Wednesday, April 13, 2022

It Was Great When it All Began ...


2021 was an extraordinary year for Dark Shadows. Yes, it was also a sad year. We lost some marvelous actors, and the losses have cast the future of Dark Shadows festival into doubt with this author… certainly on the scale we saw in 2016. At the same time, there was a wealth of independent Dark Shadows podcasting and authorship. The Rondo nominations are a testament to our passionate industry. Although the rights holders seemingly kept it quiet in 2021, we did not. And that has spilled into 2022. Why the revival? Is it even a revival? Perhaps it’s more of a testament to the momentum that’s been building for a decade. 

2011-2021 is a ten year span of technological innovation that has put extraordinary tools in the hands of workin’ Joes like us to create quality products that rival the professional offerings we wish we’d had. Podcasting and desktop publishing are the two most notable examples. But there’s more than technology afoot. I’m beginning to suspect that mine is not an isolated case. 

What case? In 2011, Dark Shadows fans got the best news possible: a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie that would certainly catapult us from accusations of camp to accolades of genius. Then, 2012 happened to us. April, 2012, to be exact. While the film attracted many brainy and iconoclastic new fans, it charmed few longtime supporters. For all of the angst that caused, I think it was more of a catalyst than curse. I know that I felt like I needed to do something for the franchise to give back a little. At the time, my best idea was a stunt somewhere at the crossroads of Morgan Spurlock, Andy Kaufman and Evel Knievel… I sacrificed 45 days to watch the entire series, 10.5 hours a day, five to six days a week. A decade later, I had one collection of essays out and another on the way. Three fine podcasts serve the internet. And the books just keep coming. 

If 2011-2021 was a decade of an uncomfortable detente between the original fans of the series and the Burtonians, the tenth anniversary of the Burton film (and Mr. Frid’s death) is what may be the final word on the subject from the first generation of fans, Jim Beard’s collection of various memoirs, Running Home to Shadows. It’s a title that needs little elaboration. Ask almost anyone who was born somewhen at the intersection of Eisenhower and Kennedy and you’ll hear the familiar nostalgia-cry of “I ran home from school every day to watch Dark Shadows….”

This narrative dominated the experience of growing up with Dark Shadows, and it finally has a definitive voice to give it shape in this book. For those of us born after that period, there’s been a subtle caste-system in DS fandom… maybe out of necessity. Our work (at least prior to the Sci Fi Channel and the internet) has not been one of discovery but archaeology. The suspense was non-existent. Correction, the suspense was in whether or not we would actually see the series. Did the final episodes exist? How could we see them? Would MPI really finish? Once DVD and streaming settled that argument, the more honest question became, “Who would actually finish watching it all, now that it’s available?”

It is to the show’s credit that so many did and still do… despite lacking a unifying ritual. But that ritual -- running home from school to see and share the new episodes -- created a bonding momentum that got us here today. No other program has that cultural legend behind it… or the decades of mainstream horror that have resulted. As such, Beard delivers a vital history and voices that have yet to go silent.

Dark Shadows Audi-O-Rama #2: The Book of Temptation


Audi-O-Rama #2: The Book of Temptation

By Justin Partridge

Dark Shadows: The Book of Temptation

Starring: David Selby, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, John Karlen, Daphne Ashbrook, and Andrew Collins

Written by: Scott Handcock

Directed by: Gary Russell

All Work and No SPOILERS AHEAD Make Jack a Dull Boy.

“Everybody has nightmares, Maggie. I can’t help you with that. Nobody can…”

Now That’s What I Call Dark Shadows! Volume Two!

Welcome back to Audi-O-Rama, dear readers. And you return to find some classic Dark Shadows hijinks and ensemble-based goodness! As we tackle 2006’s The Book of Temptation. Big Finish Productions’ strong follow up to their own return to Collinsport. Helmed by long-time Big Finish scribe Scott Handcock (Torchwood, The War Master, Time Lord Victorious, and the upcoming The Mind of Hodiac with Rusty T. Davies!) and the legendary in my book, Gary Russell.

The reverberations of Quentin Collins’ return to Collinsport are still being felt throughout the town. But nobody is more affected than poor ol’ Willie Loomis. Who wakes to find himself in the care of Maggie Evans at the Collinsport Inn after his…let’s say, draining reintroduction to the “new” Barnabas Collins and the resurrected Angelique last time in The House of Despair. 

Naturally, his “sickness” and reignited mania brought on by Barnabas’ bite raises Maggie’s hackles. And she aims to give the Collins family a piece of her mind about it too. But instead of telling off our reunited dark trio, she is drawn into this serial’s ghostly main plot. Centered around a haunted book, brought to life by Doctor Who’s Daphne Ashbrook, that feasts on the memories and souls of those unfortunate enough to read from its pages. Adding them to a twisted conglomerate of personalities 

As far as plots go, The Book of Temptation’s is a trifle basic. The idea of a haunted book has been done a few times before now in Dark Shadows and Scott Handcock’s version here doesn’t really reinvent the wheel. Despite a wonderfully broad and multi-layered performance by Daphne Ashbrook. A performer that stands up well amid the new and returned cast and who also adds a novel ethos to the part of Charlotte Howell. A former member of Collinwood’s staff in the 1920’s who becomes the main pillar personality trapped in the book’s warped collection of souls.

But The Book of Temptation’s real success is in its uses of the reassembled icons of Dark Shadows. If the previous serial’s goal was about bringing everyone back to the table and reintroducing audiences to Collinsport of the “now”, The Book of Temptation’s aim seems to be building them all back outward again. And it totally nails it.

While John Karlen’s Willie doesn’t get much to do this round aside from some quick lampshading in the first and last parts, everyone else gets substantial time in the spotlight. Kathryn Leigh Scott is brought fully back into the ensemble with her return to Collinwood, and both Handcock and Russell work overtime to make sure Quentin, the “regenerated” Barnabas, Maggie, AND Angelique get ample time and opportunity to interact with one another.

And it’s all totally sparkling! Scott’s Maggie is back to playing the voice of reason and compassion throughout the Collins family and Angelique’s pragmatic, slightly ruthless courses of action. One of which includes Quentin straight up imprisoning Maggie in the infamous Collinwood dungeon to keep her “safe” from the book’s influences. I wish I could deal with all my problems by simply throwing them in a dungeon, but I guess that’s just the privilege of the supernatural 1%ers.

Better still, Handcock’s script doesn’t ignore the already established dynamics between Maggie and the rest of the cast. While narratively he has to dance around slightly because of Maggie’s memory-wipe from the final TV episodes, on the whole, Maggie’s reconnection with everyone is dealt with really carefully. And with a deft touch performance wise thanks to Scott and Andrew Collins’ newly formed dynamic. That in itself is heavily informed by the courtly spark of Jonathan Frid and Scott’s famous chemistry.

All around, The Book of Temptation is a rousing success. Both as a sophomore installment of this “new” era of Dark Shadows and as a single serial experience. A lovingly produced slice of pulpy gothic-ness. One both gracefully supported by its TV past and working extra hard to reestablish bonafides for a whole new audience. Exemplifying how and why these characters and their franchise work. Without being overly bogged down in its reverence for the past television-based incarnation. Honestly, kinda the best case scenario for a follow-up episode! I would have loved this in 2006, but I surely love it now and will likely give this to normals looking for a neat entryway into Dark Shadows. 

Not too shabby for a second round, huh?


  • We get our first “new” appearance of the Collinwood Drawing Room! And it’s still being used for hissed and tense secret asides between characters! Traditions are very important.
  • We also get our first mention of an exorcism in this “new” era. It’s endlessly funny to me that both seances and exorcisms are just standard operating procedures for the Collins family.
  • It’s not Dark Shadows without a parallel timeline. Yet more stuff in common with Doctor Who besides sharing cast members and creatives.
  • I continue to love how Big Finish just gets out of the way of Robert Cobert’s music. They provide some wonderful supplemental music and scores of their own later on in the ranges, and even now here, thanks to Joseph Fox’s great additions. But man, Cobert’s stuff is still just unimpeachably great and they know it.

NEXT TIME: 2007’s The Christmas Presence. Our first double-dip! Yuletide vibes! Toby Longworth! Be seeing you, you crazy diamonds.


Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.
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