Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary: Episode 56

Episode 56: "An Oasis in a World of Horror"
Sept. 12, 1966

I think the image at the top of this post summarizes the first year of DARK SHADOWS better than I ever could.

Victoria's bloodline was never fully resolved, and the original plan for the character was eventually reveal her to be the illegitimate daughter of Paul Stoddard. Fans have rejected that idea, even though the flashback stories tend to support the notion: time and again we the original cast members playing their own Collins family ancestors, yet Alexandra Moltke is never among them. Yeah, the actress left the show, meaning she'd never get the chance to play an actual Collins, but that also meant she'd the ancestors of Victoria Winters would never play into the family's history. She's pushed to the fringes of the family by whatever remains of the family's dubious sense of honor, and us ultimately consumed by the that same corrupt heritage.

 We don't know where Victoria is at the start of the episode, but she's presumably working. Her sister, though, has decided to sleep late, and expects a lecture from her mother after wandering downstairs in her nightclothes at noon. "I hope it's not a lecture for sleeping this late," Carolyn says. "I haven't done it for years." It's not like sleeping until noon is going to get in the way of her busy schedule. Shouldn't she be in school? Or have a job? Maybe a hobby? WHAT DOES SHE DO WITH HER TIME?!

Liz gives Carolyn a crash course in passive aggressive grieving. She returns Carolyn's missing watch and tells her their Scooby Doo shenanigans the night before weren't just products of a hysterical female mind. Before she gets to reveal the identity of their undead guest, the sheriff's office calls and tells Carolyn something blunt (we don't hear what's said) about fishing Bill Malloy's smelly, eel-infested corpse out of the Atlantic.

To the show's credit, it's playing its first murder very straight. The characters are genuinely upset about the turn of events and don't behave as if murder is an expected part of life. Also true to form, Liz thinks it's necessary to defend Matthew Morgan's actions, as though pushing a body into the ocean is justifiable as long as you can mount even the shakiest of defenses.

Carolyn drags out news of Malloy's death as long as possible with Victoria, turning the announcement into a weapon. She starts by bitching about Victoria not knowing how to make a bed to her standards, and when THAT doesn't goad her into an argument she gets all "Oh, pooh! Bill Mlloy got himself deceased. Why do all the bad things happen to ME?!" What a sad character, and a clear descendant of Naomi Collins, a woman whose soul becomes so denuded by a life that she turns to booze to help the days ease by.

Liz gives everyone the day off (while also discouraging anyone from speaking about Malloy's death) which prompts Victoria to fish for evidence: She tells Liz she's going to visit local artist Sam Evans. Liz's response to this announcement reveals nothing.

If it's noon and you've got a guilty conscience, it's always Happy Hour at the Blue Whale. Roger finds Sam getting drunk at the bar which seems to be the venue of choice for public self destruction in Collinsport.  Sam says the bar is "an oasis in a world of horror," which immediately got the song WONDERWALL stuck in my head for which I'll never forgive him. Sam is worried the cops will figure out that Malloy's death was murder, and that he's responsible, even though A.) nobody knows for sure yet that Malloy was murdered, and B.) Sam is actually blameless in the crime. But the show needs a few red herrings,and Sam is practically fire engine red.

Roger reminds Sam that this is a terrible time for honesty. The entire conversation is rather mundane, and staged for no other reason than to create some terrific noir lighting (which is fine with me.) DARK SHADOWS has reached its adolescent stage and is experimenting with its own identity the way teenagers do. I half expect it to start showing off its piercing and tattoos while proclaiming its love for the Sex Pistols.

If its new hard-boiled persona isn't enough, it's reminding the audience that some very real ghosts are walking the grounds of Collinwood while ALSO stressing that the nature of these ghosts are open to interpretation. After Roger and Sam's talk, we cut to a close up of the family history book slowly opening to a drawing of Josette Collins. The last time we saw this happening it was the work of a ghost. As the camera pulls back, though, it shows Carolyn turning the pages. She's not interested in the past, though, and asks Victoria if Liz plans to include Malloy's name in the book (just as the teleprompter wanders into view to demand more screen time.)

Victoria greatly overestimates Sam's stock by speculating that he might know something of her past. It's forgivable (I guess) because Victoria doesn't yet know what a drama queen Sam really is: the man worries about everything without really knowing anything. Hell, he's mostly just a pedestrian in Burke Devlin's frame job. Regardless, Roger isn't crazy about the idea of a jittery, drunk Sam Evans talking to ANYBODY, especially his nosey governess.


Brian said...

Although the original plan was for Vicky to be Paul's illigitimate daughter, I believe that plan was changed with the intention for her to be Liz's daughter (father unspecified). I've heard that Joan Bennett played her scenes as if she was Vicky's mother. The novel Dreams of the Dark and the Return to Collinwood audio play both reveal the truth of Vicky's mother. And for what it's worth, the comics based on the Revival series had Roger and Liz discussing that Liz was really Vicky's mother.
I'm hoping that someday we'll get more resolution about this, possibly from the Big Finish audios, hopefully in a special story starring Alexandra, but the story could even be done without her, done in audiobook style with a different reader, such as Nancy Barrett.

A Friend of Judah Zachary said...

For what it worth, here's a video of the great lady herself revealing the truth about Victoria's parentage:

Melissa said...

I have an enormous respect for Sam Evans's liver. Being the town drunk of a town that includes Roger Collins and Julia Hoffman isn't just a job; it's an adventure. That's like being the town drunk of Los Angeles.

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