Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 16


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 565

Barnabas is tortured over the plight he suspects is being experienced by Collinsport’s new vampire. In between excursions to search for him, Barnabas returns the ring Vicki allegedly lost in the woods. This incites a skeptical Jeff to search the Old House, where he finds Lang’s notebook before being escorted out. Shortly thereafter, Tom Jennings attacks Julia in the basement lab.

I think this episode was written by Plato, in that it is an ideal example of the show at… if not its best, then its most entertainingly durable. There are multiple storylines that all crisscross through Nicholas Blair. We see characters evolving in unexpected ways, such as Barnabas mustering maturity about Vicki. At its worst, the ratio of exposition to new information is woefully slanted toward covering old ground. In the case of 565, I feel as if the show’s story is very deliberately advanced with each scene. Best of all, the characters show appropriate doubt in themselves, allowing them to contemplate aloud where they’ve been and where they’re going with cerebral eloquence.

It’s also a good opportunity to contrast Vicki and Julia. Because of Julia’s age, angularity, and more than occasional severity, we discount her too easily for the show’s leading lady. No, the story does not revolve around her, but it is through her mortal eyes that we see much of the action unfold. Her sense of heroism is unlocked by the story. Her moral compass, realigned by it. She is not a Collins, but she gives her all for that house, nonetheless. Like Vicki, she is something of an orphaned stranger at Collinwood, but Julia is a catalytic agent of action. For all of her moments of frightened “Barnabaswhatarewegoingtodo?” she’s just as likely to issue orders of the day. I like Vicki, but I often get tired of her baffled timidity. (In fact, the version of Victoria seen in the 2004 pilot is the only one I can really get behind.) Things happen to her. She is too often the object and too rarely the subject. Julia’s the opposite. And Julia has an arc, too, from shrill villain to brassy defender, with lots of steps in between. Often, Vicki’s arc is frustratingly restricted to going from, “I just don’t understand,” to, “I understand a little more than I once did, but that may not be saying much.”

Not only does Julia seemingly do more and make it through the entire show, her episode count is only two shy of Vicki’s. Vicki appeared in 347 episodes before vanishing. Julia? 345, returning from the past on her own two feet. (These numbers soar above Carolyn at 267, Liz at 264, Maggie at 203, and Angelique at 175.)

She’s also a Jackie Gleason fan. “Love is Here to Stay,” from the 1953 album "Music for Lovers Only," is heard playing as rare source music in her lab as she labors on the mate for Barnabas’ sake. The song says a lot about Julia, and is an Easter egg is useful insight.

In other news, it was the birthday of Gordon Russell. Born in Salem, MA, Russell is one of the two finest writers on the show. Christopher Pennock noted him as the man behind the show’s most sparkling dialogue. Sam Hall was about the gravitas. Russell was pure elan.

Twelve years prior, in 1956, the world said goodbye to Bela Lugosi. It wasn’t ready to, though, and I hope it will never be.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...