“We’ve been looking for everything, and we’ve found nothing!”
So now I’ve got that out of my system, I suppose we should probably take a little time to figure out what the hell is going on in this mess of a television show.
The way I understand it, there’s a whole extra cast of characters in the 1841 Parallel Time storyline that lived 160 years ago, and they’re way more important than the characters that we actually see. The 1680 characters cheated and murdered and loved and cursed each other, in such a consequential way that the clowns who are currently walking the halls of Collinwood don’t get to have lives and motivations and personalities of their own; they’re just following the paths set down for them by the distinguished dead.
At this point, we’ve heard a lot about Brutus Collins, the head of the Collins family back in the day, and there’s a very angry woman who possesses Melanie sometimes, and we’ve also heard the name James Forsythe, for all the good that does us.
Continue reading Episode 1220: The Forsythe Saga
“The fact remains that every time there is a crisis involving Bramwell, you seem to have the most extraordinary emotional feeling!”
So here’s where we are: if you read yesterday’s post and it made any goddamn sense to you, then you’re aware that you and I are currently perched just outside the event horizon of the Great Unwinding, a long-prophesied series finale extinction event that threatens to erase Dark Shadows, and send us all tumbling back into the 4pm timeslot’s previous occupant, a dreary and unremembered soap opera called Never Too Young.
Never Too Young was a nine-month-long daytime soap flop about a group of rambunctious teenagers in Malibu Beach, aired every afternoon as a kind of eternal Beach Blanket Bingo. The show was told from the point of view of Alfy, who owned the local teen hangout, the High Dive. It included a lot of swinging music, both on the soundtrack and with frequent guest performers at the High Dive, including the Castaways and Paul Revere & the Raiders. The star of the show was Tony Dow (Wally from Leave It to Beaver), and his costar was the original kid from Lassie. Just thinking about Never Too Young is fairly grim, especially when you consider that this sun-and-fun beachside adventure was broadcast from September 1965 to June 1966, pretty much missing summer altogether.
And now we are threatened with the almost-certain obliteration of Dark Shadows from history, and an eternal plunge backwards into a timeline where there’s no such thing as a vampire soap opera. This will be a safer, sunnier, more predictable world, where late 1960s television was uniformly up-tempo and unsurprising, and it will be a hell on earth. The stakes could not be higher, and you know how vampires feel about stakes.
And this imminent, reality-crushing catastrophe has something to do with episode 1219, which does not, in fact, exist. So that’s a bit of a puzzle.
Continue reading Episode 1219: The Missing Step
“I don’t want the Devil’s hands on me!”
“There is more to Gerard Stiles than meets the eye!” Desmond declares, so Randall runs off to search Gerard’s room for something incriminating. But what does meeting the eye have to do with anything? There’s more to a lot of things, you can’t just ransack other people’s personal property because of a perceived insufficiency in eye-meeting.
But it turns out Randall is one of those doomed investigators who pop up in Collinsport at irregular intervals, not for very long. Sometimes they’re policemen, or doctors, or psychics — someone with a little bit of soap opera authority, which makes them fun to mess with. This one’s a lawyer. It’s usually okay to dispose of lawyers, because you can always get another one. Anyway, there are three lawyers on the show at the moment, and you only need two, even with a witch trial approaching. Vicki’s witch trial only used one lawyer, and look how well that turned out.
So Randall goes on a fishing expedition in Gerard’s bedroom, hoping to find a voodoo doll or Watergate tapes. What he finds is the bejeweled golden mask of the notorious drag sorceror Ms. Judah Zachery, which came from who-knows-where and is relevant to no known plot points. It just sits there, and glitters. Randall stares at it, mouth agape, and learns nothing.
Honestly, it’s impossible for somebody to investigate on this show right now, because every character with a speaking part is guilty of some kind of tort or malfeasance, so all the investigator can do is just ping-pong back and forth between them, assembling meaningless clues and suspecting everyone, until one of the malefactors finally decides that enough is enough, and brings down the banhammer.
Continue reading Episode 1154/1155: The Fall of Man
“I can’t bear thinking that when we’re together, we draw her from her grave!”
The table-rappers are at it again. “We must touch hands,” says Quentin Collins to his latest lover, “and we must maintain contact throughout. Understand?” She understands; I think we all do. It’s another romantic, moon-stricken night, where we touch hands by candlelight, look deeply into one another’s eyes, and beseech people.
“We beseech the spirit of Joanna Mills to appear to us,” he calls, “or to communicate through one of us, so that we may resolve all of the problems that have afflicted all of our lives!”
Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how many problems he’s expecting to resolve between now and the opening titles. This isn’t a spot-fix for a specific issue; the man wants to resolve all of the problems for all of their lives — and this is a soap opera household, with industrial-grade problems. This could take all night.
Continue reading Episode 1151: Wherever You Will Be
“How do I remember all those lovely times we used to have?”
Gerard touches you, and you remember a life you never knew, a life of short concerts and strange hats, with impossible, inevitable rooms full of rocking horses and despair. The ghost has been systematically working his way through the Collins family, touching faces and changing lives.
Currently, things are about as bad as things get. As of this morning, six people at Collinwood are now possessed by malign forces — David, Hallie, Liz, Quentin and now Carolyn are working with the ghosts, and Maggie’s under the spell of a vampire. We haven’t seen Roger or Mrs. Johnson in months, so the unpossessed are basically surrounded.
So consider this: Barnabas and Julia are the only normal people left in the house. Shit just got unreal.
Continue reading Episode 1094: An Evening of Champagne and Whist
“David, they’re nowhere in the room! They’re dead people! They’re ghosts! And we look exactly like them!”
There is no such thing as time. There’s only space, physical space, and it is space that measures the distance between those points which we, in our ignorance and folly, insist are points in time. All time is one point, one moment, it is ever existent and it is ever accessible, and it is physical space that can be used to make all time easily accessible. Well, physical space and LSD, obviously.
Continue reading Episode 1085: Our Ignorance and Folly
“Charting the future is not a whim with me.”
Gentleman vampire Barnabas Collins is terribly concerned about the future, and for good reason; he’s been there, and it sucks. He spent a couple weeks trapped in the 90s, where he found his house tore up from the floor up, and he’s desperate to counteract the oncoming calamity.
But we all know that he’s going to fail; the future for Barnabas Collins is not going to be on ABC-TV at four o’clock in the afternoon. Collinwood will fall, and the family will move to a series of temporary shelters in paperback novels and comic strips and audio plays. That future is fast approaching — not today, and not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.
And he might have figured that out, if he’d bothered to learn anything about the world in 1995. He didn’t even crack a newspaper; the name “Bart Simpson” means nothing to him. He spent the entire time running around the house, looking for ghosts.
Dark Shadows has spent the last year and a half turning inward, gradually losing touch with the world outside the great estate. Even the town of Collinsport hardly matters, these days. Barnabas came back to the present with the name “Rose Cottage” on his lips; nobody’s ever heard of it, but I’d bet money it’s going to turn out to be somewhere on the Collinwood grounds. It’s the only place they care about.
But this isn’t the only example of Barnabas Collins flash-forwarding on a mission of purely parochial interest. In November 1971, he shot a whole hundred years into the future, and you’ll never guess what he was looking for. Nope, don’t even try. Whatever it is you’re thinking, it’s dumber than that.
Continue reading Episode 1074: Future So Bright
“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
“So much happens in this house! So much what you can’t understand!”
The mad wizard Count Petofi, currently assuming the guise and garb of black sheep pop star Quentin Collins, is holding the temples of the renowned painter Charles Delaware Tate. He’s guiding the artist on a magical mystery tour through the cosmic corridors of the I Ching, hoping to discover the hexagram that leads to another time. It’s actually going really well so far.
Gazing into the infinite, Tate describes what he sees. “It’s the drawing room at Collinwood,” he breathes. “It’s different… and the people are different, too. There’s a little boy, and a little girl, and a woman. Another woman’s just come into the room. They’re greeting her, and calling her Julia.”
Which is just entirely unfair. Tate’s watching a better episode of Dark Shadows than we are!
Continue reading Episode 872: Tick Tock
“All my instincts tell me… it wasn’t a wolf! No… It was another kind of creature!”
So here’s the question: Is Dark Shadows cursed?
Over the last couple years on this blog, I’ve watched and read and listened to a growing number of Dark Shadows spinoff products — the 1991 revival series, the Gold Key comics, the Paperback Library novels, the trading cards, and the Big Finish audio dramas — and they all have one thing in common, namely: They don’t make any goddamn sense. And we haven’t even gotten to Night of Dark Shadows yet, one of the outstanding leaders in the field.
It seems like people are unable to write Dark Shadows stories that hang together in a coherent way, up to and including the writers of Dark Shadows. So what kind of chance does the Dark Shadows comic strip have? For these two weeks, while I’m out traveling, we’ve been reading this 1971 strip, and so far, it looks like the curse of not making sense is in full effect. So as we go along today, I’m going to periodically check in with the ABC7 AccuWeather Sense Tracker, to see if we can figure out what’s wrong with the structure of Dark Shadows stories.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget