Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 738

When Dirk Wilkins works in the Ra, Laura comes back for more. But Quentin is Set to douse her flame for good. Dirk: Roger Davis. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Dirk instinctively recites a magical incantation that brings Laura back from the brink of death. She confronts Quentin, who has to deal with the strong emotions of Jamison, who has become very dedicated to his mother. Barnabas does an hilarious double-take upon entering Collinwood and seeing his former aunt alive and well.

Technically, this is about Laura demonstrating her powers by returning from the brink of death -- thanks to Roger Davis and his mustache, the eternal reasons for the season. But that’s not what leaped out to me. Yes, it’s a fun episode, full of the arch moments, preening, and catty revelations that make 1897 great again. That’s why I chose it. That’s the experience I thought I would have, and it didn’t disappoint in those regards. But I didn’t realize I would tear up.

1795 is the story of how a boring man became an interesting one... but in an often boring way. 1897 is about how an interesting man became a boring one… but in an always interesting way. When does Quentin’s transformation -- his REAL transformation -- start? As well it should, it starts with Jamison. He’s the end of the journey, with a resonance that rings in Quentin’s ears long after death. He’s also a completely modern man-in-the-making. He’s the bridge between the world of gas lamps and gas guzzlers. The works of Lara Parker, author, notwithstanding, we know dashedly little about Jamison. But we can tell a lot about him by who loves him, teaches him, and sticks up for him.

Of course, it’s Quentin. And if Jamison is the Victorian era’s ambassador to the age of modernism, then Quentin is the ambassador to Jamison. You can see the culture buckling through the eyes of Quentin. In a world of rules and strictures, Quentin’s every breath is an act of defiance. It’s a shame that, when he arrives at the modern world, the man is too scarred to enjoy it. He was, perhaps, too much of the antithesis to Edward. But Jamison can be something more than either of the men alone, and I think Quentin knows that. Edward’s too far gone, and so is Quentin. Carl doesn’t count, and Judith (literally) doesn’t have a vote in the matter.

This comes into focus with the twinkle-eyed sincerity of his shameless manipulation of the boy. If Jamison came in from school, terrified over dreams, Edward would have sent him straight back with no sympathy. Quentin understands. And when Jamison has qualms over waking a servant to make him tea, Quentin has no stake in the hierarchy (except, perhaps, being in good with the boss when he finds himself in old age). He explains to Jamison that he’ll be at the top and needs to get used to the idea. Edward might have shamed him with the lesson; Quentin inspires. He does that out of expediency and love. David Selby’s miraculous range comes through once more, suggesting that Dark Shadows was a vehicle built for over two years just to accommodate his talent. Because he’s both totally serious and completely opportunistic. Maybe it’s one and the same for Quentin. Maybe he doesn’t need to lie to get what he wants. He just wants things he rarely has to lie about, because everyone knows he’s a bottom-feeding scoundrel with the tastes of a hedonist. It’s when Quentin wants something loftier that we have to wonder. In 738, there is a benevolent purity to the con. Like so many before and after him, Quentin knows he’s doomed, himself, and fights for a better Collins. That’s the transformation that’s been building in the show since the 1795 storyline. Barnabas is infected by the outside influence of foreign magic and rejects it. Quentin is saturated with it so far he’s forgotten who he was prior. It’s the threat of Laura that initiates his thoughts of the man he can be with it, however.

Appropriate that Barnabas enters to see her just as she’s really spreading her plume. If Quentin becomes his second brother-not-brother, it fits that the same catalyst for the alien and occult also infected his first brother-not-brother, Jeremiah. He escaped Laura twice. There is something patterned about dark haired, baritone, Collins men (and Roger) finding their downfall in blonde women (sometimes wearing wigs) with penchants for magic. Somebody write a dissertation already, I’d do it here, but I got two shows in Vegas tonight.

Laura has encountered the Barnabas bullet twice. She and he are almost as linked as he and Angelique, except here, he’s simply an adversary… and it’s a way for him to get a perspective on an “Angelique-type” from the outside. Ironic that they should miss each other in the 1960’s by only a few weeks. It’s the great issue of the Marvel Comics/Dark Shadows What If? that never happened.

This episode hit the airwaves April 23, 1969.

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