“I know that what he really wanted to do was to see if I was real!”
“With every day,” writes Dr. Jekyll, “and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”
He doesn’t say anything about how many woman is, because it’s 1886 and not really his concern, but in this case, I think it’s safe to round up.
Because this is Parallel Time, that strange dimension on the other side of the sun, filled entirely with doubles and doppelgangers of the characters that we know and love.
This isn’t the Quentin Collins that we know and have a nationwide crush on, and that’s not Angelique, the curse-flinging sorceress. It’s probably not even parallel Angelique; it’s a separate entity claiming to be her twin sister, Alexis. If there was ever a time when somebody is truly two, it’s this broad. Two is a minimum.
Just to drive that point home, the set designers have hung mirrors on every flat surface they can find. It’s dangerous to have this many mirrors on Dark Shadows, because it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the cameras and studio lights, but these are dangerous times.
Quentin has just lost Maggie, his second wife in a row, because he kept feeding her crabmeat and wouldn’t let her edit the guest list. Maggie just endured her first miserable week as mistress of Colinwood, and everybody kept going on about how much they missed the first Mrs. Collins, Angelique, who was prettier and smarter and had her own theme song. Maggie could have stood that, of course, it was just a marketing problem. But then the door opened and in walked an Angelique-alike, and Quentin refused to let Maggie usher her out again.
So Maggie took one look at the situation, and decided to focus on her film career for a while. You can’t live in a house where new Angeliques are going to crop up at irregular intervals, scheming and smiling and tying handkerchiefs around things. You’d never have a moment’s peace.
Maggie’s not the only one who made for the door last week — we also lost Violet Welles, the third member of the writing team. Her replacement is returning champion Joe Caldwell, on his second tour of duty writing for Dark Shadows.
Caldwell worked on the show back in 1967, when Barnabas was kidnapping Maggie and trying to turn her into Josette. During a period of the show when the main tactics were recap and delay, Caldwell wrote episodes that each felt like a complete little story, with a beginning, middle and end. He imposed a dramatic structure on each episode, rather than letting the characters drift from one day to the next with no real purpose, and it was an enormous step forward for the show.
Caldwell wrote all of my favorite episodes from that period, like episode 250, which was a clever three-character bottle episode where Maggie tried to enlist Willie’s help in destroying their vampire tormentor. Caldwell also wrote Julia’s introduction in episode 265, establishing her weird dominance over anyone else who came along, and episode 270, a perfect little melodrama about Elizabeth and Jason’s wedding, which ended with Liz finally admitting that she killed her husband. And then there’s episode 290, when Julia teased Barnabas into trying to murder her, setting up the vampire-cure storyline. Oh, and episode 341, when Barnabas forces Julia to inject Dr. Woodard with heart-attack juice. Basically all of the good episodes were Joe Caldwell.
He left the show after six months, apparently to work on a play or something. Everyone refers to Caldwell as a playwright, but I’ve never been able to track down the name of a single play that he wrote. I know his TV credits — Dark Shadows, a couple episodes of Matinee Theater in the mid 50s, and a couple swings at Canadian DS knockoff Strange Paradise in early 1970. And I know that he wrote The Pig Trilogy, a well-regarded sequence of novels about an American living in Ireland. But everything else is a blank to me, especially the playwriting part. I’m sure he kept busy somehow.
Anyway, now Caldwell’s back on Dark Shadows, and he’ll spend six months here, all the way through Parallel Time and up to the brink of the 1840 storyline. I don’t remember if he wrote anything special during this period, but I guess this is our opportunity to find out.
Let’s get back to Alexis. The Angelique of Parallel Time has been dead for six months, having died in a mysterious seance-related accident, and there are several people on the estate who are convinced that she’ll find a way to return from the grave. And just when her husband brings home a second wife, all of a sudden here’s Alexis, Angelique’s twin sister. She managed to chase Maggie out of the house in twenty-two minutes, and now she’s sitting around in the drawing room wearing Angelique’s nightgown, and talking about how great Angelique was.
“Even though we were twins, we were always so different,” Alexis sighs. “She had an inner radiance that was reflected in every movement. People were enchanted with her.” Quentin responds by taking a slug of whatever’s handy.
Alexis continues, “It wasn’t easy being her sister, believe me. Everything was so easy for her, and nothing was easy for me. Especially imitating Angelique, and I tried to do that, believe me! What woman wouldn’t want to be all that she was?”
Quentin is knee-deep in the adult beverages by now, and Alexis suddenly realizes she’s being insensitive. She apologizes for bringing up a painful subject, and Quentin says that’s okay, I was going to get drunk anyway. And then the very next thing she says is, “How very deeply you must have loved her.” Seriously, what can you do with a houseguest who’s truly two? It’s ridiculous.
So this is Angelique, obviously, dressing up as her twin sister so that she can punish Quentin for marrying somebody else. On the other hand, it could be Alexis, who just doesn’t know when to shut up. Caldwell is giving her enough space to be either one, which is harder than it appears.
They’re also challenging one of the major twin tropes, which is the idea of a good twin and an evil twin. They’ve established that Angelique is the evil one, the gal who might claw her way out of the grave and come back for revenge. Chris even used the E word the other day to describe her.
But Alexis isn’t necessarily the good twin, because being good is complicated. She clearly idolized Angelique — unless this is Angelique, who idolized herself — and that’s not necessarily a good twin thing to do. We don’t know exactly what Angelique did to earn the Evil Twin crown, but whatever it was, it doesn’t seem to have turned Alexis against her.
Elsewhere in Parallel Time, we’re doing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is more nuanced about these concepts than people sometimes think.
We talk about Jekyll and Hyde as opposites — the good doctor, and the wicked fiend — but there isn’t really a “good” figure in the story. Dr. Jekyll says that each man is truly two, a mixture of good and evil in one frame. But when he splits and regenerates, his potion only releases the evil one. There isn’t a good twin in that story at all; there’s just the evil twin and Dr. Jekyll, who’s a mixture of good and evil. We never see an angelic version.
In fact, it’s that natural mixture of good and evil that gets Dr. Jekyll involved in the first place. He plans to release both the good and the evil, and allow them to go their separate ways, but then the only one that emerges is the evil one, and he hardly notices. He doesn’t spend any time wondering about where the purely good twin got to. He just figures that he’s the good one, and carries on. This is a common delusion that practically everyone believes — that you are basically more or less good, with occasional lapses into evil. This is probably not actually the case.
And once Jekyll realizes that Hyde is using their shared body to commit unspeakable acts, he’s not repulsed by it. He hardly even feels guilty, just pleased that he won’t be punished for Hyde’s offenses. He tells himself that he’ll never do it again, but then he gets that itch, and he returns to the bottle.
Dr. Jekyll isn’t good, and he isn’t evil. He’s a mixture of both, as we all are. When he feels tempted by the evil streak in his nature, he tries to resist, which is cute. But this is not the good twin.
And that’s what we have with Alexis, who isn’t the good twin either. She’s nice, as far as we can see; she has good manners and she hasn’t sucker-punched anybody yet. But she did kind of put the moves on Quentin the other day, which is what inspired Maggie to freak out and leave the house.
Now Alexis is playing innocent, urging Quentin to reach out to Maggie, and she’s not really taking responsibility for her role in the recent unpleasantness. In her mind, Maggie is only upset because of the physical resemblance between the two sisters. The fact that Alexis was clearly flirting with Quentin in front of Maggie doesn’t register at all.
This is evidence that Alexis is either the evil twin, or the normal Dr. Jekyll version, who’s mostly nice but occasionally deviates, just like everybody else.
And Quentin is doing a lot of truly two himself. He ends an act with a stubborn thinks monologue about how not to blame he is for Maggie’s flight — “It has to be her decision, completely! I will not go after her!” — and then as soon as the commercial break is over, he’s on the phone, trying to get in touch with her.
He ends up talking to Maggie’s sister, Jennifer, because apparently people are truly two at the Evans home as well, and nobody can stand to be one person for any length of time at all. Quentin pleads with Jennifer to tell Maggie how much he loves her and wants to talk to her again. Then Jennifer asks if Alexis has left, and he gets all cold and snappy about it, because even in Parallel Time, Quentin doesn’t put any space between himself and the females, if he can help it.
And that’s the key to what’s going on with the show right now. Parallel Quentin isn’t making a clear choice between Angelique and Maggie, or between Maggie and Alexis, because Quentin Collins is constitutionally unable to be in love with only one woman, in this universe or any other. Julia chose to become a housekeeper and Willie chose to become a writer, but Quentin cannot and will not choose between two women. This is a physical fact.
Quentin is angry at Maggie, and he’s desperate for her to come home. He hated Angelique, and he loved her; he loves Maggie, and he yearns for Alexis. When there’s a choice to be made, Quentin Collins chooses both. He’s the discordian trickster god, and he’s more truly two than anybody.
That’s the secret to all of the binary oppositions floating around Collinwood these days, and there are quite a few. Alexis and Angelique, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Parallel Time and regular time, shooting the movie and making the TV show. Yes, we will have them both, good and evil alike, full speed ahead and damn the consequences.
Tomorrow: The Staggering Weirdness of Bruno.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Bruno tells Cyrus, “I’m beginning to understand why you and Sabrina get it off as well as you do.” He’s mixing up “get along” and “hit it off”.
Not a blooper, but worth noting: in act 2, when Bruno’s talking on the phone to a travel agent, he’s not standing on a set; it’s just a lamp and a telephone, against a completely dark background.
Behind the Scenes:
Angelique’s headstone says 1939-1969, meaning she died at age 30. The actor playing Daniel is fourteen — so Angelique gave birth when she was sixteen? This isn’t actually a problem, of course, because this is obviously a case of soap opera rapid aging syndrome, and children on soaps can be as old as they like.
Horace Gladstone is played by John Harkins, who’s previously appeared on the show as Lieutenant Costa (during the first Phoenix story), Garth Blackwood (Aristede’s prison guard) and Strak (the Leviathan who made a deal with Paul).
When Bruno walks through the cemetery, we see gravestones for Thomas Findley and John Hart — two of the four men that Jeb raised as zombies, in the original universe.
Tomorrow: The Staggering Weirdness of Bruno.
— Danny Horn