Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 7


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1102

Julia collapses into a hypnotized daze as Maggie is lured to her sickroom window by a figure in a broad cape and slouch-brimmed hat. Before it can strike, Quentin enters and rallies Julia to stay awake. She contacts Windcliff, where she learns that the children are in increasingly dire condition. Barnabas takes the next shift with Maggie and ruminates deeply on his past culpability for her suffering. He divulges to Quentin that Rose Cottage is the old McGruder mansion, which leads the former werewolf to seek the living Daphne there. He’s successful, although she is of little help, preoccupied with Gerard. She tries to summon him to somehow aid the children, but to no avail. Later, she appears to Quentin at Collinwood, and against his better judgement, they proceed to Windcliff. David claims that his name is “Tad,” and raves about those from the past while drawing pentagrams on the floor. Is this Gerard’s revenge for their isolation from the house? Daphne attempts a summoning ceremony while Quentin stands guard. Julia bursts in, amazed by the sight.

It’s a tense little episode featuring a vampire at the beginning who looks like either of the pro/antagonists from SPY VS SPY. The characters get to do new things and speak new truths, and it’s a fitting send off for writer Joe Caldwell who, with Ron Sproat, created Barnabas Collins as we know him. Hall and Russell would become the Lennon and McCartney of the writer’s room, balancing each other marvelously, and perhaps Caldwell and Sproat get short shrift because of that. He was an enthusiastic author, clearly in love with the characters. Caldwell was also a novelist and winner of the Rome Prize, which apparently cut little ice with his students compared with his work on DARK SHADOWS.

What makes this DARK SHADOWS different from all others? This storyline centers on a plan so large, manipulative, and scorched-earth that it’s literally inconceivable to our heroes. It’s a truly Nihilistic threat put up against Romantic agents, like Doc Savage dealing with Christopher Nolan’s Joker as opposed to Fu Manchu. Barnabas works his tail off and we can see the panic when he doesn’t know where to turn. With Adam, he knew that all he needed to do was kill, isolate, or appease the lug to take care of business. Nicholas Blair? Send him back to Hell. You know. Simple enough. And Nicholas and Adam made their plans, strengths, and weaknesses pretty easily known. Heck, even the Leviathans, for all of their ancient mystery, had a team name and logo. But even they are far more complex than what Barnabas faced in the relatively simple days of 1795. As he stands over Maggie in 1102, he has one of his deep, dark nights of the soul. In the face of Gerard, who is a sphinx of evil without the courtesy of a riddle, Barnabas’ powerlessness forces him to turn inward and truly question the collateral damage of his life.

In 1795, his powers are thrust upon him, but they cost him dearly. By the time he is in 1897, Barnabas is wielding magic, teleporting, and confidently matching wits against Petofi with the smooth, clever confidence of Napoleon Solo. But is evil-smashing what his life is ultimately about? No. He’s compensating for loss. This final leg of the journey gives him a series of problems seemingly beyond his powers.

If we get some of Barnabas out of his element here, it is largely Quentin we see transformed. Serious, driven, but baffled by what’s going on, Quentin simply spins plates in the name of love. He is, as always, the wolf without a pack, and so love and belonging will always be his weakness and greatest source of need. Now, we take away the one-liners and braggadocio and even his reliance on the supernatural, which seems like a force he’s either beyond, bored with, or resigned to never truly understand. Unlike Barnabas, he is a figure of total indulgence, and now, when maturity is called for, his time to pay up has come.

It’s also the birthday of John Harkins, one of the most versatile members of DARK SHADOWS’ background ensemble. For a man with a distinctive face, he morphed into a variety of interesting and menacing roles brought to us with wit and commitment. John gave us Garth Blackwood, Mr. Strack, and Horace Gladstone among others. An Actor’s Studio vet, Harkins came to DARK SHADOWS with the solid stage chops that distinguished the company. A familiar character actor, he was a ubiquitous presence in film and television for several decades, specializing in humorlessness… which, oddly, must have been fun. Like every single human to ever walk the planet on the 1980’s, he joined John Karlen with a recurring role on, you guessed it, CAGNEY AND LACEY.

On this day in 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacks 4 planes and forces them to land at Dawson's Field, Jordan. Meanwhile, the American people were punished by the airing of the first film version of DR. DOOLITTLE and the 5th Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Jonathan Frid was actually a guest of the telethon, joining such guests as Diahann Carroll, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford and Patty Duke. Frid's appearance took place shortly after midnight on Sept. 7. So keep in  mind while watching this episode that the man had little (if any) sleep that day.

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