Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 27


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 990

Sabrina Stuart, dazed from time with Cyrus, arrives at Collinwood insisting on a seance. As Quentin tries to make Alexis feel at home, they get drawn into recreating the spectral ceremony where Angelique allegedly died of a stroke. Sabrina, seemingly stuck at that point in time, eagerly participates in the ritual and screams “Murderer!” as it goes on.

If DARK SHADOWS had begun with this sequence, it may have been a more powerful, if less atmospheric, way to begin the show than what aired four years earlier. It’s a new beginning in so many ways, but still steeped in its own past. This episode is dominated by recreating a seance that happened before we joined the storyline -- one that took Angelique’s life. They spend a lot of time justifying recreating something so insane, but they ultimately go forward because, from what I can tell, they don’t have cable. Exposition runs heavier than normal, and the appearance of Angelique’s “twin” gives them plenty of reason to fill us and her in on what’s happened so far. She is a blonde Vicki Winters at this point: a stranger to Collinwood who is both foreign yet intrinsic to the home. By all means, bring her up to speed.

Parallel Time. Very rarely has DARK SHADOWS chased its own tail with such passion, but at least it’s for a reason. They were only a few months past one of their most memorable storylines and were shooting a movie. The franchise was riding high, but not so high that they were invulnerable. How do you protect your brand while keeping it moving?

The previous Leviathan sequence had been an experiment in formula-tampering by restoring Barnabas to his earlier villainy. Romance-driven skullduggery has a thrill to it. Barnabas grimly taking orders from Philip Todd just kind of... doesn’t. Following that, Parallel Time was a perfectly harmless place to drop off viewers with the Next Generation crew while the Original Ghouls went to shoot the film. It’s modern enough to be less expensive than a time travel sequence. But because everyone is a short timer, very little actually matters.

But PT does more than just serve as free parking for Dan’s top hat. It’s part of an annual ritual with the show, which is the oft-mentioned soft reboot, resetting the series in a way that allows new viewers to easily jump in. It also gives the writers a fresh slate. Appropriate for springtime, it happens around this time each year. In 1967, Barnabas is about to appear. In 1968, Vicki is back from 1795 and Angelique is arriving in the present -- with Adam, Stokes, Lang, and Nicholas along for the ride. At this time in 1969, the 1897 story is establishing itself. And in 1970, we begin an entire mirror universe.

As an introduction to a show called DARK SHADOWS, it’s a passionate, moody, evocative success. For a continuation of the DARK SHADOWS story? It’ll be good to get home.

This episode hit the airwaves April 10, 1970.

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