By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1117
In the Old House, Julia holds Barnabas at bay with a cross as he hovers over Roxanne, about to transform her. Suddenly, he asks her to drop the crucifix. 1970-era Barnabas has finally transferred his soul back to the 1840’s and is in control. Eager to investigate matters at Collinwood, Barnabas leaves Julia with Roxanne with instructions to wipe her memory of him. Unfortunately, she escapes. Meanwhile, Flora’s son, Desmond, returns from abroad with a strange gift for Quentin: a preserved, disembodied head in a glass box. Flora is repulsed, but her concern for that evaporates when she meets Barnabas. Julia arrives and reports to Barnabas that Roxanne is missing. Conveniently, Roxanne staggers in and begins to accuse Barnabas of something terrible when she passes out. Julia goes upstairs to tend to her and continue her hypnosis. As they wait, Desmond displays great doubt for Barnabas. Julia comes back downstairs with doubts about her success. Samantha reports that Roxanne is awake and that her memory ends before meeting Barnabas. Elsewhere at Rose Cottage, Desmond doubts the truth behind Barnabas’ cover story. Flora is more concerned with the evil she senses from that head. Desmond assures her that all is well, but as they leave, the head’s eyes snap open and burn with iniquity.
Let’s run this down. We have a nubile woman ready to become a vampire’s slave, but the vampire is possessed by his time-travelling soul from the future, and this saves her. The Future Vampire then teams up with another seasoned time-traveler to successfully mix an old con with hypnosis to insinuate himself back into the family and cover his earlier-self’s more impetuous tracks. Meanwhile, a disembodied head in a glass box is all too alive and clearly bent on some kind of evil.
Did you get all of that?
If you are not hooked by the episode… if you are not propelled to the next installment as if shot out of a canon… if you think this is anything but DARK SHADOWS at its most exciting… go back to GREY’S ANATOMY. We are way, way beyond the days of Josette-Josette-Josette. Nothing was wrong with that. In its way, that is as essential to creating this arc as anything else. But this is the last spurt of growth we’ll see that goes beyond that. It’s one thing to see Barnabas evolve through growing and suffering. But what does that evolved man do? He grew, got knocked down by the Leviathans, Parallel Time, and Ragnarok, and now has a mature mix of worldliness, confidence, and total humility. In other words, he’s in the perfect spot to make the risky choices and learn the impossible lessons always lurking in the Final Act.
I’m not sure we’ve been allowed to have this much unalloyed fun since the wild days of Count Petofi. And is that Angelique’s laughter I hear from a few episodes away? We also say hello to my favorite evolution of the John Karlen character, Desmond. If we look at all of the characters each actor plays as metaphorical sides of the same figure, then Desmond is both as far from Willie as possible, and as representative of all that’s best. He’s inquisitive, bold, observant, principled, and loyal. You know, all of the things we will see Willie call up from himself as the series’ events force him to. And lets say hello to Michael McGuire as the Biggest Bad the series would know, Judah Zachary. It’s a strange role, but when we see him acting -- at Miranda’s trial -- we know why he was cast. He went on to have a richly varied TV career, including appearances in both of Dan Curtis’ Wouk-WAR miniseries. He was no stranger to the stage, either, including an appearance in the prestigious AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY… in the Broadway run, no less.
On this day in 1970, it became legal for President Nixon to sell weapons to Israel, and just in time for the holidays. Also, the world said goodbye to Edward Everett Horton, character actor and the voice of Fractured Fairy Tales. I best know him for his sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the Native American when he essayed the role of Chief Screaming Chicken on ABC’s BATMAN. Horton was one of those grandly prissy actors, screamingly gay in a time when that was, what... fine? In a marginalized way. Very much of the Ernest Thesiger School of Bulgarian Acting. He would have fit right in on DARK SHADOWS, I suspect. (And yes, that’s a compliment -- front-handed, thank you!) My favorite Horton part? Go check him out in Busby Berkely most surreal film, ever, THE GANG’S ALL HERE. You’ll never pooh-pooh Paducah again!