Monday, November 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 19


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 902

It’s a potentially Elektra-fying holiday season when Carolyn’s father blows back through town! Paul Stoddard: Dennis Patrick. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Paul Stoddard spies on Collinwood and finally reappears to Liz, warning of great danger to Carolyn. Meanwhile, David is reading from occult tomes and making odd deliveries to the upper room at the antique shop.

In terms of the mythos, medium sized potatoes. In terms of the episode-by-episode show? The first, great mystery is finally (kind of) put to rest. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Paul Stoddard. Given the luxury of time, it was an easy pleasure for Dark Shadows to introduce a story element, move on, and then make it central for another plotline, years later. Seeing Paul Stoddard again for the first time is one of the great payoffs of such a use of time. For me, the mystery of Paul is key to the mystery of Liz, and the mystery of Liz is the first, great, human unknown in the show. In a society that is far more matriarchal than is faddish to admit, Liz holds a strange and mighty power over the series. Even as it moves on to Barnabas, one truth of the story is evident. Barnabas may be the eldest Collins, but Collinwood belongs to one person only. Nonsense is dispensed of, Buzzes buzz off, and bucks stop, here, and no foolishness from from David, Carolyn, or Roger or she’ll have all three sent to their rooms without so much as a saltine and a half-glass of flat Moxie, thank you very much. I may be uneasy at the sight of Gerard, but I am terrified of Liz Stoddard. Her arched eyebrow is enough to do any of us in, and she swings a mean fire poker to boot. And yet, she remains the center of compassion and ethics on the show as well. She may have (thought she) killed her husband, okay, fine, but Alcatraz couldn’t have kept her locked up more securely than she imprisoned herself.

Given Jason McGuire’s redolent oiliness, I just assumed that Paul would be even worse. Maybe he is. But in the hands (also) of Dennis Patrick, the role has a strangely defiant, if harried, dignity. Dashing, even. He may not have been the blue blood that Jamison hoped for, but he holds his head every bit as high. The marriage makes sense, and it’s easy to see this augustly mellowing firebrand as Carolyn’s father. She may not have had his company, but she has his iconoclastic defiance, certainly. I can see them as a couple, and there is a strange hopefulness that they’ll reunite, and he’ll take on the supernatural as the show’s new, cardigan-clad knight. Not to be, and it’s a tragedy that hangs on the story like a shroud. This is where the deconstruction of Carolyn really begins. Does a hasty marriage to Jeb seems so crazy, now? And does her descent into the dour seems like the result of inevitable shrapnel.

Family echoes strangely over the episode. David’s voice has dropped an octave, and the writers even make a point out of puberty, which must have humiliated David Henesy and delighted his fans. Still, he’s ostensibly pouring over the Christmas ads for his wish list, and it makes Roger’s absence all the more notable. Roger will be around less and less, and this vacuum initiates a lack of center that eats away at the Collins family from within, so that what Gerard inherits is a fringe without a center. As one father is absent, another hovers. And are either up to the job, or do they just make us appreciate Liz, all over again? Meanwhile, the Todds prepare for Schrodinger's infant, tended to by a seemingly fatherless child. If you want to hook an audience, especially a young one, play with vanishing and reappearing parents. That fear (and actuality) of loss is at the heart of the Disney animated feature empire, sadistically holding kids spellbound. The formula still works.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 10, 1969. 

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