By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 855
Quentin swoons in and out of consciousness as the ring he wears now makes him susceptible to Count Petofi’s mind transfer. At the mill, Beth has no idea what’s going on, but Aristede hints that it is the most diabolical thing that can happen to a man. Quentin, dazed, wanders over to the Blue Whale, where Pansy Faye is in the doldrums. How does he lift her spirits? By playing the only song she knows on the piano. Magda tries to warn Beth that Quentin is in danger. Compounded by Aristede’s teasing and her own nostalgia, she races to Collinwood to find Quentin unconscious.
Man, when Aristede suggests that Count Petofi’s doing to Quentin is the most diabolical thing that can ever happen to a man, a mind penetration is not the first thing that occurs to me. But I’m not sure it occurs to Aristede, either. Starting with that, we get one of DARK SHADOWS’ oddest filler episodes. This is enough padding for ten Schumacher Batsuits, and like those Batsuits, it has the virtue of at least being perversely amusing. David Selby has gone from playing a menacing phantom to a bipolar drunk, stumbling into bars and perking up at the first floozie he sees. And I respect that. We can smell our own. Yet again, we get a long tour through “I Wanna Dance with You,” leading me to wonder what the audiences of the day might have thought. With the album a recent success, I can only assume that the producers were hungry for a quick repeat of that success. Although it had (in various versions) both Selby and Nancy Barrett, it was no “A Visit to a Sad Planet.”
And here, DARK SHADOWS nears a tipping point with which it would wrestle for the rest of its run. With the soundtrack album, DARK SHADOWS knew that its gravy was as a pop phenomenon. Yeah, that’s the result of a fortuitously-timed cocktail of actors, fashions, characters, design, and a million other things, but it goes nowhere without story. Even CHARLIE’S ANGELS had a writer to put them in chains. With an episode like 855, most of which feels like (another) pre-MTV ad for one of their pop songs, the producers clearly veer toward presenting DARK SHADOWS as a bubblegum phenomenon, needing only a few threats and familiar costumes to swirl around a song for you to buy and enjoy long after being reminded that this was a Dan Curtis Production. Think the song is too sappy? Not when the #1 hit single is “Sugar, Sugar,” by the Archies.
The show would try to make up for this precarious self-judgment with occasionally superb storytelling, but was it too late?
On this day in 1969, the trial of antiwar activists, the Chicago 8, began... certainly one of the wackier trials of any era.