“We should leave this house, and let it stand deserted!”
Today’s situation report: Roger, who killed Angelique, has killed Liz, and is hiding her in Angelique’s room, while Angelique is hiding Julia, who killed Julia, in the basement. I literally cannot make it any plainer than that.
We’re currently living in the end times of Parallel Time, a rickety storyline staggering towards a finish line that’s been buried in the sand like the Statue of Liberty in an ape movie. Almost everyone is dead, and the cast list is getting shorter by the day. There are three more murders coming in the next two episodes, as everyone settles whatever scores they have left, without the assistance of law enforcement or common sense.
Collinwood of Parallel Time is a post-apocalyptic landscape, where War Boys and Smokers and Postmen deal out frontier justice from their supersonic speedcycles. And we can’t count on the main characters to help, because one of them is locked in the basement, and the other one is busy trying to half-wake a comatose girl using electricity and face-touching. I know what Tina Turner said, but we do actually need another hero, and if anyone has one, please direct him or her to Parallel Collinwood immediately.
Continue reading Episode 1054: Another Day in the Desert
“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
“Not even the jaw of the wolf itself is more devastating than this cane, when it’s in my hands.”
Let’s see if we can figure this out, together. Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins is in a parallel dimension, as you know, and he’s convinced that Maggie’s in terrible danger, which she is. But all he knows is that she’s gone, and that’s not much to go on. She’s probably being held somewhere by someone, but if so, then where, and by who?
Barnabas stamps into the Old House and shouts for Will, his blood slave and parallel landlord. “Will, are you here?” he hollers up the stairs. “I need you!” No answer. He crosses over to the back parlor. Still nothing. Then he approaches the bookcase, flips the hidden switch, and opens up the secret panel.
Question: Why does Barnabas think that Will is hiding behind the bookcase? It doesn’t seem super likely, and I’m not sure why he even wants Will in the first place. Will is a drunk, he hates Barnabas, he doesn’t care about Maggie, and he has no missing persons expertise. What value does he bring to the operation?
Continue reading Episode 1033: Follow the Money
“I know that what he really wanted to do was to see if I was real!”
“With every day,” writes Dr. Jekyll, “and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”
He doesn’t say anything about how many woman is, because it’s 1886 and not really his concern, but in this case, I think it’s safe to round up.
Continue reading Episode 987: Truly Two
“You used to be a man with feelings.”
“You don’t want me involved in Paul Stoddard’s case, do you?” asks Julia, and Barnabas says, “I have no feelings one way about it at all,” and that’s why Barnabas and Julia should always be on my television forever.
Continue reading Episode 930: Man with Feelings
“I’m in the curious position of knowing the criminals, but not the crime.”
There’s a popular myth that vampire Barnabas Collins is “redeemed” at some point during the run of Dark Shadows, and becomes a “sympathetic” character. In fact, that myth is so popular that pretty much everyone believes it except me, and even I believe it sometimes.
Still, it’s difficult to identify a moment in the series when he isn’t willing to murder someone, or cover up a murder, in order to protect himself or further some goal that he has. It is true that sometimes the person he’s planning to murder is not very nice. Whether that counts as “sympathetic” depends on your opinion of mass murder as a lifestyle choice for fictional characters.
At the moment, Barnabas is participating in a conspiracy led by the Leviathan people, an ancient and perplexing time-traveling death cult that appears to be mostly interested in Carolyn Stoddard’s love life. This cosmic conspiracy now includes several members of the Collins family, as well as the people who run the antique shop where Carolyn works.
As a collective, the Leviathan-minded characters have done the following:
- Opened a box
- Adopted a baby
- Boarded up some windows
- Read a book
- Bought some clothes
- Gave medicine to the baby
- Stayed out later than they were supposed to
- Talked to somebody at the Blue Whale
- Pretended that a weird noise was the radiator even though it wasn’t
- Invited their ex-husband to move back in
- and drew circles on a couple of calendars.
And that, I think, is the extent of the current reign of terror. Except for Barnabas Collins, of course, who intentionally ran somebody down with his car, and is now planning to finish the job by choking the life out of the unconscious victim in his hospital bed.
As usual, the only person who’s even thinking about murder is Barnabas. Everybody else is basically fine.
Continue reading Episode 907: Barnabas v Julia: Dawn of Justice
“You oughtn’t to go, until you take something more to them than what you’re taking now.”
They opened the box, and read the scroll, and lost the book, and had the dream. And now they have a baby, which is not how it works.
Continue reading Episode 894/895: Love of Chair
“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
“Do you think I’m fool enough to leave the power of the Hand in that body?”
Over the last ten months, mercurial trickster Quentin Collins has been just about everything it’s possible for a Dark Shadows character to be. Lover, scoundrel, zombie, ghost, mortal enemy and loyal friend, brother, father, uncle and antihero, black sheep and white knight, victim, villain, werewolf and wife-killer, teen idol, trading card, day player, pop star and devotee of the dark arts, he has seen and done and been it all. In a fiercely competitive narrative environment, he’s adapted to every new situation, the undisputed champion of 1969.
Now, a powerful wizard sits alone in the back room of his crummy old basement lair, calling on the fire and the air and the water and the earth — and hey presto, with a wave of the wand and a puff of smoke, Quentin Collins changes his mind again.
Continue reading Episode 856: The Switcheroo
“At last, after thousands of years, I shall be in the presence of the soul of my beloved!”
I’m traveling right now, so instead of writing regular episode posts, I’m doing a special two-week series on the 1971 Dark Shadows newspaper comic strip, because it’s easier to write these on planes. You might be wondering if having a book of vampire comic strips in one hand and scribbling sarcastic jokes with the other hand would excite comment among one’s fellow passengers. The answer to that question is yes.
But the interesting thing about the strip so far is that Barnabas has been a passenger too, riding shotgun on a storyline that was entirely about other people. He coasted through the magazine publisher warlock assassin story, which really could have worked itself out without him. Basically, he had one cool villain fight scene where he was temporarily enveloped in fire-retardant fire, and besides that, it was mostly thinks monologues. For Jonathan Frid, it’s hardly been worth showing up at the newspaper for work, really.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 3: The Bite of Love