Category Archives: Gordon Russell

Episode 1006: Too Big to Do Anything But Fail

“I’m Larry Chase. I’m Chris Collins’ partner, and as you know, Chris is Dr. Longworth’s lawyer.”

Angelique Collins is talking things over with an old friend, who’s been summoned by the candles of the seventh secret. “They can send you back to your grave, forever!” she explains. This is a thing candles can do.

“I’m not a living being anymore,” Dameon points out. “The candles have no power over me!”

“Then try to move!” she says. Angelique gets into arguments like this all the time. “Try to lift your hand, and snuff the candles out!”

Suddenly, Dameon looks frightened. “I — I can’t move!” he yelps. Dameon is a ghost.

She breaks it down for him. “When the seventh candle was lit, you appeared. When the seventh candle is snuffed out, you will return to your tomb, and never appear again!”

“NO!” he cries. “No, you can’t do it! You CAN’T DO IT!” But she does it. And with one last agonized squeal, he disappears, leaving his bug-eyed skeleton hanging up in the closet, which is where Angelique keeps that kind of thing.

The witch lets out a triumphant cackle. “Now, nothing stands in my way!” she exults. “The house will be mine again! Quentin will be mine again! And nothing can stop me. NOTHING!”

And then something stops her, like, immediately.

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Episode 1001: Wife Swap

“Someone must be destroyed, but it won’t be me.”

Alexis finds it hard to take a breath, which is a shame, because it’s one of her last and she should probably be enjoying it more.

“This can’t be happening!” she gasps. “It’s impossible!”

But this impossible thing that can’t be happening rises from the casket. It’s her twin sister, Angelique, who’s been dead for six months in a row, and doesn’t feel like doing it anymore. She opens her eyes, she breathes, she speaks, and — most disconcertingly of all — she smiles.

“But you’re dead!” Alexis chokes. “You’re dead!”

Then she frowns, frustrated. “The prompter is going three times faster than I would go,” she says. She gestures toward the studio. “He just zipped to my next line!” This is something that Dark Shadows characters have been wanting to say for years, but never had the guts.

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Episode 1000: Back From the Death

“I never once believed that she could survive death — until tonight!”

It always starts with a box.

You try your best. You bury the dead. The evil twin dies, and you say thank goodness that’s over with, and then you put her in a box and plant it in the dirt. You figure it’s a one-way trip, no refunds and no returns. At that point, it’s somebody else’s problem.

It always starts with a box. It often ends with one, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell beginnings and endings apart.

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Episode 998: The Absence of the Disturbances

“Somehow, the absence of them is more frightening than the disturbances themselves.”

I don’t know about you, but Quentin Collins has spent the evening jumping from one crisis to the next. He began by questioning his butler about the murder of Dameon Edwards, a mysterious gigolo who everyone had pretty much forgotten about, until he suddenly started projecting his essence around the house and conducting post-mortem piano recitals.

Then Quentin went downtown, where he found the mysterious John Yaeger beating a romantic rival with a cane, a spontaneous act of pointless violence which is somehow connected to Quentin’s friend Cyrus, a mad scientist who’s been writing mysterious thousand-dollar checks to cover other people’s bar fights. Quentin chased Yaeger from the docks to the bar, and from the bar to Cyrus’ lab, and then to a barmaid’s boarding house and finally back to the lab, where he almost cornered the guy but lost him at the last minute.

Now Quentin’s come home after a long, weary night, and Alexis, his mysterious sister-in-law, rushes to his side as soon as he walks in the door.

“Quentin!” she cries. “Thank god you’re back!”

Quentin goes on alert again. “Why, has something happened?”

“No, it’s not that,” she pants. “It’s just this house.” Which is typical.

“There haven’t been any more disturbances, have there?”

“No,” she admits, “but somehow, the absence of them is more frightening than the disturbances themselves.”

“What do you mean?”

“This house — it’s so quiet!” she breathes. It’s like the calm before the storm!”

Or maybe everything’s fine, Quentin thinks, and you need to cut back on the espresso.

Continue reading Episode 998: The Absence of the Disturbances

Episode 989: Scientific Progress Goes Boink

“At least the companions I pick are human!”

So here’s the method: First, you take a chemical synthesis. This can be homemade, or delivered from a chemical synthesis company. Either one, it just has to be worryingly potent. Turn on the apparatus, set those fluids bubbling in their beakers. Add some powder to the synthesis. Now it’s a compound. Approach some truths that are better left unknown. Pour the result into a juice glass, and down the hatch.

It’s a simple dramatic recipe, but I do have a few questions for the reckless chemist, starting with: Why test this on yourself first? You literally have a guinea pig right there in the room with you. Wouldn’t it be easier to jot down observations, if the composition that’s getting reoriented isn’t yours? Also, what were you expecting to happen? What was the beneficial outcome you were aiming for?

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Episode 988: The Staggering Weirdness of Bruno

“Your world is the one that’s small and narrow, Bruno, because there’s no one in it, except you.”

Operator, could you get me the number of a travel agency in New York? Almost anyone will do — anyone that would have information about ships docking in New York from Genoa in the past week. That’s right, from Genoa.

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Episode 984: What We Know

“How can I fight a presence?”

Angelique was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. Actually, there is some doubt about it, so I guess the story is, like, eighty-five percent wonderful.

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Episode 980: Next Stop Keystone City

“Trying to transcend that other time level can be very dangerous!”

Eccentric mass murderer and explorer of the outer realms Barnabas Collins is pacing the Collinwood drawing room, frowning heroically and making excuses. He’s been having one of his spells again.

His friend Julia takes a lap around the track. “Barnabas, why did you do it?” she wails. Barnabas drank Megan dry a few weeks ago, and now he’s about three-quarters of the way through Sabrina.

“I stayed at the Old House, and fought the urge to leave,” he says, striking an apologetic pose. “And then she came to me.”

“You couldn’t help yourself,” Julia observes.

Barnabas swivels, and snaps, “Do you think I do this by choice?”

“No, Barnabas,” she reassures him. “I know what you’re going through.” Yeah, he’s going through the entire female supporting cast, is what he’s going through.

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Episode 976: Another Another World

“It’s impossible! I just saw him die!”

Today, Roger Collins opens a door in the east wing of Collinwood and discovers another world, filled with familiar people leading different lives at the exact same time. He’s fascinated by it, of course, and he spends the whole week talking about how desperate he is to see those exciting new stories. This turns out to be a tactical error.

Because there really is Another World — it airs on NBC at 3:00pm, and it’s doing so well that they’re creating a spinoff, which will compete directly with Dark Shadows.

Now, back in the good old days of September 1968, when Angelique was a vampire and Quentin was still a twinkle in Henry James’ eye, nobody would dare counter-program against Dark Shadows. It was a nationwide sensation, thirty minutes of thrills beamed every day to everyone who mattered.

The Columbia Broadcasting System was the big dog in the soap world, with chart-busters As the World Turns, Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light at the top of the ratings for more than a decade. But in September ’68, CBS took stock of the situation and decided to turn tail and run, moving The Secret Storm from 4:00 to 3:00, where it was safer and the light was better anyway. They threw poor old Art Linkletter into the 4:00 spot, so the squares had something to do if they’d already finished their homework and folded all the socks. And so Art Linkletter’s House Party lived out the rest of its days, unwatched and unloved, a 25-year broadcasting giant felled by a show that at the time was mainly make-believe mad science experiments.

But Dark Shadows has spent the last four months telling a story that nobody really wanted to hear, and squandering the talents of their new werewolf superstar. There is movement in the shadows. The other wolves can smell weakness.

And next Monday, on March 30th — the same day that Barnabas changes channels to Parallel Time, and gives everybody who wasn’t excited about the Leviathans a natural jumping-off point — NBC premieres their brand new soap opera at 4:00pm. It’s not very good, and it doesn’t last that long, but it gets better ratings than Dark Shadows does, because sometimes the wrong people win.

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