Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 17


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1084

David and Hallie come to grips with the haunting by writing down their entire narrative in a notebook. Meanwhile, Sebastian Shaw visits Collinwood and is asked to sense what he can of the ghostly entities there. He has visions of Rose Cottage and haunting music, but he keeps them to himself, a fact that frustrates Julia after she hears him playing the tune she heard in 1995. Shortly after finishing their notebook, the children are shocked to find that it has vanished, leading them on a hunt that ends at the playroom. Throwing the doors open, they see it being read by their 1840 equivalents, Tad and Carrie.

There are so many metrics for change in DARK SHADOWS (and the culture) in a four year span, and 1084 is as vivid as any of them. The 1966 show begins with sweaty businessmen, Brill-creamed and boozing, in skinny ties, holding court over missing pens in the drawing room. From there, we wind up with a darkly flirtatious Julia Hoffman, at Collinwood irrespective of Barnabas, confronting a leather tunic-wearing, long-haired astrologer about music from the future. And they’re the stars of the show right now! If there is any better argument against entropy, this is it.

After Jeb and Cyrus/Yaeger, Chris Pennock was unsure if he’d appear on DARK SHADOWS again. The words “hippie astrologer” were ones he didn’t have to hear twice. He found a darker, more vulnerable and secretive approach to take, differentiating Sebastian from Jeb. This is complimented by a heavier brow and more recessed eyes. With these subtle choices, he deftly avoided creating a “Pennock-type,” instead furthering a truly individualized roster of unique characters. It takes a delicate touch that pays off. Sebastian’s ambiguity is just palpable enough in this episode that he can get away with almost any story while accumulating just enough suspicion from the audience.

Julia, with great purpose, strides further and further into the position of unofficial, heroic lead, now with Stokes as her sidekick. It’s a shame that the proper breakdown of DARK SHADOWS and its various storylines is absent from much of pop media. Everyone’s losing it for the new, female Dr. Who, citing this as some kind of watershed, which it really isn’t. Over two decades ago, STAR TREK VOYAGER was a franchise tentpole with a female lead hero. And over twenty years before that? I give you Dr. Julia Hoffman… at least at this point on the show. She even passes the Bechdel Test, which measures female protagonists by their independence from romantic involvement.

On this day in 1970, we had a partial lunar eclipse and the American space probe, Venera 7, soft landed on Venus.

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