The 1970 LEVIATHAN STORYLINE on ABC-TV’s DARK SHADOWS
By JEFF THOMPSON
Nicholas Blair returns to earth with another devilish scheme.
Quentin Collins turns up alive, young, but with amnesia, in 1969-1970.
Charles Delaware Tate and Amanda Harris are still alive in the present time, but a personified Death has decreed that Amanda’s time is up.
Quentin and Amanda challenge Death as they race through the netherworld a la Orpheus and Eurydice.
Chris Jennings, in vain attempts to halt his werewolf curse, turns to the mystical powers of Charles Delaware Tate and to the dubious powers of a “moon poppy” flower.
A vampiress preys upon a member of the Collins family.
Angelique shows up in 1970 as a mortal woman married to a millionaire — and she is betrayed by her husband, who is not what he seems to be.
Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman become adversaries again and then become even closer friends.
There are some of the finest, most thrilling moments from ABC-TV’s DARK SHADOWS.
Paul Stoddard returns to Collinsport after 20 years and suffers a fit of hysterics in almost every episode in which he appears.
Barnabas Collins, no longer a vampire, returns to the present with his spirit broken, with virtually no will of his own, and as a slave to the mysterious hooded figures who spout inane, murky dialogue.
The integrity of the character of Barnabas Collins is damaged as Barnabas meekly takes orders from all of the show’s brand-new characters — even including most of the little kids.
The behavior of Barnabas, Elizabeth, David, Amy, and others changes drastically as they become cold strangers to those around them — and perhaps also to the viewers.
The usually sexless DARK SHADOWS finally introduces heavy breathing — but it comes from a carved wooden box whose panting “occupant” (apparently a slimy, scaly, fire-breathing-dragon type of shape-shifter better suited to STAR TREK or DOCTOR WHO) is never seen on camera.
DARK SHADOWS, which for three-and-one-half years had brought Gothic romance, supernatural suspense, and occult intrigue to its avid viewers, suddenly veers into a pseudo-sci-fi storyline reminiscent of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, and ROSEMARY’S BABY.
The Leviathan creatures — those shapeless “elder gods” of earth, air, fire, and water which supposedly ruled the earth before the dawn of humankind — apparently were inspired by the early-20th-century writings of H.P. Lovecraft. The weird, chilling short stories of Lovecraft were enjoying a resurgence of popularity in print and other media in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so the writers of DARK SHADOWS apparently were attempting to capitalize on this interest. It appears as if the writers’ efforts were lost on many of the children and teenagers who did not want off-camera “aliens” to supplant the show’s customary on-camera ghosts, vampires, witches, and werewolves.
Making Barnabas Collins the leader of the Leviathan cult was a wrong move — and the whole storyline would have been much more palatable if Barnabas had retained his integrity and someone else had become the Leviathan chief instead. The “someone” who would have been perfect for the job was Roger Collins. As one of the characters in my play Wedding Bells or Death Knells? joked, “Roger never had anything to do in this storyline” — except offer money to Paul Stoddard; express disapproval over Alexander, Michael, and Jeb; and serve as the victim of vampiress Megan Todd. The character of Roger Collins — not to mention the talents of Louis Edmonds — would have been utilized far more effectively if, after a temporarily bewitched Barnabas had brought the Leviathan box back from the past, Roger had wielded his prestige, power, money, and business connections as the Leviathan chief. Roger was a shady rogue when the TV series began, so a return to his unscrupulous ways now would have been much less unsettling than the near destruction of the Barnabas character. Additionally, Roger’s villainy in the Leviathan storyline would have foreshadowed the other Roger’s actions in 1970 Parallel Time several months later.
Placing a partially bewitched, partially power-mad Roger at the top of the Leviathan cult would have made much more sense than entrusting the box, the book, and the boys to the ineffectual Todds and their small-time antique shop. Indeed, Elizabeth once remarked that the Collins family’s prestige and money could further the Leviathan cause, and Jeb told Barnabas that he wanted Roger to become a Leviathan anyway. Marie Wallace still could have played a Megan-type character — perhaps an incarnation of Haza — but she would have played Roger’s sudden, third wife, perpetuating the tradition of Roger’s bizarre choices of wives (the phoenix Laura and the witch Cassandra). What could the relatively insignificant Todds offer the Leviathans — and what (other than passage through time) could Barnabas offer them? The spell over Barnabas could have worn off — or been hypnotized away by Julia — shortly after Barnabas had turned the box and the book over to Roger, and then Barnabas, Julia, Quentin, Maggie, and Willie could have begun the business of battling the Leviathans without delay.
To the Leviathan story’s credit, the show improved dramatically with the introduction of the Jeb Hawkes character, chillingly portrayed by Christopher Pennock. (The storyline would have been much more compelling if the essence in the box had become Jeb immediately, thereby eliminating the eight tedious weeks of Joseph, Alexander, and Michael.) After Jeb arrived, the story began moving more swiftly, and there were numerous scenes of great excitement. By that late date, those viewers who had persevered had become accustomed to the idea of an unseen “dragon” flying around Collinsport — outlandish even for DARK SHADOWS! — and could appreciate the satisfying nuances and positive touches of the Leviathan storyline. There are plenty of plusses about the peculiar Leviathan storyline, but such a quirky, sci-fi-type story did not fit the established mood and tone of the Gothic serial DARK SHADOWS and more than likely contributed to the TV show’s premature demise one year later.