Episode 1179/1180: Communication with the Dead

“You and he have always been in league with one another!”

“Trask held you prisoner?” says Quentin, from his prison cell.

“Yes,” answers time-traveling eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, who is acting in Quentin’s defense. “He forced me at gunpoint into an alcove in the basement of his chapel, and he bricked up the alcove, and left me there to die.”

Quentin is astonished. “But why didn’t you tell the judge what he had done?”

“Because I chose not to!” declares Barnabas, proving once again that he is essential — not just to Dark Shadows, but to our quality of life in general.

Today is December 31st, 1970 — a date that, according to many observers, may be said to truly mark the end of 1970, and the beginning of 1971. This is the end of that magic week between Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone’s home from school and Dark Shadows might be able to pick up some lapsed viewers. They spent most of the week presenting furious recap, trying to get everyone up to speed on the current tangle of storylines, and they cap it off with the tried-and-true gimmick of releasing Barnabas from someplace, and then standing around and looking smug about it.

And it works, as it always does, because Jonathan Frid has the weird mix of gravitas, charisma and the ability to surprise that makes him, in his stronger moments, impossible to ignore. He can deliver a response like “Because I chose not to!” and the audience will say, okay, I guess that covers it. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Strangely, Barnabas has been taking a back seat in this story since early November, lost in a little three-person storyline cul-de-sac with Angelique and Julia, while Quentin, Daphne, Gerard and their associates spun up this whole complicated witchcraft trial. In fact, Quentin was in jail for over a week before Barnabas even heard about it. He hasn’t been involved in the trial in any way. In fact, last week, Lamar Trask forced him at gunpoint into an alcove in the b. of his c., and he bricked up the alcove, and left him to die.

But here, at this turning point in American jurisprudence, as Trask concludes his testimony for the prosecution about the unexplained death of several cows: in strides Barnabas Collins, special guest star and counsel for the defense.

And this is an interesting moment, which demonstrates that scene construction is more important than logic or sense. There is absolutely no reason why Barnabas showing up at this moment should save the day in any way. As the prosecutor immediately points out, Barnabas is not a lawyer, and has no special skills in this area. He doesn’t even really understand this storyline.

But they gave him an absurd but thrilling two-minute build-up at the end of the last episode, which is repeated at the top of today’s.

When Trask finishes his testimony, the judge asks if Quentin wishes to cross-examine, and Quentin says that it would be better if the cross-examination were handled by his counsel.

“I was under the impression, Mr. Collins,” the judge drawls, “that you were unable to find counsel.”

“Then I gave the court the wrong impression, your honor!” Quentin declares, which is the same kind of line as “Because I chose not to!” — irrational, unhelpful, and yet somehow deeply satisfying.

Then they kind of kick the idea around the room for a minute, with Dawson jumping up to proclaim, “It is obvious that this man is up to some form of trickery, that can cause no good to any of us.” And Quentin says “your honor, I assure you there is no trickery on my part.” Personally, I would like it if they kept saying the word “trickery” in every sentence for the rest of the episode, but we live in a fallen world.

The effect of all this is to build up to a big entrance, with royal guards and flower girls all singing “Hail, hail, Freedonia, land of the brave — and — free!” and then looking at the door expectantly.

And when the door opens, in comes that impossible man, Barnabas Collins, magically released from his fatal confinement, healthy and smiling, without even a hint of brick dust on his impeccable lapels.

They don’t explain how he managed to get out of his brick wall predicament; that happened off-screen while we were all reading Dreams of the Dark.

Later, when Barnabas is chilling in the cooler with Quentin, he says, “I didn’t think I was going to get out, but finally, Valerie and Julia found out where I was.” That’s it, that is the entire resolution to that week-long story thread. If you recall the end of episode 1177, we left Angelique and Julia standing, puzzled, on the street near Trask’s chapel, with the ghost of Roxanne moping helplessly by the bricked-up alcove.

Apparently, while we weren’t watching, Julia and Angelique a) figured out where Barnabas was, b) got inside Trask’s chapel, c) went down to the basement, d) broke the wall down using a sledgehammer, a chisel, a drill and a couple pairs of work gloves and safety glasses, e) broke the manacles off Barnabas using some kind of bolt cutter, and f) effected their escape, without Trask or anyone else noticing that it happened.

Did you expect that they would dramatize a complicated jewel heist/rescue operation like that? Then the show gave you the wrong impression!

And so, by the powers vested in him by the state of confusion and the element of surprise, Barnabas crashes into the courtroom, and everybody acts like this is a game changer that will blow the case wide open. And maybe it will, you never know.

“Actually, your honor,” Barnabas says, as Trask folds inwards and tries to disappear, “the defense would welcome a brief postponement, in order to more fully acquaint itself with the case.” Look, it’s already referring to itself in the third person; this lawyer thing is going to be a breeze.

“You’re telling me,” Quentin says, “after Trask what… what he did to you, you’re willing to let him go free?”

“For the moment, yes,” Barnabas answers.

“In heaven’s name, why?”

The counsel for the defense decides that this is an opportune time to walk three steps away from the person he’s talking to, and look in the other direction.

“Quentin,” he says, “you are under trial for your life.”

“That is the important consideration for us right now,” he continues, as he settles in a location that has not been mutually agreed upon with the lighting designer. “I can tell you that… that Trask… with has an act of revenge.”

“Barnabas, I don’t understand,” says Quentin, and I don’t blame him; this is some version of attorney-client privilege that doesn’t include the client.

“I’ve read the transcript of Trask’s testimony for the prosecution,” Barnabas claims. “If it stands, then… you are going to have a disaster.” He starts shuffling papers. “Now, I want you and I, right now, to go over this in detail, and find out how it can be broken down tomorrow.” Then he points at something on the paper, and shows it to Quentin, which is adorable.

And then the very next thing that happens is that Barnabas goes to the witness’ house and apparates silently behind him, scaring him all the way across the room and into a new and dreadful world.

“Aren’t you wondering how I got out of your cellar prison?” he asks, as Trask shakes and blusters.

“No!” Trask spits, and then he has a whole speech, because that is what Trasks are made for. “No, I don’t have to wonder, because I know how you got out — with Quentin’s help! You and he have always been in league with one another! He used his sorcery to free you! I know Satan’s work. You should be dead now!”

“Maybe I am dead,” Barnabas says, and then he just stands there and looks pleased with himself.

“Consider the possibility, Mr. Trask,” Barnabas continues. “You put me down in that basement to die. Perhaps I did die, and I have come back to haunt you for the rest of your days and nights!” This is a whole new advance in witness intimidation.

“I have no intentions of staying long, Mr. Trask,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. “Just long enough to tell you that I have every intention of doing something for you, in revenge for what you’ve done to me.”

And there is magic there, in those carefully bungled lines; that particular kind of lunatic intensity that is Jonathan Frid, enjoying himself. The show is not really very good anymore; I think we’ve all come to accept that, but there are still moments like this, and I am grateful.

So here he is, our hero, dressed in a deep purple morning coat and matching tie, cross-examining. “Mr. Trask,” he says, among other things, “it has been established previously in this trial that raising a spirit from the dead, as in a séance, is… admitting a séance experience.” And in my heart, he will remain forever here, triumphant, saying these things, and establishing communication with life, as it should be lived.

Tomorrow: A New Year’s Day pre-emption special!
Time Travel, part 14: It Is What It Is


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Dawson objects: “Why, this is absurd. This man cannot act as defense for the counsel!”

Quentin asks where Barnabas has been, and he says, “Lamar Task had me under — under prison-en.”

Flora bobbles a word: “They produced the journal of Judah Zachery, that man who was beheaded for — for — witch-la — witchcraft.”

Barnabas asks Flora, “When Gerard was living here, Quentin used to — Trask made several visits to him, didn’t he?”

Dawson asks, “Mister Trask, do you know of an example of Quentin’s Collins’ strange powers over the dead?”

Tomorrow: A New Year’s Day pre-emption special!
Time Travel, part 14: It Is What It Is

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

52 thoughts on “Episode 1179/1180: Communication with the Dead

  1. There are a lot of these last gasps around this time, aren’t there? Watching this stretch was very much a case of “Plod, plod, more trial, CUTE NEIGHBOR BOY, plod, plod, prison, plod, shouty judges, plod, OH MY GOD IT’S BARNABAS.” Which, as I recall, is like most soaps, really. It just never was like this one, not in its heyday.

    Mind you, I did get more excited about the Lottery storyline than I care to admit, but that’s a guilty admission for another…oh, wait, I just made it.

  2. “Look, it’s already referring to itself in the third person; this lawyer thing is going to be a breeze.” oh, Danny. it’s so wondrous to have your adorable self back, doing us in with laughter.

  3. It’s too bad the version of Password that replaced Dark Shadows on the ABC daytime lineup in 1971 isn’t available, I’d love a blog where you analyze, praise, and ruthlessly mock every episode of it. It’ll be a sad day when you reach 1245!

    1. It would have been too complex and time-consuming. Hoffman and Angelique sending a letter through time to Willie Loomis in the drawer of the Old House writer’s desk with instructions to throw the I Ching and/or find and climb the Staircase Through Time. With an additional warning to duck the sucker punch of Petofi when passing through 1897, it would take Willie three weeks to reach 1840, an hour to break down the wall while having a nervous breakdown, and six months to explain Willie’s presence at Collinwood to the growing suspicion of Gerard.

          1. Watching the episode, it seemed like there was a scene missing (where Quentin found out Barnabas was freed – even if they’d had a short scene where Quentin in his jail cell looked up as he heard someone walk in, and said, “You!”)

            1. Never mind; Quentin mentioned in today’s episode that Valerie got a note to him while we weren’t looking. 😐

      1. very amusing alternate nook on that running down stairway of time, Alan Gallant. i dare say i’m taken with your fancying imagination.

    1. Has anyone ever tried backacting in regular conversation? We might need to do that more often nowadays.

      I would, but am not sure where the camera is so I can face it.

  4. Well if Password had to replace DS, it’s too bad the characters couldn’t just continue on, on that show. In period costume. They could have sat around trying to get bewildered civilian contestants to guess words like NECROMANCY, LEVIATHAN, and DECAPITATION. Then we would have been able to hang on to them for a wee bit longer.

    1. Great idea!

      Kate Jackson did wind up appearing on Password a few years later on ABC. It kind of bugged me, as if she were a traitor.

      The first day of Password featured the word “vampire” as the password. They didn’t use “Barnabas” as a clue, though.

      ABC moved Password to a midday time slot months later, and Love, American Style began airing in the 4 p.m. (Eastern) time slot. Joan Bennett turned up on that show.

      1. Oh that’s interesting info. Good for Password for giving a tip of the hat to its recently “deceased” predecessor.

  5. Well if Password had to replace DS, it’s too bad the characters couldn’t just continue on, on that show. In period costume. They could have sat around trying to get bewildered civilian contestants to guess words like NECROMANCY, LEVIATHAN, and DECAPITATION. Then we would have been able to hang on to them for a wee bit longer.

  6. It would be a service to the absurdity of late stage DS, if the writers had alternated the word “trickery” with “chicanery” and the occasional “preposterousness.” All this, in an ad nauseum pastiche of FridSpeak, straight through to Thayer David’s final recap of weak tea and stale “animal”-bitten crumpets. Imagine: “… leaving Bramwell in charge of the Collins’ preposterous business interests..”

  7. A bit worth lingering on: Frid gets the kind of gleam in his eye that comes when he’s pretty sure he remembers the rest of his line and can relax and savor the moment and even be a little smug in having the upper hand. He tells Lamar Trask he’ll see him in court and then he waits a beat… and another beat… (the music begins to rise)… and mouths, “Good night,” and you can tell he really, really wants to blow Trask a kiss as well but stops himself. To invoke a lesser but still godlike figure, it his Frid at his most Shatner-esque.

  8. So last night I saw “Dark Shadows” trending on Twitter. Apparently the US President said had that his opponent was under the thumb of “people from the Dark Shadows.” I wonder who he had in mind. If a politician were controlled by Vicki, all of his public appearances would begin with some vague remarks about the weather. Then he would sit down and read a magazine until he wandered off and found himself locked in an attic.

        1. Hmmm.
          I’m pretty sure Dr. Lange is spewing exaggerated 1960s tropes and stereotypes from somewhere in the White House. I don’t know if he’s a script writer or some sort of acting coach, but somebody needs to tell him he needs to update his approach. The bit part, Grade B movie dialogue doesn’t play well anymore.

            1. I do suspect Julia was advising the CDC team responsible for putting together the first covid-19 test kits. … it just doesn’t turn out well when a person who is more of an alchemist pretends to be a scientist. Or maybe we can blame Letticia for failing to follow instructions when not directly supervised.

              1. I think of Roger referring to Dr Woodard as “one of the less addled quacks we have serving the countryside here.” Plenty of thoroughly addled quacks in the public eye these days!

              2. I do suspect Julia was advising the CDC team responsible for putting together the first covid-19 test kits.

                A pack of cigarettes, a shiny medallion, and some sedatives.

          1. The Dark Shadows writers missed an opportunity with that one. They could have had Joshua talk about how he wanted to set Barnabas or Jeremiah up for the presidency. We see Joshua and Jeremiah are building a very massive house which even if Jeremiah got married and moved in, it would take a while to fill those rooms with Collins children. The rooms could be occupied a lot faster if Joshua’s was playing power broker and had many influential guests.

            Then there’s all the pressure he was putting on Barnabas to present himself as a more upstanding and capable person than he perhaps was. Getting Barnabas married to a suitably respectabile woman of high station and appropriate education, would have been another step toward pushing Barnabas into the White House.

            I guess someone could still play with that one if they wanted, although it sounds more like a spin-off than a continuation.

            1. I am a little curious about Joshua’s politics. When he tells the Countess that he is surprised that she still affects a title, as “France has followed our example and become a Republic,” he makes one thing clear. By 1795, the French Revolution was an extremely polarizing issue in the USA, with Jeffersonians tending to romanticize it and Federalists unanimously seeing it as a horror. So we can say with confidence that Joshua supported Thomas Jefferson in the mid-1790s. Barnabas and Jeremiah made a point of being democratic in their manners, so they would likely have been on the radical wing of the Jeffersonian party.

              That doesn’t tell us much about where the Collinses would have come down in later years. The Whigs and the Democrats both emerged from the breakdown of the Jeffersonian Party in the 1830s, and plenty of ex-Democrats joined with displaced Whigs to form the Republican Party in the 1850s. Granted, Maine was a strongly Republican state from time of the Civil War into the mid-twentieth century, so a rich old family there would probably be affiliated with that party, but the Collinses were isolated enough and eccentric enough that we can’t be too certain of anything.

              1. In the Ben Cross remake, they made a stab or two and throwing in more history–Sarah referred to Breed’s Hill instead of Bunker Hill and Barnabas said something about helping to elect . . . was it John Adams? And Josette was called a thorough (French) Republican and wanted to call everyone “Citizen.” Still, as we know, the original series did a lot more characterization, and I found Joshua’s stern disgust for the Countess’s airs delightful and more than mere footnoting. (I could imagine Joshua getting behind the tyrannical Alien and Sedition Acts, but I digress . . .)

                1. If they’d spent a little more time in 1795, they could have had a little fun with Joshua’s politics. In view of his “stern disgust” for titled nobility, his affection for the French Revolution, and his habit of delivering what the Countess called his “Revolutionary War memoirs,” he must have thought of himself as a forward-thinking man of the new order. But of course he’s a colossal snob and a callous employer, whom Ben Stokes is always amazed to think of as a Patriot. I could see a scene or two where Joshua is sincerely unable to understand that anyone thinks of him as a reactionary.

        1. Our elected representatives specialize in dumb things, that’s for sure.

          When this was in the news last week, I kept waiting for someone to say that the only office-holder in Washington who should be talking about “Dark Shadows” is Senator Collins of Maine. I do seriously wonder if she won her first elections because of people who thought she was related to Barnabas!

  9. On another note, has anyone heard from Prisonerofthenight lately? His blog of Dark Shadows from the beginning is no longer accessible (at least to me). I hope he’s ok.

    1. While Danny’s blog is not the appropriate place to discuss either my blog or myself, since some have wondered why I have chosen to (temporarily) remove my blog Dark Shadows from the Beginning from public access, it’s because I’m working in private to resolve a controversy that has become associated with the blog.

      In 2017, I reported on the events leading up to Mark Allen, the first actor to play Sam Evans, being fired from the show. Subsequently, many Dark Shadows fans have taken issue with my findings, which I reported in good faith. My findings revolved around transcribed discussions among cast and crew either offstage or from the control room. Despite that these same fans have conceded that such various background words or phrases can indeed be heard in any given broadcast (except the kinescopes, which are just a shower of white noise), they have arrived at the consensus that I couldn’t possibly have heard complete discussions beyond these occasional fragments of audible background discussion. These folks are what may be termed the casual listener. Like when people generally listen to popular songs, only certain features of a recording may register with them – a melody hook, phrasing of lyrics, random instrumental fills, etc. A more involved listener may for instance focus on one aspect of the recording, like the underlying bass notes and following the musical lines all the way through while filtering out all those more general, up front features that may strike the casual listener.

      Same thing with Dark Shadows broadcast audio. To illustrate the above in a special post on the subject, audio files will be presented where elements of the story can be clearly heard. Fortunately, there are enough instances where this background discussion shines through during moments where actor dialogue and music cues/sound effects fall silent so that the above story can be proven, with the key moments of background discussion amplified using sound editing software.

      Nevertheless, I realize that these audio files may not in themselves be enough. In the past year I have posted such files as a special feature in the blog; some have been able to hear these audio bits, whereas others have said the transcribed material could not be heard. Fortunately, I have recently found the way to definitive proof.

      Over the last couple of years, the topic of Mark Allen leaving Dark Shadows has come up several times in online groups. One such contributor told the story that I told in my blog – that Mark Allen was rude or aggressive toward at least two of the actresses, that David Henesy had found out about it and was scrawling a note on Mark Allen’s dressing room door when he was caught red-handed and either shaken or slapped hard (I know for a fact it was the latter) and then refused to return to the show until they fired Mark Allen, so that Dan Curtis had to finally buy out his contract just to keep David Henesy on the show – only, when asked about where he’d heard of this story, this contributor had never read or even heard of my blog at that point. He’d heard the story at one of the early Dark Shadows conventions, from a writer who worked on the show. The story has apparently been circulating among Dark Shadows fans at various conventions over the years, according to this online contributor, as well as online message boards from years back. Yet I’d never heard of any of this before 2017 – my source was all that background discussion, the “hidden audio” if you will, and the story came out the same way from me as had been told way back some 40 years ago at a convention I never even knew about. Fancy that.

      In the past few months, a source has appeared online whose father attended most all of those early conventions, and who is now offering these for sale as DVD packages. I’m just now at the stage where I’m requesting an order, but if the contents are what I suspect they contain, I will soon be posting this additional supporting material in that upcoming special blog post, audio clips detailing the above story direct from someone who worked on the show and knew the full details – and then I’ll walk the reader through the story as told in background audio.

      So, yes, for Dark Shadows from the Beginning to go on, at least in public view, this story has to be resolved – to the full satisfaction of everyone in the Dark Shadows fandom. I never meant to become an albatross among Dark Shadows fans, and until that resolution is ready to be presented to the public, Dark Shadows from the Beginning represents nothing more at this point than a distraction. It hasn’t been easy being PrisoneroftheNight, especially in the last year and a half, and it isn’t easy being a Dark Shadows blogger – and nobody ever said it would be. Yet it’s worth it, in the long run.

      Thank you for your interest and concern, and I hope to be seeing you again soon!

      1. I’m sorry this is causing you such a problem. I have been enjoying your blog immensely, especially since I watched DS from the beginning and I love seeing your discussion of these often overlooked episodes. I also find your look back that the culture and evolution of television during that time period to be fascinating. I hope you can start posting again publicly and that these DVDs will give you the backing you need to continue.

      2. Thanks for the update! Fascinating that you have independent confirmation for part of the information you’ve gleaned from “The Dan and Lela Show.” Good luck, and I hope to see your blog again soon.

      3. thank you for chiming in, Prisoner of the interrupted Night. ’twas news no doubt many were anxious to hear. what a shame that one sticky note, that barely hung around, and was lost in David Ford’s sunglassed shadow, could get in the way of all you were doing. i can see how that might wriggle against one’s notions of integrity. yet naysayers oughtn’t have their sleigh in the shafted light of day. so when you get around to wrapping up the long night in the short retort of it, here’s hoping you’ll remember to let us in to your blogiverse, do. speaking as i can, only for me, oh so gentle and ever so tidy, i promise to wipe my feetses.

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