Category Archives: Sam Hall

Episode 1038: The Spy Who Loved Me

“I thought I had removed the life force completely, but apparently not.”

The vampire rises from his crypt, murder on his mind. Someone has intruded on his private sanctum, and she must be destroyed.

“So you’ve found me out!” he growls. “It will be the last thing you’ll ever do.”

She backs away. They always do — the doomed ones, the prey — scuttling towards the wall, squeaking, searching for the magic words that will make this nightmare stop coming true. And then the interloper says the one improbable thing that could flip the script on the oncoming train wreck.

“No, Barnabas, it’s me!” she chirps. “It’s me, Julia! I’m dressed this way for a reason!”

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Episode 1034: Mistakes in Justice

“I tried slapping her, and telling her there was no such person as Alvah.”

And so, as Sabrina sinks slowly in the west, we wonder: is there any other version of this story we could pay attention to instead?

I mean, the current storyline on Dark Shadows basically entails Barnabas struggling to save fake Maggie from fake Angelique, as they fight over an imitation Quentin made of straw and food coloring. Sabrina is gone and Julia is on the ascendant, but still, it’s Parallel Time and there’s only so much I can deal with. So how about today we turn to an equally ersatz band of time, and see what’s happening over at the Paperback Library?

Dan “Marilyn” Ross is currently pumping out Dark Shadows novels at the rate of 159 pages a month, and honestly they’re just as canon as anything else, so we ought to keep an eye on them just to make sure they’re not hurting anybody. The current installment as of May 1970 is #17 in the PBL Gothic series: Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost, the second book to use the “Barnabas, Quentin and…” construction.

The cover blurb says “Barnabas and Quentin join forces against Collinwood’s ghostly killer,” which isn’t strictly accurate, in that they don’t join forces, it’s not necessarily Quentin, there isn’t a ghost, and nobody gets killed. Besides that, it’s fine.

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Episode 1030: A Room of One’s Own

“Will you feel the pain when this enters his body?”

Well, once again it looks like London Bridge is falling down; that’s today’s headline. We’ve got Maggie all locked up in a basement, so if anybody’s looking for her, then that’s where she’ll be. You can’t let these governess types run around loose for too long, or they get into mischief.

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Episode 1029: There Is a Spirit Here That Means to Harm Your Wife

“How I wish I could confess to you what you’re implying.”

The scary thing — and this is a show about spooks and monsters, so presumably we’re interested in the subject — the really scary thing, if it’s June 1970 and you’re a thrill-seeking housewife and/or teenager, is that they’ll decide to stay in Parallel Time forever, and this is what the show is like now.

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Episode 1028: Can’t Stop the Trouble

“You can’t stop the trouble, Wicks!”

Time is running out for Sabrina Stuart. I mean, it’s running out for all of us, technically, but in Sabrina’s case, it’s running out even more than usual.

Yesterday, Sabrina watched as her mad scientist fiancee, Dr. Cyrus Longworth, clutched at his chest and transmogrified into a hideous angry man-monster, without warning, and without the aid of any magic potions or energy drinks. This is typical of late-stage Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, a metaphorical malady that will only get worse from here.

Sabrina was surprised, of course, but she dealt with this biology-busting miracle surprisingly well, by which I mean that she didn’t slump over in a chair and grow a mop of silver hair extensions, like she did the last time she saw a boyfriend transform into a monster before her very eyes.

When the problem was Chris turning into a wolfman, Sabrina was able to rally and reconnect with him, using the power of love and persistence and hair dye. He kept pushing her away, and she kept on loving him, and then she went out and bought a super-rare moon poppy to cure him. It didn’t work, but we all learned a valuable lesson about how you can’t solve every problem with flowers.

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Episode 1025: Rebecca to the Rescue

“Fight me? When I’ve already won?”

It seemed to me, as I sat there in bed, staring at the wall, at the sunlight coming in at the window, at Maxim’s empty bed, that there was nothing quite so shaming, so degrading as a marriage that had failed. Failed after three months, as mine had done.

For I had no illusions left now, I no longer made any effort to pretend. Last night had shown me too well. My marriage was a failure. All the things that people would say about it if they knew, were true. We did not get on. We were not companions. We were not suited to one another.

I was too young for Maxim, too inexperienced, and, more important still, I was not of his world. The fact that I loved him in a sick, hurt, desperate way, like a child or a dog, did not matter. It was not the sort of love he needed. He wanted something else that I could not give him, something he had had before.

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Episode 1024: The End of Love

“Do you think that what’s happened in this house has deranged my mind so much that I’ll accept your outrageous lies?”

You are asleep, said the voice in the portentous dream. But you hear me. Follow my voice. Follow… Follow… Follow… Follow… Follow…

To be honest, Maggie was already following just fine after “Follow” #3, but voices in portentous dreams usually have a script they need to stick to; a lot of this is automated.

Come in, Maggie, said the voice, as Maggie approached a door. Come into this room, and learn the secret. So Maggie came in.

The table holds the secret, the voice continued. Underneath, beside the ornament. Push the button. Maggie reached the table and found the button, which opened a small oblong compartment.

There before you lies the secret, said the voice in the portentous dream. If your secret is complete, you may wake up now. If you would like another secret, you may select from the following options. Please listen carefully, as our menu has recently changed.

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Episode 1020: To Serve Man

“We were just standing here talking, and suddenly he fell over!”

Why does the moth love the flame?

You turn on the porch light and there they are, banging their little moth noggins against the lightbulb, desperate to break through and be consumed in flames. There doesn’t seem to be a good evolutionary explanation for this, but there they are, doing it, all night long. Why?

Well, one explanation is that a moth’s navigation system depends on transverse orientation, keeping a fixed angle on a distant source of light — typically the moon, apparently. So the moth is trying to keep the moon in a fixed place, and then along comes your porch light, and the moth gets all confused, ending up in a spin around the bulb. Or maybe not. It’s possible that people just made up the concept of “transverse orientation” in order to explain the moths, and it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Why couldn’t moths just fly in whatever direction they wanted to fly, like everybody else?

There’s another possible explanation, which is that female moths’ pheromones are slightly luminescent, and emit some of the same frequencies as candlelight, so the moths trying to immolate themselves think they’ve found a spectacularly turned-on lady moth. Except moths are even more attracted to UV light than candlelight, and UV light doesn’t have the same wavelengths as the pheromones, so that’s not it either.

People also use the word “phototaxis” to explain this phenomenon, which once again doesn’t really apply to anything except moths, and another possibility is that flowers reflect UV light, so maybe the moths think that the lightbulbs are a food source. There’s a point at which this is more about you than the moths.

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Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

“Fingers of flame, make healthy again what I have diseased!”

Well, here we are, another week in Parallel Time, and the logic deficit is just as bad as ever. We’re four days into an utterly baffling plot arrangement involving a parallel triangle between Quentin, Angelique and Maggie, who are all married to each other and desperately unhappy about it.

Quentin’s first wife, Angelique — who’s dead, but pretending that she isn’t — wants him to fall in love with her again. But he’s already in love, sort of, with his second wife Maggie, who fled the house weeks ago so she could go upstate and make a movie. That left Angelique alone with Quentin to work her wicked wiles, but they don’t really have a hell of a lot of chemistry these days, and she’s getting desperate.

So Angelique keeps doing these supernatural middle-school science experiments, and then getting all angsty when they don’t produce the desired results, which are unspecified. First, she slipped Quentin a magic potion that was supposed to drive him crazy, and it worked. Unfortunately, he went entirely crazy, rather than the 60% crazy that Angelique was apparently budgeting for, and he slipped up to the attic to hang himself. She managed to talk him down, of course, because obviously she doesn’t want her weird magic spells to hurt the man that she loves.

Except here she is twenty-two minutes later, and she’s attacking him again, this time by sticking a silver pin into a voodoo doll and triggering a massive coronary. Then she heads downstairs, and finds exactly what she ought to expect — Quentin lying on the floor, and everybody else standing around, telling each other not to have hysterics.

“Quentin!” she cries, and rushes to his side, horrorstruck by the idea that he might die from the heart attack that she deliberately induced one minute ago. And then she spends the rest of the episode worrying about him, and wondering if maybe she could have handled this differently.

So I don’t even know what to say. The all-powerful living dead soap vixen at the heart of this storyline is hell bent on doing exactly the opposite of what she actually wants, and then she’s unhappy. What’s going on? How is it possible to be this bad at your job?

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Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

“We must find out whose hand that was!”

Attic, Angelique’s room, attic, Angelique’s room, attic, drawing room, Angelique’s room, Angelique’s room, attic, attic, drawing room. If you like watching people walk back and forth between one room and another, then Dark Shadows has an episode made just for you.

But guess what? Sinister twin Angelique Collins is just as anxious as the rest of us to move this storyline along, so she’s cast a spell on her ex-husband, Quentin, to make him fall in love with his new runaway bride, Maggie. Now, as far as I know, Quentin already loved Maggie — at least, he married her, which is a pretty solid piece of evidence — but Angelique has decided that he doesn’t love Maggie enough, so she’s giving him an unasked-for upgrade.

She’s got a plan, you see, a wicked plan, and it’s hard to talk her out of it. If Angelique can make Quentin fall even harder for Maggie, then he’ll call her and ask her to come home, and when she does, Angelique will get Quentin to fall out of love with Maggie, and back in love with Angelique, who’s actually dead and impersonating her twin sister Alexis, but somehow he won’t mind, and I’m afraid that’s about as watertight as plans get around here.

But this brilliant scheme has backfired, quelle surprise, and Angelique’s potion has pretty much driven Quentin straight out of his mind. He’s just had a hallucination that suggested that he’d killed Maggie remotely by attacking her portrait with a letter opener, and now he’s headed for the attic, just like everybody else today.

Sensing that things may have gone mildly awry, Angelique settles down with a tarot deck to summon up some news. She deals out a simple arrangement of cards, and then flips over the middle card which is really the only one that matters, and — it’s the Hanged Man!

Shocked, Angelique leaps from the table and dashes for the door, convinced that the card is conveying up-to-the-minute bulletins. What’s that, Tarot? she cries. Quentin’s about to hang himself in the attic? Gosh, if I can only get there in time! Lead the way, girl!

Continue reading Episode 1015: You Were Murdered