Tag Archives: batman

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.

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Episode 1069: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

“We can stop the cause of what’s made all this happen if we go back!”

There’s a moment in this episode when it looks like Julia might give Quentin a lethal injection, as the Sheriff of Collinsport just stands there and watches.

It doesn’t happen, but that’s how bleak the current storyline is, that you sit there and think, wait, is Julia casually murdering one of her friends? Last year, we spent six weeks with the main character of the show mind-controlled by lurking horrors from the depths of space who wanted to cleanse the earth of humankind, and it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as this.

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Episode 1060: Dreams of Manderley

“I don’t feel anything. I’m just glad it’s over.”

The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.

And then Snidely Whiplash tied me to a barrel marked TNT, Daphne Du Maurier didn’t say, on the last page of Rebecca. She probably would have, if she’d thought of it, but I bet it didn’t even occur to her. I guess some people know how to write exciting conclusions and some people don’t, and that’s all there is to it.

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Episode 1057: Infinite Jest

“A whole tangle and labyrinth — I’m convinced that she’s somewhere there!”

It’s the same old story. You start out with another Earth on the opposite side of the sun, where all the good people are evil, and everyone’s got a mustache except the people who are supposed to have mustaches. But you can’t leave well enough alone.

Pretty soon, you’ve got people from the other universe popping up to cause trouble. They move into your house and call themselves Cassandra, and refuse to admit that they’re the spinoff. They demand crossovers and reboots and flash-forwards, rewriting time to suit their own purposes. Before you know it, you’ve got Skaro Daleks fighting Necros Daleks, and 616-Thor taking a spare hammer from Ultimate Thor, and two completely different ways for Edith Collins to die, and anything that you do to try to fix the problem only makes everything worse.

They say that those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but it turns out the people who do remember the past repeat it even more. It’s gonna get repeated either way.

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Episode 842: Graduation Day

“Does he even know you are not, shall we say, an ordinary being?”

So once again the bat/man arrives on the scene, for a last-minute rescue. The supervillain has kidnapped Barnabas’ time-tossed best friend, and locked her away in a secret chamber hidden in the old mill. She’s bound to a chair with her mouth gagged, looking straight down the barrel of a revolver. There’s a string tied between the doorknob and the gun’s trigger, so that whoever opens the door becomes Julia’s executioner.

And how does Barnabas save his friend from this diabolical trap? Well, he doesn’t, obviously. He just opens the door, and the gun fires, and Julia dies. Duh. This is Barnabas Collins. He fails at everything.

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Episode 828: It’s My Skeleton

“The sealed room — that’s my room! And the skeleton is my skeleton!”

There’s a special guest star on the blog today: eccentric millionaire Stephen Robinson, a long-time reader and commenter who I wanted to hang out with and watch Dark Shadows.

Danny:  Hello, Stephen! I’m speaking with you through my time television, which is built into a cupboard that I wasn’t using anyway.

Stephen:  Hello! It’s great to talk to you.

Danny:  You too! Now, I have to warn you that this may actually show you a vision of your own death.

Stephen:  But probably not.

Danny:  Yeah, most of the time it’s okay.

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Episode 796: Death and Taxes

“I have a small nagging wonder at your even being here.”

When we last left Quentin, he was strapped to a table under a slowly descending swinging axe, not at all in danger of being brutally killed. Quentin was trapped in this entirely non-lethal predicament by Aristede, who rigged up some “Pit and the Pendulum” machinery, and then left him here to not die.

The clock was not winding down and time was not running out, and the pendulum was not inching ever closer to our hero. It was inching, yes. I will concede the inching. But towards what?

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Episode 486: If They Both Live

“We must not be emotional about his death.”

On Friday, Julia and Dr. Lang performed the experiment to free Barnabas from his vampire curse by transferring his life force into a Frankenstein monster. It went about as well as any DIY project, which is to say: It ran for about three minutes, and then ended in confusion, ruin and despair.

Lang had a heart attack mid-experiment and fell over onto one of his buzzing machines, and then something shorted out with a pop and a puff of smoke, and then there was electricity and life force just flying all over the place, and there was an earthquake and a flash flood and the box of scorpions tipped over and the sun got in my eyes and I think we need a do-over.

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Episode 444: Anatomy of a Speed Bump

“I ask you to believe one thing, because it’s as true and as real as anything you’ll ever hear.”

Well, that scoundrel Nathan Forbes is at it again, manipulating the wealthy and naive Millicent Collins into marrying him, and giving him access to the Collins fortune. Exposed as a liar and an aspiring bigamist, Nathan is banned from Collinwood, plus Millicent tried to stab him with a letter opener, so figuring out the seating chart for the reception has been pretty decisively moved to the back burner.

Right now, the emotionally fragile Millicent is walking around with a box full of dueling pistols, looking for someone who’s willing to shoot Nathan in the face. It was that kind of breakup.

But Nathan, ever resourceful, has come up with a completely bonkers drawing-room-comedy-style plan, where his associate Noah attacks Millicent, wielding her cousin Barnabas’ cane. It’s all very fraught and complex.

Then Nathan jumps in and delivers some Batman ’66 style punches, and with a WHAM!, a POW! and a ZOK!, he chases the nasty bad man away. Millicent is overcome with emotion, and the whole production is a runaway success.

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