“I’m thinking that the spirit of James Forsythe has gradually retrogressed.”
One-time parallel pop idol Quentin Collins manhandles his older brother Morgan into a bedroom at gunpoint, an eventuality which under other circumstances could be the starting point for an intriguing afternoon.
Morgan Collins, currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of 1680 power-broker James Forsythe, was found throttling his aunt Julia with a garotte under the impression that she’s Constance Collins, also of 1680, which she clearly isn’t, so I’m not sure where he got the idea. Morgan was stymied, but he plans to try again, and he’s going to keep on trying until he runs out of aunts.
So Quentin locks Morgan in the bedroom, with a pair of armed servants guarding the room, one in the hall and the other outside the window. This is how the Collins family of 1841 Parallel Time deals with civil unrest; they’ve also got brother Gabriel locked up in the tower room for exactly the same reason.
Morgan pounds on the door fiercely, with both fists. “Let me out of here!” he shouts. “Do you hear me? I’m going to get out somehow, and when I do, I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill every Collins I can get my hands on! Do you hear me?” They do, but they don’t find his argument compelling. They’re already aware that he wants to kill them; that’s why they’re locking him up in the first place. This is not going to go over well at his pre-trial detention hearing.
So now there are two people whose response to this storyline is to become a crazed, ranting lunatic with violent tendencies, and neither of them is me, which is a miracle.
So here’s my dilemma: after today, there’s three more weeks of Dark Shadows, and there is a very strong chance that I have already said the last interesting thing that I will ever say about Dark Shadows. I’m currently perched on a pile of 1,060 blog posts, and the odds of something new coming to my attention during the sixteen episodes in front of me is pretty slim.
It seems more likely with each passing day that I’m just going to coast my way through these final weeks, serving up some warmed-over material based on stuff that I’ve written before. I can see the end of the road up ahead, and nobody’s waiting there to give me a MacArthur Genius Grant or anything when I cross the finish line, so I could probably go on autopilot, and just type some stuff until I’m allowed to stop.
I don’t like doing that, of course; as a creative person who’s put a lot of work into this quixotic endeavor, I’d like to build to a satisfying conclusion, wrapping up the larger themes of the blog and offering some payoff for the people who have been following all the way to the end. But it feels like I’ve already done that, back in episode 1198, with a coda at episode 1219, and now I’m just filling in time until the show sputters to a stop and I don’t have to do it anymore.
I’m not alone, of course; the people who were making Dark Shadows felt exactly the same way, at this point in the show. I suppose that ought to make me feel better, but it doesn’t, really.
And just to make sure we’re all feeling appropriately apocalyptic, the cameras have given up hope. One of the studio cameras has a fault that makes everything look green and red, like we should be watching this with 3D glasses.
I figured that once we reached 1971, there would be some kind of reasonable broadcast quality standards that would prevent this kind of thing from airing on network television, but apparently ABC Daytime was still being run on the honor system. The production company could put basically anything on a videotape and hand it over to the network, and as long as it had commercial breaks in the right spots, it could look any way they wanted it to.
So we’ve got a show where the cameras are slowly committing suicide before our eyes, as the script breaks down and the actors get appendicitis and the audience wonders if maybe they should give Somerset a try.
Worst of all, this is the end of the line for David Selby, who got sick and missed the last few weeks of filming. This is how he described it in his 2010 memoir, My Shadowed Past:
In mid-March of 1971, I was hit with an appendicitis attack and emptied my son’s piggy bank for cab fare money to Roosevelt Hospital. I would miss the last two weeks of the television show. I had never anticipated the show going off the air so quickly — just as suddenly as it had all begun — for me and Quentin. The fans must have been perplexed.
So this is a definite hammer blow for the show, right when it doesn’t need one. Dark Shadows lives and dies by the kaiju, the core characters who each had a turn taking over the show and twisting it into a new pattern: Barnabas, Julia, Angelique, Quentin and (to a lesser degree) Gerard.
For this closing storyline, Barnabas and Angelique have been transformed into less appealing characters, and Gerard was unaccountably underused, only appearing in two episodes. That means Julia and Quentin are the only characters left who still have a real claim on the audience’s affections. These are new parallel versions of Julia and Quentin, but they’re enough like the real versions that some of their power remains intact. After today, thanks to David Selby’s appendix, Julia will be the final kaiju standing.
And it’s a real shame, because Quentin is the only one who knows how to get anything done around here. He doesn’t really have his own storyline, but every week or so, he says that we have to do something to learn more about the curse, and then everyone goes into the basement or reads a book or something, and the plot moves forward another step. I don’t know what we’re going to do without him.
In this case, he wants to hold a seance to exorcise the spirit of James Forsythe from Morgan’s body, which we might as well try. We already did a seance a month ago and all we got out of it was Melanie screaming plague, die, plague, die, plague, die, plague, but after that people started to get the plague, so I’m going to call that a win.
In fact, Quentin is so story-productive today that he conjures up a whole new character — Thayer David, playing a grouchy parallel Ben Stokes. Quentin tells Julia and Catherine that he’s going to the cottage to ask Carrie Stokes to be the medium for the seance, and he doesn’t even get to the door; Ben just walks right in and starts threatening to kill people.
In this version of the story, Ben is Carrie’s father, which is a little surprising. In 1840 Regular Time, Ben was Carrie’s grandfather with old age makeup all over his face, but in this universe, he’s Carrie’s father. He’s still connected to the Collins family as an employee, and Quentin implies that there’s some backstory about how they’ve helped each other over the years. If you want to, you can imagine that this Ben is old Ben Stokes’ son, or not. It doesn’t really matter, one way or the other.
Ben’s upset that Morgan keeps coming over to the cottage, asking Carrie to help him, and then going downstairs to mess up the basement and steal things. Quentin’s perspective is that yeah, that sucks and it sounds like it was pretty traumatic for Carrie, but how about you bring her over tonight to do something even more traumatic, and we’ll call it even?
And Ben says yes, like a chump. It’s nice to know that even now, in his unexpectedly final half-hour, Quentin still has the power to charm.
Then it’s time for the episode’s farce sequence, with Catherine playing a trick on the guy who’s possessing Morgan. They need to have Morgan at the seance in order to exorcise him, and obviously if they invite him to join he won’t go, so Quentin has a wacky idea for a double-cross caper.
The dumb spirit inhabiting Morgan has decided over the last episode or so that he thinks it’s currently 1680, which basically ruins the character. As of last week, the Morgan/Forsythe melange was a refreshing change of pace, because he had his own weird ghost projects and he considered all of the other characters a waste of time. Now that he’s decided to kill someone that he thinks is Constance, he’s just become another mad killer locked up in a room, and we’ve already got one of those, up in the tower room.
But that gives Catherine the edge in this film noir scene, where a tall blonde walks into Morgan’s office, and hands him a line of bull about how they should team up and kill Constance together. He asks her why she’s got a kick against Constance, and the blonde says never mind all that, just stick with me and you’re gonna ride this all the way to the end of the line. And he falls for it, the big palooka. She slips him a Mickey Finn, and she lays him out pretty.
So they get everybody together for the big exorcism scene, where they’re going to force the invading spirit out of Morgan’s body. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to do this using a seance, which does the exact opposite.
This is what happens when you kill all the Trasks; there’s nobody left who knows how an exorcism is supposed to work. You always look at your Trask lying around in the junk drawer and think, when am I ever going to use this? So you throw it out, or you let it run off bleeding and buckshot into another universe, and then one day it turns out you need it.
This begins what I consider to be one of the all-time bonehead moments in Dark Shadows history.
“We seek the spirit of a man who once lived in this house, and died here,” Carrie intones. “We seek the spirit of James Forsythe!”
And it’s like, yeah, he’s right there, sitting next to you. You specifically went up to his room, told him a lie, and rendered him unconscious. Now you’re asking for the spirit of James Forsythe to speak to you through Morgan, and that is the exact problem that you were trying to solve.
So then we get a press conference with a spokesperson from the Department of Duh.
Morgan: What is it you want of me?
Carrie: Who are you?
Morgan: I am James Forsythe.
Carrie: Why are you speaking through Morgan Collins?
Morgan: Because I must.
Carrie: Why must you?
Morgan: I am only a spirit, without form or substance.
Carrie: But why did you possess Morgan Collins?
Morgan: To be free again! And to right all the wrongs that have been done to me!
Carrie: Who wronged you? Tell us, please!
Morgan: He is here now! He has come to get me again!
Carrie: Who is here? Tell us who!
And then Morgan shouts, “It’s Barnabas! Barnabas Collins killed me — and now he’s come to get me, and send me back!”
I mean, obviously he doesn’t, he says it’s Brutus, which we already knew and didn’t care about. But wouldn’t that be fun, if the show was still interested in surprising us?
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the opening narration, Quentin says, “Since 1880, all who have entered the legendary locked room have met with either death or madness.” It’s 1680.
When Catherine kneels over Julia and says “Can you hear me?”, there’s some studio noise and footsteps.
When Quentin shoves Morgan into the bedroom, the first part of Morgan’s line is off-mic.
At a very dramatic moment when Quentin is holding a gun on Morgan and telling him that the servants have orders to shoot on sight, Quentin backs up a step and bangs into the door. This is a good one; I bet if it had happened in an episode that was part of the rerun package, it would have been included in the official bloopers tape.
I cleaned up this quote in the post: when Morgan bangs on the door, he shouts, “I’m going to kill every Morgan — Collins I can get my hands on!”
There’s some studio noise when Quentin talks to Julia and Catherine about Morgan’s condition. During this, he says a line that I cleaned up above: “I’m thinking that the spirit of James Falsythe has gradually retrogressed.”
When Ben is talking to Quentin in the drawing room, he crosses the set as he says, “Are you crazy?” He walks past a camera that pokes into the frame.
Quentin says, “Ben, you’ve been with the family a long time. Now, you know how much we care for you and Carrie. Now, you’ve been loyal to the family for a long time.” A moment later, he says, “Come on, Ben, we’re after the same thing! We’re out to conquer the same threat, can’t you see that?”
The throat-clearing man makes another appearance in today’s episode, in the middle of Morgan’s line: “You arrange to get me out of here [dude clears his throat], if I agree to kill her.”
Just before putting the powder in Morgan’s drink, Catherine looks up to make sure that the camera’s on her.
After Catherine puts the powder in Morgan’s drink, she walks over to give him a glass, with the vial clearly visible in her other hand. As he takes the drink, she remembers to put the other hand behind her back.
When Morgan falls to the ground, there’s blue marking tape on the rug.
Quentin says to Carrie, “Now, if you succeed… hopefully… we’ll be able to rid Morgan’s possession.”
Someone was supposed to close the drawing room doors before the seance, but everyone sits down with the doors open. A stagehand can be seen stepping into the frame and closing the doors. This is another one for the clip show.
Morgan says, “You must hear the truth!” Julia asks, “What is the truth? The truth about what?”
— Danny Horn