Friday, May 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1011

Yaeger stumbles upon Barnabas’ coffin, but is knocked out before he can open it. After Yaeger escapes Loomis House, Will decides that it’s time to move the coffin to the secret room upstairs, and wakes Barnabas to help. Along the way, Barnabas rhapsodizes about Josette, lulling Will into a note taking frenzy. This provides the opportunity he needs to knock Will out and regain his freedom.

A year ago, the show was capturing the attention of the nation. A soundtrack LP and Viewmaster set were taking their places alongside Batmobiles, stacks of Tiger Beat, and Major Matt Mason figures in bedrooms across the country. A movie -- did you hear that, a frickin’ MOVIE -- was coming soon to a uniplex near you. It was about to be summer vacation for the first time since 1897 (and that’s what it felt like, too). No more running home from school. Now, the day could be centered on DARK SHADOWS with its proper place AS school. It was a tough winter. It was raining Leviathans and Brunos. They tried making Barnabas a bad guy again, but it didn’t take. But summer was coming. The show had to do something worthy of the season or vanish into whatever was on the two other channels. Barnabas had been in the coffin for too long. Change was in the air.

My friends, we’ve come home.

St. John of Yaeger, I call thee liberator. Thanks, you monobrowed freak. I say that as a high compliment.

I hate to label anything led by Lara Parker and David Selby as the product of the B-team, and it must be understood that I mean it only chronologically (in terms of casting dates). They are a B-team better than any A-team not led by Colonel John H. Smith. But the B-team had two disadvantages for too long; a thumb-twiddling storyline, designed to be unrelated to the prime universe, and no Barnabas to tie us to continuity. He is our surrogate in PT, and without him, what we’ve been watching is right on the cusp of questionable relevance. In the end, PT without Barnabas is a story we politely indulge the way we watch a boring-but-stately movie at the bedside of an elderly relative who later reveals they had mistaken it for something else, and that they actually had never seen it, and they agreed it was boring, but by then, it’s too late.

1011 is designed for two audiences. For patient viewers who have waited for Barnabas to return, it rewards them with a returning vampire who’s alternately vulnerable, fearsome, and still has time to give us one more Josette monologue for the road. Viewers who stayed away until Jonathan Frid returned are the other demographic, and they’re brought into the show with a bang. Look, it’s Will Loomis at his most desperate, reminding us why Barnabas has been chained!  Look, it’s John Yaeger repeating his basic motivations before retreating into Cyrus Longworth, bringing us up to speed on THAT. More interesting than what’s going on at Collinwood? Yes, but we can face that truth more easily once we’ve seen Will get the tables turned, Barnabas rise, and Chris Pennock meeting Christopher Pennock.

Elvis may have left the building, but Barnabas has returned, and no one TCB’s better.

This episode hit the airwaves May 11, 1970.

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