By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1171
Gerard unmasks a hooded figure attempting to stab him. It’s Samantha. She reveals that she is leaving the “notes from Joanna” to torture Quentin and drive Daphne from the house. Quentin once had an affair with Joanna. When Samantha refused him a divorce, he went to sea. Much as with his namesake decades later, the woman left behind -- Joanna, in this case -- went mad. Confined to an asylum, she revealed the depth of her love for Quentin to Samantha. Shortly thereafter, Joanna escaped and died on the beach. After Quentin’s return, Samantha used Joanna’s unread letters to him as a means of torment. Once she learned that she could forge Joanna’s handwriting, the missives took their more sinister turn. Gerard and Samantha unite in their quest for Quentin’s downfall. Meanwhile, having been seen in the sun, Barnabas is seemingly innocent of charges of vampirism. This inflames Trask, who manipulates the course of a dinner party to convince Barnabas that Roxanne’s ghost is appearing in the basement of the Old House. Going there, Barnabas finds himself ambushed by Lamar, who forces him into the shackles in which his own father died.
Many parts of DARK SHADOWS are about having fun, but 1840 is not one of them. It’s not supposed to be, either. We’re down a King and a Kennedy since the show first went on the air, and Vietnam is not showing signs of improvement. There is a sense of quiet pain in the performances of James Storm, Virginia Vestoff, and Kate Jackson. 1897 had whimsy. 1795 had hopeless romance. They are the party; 1840 is the hangover. There is no redemption in sight for Gerard, the world’s worst best friend, and Samantha, the scorned wife from hell. Revenge and greed are their singular goals and motives. That makes them seem a bit one-note compared to introductions of other characters. Almost all of the other villains on the show were undone by ultimate and universal human traits. Not them. If you’re waiting for it, I’m sorry. Had the show continued, perhaps they would have been recycled in the present, and we would have seen more dimension to them. I think their presence is why 1840 can seem like a depressing storyline if taken in the wrong context. It’s important to remember that they are support characters, only. They just happen to be support characters given a lot of screen time. Cosmically, 1840 is a short storyline… certainly compared with 1897. Keep that in mind. There’s only so much change and redemption one storyline can hold, and although she’s been absent for a bit, this era belongs to Angelique. And Barnabas. That will be more than enough.
This is an episode of deep dish exposition with Traskian irony as a chaser. In fact, it’s one of two expository episodes. (Just wait until the doozy of 1177.) But sometimes those are necessary, and it’s a credit to the ambition of the writers that they would take it on.
It’s a few hundred years off, but on this day in 1640, Aphra Behn was born. Who was she? Just on the heels of Shakespeare’s age, she was one of the first noted female playwrights in history. (She wasn’t a very good one, but, hey, she was there first.) Her most famous play was THE ROVER and she was also -- like Christopher Marlowe before her -- a secret agent for His Majesty’s Secret Service.