Monday, August 20, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 20


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1089

When David discovers the power to raise a crew of undead pirates, what can stop him from using it? David: David Henesy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Gerard increases his hold on Collinwood by claiming Elizabeth, who sets up the bust on the rail that will fall on Julia in 1995. The children alternately escape from and to Gerard. Having found that there was a real Java Queen, David reenacts a spell to resurrect its crew.

1089 is what late stage DARK SHADOWS is all about. Suspicion. Paranoia. Bowing and scraping to sneering ghosts. And bad fashion. What’s not to love? In this case, the flaw of the show’s final months is also its strength -- pace. This is a rough & tumble, Edwardian, Young Man’s Big Book of Manly Adventure episode, but since the kids are serving pure evil, it also has the subversive delight of being a meditation on “What If the Hardy Boys Went Bad?” In creating it, the writers make the program a carnival spook show ride that seems very slightly broken… in an amusing way. This is complete with pirate lore, now with zombies! Can anyone walk away from that moment? Exactly.

Had this episode been done a year and a half earlier, with Quentin pulling these shenanigans, it would have scared the hell out of the daytime world. But James Storm had a very different quality than David Selby. Gerard’s Ghost was never allowed to charm nor maintain the mask of allusive neutrality. Even his smile was sarcastic. Storm would have made one of the show’s great heroes had they cast him as such, somewhere between Pennock, Selby, and Crothers. However, Gerard is just a tiringly unpleasant spirit… if you compare him to Quentin. If you take him as he is, Gerard is a nasty and cravenly spirit on an unambiguous mission to torture the residents of Collinwood and level their home. Quentin’s haunting created questions that demanded an answer. Gerard’s had far less mystery and far more evil. We were destined to love Quentin. The only thing we are destined to do with Gerard is await his death scene. And I say that as a fan.

Gerard seems to have a very odd take on being a ghost, and even worse luck. His highlight in 1089 might be his attempt to lunge at people who just slowly saunter out of his way. His arms remain outstretched in empty air, and we wonder if he has the power to chase them or rematerialize in their new path. Clearly not, so he just sneers some more. It’s an oddly humanizing moment for the specter, if unintended by the authors. There is a winningly lunkheaded quality to all of the proceedings. For instance, Gerard’s main punishment appears sartorial in nature. Each possessed person seems to be trying to outdo the others for Worst Outfit. Liz is in a hot pink, silk, overinflated whirlwind of cotton candy, bearing a cape. Hallie seems to be in a shifting paisley chameleon uniform that changes patterns and hue depending on which eyesore of a curtain she’s standing near. But David takes the nuclear-azure urinal cake in an astounding, blue, belted, scoop-neck sweater/vest that could not have been made nor meant for a man under any circumstances. Since when is Gerard raiding Eve Plumb’s wardrobe? That makes the best dressed person in the episode… Julia Hoffman. Not just Julia Hoffman, but Julia Hoffman in a plain, brown dress. It empowers her to warn Liz not to put the Greek bust on the narrow handrail by the stairs. (You’d have to be possessed to do it!) It’ll bean her on the head in The Future. But Liz is too hypnotized to do anything but scoff, and so it stays on the mantle, somehow keeping its precarious place as zombies pull the roof around it down from within. If I were Julia, that’s a sticky-tack secret I’d crave.

David rounds out the episode by wondering if Gerard will punish them further, so he waves the green flag to summon zombies who will destroy Collinwood. How would Gerard have punished the family if David hadn’t? Maybe by making them dress off-the-rack from Orbach’s. 

This episode was broadcast Aug. 27, 1970.

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