“You are a woman again, a natural woman, and therefore you can cause a lot of trouble.”
“Prince of Fire,” says Angelique Valerie Cassandra Miranda DuBois DuVal Blair Bouchard Rumson Collins, “I call upon the flame to summon you in this, my most desperate hour of need. I call upon all the dark creatures of nature to aid me in the destruction of one who is my mortal enemy! I beseech you, grant me the power to destroy this man!”
It’s a weird way to begin a love letter, but she’s been married at least three times more often than I have, so what do I know?
And this truly is her most desperate hour of need, and ours. We are now fully engaged in the Great 1840 Wrap-Up, with just a few more episodes left until this narrative universe takes its ball and goes home, two months early. There’s nothing standing in the way between us and a finale except for Tuesday and Wednesday, and fortunately, the writers have suddenly remembered that there’s some unfinished business between two of the characters that we actively care about.
Time-tossed eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins and sorcerous soap vixen Angelique have been inextricably tied to one another for the last three years of Dark Shadows, the only solid place to stand in the shifting sands of the storyline. Since Lara Parker arrived on the scene in November 1967, Barnabas has loved Josette DuPres, Victoria Winters, Maggie Evans, Rachel Drummond, Kitty Hampshire and two versions of Roxanne Drew, and where are they all now? But here she stands, Angelique herself, just as mad and impossible as the day she stepped out of The Crucible.
As we’ve discussed before, there are three supercouples on Dark Shadows: Barnabas and Julia; Barnabas and Angelique; and Quentin and any other living human being. This is the triad of forces that shape all of the good parts of the show. In soap opera, which is the dominant genre in modern television post-Hill Street Blues, two characters become a supercouple by being more interesting together than anything else on the show. When you’ve got a supercouple, all you need to do is put them together in a room and give them something urgent to talk about, and it turns into entertainment.
You can tell how important the Angelique/Barnabas dynamic is to the show by how often she’s returned, one way or another. Whenever the show needs a boost, they bring back Angelique to flirt with, scream at, cast spells on, threaten or otherwise befuddle Barnabas, as appropriate. I believe they’ve killed off Angelique four times by now, give or take, but when they get into trouble, up she pops, ready for another close-order exhibition of their irreconcilable differences.
And look, here comes one now, just when we thought they’d forgotten all about the main characters of ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows. The show has been frittering its time away on side issues like witch trials and prison breaks for weeks and weeks, and it’s about time we focus on the really important things in life, like the relationship status of these two lunatics.
The story point, as if it matters, is that Quentin and Desmond Collins are currently back in prison where they belong, en route to the chopping block. They’ve been unjustly convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to die, and the only one who can save them is the show’s actual witch.
She hasn’t really been part of the witch trial storyline, actually, apart from getting tricked by the real villain, Gerard Stiles aka the dread warlock Judah Zachery, into thinking that Quentin was guilty. In her defense, nobody’s asked her to help until now. Two weeks ago, when Quentin was convicted, Barnabas promised that he would do everything that he could think of to overturn the verdict. He could have asked for Angelique’s help then, which would have saved wear and tear on Joanna Mills’ boat captain friends, but he just didn’t think of it, that’s all.
“I’ve run out of answers,” he says, posing for a portrait of a man who’s run out of answers. “That’s why I’ve no other choice but to turn to you.”
“To me?” Angelique boggles, as if Barnabas has never asked her to help him before, including last month when she made him not be a vampire anymore.
“I didn’t want this to happen any more than you did,” he says. “But there’s no other course open to me.” He whirls around to face her. “You must save Quentin!”
And then she goes up right into his face and says terribly urgent things, like “You know that’s impossible!” and “Barnabas, what you’re saying is suicidal!” from approximately three centimeters away. This is what they do, when they have a problem.
You can imagine this as a normal conversation, with Barnabas saying, “I would really appreciate if you could find Judah’s head,” and Angelique saying, “I can’t do that; Gerard would know about it, and he would kill me.” But sometimes you just need to say it with exclamation points.
“There is no hope for Quentin!” she declares, taking a walk across the carpet. “Or for Desmond!” She does a dramatic whirl of her own. “And there may be no hope for either of us, unless we leave Collinwood, tonight!” Bless her, she’s doing another sales pitch.
And now this is a scene about their relationship, which they always are with these two.
“It’s terribly ironic, what’s happened between us,” he tells her. “We’ve been enemies for years, until we made this reconciliation.” He shakes his head. “But I’m afraid that’s all it is.”
And look at this. This is why she’s lasted so long, this energy and immediacy. I have to admit that I’ve never seen Lara Parker in anything but Dark Shadows, so I don’t know what else she can do, but she is good at being in love with Barnabas Collins.
“Angelique, I’ve grown more fond of you than I ever thought possible,” he says, “but I’m afraid I can never love you, as you want to be loved.” His friend is about to be executed.
“But how can you know anything like that?” she insists.
“When you lifted the curse from me, you made me human,” he says. “That’s the difference between us now.”
“I am human, you are not.”
“You are still a witch, with all your old powers, and all your own feelings… or lack of feelings about others.”
“You still feel the same way about other people’s suffering… you’re cold, and indifferent.”
“You will never change, I suppose, being what you are. If that’s true, I… well, I’m sorry for you. Terribly sorry.”
She gropes towards a promise, but he says, “What’s the point of speculating about it? I’m afraid you will never change.”
And then he turns, and walks out the goddamn door. That is what Barnabas and Angelique bring to the table.
So that’s why we’re sitting here now, with a voodoo doll and a couple of sharp pins, talking things over with the Prince of Fire. Barnabas and Angelique are the dark creatures of nature, and this, incredibly, is the way that they say I’m sorry.
Now, in any other storyline, this beseeching would be trained on Barnabas, or someone that he likes, in revenge for breaking up with her for the fiftieth time. But the show is taking a surprising turn towards the sentimental, here in these final-ish days, and she’s actually trying to help. Yes, as she said, this is impossible and suicidal, but what’s life for, if you can’t enjoy yourself?
It doesn’t work, of course. The producers may be trying to wrap things up in a hurry, but you can’t stop the Judah Zachery threat with a solo fireside arts and crafts project. Just as she’s doing the windup for pin #2, in comes Gerard Stiles, full to overflowing with dead warlock in his veins.
“Oh, we were destined to meet again, weren’t we?” he growls. He thinks that she’s the same person as Miranda DuVal, who he knew back in the ’90s. “In 1690,” he says, “you testified against me in court, which convicted me into being a warlock!” It was 1692, actually, and he’s got the wrong preposition, but whatever. I still don’t buy this Miranda retcon, but they didn’t ask for my opinion and it’s too late now.
“If it hadn’t been for you,” Gerard sneers, “I would have been beheaded.” He pauses. “I was beheaded!” Dude needs to get his story straight.
It’s devastating, really, this bold reimagining of Dark Shadows with a weak Angelique. Judah thinks he was the one who invented the secret magic number of the universe, which unlocks all the rules that bind you mortals to your daily, dull lives. He gave her powers, he claims, and he can take them away.
“I, Judah Zachery,” he announces, “take away the powers I once bestowed upon you, and return you to the human state from whence you came! I return you…”
And she stares at him, terrified, as the realization slowly dawns that this is an important dramatic moment, and once again, Gerard has forgotten the back half of his line.
Finally, he just says, “Let it be done!” And it’s done, apparently.
The worst part is that there was no ceremony about it; Gerard didn’t light a candle or wave his magic sigil around or anything. The owl and the raven and the bat were decidedly not called upon. He just held her in his arms, flubbed his line, and ta-dah, Angelique no longer has access to the company credit card. He didn’t even read her Miranda rights.
“You are a woman again, a natural woman,” he sneers, “and therefore, you can cause a lot of trouble!” And he frog-marches her out of the castle, laughing all the way.
And then he drops her off with a babysitter, which is just humiliating.
“She is as harmless as a little mouse,” Gerard tells his henchman Dawson, and they don’t even try to tie her up or anything. Either Gerard’s forgotten that thing about a natural woman causing a lot of trouble, or that wasn’t supposed to be the line; it’s hard to tell with Gerard.
They even make a little joke about whether to kill her or not, with Gerard telling Dawson to try to keep her alive, until after Quentin’s execution.
And I guess Angelique has slowed down a little; it takes her a full minute and 35 seconds to escape. First she tries to seduce Dawson, then she tries to buy him off, and then she tries to take the key and run, all to no avail, so finally she just grabs a handy candlestick and beats him over the head with it.
Judah has it all wrong, of course; people usually do. This story isn’t about Angelique having official “magic powers”. She doesn’t need the “powers”, she never did. All she needs are her eyes, her emotions, her history with Barnabas, and her permanent determination to do the craziest thing within reach.
No matter what you do to her, Angelique will always come back, in novels and audio plays and comic strips, and anywhere else you try to construct a thing, and call it Dark Shadows. She is the beginning and the end of this story, and she has only gotten started.
Tomorrow: The Night I Sang My Song.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Justin tells Melanie, “You comfort me,” and she answers, “You mustn’t say that. Morgan wouldn’t like it, or Gabriel, either. They are your real sons.” Then he calls her his daughter, which was the actual cue for her line.
Gerard tells Dawson, “There is really nothing to be frightened of, Charles. Believe me. Isn’t that right, Miranda? Believe me, she is as harmless as a little mouse.”
Gerard turns and reads this off the teleprompter: “Soon, Quentin will be beheaded, and all the people must know that there is no longer a Judah Zachery.” I can’t say what that line should have been, but it doesn’t sound right.
The jailer is pretty casual about locking the cell door after Leticia enters; he hardly puts the key into the lock.
There’s a bit of studio noise when Leticia begins her scene in Desmond’s cell: some talking and footsteps, and something moving around. When Leticia says she’ll promise Desmond anything, someone coughs.
When Leticia enters Collinwood to confront Gerard, she closes the doors behind her. They swing open again.
Standing in Collinwood, Gerard tells Leticia, “You will live no more in this house.” She lives at Rose Cottage.
Behind the Scenes:
This is Humbert Allen Astredo’s last episode, retiring from the show after 100 episodes. While he was on Dark Shadows, he appeared in the Broadway play Les Blancs, and was very well received, named the “Most Promising Newcomer on Broadway” by Walter Kerr in 1971. Over the next year, he appeared on Broadway in Murderous Angels and Gore Vidal’s An Evening with Richard Nixon. Through the 1970s and 80s, he appeared on a number of soap operas, including One Life to Live, Texas, The Edge of Night, Love of Life, Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow. In 1981, he appeared in the original Broadway cast of The Little Foxes with Elizabeth Taylor, and its London run in 1982. He retired from acting in 1990, and died in 2016.
David Hurst plays poor old Justin Collins in three episodes, and I’m sorry to say that things do not get any better for Justin. Hurst, on the other hand, had a long career and lived to the age of 93. He was born as Heinrich Hirsch in Germany in 1926, a Jewish kid growing up during the Nazi regime. In 1938, at the age of 12, he was separated from his mother and taken to the United Kingdom as part of the Kindertransport, a rescue operation that saved 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied countries. Housed in Ireland, he became an actor, and changed his name to David Hurst. During World War II, he joined the British army’s Entertainments National Service Association, the UK’s version of the American USO.
Hurst’s film debut was in 1949, in The Perfect Woman, a comedy about a woman who turns out to be a robot. He appeared in plays and movies in the UK in the 1950s, including Bela Lugosi’s 1952 horror comedy Mother Riley Meets the Vampire, also known as Vampire Over London and My Son, the Vampire. He moved to the US in 1957, and in 1960, he played Merlin in the original Broadway production of Camelot. In 1969, he played Rudolph the headwaiter in the film version of Hello, Dolly!, and Ambassador Hodin in the Star Trek episode “The Mark of Gideon”. After Dark Shadows, he appeared in several other soap operas, including The Doctors, Another World and Ryan’s Hope, and he was in Thayer David’s 1979 Nero Wolfe TV pilot. He died in 2019.
There are also three jailers who appear in this episode and the next. Mr. Johnson was played by Martin Brent, Second Guard by Jordan Kean, and Executioner by Stephen Calder. They only appeared in these two episodes, and I don’t know anything else about them.
Tomorrow: The Night I Sang My Song.
— Danny Horn