“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.
Continue reading Episode 1150: The Strange Goings-On
“It is a metaphysical attempt on my part to expand man’s natural horizons, that’s all.”
He’s not mad, really, just disappointed, and he’s also not a scientist, so how he ended up getting involved with mad science is anyone’s guess.
“Now, Gerard,” says Quentin Collins, “what would you think if I told you that by going up those stairs, you could actually travel in another time?”
Gerard is nonplussed. “Well, I’d say you were having a minor pipe dream.”
“But it’s true!” Quentin declares, with no elaboration. “This is my Staircase In Time.” Then he starts walking up the stairs, and nothing happens.
Continue reading Episode 1145: The Unearned Curse
“The underground vault below the unmarked tomb, of course!”
Lightning flashes, thunder crashes, the hunchback turns the wheel that pulls the pulley that hoists the creature to the rafters. The set explodes in enthusiastic bursts of galvanic excess. The crazed doctor squints as he peers at the ceiling, waiting for the moment when all the power of God’s creation will be at his disposal. More sparks, more zaps, and all of nature cries out — in exaltation or disgust, I know not which — as the operating table winds its way back down, to rest again on the floor.
The doctor rushes forward, craning his neck to catch even the mildest suspicion of success, hardly daring to hope, and there — in direct defiance of all the laws of God and nature — the dead man’s fingers shudder — twitch — and a pale hand rises from the resting position.
“Look!” the doctor gasps. “It’s moving! It’s — alive! It’s ALIVE!” And then the monster gets up, maybe thirty to forty minutes later.
Continue reading Episode 1137: It’s Alive, Sort Of
“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
“I’ll first give you the pleasure of viewing the dead, disintegrating body of Barnabas Collins!”
So, I don’t know. What do you feel like talking about?
“I never thought it would end this way,” Maggie says, taking a last look at the house she helped to destroy. She came to this moldering manse thinking it would be all cocktails and crabmeat, a dream house where she could live with her dream husband Quentin, who’s currently in custody. I don’t know how she thought it would end. It’s not even clear how it’s ending now.
Continue reading Episode 1059: World Beyond the Doors
“I must learn your secret — how to bring you half alive!”
It’s 4:00 on another summer afternoon, and Dr. Julia Hoffman is mixing drinks. “Nothing for me, thank you,” Elizabeth says, and the doctor replies, “Are you sure, Mrs. Stoddard? You usually like a cocktail before dinner.”
It’s not a typical situation for someone with a medical degree and her own sanitarium, but Julia’s currently on vacation in a parallel dimension, solving other people’s problems. She’s murdered her alt-universe double — Collinwood’s housekeeper, Hoffman — and taken her place, in order to revive a black-magic-afflicted coma victim and destroy a wicked witch. Now she’s hopping back and forth between making beds and exploring the outer limits of human consciousness, just like every other woman in 1970.
She’s a housekeeper, a bartender, an impostor, a spy, a murderer, a blood specialist, a henchperson, a mad scientist, a dear friend and an all-purpose lunatic. I don’t know she does it; it just goes to show that women really can have it all.
Continue reading Episode 1050: The Fault in Our Stars
“No, she is not! But her spirit is.”
“But we can get to Angelique through her!” he says, and she says, how? which seems like a fair question.
“If we control some of her condition — slightly! — Angelique will collapse,” he says. “Then — well, we can control her then, and she can do nothing! That will give us time!”
So that’s the plan, I guess; all we have to do is control some of her condition, slightly. We finally got that all figured out.
Continue reading Episode 1044: Weekend at Barney’s
“I thought I had removed the life force completely, but apparently not.”
The vampire rises from his crypt, murder on his mind. Someone has intruded on his private sanctum, and she must be destroyed.
“So you’ve found me out!” he growls. “It will be the last thing you’ll ever do.”
She backs away. They always do — the doomed ones, the prey — scuttling towards the wall, squeaking, searching for the magic words that will make this nightmare stop coming true. And then the interloper says the one improbable thing that could flip the script on the oncoming train wreck.
“No, Barnabas, it’s me!” she chirps. “It’s me, Julia! I’m dressed this way for a reason!”
Continue reading Episode 1038: The Spy Who Loved Me
“Cyrus must have been terrified at his own duality.”
“That weapon won’t do you any good,” Barnabas snarls, “so you might as well just put it away.”
And, dude, if John Yaeger had any capacity for that, he wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. Putting things away is not his area of expertise.
Continue reading Episode 1035: Elegy for the Truly Two
““Why do you keep insisting, despite the fact that there’s no evidence, that Maggie was kidnapped or something?”
New Stokes says he’s stolen some life force, but who hasn’t, right? Barnabas drinks other people’s blood, Yaeger gets off on other people’s fear, and television exists to take your time and attention, and turn it into commercials. Now we find out that Angelique’s got a psychic hook-up that drains some rando in the back room. What’s the difference?
Continue reading Episode 1031: The Last Day of Parallel Time