“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”
Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.
I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.
In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!
Back at it again with the white Vans!
Sorry to hit you with an invocation right off the bat like that, but today is a very important date, ritual-wise. I am the thrice-damned Daniel, and Kate Jackson and James Storm are the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginning. Today’s episode aired on January 6th, 1971, which is the day that I was born.
I arrived in the world on a Wednesday at 2pm, giving me just enough time to rush home from the hospital and catch the show at 4:00. I was the youngest of the young set, and the end of Dark Shadows is entwined with my beginning.
Today is the day that we finally meet, Dark Shadows and I. Things just got personal.
So you’ll excuse me, I’m sure, for interpreting this episode as being all about me, as if I ever do anything else. I’ve written before about how the show was introduced and then snatched away from me in sixth grade, and how it returned to me just when I needed it at age 14. I’ve told you about how I fell in love with Quentin and Dark Shadows in the same episode, how I discovered Dark Shadows fanzines, and what I scribbled down in my Dark Shadows notebook. You’ve heard my sad tale of New Jersey Network cancelling the show before airing the fourth year, and how I had to catch up by reading the Dark Shadows concordances. And besides all that, you currently know way more than you thought you would about my personal taste in dudes, fictional and otherwise.
But here we are together, in the dying days of the show. After this post, there are only 62 left for me to write, and I have the uncomfortable feeling that maybe the decline and fall of the show had something to do with me.
I mean, I hate to be self-absorbed like that, but they’ve been doing the show since 1966, and as soon as I get here, they start wrapping up. It’s Wednesday, and there’s two more 1840 episodes on Thursday and Friday — and then on Monday, they’re going to start showing visions of the next storyline, the one that kills the show.
So I need to take these last three days of 1840 as the opportunity to cast a spell, and see if there’s anything that I can do to help.
“It is time for a decision,” says Gerard Stiles, kicking the door open with a major plot point. “A very important decision, for the both of us.” He smiles. “Will you marry me?”
Well, this is a bit rushed; I’m only two hours old and it’s my first episode. How am I supposed to answer a question like that?
I mean, yes, obviously the answer is yes, of course I will. I’m not an idiot. I’m just saying it’s sudden, that’s all.
It turns out to be a misunderstanding, anyway; he was talking to Daphne. Gerard doesn’t even know I exist, and I can hardly blame him; until very recently, I didn’t. At the end of yesterday’s episode, he cast a spell on Daphne to make her dream that she’s in love with him, and when she wakes up, here he is, with an expectant look on his face.
“You know me so well,” she says.
“So very well,” he smiles.
“Better than anyone else, I sometimes think.”
“But isn’t that what love is, Daphne?” He keeps grinning, that crocodile smile. “Isn’t it? When two people know one another, so very well?”
So I guess he has a notebook, too, where he writes down everything that happens on Dark Shadows. I don’t know the show so very well at the moment, this hypothetical two-hour-old version of young Danny, but I’m planning on it. I’ve already got it scheduled for early-to-mid adolescence, along with Doctor Who and P.G. Wodehouse books.
“You must marry me,” he murmurs, getting all close up to her, with his Mick Jagger pout. “I will show you new worlds; worlds that you’ve never seen before! Wondrous new lands!” She just stares at him. This may not actually be where they’re supposed to be in the script.
“Oh, I know it sounds a little fascinating for you, doesn’t it?” he plunges on, regardless of script or sense. He doesn’t need it. “You will admit that, at least?”
She tries to turn away, but he follows, curling his arms around her again, unstoppable.
“And under that fascination, you know something is missing,” he continues. “Something that does exist. Love. And it’s time, Daphne, you learned about it.”
So, yes, I already said yes to you, and this whole ridiculous show. I know that it’s wrong, but what the hell, I’ve been alive for part of an afternoon already, and I haven’t heard any better offers.
I mean, sure, on Doctor Who, they’re currently between episode one and two of Terror of the Autons, but I’d have to wait until Saturday, and even then, it’s mostly the Doctor trying to un-hypnotize Jo, and then a guy gets killed by a troll doll.
I don’t have time for that; love is something that does exist, and it’s time I learned about it.
Then Samantha walks in and finds Gerard cuddled up with the governess, and she’s not pleased. Gerard has been intermittently seducing Samantha as well, and she doesn’t appreciate that sometimes you just want to rub yourself on somebody and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I’m learning a lot from this episode, and we’re only four minutes in, not counting a brief commercial break for a word about Gerber’s baby food.
She’s got a lot to say and she’s planning on saying it all, mostly on the subject of why Gerard isn’t paying enough attention to her. Seven months ago, Samantha sort of accidentally on purpose shoved her husband’s girlfriend Joanna off a cliff to a messy death on the rocks below, and now the late Joanna is suddenly showing up at Collinwood for tea parties with her sister. You might think that Samantha would be happy to see Joanna again, because that means she didn’t murder somebody and she appreciates the value of human life, but no, it’s just another thing to nag Gerard about.
“You said you loved me!” Samantha spits, and he responds, “I can still say it,” which is true but only on a technicality.
“But you don’t mean it!” she observes, correctly. “You cannot get rid of me so easily this time, you can’t push me away. I know too much about you!”
“I can go to Quentin now!” she shouts. This is a good idea, but maybe she shouldn’t be telegraphing it. “I can go to Barnabas! I know so much about you, let go of me, let go of me!” She’s saying that because he’s not letting go of her. “I’ll tell them all! I’ll go to the court, and tell them everything, you’re going to be sorry, you’ll be sorry!”
And then, wham! He slaps her, right across the kisser.
So apparently there’s a thing called “hysterical”, and it’s something that women shouldn’t get, and the antidote for it is a hard slap across the face. This really is educational television; I don’t think they covered this on Sesame Street.
Now, that’s not providing me with a good role model for a heterosexual relationship, especially at my tender age. And even now, almost fifty years later, I’m still rooting for Gerard anyway, which says terrible things about my commitment to fictional feminism. All I can say is that I had bad influences as a child, and this is one of them. I don’t know if anybody was having a discussion of The Second Sex on afternoon television in 1971, but if they were, then I must have been watching something else.
So Gerard does what he does, which is to seduce people into forgetting their personal concerns and blackmail threats, through the power of getting up close to them and using his deep “I will show you new worlds” voice.
“You must forget these jealousies that you have,” he purrs, “these little scenes that you cause.” And she does, for now, but I’m pretty sure there will be more little scenes coming up.
In fact, here’s one now, set entirely in Quentin’s prison quarters, where I guess they just let women straight on into the cell. Or dead women, at least, because this is Joanna, the aforementioned mistress, who Samantha shoved off a precipice in a previous flashback.
There are three women and two men in today’s episode, and two of the women are in love with both of the men. Joanna is the third woman, who’s only in love with Quentin, but I bet if she practices, she could fall under Gerard’s power as well. It doesn’t seem to be that hard.
The point of this scene is for Quentin to tell one of the three women who are in love with him that he’s in love with another one of them. This shouldn’t be a surprise for Joanna, because he broke up with her a while ago, before his trip to South America and her tragic death, but returning as a solid specter seems to have restored her to factory settings, and she thinks this is still happening. It’s not.
“We must find out,” she says, about something or other, and then she smiles. “We! I said we. For so long now, I’ve only said I must do this, and I must do that. But now that I’m with you, I said we.” He’s not impressed. Lots of people can say we.
He heaves a sigh, and he’s just about to tell her some information that she doesn’t currently know, when she decides it’s time to call attention to her costume.
“Quentin?” she says, holding her necklace and indicating some shiny object hanging from it. “Did you see this?”
“What?” he says, and sighs again. He looks. “Oh, yeah.” This is not the bombshell that she appears to be banking on.
“Do you know when you gave it to me?” she asks, and he says that he does. “It was at my birthday,” she grins. “You said, next year, at my next birthday, I would be Mrs. Quentin Collins. I would be living at Collinwood. Next year, everything would be different.” Well, he was right about one thing; it’s definitely different.
So guess what, this episode is about me after all, they’re even giving me birthday presents. It’s a little unclear what it is exactly that she’s trying to make a big deal about, because it’s not worth a closeup, and anyway it’s hidden by Quentin’s dark shadow.
This is the slippery, paradoxical ghost of a birthday present. The only time they mention it is when you can’t see it, and they only invest it with meaning when it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s a surprise party that nobody threw, for a birthday that’s no longer celebrated.
But birthday parties are perilous on Dark Shadows, and it was foolhardy of me to try and have one.
For example, David’s birthday party in 1969 was a nightmare that appeared as a warning in another kid’s dream, tinted red and hinting that the birthday boy was going to die, unless the current time travel storyline managed to wrap up in a satisfactory way, which at the time seemed unlikely.
And the nightmare of Chris’ surprise birthday party began with Sabrina throwing her hands in the air and shouting, “Look at me!”, and it ended moments later with Chris turning into a werewolf, and the trauma that ensued.
So it’s no surprise that this wonderful little gathering is not going well at all.
Joanna says, “You don’t mind me saying these things, do you?” and Quentin turns around and sighs and punches his own forehead to indicate that he seriously cannot deal with this train wreck of a human being.
Joanna is not skilled at interpreting other people’s body language, which is probably why she let herself get shoved off a cliff in the first place. It’s a good thing that Quentin isn’t aware that slapping women across the face is acceptable 1971 soap opera behavior; two in a row would set a bad example for young viewers like me.
But he finally gets around to giving her the information that she needs to wrap her head around. They already broke up once, back when she was alive, but apparently it didn’t stick, so he’s trying to clarify.
“Now, listen to me,” he says sternly. “We simply realized that whatever we had between each other was gone.”
And that’s it, there’s nothing left for Joanna to do but go hang around some clifftops, and see if anything presents itself.
Today’s episode is about falling out of love — pretended, posthumous, hypnotic and otherwise. Quentin breaks up with Joanna for the second time, and Daphne breaks up with Quentin, and Samantha’s relationship with Gerard is just a dream that never comes true. Every love story runs to an end eventually, especially if Quentin is involved.
As for me, I fell head over heels in love with Dark Shadows when Quentin first smiled at me in 1985, but to be honest, whatever we had between each other has taken a real hit lately. This relationship is going to end 62 blog posts from now, and there’s nothing either of us can do to stop it.
Is this knowledge my birthday present, these meetings and partings, this retroactive prophecy that once seen cannot be unseen?
Now, I’ve been talking about my relationship with the show as if it just started when I was born, but I’ve been on the earth for nine months at this point, one way or another. Presumably I was conceived in April 1970; that’s usually how it works.
That was during the Parallel Time story, right around episode 990, when they re-enacted the seance where Angelique died, led by the mad, haunted Sabrina, throwing another surprise party that ended in chaos and despair.
“She’s dying! She’s dying!” Sabrina cried, possessed by somebody that it turns out we never found out who it was. “Can’t you see, she’s dying! Murder! Murder! MURDER!”
And Angelique’s twin sister falls, just pitches forward to faceplant on the table, swooning in honor of Angelique’s final night.
Angelique was killed by a hatpin, cleverly inserted into the base of her skull while no one was looking, because this crazy woman was shouting “Murder! Murder!” so loudly that they didn’t notice the actual murder happening right next to them.
That was the night that I was created, coming into existence in a world where lunatics fall out of love so fiercely that you can still hear the echoes of it, even now.
This is about the little scenes that you cause, Dark Shadows, when my journey is beginning — a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. The cancellation hatpin is approaching, as we always knew that it would, and I am born into a world where you are dying, for lack of love.
But that was the past, in 1840 and 1971. Right now, it’s September 2020, and everything feels uncertain. A virus is burning across the world, and everyone has to stay inside, afraid of being accidentally pushed over a cliff’s edge by someone close to them, someone that they love.
So people have a lot of extra time on their hands, and over the last six months, a number of people have posted in the blog comments that they’re binge-watching Dark Shadows in lockdown, and after they watch an episode, they come to read this blog.
I’m happy and grateful that they’ve allowed me to be part of their Dark Shadows experience. Kids ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows, and now they’re running from Dark Shadows, directly to me.
And that’s why I’ve been doing this for all these years, writing a post for every day of Dark Shadows, preparing for this perilous moment. I’ve written more than 1,000 blog posts so far, so that I could lure you here. I wanted to meet you here at this spot, when I’m finally able to write myself into the story, and make sure it comes out okay.
Dark Shadows doesn’t believe that the past is fixed, that the dead stay dead. They remake the world and its history, right before our eyes. If you and I are really here in this moment, and if you trust me, then I think we can do it; we can have Dark Shadows every day.
The ritual has 1,245 steps. One of the steps is missing. And guess what, I think I have a lead on where it went. Let’s meet back here on Friday.
Tomorrow: The Graham Crack-Up.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Gerard tells Daphne, “I’ve loved you from the first time I saw you, the day Quentin brought you in and introduced me to you as your governess.”
Gerard says, “Quentin used to mention Joanna quite a b— a lot, aboard ship.”
Samantha asks Daphne, “Isn’t there something you’re supposed to be doing, Miss Harridge, instead of — looking around the house?”
As she did yesterday, Joanna takes some very obvious peeks at the teleprompter, including in the middle of her first damn line. “Daphne showed me one of the notes she’s been receiving. I, uh — I don’t know, it wasn’t in my handwriting, so… so, I don’t know — (looks at teleprompter) — if it was mine, I didn’t write it. Uh… — (looks at teleprompter) — what did, do you know who could have done it, Quentin?” During that second look, Quentin heaves a heavy sigh.
Then as he turns and tries to deliver a line, she interrupts: “Quentin?” He sighs again. She asks, “Did you see this?” and he turns back. “What?” he asks, and turns back to see that she’s fiddling with her locket. “I’ve just — I’ve been wearing it,” she says.
Daphne tells Samantha, “Sometime ago, I thought the ghost of Joanna Mills was coming to, for me.”
Something is happening with the boom mic when Samantha moves to the staircase and tells Gerard of Daphne’s suspicions. It’s a bit muffled, and there’s a sound like it’s brushing up against something. It’s fine when the scene moves back into the drawing room.
At the top of act 4, when Joanna is monologuing about Quentin, she looks at the teleprompter again, before she says, “If only he gets free, perhaps then he can get the reins again!” Admittedly, it’s a weird line to get your head around.
Samantha tells Joanna that they’ve met before: “You took — you took a concert, with my brother Randall.”
Quentin says to Daphne, “Joanna and I were through before we went to sea, before I went to sea, and you know it!”
Tomorrow: The Graham Crack-Up.
— Danny Horn