Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 12


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 922

When Amanda Harris has a long delayed date with death, Julia learns that the best is yet to come! Werewolf: Alex Stevens. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Grant Douglas investigates the Tate house only to confront a werewolf and promptly punch him. The werewolf flees only to briefly encounter Amanda Harris, who confesses to Julia about her past. Spurned by Quentin in 1897 New York, on a really impressionistic bridge set, she tried to leap to her death after being greeted by an aging dandy named “Mr. Best.” Going unconscious, Amanda wakes up in a strange, otherworldly hotel lobby called “The Stopping-Off Place.” Mr. Best agrees to keep her young until a day on which she is destined to die. She needs to find Quentin, first. Decades later, she is still young. As she finishes telling all to Julia, a knock on the door reveals, you guessed it, Mr. Best.

There is so much going on in episode 922 that you would need the combined powers of all of Craigslist to unpack it. I mean it. And it has more Zen implications than a Kung Fu reunion movie. Right here.

This minor storyline? This old thing, you ask? Why are you making a big deal out of that? Aren't we just waiting for Christopher Pennock to show up?

Well, cosmically, we always are. But let's focus on Dark Shadows. Mr. Pennock will be glad that there will be actual, serious, Zen material later in the article, but I gotta talk about my vampire stories, first.

Because it doesn't really feel connected to anything as important as the Barnabas/Josette/Angelique core story, and because it all kind of loiterers at the beginning of a Leviathan storyline that will still be going on, bafflingly, months from now, this segment is easy to write-off. Or maybe it's easy to write it off because, while its story elements are more interesting than anything else going on, the show's treatment of them feels almost dismissive, at best. Yes, I realize that they are in a hurry to get Quentin back, but once they do, they don't seem to know what to do with him. Here. In the Stopping-Off Place. Because here, dueling with Mr. Best, he has a purpose. And his immortality gives him the unique sparring partner that only an anthropomorphised death could really be. Unfortunately, this is almost a case of, “what if someone gave a storyline and nobody showed up?” Like the prior episode, “Quentin, Chris, and the Foppish Android,” this is a great idea with so little airtime and arc impact that I have to remind myself that it happened. I need to consider this my permanent Post-It. 

There is a huge question lurking in and around this episode, and that’s “Who’s in charge?” In a little over a year, we have met three contenders for the Ultimate Boss of Evil in the DSU, and it can be debated who are the puppets and who is the hand….

Bachelor #1 runs an immense operation of punishment, demons, and Gothic office furniture. He likes the music of JS Bach, blonde women, and dominating the world through an army descended from the union of reanimated cadavers. Give a sunny Burbank welcome to “Diabolos.”

Bachelor #2 is a already hooked up, but looking for a third! He and his partner may be snakes in the grass, but that’s only because these nature lovers predate time, itself, and they wish to bring about the rebirth of an ageless serpent god to consume the planet. Heads of an immense, secret cult of powerful publishers and ludicrous, fur coat-wearing hipsters, get out the heat lamps for Oberon and Haza.

Bachelor #3 is the special guest star of this episode. A smooth-talking man-about-town, he loves fine suits, friendly wagers, and A View from the Bridge. Drop in at his saloon, The Stopping Off Place. And don’t be in a hurry when you say hello to the original ladykiller. Won’t you find out why they all call him “Mr. Best”?

I’d like to say that my money is on the Caretaker, but I think I can build a more solid case for Mr. Best. Why? It’s a process of elimination… and of limits. Oberon and Haza are much like Diabolos -- all three are obsessed with ruling the world. When you have an entire universe of planets to meddle with, wanting to rule these balding and squabbling apes seems a tad unambitious. I guess it’s to get back at a god who displaced them, but they must not be that great or they would never be bent on revenge. And who needs to rule existence, anyway? The upkeep and insurance are outrageous. And don’t even get me started on the utilities. As I shoulder all of that burden, does existence raise even a finger to help me? I think we both know the answer. All existence does is take perfectly good matter and turn it into energy, leaving me to spend half the morning turning it back into matter. And existence still doesn’t even have the decency to come by once a week or so and watch an episode with me for the Daybook.

Well, existence, you’ll get yours. You gotta sleep sometime, and when you do? Bang! Kobayashi Maru! That’s my friend, Mr. Best. You know… your other binary half. Did I say half? I meant more than half. Death is the transition between being and nothingness, and he is the Lord of Nothingness. Have you ever tried to take Nothing away from him? Nothing. Not just the absence of something. Nope. Nothing. Nothing in a form we can’t even conceive, because to do so would be to dignify it with a name, and once you describe it, it stops being Nothing and becomes a Thing. There you go, Mr. Best. Ruler of everything as it goes on to become something indescribable.

So, what does he do? Well, he’s the ruler of death, not time. He’s not psychic. Now that matter exists, he might as well do a tad of wagering. Amanda Harris. Wants to off-it by jumping off a bridge. Well, Tate created her, so who knows if she’ll die? But… wait. By creating matter from only imagination -- and from bending both matter and energy through paintings that transmute or bestow the effects of both matter and energy….

Oh, man. Mr. Best isn’t the most powerful being in the DSU anymore. I actually think it’s Charles Delaware Tate.

Roger Davis. Roger Davis. 

Yeah, Charles Delaware Tate.... and he still lost a babe to Quentin! 

Why? Because, as this episode demonstrates, Quentin can punch a werewolf right on the jaw. That’s the important part. He lands the ladies because he knows all of the werewolfian weaknesses.  We can pontificate all we want, but we tuned in for a man punching a werewolf. A man punching a werewolf we received.

And that’s how you get Capone.

This episode was broadcast Jan. 6, 1970.

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