“But can anyone do anything anymore?”
“But we can’t just sit by and watch him die!” Daphne cries. She’s talking about convicted cow killer Quentin Collins, who she broke up with last week, although earlier today she told him that she loves him, so screw last week, I guess. I wasn’t crazy about last week’s episodes myself, so if Daphne wants to pretend that they never happened, I’m not going to fight with her about it.
“I have no intentions of doing that, Daphne,” says eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, reassuringly.
“What are you going to do?” she asks.
Barnabas takes a moment to think. He wasn’t prepared for that question; he usually skates by on vehemence alone. “I don’t know,” he admits. “At least we have a week to think about it.” This is bad news for the audience; we were kind of hoping for some plot development in this area. Quentin’s been in jail for six solid weeks so far; we thought maybe a verdict could pick up the pace a bit.
Anyway, Barnabas goes home, and Daphne drifts up the stairs. Pausing on the landing, she thinks, “Barnabas says he will do something. But can anyone do anything anymore?” That’s actually a pretty good description of the show, these days.
But that’s not really fair, because this is the week where things start moving again, and that means I have to start paying attention. While the trial’s been going on, I’ve been able to spread out and cover some of the other Dark Shadows stories that I need to get to before the show ends, like the HarperCollins novels. Last week, I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday, read another Paperback Library book on Thursday, and then whatever the hell that was on Friday. I’ve still got a lot to do — three more Lara Parker books, some more comics, another Big Finish audio, several more Paperback Library epics. So much to do, and only twelve weeks left to do it.
But this week, the writers have realized that they’re leaving 1840 pretty soon, so they pop the cork and events ensue. Suddenly, everyone is doing everything anymore, and here I am actually writing about the show again, what a nightmare.
Now, for more than a year, Dark Shadows has had the upsetting habit of closing up storylines by clear-cutting the cast, killing off everybody who isn’t nailed down. This isn’t a good idea for a soap opera, because soaps are supposed to have multiple, overlapping storylines; when one story thread concludes, there are other continuing stories that keep the audience engaged. If you conclude a story by killing basically everyone but the minimum viable number of Collinses, then there aren’t enough characters left to participate in the new stories. You end up frantically assembling a new cast that nobody cares about, like they did in 1970 after the Parallel Time story, when they had to create a random teenage girl, a confusing astrologer, an unexplained vampire and two new ghosts just to get the show on its feet, and nobody liked any of them.
So that didn’t work, and now the show is going off the air because they don’t have any new stories to tell. But at least they get the satisfaction of one more good slash-and-burn character massacre, starting with Edith Collins, wife of the chairbound Gabriel Collins, and grandmother of several characters that we actually like.
Looking back at my previous 1840 posts, I find that I’ve hardly written anything about Edith, which is fine, because she’s hardly done anything worth writing about. The only time I really thought she was worth mentioning was episode 1154/1155, when she found Randall rummaging around in Gerard’s room at Rose Cottage, and then Gerard told her to go to Collinwood and see if Randall was there, which he was, but then he got murdered in the woods and Edith didn’t really have anything to do with it.
Edith Collins is clearly surplus, an unliked character played by an unlikeable actress, who seems to think that she’s Gerard’s secret girlfriend, even though he already has a fully booked love triangle with two other women. The only reason she’s on the show in the first place is that they needed her to keep continuity with the 1897 story, which it turns out is not as important as we thought it would be.
We first met Edith two years ago, and Barnabas had just landed in the year 1897, fifty-seven years from now. She was the old dying grandmother with full control of the Collins fortune, which her four adult grandchildren were all scheming to inherit.
Edith knew a family secret which had been passed down for generations, namely that they had a vampire locked up in the mausoleum, and nobody should ever let him out. There was a lot of drama around the secret, too, with a big exciting Friday reveal where she saw Barnabas, and recognized him as the family curse. Then Edith died, leaving a will that got forged and replaced a couple times, and then everybody stopped talking about her and moved on with their lives.
So the young Edith that we see here in 1840 is really the only person who absolutely needs to survive, along with the son that we never learn the name of, in order to get everybody in place for the 1897 story.
Although now that I think about it, I wonder who’s supposed to know the secret right now. Presumably, it got handed down from Joshua Collins in the early 1800s to Daniel, who died about a month ago, and I don’t know who he handed it down to, to hand it down to Edith at some future date. If I recollect correctly, Daniel recognized Angelique as a witch as soon as he saw her, but he didn’t clutch his pearls as soon as he saw Barnabas and say you, you are the secret, you were never to be let out, we have failed, we have failed. He just said, hey, you look just the same as you did when I was a boy, but then Barnabas said that was my father, and Daniel said okay, I guess that happens sometimes.
So I don’t know who was keeping the secret, or who knows it now. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, one way or another.
Because on Dark Shadows, rules are made to be broken, especially the rules of time travel, which are slippery in the extreme. They’ve never had a consistent theory about how time travel is supposed to alter history, and what happens when you get back and find out whether things have changed or not. Sometimes nothing really changes, as with Vicki’s trip to 1795, or things change as of the moment that the time traveler left, as with Barnabas’ trip to 1897, or things change in some kind of haphazard magical-thinking way, as they’re going to do with this jaunt to 1840. This has turned out to be a show that’s mostly about time travel, written by people who don’t like thinking about time travel very much.
So if anyone’s planning on getting upset about Edith not being around for 1897, then you should have already been worrying about who passed the secret down, except you shouldn’t have, because it doesn’t matter even a tiny little bit. They do whatever they want to, and either it works because it’s interesting, or it doesn’t work because it’s not. Whether it makes logical sense or not is not really a concern at this point. Dark Shadows does not make logical sense, and if you haven’t figured that out and made the appropriate mental adjustments by now, then you’re just bad at watching the show, and there’s not a lot I can do except offer my assistance and hope that you get better at it.
Anyway, the point is that Edith is terrible. Part of the problem is that she’s played by Terry Crawford, who I don’t like very much in general, and in this role, she’s incapable of displaying any human emotion but pride and spite. I don’t know why the producers decided to make every female character in 1840 but Daphne utterly repellent; they just did, that’s all. I think Dark Shadows just kind of lost interest in women, at some point, which probably isn’t a good thing for a daytime soap opera to do. They hired Kate Jackson last summer, which is the best choice they made all year, and then decided that about wrapped it up, as far as worthwhile women were concerned.
Edith has mostly spent her time attaching herself to Gerard, and not letting go of him until he agrees to an assignation. I’m not sure why he’s bothered to keep this up, frankly. She declaims everything loudly at all times, like she’s signaling to ships at sea, and I understand that getting a face full of Edith is a bewildering event, but he can’t get much out of the relationship. He’s already got two other girlfriends, plus he’s possessed by the spirit of a headless pantomime warlock who’s trying to destroy the Collins family. His occasional half-hearted attempts to incorporate her into his sinister plans have been a fizzle at best.
But somehow he’s got himself attached to this boat-anchor who thinks they’re having a passionate affair, with unlimited canoodling privileges.
“I want to see you tonight,” she declares, and he looks away, trying to formulate a decent excuse. “Let’s say about eleven,” she insists. “The same place?” He’s still staring off into the distance. He looks horrified at the suggestion, and this is a guy who spends most of his time trying to behead people.
“You can make it, can’t you?” she persists, and finally he says sure, because he’s a bottomless reservoir of hellfire, and it doesn’t really matter what happens as long as Collinwood is consumed in flames and blood. This is not the worst thing he’s going to do today.
Naturally, her husband Gabriel has heard the entire conversation from the other side of the door, because they made the arrangements in the most public place in the house, and Edith is played by a New York stage actress who learned how to project years ago, and then forgot how to do anything else.
Gabriel doesn’t have a lot of self-respect, because he’s been pretending to be an invalid most of his life to try to impress his father, who hated invalids in general and Gabriel in particular. So it can’t come as a huge surprise that his wife is attaching herself to handsome vertical acquaintances. Still, Gabriel can’t resist the opportunity to make people feel bad; it’s the only thing he really enjoys.
“You know, I always knew that you never had any class at all,” he spits. “But I never thought you’d allow a fraud such as Gerard to have such a curious hold over you.”
It never occurred to me that Edith came from a lower class than the Collins family, but that line means that she must have; Gabriel knows how to hit somebody in their weak spot. It’s basically what he does all day, because he can’t go outside for a walk, and they haven’t invented console games yet.
But Edith is a counterpuncher, and she’s sick of hearing insults emerge from this particular altitude. “Gerard has no hold over me,” she announces, “but if he did have, it would be because he, unlike you, is a man who gets what he goes after. I’m through with you, Gabriel. I’m going to start living, before it’s too late!”
But Edith’s forgotten that she’s married to a Chris Pennock character, and when Chris Pennock characters have hurt feelings to express, they tend to say it with sword-canes.
“I doubt that, Edith,” he says, looking at her with his big, blue, crazy eyes. “I really do.”
“And who’s going to stop me?” she asks.
“I’m going to stop you,” he says, still staring at her in a way that should probably make her reassess.
“How?” she smiles. “You’re a hopeless cripple! Well, I am going to meet Gerard this evening, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me! So why don’t you just wheel yourself up to your bedroom, have your cup of steaming cocoa, get into bed, and cuddle up with your hot water bottle?” And then she sweeps out, pleased with herself, utterly doomed.
So yes, apparently there is life outside that goddamn courtroom, after all. We’ve been spending all this time not really worrying about Quentin’s defense strategy, when we could have been giving these two pots of poison something interesting to do. I mean, I still think she’s terrible, obviously, but if she can wind people up to this extent, they could have used her more effectively. Just think of all the dreams that Gerard sent to Daphne that she wasn’t supposed to remember, and Edith had that steaming cocoa crack bottled up inside her the whole time.
What happens next to Edith is something that I fear I will never be able to explain. She walks into the drawing room later that evening with a book, and shuts the doors behind her. Then she hears thunder — it’s one of those dry thunderstorms that Collinwood is so often besieged by — and a loose window starts flapping.
She bolts the window, and then hears somebody open the front door, and walk into the house. This startles her, for some reason; I couldn’t tell you why. Several people live here. It’s not even that late. Anyway, it’s Dark Shadows; it’s probably a cameraman.
So she goes out into the foyer, and nobody’s there, which rattles her even more, and then there’s a gust of wind, and the door blows itself open. Once again, she’s taken aback, but she manages to pull herself together and just go and close the doors.
“Please answer me!” she shouts. “Who came in this house?”
And then the lights all go out at once, which makes her jump. So she yells for Gerard, and nobody answers, and then she runs upstairs and just keeps on freaking out.
Now, my concern here is that these are all standard Dark Shadows ghost maneuvers: thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening, windows and doors acting of their own accord, sudden blackouts and so on. But this is apparently Gabriel’s doing, somehow, and it’s not clear how he accomplished it. He must have bribed the stagehands, that’s all I can think of.
So here’s Gabriel, ready to play Fuck, Marry, Kill, although I’m not sure he quite gets the gist of the game. He thinks those are the instructions.
But this is a thing that Chris Pennock is good at, slowly coming to a boil and then exploding into sudden violence. Sebastian the astrologer didn’t get to do this kind of thing, and that’s part of why that character didn’t come together. Pennock characters need to murder someone at regular intervals, or they become listless and unhappy.
Gabriel does a brief monologue on the subject of secrets, making sure that Edith understands that he murdered Randall and Daniel. It’s important to him that he has a moment of triumph before she goes, and this is it.
“I’ve suffered all the indignities I’m going to take from you,” he screams, as he does his part to address the population explosion. “So I’m not a man who gets what I want, am I? Well, I’m getting what I want! And I want you DEAD!”
So that’s the end of Edith Collins, and if that cracks the timeline, then I suppose we’ll have to find another one, and go live there for the rest of the show. But what are the odds of that happening?
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
From the foyer landing, Daphne hears piano music and decides that it’s coming from the closed-off East Wing. The fact that she can hear it at all strains credulity, but being able to pinpoint the source from where she’s standing indicates some kind of extrahuman echolocation ability.
When Edith runs up the stairs in the foyer, a studio light can be seen at top right.
After Gabriel strangles Edith, there are two shots of her body on the floor. She’s visibly breathing both times.
Right after the strangling, Gabriel says, “Now, how are we going to dispose the body, huh, Edith?” Then he decides, “I’m going to find a spot to bury you,” although he plans to dump her in the East wing somewhere.
Daphne opens the doors, and in the first shot we see of her in the doorframe with the Parallel Time set, you can see that the camera’s pulled back a little too far, and on the left side of the screen, you can see the edge of the PT room set, and into the hallway that she’s standing in.
A moment later, when Daphne says, “I’m dreaming!” a shadow passes by the doorjamb.
They make a big deal about Daphne following the piano music all the way from the foyer to the Parallel Time room, but when she sees into PT, there isn’t a piano in the room. There was, when this was Angelique’s room in 1970.
Morgan tells Catherine, “If you should make up your decision before you leave this evening, you’ll find me in my studio.”
Behind the Scenes:
This is the first episode for Keith Prentice, who appears in the Parallel Time room as Morgan Collins. Prentice started out in musical theater, as an understudy in the Broadway production of The Sound of Music. He also appeared in the Broadway cast of the Noël Coward musical Sail Away, and regional productions of The King and I, Paint Your Wagons and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. His big break was in 1968, in the Off-Broadway play The Boys in the Band, an early milestone in cultural representation for gay men. He played Larry in the play, and in the 1970 film adaptation. Dark Shadows was his next job, after the Boys in the Band film shoot.
This is Terry Crawford’s last episode. She was still in college while she was appearing on the show, and after graduation, she moved to Atlanta and became a counselor. In the early 1980s, she had some brief acting roles, but nothing really worth mentioning. She became an ordained minister, and in the late 90s and early 2000s, she talked at Dark Shadows Festivals about her organization, Inner Light Ministry, which did some kind of work around international human rights and disadvantaged youth, but I can’t really piece together what it was supposed to do. She reprised her role of Beth in a 2010 Big Finish audio, The Doll House, and she played Edith in a 2012 story, Dress Me in Dark Dreams.
This episode is the first in the program to feature nine actors with speaking parts, an all-time record. There are two other late-1840 episodes that have nine actors (1196 and 1197), as well as the final episode, 1245.
— Danny Horn