By PATRICK McCRAY
Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 417
After gaining Ben’s confidence that he will not attack Josette, Barnabas visits her one last time and is glimpsed by the Countess. Later, Josette admits reluctance to return home because she still awaits Barnabas to revisit her as he promised. Ben goes to the mausoleum to destroy Barnabas, but the ghost of Angelique appears and forbids him, vowing that the curse on Barnabas will last forever.
Because it focuses on the origin of the protagonist, 1795 is romance on DARK SHADOWS at its purest, and that means one thing: pain! Jonathan Frid appears in this episode with an especially delicate mix of passion, honesty, and conviction. His affection for Ben is particularly touching. Barnabas’ attitude toward social position sets him up for twentieth century life surprisingly well. Yes, there will always be class differences that are his birthright to enjoy, and yet he can look beyond those at individual merits. He’s not only freed Ben, but given him access to (some of) the family treasure and encourages him to move away. In so many ways, Barnabas is a man-of-tomorrow, ideally suited for his ultimate destinations. What I love in the show is that he’s not too much of one, though. Of course he won’t attack Josette as he did the girl on the prior night, and not just because of love. One is of noble blood and one is, well, not. Willie gets a sound caning because that’s how an aristocrat of the 1790’s did routine maintenance on home appliances. Yet Willie also earns the trust and respect of Barnabas… unthinkable for Joshua or even Edward. Barnabas Collins, for all of his willful ignorance, pride, and strange self-justifications is also a man of underrated merits. One of the smaller tragedies of the show’s cancellation and Frid’s disinterest in playing Barnabas was that we never saw him evolve further.
For me, there is a clear, final chapter in the DARK SHADOWS story that could not be told because of those limits. Because of the perception of the main story line’s final moments and the general reluctance to see DARK SHADOWS as one, large story, that final chapter never materialized. I love what BIG FINISH has done, and that is to continue the story. What is possible if it were to be to concluded. Of course, no two fans would agree on that conclusion. I would nonetheless be correct. And a statue would be made in my honor, as well it should.
In sadder news, today marks the 1984 death of Ronald Dawson, a day player who appeared twice on DARK SHADOWS, once as an art expert and once as a 1995 records clerk. A native of South Africa, he also appeared on Broadway in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, by Agatha Christie. In the same production, you would have seen Una O’Connor, best known as the most hilariously insane of the reactionary rednecks in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. I know, I know. It’s all HAMILTON, HAMILTON, HAMILTON. Give me Una O’Connor any day.
On this day in 1968, Australia intensified its involvement in the Vietnam War and Mary Lou Retton was born. The two incidents are believed to be unrelated.