“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Will tomorrow tell us any more than today?”
Every once in a while, I have to take an unplanned break from writing this blog — usually for a conference, or a seance, or I have other things on my mind — and when I come back, it’s always the same. The blog is a shambles, all caved-in and overgrown with vines and creepers. Everything’s dusty, the commenters are ravenous and desperate, and you don’t even want to know what happens to the Twitter feed.
Suddenly, it’s the distant future — or at least, a lot more distant than I wanted it to be — and if I could figure out what happened, maybe I could go back in time to make it right. I mean, I probably can’t, but you never know.
“For as long as I exist, I’ll despise this room for what it has done to me.”
“Why is fate so determined to offer me a chance for happiness and then destroy it right before my eyes?” says Barnabas, because everything is always about you.
“I have the feeling that perhaps all of us are leading a different life in that room.”
Yesterday, eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins had a strange and frightening experience, namely: watching an episode of Dark Shadows that he wasn’t in.
He was poking around in the deserted east wing of Collinwood, opening doors and closing doors and hunting for a coffin — you know, typical Dark Shadows stuff — when he suddenly came upon a room where Elizabeth and Julia were dressed up in other people’s clothes, and talking about other people’s problems.
We’re meant to be intrigued by this strange desert otherworld, so they made use of that great guarantor of television mystery: the unheralded pronoun.
“I’m cleaning out her clothes,” says Liz. “You will not touch her clothes,” says Julia. “It will be their room,” Liz proposes. “It is hers; it will always be hers,” Julia counters.
She is dead! She’ll be back! and back and forth they went, acting for all the world as if proper nouns were prohibited by law, and then they slammed the door and ran away into the night, giggling.
It’s a good gag, if you can pull it off. Other people have trolled Barnabas in the past — like all gloomy and self-involved people, he is particularly susceptible to trolling — but I don’t think anybody’s ever done it by just standing around in a room and pretending they don’t notice him. They’re breaking new ground in the field of Barnabas-bothering.
“They’ll show you all the people you really are!”
See, this is what I’ve always said about homeschooling. I get that public schools are overcrowded and underfunded, and kids don’t get the personalized attention they really need. But you go outside the core curriculum, and what happens? Demonic possession. Every single goddamn time.
Today’s case study: young David Collins, who’s been reading a book of forbidden ancient wisdom. It’s put him under the spell of the four-headed snake, and turned him into the servant of an Elder Thing. Specifically, he just bought the Elder Thing some slacks.
Now he’s in the Chosen Room of this unholy antique shop, the dwelling place of the snuffling, tentacled pig weasel that holds David’s soul in abeyance. David has brought the blasphemous abomination some new clothes from Brewster’s department store, so it has something to wear when it moves into the next horrifying stage of its horrifying development.
But then, wouldn’t you know it, Aunt Elizabeth is just outside the door. She saw David enter the Elder-occupied antique shop, and it’s way past his bedtime. She insists on looking for him in every room in the house, up to and including.
Her hand is reaching for the Chosen Doorknob. We are teetering on the verge of a Liz-less future.
“You begin to sound like some hysterical woman novelist!”
It’s been twenty years since Paul Stoddard was in town, and you can tell, because he is not in tune with the reality of modern Collinsport life.
Tonight, he noticed that someone had tattooed a four-headed snake on his wrist while he wasn’t looking, and then he had a worrisome conversation with a harbinger at the Blue Whale. Returning to his hotel room, he drew a pentagram on the rug with chalk, placed a candle at each point, and sat down in a chair in the middle of the unholy sign, just to stop the threatening voices who demanded payment.
That’s all that happened, and he’s super stressed out about it. He needs to pull himself together; this is a slow night for Collinsport. There’s a very good chance that he might actually survive until morning, and think how silly he’ll feel.
“You mustn’t touch this, Julia. It happens to be very old.”
Barnabas was boring, is the problem. Around this time last year, they wrapped up all of his storylines — Angelique was banished back to Hell, Adam ran away, and all the other villains just burned or fell to powder. At last, Barnabas was triumphant — free from his vampire curse, surrounded by friends and family, universally respected and trusted. It was a nightmare.
With nothing else to do, he became Barnabas the butler, a facilitator for other people’s story progression. The show always faces a crisis when they don’t know what to do with the star attraction, and their usual response is to visit a different time period. When “toxic Barnabas” was getting too hot to handle in November 1967, we went back to his origin story, and when “tame Barnabas” ran out of story potential in March 1969, the show packed him off to 1897.
Barnabas is at his best when he’s on the defensive, struggling and scheming and making terrible mistakes. His trip to 1897 put him on the back foot immediately — no allies, a vampire once again, and generally confused about what he was even supposed to be doing. He had to ingratiate himself with a whole new family, and learn everybody’s secrets without letting on about his own.
And it worked! Even a month-long vacation didn’t diminish his charms; his miraculous return gave the show its all-time best ratings. But now he’s heading back home, where the outlook is even more drab than it was before he left: Quentin’s evil spirit is gone, and Collinwood is more or less at peace. The immediate future looks even more butlery than before.
So the writers, in their infinite lunacy, have decided to dodge the butler problem by making Barnabas the bad guy again. Instead of a happy homecoming, they’re giving him a mysterious new agenda, which splits him away from his friends and family.
It’s a risky idea, with the potential to squander all the good will that they’ve built up with the audience. But what is Dark Shadows except a string of terrible ideas, which sometimes turn out to be amazing?