Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 24


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 157

Vivid dreams and Josette’s scent of jasmine lead Victoria to the caretaker, Frank in tow. There in the cemetery archives, a book flies off the shelf and reveals that there was a Laura Murdoch Radcliffe who died in a fire 100 years prior, but 100 years after Laura Stockbridge. Is this a cycle? Returning to Collinwood, they learn that the dead Laura in Phoenix is set to be buried just like Laura Radcliffe, in an unmarked grave. Can there be two Lauras? Are they related to the ones in the past?

We are about fifty episodes away from the introduction of Barnabas Collins, and you can feel the show straining with the need for it. We are at least watching a supernatural show, now. Going back to something less exotic will take the charm of a Dennis Patrick to pull off. He and Laura have something new that they are bringing/will bring to the show. One of the problems with the first six months of the show is how sad it is. The villains are wracked with guilt, somewhat grating in their personalities, and driven by necessity. Laura changes that. Her contribution to the show is less supernatural than philosophical. She likes who she is. She likes what she’s doing. She is demented enough to see that burning David alive is just dandy. Contrast this with Roger. He just wanted to be left alone, like a quietly queeny, ineffectual Hulk. Burke? He just wanted to even the odds. I get that. But his victory would mean shutting down Collinwood, and that gives any viewer mixed feelings. As much as I like Burke, his storyline misfired because you’re left with nobody to root for. If Burke wins, the show has to end, and that’s not going to happen. For Burke to lose, justice must elude him once more, and a character we like goes away. I suppose that the show originally was so Vicki-centric that we weren’t supposed to care for either Team Burke or Team Collins compared with Team Winters. With the arrival of Laura, all of this changes. (I say this because Matthew was a loon and couldn’t take pride in his wrongdoing.) Like Burke and Roger or not, everyone is pitted against/used by the first in a series of Gloucesters employed by the series to delight viewers. I may be so-so on the Phoenix as a big bad on the show, partly because she was such an out-there villain, grounded in an unclear mythology. Nonetheless, she ushered in a sentient, supernatural threat and a new school of evil that finally gave viewers a moral compass to lead them through Collinsport.

This episode is rich in atmosphere and menace, but anything involving the mysterious Caretaker will do that. It serves up Collins history as a net that strangles generation after generation… and the place where the answers to today’s mysteries will be found. The show has always been about the past… Paul Stoddard, the car accident, Vicki’s parentage… but (Widows notwithstanding) never beyond the lifetimes of the protagonists. By having our heroes deal with ancient dangers that still long to cause harm, DARK SHADOWS truly begins.

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