“You can’t just go on killing until you find the right hexagram!”
If the 1897 storyline has an overall theme — and it absolutely doesn’t, but let’s say it does for a second — then it’s this: Can villains build a better world?
It’s been about two years since the villains took over Dark Shadows, first with Barnabas and Julia stealing all the screen time, and then the rise of Angelique as the antagonist’s antagonist, reducing all the other characters to the role of chess pieces. By 1968, the continuing saga was essentially just the story of the Collins family enduring the intrusion of one monster after another — Adam, and Cassandra, and Nicholas Blair, and Danielle Roget, and a swarm of vampires, and finally a werewolf and a handful of angry ghosts. For the most part, the villains were the characters that drove the plot; they were the ones with story arcs. The would-be heroes basically turned into goldfish, swimming in circles in the background, as the villains clashed at stage front.
So as the 1897 storyline begins ambling towards a conclusion, the show is essentially asking, why do we even bother having characters who aren’t villains? If we assemble a diverse cast of gold diggers and grave robbers and spell casters, can they produce a long-term, productive storyline? Or does it all end with a big smoking hole in the ground, and a handful of singed survivors? At the moment, the smart money’s on big smoking hole, but stay tuned.
Continue reading Episode 858: The Woman Who Wasn’t There
“It’s all right. You’re here with us, in the past.”
Good news, everyone! Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has pulled off another daring rescue mission, reaching all the way back into the late 19th century, to prevent angry ancestor Quentin from turning into a broken telephone. This heroic customer service call lasted six months, with time out to pick fights with grandmothers and fire demons and lawyers and crazy ex-girlfriends. Naturally, it all came down to a miraculous last-second save, which Barnabas had nothing to do with and doesn’t even know about yet.
Quentin has passed through the ill-fated tenth of September and come out the other side, releasing the Collins family of 1969 from his terrible vengeance. Today is the first day of the rest of his life, which means we can all go home and celebrate by moving back into Collinwood, and finding a new monster to tangle with.
Except we’re not going to, because the 1897 storyline is so much fun that we’re going to stick around for weeks. So now we have to face the question that always haunts long-running serialized narrative, namely: What happens to a story, when the story is over?
Continue reading Episode 839: The Gods Laugh Sometimes
“Satan is determined to take over Collinwood!”
In the summer of 1969, the young set gather every afternoon at four o’clock to watch one of the great pioneers in educational programming.
Not Sesame Street, of course; that doesn’t start until November. For the summer, at least, the kids’ choice is Dark Shadows, and what they’re learning is that murder is awesome, and you can totally get away with it.
Continue reading Episode 810: The Most Dangerous Game
“David Collins is nobody that exists.”
Back in ’97, Samuel Taylor Coleridge awoke with a splitting headache and a magnificent idea. Grabbing a pen and ink, his hands shaking with inspiration, he scribbled the first words of his masterpiece.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
David Collins is dead!
“That can’t be right,” Coleridge frowned, and scratched out the last four words, passing them along to the next available dreamer.
And so the crossed wires uncrossed, and the message wound its way from 1797 to 1897, whispering itself into Jamison Collins’ receptive ear.
But just imagine: if that mixed message had been traveling in the other direction, young Jamison could have become one of the great poets of his time.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
This is what Jamison got instead.
Continue reading Episode 767: Elegy for David C
“Grandfather always said that I would be killed by a woman, and he was right. A woman murdered me!”
“Please, Quentin,” says the young set, staring straight through the television screen, their eyes glazed with grief. “Don’t be dead. Please, don’t leave me alone!”
They move, as one, to approach their antiquated music machines — the gramophone, the turntable, the cassette player.
“You liked that music,” they say. “It was your favorite! I’m going to keep playing it, over and over again!”
Maestro? If you would?
Continue reading Episode 722: Uncle Deadly
“You are such a coward that the only way you can kill is with dolls!”
Ladies and gentlemen of the Dark Shadows audience, I would like to introduce to you a new member of our cast: slow doorknob.
Good ol’ slow doorknob actually made its first major appearance at the end of yesterday’s episode, because that’s where the career opportunities are, doorknob-wise. Let’s say you want to end an episode with an unexpected character at the door, but you don’t have the money to pay the actor just for the last two seconds. Who do you turn to when nobody turns up? A slow-turning doorknob, that’s who.
A twist to the left, a twist to the right, a couple rattles, a slow glide open, and then you cut to a cast member looking surprised, or horrified, or whatever actors are supposed to look like once you’ve stopped filming the fixtures. It’s kind of an IOU for the actual surprise, payable tomorrow.
Continue reading Episode 718: Other Than My Wife
“But last night, she sent me a message… from the past.”
The morning of a new day at Collinwood. Plans have been made to take two children away on an extended trip. But there are unseen and evil forces at work within the great house — forces that have possessed both children, and decreed that — oh my god, Vicki, WHAT IS IT NOW?
Continue reading Episode 659: Gone Girl
“The powers you have, they give you a certain amount of control over time and space.”
Once upon a time, there was a little lost princess…
Continue reading Episode 622: Heated Arguments on Somebody Else’s Lawn
“I think it’s time you knew how revolting and disgusting you really are.”
And now we have come to another installment where I honestly do not have the power to adequately describe how thoroughly certifiable this television show has become. It has broken free from its keepers, and is, at press time, rampaging through the streets, barking and snapping and uncoiling reality as it goes.
My only recourse as a commentator is to use William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique, because I don’t have access to the acres of marijuana that the 1968 teenage audience was smoking at the time.
Continue reading Episode 575: Crazy Talk
“Not run out, Willie. Go. Because there’s no reason to stay.”
Barnabas Collins is dead and buried, planted in the Earth by the only two people who can stand the sight of him.
“So, it is over,” says the First Gravedigger. “The end… The end.”
“You’d feel better if you cried,” says the Second Gravedigger.
“No, I’m past crying, Willie,” says the First. “Far past that. If I could imagine living without him — I could cry. But I can’t. I can’t.”
“No,” says the Second, staring off into the middle distance. “Neither can I.” He turns to face the First. “What’s going to happen to us?” he asks. “What are we going to do?”
And then the opening titles begin, waves crashing on the bleak shore of a town where life has no meaning and God is dead.
In other words: Yeah, it’s going to be another one of those entries today. Sorry.
Continue reading Episode 537: Life Without Barnabas