Tag Archives: the past

Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

“Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.”

“Mr. Collins, are you there?” calls Lamar Trask, talking to a brick wall. He’s excited, this is his first murder.

Trask has walled up the trans-temporal eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins in a basement alcove, for vengeance purposes. First he thought that Barnabas murdered his father, the Reverend Trask, fifty years ago. Now he knows that Barnabas isn’t a vampire, but he still thinks that Barnabas is responsible for his father’s death. Or maybe it was Barnabas’ father who was responsible. It’s not clear to me what Trask thinks. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, one way or another.

“Mr. Collins, something has occurred to me,” he continues. “Something I think you might find interesting. Shall I tell you?” From behind the wall, Barnabas says yes. Apparently he’s still taking calls.

“Good,” Trask smirks. “You’re not dead yet. Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.” Which kind of sounds like what I’m saying, at this point in the blog.

Continue reading Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

Episode 949: The Last Days of the Guthrie Brothers

“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.

Continue reading Episode 949: The Last Days of the Guthrie Brothers

Episode 948: War Games

“It wasn’t an ordinary dream, it took place at the antique shop.”

You can always tell when a new actor feels comfortable on Dark Shadows, because all of a sudden there’s a lot more noise coming from that direction. Chris Pennock has been on the show for a few weeks now, and he’s getting one of those full-court-press episode streaks that they sometimes do for new villains when they’re just getting started. Overgrown teen tyrant Jeb Hawkes appears in 18 out of 20 episodes in his first four weeks, and in the ones where he doesn’t appear, they spend the whole time talking about him anyway.

And it’s here, in his thirteenth episode, that they’ve managed to convince him to stop worrying about his sense memory and animal work. You’re a villain on Dark Shadows. Just start shouting.

Continue reading Episode 948: War Games

Episode 938: The Dunwich Cuckoo

“As I was going through the portrait, I thought I knew what it meant.”

Barnabas looks grave. But he’s in a graveyard, so that’s appropriate.

“What did happen on that night?” Julia asks.

Barnabas says, “It was the most tragic night I have ever experienced,” and coming from him, that means a lot. This is a guy with a lot of candidates for most tragic night.

Continue reading Episode 938: The Dunwich Cuckoo

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 887: Whatever Comes Next

“I can’t understand why I have the feeling that something frightening is going to happen.”

It always starts with a box.

You’ve finally figured out what you’re going to do with your life. You’ve got an unstable girlfriend hidden in your house, who’s provisionally agreed not to massacre herself until you get back. You’ve arranged with a friend to destroy the coffins that he was saving up for you. And now you’re going back home, so that you and your girlfriend can use a magical oil painting to travel one hundred years into the future, turn into different people, and live happily ever after. Everything is going according to plan.

And then somebody hands you a mystery box, and the world slips sideways.

Continue reading Episode 887: Whatever Comes Next

Episode 858: The Woman Who Wasn’t There

“You can’t just go on killing until you find the right hexagram!”

If the 1897 storyline has an overall theme — and it absolutely doesn’t, but let’s say it does for a second — then it’s this: Can villains build a better world?

It’s been about two years since the villains took over Dark Shadows, first with Barnabas and Julia stealing all the screen time, and then the rise of Angelique as the antagonist’s antagonist, reducing all the other characters to the role of chess pieces. By 1968, the continuing saga was essentially just the story of the Collins family enduring the intrusion of one monster after another — Adam, and Cassandra, and Nicholas Blair, and Danielle Roget, and a swarm of vampires, and finally a werewolf and a handful of angry ghosts. For the most part, the villains were the characters that drove the plot; they were the ones with story arcs. The would-be heroes basically turned into goldfish, swimming in circles in the background, as the villains clashed at stage front.

So as the 1897 storyline begins ambling towards a conclusion, the show is essentially asking, why do we even bother having characters who aren’t villains? If we assemble a diverse cast of gold diggers and grave robbers and spell casters, can they produce a long-term, productive storyline? Or does it all end with a big smoking hole in the ground, and a handful of singed survivors? At the moment, the smart money’s on big smoking hole, but stay tuned.

Continue reading Episode 858: The Woman Who Wasn’t There

Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 10: The Do-Over

“Suddenly, a violent gust of wind erupts, wrenching Esau Collins from his own tombstone!”

I thought it would be fun. You know? I had to go away — to Germany, for a conference, not that it matters — and I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with an episode post every day. So I thought, I’ll spend two weeks writing about the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip. That’ll be fun and easy, I can write them on the plane (which I didn’t, really) and I won’t have much to catch up on when I get home (which I really did).

The thing that I didn’t realize was: this comic strip is a wake. It started just before the show ended, and then kept going for a year, a drawn-out death rattle. This fun little two-week sidebar has turned into my first real encounter with the end of the show, a vision of April Third and what lies beyond: a Christmas Yet to Come.

I’ve written about other post-mortem spin-off material — the 1991 revival, the Big Finish audios — but this one feels different, because the comic strip was there, at the scene of the crime. And right now on the blog, I’m in the 850s, right at the peak of Dark Shadows’ popularity, and just before things start to go wrong. The comic strip is a vision of the near-future, and not a promising one.

But what is Dark Shadows, if not a contemplation of death? Yes, the show will be cancelled. The nighttime revival will fail, and the teen-drama reboot, and the several disappointing movies. Dark Shadows will never come back. I will die, and everything that I love will die. But at least I’m going to outlive this goddamn comic strip.

Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 10: The Do-Over

Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 9: The Treachery of Images

“Let’s all go up to the top of the west wing and look for that missing room!”

So I think we can all agree at this point that the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip is extremely dangerous, and must be stopped. I’ve been spending the last two weeks writing about this hazardous spin-off — it seemed like a good idea at the time — and now I’m starting to understand just what I’ve unleashed.

The Dark Shadows comic strip premiered on March 14, 1971 — and within three weeks, the show was cancelled. Then the strip just kept on going, sauntering away from this obvious patricide and looking for new worlds to destroy.

So far, the comic strip has kicked out most of the cast. It’s defanged Barnabas, turning his senseless, selfish crimes into a tepid “bite of love” that doesn’t even draw blood. It’s rewritten his never-ending war with Angelique into a failed ploy to get Barnabas to join up with Mr. Sinestra, some sea cow in a caftan we’ve never heard of. It’s even killed Carolyn’s dog.

And now it’s coming for us.

There’s only one thing that we can do — fight fire with fire, even if it’s the cool green flame of witch’s fire. We have to unwrite the comic strip, and make sure that it never exists. I am being completely serious about this.

Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 9: The Treachery of Images

Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget

“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