently took place in London, must have happened on-screen, because they couldn’t lose both Quentin and Angelique at the same time without taking a serious hit in the ratings.
Plus, they’d have to build up Maggie quite a bit, for the audience to accept that she’s a reasonable rival for a back-from-the-dead Angelique. They must have done a big story about Quentin on the run, trying to escape all the terrible memories of his terrible marriage. In the most unlikely place, he meets a Collinsport girl, and decides that this is what he should have done the first time. This is what he wants now — a simple, sincere girl, like he thought Angelique was, back in the day.
Now Quentin’s come home, back to the standing sets with a new bride and a storyline just waiting to be revived. We’re joining a show already in progress, which is pretty much always the case with soap operas, and it’s right at the time that their clever trap is sprung.
Because this is what we know about Angelique: The show doesn’t work without her. Soaps don’t really have main characters, but to the extent that they do, it’s usually the richest lady in town. Parallel Dark Shadows without Angelique is like One Life to Live without Viki, Guiding Light without Reva, Days of Our Lives without Marlena. It is intolerable.
So we’ve stumbled on a version of Dark Shadows that’s been through some rough times in the past several months, stuck with slow-burning stories and not really concentrating on the characters that the audience cares about. I wonder what that must be like?
Tomorrow: The Cassandra Complex.
If you want to see what else I’ve been up to lately, I just posted a video for a talk I gave a few weeks ago called “First a Bird, Then a Plane: The Natural Selection of Superman“. It’s basically me doing a live version of this blog, talking about how serialized narrative works, through the lens of Superman’s development. It includes material on giraffes, mermaids, mad scientists and secret wax museums, and why it’s totally okay to tear people’s houses down even if they didn’t ask you to.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of act 1, when Amy tells Daniel that it’s impossible for his mother to contact them, you can see past the edge of the set, and somebody walking by. You can see it again, a little later in the scene.
One of the cameras is faulty, making black lines appear on the screen at irregular times, mostly in act 1 and 2. MPI put a warning before this episode on the video, explaining that the problem comes from the original recording.
When Maggie joins Quentin on the balcony, there’s a lot of studio noise — something falls over, a chair scraping on the floor, and shuffling feet.
When Quentin hugs Maggie in the foyer, someone’s shadow crosses behind them.
There’s no glass in the window in Daniel’s room.
When Daniel walks moodily from the window to his desk, there’s a clang from the studio.
Hoffman tells Daniel, “I have a feeling — take my advice, and go and see what this is.”
When Maggie puts down the flowers, there’s a boom mic overhead.
Isn’t the song that Maggie plays called “Ode to Angelique”? It’s not likely she would be fooled into buying and playing the record, if it has Angelique’s name on it.
Behind the Scenes:
Here’s another update on the Parallel Time version of David’s room, aka Daniel’s room now. We can see the right side of the room today, including the dresser, which has the cardboard dog protestor. There are some small and not interesting pictures on the right wall, still no sign of the cat picture. We also see some more shelves, which have the third robot and some more cars. There’s also a new, colorful table lamp. Still missing: the sailboat, the football player, the nutcracker soldier thing, the cat picture, the radiometer and the ruined globe.
Tomorrow: The Cassandra Complex.
— Danny Horn