“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.
“When I saw your grave in 1970, I knew I had to find a way.”
Meanwhile, a hundred and thirty years in the future, another unfathomable time dilemma snakes its way across the room, fizzing and throwing sparks. Time flies, they say, and Barnabas Collins is a frequent flyer.
He sits down, and thinks about the magic Chinese sticks on the table in front of him. Two weeks ago, the whole neighborhood burst into flame, and the outlook post-inferno is decidedly bleak. The few survivors are scattered, broken, unable to heal. His best friend is missing, possibly kidnapped by ghosts or eaten by zombies, or maybe she’s the patsy in one of those lunatic time-travel conspiracies where people load up a sacred altar with books and boxes and instructions and failure and send it all into the future, where it catches fire and explodes into fragments, accomplishing nothing. He isn’t sure. So he throws some sticks on the table, closes his eyes, and gives the situation a good hard think. It’s called crisis management.
“Trying to transcend that other time level can be very dangerous!”
Eccentric mass murderer and explorer of the outer realms Barnabas Collins is pacing the Collinwood drawing room, frowning heroically and making excuses. He’s been having one of his spells again.
His friend Julia takes a lap around the track. “Barnabas, why did you do it?” she wails. Barnabas drank Megan dry a few weeks ago, and now he’s about three-quarters of the way through Sabrina.
“I stayed at the Old House, and fought the urge to leave,” he says, striking an apologetic pose. “And then she came to me.”
“You couldn’t help yourself,” Julia observes.
Barnabas swivels, and snaps, “Do you think I do this by choice?”
“No, Barnabas,” she reassures him. “I know what you’re going through.” Yeah, he’s going through the entire female supporting cast, is what he’s going through.
“Not anything’s going to keep me from destroying you!”
More than once upon a time, there was a little lost princess…
“It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”
There’s a rap at the door, interrupting Laura’s fireside reverie. Laura Collins has been living in the cottage on the Collinwood estate for two months now, periodically ensorcelling people, as she prepares to enter the furnace with her son, and char for all eternity. Laura has a vivid interior life.
But the rap, as I said. She glides to the door, and finds a Dartmouth professor in glasses and turtleneck, standing at the threshold.
“Mrs. Collins?” he inquires, and Laura says yes.
“I’m Peter Guthrie. I’ve been wanting to meet you.”
“I was just thinking about you,” she smiles, quietly. “Wondering what you’d be like.”
And now I can see what you’re like, she thinks. Oh, well. You can’t win them all.
“I might be able to forget that I’m dead.”
Dr. Julia Hoffman is hard at work, treating a stubborn case of soap opera amnesia with her own unique mix of hypnosis, lies and trespassing. At the moment, she’s sneaking into the west wing with the late Quentin Collins, Collinwood’s Public Enemy #1.
Nine months ago, Quentin’s ghost walked these halls, driving the family out of the house and into a refugee camp for rich people at the mansion next door. But things change, and now — thanks to some timely intervention and a huge dollop of suspension of disbelief — he has survived, permanently preserved. Seventy-two years after his averted assassination, Quentin Collins walks the earth, alive and alone.
But just at the finish line, he was struck down by a speeding car, and in all the excitement, he lost his memory. Now his misremembered friend Julia has the difficult task of piecing him back together.
So she’s got him upstairs in his old room, and she’s playing his chart-topping theme song, hoping to reawaken his shattered sense of self. And now we’re watching somebody urgently waiting for someone else to remember the Song of the Summer.
“The cards — they have anticipated you!”
But that’s the thing about epic tragedies, you know? You don’t need spoiler alerts, because everybody knows how this is going to go.
Against all odds and two decades later, Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis managed to sell NBC on a prime-time revival of the show, reintroducing the characters and the stories that America once loved so deeply and temporarily. But this time, the show would have prime-time network production values, like shooting on film and doing retakes and thinking about things in advance. And they could tell the story properly now — introducing the vampire right from the start, and making sure that Josette is the lookalike of the right person.
And it’s here, in episode 8, when the show gets noticeably better. They’ve got some grown-up writers at last, and a tighter focus on the more appealing members of the cast. They know where the story’s going, and they don’t waste time trying to introduce two simultaneous female vengeance fire demons, like they did in episode 4. Things are finally starting to go uphill.
But we know what happens when things go uphill, especially if it’s Widow’s Hill. That road leads to a messy death on the rocks below, which is exactly what happens to our star-crossed revival.
Yes, the show gets better, here in the back half of the season, but not better enough, and it’s too late anyway; the ratings have sagged to such an extent that the gods have already decided the series’ fate. After this, NBC gives 9pm Friday to some equally doomed comedies, and then the NBC Friday Night Movie, and then Dateline. Twenty years after the lights go out on the great estate at Collinwood, NBC will finally manage to put a successful fantasy drama in this timeslot, but I’m afraid it’s going to be Grimm.
“It’s all right. You’re here with us, in the past.”
Good news, everyone! Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has pulled off another daring rescue mission, reaching all the way back into the late 19th century, to prevent angry ancestor Quentin from turning into a broken telephone. This heroic customer service call lasted six months, with time out to pick fights with grandmothers and fire demons and lawyers and crazy ex-girlfriends. Naturally, it all came down to a miraculous last-second save, which Barnabas had nothing to do with and doesn’t even know about yet.
Quentin has passed through the ill-fated tenth of September and come out the other side, releasing the Collins family of 1969 from his terrible vengeance. Today is the first day of the rest of his life, which means we can all go home and celebrate by moving back into Collinwood, and finding a new monster to tangle with.
Except we’re not going to, because the 1897 storyline is so much fun that we’re going to stick around for weeks. So now we have to face the question that always haunts long-running serialized narrative, namely: What happens to a story, when the story is over?
“It is my fervent hope that this letter will somehow survive time.”
Meanwhile, on Dark Shadows: Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has been time traveling for almost a year now, in one direction or another. He’s been slipping back and forth through the centuries, popping his consciousness in and out of his own body and sticking post-it notes all over his five hundred year diary. At this point, I think we’re up to three simultaneous Barnabi, but I’m not an expert at counting Draculas.
“We have no time for your gypsy feelings!”
Hey, do you remember that plot contrivance that you don’t remember from like six weeks ago, when Jamison had a prophetic dream about Quentin’s death? In the dream, the ghost of Quentin appeared to Jamison’s grandson David, and gave him a handful of story points.
“Three things happened,” the ghost said, in the imagined future. “If I could have changed any one of them — if I could have known what they meant, while they were happening — maybe I wouldn’t have died when I did.’
David asked what the three things were, because he has good manners, plus what else are you going to say.
“The first was the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood. And then the one person who could have helped me — who could have kept me alive — was murdered.”
“What was the third thing?”
“Ah. That — that was the worst. The one person in this world that I truly loved turned against me. After that happened, there was practically no time left for Quentin Collins.”
So that was extremely informative, as prophetic dreams go. It’s not the thing I would have done, if Quentin showed up in one of my dreams, but I suppose people have different priorities.