Tag Archives: impostor

Episode 1177: The Unfinished Dream

“Then we shall simply have to change the course of history, and find him.”

Let’s face it: 1840 has been letting us down on the visual spectacle. There used to be a monster in this storyline, split into two parts: the Head glowering in a glass case, and the Body roaming the woods like a murderous pantomime horse. There used to be vampires, feeding on the blood of the innocent. There used to be a guy in a wheelchair, which isn’t a monster but at least it’s something to look at. Now the only monster is a smooth-talking warlock, who rigs court cases, and casts spells that make governesses fall asleep.

These days, the show is dominated by people wearing old-fashioned clothes, gossiping with each other about who’s responsible for what. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a zombie, or a skeleton, or even a severed hand flying around the room. Think back: isn’t everything better when there’s a mischievous, floating severed hand?

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Episode 1134/1135: The Graveyard Smash

“We cannot succeed without it, because without it he cannot live!”

You know, she’s done amazing things in the past, but now she’s even more in the past, and look what she can do. Displaced medico Julia Hoffman, thrust by circumstance into a time not yet her own, has assembled — in the middle of the night, in the middle of a graveyard, and in the middle of the nineteenth century — a pop-up artisanal mad scientist coworking space with all the trimmings, including assorted glassware lashed into an impromptu apparatus with bubbling liquids of uncertain purpose, along with tables and lamps and switches and samovars and who knows what-all.

She’s even got things wired up with electricity somehow, with a good old-fashioned Jacob’s ladder spark gap buzzing away in the corner, in case the Nobel committee comes by and she needs to science the place up a little.

She’s in a secret underground crypt, by the way, built by ignorant and superstitious villagers a hundred and fifty years ago as a long-term radioactive-waste storage facility, so they would have a place to put decapitated wizards that they weren’t using anymore. It wasn’t zoned for whatever the hell this is, so Julia’s technically a squatter, and she couldn’t hire anybody to help her drag the enormous Frankenstein-size slab through the narrow trap door beneath the unmarked grave, and down the winding stairs to this busted basement. And yet she did it somehow, in absolute silence and secrecy, all on her own. It’s incredible what you can do, when someone else puts your mind to it.

Continue reading Episode 1134/1135: The Graveyard Smash

Episode 1131: The Perils of Memory

“You cannot escape from the dead!”

It’s one of those complex evenings. In a secret underground crypt near Gallows Hill, a Cockney music hall performer with psychic powers places a tall glass case on an outcropping that contains a severed human head. It’s a terrible thing, the head, and it’s taken control of her senses.

The corpse in the corner grows restless. It rises, and approaches its long-gone head, grasping for its return. The head opens its long-dead eyes, and glares at the mentalist. They’re eager to be reunited, head to body.

“No, you must wait,” the woman says to the headless fiend, taking its cold hands in hers. “It is not time yet.”

Parking the body a few feet away, she looks to the head for instructions. “Now you must tell me, master,” she breathes. “What more is to be done?” They lock eyes, and merge minds.

“Yes, someone must help us,” she nods. “Someone very special. I understand, master.” Then she puts a velvet bag over the case, like it’s a parakeet cage.

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Episode 1130: Time and Tantrums

“This house is covered by a veil — a veil pierced by lightning!”

A hooded figure skulks through the Eagle Hill cemetery, as hooded figures do, making a yearly pilgrimage to the scene of the crime. She enters a free-standing mausoleum and pulls on a ring held in the mouth of an ornamental lion, and a secret catch uncatches, moving a panel that we all thought was a wall. Pushing it aside with practiced ease, the hooded figure steps into the room, raising her lantern to illuminate the coffin that isn’t there. “It’s gone!” she cries, as she lifts the lantern, and ta-DAH! It’s Angelique.

Now, I’m going to take a moment here to explain how this visitation fits into Angelique’s complex continuity. It doesn’t. There, that was easy.

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Episode 1122: The Lost World

“It’s time I start finding some of the lost world that we can’t understand or even see.”

Time-tossed vampire Barnabas Collins is leaving his family’s mansion, when he catches sight of a pretty young woman who looks like someone from Charlie’s Angels. This is Daphne, the mystery ghost who is destined — a hundred and thirty years from now — to collude with an angry fire god to destroy Barnabas and his entire way of life.

So obviously he wants to stop and say hi, and find out what the hell is going on, with an eye towards possibly not having this girl embark on her weird post-mortem vengeance spree. He approaches her at a traffic stop, and asks for her license and registration.

Now, when we saw Daphne’s ghost in the future, she was a governess, which is one of the all-time most destructive professions in history. Barnabas asks why she’s here in the woods, and she says that her carriage broke down, which is exactly what governesses always say. A governess’ carriage breaking down is basically a prelude to a wave of terror that she will blame on everybody but herself.

He accuses her of waiting for Gerard Stiles, a name that she doesn’t recognize, because Barnabas doesn’t know where this moment is in her personal timeline, and he wasn’t fully briefed before embarking on this irresponsible time cop assignment.

“But you haven’t told me your name,” he points out, and she says she doesn’t want to. “I’d hate to have to force you!” he growls, and then another character emerges from the underbrush.

“Why would you do that, Barnabas?” Desmond asks, and why indeed? Barnabas already knows her name. It’s practically the only thing he knows about this entire decade.

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Episode 1113: The War Doctor

“I have to go back and try to change history, so that this terrible night couldn’t have happened!”

She calls herself a Collins; they usually do. She says that she’s from England, by way of Pennsylvania, which is just as good of a cover story as anything else. She’s Barnabas Collins’ daughter, apparently, and she’s also Barnabas Collins’ sister, and frankly, given the chance, she’d be his wife as well. It’s complicated.

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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 1026: The Seventh Level of Witchcraft

“Relax, and enjoy the spectacle of Barnabas Collins trying to prove anything.”

Imagine there’s a man who’s seen the truth.

Have you ever woken from a dream, and felt like you were losing touch with the world where you belonged? Like the world in your dream was the real world — where you were happy, where things made sense — and when you were there, it was so easy to see how everything fits together?

Don’t you get that weird itch sometimes, in the back of your head, like there’s someplace else that you’re supposed to be?

Imagine there’s a man who’s stepped through a crack between the world you know, and the world as it should be. Imagine that he understands how to trace back through your life, to find that awful choice that you made, the moment when you made the wrong turn. He knows your deepest regret, and he’s seen the world where you didn’t do it. He knows the person you might have been.

And he knows it instinctively, without even trying. You walk into the room, and he knows your name. You’ve never seen this man before, but at a glance, he recognizes who you are, who you should be, and where it all went wrong. He knows everything about you. He knows things about you that aren’t even true.

Has he come to save you? To take you by the hand, and bring you to that other place, where you can live the life that you were always meant to live? Or is he here to destroy this false world, while you’re still in it?

Imagine there’s a man. For the sake of argument, let’s call him Barnabas Collins.

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Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

“Have I come back to tragedy and death again?”

We left off yesterday with Erwin Schrodinger and his magical cat, trapped in a thought experiment about quantum indeterminacy that threatens to destroy us all.

Here’s how it works: The theoretical cat is placed in a sealed chamber with a Geiger counter, a hammer, a flask of cyanide, and a small chunk of something radioactive, which may or may not decay over the course of an hour. Within that hour, there are two possibilities:

#1. The atom decays, which is detected by the Geiger counter, which trips a sensor that makes the hammer smash into the flask, releasing the cyanide and killing the cat.

#2. The atom doesn’t decay, which means no Geiger, no hammer, no cyanide. In that case, the cat is alive at the end of the hour, and it can go about its business.

Now, according to quantum mechanics, the atomic decay in the radioactive substance is in both states simultaneously — both decayed and not — until it’s observed, at which point it resolves into one state or the other. And if the cat’s life is determined by the unresolved atomic decay, then the cat is both alive and dead at the same time — until you open the box and look inside, which causes the wave function to collapse into either “alive cat” or “dead cat”. And then you feed the cat, or bury it, as appropriate.

But Schrodinger completely missed the third alternative, which is that the cat would look at all this equipment, and figure out what’s going on.

At that point, you have an undead cat, sitting alone in a steel box with a flask of cyanide, a hammer and an active source of plutonium, and nothing to do for the next fifty-five minutes but think about the future. Schrodinger has created a dangerous supernatural entity, and provided it with an arsenal.

You don’t resolve a situation like this by opening the box. Opening the box is the beginning of act two.

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Episode 869: Schrodinger’s Vampire

“We’re clearly in the presence of two distinctly different bodies.”

You know, everyone talks about quantum superposition, but nobody does anything about it.

The scientific protocol is as follows: You put a vampire into a box, while the actor goes to Illinois and appears in Dial M for Murder. After four weeks, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that audience interest in the story has decayed.

While the mystery box is closed and the audience can’t observe the vampire directly, the storyline exists in two states simultaneously, a superposition of “dead vampire” and “alive vampire”. This is soap opera quantum mechanics. When you open the box, the two possible quantum states collapse into one, and the audience can observe whether the vampire is alive or dead.

The problem is that Edward Collins and Count Petofi have just opened the coffin, and there’s both a dead Barnabas lying in the coffin and an alive Barnabas collapsing on the cave floor. They’re supposed to choose one or the other; Schrodinger will be simply furious when he hears about this.

So here we are — at the peak of Dark Shadows’ ratings success, cresting the last great surprise before the show begins its long, gradual decline. In this moment, the show’s rising popularity meets its impending defeat; it is simultaneously a blockbuster hit and a soon-to-be-forgotten novelty.

It’s time for reality to collapse into one position or another — and on Dark Shadows, when things collapse, they really collapse.

Continue reading Episode 869: Schrodinger’s Vampire