“I see a room, with a coffin and a woman!”
“Something’s happening!” says Carrie.
“I can see it!” says Pansy.
“The vibrations — very strong vibrations!” says Carrie.
“Where the music’s coming from, I can see it!” says Pansy.
“An image is beginning to form!” says Carrie.
“There ain’t no doors in my mind, honey!” says Wanda.
I see the girl on the train, again. But this time, she stays on the train, and rides all the way to the end of the line. She learns that her real mother is Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and she inherits Collinwood. She starts a new life with Burke Devlin, who stays on the show because the actor who plays him doesn’t get drunk all the time on the way to work.
Decades from now, when Dark Shadows is among the longest-running daytime soap operas, Victoria and Burke are the beloved old favorites, who regularly run DNA tests on their many children, to determine which of them was switched at birth.
So here we go again, with another post riffing on Carrie Stokes’ visions. I’ve done several of these already, and here’s another one, because she keeps coming up with new material. She’s seen the distant past and the near future, and she’s seen sideways into the other band of time where everything is the same except there’s rope bridges.
I see Roger Collins, as Art Wallace intended him to be: the man who bribed Sam Evans to lie on the witness stand, and send Burke to prison for manslaughter in his place. Victoria spends time with a drunken Sam, and Roger suspects that she’s discovered his secret. Luring her to the cliffs on Widow’s Hill, he tries to push her over the edge — but David, hiding in the bushes, cries out in horror, and Roger slips, and falls to his death.
Then Jason McGuire becomes the main villain, except that his name is Walt Cummings, and even after his blackmail scheme is exposed, he sticks around to cause trouble and isn’t murdered by a vampire. According to Art Wallace, there’s no such thing as a vampire. Art Wallace’s influence on your life tends to diminish over time; that’s what he’s for.
The girl who has visions is always good box office for Dark Shadows, and the parallel Carrie Stokes is being milked like a dairy cow for cheap story progression. Still, she’s clearly the best character in this storyline, by which I mean she is the only one I can stand.
At this point, I actively hate every character in 1841 Parallel Time, except for two of them: Quentin, who has appendicitis and is no longer with us, and Carrie Stokes, who gets involved with everyone, comes up with useful plot points off the top of her head, and doesn’t talk about the goddamn curse all the time. For a couple minutes, I thought maybe Daphne could be in that group, but her tedious illness this week has scratched her off the Christmas card list.
Unexpectedly, in my affections, Carrie Stokes stands alone. I absolutely hated her when she was called Hallie, and I didn’t have much use for her when she was the regular time Carrie, but now, she is the only person that I want to see. It just goes to show that things don’t always go as planned, especially on this show.
I see Dave Woodard, Vampire Slayer.
Dr. Julian Hoffman, blood specialist and one of the best men in the field, is one of those doomed investigators, like Janet Findley and the Guthrie brothers, who arrive on the scene for a limited time and uncover all the clues that lead them straight into the jaws of their prey.
Once we’ve had all the fun of the savage murder of a doomed investigator, then one of the real characters steps up: probably Dr. Woodard in this case, who exposes the fiend as either an actual vampire or a creepy guy who thinks he’s a vampire, and puts a stake through him. Then the show finds something more sensible to do, once they’ve gotten people’s attention.
Unless the doomed vampire and the doomed investigator team up, and show everyone that things are more interesting when they’re around…
As above, so below, as the alchemists in the writers’ room say, and the best-laid plans of this blog go just as agley as they always did on the show. When I started, way back in the early 200s, I didn’t really know how this was supposed to work.
I hate when people call these posts “recaps”, but back at the beginning, I did think that I had to account for everything that happened in the episode. It took me well into the late 400s to realize that I could actually do anything I like, because anybody who wants to know what happens in the episode could just go ahead and watch the episode, which they’ve probably already done.
I see the hated uncle Jeremiah, the worst enemy that Barnabas ever had, an old man who took a beautiful wife that Barnabas coveted. Josette threw herself off the cliffs on Widow’s Hill because Barnabas was chasing her, probably. Jeremiah thought that Josette had deserted him, and refused to have her buried in the family cemetery.
Sort of, maybe. The story changed pretty much every time they made reference to it, during those crazy months when Barnabas took over the show. In fact, in Barnabas’ second episode, he indicated that Josette died before he was even born.
The story rearranged itself again when Vicki went back to 1795, because now they wanted to introduce the witch who cursed Barnabas and made him one of the living dead. The witch would be a jealous ex-lover, so Josette became Barnabas’ intended bride. They did such a good job with the new story that nobody cared about what had been said before, and everyone forgets about it.
So my posts got weirder, and more elaborate. One of the turning points was “Frid’s Big Week” back at episode 497, when I spent days and days figuring out where Jonathan Frid went on his ten-city publicity tour, and writing it all up and having a marvelous time, and if I could do that, then I could spend a week writing a post that does a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the first Barnabas novel in the Paperback Library series, and if I could do that, then I could do some seriously weird shit for the end of the Dream Curse story, and so on.
Of course, more elaborate posts take longer to write, and I started doing research for individual posts, and the daily schedule just slipped away, and what with one thing and another, here we are, seven and a half years into my four-year writing project.
I see the time that Angelique thought she had a plan.
“When Nicholas finds out that Eve is dead,” she said, “he’ll think that Jeff Clark killed her, which is exactly what I want him to think, because it will fit in so well with my plans.”
That line was part of an aborted storyline fragment that was hurriedly cut from a week of episodes down to an episode and a half, because Alexandra Moltke got pregnant, and they needed to get Vicki off the canvas while they looked for a replacement. In the actual episode, Angelique’s about to go tell Diabolos that Nicholas’ project is a failure, and what Nicholas thinks has nothing to do with her anymore.
This is why nobody on television has a plan, even if they swear that they do. Actors get pregnant, or they get appendicitis, or they get swept up by cancel culture and me-too’d. Audiences turn out to be bored with the thing you thought was important, and interested in a side character. Writing down a plan is a waste of time, and every moment that you spend trying to follow that plan will likely lead to heartache.
That’s what happens when you try to up your game, and be more ambitious. Sometimes it works, and on those days you’re flying higher than you thought you could ever go, like Icarus with his hastily constructed wings.
Other times, the thing that you were trying to do just doesn’t work out, and you have to slap together something to replace it that isn’t really very well thought out, and you’ll realize that halfway through writing it, but it’s too late to pull out now and come up with a third idea, because jesus you’ve been trying to get it out for like three days now, and if you don’t post it now then you’re going to miss your deadline for sure.
I’m just saying that sometimes that happens.
I see the three clues that Quentin’s ghost told David Collins about in Jamison’s dream, which set up the finale of the 1897 story: the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood, the murder of the one person who could have helped me, and the one person in this world that I truly loved turning against me.
They found the silver bullet at the end of that episode, implying that the three events would be revealed while the audience still remembered the prophecy. But then they decided that the 1897 story was too popular to close, so they extended it for another five months. That meant it took six weeks between the first clue and the second, and then the third one happened three months after that, and it didn’t actually turn out to be the end of the storyline anyway.
So this is the time, I suppose, to say goodbye to all of the posts that I thought I would write, but never will.
Like the post about Gordon Russell and Sam Hall moving from Dark Shadows to One Life to Live, where they were both co-head writers on and off from 1972 to 1984, creating a lot of characters like Dorian Lord and the Buchanan family, who were still a major force on the show until its cancellation in 2012. One Life to Live is my second favorite soap opera, and it would have been fun to dig into what Russell and Hall brought to the show, if it wasn’t so hard to find anyone writing about what the head writers of a soap opera were doing three decades ago.
In 1988, One Life to Live did a storyline inspired by Dark Shadows’ time travel storyline. Clint Buchanan fell off a horse and found himself transported to Buchanan City, an Old West town in 1888, where he met his own ancestors, played by the same actors who played his father, brother and son in the present day. While he was there, he met Miss Ginny, a schoolteacher who was the great-grandmother and the spitting image of his beloved wife Viki. Unlike Dark Shadows, the rest of the present-day storylines kept going in parallel with the 1888 flashback, and after several months, Viki traveled back in time to rescue Clint, and bring him back to the present.
So that’s cute, and if I knew maybe 10% more about One Life to Live than I currenty do, I could probably have made an interesting post out of that. As it is, those two paragraphs are pretty much all I have to say about it, and it’s too late now to learn any more.
I see the walkback.
It was a bold idea; you have to give them credit for boldness. Hurtling home from the most popular storyline that the show would ever come up with, they interrupted Barnabas’ victorious return to fill his head with poisonous pig weasels, so all of a sudden he’s mean to all his friends, and he worships something invisible that comes in a box. After six weeks, they realized it wasn’t working, and they broadcast a 22-minute apology. You have to give them credit for that, too.
It turns out that people just like it when Barnabas has friends. For a moody bloodsucker, he’s actually terrific at forming deep emotional alliances, even with people that he’s tried to kill: Vicki, Julia, Willie, Quentin, Maggie, Ben, Magda, Carolyn, Chris, 1840 Quentin, and even Angelique, his most despised rival. The audience loves seeing the man kill people with his teeth, but if you make him turn on Julia and Quentin, then that is a mistake that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.
Which reminds me of another post that I’m not going to write: the third Parkerverse novel, 2013’s Wolf Moon Rising. I had kind of a panic attack halfway through my post about her second book, The Salem Branch, but I figured I had some kind of responsibility to write about all four books, and besides, Quentin was on the cover.
Spoiler alert for a deeply terrible book: in the first chapter of Wolf Moon Rising, Barnabas brutally murders Julia, and then he goes and destroys Quentin’s portrait, because he hates Quentin and wants him to become a werewolf again. That’s chapter one! It’s the very definition of self-sabotage, to write a book that starts with Barnabas turning on all of his friends. Then he spends the rest of his time obsessing over a woman who looks like Lara Parker. I made it through four chapters and no further.
If you need any further information about Wolf Moon Rising, then there’s a synopsis on Dark Shadows Wiki that appears to be a translation from early Serbo-Croat, which is better than the book deserves.
I see the other time that Angelique thought she had a plan.
If you really want an example of Dark Shadows not having any idea what it’s trying to accomplish, then Parallel Time Angelique’s plan to reunite with her husband Quentin is weapons-grade love triangle batshittery. She wants him to forget his new wife Maggie, who he’s already chased out of the house and is not answering his telephone calls. So the sorceress casts a love spell on him to make him fall even more deeply in love with Maggie, to get her to come back to Collinwood so that he can break up with her.
When that rocket sled to success mysteriously fizzles, she decides to stick pins in a voodoo doll to give Quentin a heart attack, and then she goes downstairs and is horrified to find that he’s on the floor, dying of the coronary that she just induced a minute ago. When removing the pins from the doll doesn’t work, she says a prayer over some candles, specifically requesting the spirit of fire to burn the pain from his body, which isn’t even a thing that fire does. Nothing happens, and then she has a conversation with Elizabeth, and they never refer to the spirit of fire ever again.
Another post that I can’t write is about Dark Passages, Kathryn Leigh Scott’s 2011 semi-autobiographical novel about a young actress who quits her job at the Playboy Club when she’s cast on a gothic soap opera as a waitress named Margie. If it was just a thinly-veiled autobiography, that would be fun; I’d enjoy reading a fictionalized memoir of Dark Shadows from Kathryn’s point of view.
But the main character is also a baffling kind of personal home-brew vampire that probably makes sense in Kathryn’s imagination, but does not work for me on any level. This is from the Prologue:
There is no name for what I am, other than “vampire”, although that hardly defines who I am. I’m certainly not the creature portrayed in folklore, a dead person rising each night from the grave to suck blood from the living for sustenance. Nor am I a craven creature who preys on other people, hunting them to satisfy my own malevolent desires. I am a living, organically developing, non-human being inhabiting the world of humans. I function like most of my contemporaries, and have no knowledge of a past life as an undead creature. But while my essential composition and appearance is that of an ordinary human, I am on the most fundamental level, non-human.
Daylight, contrary to popular vampire lore, has never been an issue, incineration by sunlight never a concern for me. I’m nocturnal by preference, but I’ve grown up on a working farm, where the ability to function during daylight hours is mandatory. Sunlight has also proven to be an energy source, though not a means of getting a tan. My skin does not turn brown any more than it burns, but the sun’s rays do produce a fine, pale down on my face and body that probably serves to protect non-humans like me from the harmful nature of the sun’s rays, such as sparking immolation.
Being vampiric, I have a pronounced craving for blood, but counter it with an acquired ability to deny myself as a means of controlling the powerful energy it unleashes. I do not become ill when I go without blood, but neither do I function at full capacity. On a human level, I appear normal. I do not have fangs, although when I lost my baby teeth at age six, pronounced incisors that conceal feeding tubes grew in their place. Needless to say, my mother never took me to a doctor or dentist. Frankly there’s no need, since my teeth do not decay and broken bones heal almost immediately.
And then she goes and gets a job on Dark Shadows. We see her audition, her first day at work, her early impressions of the cast and crew — and then she starts talking about being a non-human vampire that can exist in sunlight and doesn’t drink blood with the fangs that she doesn’t have, and I can’t go any further. My Kindle app simply stops at 25% read, and refuses to budge another step.
I see the night of the sun and the moon.
It will always remain a mystery to me just what they thought they were doing with the 1970 haunting-of-Collinwood story. They set Barnabas and Julia up with a first-class mystery as they were stranded in 1995 for two weeks, and gave them a set of six clues to follow up on when they got back home:
The night of the sun and the moon, the night Rose Cottage was destroyed, the unfinished horoscope, the night I sang my song, the picnic, the murder.
It sounds intriguing, like a blueprint for the oncoming apocalypse, a ticking-clock countdown that we’ll be able to follow in real time. But when they get back to 1970, the clues don’t really mean anything. They all happen, sort of, but most of them are tangential at best; there are other events in the story that are much more pivotal than the picnic, or the night I sang my song. The unfinished horoscope was a straight-up red herring, because they never quite figured out how to get the astrology subplot to connect to anything else.
There’s also the post about Dark Shadows Festivals that I really should have put together at some point, where I go through all my old fanzines and convention brochures, and pull together some kind of history of the Festivals, and what they were like.
But it always seemed like a lot of work, for a post that I wasn’t sure would be interesting. I have a few specific memories of my convention visits — David Selby and Lara Parker performing Love Letters, how much everyone clearly hated Roger Davis, a memorable performance of Jonathan Frid’s Fools and Fiends — but I was always a wallflower in that world, and never personally connected with other fans who were writing fanzines or organizing costume parties.
Ultimately, it would all just be an excuse to talk about my favorite Festival moment: Abe Vigoda at the big cast panel in 2001, when he sat down with all the cast members and introduced himself: “I’m Abe Vigoda. I played Ezra Braithwaite, in two episodes of Dark Shadows! I don’t remember anything about them.” And then he just sat there for the rest of the panel and looked bemused.
I see ideas unravelling.
At a certain point, the entire show becomes an exercise in failed plans and foiled schemes. Practically everything in 1840 is a non sequitur, which doesn’t connect with the 1970 ghost story, or with anything that comes before or after. Gerard’s not a pirate king with a garden full of zombie slaves, Daphne doesn’t have a close relationship with Tad and Carrie, and Barnabas and Julia drift in and out of the story, as the show struggles to focus on anything besides Gerard being crafty.
They’ve lost the spark that they once had, and they know it, but they’ve all signed pieces of paper that promise that they’ll make a television show every day, and they have to just get up in the morning and keep doing it.
A couple weeks ago, under the post for episode 1230, a commenter wrote:
“Danny: Marie Kondo this. Is writing about these last few weeks of the show sparking joy? If not, consider taking a step back, shelving it for the moment, and not letting either the artificial goal of the 50th anniversary or the sunk costs of your prior writing turn what should be a pleasurable side activity into a miserable slog.”
This is a kind thought, but there’s only so long you can shelve something before it turns into something that never happened. Sometimes, you just have to recognize when it’s last call, time to finish your drink and go home.
When it’s all over, two weeks from tonight, it won’t matter what it could have been, if I’d had a little more time, or had that extra idea that didn’t occur to me. The clever things that could have been will have to present themselves in the next fortnight, or just remain undone.
In the end, really, the only thing I’ll truly regret is that I wrote the post for episode 857 in 2016, rather than 2021. That’s the episode where Count Petofi gets a prostitute named Wanda Paisley to try using the I Ching, and beyond the door, she sees a waggly bug-eyed Halloween skeleton that kills her on the spot.
If I’d written that post today instead of five years ago, I could have called it “The Wanda Vision”. Oh well, there’s always next time.
Tomorrow: The Way That You Mustn’t Feel.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Gabriel tells Morgan that he’s been locked up in the tower room for 24 hours. They locked him up in episode 1227, which is definitely more than a day ago. Later in the episode, Morgan says that Gabriel hasn’t shown any signs of violence in a week.
Julia tells Carrie, “You saw — I saw the look on your face!”
Flora tells Gabriel, “As long as everyone in the family is involved, I feel I must consent with them — consult with them.”
When Flora leaves the tower room, we can see a camera next to Julia in the hall.
Flora says that she wants to talk about Gabriel, and Morgan asks, “What is it you want to discuss with Gabriel?”
Flora says that Gabriel’s insanity might be temporary, and Morgan says, “I’d like to believe that, mother, but I’m afraid to. I remember the way Father was.” He should say, “I remember the way Father was.”
Tomorrow: The Way That You Mustn’t Feel.
— Danny Horn