Tag Archives: decline and fall

Episode 1189: Action in the Afternoon

“Free for an instant. Not free enough to run… Not free enough to forget.”

It’s not fair of me, I know. I’ve been cranky lately about the show’s slow pace, with an endless witch trial and a long series of pointless dream sequences, but this week, the show is making an effort to entertain again.

It’s Thursday today, and so far, we’ve had a death sentence, a murder, the discovery of an alternate dimension filled with Brontë characters, a cast member clubbed with a candlestick, and a kidnapping, and today we’ll get a jailbreak, a shooting and an invisible knife attack. I suppose this is technically what I asked for, and yet I’m still not happy. That will teach me to be more specific.

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Episode 1187: I Presume You’ve Never Heard About Something Called Parallel Time

“I refuse to allow my fears to be decided by the fears that exist in this house.”

Out on the wiley, windy moors of the East wing of Collinwood, Daphne Harridge follows the sound of a piano. It gets dark and it gets lonely up here, where the Collinses never tread. This wing of the house was closed off decades ago, and was probably never really occupied at all, because it turns out that the Collins family has a heartbreaking bloodbath every fifty years or so, which cuts down on the descendants something fierce.

But Daphne has bad dreams in the night, so she’s gone exploring, looking for the tinkling, impossible piano being played in an empty part of the world. Finally, she reaches the double doors to the room where the music must be coming from — but when she opens the doors, she finds that the room is deserted, just a blank studio space with an abandoned chandelier that even the spiders don’t pay attention to.

“I’m sure the music came from this room!” Daphne thinks, baffled. She leaves, shutting the doors behind her — but then she hears knocking, so she turns around and opens them again.

And there’s a fully furnished room, just sitting there, with chairs and lamps and all the trimmings. This is the real occasional furniture, which only appears occasionally. I don’t actually see a piano, so that’s still a mystery; it’s possible that there’s a piano bar that appears here on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and she just missed the changeover.

So here she is, a woman on the verge of a universal breakdown, catching sight of another world that was never meant to be. This may portend a splintering of the barriers between one universe and another, filling rooms unexpectedly with strange furniture of an unknown manufacture, rupturing causality and destroying interior design as we know it.

Daphne tries to catch her breath. “What’s happening to me?” she says, because obviously this is all about you.

Continue reading Episode 1187: I Presume You’ve Never Heard About Something Called Parallel Time

Episode 1183: Damn Daniel

“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”

Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.

I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.

In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Back at it again with the white Vans!

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Episode 1176: The Week Between

“I dream about her only because I hate her!”

Cockney mentalist Leticia Faye dashes into the drawing room of the sumptuously-appointed Rose Cottage, making a beeline for Flora with a bulletin from the courthouse.

“Oh, Flora!” she sobs, plunging into the woman’s arms.

Startled, Flora cries, “Tell me what’s happened!”

Leticia tries to pull herself together. “It’s Desmond!”

“What about my son?” Flora asks, and that’s how you know it’s Christmas.

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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 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 1150: The Strange Goings-On

“Nothing seems more important to me at the moment than the strange goings-on in this house.”

And so the afternoons wear on, Monday through Friday, and day by day, everyone’s getting a little bit older and a little bit wiser. That’s the usual arrangement, of course, and it generally works out okay, but it’s something of a problem for a television show like Dark Shadows, whose market share is determined by the audience’s appetite for the deeply unwise.

There’s been a steady drumbeat of cultural warning signs over the last year, signaling that the space that Dark Shadows occupies in the American consciousness is destined to be rezoned. There was that push for non-toxic children’s television, which resulted in the fall 1969 debuts of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Sesame Street. There was the disaster at the Altamont free music festival in December ’69, when everyone discovered, to the surprise of an entire generation, that an enormous crowd of drug-addled young people is not innately loving and peaceful. There was the embarrassing string of House of Dark Shadows ads over the summer promising a “bizarre act of unnatural love,” and the shift in public opinion around April 1970 that made people start to classify Dark Shadows viewers as perverts, dabblers and scag freaks.

And then there’s another case study to consider, as we tumble towards 1971: the fall of Aurora’s Monster Scenes.

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Episode 1149: Wicked

“I do hope he’s not becoming emotionally involved with anyone at Collinwood.”

Here it is, the climax of this epic tragedy: the love story of Barnabas Collins and the late Roxanne Drew. He’s followed her through three layers of paradox to arrive at this choice slice of cliffhanging: the zenith of all his mistakes, piled up on top of each other and ready to topple.

“You will never rest, Barnabas,” the witch spat back then, as she clutched the buckshot wound that he gave her as a wedding present. “And you will never be able to love anyone — for whoever loves you will die!”

And they have, one after another. Kill your darlings, they say, and he has — Josette and Rachel and Kitty and Vicki and Angelique and now, finally, Roxanne, the latest in every sense. He has what he always thought that he wanted — a daughter of Dracula, clad in a filmy shroud, ready to join with him for eternity in a casket built for two.

But it’s all gone wrong, somehow. It turns out a vampire vixen isn’t as sexy as everyone had hoped — instead, she’s a green-skinned witch of the west, hollow eyed and sallow cheeked, and she doesn’t seem to like him. The two predators square off in this shabby lighthouse, lightning flashing from their dark eyes, as the tension stretches to the breaking point.

And then Roxanne opens a door, and walks away.

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Episode 1147: The Strain

“You’ve seen the strain in this house.”

First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear: I never explain anything.

“But then something happens,” writes girl governess Daphne Harridge in her personal revenge journal, “just like now, and I feel such hate.”

“Who do you hate, Daphne?” the kid asks, clasping his hands and delivering an even stare. “Tell me.”

The kid is clearly used to this kind of scene. He walked into his governess’ room, came up behind her while she was writing in her diary, read what she was writing, and now he wants answers. He doesn’t betray the slightest bit of anxiety or doubt that this is the natural order of things. He is the heir, she is the help, and therefore he can feel free to peruse any of her personal data that he takes an interest in.

“What else did you see?” snaps Daphne, and the kid goes up a level.

“You never answered my question,” he admonishes. “I was taught to answer questions. Weren’t you, ever?”

She shuts up the book in a locked drawer. “A diary is personal, Tad. I write in it things that I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

He looks off into space. “Do you know, that our minister says that to hate is evil?”

She takes the risk, and hates anyway, and so do I. Sometimes you don’t get much of a choice.

Continue reading Episode 1147: The Strain