Episode 1066: This Is How We Do It

“They didn’t dance that way in 1970!”

“I’m convinced that this room holds the key to what we’re looking for,” Barnabas tells Julia, without evidence. “I know this room didn’t exist in 1970, and yet — this room had something to do with what happened then!”

“Even though it didn’t exist?”

“Strange as that sounds — yes.”

So this is the curious incident of the playroom in the night-time, where, as Alexis Stokes once put it, the absence of the disturbances is more frightening than the disturbances themselves. Dark Shadows has once again declared its independence from material reality, and taken up residence in the world of dreams.

This non-existent narrative hidey-hole is the showroom of 1995 Collinwood, a post-apocalyptic outpost halfway between their future and our past. Barnabas and Julia have traveled inadvertently to this unfixed point in the space-time continuum, and they’re trying to figure out the nature of the catastrophe that brought the house down in 1970, so they can return to their own time band and turn these from the shadows of the things that will be into the shadows of things that may be. It’s basically a secular adaptation of the hind end of A Christmas Carol, except their problems are probably not going to be solved by sending people turkeys.

Barnabas and Julia know that the issue has something to do with young David, but they haven’t wrapped their minds around the Generation X slacker youth culture of 1995. Technically, David is a late Baby Boomer — late, as in the late David Collins — but becoming a ghost tends to freeze you at whatever age you were when you died, and nobody knows arrested maturity like a GenX’er. David’s definitely part of my generation: a child of divorce with reduced adult supervision, unfocused and disaffected. He has no idea what he wants to do when he grows up, which is fine, because he won’t. None of us did.

Barnabas and Julia try to talk to him, but the kid just shrugs, turns into Chromakey and walks away, probably planning to load up on guns and bring his friends.

Meanwhile, there’s an indie music festival going on downstairs for the benefit of Quentin Collins, another ageless young man who’s spent most of the last century just hanging out. In the wake of Collinwood’s destruction, Quentin was found wandering in the woods, mad with guilt and grief, and all he’s done in the last twenty-five years is sit in a mental institution and refuse to grow older.

Barnabas and Julia have brought Quentin back to the house to see if he can help them identify the evil forces that crushed the Collins family, but the ghost doesn’t want to be understood; he just wants everyone to leave him alone. So far, he’s been expressing this point of view through the medium of killing people who talk about him, which is an effective strategy, but not quite effective enough.

Now Quentin’s trapped on this uncharted island that used to be his childhood home, getting haunt-taunted by an unfriendly ghost who wants to reinforce who runs things around here. It begins, as hauntings typically do, with the sound of wind, and then it gets weirder from there.

There’s a gale blowing through the broken French windows in the drawing room, which Quentin interprets, correctly, as supernatural rather than meteorological. “No, leave me alone!” he shouts, at the wind. “I didn’t want to come back here! They forced me to come back into the house!”

The wind doesn’t reply, so he tries to cut a deal. “Listen to me, can’t you hear?” he pleads. “Look, if you let me go, I promise I’ll never come back here again!” And then the theremin kicks up.

The wind is still blowing, but layered over it is a repetitive ooo-wheeeeee type theremin whine, which terrifies Quentin. Lurching into the foyer, he sees the kitchen door slam open and shut a few times, and then he starts banging on the front doors, and the sound of his hammering echoes through the house.

And then it all stops — wind, theremin, banging — and there’s total silence.

Quentin moves away from the door, not sure what to make of the sudden cease-fire. He drifts towards the grandfather clock, cringing, and then turns to see the sinister specter himself, standing on the landing.

After a quick commercial break, Gerard the ghost starts to walk downstairs, as this storyline’s spooky music-box tune tinkles away on the soundtrack. Every storyline gets its own theme song these days, and this one is actually one of Bob Cobert’s leftovers from the last story.

The Complete Dark Shadows Music Collection has all of the show’s music cues with the numbers and descriptions that they used while the show was being made, and it reveals that the tune we know as “the Playroom Theme” was originally produced as an alternate version of Angelique’s theme from Parallel Time.

There’s a track called “298 1/2: Angelique’s theme and time warp melody”, which is the spooky music-box-and-strings version of “Ode to Angelique” that was played over the early scenes set in the Parallel Time room. And then there’s “298: Alternate time warp melody” — a different music box tune, which they’re using here as Gerard’s theme. So that’s convenient: Cobert wrote two spooky songs, and that was enough to tide them over for themes for the next eight months.

Anyway, it scares the shit out of Quentin, who stumbles into the drawing room and winds up on the floor, in a fetal position. And he stays there, until Barnabas and Julia come along and ask him what the hell is going on.

So the reason why I’m getting so deep into the aural aspect is that it’s unclear at this point what the difference is between the soundtrack and the sound effects. In other words: are the sounds that we hear supposed to be real, or in Quentin’s imagination, or are they part of the background music that the characters can’t hear?

Barnabas and Julia were coming downstairs from the playroom while Quentin was having this experience, and apparently they couldn’t hear any of it — the howling wind, the screeching theremin, or the music box — in the same way that they can’t hear the trilling violins while Quentin tells them that he saw the ghost on the landing.

Spending five minutes in this environment is utterly terrifying for Quentin, and they’ve communicated that to the audience partly through sounds of indeterminate origin. Was there really wind blowing through the house, which stopped all of a sudden? Did the theremin noise actually come from anywhere in particular, or was it just in Quentin’s head?

We’re seeing a weaker and more vulnerable Quentin than we’ve ever seen before — shaky, overwrought, unkempt and disconnected, half-covered in leaves and twigs from lying on the dirty floor — and the thing that makes that spooky, rather than pathetic, is that we can’t trust what we see and hear. The musique concrète party mix is designed to make the audience uneasy, and it works. This sequence is slow and dark and hard to understand, and it’s the best thing the show has done in months.

And then they go and do it again five minutes later, and it’s even weirder.

Barnabas and Julia leave the house and walk across the lawn, and they stumble on a situation out at the gazebo. It’s David’s ghost again, chilling with a blonde girl we’ve never seen before.

“They haven’t seen us,” Barnabas whispers. “Let’s make sure they don’t,” says Julia, and then they step into the underbrush, because I guess ghosts don’t always know if there are people around. Gerard will magically appear outside the Old House when somebody’s talking about him, but apparently the kids need line-of-sight. Ghosts are complicated.

And then we hear track 298 again, as we did when Gerard was menacing Quentin.

“That music again!” Barnabas whispers, and Julia hisses, “Where’s it coming from?” which is exactly the question I’ve been asking all day. How do these ghosts manage to emanate their theme song like this?

And then the spirits get up and get down, pacing around in a slow strut.

The judges are not pleased. “Barnabas, the way they’re dancing, it doesn’t make any sense!” Julia says. “They didn’t dance that way in 1970!”

“I know,” Barnabas breathes. “I don’t understand!”

Julia frowns. “It’s a minuet. Why are they doing that?”

“Maybe we should approach them,” Barnabas says, although why that’s a good idea now instead of a minute ago is unclear.

“No, if they see us, they’ll just go away,” Julia whispers, without evidence. “Let’s watch here, and wait, and see if we learn something.” So they do, and they do, and they don’t.

The kids bow courteously to each other, and then they walk away, leaving everyone just as befogged as before.

They just turn into Chromakey and silently fade away, paying no attention to Barnabas or Julia or the audience or common sense.

“Who could that girl have been?” Barnabas asks, and Julia says she doesn’t know.

“She must be important in all of this,” he decides. “Isn’t that curious, that David should be with someone that we never saw at Collinwood?”

“Maybe she came there after we left,” Julia points out.

“How much time has actually passed since we left?”

“I don’t know,” says Julia, except the answer is twenty-five years, and what are you talking about? “Quentin must know who she is!” Julia says, without evidence.

“Yes, there’s no doubt about that,” Barnabas agrees. “The question is, can we get him to admit it, and tell us about her?”

Personally, I disagree; I don’t think that’s the question at all. I’m not sure what the question is, but that’s not it.

So there’s your challenge: make sense of that sequence. Two ghosts, apparently for atmospheric reasons, materialize in the visible spectrum, conjure up a tune that nearby humans can hear, do a dance, and then walk off into the infinite, apparently unaware that there are people watching and listening, and the thing that the onlookers are most curious about is why they’re not dancing in a more up-to-date way.

And that, I believe, is the purpose of 1995 — to disorient the audience for two weeks, so that we forget about the failure of the Parallel Time storyline, and allow them to start over.

We don’t know why David’s ghost doesn’t seem to recognize Barnabas and Julia. We have no idea who the girl is, or why Quentin insists that David is actually Tad. We don’t know why Gerard killed Mrs. Johnson and attempted to murder Julia, but is satisfied with just scaring Quentin. Everyone keeps telling us different stories about what happened, and then confiding to each other that they’ll never tell the real truth. It’s like an unreliable narrators convention.

And on top of that, we can’t even believe what we see and hear, because the ghosts are creating mix tapes that we can’t understand. They’re dancing to their own tunes, staging a rave out on the back patio that we’re allowed to watch, but not participate in. They’re running the show now, and baffling the adults is half the fun. Here we are now, they say. Entertain us.

Tomorrow: No More I Love You’s.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When David turns into Chromakey at the top of act 1, there’s a super obvious blue line around him, which means they’re not lighting him properly in front of the blue screen. They’re usually way better at that. David and Hallie’s disappearance in act 3 is also flawed, but not as bad.

Not necessarily a blooper: the bust that dropped on Julia a couple episodes ago is now sitting upright on the floor of the foyer, as we see in act 1 when Quentin walks by. Maybe the ghosts have been moving it around.

We can see Gerard on the landing before we’re meant to; he’s supposed to be hidden until Quentin turns around.

When Barnabas walks into the drawing room, you can see the edge of the burlap they’re using to simulate dirt.

Barnabas asks Quentin about Daphne: “Was she the girl we heard talking with David, a short time ago?” I guess he means the girl they saw dancing with David.

Quentin says to Barnabas, “Now, you get out of my way, before –” except that Barnabas isn’t in Quentin’s way, and Quentin isn’t going anywhere.

When Quentin comes downstairs and finds Julia sleeping in a chair, he still has a crushed leaf in his hair from the previous evening.

The mic cuts out halfway through Julia asking Quentin if he feels any better.

When Quentin asks Julia about the locked attic, someone’s walking around in the studio.

The door to the playroom appears to be on the other side of the hallway now.

They’re not sure what to call the kids right now; there are credits for “David Collins” and “Carrie”. Also, Kathy Cody’s first name is misspelled “Cathy”.


Behind the Scenes:

Carrie’s ghost is played by Kathy Cody, who’ll be on the show until the end of the run. Cody was a child actor whose first role was in a TV commercial when she was six months old. She was a child model and actress, and went to Manhattan’s Professional Children’s School. At age 9, she was performing on Broadway in Here’s Love, a musical adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street, and then made a lot of guest appearances on variety shows and Christmas specials. At age 11, she appeared in a TV production of The Crucible, and then appeared in a string of soap operas — The Edge of Night in 1965, As the World Turns in 1966-67, The Secret Storm for four months in 1970, and Dark Shadows in 1970-71.

Tomorrow: No More I Love You’s.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

59 thoughts on “Episode 1066: This Is How We Do It

  1. Danny, you’ve said that Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin are the inner core characters of the show. Would love to hear who you think are the best actors on the show. Nancy, Grayson and Thayer are “it” for me and all are involved in the last gasp of excellence for Dark Shadows, the 1995 storyline that should have lasted longer vs. being a set up for going back to new ghosts and curses back in 1970. Agree with your assessment of Selby working well here as a fragile Quentin vs. the unbearable petulant arse in 1970 PT.

    1. “Best actor” is actually a hard label to give anyone on Dark Shadows; the requirements for DS acting are different than other places. Jonathan, Grayson, Lara and David are the best in the sense that they’re the most interesting people on screen — so much so that the show gets pulled out of shape in order to feature them. It’s partly good acting, it’s partly charisma and it’s partly an awareness of the kind of overacting that works in this context.

      Nancy Barrett, John Karlen and Louis Edmonds are all good actors who are interesting and fun and emotionally present, and they’re always worth watching. They never reach the level of the top four because I think they don’t have the mix of charisma and overacting that it takes to become Angelique or Quentin. So in one way, they’re better actors, but they’re also not necessarily best for this show’s particular needs.

      I think Thayer David and Humbert Allen Astredo are a different tier — actors who could have competed for a spot in the top four, but didn’t quite make it, so they end up with unrelated character parts.

      1. I loved reading your response because you basically explained the idea of memorable star quality. I know that Joan Bennett was a star as well as a good actress. And one need only check out her body of work to see that. Her various roles on DS were not so clearly delineated but at the beginning of the story arcs she gave them distinction.

      2. I liked Barnabas as a character/plot motivator, but I’m not that taken with JF’s performance. I actually prefer NB and JK precisely because they ground the more fantastical elements.

      1. I would agree that of the principal actors, Nancy, Grayson, and Thayer are the most talented ones…in that order.<<

        Good list!

      2. Maybe he doesn’t count as a principal actor, but John Karlen is certain in the top tier. Personally, I’d put him above Thayer and maybe even Grayson. They were both more flamboyant while John managed some real subtlety in his characterization, especially when bringing pathos to Willie Loomis.

        1. I completely agree about John Karlen being top tier and possibly even better than Grayson.
          Without Jonathan Frid though, I doubt we’d still be talkin’ about DS in 2017.

          1. Oh totally, Johnathan Frid was the show’s salvation, no doubt. He brought something special to the role of Barnabas, and I’m not talking about Fridspeak. In terms of talent, John Karlen was superior, in terms of charisma, Frid was the winner. Only David Selby came close to the charisma of Frid.

            1. Totally agree. That’s what make the Frid-Karlen scenes some of the best in the entire series. They’re always fascinating to watch and endlessly entertaining.
              They cast the perfect Barnabas and the perfect Willie. We’re so lucky to have had them.
              Also, IMO, their performances together were right up there with some of the big league actors in soaps today. I think JF and JK shoulda had an Emmy or two – Fridspeak and all!

              1. I’m really behind again, but I gotta comment on Frid & Karlen. My daughter gave me my 1st Big Finish audios for Christmas about 4 years ago, and she picked out The Crimson Pearl because it had so many original cast members, and The Night Whispers, because it is the only one with Frid. I love listening to The Night Whispers, because it’s a story of Willie and Barnabas as Barnabas, no longer vampire-cursed, is becoming an old man. There is the Barnabas-Willie interplay that we love so much. Fans of the Jonathan and Johnny K pairing will enjoy this story that Barnabas tells Willie, complete with ghostly intruder to the story.

              1. The discussion here is focused on the acting, but I think the characters are just as important for these four to be the “kaiju.” Once the show became a monster fest, the “regular human” Collinses, despite their acting chops, were shunted more to the side as characters. Juia, although human, remains a kaiju character because of her relationship with Barnabas and part of the Barnabas-Angelique-Josette-Julia quadrangle (though Barnabas never figures that out). Quentin grew popular fast enough and was such an outstanding character in 1897 that he was able to coast on significantly duller characters afterward (though, as some have said, this half-mad, vulnerable Quentin is really good). So I’d say it’s a combination of the actors themselves AND the centrality/compellingness of their characters (which I know can’t be entirely separated from the acting) that makes them the Big Four.

  2. It’s interesting to learn the history of Gerard’s theme, which I thought didn’t quite fit him. Now I sort of know why.

  3. Quinton’s instability was truly unsettling especially since we’re used to seeing him as the consummate smooth operator. That’s a wonderful breakdown of how the sound made it all work so well.

  4. The detour to 1795/6/7 must have proven popular, hence the trip to 1995. Do something short enough for the writers to plan out the whole of and buy time for working out the finer points of the next arc (the Leviathans then and Gerard Stiles/Destruction of Collinwood now). What’s interesting is that while 1697 Redux Part II bridged a brilliant and terrible storylines, 1995 is bridging a terrible and pretty good storylines. At least the Destruction of Collinwood doesn’t involve half the cast being possessed and gaslighting or planning to convert those who aren’t.

  5. Plus it was the latest period the show had visited at that point, and indeed at all. That coupled with that the timeline would be negated meant the writers could do whatever with anyone not named Barnabas and Julia. Normally the present day Collins were reset to factory settings at the end of an arc, but here they could be killed off, insane or out of character because of the vaguely defined events in 1970.

  6. No wonder Tiny David died–they never even tried giving away a turkey!

    I think the reason Gerard only scared Quentin is professional courtesy. After all, Quentin used to have Gerard’s job.

    1. We could rationalize that the reason Gerard doesn’t kill Quentin is that he can’t kill Quentin, who is theoretically invulnerable as long as his portrait remains intact. And it clearly is since he hasn’t aged. Then again, I don’t think the DS writers really considered Quentin “invulnerable,” just ageless. But then there’s that broken glass that Petofi once shoved in his face without leaving a scratch. Sounds like invulnerability to me.

    2. Technically, Quentin never haunted Collinwood, since B&J did that I-Ching thing and changed history. Strangely, the haunting wasn’t exactly ‘erased’, since Quentin had to keep explaining that he was a different Quentin. Danny’s explained it (a couple of times), but the vagaries of time travel and its consequences are imponderable and complex. Or maybe I just need to watch more Dr. Who.

      But I am getting a strong feeling of deja vu watching the 1995 episodes.

      1. In the audios David, Hallie and Gerard remember both versions of events. That’s Hallie’s motivation in Carriage of the Damned, to kill Gerard Stiles. Possibly it’s because they were core characters in that arc while the others didn’t play as key a role.

    1. She and David have entered a dance contest at The Blue Whale to raise money for the engraving on Elizabeth’s silver tea set. Jan thought it was 52 cents, but it’s 52 cents a letter.

      They should tap Carolyn as their dancing coach.

      1. I was going to say that Jan needed a prom date, and George Glass wasn’t available. (Marcia promised that Davy Jones would perform.)

        1. You know, everyone SAID George Glass was made up. Maybe he was a spirit that only Jan could see..

          I’ve always wanted to start a band called The George Glass Experience.

          I’m quite thrilled we’ve managed to tie in “The Brady Bunch” to DS.

  7. How about rating each episode — e.g. a 1 being a “Dr. Lang” and a 10 being a “Julia”. This show sounds like about a ‘7’ (a “Quentin”).

  8. As you mentioned earlier Gerard is supposed to be the Big Bad, no evil that that his mere presence causes Julia to wrap her suit collar around her neck tightly and squint/wince as those the ghost has supernatural flatulence. Quentin who has faced evil before and has seemed fearless now cowers before Gerard.

    1. The Big Bad looks like Gerard Stiles, but the vengeful spirit may well be that of someone else altogether whose hatred of the Collins family is fueled by true satanic malevolence.

      1. Without giving anything away for those following along. this “vengeful spirit” angle was one of the many convoluted idea from the upcoming 1970-1840 storyline. Well before the “jump the shark” phrase was coined Dark Shadows did it so well in the coming months

        1. I’m almost done with 1840, and I’m really looking forward to the discussion. It’s almost universally derided (and by universally, I mean the commenters here as the commenters in PT DSED).

          However, I’ve rather liked it. Part of it is that 1995 and onward had been a mystery to me. I knew in broad strokes what was going to happen, but for the most part, it’s been a daily revelation.

          I know the core idea is the same: two ghosts haunt David and a gal pal and that’s precipitates another journey to the past. But there have also been plenty of differences, too. And frankly, a head in a case is scarier than a floating hand!

          So I know I’m going to be reading 100 reasons why 1840 is bad, but compared with The Dream Curse era, I’m liking it. Heck, in some ways, I like it better than 1897!

              1. Melissa — I’m not going to tease you too much over this, because I’m often left as minority defender of unpopular story lines on many shows, not just DS. That said:

                What, my dear, did you like about it? My biggest issues:

                The dream was not scary to me. Pretty much every person who had it faced “real life” terrors that seemed much worse than five doors, ground fog and a skull on a stick.

                And it seemed like an overcomplicated way to reinstate the vampire curse. Even Nicholas Blair — no stranger to roundabout ways of getting things done — rebuked Angelique for such a Byzantine plot! LOL.

                But I sometimes like the story arcs others don’t, so I’d like to hear your take.

              1. The only good thing about the Dream Curse is Angelique’s soliloquy while Barnabas slept. She committed.

                But the dreams never lived up to that soliloquy.

                1. I felt like the “scary” effects in the dreams were of the quality you’d find at a high school’s haunted house.

                  That dream was so to be terrifying enough to kill, yet I can think of dozens of moments from the show that were much more intense.

  9. A blooper right at the outset of this episode: Someone clearly bumps the camera trained on the Collinwood photo during the opening voice-over.

Leave a Reply to William Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s