Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 437

Trask extorts Forbes to take the stand and claim that Vicki bewitched him… a choice he would later regret. Afterwards, Victoria gives her final testimony where she reveals her origin, the origin of the book, and the fact that she traveled back via seance. Hearing this, the court sentences her to hang.

The trial of the century -- or at least, the ratings period -- comes to an end, and Trask plays suspiciously dirty for someone who has God on his side. Blackmailing Forbes? Is that necessary? Of course, he doesn’t know that Vicki is going to do something crazy, you know, like tell the truth under oath. Victoria and Trask transcend realism (and maybe humanity) to become walking, talking metaphors, and in this sense, DARK SHADOWS absolves religion of evil. Religion’s not the problem. If Trask and Vicki evolve into polar opposites, what is the thing that separates them? On one level, Trask lies and Victoria tells the truth. Of course, she does; she’s a teacher.

Why does Trask do what he does? This is the most fascinating incarnation of the reverend. All are impulsive bigots, but the Reverend T. is the most ideologically motivated. He is there to impose the truth he knows; Victoria is there to report the truth she discovers.  Close up, if 1795 is “about” something, it’s a study in jealousy. Take a few steps back and look at it in the context of the series’ end; it’s about truth. Barnabas refuses to acknowledge his true feelings. His mind is made up. Trask refuses to concede that the Enlightenment has transformed humanity’s interpretation of god. Vicki, hapless and professional victim that she is, stands as both an ambassador of the modern world and a counterpoint to the 1795 fad of willful ignorance. She is honest to a fault, even if it means confessing a story so lurid and fantastic that it will guarantee the noose. Vicki is compelled to tell the truth -- although she could win without it -- as much as Trask is compelled to twist facts -- although he could win without it.

It’s a compulsion that is driven by the need To Make a Point more than human realism, but this was the era defined by Chayefsky and Serling. These writers didn’t have time for realism; reality just got in the way of the truth.

Blood and thunder rule the actors today, with Davis, Moltke, and Lacy in a cutthroat race for Daytime Emmys. But what choice have they? The stakes are enormous for all, and the consequences, shattering. In between the Loud Noises is Joel Crothers. As an actor, Crothers is somewhere between Gregory Peck and Major “Q” Boothroyd from the Bond movies. No matter what has has done before, he always invents new ways to command the stage with quietly focused, intense humanity. In moments of almost no dialogue, we see Forbes grow and say more than other actors do with hundreds of lines. Any rewatch of the series reveals new heroes, but few champion the integrity of the storytelling as does Joel Crothers.

On this day in 1968, we said goodbye to Howard Florey, the man who won a 1945 Nobel prize for purifying penicillin.

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