“So the next step is that we must go to the basement!”
So with pop sensation Quentin Collins on trial for introducing plot points, and the show’s ratings sinking slowly in the west, I might as well introduce The War for Dark Shadows, a latter-days theme that’s going to run through the last few months of the blog. We’re approaching the dreaded April Third, 1971 — history’s first day without Dark Shadows — and naturally the show’s not just going to lie down and take it. Going gentle into that good night is not what you might call one of Dark Shadows’ core competencies.
After April Third, the show does in fact go on, hopping from one medium to another in a long line of spinoffs and remakes. The Paperback Library novels keep running until 1972, and the Gold Key comics stretch all the way to 1976. We’ve already discussed the Dark Shadows comic strip, the Night of Dark Shadows movie and the 1991 NBC remake, each of them disastrous in their own individual way, and there are more disasters to come, including a book series, a failed pilot, another comic book series, and yes, a certain medium-budget Hollywood spectacular.
But the thing is, the show is so complicated that none of the remakes and spinoffs can agree on what Dark Shadows actually is. For the comic strip, Dark Shadows is an adventure serial, the story of hardly-hungry vampire Barnabas Collins, who secretly battles a series of supernatural villains in order to protect his cousins, Elizabeth and Carolyn. Meanwhile, the 1991 show thinks that Dark Shadows is a super-sexy time-travel love epic, spending a lot of time setting up a quite vicious Barnabas with Victoria Winters, who’s the reincarnation of his lost love Josette.
Those two ideas have very little in common, aside from a few character names and the fact that they only lasted for a year. They’re not the same kind of story at all. But when you look at either one, you can recognize that they’re based on Dark Shadows as you understand it. So the concept of “Dark Shadows” must be big enough to encompass both of these kinds of stories, and probably more to come, and each interpretation is casting a vote for a particular way to read the show. The War for Dark Shadows is a decades-long struggle to figure out what kind of show Dark Shadows was, and what it means for us today.
With an appropriate disregard for causality, I might as well begin at the end, and work sideways from there. Today we’re talking about Bloodline, the second season of Big Finish’s audio serial, which was released during April and May 2019 — at the time I’m writing, they’ve released 12 of the series’ 13 episodes, and just about to release the finale.
If you’re not familiar with Big Finish’s Dark Shadows audio dramas, then you have quite a bit to catch up on, because they’ve been doing it since 2006. A lot of actors from the original series have reprised their characters, including Quentin, Maggie, Angelique, Willie and Carolyn, and even Amanda Harris and Tony Peterson have come back to life on audio — sounding a little older, perhaps, but recognizably the characters that we know. Most of the releases are essentially short stories — dramatic readings with two actors apiece — but every once in a while they splash out for a full-cast production.
In 2014, Big Finish released their most ambitious Dark Shadows project — Bloodlust, a 13-part serial that brought together all of the individual story threads that they’d been knitting together over several years of the dramatic readings. After Bloodlust, they did another set of stories in 2015, and now the storyline continues in this new second season, Bloodline.
The Big Finish audios are meant to be a continuation of the show, rather than a reboot, so by now the timeline has advanced to around 1983 — long enough for David Collins and Amy Jennings to grow up and fall in love, as incredible as that may seem. Quentin’s married too, and a few years ago, Barnabas had his spirit sucked out and plunked into a new body, because they don’t have Jonathan Frid, and a Dark Shadows without Barnabas would be intolerable.
Bloodline opens with a girl on a train, obviously, because these people have spent more than a decade making Dark Shadows spinoff fiction, and they’re total nerds about it. But it’s not a governess this time — it’s teenager Jackie Tate, a new character who was introduced in Bloodlust and is utterly, utterly delightful.
Seriously, I’m not even going to try to pretend like I’m too cool for Jackie; it’s impossible. As they know at Big Finish, if you want to make the audience like a character, there are three steps — make a friend, make a joke and make a plot point happen — and Jackie handles all three during the first track of the first episode. After a harrowing pre-credits flash-forward in which she’s on trial for murder, Jackie meets a stranger as they’re getting off the train at Collinsport, fills in a little exposition, makes a quip about the Blue Whale, and then almost gets squashed by a falling mystery box. She’s the perfect character.
Episode 1 is basically about making sure that the audience is in love with Jackie, so that she can then spread that magic around to everyone she runs into. She’s friends with everybody in town — or at least, everybody at the Blue Whale, the hospital and Collinwood, which is the same thing — and that gives her an all-access pass to any storyline that she takes an interest in. We like her, and she likes everyone else, and that builds a remarkably smooth path to introducing more than a dozen characters in the first half-hour.
And there are so many characters this time! If you don’t remember Bloodlust that well from four years ago, then you need to go and refresh, because season 2 rolls hard. They started slowly with season 1, establishing the townsfolk a few at a time before gradually heading up the hill to Collinwood over six episodes or so. This time, you’ve got about 10 minutes to get settled and then they drop you into a busy Collins family party, starting with Quentin’s new wife, and if you don’t know who she is then you need to go listen to Panic too.
It’s basically a big noisy party, where everybody has their own little story thread to pursue. David sets the date for his wedding to Amy, the gay teen boys have just broken up, Barnabas is trying to get his vampire hunger under control, there are two different disembodied supernatural entities floating around, and a long-lost relative shows up by surprise with a secret agenda. You’re given zero opportunities to get bored.
Most of the characters are relentlessly likeable, including the new soap vixen. I had a hard time connecting to Sabrina and Cyrus in their last story, but even they get a comedy action scene and a plot point hidden in the trunk of their car, so now I like them too. Big Finish has cracked the code.
And then guess who shows up about three-quarters into episode 1? Dr. Julia freakin’ Hoffman, that’s who.
This has always been a challenge for the Dark Shadows audios. The show was dominated by four kaiju — Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin — who stomped through the storylines, pushing over power lines and spoiling other people’s fun. David Selby and Lara Parker are available, and they resurrected Barnabas in a new body back in 2006, so Big Finish has been operating with three out of four kaiju for years. But they’ve never been able to do anything with Julia, because Grayson Hall was unique and irreplaceable.
Of course, if you’re going to try to replace her anyway, and why the hell not, then you need to do something bold and campy. So they went ahead and hired Julie Newmar.
Oh, of course you know who Julie Newmar is. She was Catwoman in the 60s Batman show, which gives her plenty of camp cred, plus she played Julie Newmar in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. She was on TV constantly in the 60s, 70s and 80s — Star Trek, Get Smart, Bewitched, Jason of Star Command, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart — plus she played Carlotta Ravenswood in The Maltese Bippy in 1969, which is exactly what Grayson Hall would have been doing if she wasn’t busy with something else.
They give her a brilliant warm-up in episode 1, starting with Jackie messing with the mystery box.
Jackie: I mean, I could always take just a teensy peek inside…
Woman: You know what they say about curiosity.
Jackie: Sorry! I didn’t see you. Are you — ah, if you are who I think you are, then whatever they say about curiosity never stops you.
Woman: And who do you think I am?
Jackie: I think… judging by your clothes, you’ve recently returned from a long trip. I think you’re wearing a veil, even though it’s dark outside, so you’re weirded out by your appearance.
Woman: Which is something I might be rather sensitive about.
Jackie: Oh, yeah — sorry.
Woman: Don’t apologize. I’ve never been that good with a sensitive thing myself.
Jackie: So you’re probably the woman who pretended to be writing a book, but was really investigating a bloodthirsty vampire… If you’re just a taxi driver or something, I’m going to be really embarrassed right now. Please say you’re the fabled Dr. Hoffman?
Julia: I am Dr. Hoffman, but you can call me Julia.
Jackie: Hey! I’m Jackie. Jackie Tate. Not a doctor.
Julia: So, Jackie Tate — what do you think is in the box?
So that’s very clever, letting the audience’s favorite character approach the recast step by step, constructing a little guessing-game routine so that we figure out it’s Julia just a line or two before Jackie says it out loud. They talk for a moment about the mystery box, describing it but not quite spelling out what it is, and then this:
Julia: I heard you were visiting colleges. How was it?
Jackie: Oh, it was horrible! Thank you for asking.
Julia: (chuckling) My pleasure.
Jackie: So, are we friends now? I think we’re friends.
And there you have it, now we like recast Julia. That is how it’s done.
The thing that makes it work is that Newmar isn’t doing a Grayson Hall impression; she’s just going ahead and being a different person. Julia’s in a strange new body, which is an alienating experience — later on, she talks about the shock of looking in the mirror every morning. So it makes sense, if sense is a thing that we need to make, that she would be changed by the experience — a little awkward, and not sure of herself. She’s not actually Julia, because “actual Julia” only exists on videotape, but she’s Julia enough. We’re friends now.
There’s another point that I want to make about the show, and to accomplish that, I need to quote another Julia/Jackie scene, this time from episode 3. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers, except that Julia is in the Old House working on mad science, as she obviously would be.
Julia: I can see you behind those boxes, show yourself! I… I have a gun, in my handbag. Oh! Now, what I can do for you?
Jackie: Um… I guess my first question is, why do you have a gun in your handbag?
Julia: And mine would be to ask you why you’ve broken into my laboratory?
Jackie: I — I don’t know. Well, I do, but it’s weird, and — Julia, what exactly happened in Jaipur?
Julia: Jackie, why are you here?
Jackie: Eh, you’ve got the gun, so… well, in New York, I went around to these colleges, and it was great and all, but I don’t know what I want to do, and I think it’s because of the things I’ve seen here, in Collinsport. How can I leave all — this behind?
Julia: This isn’t a game, Jackie.
Jackie: I know, but — everyone else is caught up in their own things. And it’s like, I’m only here just to listen to other people. You know what I mean? What about my life? What do I want to do? And then I thought, do you know what I really, really want?
Julia: Enlighten me.
Jackie: I wanted a sandwich. So I made myself a sandwich! And then I made some more sandwiches, because you remind me a bit of my mom, and I know what she’s like when she’s on a case. She forgets to eat. And I figured, I bet you’re the kind of person who gets caught up in your work, and forgets to eat. So I’ve got sandwiches and chips, and some fruit juice. I figured, as a doctor, you’d want fruit juice, not cola.
Julia: Right. So why am I going to let you become involved?
Jackie: Because… because you see something of yourself in me. Sorry, can you put the gun down?
So Jackie is actually aware of the fact that she’s a manic pixie talk-to who exists in order to support other people’s storylines, and it pisses her off, so she’s going to break into a secret lab and hide behind a box with a bag of chips and a glass of fruit juice, and wait for someone to pull a gun on her so she can offer a mad scientist sandwiches. This is what happens when a writer understands that it’s their responsibility to entertain you.
As I said before, The War for Dark Shadows is a battle to define what Dark Shadows is, and Bloodline is very clear: Dark Shadows is a soap opera. This hasn’t always been the case for Big Finish — for a long time, their answer was “ghost stories,” with a side order of “sadistic serial killer taunts somebody and won’t go away”. I mean, yes, in Bloodline there is a mean disembodied voice inside somebody’s head who makes fun of them and won’t go away — Big Finish can’t drop all of their bad habits at once, be reasonable — but it’s in the service of a soap opera storyline about lovelorn teens.
And England is a country that respects soaps. In America, we’ve been allowing our soap operas to slowly wither and die, because we put them on every afternoon, and we don’t have enough housewives to support them. England schedules its soaps for early evening on an indeterminate number of nights a week, and people watch the hell out of them.
So Bloodline painstakingly constructs criss-crossing storylines about money, infidelity, heartbreak and stolen blood bags, and also takes the time for character moments, like a quiet chat between Quentin and his grandson Harry, or a drunk, gossipy bachelorette party. People get punched in the nose, and trapped in a fire, and then they all come together for a wedding, and chaos ensues.
In fact, Bloodline is so in touch with the soap side of the force that at one point, it seems like they’re breaking the rules of soap opera — conspicuously forgetting about something important — and then around halfway through the season, you discover that was intentional, and sets up a huge scary plot twist. I can’t say any more about it, except that I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to Bobby Martin from All My Children, and if it is, then I will love you forever, you clever boys.
I could keep on going like this, but honestly, you should just go ahead and listen to Bloodline. I don’t want to spoil any of the cool secrets, and at this point I’m just getting in the way between you and the show.
Happily, Big Finish is planning to do more Dark Shadows serials — next year, they’re doing a 13-part season called Windcliff, and another called Thirteen in 2021. So it turns out Dark Shadows does have a future after all. And on this blog, The War for Dark Shadows is just getting started, and I think I’ve got another entry with Alec Newman around here somewhere…
Tomorrow: How I Long to Be Wrong.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Trask tells Gerard, “There is one who should be on the witness stand with Quentin, awaiting the judgment of the tribunal!” He means the prisoner’s dock. Gerard uses the correct word after the commercial break.
Speaking about Flora, Gerard says, “She’s dealt long and hard into the old records.”
Trask says, “For the first time, I feel that I shall live to see peace about my Roxanne.”
Gerard trips on a word: “I asked him not to accept the ca- the case.”
Flora says that Carrie is old enough to be courted, but advises Jeremy, “You should ask her, her, uh — her, her sponsor, first.”
Flora tells Gerard and Trask, “And those attacks, exactly like those suffered by you and poor Julia, began in the year, the winter of 1796.”
Gerard asks Flora, “Ben Stokes… he was Barnabas’s Collins’ servant, was he not?”
Gerard tells Carrie, “Mr. Trask and I were just talking about your grandfather. He had some belongings that we don’t know where they are. He — after his death, we — we couldn’t find them.”
When Carrie asks Jeremy, “Where would you go?” someone in the studio coughs.
Gerard muses, “It’s also very incredible how much Barnabas’ father looks a lot like him.”
Trask reads Ben’s journal: “It was during the witchcraft trial — the day I testified that Victoria Winters was not a witch, the day the witch herself appeared in court — that the Reverend Trask made his last trip to the Old House.” Trask was actually entombed a week later — Angelique’s appearance in court was episode 435, the trial ended in episode 437, and then Trask made his last trip in episode 443. There will be lots more 1795 revisionism in tomorrow’s episode.
When the skeleton is first revealed and Trask says, “At last I’ve found my father’s burial place,” the camera swings a little wide, and you can see that the set ends just past that section of wall. It looks like part of a hallway there, with a picture on the wall.
Today, Gerard and Trask take Ben Stokes’ diary to the Old House basement and leave it there, apparently. Fifty-seven years later, in episode 755 (May 1969), Dirk Wilkins finds the book behind the Old House secret bookcase. I guess at some point Barnabas brought the book upstairs and stored it in the secret room, assuming this is the same timeline, about which who even knows.
Tomorrow: How I Long to Be Wrong.
— Danny Horn
65 thoughts on “Episode 1167: The English Way of Death”
I spent all of junior high trying to be Julie Newmar’s Catwoman (which went over as well as you can imagine in a small town in eastern Montana); I might have squee’ed a bit when I heard about the new casting of everyone’s favorite mad doctor.
I FUCKIN’ FLIPPED OUT. My husband loves Julie Newmar so much I’d be jealous if I thought she would deign to speak to him.
It was good insight to spot that there hasn’t been a consistent idea on what DS is. Maybe that’s why there is a broader appeal? Some might have an occult or horror interest. Others see the time traveling (almost sci fi) appeal. And others are invested in particular characters and personalities. Personally, i’ve always thought it was about Collinwood itself (and the curse on all who dwell therein). Take that out of the story and the whole thing falls apart for me.
Perhaps those tasked with remakes of DS haven’t found the formula – like lightning, it struck only one time. I’ve wondered if it is just that they keep changing the form of the show; nobody’s tried making another daytime soap opera. But somehow I don’t think that would work either…though it would be wonderful to have a DS reunion show, with some new terror plaguing Collinsport (or perhaps the return of an old one? Let’s dig up some zombie pirates!) and only the ‘crazy old folks’ to try and convince the young ‘uns of the danger?
John E. Comelately: I think a new show, in the right hands, would still do well.
My take on best chance of success: A show on Netflix, HBO, etc. And you have to ditch Barnabas and resist redoing anything we’ve already seen.
I’d set it either in the 1930s (with Liz and Roger in young 20s / college-age roles) or set it in current times.
I’d probably vote 1930s. That would be roughly 90 years from current times and really give the show an “old” spooky feel. I think they could keep the backstory of the show in mind, but they’d really need to focus on new material and new characters (or old characters such as Liz, Roger, Jameson, an elderly Aunt Judith, etc., doing new things).
1930s would give the chance to do an Egyptian story and work in Laura, too.
I think if they ever try to do DS again, they have to start fresh.
Because the original is the Lost Chord–everyone hears its echo but it cannot be reproduced. So a successful new show has to be started at one point, the point that the person developing it loved most about Collinsport and its insane populace.
If it’s the ghosts, do that. If it’s the vamps, do that. If it’s the constant piling up of times and spaces into a huge Jenga of insanity, do that! But never, never, never forget the love.
If you don’t cast actors who can generate passion with each other, the whole thing is a waste of time. And I don’t just mean sexy pants off time passion, although that’s certainly not to be sneezed at. But when two people are talking you have to care about not only the topic of conversation, but HOW these two people are having said convo. They can like each other, hate each other, warily be forming an alliance, be outright lying, meeting cute–but there has to be a reason they’re speaking and not just walking past one another that goes beyond plot.
That’s why every dialogue with Barnabas and Julia is worth watching, no matter how badly they flub their lines or how infuriating they’re being in terms of what’s happening or not happening. When Barnabas tells Julia “never without you,” you fall in love all over again. You’ve gotta fall in love with something during each episode, or at least each storyline, to sound the echoes of that lost chord.
OMG – Julie Newmar as Dr, Julia Hoffman!?! She is the greatest! And how great to have her be available and doing the part. Not only do I have very found memories of her as the ultimate of all Catwomen on the old “Batman” TV show, but I’ve been able to see what we have left of the reruns of “My Living Doll” where she played a female robot, learning how to be an “ideal” 60’s woman, with Bob Cummings. It sounds like this audio series is hitting the right notes – couldn’t the audio series be spun off into a series of novels, a web series, or some other medium? Big Finish, are you listening?
She played an emissary of Satan on an episode of Twilight Zone so this is a perfect fit for her!
Well if this is war, I’d like to register as a conscientious objector.
It seems like Dark Shadows means a lot to a lot of different people, and it’s most of all personal. For many it represents one’s earliest memories, and so one could easily feel possessive about that view of the Collinwood foyer for instance, and hence the telling of the stories that go on there, those stained glass windows over the landing, all that stuff. That’s why many fans don’t want a reboot, and that’s what T** B***** and J***** D*** could never understand with their noncanon retelling of what could only be told once. How can you recreate the groundwork, the game of chance, that led to that first sympathetic vampire? Could you simply retell the story, and then expect it to be all new again?
On the other hand, what Big Finish has been doing is great; because it isn’t simply a retelling, a reboot, but is instead a continuation. In so doing, there’s also a certain dedicated spirit; it’s tribute. I will always love them for bringing Mitch Ryan back as Burke Devlin and then filling out a mystifying, otherworldly backstory (And Red All Over…). And this is the most important thing: In addition to being inspired, Big Finish is also creative, and in its approach is also and always most of all a tribute.
Given that David Collins is now back at the forefront with Big Finish, and David and Amy are now a thing, I think the next step would be to look into the roots of David Collins. Really fill out the character by integrating his past with the present. His mother, Laura, the phoenix. And let’s not forget Victoria Winters, an important influence during his early formative years; he hates her at first, because he believes she intends to replace his mother, but they eventually bond over visitation by ghosts. And why not bring Alexandra Moltke back for the role?
Idea: Just as Julia Hoffman couldn’t really be killed off in 1897, because in her astral time travel unlike Barnabas she didn’t have a host body in that time, so too Victoria Winters couldn’t really have been killed off in 1796 at the hands of the Leviathans. She’s trapped between two worlds, calling to the future to be brought back, and in between those two worlds the spirit of Laura Collins keeps her trapped in limbo, preventing her from returning to her own century; revenge for helping to foil her attempt at taking David with her in 1967. In the 21st century, David’s dreams begin calling to him; his astral dream state will be the battleground for souls, Victoria’s and his own, as Victoria Winters attempts to thwart the power of Laura the phoenix one more time.
Call it… The Phoenix and the Governess… or something.
I’ll reiterate the last lines of Tim’s post above: Big Finish, are you listening (or hopefully reading)?
Which harks back to…
I wonder if there isn’t some other scion of the Collins family who might lay claim to Collinwood (oh, what am I saying, of course there is! It’s a soap opera!); you know, the sort that “don’t believe in ghosts”?
The greatest weakness about the 2012 movie was the expectations of old school fans FOR a continuation, rather than a reboot. New fans tended to take the movie at face value. Granted, the comedy aspect would be a shock to many older fans anyway, but that was due to strategic rewrites and concerns about an at the time saturation of vampire dramas. The great strength of the Big Finish dramas is the freedom that audio gives for original, aging performers to continue their roles along with their stories. No such satisfaction could be gained from casting original performers original roles in new film and television, beyond the preferences of a small group of hardcore old school fans.
Preference, schmeference… You can’t remake a phenomenon. As proof: the 1991 series, despite having the same executive producer and even one of the main original writers.
I can only speak for myself, so I can’t really understand why so many Dark Shadows fans want a remake, reboot, etc. Perhaps it’s because they want to feel they are a part of something that’s popular with the general public, rather than having to settle for the type of niche fandom that goes with a show that in the long run has achieved a more marginal “cult” status.
As for the claim that the irrelevant 2012 disasterpiece brought new fans to the original series: For that year domestic box office was $79,727,149, barely enough to cover half the production budget; since then, over nearly 7 years after being released to video, combined DVD/Blu-Ray sales are a paltry $25,412,216 (estimated).
Dark Shadows doesn’t need the help of Hollywood, or anything or anyone else for that matter, because Dark Shadows will always be alive; it’s a noteworthy, ground-breaking part of television and pop culture history, and history is always there, awaiting discovery.
Prisoner wrote: “… You can’t remake a phenomenon. As proof: the 1991 series, despite having the same executive producer and even one of the main original writers. …”
Agreed! The original DS actors, recorded “live-on-tape” with barely enough time to memorize their lines, display a nervous spontaneity that makes their performances more interesting, engaging, and often quite amazing. This spontaneous quality cannot be replicated in a more glossy production where a bigger budget permits unlimited re-takes until the actors achieve a “perfect” delivery of their lines. Thus, an imperfect, rushed, low-budget, live-on-tape show like DS will always be better than another reboot which is polished to perfection.
And, as a rule, remakes (of anything) almost always fall short of the original.
So the lesson here is that in life there certain things — one of them is the original Dark Shadows TV series 1966-71 — which one should never attempt to polish!
And I don’t think the ‘spontaneity’ could be recreated without seeming self-aware and forced.
It’s true one should not polish the “patina” on a fine antique lest one diminish the antique value. So noted.
the original Dark Shadows TV series 1966-71
… ? …
And on the first day Dan said, ‘Let there be Dark’. And so it was.
It only need be said once. And so it is.
Watching the 1991 series, it was almost as if having more money and fancier sets took away the charm of the original. Similar to how Robert Rodriguez had more money and “real” actors when he made Desperado, which doesn’t have half the energy or tension of the previous low-budget Mariachi.
Speaking of Mexico, I believe the only way to recapture any of the original DS zing would be to do it as a telenovela. Same over-the-top acting style, same commitment to a brutal shooting schedule.
That is, if you must have a remake. I am glad we got the 5 years we got. It’s time for new things. Like Supertrain II.
They could reboot ‘Hello Larry’, but who could replace McLean Stevenson?
I don’t suppose anyone will EVER be ready for a remake of ‘The Ugliest Girl In Town’. (Actually, I guess ‘Tootsie’ came close – wonder why they never tried to spin that into a TV show?)
“I can’t really understand why so many Dark Shadows fans want a remake, reboot, etc.” Well, we’re all remaking and rebooting it in our heads every time we watch. Much of that is mental editing that we do without knowing that we’re doing it. For example, at most a quarter of the verbal bloopers register with me; without conscious effort, I take out most of the extra words James Storm inserts into his lines, put Jonathan Frid’s sentences into conventional English word order, and clean up a myriad of other slips of the tongue. Nor do most of the mike shadows, shots of the edge of the set, or other routine mess-ups make it into my awareness.
When you do so much revision unconsciously, of course you continue it consciously. For example, many of the comment sections on the 1840 segment so far have included people remarking on its discontinuities with the 1795 segment, and most of those comments have led to the speculation that this is a sequel, not to the segment we saw, but to the events that took place in “the Wick-iverse,” a timeline which Vicki never visited, and where all the experiences she had in the eighteenth century happened to Phyllis Wick. With Lamar Trask and Gerard reading Vicki’s name in Ben’s memoir in this episode, Wick-iverse supporters have to go back to the drawing board to come up with other explanations for the inconsistencies.
Then you come to moments when you are led to expect a story they never get around to telling. In the Re-Haunting of Collinwood segment, they spend eight weeks drumming into us that something’s coming up with Tad and Carrie, their deep attachment to Daphne, the mysterious playroom, the pirate ship Java Queen and her dastardly captain, etc, none of which turns out to be anything. The failure to deliver on those themes comes more as a relief than anything else, since the setup hadn’t been that great, but to the extent that we had hoped that the payoff would justify the setup, we were already writing stories for them to tell once they got to 1840. So when nothing like those stories materializes, we’re primed and ready to wonder what else they might have done with those eight weeks. What might the Re-Haunting of Collinwood have been like if it had set up the stories they actually went on to tell? What if they’d skipped it and gone straight from 1995 to 1840? What if they had used those weeks to develop other stories, perhaps not directly related to what came before or after, but rebuilding our connection to the main sequence characters so that they have something to come back to when they’re done with 1840? Of course, there’s no end to the “what-ifs” that come to mind wen you look at a misfire like that one.
After a week in 1840, we get Quentin’s Enoch Arden return, setting up a love triangle with Quentin, Samantha, and Gerard. That triangle collapses instantly, as it turns out neither man really cares very much about Samantha or wants to fight the other, while she’s in no position to do anything about her hostility to both of them. That demands another kind of mental remaking and rebooting. David Selby, Virginia Vestoff, and James Storm were all very talented, charismatic actors, and in 1970 each of them had plenty of sex appeal. To put three of them together and surround them with signs marked “love triangle!” only to have them immediately excuse themselves from any romantic involvement borders on soap operatic malpractice. I can’t imagine watching those episodes and not trying to figure out a plot structure that would have allowed them to develop the Quentin/ Samantha/ Gerard triangle at length.
So, with everyone doing all that mental reinventing of the material, of course people are going to get excited by the idea of a remake or reboot. Maybe this time they will tell one of the stories I came up with, and I’ll be able to see it on the screen! Or, what might be even better, maybe they will make a show that I’ll have as much fun revising as I have revising the one they did make.
I still am looking forward to trying Big Finish productions, but I was gabbing on line with someone about “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and I said that, of all the versions, my favorite is the BBC radio version, which is the first version I ever came across. The guy I was chatting with said, “Radio has the best pictures.” I suspect that Big Finish has pleased the most DS fans partly because they understand that audio has the best pictures.
Prisoner has clearly given a lot of thought to a reboot of the character Victoria Winters who was the character I had a crush on back in the day. Alexandra Moltke Isles has moved on and out of appearing in front of the camera. Maybe someone else could take over the role of Vickie (Vicky? – I’ve seen it both ways). If Julie Newmar can take over for Grayson Hall, surely someone can be found to succeed Moltke. (Some might say, “Do you think?”)
Julie Newmar is likely a great new Doctor Hoffman. I also have dim but pleasant memories of her in “My Living Doll.” (The racy/kinky implications of that show were fig-leafed by having the sister of Bob Cummings’ character live with – chaperone – Bob and Julie; that made it OK for a man to have an artificial girlfriend, sure it did.)
Flora Collins in 1840 (not PT) is my favorite incarnation for Joan Bennett. (Second would be Naomi Collins; third would be the original Elizabeth, sometimes.) Flora being a novelist with an eccentric – not to say flighty – streak makes Flora into Bennett’s most interesting characterization.
Julie Newmar was in an episode of The Defenders (“Gideon’s Follies”; as Brandy Gideon Morfoot)…
…which also featured fellow future Dark Shadows alum Conrad Bain, with series costars Upson Pratt and Mike Brady.
Miss Newmar really stretched for the role…
…which certainly helped to build on her steamy reputation.
“The Defenders” star E.G. Marshall would later host the long running “CBS Radio Mystery Theater”… which also had the best pictures. Late at night. Coming from a transistor radio tucked under a pillow, when a young one was supposed to be asleep…
Has Big Finish done anything with the (ominously) dangling thread of Count Petofi? At least his hand should be about, someplace…has anyone ever actually OPENED that box in the upstairs hallway?
Or Magda and Sandor when they first arrived at Collinwood?
The return of Adam (Extreme Makeover Edition).
Laura Stockbridge Collins probably has an incendiary tale to tell; Or Murdoch, Radcliff – the girl sure got around.
Maybe it’s just the romantic side of me, but how about Nathan and Suki Forbes’ newlyweds years? (Did they ever mention an actual relationship, or did Nate just run out on her after she hooked him?)
Or Parallel Time Magda Rakosi…QUEEN of The Gypsies! (Not that Johnny Romano didn’t ROCK that purple cape/scimitar combo.)
Dr. Eric Lang (who did NOT actually die; that’s why it was that his body simply vanished as it did, because he recovered (with amnesia of course) and wandered off while Julia and Barnabas were in the other room.
Can young newlyweds make it in the afterlife? Jeremiah and Josette – The Smushface Years. (I’m just brainstorming here, they can’t ALL be good…)
Count Petofi or at least his hand has made appearances in “The Crimson Pearl,” “The Blind Painter,” and the mini-series “Bloodlust.”
Mostly BF has concentrated on stories that make use of the original actors who are still around and available (although why they didn’t use Adam when Robert Rodan was available, I don’t know – Rodan did appear in a BF story, just not as Adam).
But they did use the Phoenix in the anniversary story Blood & Fire (played by Joanna Goring, who was the 1991 Vicki).
So… Windcliff… Obviously delayed by COVID, but is it still happening?
Gosh. That sounds a lot more interesting than Quentin’s interminably boring and totally anachronistic trial! I haven’t sampled any of the Dark Shadows Big Finish audios yet, but this one is going on my to get list. (I have listened to some of their Doctor Who stories, and I’m aware of how good they can be.)
One question, though – are we ever told how Julia winds up in a “strange body”, or is that just unexplored back story? Or do you think that Big Finish might be saving something up for a future production?
Remaking DARK SHADOWS would be a lot like rebooting LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. The series is one of constant evolution and narrative adaptation. This character, tone, doesn’t work? We’ll try something else.
My issue with the 1991 and 2012 versions is they didn’t try for anything new or interesting in context. Neither could figure out what made Barnabas Collins appealing. Cross’s Barnabas was a humorless cold fish with no interest in anything beyond himself. Depp’s Barnabas did share Frid’s later devotion to the Collins family but he lacked the strong relationship with Julia. And so on.
Joss Whedon and even Neil Gaiman have mined larger concepts from DARK SHADOWS. It’s probably yet another reason why a straight remake would never work.
Actually, the CW’s Vampire Diaries and the Originals have a lot of DS in them. I, of course, prefer the “Monster in the Suit”, Elija Michaelson played by Canadian/New Zealand actor, Daniel Gilles. (He really could play Barnabas, but why would that ever happen? 🤷♂️ … oh but he did one bit where they showed Elijah getting out of the coffin. It was lovely. Think of someone on a pommel horse, the hand down as the body swings up and over in a smooth motion that demonstrates power and control.) sigh … of course there is plenty of eye candy in both of those shows as well as pretty much every supernatural cliche. I had planned to keep a running tally of how many people got killed but I quickly lost track. Do supernaturals count as people? And if a person dies and becomes supernatural, is that a death? Okay now, what if that person dies while a supernatural? Now, what if that person is now existing beyond the veil but still interacting with people who have not died. And if the dead go further beyond the veil are they more dead? What if they come back as something else and die again?… it’s fun if you have the time to waste.
I’d love a DS spin-off with more emphasis on the town and the secondary characters. Imagine Stokes and Hoffman as tenured professors (see, it’s fantasy) investigating the ancient evil beneath Collinsport. Philip and Megan are back at it selling pig-weasels, and dragging Carolyn into the strange ritual known as “having a job.”
Danny…please come back.
“Danny’s not here right now, Mrs. Torrance.”
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Yes! I’m all caught up now and don’t know how to go on without his smart commentary!
#8 and Barnabas gets the last word. 🧛♂️
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I hope Danny isn’t trapped at Ikea. It’s harder finding your way out of there than parallel time.
If Dark Shadows had been made a couple of decades later, they could have done a Barnabas-Gets-Lost-In-IKEA-and-Julia-Has-To-Rescue-Him plot!
It would need to be higher status than Ikea. Barnabas wouldn’t be in a Walmart either, although I suppose one could have fun with the idea of it. To be followed up by Barnabas and Willie go to the 24 hour laundromat? Or how about Barnabas, Quentin, and the All-Night Drugstore?
What about Starbucks?
Of course, if Barnabas et al visit any of these places they won’t be ordinary retail stores. There’ll be a dimensional portal in the IKEA, a curse on the machines in the laundromat, a ghost in the all-night drugstore, and at least one of the baristas in Starbucks will be a reincarnation of Josette!
I lack sufficient input to imagine a scenario in a Starbucks. As a person who prone to suffering decision paralysis I do not frequent that establishment. 😏 …. meaning, I walked into one in the early 90s. I took a look at the pricing and the complexity of the unfamiliar menu, then I walked out. I’ve never been back.
However I do have to go to laundromats from time to time. So the thought has popped into my mind what if Josette was in there as a single mother with about 4 kids all under the age of seven, you know, kind of grimy kids. The two middle kids are rolling around on the floor in the laundromat A blissfully grinning infant in a car seat drools fruit juice spittle. The oldest boy acts as a helper to Mom by holding on to the bottles of detergent and softener as she wearily loads the washer full of thrift store children’s clothes and guady, Walmart branded women”s lingerie.
Now would that not put his Josette attraction to the test???
Barnabas is at the Collinsport Soap & Suds wearing his 1795 burial clothes because he’s out of anything else to wear; and there’s a bloodstain on his best smoking jacket that he’s trying to get out. He starts by putting his hypno-zombie whammy on the kids, who begin folding and sorting.
After that, he’ll set them up at the Old House, unload the kids on Elizabeth, and it’s candlelight dinners and music boxes all the way…
How about a Parallel Time where the girls are ALL Josettes?
Firstly, my husband says Barnabas would not be caught dead in an Ikea or Walmart. 😁
He is also adamantly asserting the Barnabas would not go to a laundromat, because he has Willie for that. The only way he’d show up at the laundromat is if Willie sent him a cell phone snap of the Josette, but he is of the opinion that Barnabas would probably not want to have much to do with single mother Josette.
So I guess that means we would have to default to some kids in danger/ hero Barnabas scenario.
I’m also somewhat sad to say, that I could see the Depp Barnabas at a laundromat in the scenario you gave. My husband thinks the Depp Barnabas would be fascinated by a Costco.
…. hmmm Costco was going to sell caskets at one point or another
You know that if Barnabas offloads the kids onto Elizabeth they’ll be possessed by a ghost in no time flat.
Of course a Collinwood full of kids also means that Elizabeth has an excuse for hiring another governesses, so… 😉
I’m sure there’s a Trask descendant around somewhere – they’re so good with kids. And Phyllis Wick is always just one seance away! Daphne, Beth and Hortense are probably still roaming the halls somewhere (just check around for that telltale scent of lilac); the place is swarming with governesses!
Then there’s the backstory of who fathered the children. I bet at least one of them is Quentin’s. 🐾
Well talking of Trasks, by a strange coincidence at the moment I’m reading a vintage whodunnit with a senior police officer named… Superintendent Trask! It made me wonder what would happen if a branch of the Trask family went into law enforcement and wound up becoming the Collinsport sheriff.
One thing’s for sure, things would get a lot shoutier than under Sheriff Patterson!
In other news, Dark Shadows ranked in the Top 10 Best Soap Operas according to TVLine and MSN.
I consider this blog a blessing and a steady improver of my quality of life, and, as I put no effort into it at all, I know I have to right to complain when the rate of posting slows. I know all that, and remain simply grateful.
But to have to say–for Danny to slow this down during a time when the show itself is so ploddingly dull . . . it does feel like double punishment for the true believersHeath.
Nevertheless, I remain faithful and await the next influx of insight . . .
Like Heathcliff to Cathy, like Vanessa to Anatol, like Barnabas to Josette, we wait . . .
I’m not bitching about Danny not posting a new entry for a while. Just like the show itself, I get addicted to the blog and am anxious for the next post.
If anything, I think this just goes to show how difficult it is to write something of high quality every single day and to do it without pay, as in Danny’s case, well…
The DS writers had a tough job, too. I tend to be really critical of the show at times – always wanting to fix it – but I wouldn’t want to trade places with the writers and their tight deadlines. Now, if they’d wanted me to be the story editor, that I would have loved.
Danny makes it look so easy; I think of all the hours I spent staring at a blank sheet of paper and chewing on a pencil’s eraser, trying to come up with something, ANYTHING to say that sounded original and intelligent – Danny Horn has given better than a thousand entries, each one entertaining and (mostly) insightful (I’m going to put he qualifier for (for instance) the one where each of Julia’s words is listed alphabetically. Some entries are diamonds, some are quartz; all of them sparkle.) At this stage, as the show wanes, it must be more challenging than ever to create another gem.
I value each of these installments as the gifts that they are, and as a certain creature of the night puts it, “…could not bear to part with a single syllable of it.” The end of the series draws near, and with it the completion of this opus – and, as good things always do, it will seem too soon. Much as I want more commentary, I can wait. I haven’t been disappointed yet. 💎
I’m sorry about the delay, everyone — I’m still alive, and I’ll be back to posting soon.
John E wrote, “… I value each of these installments as the gifts that they are, and as a certain creature of the night puts it, ‘…could not bear to part with a single syllable of it.’ …”
I’ve had much fun here too. Thank you, Danny, for all your wit, work, and inspiration! Yes, I shall miss it as it must end one day. Some day. But not today. Not yet!
(Yeah–sorry for the stray “Heath” above. It’s a romantic tic I need to control–)
Aw, Count, and I thought you were quoting Jonathan Frid, whose Barnabas says that in episode 212 to Vicki Winters, “Miss Victoria… Do you let them call you Vicki, when your name is Victoria?…The name Victoria is so beautiful, I couldn’t possibly surrender a single syllable of it.”
Sorry, but I refuse to accept the Burton Atrocity of 2012 as canon. That’s the trouble with trying to “reboot” Dark Shadows, when Dark Shadows after all was a series of happy accidents that resulted in a phenomenon. The rebooters only seek to remake the results of that phenomenon, but can never equal the circumstances that went into making Dark Shadows what it was and is.
Yes, the blog will end, as the series did, but yet the end does not truly end it. We Dark Shadows bloggers are curators of the legacy, something that shares appreciation but also continually renews interest in the subject; new insights, new information. The blog will end, but it will stand; a statement for all time, to perpetually renew interest for a never-ending stream of curious visitors. A museum of information and appreciation unto itself. Intentional or not, that is the main mission of a Dark Shadows blog.
Priz, my most profound apologies to you and to DS fans everywhere for posting that link above at 7:05pm. I am so sorry. In hindsight, I surely should have prefaced the link with the following “trigger warning” before I foolishly posted:
“CONTENT WARNING: This link is under community review and may in the future be restricted and/or quarantined due to significant issues of seriously disordered filmmaking and may contain extremely offensive depictions of cherished characters. ARE YOU CERTAIN YOU WANT TO VIEW THIS LINK, below?”
I do hope you and the DS community may find it in your generous hearts to forgive me for the trauma I caused by exposing you to … the cReAtuRe!!!!!!!
Well, at least I didn’t click on the arrow, thereby sparing myself a bout of DTSD (Depp-Traumatic Stress Disorder). 🙂
I do not despise the Depp Barnabas. His face is a far closer approximation to the original, than that of Cross. …as for the movie — oh well, it’s a bit like dropping one’s cell phone in a toilet. The phone has to be retrieved and then there is the choice about what to do with it. As I was raised by many sets of parents who lived through the Great Depression, I learned there is usually something salvageable in most situations. I found a few things in that disappointing film I’m ok with. There is also the unexpected outcome of the fanfic written by Depp fans who know only the Burton travesty of DS. I don’t think any I’ve read is all that good, but seeing where their thoughts go is different/interesting.
RIP Denise Nickerson…
I’m OK with a long time between blog posts as I love DS, and Danny, and treasure each post like it’s a special gift. I also realized that, instead of dreading Danny’s LAST post about DS’ FINAL episode, know that we can click on any random episode blog, like, # 567, and get completely absorbed in it, all over again! Then the next one, and the one after that, like we’d never read them, before! Works the same way with watching actual DS episodes. I owned a zillion DS VHS tapes and would do that, all the time. It never HAS to end….
Interesting choice, #567; the title of that particular entry of DSED is ‘The Show Goes On’. 🤔
Really? The number # 567 just came to me, out of the blue! Very cool, John E.
I am so here for Julie Newmar as Julia! I’m sure the character wouldn’t be anywhere as irritating to me as GH’s was.
Jeremy Grimes is super handsome! Almost on a Joe Haskell level.
In the teaser, Daphne is drawn to a “deserted wing of the house.” It’s only 1840. I’m beginning to realize that Collinwood was originally built with several pre-deserted wings. Also, why do these so-called “deserted wings” always have candles burning all over the place?
In this episode as presented on Tubi TV, which I’ve mentioned in past comments usually has accurate closed captioning, whereas IMDb TV generally does not, there is one sentence that the CC gets amusingly wrong. When Daphne says to Gerard, “Your friend, Dawson. If you could’ve heard him in that courtroom today, he really hates Quentin” the CC renders it as “Your friend, Dawson, you could have hurt him in that cauldron today, he really hates Quentin.” The Tubi CC also continues to misspell “Barnabas” as “Barnabus”, but at least now it’s getting Flora’s name right instead of calling her Laura… for the time being at least.
I finally had the opportunity to listen to Bloodline. I had a problem with some of the audio effects and sorting out the voices of the large cast but it had some lovely bits. The plot was complicated but it was obviously made by a group of people with great knowledge of, and affection for, the original series. I’m hoping that the next two announced titles, Windcliff and Thirteen, have just been delayed and will still appear in the near future. In some ways, Bloodline feels like a series finale, though I know previously released stories actually take place after it. Maybe a more accurate description is a changing of the guard. I do hope they get a chance to continue.