Category Archives: Sam Hall

Episode 1174/1175: Merrie Gentlemen

“What has shaken your little mind now, that makes you not believe me?”

It’s Christmas Eve 1970, and the tidings aren’t as comfortable or as joyful as you might wish. In-universe, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the will of the legendary warlock Judah Zachery, is himself in possession of the Collins family estate. If allowed to go unchallenged, this will result in the destruction of Collinwood, one way or another, which is a shame, because I’m not done looking at it yet. Out-of-universe, this is the last Christmas that Dark Shadows will ever see, because this trial storyline is ruining everything.

Quentin’s only been on trial for witchcraft for three weeks, but somehow it has drained the plot of all momentum; everything else has to slow down while the lead characters get foiled again and again. We spent most of this week concerned about a plot to get Daphne in trouble for dropping a note in an oak tree, and today it turns out they don’t even need that, because they have different, even more damning evidence. By the end of the episode, it looks like Quentin probably should be beheaded for witchcraft after all, and so should pretty much everybody on the show. I don’t know about you, but I am letting something me dismay, and I don’t care who knows it.

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Episode 1173: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

“I will be your ghost tonight. I will be your ghost twice.”

“Oh, Julia, if you could have seen his face yesterday,” Angelique breathes.

“I did.”

Angelique whirls around. “And his eyes?”

Julia doesn’t respond, so I assume she’s thinking, You know what? I saw his face, but I totally forgot to look at his eyes. Oh, well, maybe next time.

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Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering

“We cannot love at will, any more than we could prevent our love.”

Oh, it was such a good idea at the time.

When Dark Shadows went to 1795, the show discovered that they could shake up the soap by traveling back into the past, using the existing cast but dressing them up in old-time costumes, and giving them new names and storylines. It was a spectacular way to move forward, interrupting a story that didn’t have anywhere to go, and breathing new life into the premise. While they were in the past, they figured out that you could have more than one monster on the show at the same time, and once they came back to the present, they started piling them up in heaps.

Problem is, they’re now doing time travel for the fourth time, and it turns out giving everybody a new character name every six months doesn’t automatically refresh the show; you also need to think up some new storylines. In fact, traveling to another time means that it’s possible to rehash the same plot points with a freshly neuralyzed set of family members, and there’s nobody around to say, wait a minute, this already happened, fifty-seven years from now.

Well, live and learn, I suppose, although on this show, it’s more like live and die and come back to life and then learn the same stuff over again.

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Episode 1167: The English Way of Death

“So the next step is that we must go to the basement!”

So with pop sensation Quentin Collins on trial for introducing plot points, and the show’s ratings sinking slowly in the west, I might as well introduce The War for Dark Shadows, a latter-days theme that’s going to run through the last few months of the blog. We’re approaching the dreaded April Third, 1971 — history’s first day without Dark Shadows — and naturally the show’s not just going to lie down and take it. Going gentle into that good night is not what you might call one of Dark Shadows’ core competencies.

After April Third, the show does in fact go on, hopping from one medium to another in a long line of spinoffs and remakes. The Paperback Library novels keep running until 1972, and the Gold Key comics stretch all the way to 1976. We’ve already discussed the Dark Shadows comic strip, the Night of Dark Shadows movie and the 1991 NBC remake, each of them disastrous in their own individual way, and there are more disasters to come, including a book series, a failed pilot, another comic book series, and yes, a certain medium-budget Hollywood spectacular.

But the thing is, the show is so complicated that none of the remakes and spinoffs can agree on what Dark Shadows actually is. For the comic strip, Dark Shadows is an adventure serial, the story of hardly-hungry vampire Barnabas Collins, who secretly battles a series of supernatural villains in order to protect his cousins, Elizabeth and Carolyn. Meanwhile, the 1991 show thinks that Dark Shadows is a super-sexy time-travel love epic, spending a lot of time setting up a quite vicious Barnabas with Victoria Winters, who’s the reincarnation of his lost love Josette.

Those two ideas have very little in common, aside from a few character names and the fact that they only lasted for a year. They’re not the same kind of story at all. But when you look at either one, you can recognize that they’re based on Dark Shadows as you understand it. So the concept of “Dark Shadows” must be big enough to encompass both of these kinds of stories, and probably more to come, and each interpretation is casting a vote for a particular way to read the show. The War for Dark Shadows is a decades-long struggle to figure out what kind of show Dark Shadows was, and what it means for us today.

Continue reading Episode 1167: The English Way of Death

Episode 1164: Almost Helping

“I don’t know what is happening inside you, but it is evil.”

“Witchcraft!” cries Barnabas. “Of course I’ll help Quentin, I’ll do anything I can.”

He seems utterly shocked by the idea that Quentin’s been accused of witchcraft, even though everyone’s been talking about it for weeks. I know the dude only works nights, but seriously, how are you this out of touch? What have you and Julia been doing all this time?

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Episode 1163: Love in the Afternoon

“I hope she’s not touched by what’s happening now.”

The Collins family files out of the mausoleum, marking the close of another funeral. Today they lay to rest Daniel Collins, who died in the tower room of finding out something surprising.

“What a dreadful day this has been,” groans Flora Collins, and she ought to know; her family has been experiencing one dreadful day after another for more than forty years. If anyone can recognize what a dreadful day looks like, it’s a Collins.

Suddenly, Carrie Stokes gasps, and every part of her face widens in alarm. “Someone’s been watching us!” she cries, and points at the scenery. “There!” I’m not sure why she’s getting so uptight, I believe people are still allowed to stand around in the woods if they want to.

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Episode 1162: The Tribulations

“Counselor, I do not need you to tell me the laws of this state that I am honor-bound to withhold!”

A death, a dream, a Trask yelling witchcraft — yep, just another episode of Dark Shadows.

Today, Trask finds Quentin kneeling over a dead body, just like he did in episode 1156, a little over a week ago. Then Gerard casts a spell that sends Daphne a sexy dream, just like episodes 1146, 1151 and 1158. And Desmond says that the evidence against Quentin is circumstantial, just like he did yesterday and the day before, and for all I know he’s going to say it again tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives.

Man, I wish something would happen today that we haven’t seen recently, and I’m sure I will never regret making that wish.

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Episode 1161: The Monster of Collinwood

“What of the witchcraft?”

Well, wills were made to be broken, and this one’s about as broken as you can get. Tower-dwelling invalid Daniel Collins, purportedly of sound mind and body, has slipped away from his lawyers and nurses, and scribbled himself a will that leaves everything to the black hat villain Gerard Stiles, who’s currently hosting the furious spirit of the legendary Judah Zachery, and if you can find a worse thing to do with your fortune then you’re welcome to it.

The situation is particularly dire because we know that it’s interfering with the proper course of Collins family history, which runs from Daniel to Gabriel, through some unknown mid-century child, and then on to Edward, Jamison, Elizabeth and points south. Finally, it ends up in 1970, when the family is scattered and the mansion destroyed by Gerard Stiles, aka the furious spirit of the legendary — oh, dear. He’s got us either way, hasn’t he?

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Episode 1160: Look Who’s Walking

“Murder is only the first step.”

So who wants to talk about the last 85 episodes of Dark Shadows? Well, I do for one, although I know it hasn’t looked that way lately. I’ve been averaging somewhere between zero and four posts a month since August, and August was forever ago.

I could tick off the usual excuses — amnesia, curse, sudden appearance of an ancient stone altar owned by people who wanted me to do something terribly urgent — but it doesn’t really matter; the important thing is that we’ve got seventeen more weeks of Dark Shadows to watch. Let’s do this.

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