Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 1


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 400

Barnabas might have Trask in his crosshairs, but will Angelique’s fireworks throw off his aim? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas allows Trask to perform a witch hunting ritual, confident that nothing will result but the proof of Trask’s idiocy. Unfortunately, a fire spell by Angelique sends Vicki running, seemingly proving the reverend’s case. Afterwards, Barnabas concludes that, like Darrens to follow, he may be married to a witch.

Can you believe these people had to work on New Year’s Day? Thanks, Dan. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. And we're not just talking about a regular New Year's Eve the night before. We're talking about a New York New Year's Eve. So, you can just imagine. Not only that, but they were on the hottest show on daytime television relatively speaking. One that had gone from a storyline one year prior that was not necessarily their best, involving the Phoenix, to an entire flashback time travel sequence build around the character no one had imagined a year prior, introduced to be a villain, and now the defender of reason, commonsense, and the character — Vicki — who, until recently, was the protagonist! So, there's that. The immediate game that I played while watching this episode was trying to determine who, among the cast, was the most hung over. There are some cast members, no names please, who always look somewhat hung over, and this creates a natural confusion. However, such a sport is a fruitless effort. Because in trying to determine it, you are left with two realities. The first is that these are actors, and that is a breed that exceeds the most stalwart of the Royal Navy when it comes to the capacity to operate with absolutely toxic levels of alcohol in their systems. But the second point is that these are actors, and not just actors, but good actors. These are pros. So if I found out that none of them were hung over, I would not be a bit surprised. Also, there was a lot of shouting and screaming in the episode. Especially by Jerry Lacy and Alexandra Moltke. And they simply would not be able to do it that schnockered. So that leaves as candidates Lara Parker and Jonathan Frid. They generally are performing rituals or are involved in some kind of deep introspection in the episode, which can be done fairly quietly. But I don't believe either one of them was reeking of the sauce because their performances are just too smart and too disciplined on this day. Which means they might've had a fairly dull evening the night before. And I think perhaps we should all have a moment of silence and recognition for their sacrifice.

I’ve long maintained that most of Clan Collins is secular, probably owing to the memory of the Bedford witch trials. They rarely invoke any kind of religion, leaving that to Quentin (who’ll worship anything), Julia (and I lay money on her being a lapsed Catholic), and Willie (who probably gets religion to the degree of the threat he faces or the woman on whom he’s macking). Barnabas seems to have no need for it, voicing sentiments that Joshua probably mutters only out of earshot of Aunt Abigail. If you want evidence, look at Barnabas’ disdain for Trask. Not only that, but look at his confidence that Trask’s bizarre ceremonies will assuredly humiliate the Reverend and be the end of it. Unfortunately, give a Trask enough rope, and he’ll use it to hang the governess. But this doesn’t occur to Barnabas, who has no lack for credulous imagination. It says something that he’ll believe Vicki’s story about time travel before 2,000 years of Scripture. I can only imagine that if Jesus showed up in 1795 as the governess from another time, they’d all be in a real quandary. Let’s see Trask deal with that.

Barnabas has a lovable overconfidence in common sense and the essential decency of human beings that reeks of the Enlightenment, and as the series goes on, this naiveté will lead to his constant downfall while also being his greatest asset. On Dark Shadows, the bad guys are destined to win, except when they don’t, and the good guys are destined to somehow survive, except when Matthew Morgan pushes them off a cliff. If the show has any emotional message, it is to revere perseverance. The victory of evil is statistically assured. The only bulwark against good’s eradication is its refusal to acknowledge it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Did I mention this is an election year?

William Faulkner asserted that every great story written after Don Quixote is a retelling of it. The Many Quests of Barnabas Collins is all the evidence we need. Most poignant in the brotherhood Barnabas shows with the great knight are their similar trips on windmills. Cyclical, often downward, but never for so long until blessed ignorance lifts their spirits to fight another day. In 400, Barnabas experiences an entire cycle, unaware that Trask and Angelique are in a strange alliance. By the end, as he spins earthward, he contemplates the truth that his wife may very well be the seed of evil in Collinsport making Trask a fellow fool, if on the other side of the windmill. But wait. The stars will soon replace the rocks below as Fortuna spins the wheel of inevitability.

For the sake of auld lang syne, if only for one day.   

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 5, 1968.

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