Category Archives: October 1969

Episode 875: Switchback

“That hand — the power of it — has been gravitated to you!”

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

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Episode 874: The Rape of Kitty Soames

“I mean, that makes a girl feel all creepy, having all that ‘ocus-pocus said over her!”

What do you think it feels like?

When you “switch off”, I mean. When you suddenly wake up and you’re wearing clothes that you don’t recognize, and you find out that you just had a fight that you don’t understand, with somebody that you’ve never met.

You haven’t been drinking; it wasn’t a blackout. You were just sitting in a room, and you heard a strange sound, and the next thing you know, it’s an hour later, you’re downstairs, and you’re screaming at an oil painting.

And what do you think it feels like, when somebody that you hardly know looks you right in the eye, and tries to convince you that you’re the intruder?

I don’t know about you, but if that happened to me? I’d probably punch that person in the face, and keep on punching until there’s nothing left to punch.

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Episode 872: Tick Tock

“So much happens in this house! So much what you can’t understand!”

The mad wizard Count Petofi, currently assuming the guise and garb of black sheep pop star Quentin Collins, is holding the temples of the renowned painter Charles Delaware Tate. He’s guiding the artist on a magical mystery tour through the cosmic corridors of the I Ching, hoping to discover the hexagram that leads to another time. It’s actually going really well so far.

Gazing into the infinite, Tate describes what he sees. “It’s the drawing room at Collinwood,” he breathes. “It’s different… and the people are different, too. There’s a little boy, and a little girl, and a woman. Another woman’s just come into the room. They’re greeting her, and calling her Julia.”

Which is just entirely unfair. Tate’s watching a better episode of Dark Shadows than we are!

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Episode 871: Give Me Back My Talent

“The time is over when no one would listen to you. The time is over when you were alone.”

“Angelique!” he gasps.

The wicked witch smiles. “Hello, Quentin.”

“How did you escape from Petofi?”

She looks away. “I just did,” she shrugs.

Okay. Well, screw you too, I guess.

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Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

“Have I come back to tragedy and death again?”

We left off yesterday with Erwin Schrodinger and his magical cat, trapped in a thought experiment about quantum indeterminacy that threatens to destroy us all.

Here’s how it works: The theoretical cat is placed in a sealed chamber with a Geiger counter, a hammer, a flask of cyanide, and a small chunk of something radioactive, which may or may not decay over the course of an hour. Within that hour, there are two possibilities:

#1. The atom decays, which is detected by the Geiger counter, which trips a sensor that makes the hammer smash into the flask, releasing the cyanide and killing the cat.

#2. The atom doesn’t decay, which means no Geiger, no hammer, no cyanide. In that case, the cat is alive at the end of the hour, and it can go about its business.

Now, according to quantum mechanics, the atomic decay in the radioactive substance is in both states simultaneously — both decayed and not — until it’s observed, at which point it resolves into one state or the other. And if the cat’s life is determined by the unresolved atomic decay, then the cat is both alive and dead at the same time — until you open the box and look inside, which causes the wave function to collapse into either “alive cat” or “dead cat”. And then you feed the cat, or bury it, as appropriate.

But Schrodinger and his imaginary thought-experiment grad students completely missed the third alternative, which is that the cat would look at all this equipment, and figure out what’s going on.

At that point, you have an undead cat, sitting alone in a steel box with a flask of cyanide, a hammer and an active source of plutonium, and nothing to do for the next fifty-five minutes but think about the future. Schrodinger has created a dangerous supernatural entity, and provided it with an arsenal.

You don’t resolve a situation like this by opening the box. Opening the box is the beginning of act two.

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Episode 869: Schrodinger’s Vampire

“We’re clearly in the presence of two distinctly different bodies.”

You know, everyone talks about quantum superposition, but nobody does anything about it.

The scientific protocol is as follows: You put a vampire into a box, while the actor goes to Illinois and appears in Dial M for Murder. After four weeks, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that audience interest in the story has decayed.

While the mystery box is closed and the audience can’t observe the vampire directly, the storyline exists in two states simultaneously, a superposition of “dead vampire” and “alive vampire”. This is soap opera quantum mechanics. When you open the box, the two possible quantum states collapse into one, and the audience can observe whether the vampire is alive or dead.

The problem is that Edward Collins and Count Petofi have just opened the coffin, and there’s both a dead Barnabas lying in the coffin and an alive Barnabas collapsing on the cave floor. They’re supposed to choose one or the other; Schrodinger will be simply furious when he hears about this.

So here we are — at the peak of Dark Shadows’ ratings success, cresting the last great surprise before the show begins its long, gradual decline. In this moment, the show’s rising popularity meets its impending defeat; it is simultaneously a blockbuster hit and a soon-to-be-forgotten novelty.

It’s time for reality to collapse into one position or another — and on Dark Shadows, when things collapse, they really collapse.

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Episode 868: A New Man

“This man is dead! We know he’s dead, don’t we?”

So I suppose you could say that there’s good news, and bad news. The good news is that Dark Shadows hits its all-time ratings peak this week, thanks to the return of TV’s cool ghoul Jonathan Frid, who’s just coming back from a month-long vacation.

Barnabas has been off camera for four weeks now, chained up in a coffin with a stake through his heart. Yesterday, we finally saw him again — but he’s still staked, still chained, not getting much use out of that FitBit we got him for Christmas. And yet, here he is, the deceased Barnabas Collins, lying around in a doctor’s office and getting his pulse taken, like the show-off that he is.

We’re going to spend the next few days trying to figure out if this really is Barnabas, or some unlikely lookalike with the same name and address. Either way, there’s some kind of narrative sleight-of-hand going on, and everybody’s tuning in to see how they’re going to pull it off. The ratings have been going up steadily all year, thanks to Quentin and the 1897 storyline, and this week is the apex of Dark Shadows’ popularity. That’s the good news.

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Episode 867: Nothing Up My Sleeve

“I know that vampires sleep very fitfully.”

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to show you a little game called Find the Vampire. It starts out very simple, all I need you to do is remember this card — Barnabas Collins.

Simple enough, what card do you have again? Okay. You can turn it over, take one last look. Now Barnabas Collins is right here in this coffin — let’s say it’s in a cave, all right? Barnabas Collins, in a cave, in a coffin, with a stake through his heart. That’s a dead vampire. He’s not going anywhere.

Great, now it gets a little tougher; we’re going to add another card into the game. This one is a mysterious presence at the rectory, Julia was left behind to take care of something when Barnabas was destroyed — that’s Barnabas, in the cave. This is a different card, over here, something in the rectory.

Now, I’m going to add one more card to the game, make sure you’re still — which card was yours again? The vampire, right, keep your eye on the vampire. Julia leaves the game, and then Angelique takes over, there’s a switch, and now we’ve got another mysterious presence, in the cove at Shipwreck Point. That’s a cove, not a cave. Don’t get those mixed up. The vampire’s in the cave, there’s something in the cove, one, two, three, and if I ask you, find Barnabas Collins, which card would you choose?

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Episode 866: The Briar Patch

“Would you like to try and resist this hand again, my dear?”

The story so far: Count Andreas Petofi, magical gangster from the Boston Carpathians, is engaged in a tense low-speed chase with a pack of howling vengeance gypsies. For all his bluster, all Petofi really wants to do is run away and hide — in somebody else’s body, living in somebody else’s house, and traveling to somebody else’s time zone. It’s not much to ask, really, and so far it’s been going pretty well.

But as the poet said, the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, and this one is drifting in an agley direction. It turns out he’s not the only mouse in town.

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