Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 645

When David and Amy are trapped in Quentin’s room, will they become the next morbid relics in his collection? Amy: Denise Nickerson. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Finding a dead man in the sealed chamber, along with a working gramophone, David and Amy are sealed inside until they agree to do Quentin’s bidding. Their first morbid task involves moving a rocking cradle from the Old House. After charming Barnabas and Liz, the two return to see someone they call to as Quentin within the room.

The prelude to 1897 deliberately builds the mystery of Quentin Collins one purposeful layer at a time. This is a reminder of how the writers took advantage of the soap format to load, but not overload, the audience with a mosaic of details. Most recently, a voice on a long-dead phone, a hidden room, a gentleman’s skeleton in an office chair, a Victrola’s phantom melody (included in an episode for the first time today), and now -- we think -- Quentin, himself. The origin of Barnabas literally tells itself, mostly within a few episodes of the character’s introduction. Quentin’s makes us work for it and rewards us proportionately. Perhaps the most macabre detail is the infant’s crib that Quentin makes David shlep from the Old House to his chamber.

One of the fascinating things about Quentin is that he reverses -- or at least delays -- the typical pattern we see with specters. When I think of most haunted house stories, I think of people encountering spirits who try to get humans to go away. By contrast, Quentin recruits them. Of course, the fact that it’s David and Amy is a coincidence, but who else would have been as vulnerable? David has a father who is rarely around and Amy is missing both parents and two brothers. Well, one of the brothers, anyway, during Collinsport’s almost constant full moon. Quentin and Beth, like cult leaders, provide that family. They craft occult scavenger hunts and arts & crafts projects. They laugh a lot. They wave their hands menacingly. They bulge their eyes. What more could you want in an undead surrogate uncle? There’s a bizarre logic to it all, besides Quentin wanting to permanently “release” Chris from the curse, dominate Collinwood, and respond to Jamison’s abandonment by slowly killing his identical descendant. Quentin seems to need human attention and contact. The more he gets, the more powerful he becomes. Is this some last occult working he arranged in life? That’s another good reason to seal off the wing. Short of burning him, what other way is there to isolate this black magic landmine from being triggered in a cemetery and haunting THAT? Because someone might recognize that ghost, and the whole thing would be incredibly humiliating.

Quentin nudges David and Amy into subtly bizarre directions (beyond trying to kill Roger, which is business as usual for David). The possession is proceeding apace, and both are maturing at a strangely arresting pace. It’s in a strangely sentimental way, appropriate for Edwardians. David speaks very sentimentally toward Amy, and were they a few years older, it would read more differently than it does. Right now, it’s just a notch below ooky. Amy also masters counterfeit affection, in this case with David’s advice, and aims it at Barnabas. These are affirming forms of manipulation based purely on giving people what they want to hear. Can Quentin’s charm be any more infectious? And what other ghost would use such a signature? The masterstroke is reserved for Barnabas -- a pint-sized bear hug from Amy. For a man still in mourning for his young, dead sister, there is no better way to (try to) win him over.

It’s also emblematic of how his character has changed in response to public reception. He was now a hero to kids across the country. The sight of her hugging him must have made every kid running home after school a study in envy. Amy knew what she was doing because David knew, and David knew because Quentin knew. It makes me wonder how Maggie’s kidnapping would have gone if Josette had decided to possess her.

For the hell of it, I also wonder how things would have gone if Sarah had possessed Adam.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 13, 1968.

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