By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1177
In Quentin’s lab, the Staircase roars to life. The door at the top flies open. In silhouette, cast against the primal forces of the supernatural, we see a muscled, masculine, defiant figure, arrogantly erect. Julia sniffs the musk in the air, feels herself swoon in an unmistakable way, and knows that only one force in the universe can have such a profound effect on the human female. In other words, T. Eliot Stokes has arrived. He had waited in the playroom until the staircase appeared, having read in Flora’s journal of Barnabas’ disappearance. Julia gives an in-depth description of the situation thus far. The cover story for the Professor is that he is Ben’s nephew, newly arrived in town. Angelique is made privy to the truth. They split up and agree for Stokes to publicly arrive at 9:30 that night. Waiting, Julia has a dream in which Roxanne appears to say that Barnabas is dying. Waking, she and Angelique go on a hunt that leads to Lamar’s. Meanwhile, Stokes arrives at Collinwood. Gerard, threatened both as a power and as a man, grills Professor Stokes. He must have Stokes’ secrets. With his eyebrow cocked insouciantly, T. Eliot Stokes bests him at every turn.
It’s not hyperbole when I say that this is the single funniest episode of DARK SHADOWS. Why? Grayson Hall clearly lost a bet to her husband Sam, who wrote it. At least half of the episode is devoted to Julia doing her best to recap the incredibly complicated storyline of 1840. It goes on and on like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, and I can only think of it as Sam’s revenge for some kind of domestic squabble.
When I wrote the Collins Chronicles, I knew how I wanted to handle the episode’s entry. I wrote it as a letter from Stokes to his affiliates in the notorious Hellfire Club. More than that… I wanted it to be a single sentence. When I wrote the live version for the 50th anniversary Festival and was asked to make it short and funny, I knew that a performance of it was the perfect stunt on which to end the show. Unfortunately, the events began to run over on the day of the performance, and I chose to cut the Stokes letter to keep the Festival as much on-schedule as possible.
Here’s “Stokes’ Letter”....
Here is the situation thus far:
Barnabas Collins has been missing for a week near Collinwood, whose master is now Gerard Stiles, but whose rightful master, Quentin Collins, is the subject of a witch trial where his cousin, Desmond Collins, served as advocate until being jailed for practicing the occult, himself, in a forced exposure probably engineered by Gerard, who suspects my friend Julia Hoffman rather than the witch, Angelique Bouchard, who has an obsession with Barnabas, a man once served by my ancestor Ben Stokes, who, when Julia first arrived, was one of the many live-on guests at Collinwood, along with the aforementioned Gerard Stiles who, at the time of Julia's arrival, was not the evil monster he would become but someone merely fabricating the details of the drowning of Tad Collins and Tad's father, Quentin, Gerard's best friend and husband of Samantha, a woman Gerard attempted to marry in the wake (ha-ha) of Quentin's alleged passing, and who would have done so, had it not been for the subsequent return of Tad and Quentin on their wedding day, causing interpersonal rifts which were furthered as Samantha chose the secretly gold-digging Gerard over Quentin, two men who later vied for the affections of Miss Daphne Harridge, a new governess to Collinwood, a house whose former master, Daniel, was dying at the time of the wedding, and who intended to bequeath all his wealth to Samantha, much to the consternation of Daniel's son (and Quentin's brother), Gabriel, an embittered malcontent in a wheelchair, who watched in glee as Quentin engineered strife between Gerard, his best friend, and Samantha, his estranged wife, by refusing to give up the son he had with her, Tad, a young man rendered helpless as Gerard moved to nearby Rose Cottage (with Flora Collins) but nonetheless maintained an odd friendship with Quentin, who still thought their friendship dear, while ignoring all of Gerard's bad qualities, such as his practice of witchcraft, a force insinuating itself into Collinwood in myriad ways such as the evil will of Judah Zachary, a powerful warlock decapitated centuries ago in Bedford, Massachusetts and the architect of mass chaos in Collinsport via the mental seizure of Quentin's cousin, Desmond (the man who brought the head to Collinsport as a gift for Quentin and who is now on trial for witchcraft), Letitia Faye (who has second sight and a keen singing voice), Dr. Julia Hoffman (a female physician who briefly attached the head to a body while under a hex), and now Gerard Stiles, supposed good friend to the one man Judah did not possess, Quentin Collins, despite allegations from the state that Quentin is carrying out Judah's grand design of revenge on the Collins family (whose patriarch, Amadeus, presided on the witchcraft trial that ended in his execution), and whose evil magic is powerful enough to overflow, causing strife with a neighbor whose cattle have died as well as a woman who perished with her forehead branded with the "mark of Satan" (hardly), which is a symbol also seen on the ring of Quentin Collins, a man later found kneeling over the body of his murdered brother-in-law, Randall Drew, a gentleman who resided in a cell managed by a sheriff whose wife was found dead outside its bars from occult means, a fact emphasized by Lamar Trask, a crazed mortician and the chief accuser of witchcraft, a citation he uses to hector his sworn enemy, Barnabas Collins, the alleged (and, as it turns out, true) murderer of Trask's father in 1795, the year when the elder Trask was walled up (for the public welfare) in the cellar of the Old House on the Collins estate, and the same house that Barnabas was leaving as he attempted to testify on Quentin's behalf, yet vanished in a manner as mysterious as the way in which governess, Daphne Harridge, changed her affections from Gerard to Quentin, a choice that made her sister to go mad after their infidelity some time ago.
Pardon me if I am late for brunch.
On this day in 1970, the Soviets were the first humans to land a vehicle on another planet… in this case, Venus. It’s time we went back, no?