Category Archives: January 1968

Episode 418: A Dark and Stormy Night

“You promised — you swore that I would never be forced to rise again as the monster I’ve become!”

Let’s face facts: So far, this entire week of Dark Shadows has basically been one long suicide note. Newly-risen vampire Barnabas Collins asked his servant Ben to end his eternal torment, but the floating head of the apparently-deceased witch-vixen Angelique stopped Ben mid-staking. Now we’re back to square one.

So I’m going to put this right out on Front Street — absolutely nothing happens today that didn’t happen yesterday. This is the third episode in a row written by Ron Sproat, the writing team’s remedial student, who has a childlike faith in the power of recap scenes to grip the audience and hold us spellbound.

But I can’t just write the same post three days in a row, so I’m going with my new emergency backup plan, which is to talk about Varney the Vampire.

Continue reading Episode 418: A Dark and Stormy Night

Episode 417: Too Soon

“What if last night happens all over again?”

Today’s episode begins with a reprise of yesterday’s strange anti-cliffhanger, where the psychotic monster who’s been terrorizing the people of Collinsport for the last nine months talks his best friend into driving a stake through his heart.

“No matter what you are, no matter what you done,” Ben tells the vampire, “you’ve been my friend.”

“Think of it this way, Ben,” Barnabas says. “You’ll be performing an act of friendship. My destruction will be the only way to save me, my only salvation.”

Barnabas also tells Ben to make sure he helps Vicki escape from jail. After that, Ben should take some money and start a new life, somewhere far away from here.

Ben says he’ll never forget Barnabas, and Barnabas adds, “If you do remember me — remember what was good about me, as I hope others will.”

And oh my god, can you stop micromanaging this whole experience? I’ve never seen someone backseat driving their own suicide like this.

Continue reading Episode 417: Too Soon

Episode 416: Stone Cold

“Why wouldn’t you let me bury them in the earth?”

As we open a new week on Dark Shadows, Joshua comes home from a business trip and finds Naomi in the drawing room, hip-deep in sherry.

He responds as he always does, with bitter sarcasm. “Well, I’m happy to see you up and busy at such an early hour,” he growls. “This was well worth the whole night’s journey, to be welcomed by this charming bit of domesticity.”

Naomi looks off into the distance.

“A little bird flew to the window,” she says, so apparently it’s going to be one of those conversations. “It hovered there for a moment, and then flew away. The first bird of the morning.”

This newsflash from the aviary is Naomi’s way of leading up to the breaking news story — on Friday, their little daughter Sarah died of pneumonia.

Wait, Sarah’s dead? God damn it, did somebody let her get outside again? We have got to start locking the front door, and this time I mean it.

Continue reading Episode 416: Stone Cold

Episode 414: That Thing You Do

“What have I become? How can I do things I do?”

Overall, it’s been a tough week for the women of Dark Shadows. Angelique was killed, Vicki’s in jail, and Josette probably shouldn’t be making any long-term plans.

1968 was the year they coined the phrase “Sisterhood Is Powerful”, which is good because these girls could use all the power they can muster. Today’s episode is practically a nature documentary about the lust, greed and hunger that’s making the pre-liberated ladies of Collinsport an endangered species.

Continue reading Episode 414: That Thing You Do

Episode 413: The New Black

“I’ve often thought it’s very sad that we live in two worlds that are so far apart in time from each other.”

Last night, assistant jailer and aspiring lawyer Peter Bradford sprung accused witch Victoria Winters from the Collinsport Gaol, so she could break into somebody’s house and steal a key piece of evidence in her case. Then he lied to opposing counsel about it, and indicated that he would perjure himself on the stand if required.

This morning, he feels bad about lying, so he’s planning to go to Reverend Trask and apologize.

I think it’s time for somebody to communicate to young Peter that he should stop coming up with new ideas, possibly through the medium of a prison sentence.

Continue reading Episode 413: The New Black

Episode 412: You’ve Got to Believe Me

“I can see you know nothing about the power of witchcraft.”

The notorious Salem Witch Trials were a series of arrests, hearings and executions that took place from March to October 1692. Twenty people were executed, and more than a hundred people were held in prison for almost a year.

The story is often used as an example of the devastating power of superstition and the suggestibility of the mob, but more than anything, it’s actually the story of a pre-Revolution American colony trying to figure out how justice works.

This was more than seventy years before the Declaration of Independence, when the colonies joined together to form a more perfect union. At the time, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a Puritan settlement. There was no real distinction between civil law and religious law; the judges and magistrates mostly operated according to guidelines agreed upon by the senior ministers in Boston.

The accused witches didn’t have lawyers, or any representation. The charges against them were almost entirely imaginary, based on the “spectral evidence” of the possessed girls who screamed that they saw the witches’ shapes stabbing at them, and allowing invisible birds to suckle from the blood of their fingers. There were a lot of confessions, especially in the later months of the trials, but the confessed “witches” were mostly just answering yes to the magistrates’ leading questions.

And the hearings were just three-ring circus nightmares, day after day. While the defendant stood in the dock, the growing chorus of “afflicted girls” screamed and rolled on the floor, sometimes running up to the magistrates holding out their arms to show tooth marks where the defendant’s spectre had just bitten them.

The defendant would look at the girls, and the girls would fall down on the floor. The defendant would look away, and they’d get up again. That interaction on its own was enough to put somebody in chains for months.

During Martha Corey’s trial, one of the accusers threw her muff at the defendant. When that fell short, she took off her shoe and threw it, nailing Goodwife Corey in the head. The trial just continued after that, like that was normal trial procedure. Martha Corey was convicted, and executed. That’s how witch trial justice worked.

Continue reading Episode 412: You’ve Got to Believe Me

Episode 411: Other People’s Blood

“That’s what happened to me, isn’t it? I was in that coffin because I was dead.”

It always starts with a box.

The local nobility are up to their usual tricks — keeping secrets, shooting each other, sleeping with the help, generally making a nuisance of themselves — and it comes back to haunt them, as it always does.

So here we are, opening another mystery box, and something terrible is loosed upon the world again, for the first time.

Continue reading Episode 411: Other People’s Blood

Episode 410: Nightfall

“I want you to cut down a holly tree, and fashion a small stake from the trunk.”

The widow Collins draws her shawl close around her, regarding her late husband’s final resting place with a shudder. She has no friends now, and no place to go. All she’s got is a small suitcase carrying a few dresses, plus a bankbook worth a small fortune. Oh, and a big hammer, and a pointy stick. And a problem.

And she finally asks the question that the viewing public has been waiting to hear for more than nine months, namely:

“Do you know the word vampire, Ben?”

Vampire? Now that you mention it, that does ring a bell. Dude in a coffin, right?

Continue reading Episode 410: Nightfall

Episode 409: Spoilers

“Jeremiah is dead! Barnabas is here! The book is wrong!”

Every time travel story has to figure out the answer to the big question, the one that Ebenezer Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol. Confronted with a vision of a future where his own death inspires only joy and relief that he’s gone, Scrooge asks, “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

In Scrooge’s case, the answer turns out to be things that May be. He still has the opportunity to wake up on Christmas morning, buy the Cratchits a turkey, and change his fate.

Ray Bradbury’s seminal time travel story, “A Sound of Thunder”, adds a scary element of chaos-theory mischance — stepping on a butterfly in the prehistoric past produces subtle but devastating ripples in the present. Taking up the alternate position, Robert A. Heinlein’s story “By His Bootstraps” describes a circular timeline, where the time-traveler has to follow a path that he’s already seen his future self walk.

Every writer who tells a time travel story ends up taking a position somewhere on that continuum between “the things that Will be” and “the things that May be.”

Except for Dark Shadows, of course, which is being written at the last minute, during a hurricane, by lunatics who didn’t even realize they were writing a time travel story until it just kind of suddenly already happened.

Continue reading Episode 409: Spoilers