Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 3


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 665

Angelique explains to Barnabas that Vicki was under her protection when she hanged, and would come back to life. True? False? Doesn’t matter. Barnabas and Ben have had it, and simply burn Angelique to cinders. Good riddance. Turns out, she is alive and tearfully leaves Barnabas with Peter Bradford to go west, where medical care is even worse than on the east coast. She still doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, Countess Natalie and Millicent discover that Barnabas is a vampire. As Barnabas sentimentally parts from Ben with orders that he be chained “alive,” they summon Nathan Forbes. The trio enters the “secret” room in the mausoleum, lift the coffin lid, and slam a stake downward.

If all of DARK SHADOWS moved at the pace, decisiveness, and economy of 665, Sam, Gordon, Ron, Joe, Violet, and Malcolm would have needed suites at Windcliff within a week. It’s a marvel to behold. I think twice as much happens in these twenty-three minutes than in the first twenty-three weeks of the show’s run. You know, back when it (felt like it) took Liz five episodes just to answer the phone. It is a marvel of satisfaction, putting an “I’ll always remember you, Scarecrow” finality to the story of Victoria Winters while giving Barnabas a new life as the Rick Blaine of the occult. We’ll always have Collinsport.

So many great moments of bait and switch. The writers have built a Disneyland of continuity and expectations, and 665 is an e-ticket ride. And the last turn is a doozy because it’s seemingly NOT a bait and switch. We think Barnabas will set himself up to die. He won’t. We think Vicki’s dead. She’s not. We think Angelique is triumphant because indecisive old Barnabas couldn’t possibly have had his limit of her shenanigans to the point that he’s happy to burn her alive. She isn’t and he is. And it goes on. The episode is punctuated by Nancy Barrett’s most surreal performance, suggesting that Millicent may indeed be insane rather than idiotic. As the episode ends, DARK SHADOWS presents emotional payoffs on a WRATH OF KHAN scale and frequency. See… Barnabas burn Angelique alive! See… his heart collapse as the optimism that she has transcended death turns into the resigned acknowledgement that she’s in Peter Bradford’s arms. If Barnabas’ upper lip were any stiffer, you could use it as a straightedge. Then, the goodbyes. Vicki to Barnabas. Barnabas to Ben. People leaving love behind for totally arbitrary and totally logical reasons. Which is always the way.

And finally… just when we’re used to the episode pulling fast ones, Barnabas is staked. Or is he? It ends with a boom heard ‘round ABC. For good reason. 1796 is over, as is (most of) the emphasis on Josette and Angelique and all of that is behind us. Barnabas has… almost… put his past to rest for good. It’s time to move forward to 1897.

On this day in 1969, TIME MAGAZINE actually got it right when they declared the crew of Apollo 8, which orbited the moon, as the Men of the Year. As I’ve discussed before, the horrors of 1968 make 2017 look utopian.  That incredible, insane, risk-rife trip defied the pessimism that would define the 1960’s. Still, chowderheads at the time contended that we were wasting money by sending men to the moon while Americans were still starving. 1968 was a monument to tragedy. If we’re going to throw money away, let it be in defiance to that.

In the name of hilarity, go look up why Apollo 8 was called “The Vomit Comet.” One more reason these guys are heroes. YOU spend a week in space surrounded by Frank Borman’s bodily fluids and see if you don’t feel heroic by surviving. 

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