“I have never harmed anyone simply for the sake of harming them.”
And what do Barnabas and Julia have to do with all this warlock malarkey? Practically nothing, I’m sorry to say. Barnabas might be vaguely aware that Quentin has something on his mind, but it’s certainly not keeping him up all day. The simmering tensions between Quentin, Gerard, Daphne and Desmond, which we might call Plot A, have entirely escaped our gentleman vampire, who’s been focusing his attention on Plot B, a cul-de-sac sidequest involving Roxanne, Julia and Angelique.
I’ve had to speak sharply to the main characters in the past about this unfortunate tendency of theirs to drift off into side issues. Two months ago, Barnabas and Julia traveled to the 19th century hoping to avert the Collinwood-closing catastrophe of summer 1970, and practically the only thing that they understand about those future events is that they involve shady gun-runner Gerard Stiles in a prominent role. But Gerard has been permitted to run roughshod over the entire show for weeks and weeks, getting possessed by warlocks and working his wiles on Daphne, entirely unchallenged by the two characters that the audience has presumably tuned in to see.
We last saw Barnabas on Thursday, when he brought a day player named Randall to a nearby crypt, handed him a hammer and stake, and gave him instructions on how to kill the lady vampire heading in that direction. Then Barnabas sprinted off towards his own coffin, leaving this pop-eyed nonentity to handle the protagonist duties. And where is Barnabas now?
Well, that’s what local undertaker and part-time detective Lamar Trask wants to know, observing to Julia that Barnabas is still missing. “No, he is not missing,” Julia sniffs. “He was grief-stricken about Roxanne, and he is in seclusion for several days.”
“I hardly think the circumstances warrant going into seclusion,” Trask scowls, and I agree. What we need right now is for Barnabas to shake that B-plot off his shoes, and get himself involved in the main story.
But seclusion is where he’s going to stay, I’m afraid, because Jonathan Frid is taking a two-week vacation. Barnabas won’t be back until episode 1159, when he’ll walk into Collinwood and act like he just stepped out for a breath of air. You’d never accept that kind of behavior from a main character in any other medium, but this is daytime soap opera, a genre composed of 15% creative storytelling and 85% logistics.
Which leaves us with well-meaning wastrel Desmond Collins, currently drowning on dry land in the drawing room of Rose Cottage. Desmond made the understandable mistake yesterday of taking something away from Gerard Stiles before Gerard was finished with it, which is a career-limiting move on a show more or less dominated by whatever Gerard happens to be interested in.
So Gerard, mad in every sense of the word, decided to say it with voodoo. Lighting a nearby candle, he took one of Desmond’s ascots, wound it around the neck of a little wooden fetish object, and pulled.
Now, I don’t have to tell you the effect this had on young Desmond. I haven’t been keeping exact count, but this is at least the 10th voodoo doll sequence that Dark Shadows has perpetrated in the last several years, the most recent being only three weeks ago. If this show has taught us anything, it’s that choking someone with voodoo is fast, reliable and inexpensive.
So Dr. Julia Hoffman, faced with yet another case of idiopathic occlusion of the esophagus, makes the obvious diagnosis, namely: black magic. Unfortunately, this is the only medical condition that Julia has ever treated that can’t be resolved with a bracing round of sedatives.
Julia doesn’t realize that Gerard is capable of this kind of tomfoolery, because she’s a main character and nobody tells her anything, so she runs home to confront Angelique, which isn’t correct but it’s a very good guess. They proceed to have a high-stakes high-camp showdown, which I have no choice but to present here in full.
Julia: Have you decided to kill off the entire Collins family, because you failed with me?
Angelique: What are you talking about?
Julia: You know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about witchcraft!
Angelique: Suppose you explain this curious accusation of yours.
Julia: Is it necessary to explain? Desmond Collins is dying, and not of any natural causes. It’s because of witchcraft!
Angelique: Oh? So naturally, you suspected me.
Julia: Well, I didn’t expect you to admit it.
Angelique: I have never harmed anyone simply for the sake of harming them, and I’ve never met this Desmond Collins.
Julia: If you’re not responsible, then who is?
Angelique: I don’t know. And what’s more, I don’t care. But what I do care about is Roxanne. How did you destroy her?
Julia: I didn’t. I suddenly was free. I learned later that her brother Randall had kept her out of the coffin at sunrise. She is at peace, Angelique!
Angelique: Valerie! I’m known as Valerie now!
Julia: Only until your true identity is discovered.
Angelique: You dare to threaten me?
Julia: No, there’s no point in threatening you, I couldn’t risk exposing Barnabas. But someone is using witchcraft against Desmond Collins, and I think it would be to your advantage to help us find out who it is!
Angelique: Why do you say that?
Julia: Because if anything happens to Desmond Collins, there will be an investigation by the family, and by the authorities. Everyone will be questioned, including you. Now, suppose in this investigation, the truth of you — all about you, becomes known. Then you will become the one accused. Think about it, Angelique!
So Angelique finally has something worth thinking about. This is the best move that the show has made in a while, kaiju-wise. As we all know, the four giant monsters of Dark Shadows are Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin — the characters that are so powerful they have to appear in every storyline. When things are going well on the show, these four are making the big decisions and driving the main story; when they’re not, it usually bodes ill.
Unfortunately, the Quentin of 1840 isn’t much like the Kaiju Big Battel Quentin that we know and love, so Gerard has been pinch-hitting as the handsome, manipulative rogue over the last couple months. Between them, Quentin and Gerard have been handling the A material, but the other three have been stuck in their own little tide pool.
What we need right now is a diva alliance between Angelique and Julia, set on the trail of the real heavy of the piece. If we could interest these two in world affairs, they could do a little Sherlock and Watson routine, which would tide us over until Barnabas comes back circa a week from Thursday. Plus, these two are fun to watch, when they’re not murdering each other.
So they turn down the lights, and Angelique seats herself next to the fire, with Julia standing by the door as a lookout, in case anybody sane wanted to come into the drawing room while they have it reserved. Looking into the flames, Angelique calls upon whoever it is that she calls upon on these occasions, and requests:
Let the flames carry my thoughts to the one who is like me — to the one who understands my way of life! Whoever you are, wherever you may be, let my words enter your thoughts! Reveal yourself to me! Send me an image by which I may know you!
In other words: Angelique would like to know the truth of you. You know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about witchcraft!
As usual in these days of modern telecommunications, the call is picked up right away, as Angelique’s words enter someone else’s thoughts. They’re not feeling talkative at the moment, but they’ve got an outgoing message in the shape of the legendary head of Judah Zachery.
This connects to another good idea they had lately, which is to link Angelique with the Big Bad of 1840, by way of a retconned backstory that I personally do not find particularly compelling. But I’m willing to be flexible on this — if a purported brand new year-zero incarnation of Angelique gets Lara Parker showing up at work to participate in the main storyline, then sure, go ahead and purport whatever you like; I will adjust my expectations on this end.
Except then they do this:
Julia: What is it? What did you see?
Angelique: Nothing, I saw nothing at all.
Julia: I don’t believe you, not from your reaction.
Angelique: I was reacting to a vibration. Whoever your witch is, he is hostile to me as well.
Julia: I don’t believe you’re telling the truth.
Angelique: I’ve told you everything I know. There’s nothing more that I can do!
And that’s it. Angelique has one more nasty crack to hurl, and then Julia walks away without a word, story option over.
This reminds me of that sad day in June 1968 when Professor Stokes could have joined Murder Club along with Barnabas and Julia, but Julia refused to tell him that Barnabas was a vampire, and he in turn refused to tell her that he knew where Adam was. Stokes never reached his potential as a main character, because the writers kept him at a distance.
Smart characters run the show in serialized narrative, because they make wild guesses and arrive at story-productive conclusions. But if you keep secrets from the smart characters and don’t allow them to figure things out, then the story sags and there’s nowhere to go. Julia knows that there’s no such thing as “reacting to a vibration,” but they leave the scene where it is, and if Desmond wants to sit there and choke for no reason, then that’s his problem, as far as Dr. J. Hoffman is concerned.
Because Grayson Hall is going AWOL for the next three weeks, which takes Julia out of the realm of practical politics. To explain, here’s an excerpt from the 2006 biography Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow:
“Another episode indicative of Curtis’ favor of Grayson was when she was written out for three weeks in November – December 1970. This might be the one time when husband and wife colluded without fully informing management. When Grayson began to see the bags from her father’s eyes staring back at her in the mirror, she was not happy and decided upon a quiet eyelift. When Curtis realized Grayson was not in the scripts, he confronted Sam Hall. “Where the fuck is Grayson? What have you done with her?” Sam informed Curtis of Grayson’s whereabouts. Curtis retorted, ‘Tell her not to touch her face ever again without talking to me first!'”
That facelift vacation starts today — we next see Julia in episode 1168, by which point there’s already a witchcraft trial, and there’s only about a month left before the 1840 storyline is over. Like I said, it comes down to logistics a lot of the time, and major story decisions are often based on which actors are available. This is an unseasonable time for the kaiju to be mostly AWOL, but that is the truth of them.
Tomorrow: How to Explain the Doll.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Julia approaches Desmond to examine him, the camera stays on Flora and Leticia, looking on anxiously. Then it stays there for about ten seconds, with the two of them just standing there watching, while the interesting thing happens off-camera. They should have cut to a shot of Julia and Desmond, but either the camera was having trouble picking up that shot, or the director just forgot to switch to the next shot.
Julia examines an unconscious Desmond, who’s not moving or making any sounds. She observes, “He seems to be trying to choke again, now.”
Trask asks Flora, “Did you know that Quentin and Desmond had a quarrel, earlier this evening?” This is an odd bit of plot tinkering — Trask did walk in on them briefly snapping at each other about Gerard in yesterday’s episode, but the focus of the scene was the conflict between Trask and Quentin. In tomorrow’s episode, Trask describes it to Randall as a “violent quarrel”.
Trask tells Flora, “I was told that Dr. Julia… uh, Collins came to examine Desmond.” He’s clearly catching himself before saying “Hoffman”.
Julia tells Angelique, “If anything happens to Desmond Collins, there will be an investigation by the family and by the authorities. Everyone will be questioned, including you. Now, suppose in this investigation, the truth of you — all about you, becomes known.”
As Angelique prepares her ritual, the lamp turns off before Julia touches it.
There’s an edit in the final act between the Julia/Angelique scene and Trask in the basement. As usual with these edits, there’s a jump from one music cue to another.
Tomorrow: How to Explain the Doll.
— Danny Horn