Tag Archives: junior detectives

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 1062: Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)

“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.

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Episode 970: A Less Rational Explanation

“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.

Continue reading Episode 970: A Less Rational Explanation

Episode 904: Watching the Detectives

“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.

Continue reading Episode 904: Watching the Detectives

Episode 900: The Long Con

“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.

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Episode 889: It’s From the Past

“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?

Continue reading Episode 889: It’s From the Past

Episode 743: Stand Next to Barnabas

“I don’t understand it any more than you do, but I believe it.”

Okay, let me see if I have this right.

There’s a God — a Great Sun God named Amen-Ra — and he really exists, because it turns out the ancient Egyptians were right on the money. Tens across the board for the ancient Egyptians. They looked up into the sky, and they said, the sun is a boat, and Ra crosses the sky every day and looks down on the world that he created, before high-tailing it back over to the east so he can do it again with the moon. The moon is a boat too; they’re both boats. Everything in the sky is a boat.

Also, there’s a giant serpent named Apep that lurks just below the horizon, who tries to attack Ra’s solar boat, stopping it with his hypnotic stare and threatening to eat the sun. Luckily, every evening, the serpent is defeated by Set, the god of the desert, as described in The Books of Overthrowing Apep, which includes chapters on Spitting Upon Apep, Defiling Apep with the Left Foot, Taking a Lance to Smite Apep and Putting Fire Upon Apep. That will teach Apep a thing or two, is the basic attitude of the ancient Egyptians.

And according to the vampire soap opera that we’re currently watching, all of that is totally true. That is the way that the world works. The boat, the snake, the left foot, everything.

Well, I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. With all due respect to the ancient Egyptians, there’s something about that story that doesn’t quite ring true for me.

Continue reading Episode 743: Stand Next to Barnabas

Episode 697: The Young and the Restless

“It seems that when there is a full moon, legend has it that possessed children are extremely restless.”

On this night, the great house of Collinwood stands deserted, more or less. The Collins family has fled the premises, driven away by the spirit of Quentin Collins, an ancestor with an attitude problem. Now they’re all crashing at Barnabas’ place, as Quentin lures them back to Collinwood one by one, for some hypnotically-enforced steampunk cosplay.

I’ll give you a for instance. Barnabas is currently on a recon mission in the spooky old mansion, looking for young David. He opens up the drawing room doors — and there’s Maggie, the Collins family governess, wearing a complicated Victorian dress and an even more complicated Gibson girl hairstyle. She’s sitting alone in the dark room, posing decoratively on a chair and doing needlepoint, just Gibsoning away.

When she sees Barnabas enter the room, she’s startled, and acts like she doesn’t know who he is. “I know no one named Barnabas,” she says, “now please leave here at once!” He insists, “Maggie, I know what’s happened to you,” which says a lot about how Barnabas’ mind works.

She says that’s not her name, but when she tries to remember who she is, she gets confused, shrieks, and crumples delicately to the floor.

When she regains consciousness, Maggie is herself again, and she has no idea what happened. “These clothes,” she gasps, “where did they come from? And my hair! Barnabas — why don’t I remember?” This must have been a pretty action-packed evening for her; you don’t forget a hairstyle like that in a hurry.

So it turns out that Quentin is really, really good at this. He must have a master’s degree in whatever the hell this is.

Continue reading Episode 697: The Young and the Restless

Episode 686: The Case of the Lifted Ledger

“Curious, so many hearts should stop in this house.”

Okay, new game: Why is it difficult to host a murder mystery dinner party when the main suspect is actually a ghost?

Well, ghosts can walk through walls, for one thing, so you can’t really do a locked room mystery. They don’t have fingerprints, or leave any physical evidence, really, except maybe the faint smell of jasmine or whatever. The victims all die of heart failure, including the one who fell all the way down the stairs and smacked her head on the hardwood. Also, there’s not much you can do with a ghost once you’ve caught him, and now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure they don’t even exist.

In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to attempt a murder mystery story about ghosts. And yet, here we are.

Continue reading Episode 686: The Case of the Lifted Ledger