Monday, November 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 11


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1149

Barnabas is none too pleased when he discovers that Roxanne has put Trask under her vampiric spell, but will she get the point before daybreak? Randall Drew: Gene Lindsey. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Roxanne attacks Lamar Trask, putting him in her thrall, but Barnabas and Randall rescue him before contemplating Roxanne’s destruction.

As Tom Jennings learned, there’s nothing like being a vampire who is hunted by another vampire to really ruin your day, even if your day is at night. That Barnabas is on the hunt to undo Roxanne is both therapeutic and painful, like a holodeck psychodrama. Symbiotically so. Roxanne is the result of his actions of the past and the present. The act of discovering and hunting her is an exorcism as much as anything. She actually is the Josette who rose as a vampire and is yet another failed love interest, doomed more by bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time than by conscious action. Of course, the fact that she gets to give Trask a little taste of life on the other side of the cemetery wall is a bonus that saves Barnabas the trouble of doing so himself. And of course, the situation is made further therapeutic by the fact that he simply gets to set up her death and leave it to Randall so his hands stay relatively clean. She stands as a sad reminder of his toxicity more than as a foe, tying the inexplicable loss of Parallel Time’s happiness to the mess in which he’s again found himself. Still, as Barnabas engineers her death, we know that 1840 is headed into its final act.

Of course, it’s easy to speculate that, had Roxanne remained necrotically alive and victimizing Trask, she might have taken the eventual blame for all of the bizarre activity at Collinwood, thus saving everyone the trouble of the trial and perhaps even preventing Trask from assassinating Angelique. But no. She may be therapeutic, but she’s no Dr. Sidney, just a bitter reminder both of what Barnabas is trying to escape and what he’ll never have. We once again learn the lesson Dark Shadows frequently extols, namely that taking responsibility for your actions is a good idea only in the abstract. Sometimes, it magnifies the consequences even as it vaguely delays them. In the 60’s, life was easy; when in doubt, blame Willie Loomis. To revert to the class structure so dear to the Weltanschauung of Barnabas? That is Willie’s proper role in life and the proud station into which he was born. But it’s 1840. In his absence, I guess he could blame Laszlo, but that fez brands him as even more ineffectual than Aristide. 

Gene Lindsay is headed towards his final performance, and his appearance as Randall Drew is one of the shows most curious anomalies on a strange checklist. An important character with vital ties to other characters, leading man appeal, and the stalwart, Dan Curtis look. Giving him copious screen time and opportunities to take story changing action only to dump him after five episodes? Rather than seem like a waste, this seems almost like a luxurious creative indulgence. The show is so awash in ideas that they can afford to use an actor and pivotal character like that in even a small part. He feels like someone destined for bigger things, and his quick departure is a marvelous portent of how lethal this storyline can get.

1840 returns several times to Dark Shadows’ most familiar theme -- “Strangers at Collinwood,” but unlike other storylines, I think the strangers outnumber the residents. They all create a sense that Collinwood exists in a context of a larger world, and the benevolent, bland Randall Drew is the storyline’s best attempt to suggest that not every visitor to Collinwood is a vampire, alluring witch, or severed head in a box. There are normal people out there, too, and they serve as a pleasant reminder of the peaceful life for which our characters strive. It may be boring, but as fans of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will tell you, sometimes boring can be nice.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 20, 1970.

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