Category Archives: Joe Caldwell

Episode 1022: Suddenly Shipping

“How could I dream something that actually happened?”

“Maggie, I hate to see you this upset,” Cyrus says, which is a shame, because being upset is pretty much Maggie’s job.

And why shouldn’t she be upset? She’s just had a terrifying dream in which she saw her new husband murdering his first wife, and wives, as a class, are pretty sensitive on the subject of wife-murdering. So she rushed over to Dr. Cyrus Longworth’s place, for a consultation.

Cyrus holds Maggie’s hands tenderly, to reassure her. “I just wish there were more that I could do,” he murmurs.

She smiles. “I wonder if you know how kind you really are,” she observes.

He looks into her eyes. “Don’t hesitate to come back here and visit me, if there’s anything more that I can do.”

“I won’t forget,” she says, and then asks, “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong?” he asks. “Why?”

“The way you keep looking at me.”

“Oh, no!” the doctor stammers, remembering himself. “I’m sorry, that’s just me! Absent-minded Cyrus Longworth, staring at something, without knowing what he’s staring at.”

She chuckles, and says good night.

And he watches her, the dear wife of a dear friend, as she walks upstairs and leaves the house. Then his glance falls on a pair of white gloves, left behind on a table. Grabbing them, he hurries to the door, but she’s already gone.

Cyrus Longworth looks down at the gloves, and then he takes them and rubs them against the side of his face.

Continue reading Episode 1022: Suddenly Shipping

Episode 1021: Five Things

“If you had murdered someone, what’s the most logical thing that you would do?”

It’s Monday, as you know, because here we are and it’s Monday. Just look around, this is what Monday looks like. Right? Okay.

Now, I’m going to tell you five things about this week on Dark Shadows, and one of them is going to be hard to believe, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this.

First: One of the main characters — who we thought was in love with one character, and has been drawn into a complicated relationship with a second character — is suddenly and without warning going to be madly in love with a third character, and then we’re supposed to pretend that it’s been that way all along.

Second: There’s an episode this week that only has four characters — one nice person, and three nasty people who spend the entire half-hour criticizing her, gossiping about her and openly mocking her.

Third: You know that rape subtext that sits awkwardly behind practically everything that happens on Dark Shadows, including the vampire bites, the possessions, the enchantments, the body swaps and the aggressive reincarnations? You know, the thing that makes us uncomfortable, because we enjoy a show that expects us to be interested in the love lives of serial rapists? Well, that’s going to graduate from subtext to actual text this week. In fact, we’re going to see a villain do a brief monologue on the subject of how great it’s going to be when he literally rapes someone you like.

Fourth: A relationship that you’re interested in, and that maybe you’re rooting for, will get blown to bits this week, and you will never care about it again. This is no longer a story about love triumphant in the face of evil, it’s just a story about things that happen to this particular set of complex, haunted people.

Fifth — and this is the one that’s hard to believe — this is what it looks like when Dark Shadows gets better.

Continue reading Episode 1021: Five Things

Episode 1017: The Struggle

“He is my cousin, as you are my cousin, in this time or any other time!”

“The countryside near Collinwood,” says Nancy Barrett, “lies quiet and serene on this night, in Parallel Concurrent Time. But in the great house, the web of evil being woven by Angelique will begin to ensnare its first victim — Maggie Collins — who will be placing herself in double jeopardy by her presence at her husband’s side, for Angelique is not the only force that could conspire for Maggie’s destruction.”

So, a few things. First, nobody calls it Parallel Concurrent Time. Second, the first victim of Angelique’s web of evil was Alexis, and the second victim was a random day player handyman, so Maggie is either the third victim or the fourth, depending on whether you count Dameon or not. Also, that’s not what “double jeopardy” means.

Still, Nancy’s talking about a character that we recognize doing things that we more or less understand, so hooray, Dark Shadows is saved.

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Episode 1014: Are You the Quentin

“But there’s always violence in love!”

Barnabas is trapped in Parallel Time, a fantasyland where everything’s the same as our world, except the stuff that isn’t. To the extent that there’s any logic at all, it’s the logic of dreams. People appear and disappear, taking various forms and shapes. Things that seemed dramatic and important in an earlier stage melt away, replaced by other concerns that are equally difficult to express. The ring. The seance. Someone is humming. Where is that sound coming from? Evil, calling to evil. Didn’t I tell you to take down that painting? The people in that room are different, but the same. Who was standing nearby when she died? We couldn’t explain it, so we burned the body, and nobody saw the fire, because we were quiet. Come, we will burn the book together. What happened to the ring? A skeleton, hanging in the cupboard, extinguished by candlelight. She was in Italy visiting with friends, now she’s in our house, visiting with friends. Does she have a job? What does she do for a living? Shouldn’t one of us be going to work occasionally?

Continue reading Episode 1014: Are You the Quentin

Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

“Nothing must disturb the sleep or sully the name of that other Barnabas Collins who died in this time.”

Trapped in a false dimension and freshly liberated from a chained coffin not specifically his own, the strange and brutal Barnabas Collins, fugitive vampire in a world he never made, is onboarding a new employee.

“Please let me go,” Will pleads, “and I won’t tell anyone anything about you.”

Barnabas gives the trainee a lopsided grin. “Go, if you want to go.”

Will concentrates. “I can’t get away!” he grimaces. “You know I can’t.” He stares helplessly into a future he doesn’t care for. “What are you going to do with me?”

It’s a close-up so we can’t know for sure, but the smart money says Barnabas is steepling his fingers. “Surely you’ve learned enough from our conversations recently to realize the position that you’re in.”

“I must do your bidding?” Will gulps.

“Precisely. Your agonizer!”

Will takes a step backwards. “No. Wait!”

Barnabas is firm. “Your agonizer, please!”

Continue reading Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

Episode 1008: This Terrible Truth

“No, it wasn’t in this room, it was in another room, but it was behind the same door!”

Young Daniel is drawn to the drawing room of Loomis House, aka the Old House to anyone who matters. He’s here on an art school field trip, on the advice of a spooky oil painting of a Collins ancestor who speaks to him through the pounding of an off-screen kettle-drum heartbeat. Once he enters the house, Daniel isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do, because it turns out kettle-drum heartbeat is not as precise a communications medium as people sometimes think.

Looking around, his eye lights upon a manuscript sitting on the sideboard. He picks up the top page and begins to read, because Daniel is nosy and he has no respect for other people’s intellectual property.

“For long enough,” he reads, “the world has lived in ignorance of this terrible truth.” Realizing that this must be a page of Will’s new book, Daniel sits down and helps himself to some literature.

So, yeah, me too. This is a thing that young Daniels do, apparently, when we find ourselves just south of episode 1006, wondering what happens next. We read a book.

Continue reading Episode 1008: This Terrible Truth

Episode 1005: People Trying to Talk Sense to Dameon Edwards

“They can bring you here because they have control over life, and they can send you away again because they have control over death.”

So I just have one question for Dameon Edwards, which is: Who the hell is Dameon Edwards?

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Episode 1002: Ordinary Circumstances

“Why should I drink this? Why should I be frightened?”

Here’s a tricky etiquette problem, if you’re in the mood for one: You’re spending time with friends in a relaxed social setting, and then, when they step out of the room for a moment, you suddenly and without warning transform yourself into a person to whom none of your friends have been properly introduced. Personally, I don’t have a contingency plan for that particular contingency; I figure if it ever happens, I’ll just report it to my commanding officer and wait for instructions.

But here’s Dr. Cyrus Longworth, pseudoscientist and dabbler in the unknown, relaxing after a hectic evening of corpse-related felonies, as his friend Quentin goes upstairs to invite the woman that everyone thinks is Alexis to join them for a drink. As Cyrus paces the floor, he suddenly doubles over in pain, and engages in an unintentional full-body metamorphosis.

What we end up with is John Yaeger, the yin to Cyrus’ yang, a more explicitly evil twin who’s lactose-intolerant in regards to the milk of human kindness. Cyrus has been bringing out his bad side lately by drinking a home-brewed chemical synthesis, but now he’s so hooked on the stuff that Yaeger comes out just because Cyrus is tired of waiting for cocktails.

With his host on the way back to the drawing room, Yaeger considers jumping out the window, but stops. “No,” he thinks, “it must look as if I left under ordinary circumstances!”

Except obviously people turning into monsters is an ordinary circumstance for Collinwood. Several people currently in the house have done this, up to and including both of the people you’re planning to have a drink with. This is what Collinwood is for.

I’m going to include Quentin in that tally of monsters, even though this Quentin isn’t supposed to be the same Quentin afflicted with lycanthropy, because we’re just kidding ourselves if we think these are two separate stories. They’re not. They merge together, along with House of Dark Shadows and the Paperback Library novels and the View-Master reels, and all the other Tales of Hoffman.

This incident proves that the Concurrent Collinwood of Parallel Time is what it always was — a house-shaped hole carved out of time and space that exists in order to facilitate transformations. And now you get to go home, John Yaeger, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.

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Episode 996: Love Potion No. 9

“When was the last time I became myself?”

We’ve all had nights like this, haven’t we? You’re living the wrong life, working at the wrong job, engaged to the wrong person. You long for the taste of something different on your tongue, something that gives you the power to flirt with strangers, and knock over tables, and tell people what you really think of them. Something that tastes like freedom. So you unlock the wall safe and grab that bottle of Do Not Touch juice, and you suck down way more than you probably should, and you go out looking for trouble. We’ve all done that, right? I mean, I haven’t, because I have self-respect. But your way is fine, too.

Continue reading Episode 996: Love Potion No. 9