“Counselor, I do not need you to tell me the laws of this state that I am honor-bound to withhold!”
A death, a dream, a Trask yelling witchcraft — yep, just another episode of Dark Shadows.
Today, Trask finds Quentin kneeling over a dead body, just like he did in episode 1156, a little over a week ago. Then Gerard casts a spell that sends Daphne a sexy dream, just like episodes 1146, 1151 and 1158. And Desmond says that the evidence against Quentin is circumstantial, just like he did yesterday and the day before, and for all I know he’s going to say it again tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives.
Man, I wish something would happen today that we haven’t seen recently, and I’m sure I will never regret making that wish.
Oh, I regret it already; I just knew that I would. You know how it is, you let your guard down for one moment and along comes The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows.
I would have sworn we’d left Addison Powell for good back in May 1968, when Dark Shadows figured out that they’d gotten hold of the wrong mad scientist. Powell played Dr. Eric Lang for five unforgettable weeks in spring ’68, when he cured Barnabas of his vampire curse, built his own Frankenstein and then dictated an audio message that followed us around for way longer than it needed to.
Addison Powell moved through Dark Shadows like a shark through an antiques store, shouting and grandstanding and taking pauses in all the wrong places. He mugged furiously, constantly pushing his front side toward the camera so we could see the stupid expression on his stupid face. In his worst moment, he actually said “Let me think,” and then put his fingers up to his forehead to indicate that he was currently in the process of thinking. He was awful.
After more than a month of his nonsense, la belle sorcière Angelique finally killed him using a self-made man of her own. Lang was supposed to carry an anti-witch talisman around with him, but he put it down somewhere and forgot where it was like a dope, and she stuck a pin in a clay doll and he died of a broken heart, unmourned and unloved.
But he had a parting gift before he left the stage, a tape recording recorded on a tape recorder that wasn’t actually recording.
“Julia,” he said, “if you do the experiment again… if both Barnabas and my creation live — if they both live — Barnabas will be free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. Adam will drain Barnabas’ affliction from him, but will not suffer from the disease itself, if he lives. But if Adam dies, Barnabas will be as he was before.”
If you don’t remember what that was about, then don’t worry about it; apparently it worked out fine. They did both live, as it happens, and Barnabas wasn’t as he was, until he traveled back in time, and then he was as he was all over again. Some people will do anything for attention.
But that’s not important. The important thing is what happened to Lang’s body — or rather, what didn’t happen, because it wasn’t there.
You see, after the tape recording, Lang laid his head gently down on his desk, indicating that he was dead. Julia checked his pulse and found that he didn’t have one, which was just typical. She called Barnabas on the phone and told him that Lang was dead, but when Barnabas got there, the body was gone.
They didn’t bury it, or call the police or anything; it just wasn’t there anymore. Addison Powell couldn’t even lie down and play dead. So Barnabas and Julia just went on with the story, as if the corpse evaporated somehow, and that was that. Personally, I think they were just happy to be rid of him.
And then here he is, two and a half years later and a hundred and thirty years ago, calling himself Judge Wiley. He’s got a robe on and his hair is combed differently, but I’d recognize Eric Lang anywhere. Nobody else talks like that.
“Mr. COLLINS!” he shouts, like always. “I have inVESTigated the CHARGES AGAINST you in this CASE. Very CAREFULLY. Now, you will NOTICE I have not ASKED the prosecutor. To be PRESENT here.”
He’s talking to Quentin and Desmond, who are here because Quentin got arrested for murder and nobody will let him leave. They’re doing their best to keep up.
“The reason I DID THAT,” the judge continues, “was there was NO REASON for it. I see NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE. POINTING! To a LINK! Between MR. COLLINS. And the MURDER. Of MR. DREW.”
He takes a breath, and peers at Quentin. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was trying to act.
“I HEREBY DISMISS ALL CHARGES,” he bellows. “The CASE will not COME TO TRIAL.” Then he bangs the gavel on his desk a couple times. There’s nothing you can teach Dr. Judge Wiley about making noise.
Naturally, the boys are excited. “I can’t believe I’m free,” Quentin smiles.
“Mr. COLLINS,” the judge grimaces. “You are not — COMPLETELY FREE. As yet.”
He turns to the door. “Mr. TRASK,” he hollers. “You may ENTER if you please.”
And in walks the prosecutor, who was waiting right outside the door with a stack of depositions. Apparently this is one of those surprise Candid Camera inquests where they play hilarious pranks on the defendant.
Desmond objects, but Lang just bangs his gavel and says, “Silence in the COURT. I have NOT given the COUNSELOR permission to SPEAK.”
Then he leans forward, and yells right up in Desmond’s face.
“I am going to PERUSE. These DOCUMENTS IN MY CHAMBER. COURT is adjourned until three o’clock.” And then a couple more gavel bangs.
Desmond asks him to explain, but Eric Lang doesn’t have time to explain things to other characters. “I need EXPLAIN NOTHING until I have PERUSED THESE DOCUMENTS. Counselor.” And then he ankles for the door, docs in hand.
Now, I know you’re going to say that this isn’t Eric Lang, it’s just Addison Powell playing a different character, but I don’t buy it. Anyone who believes in a just and loving God knows there can’t possibly be two of these in the same universe. Besides, I can prove it.
Because Eric Lang wasn’t the first time we’d seen Addison Powell on the show. Three months earlier in January 1968, we first encountered him in episode 404, under the alias “Judge Matigan”. This is what is known as the original 404 error.
At the time, girl governess Victoria Winters was the one on trial, in the year 1796. She was accused of witchcraft by Reverend Trask, and when a Trask cries witch, you call in Addison Powell. He wasn’t very helpful with her, either.
“All right,” he yelled, from the other side of a table. “First of all, Trask CONTENDS that you’ve been plotting against the Collins family. Do you have ANY reason for WANTING to HARM ANY member of the COLLINS FAMILY.” She said she didn’t.
“All right,” he continued. “In fact, SINCE. BEFORE, your arrival, in COLLINWOOD. Did you have ACQUAINTANCE with any MEMBER of the Collins family.” She said no.
“All right,” he nodded. “Now, Trask BASES, bases MOST of his charges against you. On the fact that your ARRIVAL. In Collinwood. Was under very mysterious circumstances.”
See what I mean? Clearly the same guy. All he needs is a stack of documents to peruse.
So the question is, how did Eric Lang turn into two previous judges? If Wiley and Matigan live — if they both live — then something must have brought them here, and it sure wasn’t a law school scholarship.
“Mr. Collins, I am NOT CONSIDERING holding your client,” he explains. “I HAVE NO CHOICE! But to hold him.”
He looks down at the script page on his desk, and then shouts at Desmond. “Under the POWER!” he begins, and then looks down at the paper again.
Now, this sequence is a little complicated, because Lang can only say about three words of this speech before squinting at the script again. Here’s how it goes.
Looking up: Under the POWER!
Looking down: Vested in me, according to
Up: the LAW of
Down: this state. Number ONE HUNDRED and
Up: nineteen, DATED!
Down: Twenty-third of April, 1696.
Desmond objects that Maine wasn’t a state then, and Wiley bangs his gavel a couple more times. “Counselor,” he says — BANG! BANG! — “I do not NEED YOU to TELL ME the LAWS of this STATE that I am HONOR-BOUND TO WITHHOLD!”
Now he’s tapping with his fingers on the desk. “The articles of our STATEHOOD SPECIFY” — tap! — “that we keep those LAWS ENGENDERED” — tap tap tap — “UPON” — tap — “US” — tap — “WHEN WE WERE A PART (tap!) of the ROY (tap!) AL COL (tap!) ONY of MASS (tap!) ACHU (tap!) SETTS. THEREFORE.”
Now he’s really into it. “In ACCORDANCE with Law one-nineteen, dated TWENTY-THREE APRIL, sixteen-ninety-SIX, a citizen can be CHARGED with WITCHCRAFT!” — finger point! — “If there are DEPOSITIONS.”
“From SIX! CITIZENS” — and he holds up two fingers, just when he says SIX! I have no idea why. When Addison Powell is in full flow, you can’t control him; you just wind him up and watch him run.
“CLAIMING! From PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. ACTS of WITCHCRAFT. And NAMING. The PERPETRATOR OF SAID EVIL.”
He takes a breath. “THEREFORE! QUENTIN COLLINS! I HEREBY! BY THE POWER INVESTED IN ME! CHARGE YOU WITH THE INFAMOUS PRACTICES! Of WITCHCRAFT!“
“I ORDER YOU TO BE HELD! WITHOUT BAIL or BOND! In the COUNTY JAIL!”
“UNTIL SUCH TIME as you COME to TRIAL! Under a SPECIAL TRIBUNAL of three judges! CHOSEN SPECIFICALLY ACCORDING to this law.” Tap tap tap.
“Upon COMPLETION of your trial! IF YOU ARE FOUND GUILTY!”
“Your PUNISHMENT will be DEATH!”
“In the MANNER PRESCRIBED BY THE LAW. BEHEADED!” BANG! BANG!
So where does Lang be headed, is the question. I think it’s obvious at this point what really happened here.
No? Okay, I’ll walk you through it. Eric Lang was a bad doctor and a worse actor, but even he could tell when he wasn’t wanted.
He was only on the show for one day when somebody tried to strangle his head with his own medical equipment, and things just got worse from there. He had nightmares about doors and he kept forgetting where he put his talisman, and all because of the infamous practices of witchcraft.
So yeah, he had a voodoo heart attack and apparently died — but then Adam drained his affliction from him, and did not suffer from the disease itself! How do you think Lang knew what would happen if Barnabas and Adam both lived? He’d already done the experiment on himself, prophylactically.
And that’s why his body was gone, when Barnabas and Julia came back into the room. He wasn’t really dead, he just scooted out the back door, running off to find someplace where there weren’t any witches.
Of course, once Barnabas and Julia ran the experiment again, then both Barnabas and Dr. Lang’s creation lived — then they both lived — and Lang was tied like a boat anchor to his own creation and to a supernatural time traveller, who then hopped around the space-time vortex from 1968 to 1796, back to 1968, and then to 1897, 1796 again, 1969, Parallel Time, 1995, 1970 and now 1840, Lang holding for dear life onto Barnabas’ coattails as he swung back and forth from one century to another, not to mention the weird spring of 1970 that he spent on film, in upstate New York.
And the whole time, he’s thinking to himself, Fine, at LEAST! I’m staying a STEP ahead. Of the WITCHCRAFT! That keeps TRYING to kill ME.
But everywhere he lands, guess what he finds! That’s right, the INFAMOUS PRACTICES of WITCHCRAFT. It’s everywhere! First Cassandra, and then Angelique, and Nicholas, and Parallel Angelique, and Hannah, and Judah, and Miranda, and Valerie, and now Quentin, apparently. He can’t rest for a minute, even in the grave he was never buried in.
So yeah, he ends up in the witch trial business. What else would you expect? He’s got to at least try to figure out who’s innocent and who’s guilty, so he can avoid another talisman screw-up.
And Adam was no help, by the way; they ended up rooming together for a few months when they were both thrust haphazardly into 1897, and all Adam wanted to do was stare in the mirror and feel sorry for himself. He wouldn’t even peruse documents.
So here he is at last, smack in the middle of 1840 all dressed up in judge drag, with three angry men staring at him and expecting him to figure out who’s a witch and who isn’t, and after all this time, who even knows?
If they both LIVE, he thinks to himself, sullenly. Did WE both live? Is THIS! what you call living?
Tomorrow: Love in the Afternoon.
Here’s another in my series of weird talks about old-time entertainment curiosities: The Thingmaker and the Burning of the American Child, which is about dangerous toys of the 1960s, and what happened to change the way Americans think about children and danger. If you like this blog, then you’ll probably like the talk, and you may even recognize a few jokes from old blog posts. If you like it, you should also check out my other talks: The Mickey Mouse Watch and a History of Things in General, and First a Bird, Then a Plane: the Natural Selection of Superman.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Mildred’s “body” is clearly just her costume, laid out on the floor. When Quentin is surprised and moves his hand, the costume shifts position.
Desmond bobbles a line: “You can not be accused of murder because a woman was found lying dead in the, here, or because Randall Drew, you were kneeling beside him!”
Desmond tells Quentin, “You cannot be tried for witchcraft in this day and age, not since 1696! It isn’t legal!” Obviously, he’s forgetting about Vicki, who was executed in either 1796 or 1797, depending on when someone remembers it.
In act 3, why is Trask hiding behind the drawing room door, all alone in a house where he doesn’t live?
Once again, Daphne goes to sleep with all of her clothes on.
There’s a little edit skip while Daphne’s coming downstairs during her dream; she basically leaps straight into Gerard’s mouth.
In the dream, Gerard tells Daphne, “You want to marry me, I can tell. As I want to marry you. I can think of no other life together.”
Desmond takes a break in the middle of his objection to the judge: “This is a court of law, your honor! A man may not be — [two second break] — indicted for being a witch under the law in the year 1840!”
Desmond tells the judge, “He wants to know by what considering are you holding him?”
Behind the Scenes:
Gerard tells Trask, “I think it would be best if I just remain in the dark shadows,” which is adorable. This is probably not the only time that somebody said “dark shadows” on the show, but I can’t think of where I’d go to find that out.
Tomorrow: Love in the Afternoon.
— Danny Horn