Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Nov. 10

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 364


When the ghost of Sarah appears to Barnabas at last, will her spectral message haunt him long after she vanishes? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Sarah’s haunting of Collinwood intensifies. She finally appears to Barnabas, excoriating him for his lethal lack of ethics, and then appearing at the estate proper to warn of the wrath of the dead. Julia confronts the family with her assertion that Sarah is real. Meanwhile, while the bodies in the plane were burned beyond recognition, Elizabeth seems convinced that Burke is among them, in the crashed plane in Brazil. Victoria is completely unwilling to let him go.

Dark Shadows is a program with far more halves than should be mathematically possible. Before and after Barnabas is the most notable that comes to mind. But there’s before and after Vicki. Before and after the introduction of time travel. Before and after color. This is intensely organic in a show about transformation and our relationship with the past. Intrinsically, each of our major characters are on the other end of extraordinary transitions… when we meet them. Future and past are always in an intense dance on the program. Inevitably, the present is threatened by impending justice or exposure for the choices of yesterday. 

This episode is an intense nexus of all of the above. The show begins with only two episodes before 1795. A wild ratings gamble -- there was a chance they might not come back --- so Team Curtis had an enormous challenge ahead. First of all, only on Dark Shadows would you have to set up a flashback. But with one character near-immortal and another robbed of the future they so profoundly desired, it feels organic. When the program returns from the past, it will be with a new purpose and main character. 1795 is the transition, and it will elementally change both future and past protagonists through the lens of death. One has been reborn, but as a moral toddler, literally deserving of a child’s censure. His growth is ahead, but who was he before he began life for the second -- or third -- time? Who is the man he needs to recapture? And if he is, as is hinted, a good man fallen, what change is still necessary so that his return is to more than square one?

The other will “die” in the gallows. Her past is a mystery, and now she finds herself back so far that her own origin is irrelevant. And maybe it always was. Vicki defines herself by giving. Burke was not really a match in that sense… other than his comfort with taking. The fact that Vicki witnesses history is ultimately irrelevant. It has very little impact on modern events. Given her knowledge, it could snip months of plot with just a few lines of dialogue. Vicki’s future-past purpose is to bring out the hero in her analogue, Peter Bradford, the one person willing to give of himself on the level at which Vicki excels. Both meet. Both give. Both die as a result. Both are reborn in the present. Both leave whatever identities they had, have, or will have to pursue happiness presumably away from the gods. Peter, away from the context of what could be. Victoria, away from the context of what was. Each was the prisoner of an intangible part of their lives, and together they find the Zen imperative to live in the present, even if the present is in the past. 

But we know Vicki and Barnabas. They’ve been exhaustively established. How do we prepare them and us to begin a journey that seems well underway? In two successive scenes, each deals with profound loss. The nurturing figure is defined by the loss of her romantic prospect… a dizzyingly virile man who affirmed her womanhood rather than proto-matronliness. Just before, the brooding bachelor is defined by loss of a child and, more importantly, her moral benediction. It’s one thing to disappoint an adult. It’s our daily job to discover the new lies, faults, betrayals, and inadequacies of those who surround us. 

Barnabas’ meeting with Sarah, link to his past and the ultimate in innocence, is humiliating many times over. He’s last in line. He’s shunned in front of Doctor Hoffman. He’s denied love. His moral failings are cited via a nursery rhyme, by the child to whom he taught them. Just when he thinks he can comfort himself with the reality of stuck with someone just as petty as he is, Julia rises above it. Learning, thankfully only by example, about the price of falling from your own moral standards. Not only does she rise above it, for her immediate instinct is to offer compassion without jealousy or agenda. The only hope for Barnabas is Sara‘s stern warning that he must learn to be good again. Which of course, means that he has the potential. Which of course, means that he has the future.  

Now, with an evolved Julia waiting for him on the other end of the flashback, he is ready to start the business of finding that future. And in the most important sense, Dark Shadows is ready to begin.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 16, 1967.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...