Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 2


Aired on this day in 1971: Episode 1245


When Brutus makes the mistake of chuckling, Bramwell and Catherine find salvation in a convenient rooster. Bramwell: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 23 min)

Bramwell and Catherine navigate their last hours in the cursed room. Brutus almost wins Catherine over, but common sense rules the day. Later, Morgan attacks and falls to his death. 

Oh, my darling.

I feel guilty when you call me that.

But you are my darling.

Yes, yes.

You always will be.


We will leave here within the week. We will forget everything that ever happened here.

No, I can never forget. I’ll remember now that I must follow my heart, not my head. I will never make that mistake again.

Never forget that you will always have my love.

That I will remember.

              Sam Hall, DARK SHADOWS 1245

Even though the final episode of Dark Shadows has minutes to go, these lines basically end it.  Spiritually. The rest is just a matter of tipping the padre on the way out and being the first to hit the oneg before those damned kids make off with far more hamantaschen than they’ve any right to. 

I’ve left off the character names. This is Bramwell and Catherine, yes. That means it’s Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. And when we see them, we really see Barnabas and Angelique. And when we hear them speak of the past, it could mean any point on the spectrum of time that radiates from them. Words like these, or similar, could have been spoken by either character at a number of points. Most notably, points in 1840. 

It’s good to be home. For all of us. Just in time to say goodbye, unfortunately.

The final episode of the series coincides with the anniversary of the Daybook, and I am compelled to revisit it because, in a story with no map, it is nonetheless our destination. Kind of. By the very nature of text, it is the ending, and thus, the point. What is Dark Shadows but Xeno’s Cliffhanger? Our hands have slipped 1223 times, and to our thankful dismay, a tiny outcropping of plot presented itself just as many times to keep us from plunging over for permanent. We may root for Catherine and Bramwell (and Melanie and Kendrick, too) in this episode, but we are all Morgan Collins, plunging away from a Collinwood without end. 

There is so much emotion and background noise of series significance going on in this final episode that it’s easy for a guy like me to get distracted. I’m so busy with the sizzle that I don’t even notice the steak. This episode is doing several opposite things at once, and manages to pull off the destiny of Dark Shadows while it’s at it. It speaks to love and loneliness. It speaks to limits and forgiveness. 

How? Well, what’s going on with Brutus at this hour of the morning? I’m seeing a bad husband catching his wife in the arms of someone who actually cares about her. Brutus’s response? The picture of Relationship Privilege: he ignores the lovestruck sap and simply tells his wife to knock it off and come to bed. At first, anyway. 

No, no, Catherine isn’t Amanda. We get it. But stop the presses, Olsen, because Catherine’s not Catherine, either. Symbolically, she’s Angelique with hipper hair. This is a metaphorical afterword and epilogue and coda and Columbovian “one more thing.” So, just… go with it. 

Note that Brutus isn’t even wrathful with the fool who’s wasting his time being in love with his wife. Brutus just chuckles at him, which is what I imagine most husbands do regarding the rest of us… just because they knew about the marital job fair that we single guys slept through. Day ain’t over yet, my friends. Remember when I said it spoke to loneliness? Yes, by implication.   

So, Brutus is chuckling like a Rembrandt cover of the Monopoly Man, telling Catherine, “Come to me! Come to me!” She’s considering it. 

Amidst this laughter, Bramwell points out to Catherine that going with the evil ghost papi isn’t the best life plan. I mean, does Brutus say “Come to me” to every blonde who’s cheating on one of his descendants with another one of his descendants? 

Your golf ball?  Your car? Does everything belong to you?

Not so fast, Brutus! She’s not Amanda and everyone admits that you’ve had too many victims. (Which begs the question of, “How many victims can you have as a Collins patriarch and still be considered a decent marriage prospect?”)

But these Husbandoids are clever.  Watch Brutus swallow his pride and falsify contrition as he asks Catherine, a woman he’s never met, to forgive him. And it works. Once again, Dark Shadows is the most realistic show on TV. The abusive (symbolic) husband proclaims he still loves her, despite the body count, and Catherine seems perfectly enthused by it. What do these guys have? These abusive, privileged schmucks act like they own the world because the women in their lives treat them like they… well… own the world. Everybody: knock it off. It’s the 21st century and you’re all part of the problem now. I mean, seriously. 

This is important. This isn’t just my standard Single Lament. This is Dark Shadows’s last appeal to their key demographic. 

Anyway, Bramwell tries to restrain her. Brutus force-chokes him. And the only way that Brutus loses is by gloating so much that Catherine comes to her senses. That, and he looks pretty silly in that collar. A rooster crows, Brutus’s time is up. Catherine will stick with the guy who actually loves her.

And I privately hope that maybe life’s solitude can end like that for all of us. 

Yeah, I know. It’s asking a lot. 

The story of Dark Shadows begins with a woman trapped at home because she lacked the option of divorce. So she thought. Yes, okay, there’s an attempted murder in there. But we look over that because the show does.

It ends very differently. 

Better choices are possible with enough time. With enough of a pause, the rooster crows. The worst of us goes back into the coffin. The best of us wait to use a fireplace poker that only parts Dennis Patrick’s hair.  

Impetuousness is the enemy here. Yes, Catherine, you say that life’s villain is the practice of the heart following the head, rather than the other way around. Incorrect. Neither heart nor head are unimportant if you simply take the time for them to catch up with each other. Dark Shadows is about patience. 

In this sense, it speaks to viewers as well, forcing them to be patient, 1244 times in a row. In a show about rituals, it is the greatest ritual of all.

Clocks dominate. Time is a prison. As Dark Shadows leaves the air, we are given one last gift: choosing which side of the bars we’ll occupy. 

This series left the world of the living on April 2, 1971.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

A Night Before… you know.

 'Twas the night before Christmas, when through the Old House, no one living was stirring, not even Willie, that louse; The Secret door by the chimney hung open — who cares?Not even Buzz Hackett would return to call them all squares;

The mortals slept fitless in their Collinwood beds;

While dark dreams of chromakey danced in their heads;

It was a melancholy evening. Her absence to blame. Without Angelique’s laughter, the season was tame.

When out by the tower there arose such a din. Had a tipsy Dr. Hoffman finally pulled in?

Up towards the window I jumped like a cat,

And out through the window I flew as a bat;

The moon glittered like diamonds on the rocks on the shore,

As Widows Hills’s invite I chose to ignore.

When what to my sonar-sharp ears did appear,

But a roaring jalopy with some villains so dear,

Oh Roger from the wheel away he did shirk, for he crashed into Collinwood but couldn’t blame Burke.

More rapid than zombies, his retinue  disembarked,

And he fumed and shouted to recall where they parked:

"Now, Adam! Now, Bruno! Now Kitten you Vixen!

I blame our crash on the new speed limit, because I still voted for Nixon!

To the drawing room bar! Grab a good frosted glass!

Alert Mrs. Johnson, that pain in the ass!

Get Quentin in here, and let him quake in his shoes,

Drinking coffee, I doubt it, because I’ve been marking the booze;”

So up the grand staircase his carousers they flew

With a bag full of body parts, and 

And good Eric Lang too—

And then, from a foley, I heard someone dismount,

It was a roaring magician who said he was a count!

As I glided in loops, and was turning around,

I saw Andreas Petofi with some Daybooks Unbound.

He was dressed all in velvet, from his head to his toes,

Nothing off the rack from Brewsters. He had style and it shows;

A bundle of books he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a swinger from Sinatra‘s Rat Pack.

His eyes behind glasses—how they glittered and gleamed! And Aristide beside him plotted and schemed!

His words were excited and jolly and merry, quite the opposite of the drivel from that bore, Wendell Berry!

His assistant was hoping for a good puppet show,

But Angelique was absent, and that filled him with woe;

The stump of his wrist ached for her magic touch, without it his digits were hardly worth much.

But his broad face still grinned

At her memory dear, and he approached a house without her with a distinct lack of fear;

He knew it was Christmas, and would go with no hitch. If there’s a return you can count on, it’s that of a witch. 

And I laughed when I saw him, I knew he was right.

Her spirit was out there on this glorious night. 

He called not for line, but drew a star in the floor,

And commenced a dark working to bring her to our door.

And laying his hand on the apex he ranted,

And bellowed and raved and magically chanted;

He uttered dark incantations first heard cross the pond,

And then laughed when he presented me a most bewitching lost blonde.

And I heard him exclaim as he left like a streak—

“You can’t call it Christmas without the fair Angelique!”

— Patrick McCray

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Lara Parker: In Memoriam

God, we were lucky.

Dan Curtis had the Dream. Art Wallace made it one given form. The cast made it real. Jonathan Frid made it wholly unique. Lara Parker made it true. 

Every unbelievable thing, she made true. 

Poised? Yes. Precise? Yes. All are traits of the Vassar debutante aristocracy. All of those things. And Savage. Certainly, savagely intelligent. Political fashion had yet to drive a wedge between the beauty pageant and the college boards, and so before the 21st century dictated otherwise, some extraordinary women really did do it all.

Would you want to be the one to tell Lara Parker she couldn’t? Or shouldn’t? Be my guest. Tell me how that works out for you. I’m gonna be in the concrete bunker murmuring something about “I am Shiva, destroyer of worlds.”

“Destroyer of Worlds.” Yes. Lara Parker. Destruction and creation are aftermaths of each other. She destroyed worlds that had it coming. Or was that Angelique? Like Nimoy’s Spock, just don’t even bother to separate actor from role. No, she’s not Angelique. And yet Angelique is nothing without her. 

“Destroyer of Worlds.” She would’ve found that the most embarrassing praise possible. Humiliating beyond words. I’m sorry. Honestly. Not done with that intent. I’m just trying to tell the truth.  The only minutely positive thing to come from her passing is that we can finally and openly complement her to a proper extent, one which my experience tells me she would have found embarrassing. Well, art is embarrassing. Sometimes, our only defense against sorrow is to remind ourselves of joy. Indulgently. And Angelique was all about indulgence.

Let’s unite Lara Parker and Angelique for just a few minutes. Just as an exercise. We all do it, anyway. Now, I’m giving you permission. Because I said so.

“Goddess of Destruction.” The good kind. And why not? 

Destroyer of expectations. Of orthodoxy. Of preconceptions. Of assumptions. Of what a witch was supposed to be. Of what love was supposed to be.  And what a debutante was supposed to be. What a philosopher was supposed to be. What an author was supposed to be. What a celebrity was supposed to be. 

Destroyer of a show with too many humans. It was a show that needed angry gods to give it humanity. And Barnabas is just one side of that equation. When Angelique entered Collinwood back around this time in the fall of ‘95, it had to be obvious that the program that had everything finally had the one final thing.. that no one was aware… that everyone had found to be missing. But never knew it. If you follow me.  

To see her in action with those lines in those situations is to see something for the first time. To name drop within the family for a moment, one of Sy Tomashoff’s protégés once told me about Mozart’s most endearing quality; his music always has the freshness of hearing it for the first time, every time.  Yes. Like that. But blonde and choking a toy soldier. Adorably! Yes, doing that. Or melting at the sight of Barnabas, the way we all knew he deserved. Someone who loved him as beautifully and inexplicably as he loved Josette. 

And in the years after, she destroyed our sad little worlds, bereft of our friends — our real friends, in Collinsport — by bringing them to life again. In a bizarre act of unnatural love for a series that had given her and us so much. Has anyone ever given back that much? When Angelique’s Descent hit the bookstores, didn’t you think you were in the middle of the craziest dream? My God, how lucky. And then to do it three more times? Has anyone, since April of 1971, sacrificed more hours and given us more creativity, authenticity, integrity, and art, genuine, lush, literary art, in the name of Dark Shadows? No. Have you read those books? Of course, the answer is yes. You know what I’m talking about. Those are books with a depth and a freedom that this strange dream should not have yielded.  Those books are undeniable truth that there is something of deep worth and resonance within this story. They are written with an eloquence and inspired élan that forever dispel the illusion that Dark Shadows is just some campy, nostalgic fad. 

I have lamented that Dark Shadows has yet to find its Nicholas Meyer, (although a preemptive box of cigars is on its way to the marvelous Mark B. Perry).  But I was wrong. Just as Meyer proved with the Star Trek mythos, Lara Parker did with the mythos of Dark Shadows. 

A film recording is just a thin recollection of a moment of flickering, ephemeral art captured at the moment of its birth and vaporization. It’s not the experience of acting. It’s an echo of the experience of acting trapped in two dimensions. 

But writing is a physical thing. It lives in a book. In defined symbols. On a shelf. In your hands. Exactly the way it was intended. The words are what the author saw when they appeared from keystrokes and pen strokes. It is the art that is always the same in the decades-later reading as it was when it was created.  Lara Parker gave us Dark Shadows as much as anyone, and then she gave it to us again. In a way that will never die. And in that way, she will never die.

It’s all so unlikely. A guy puts golf on TV, and since golf is played during the day, he winds up running some daytime programming. And one Mrs. O’Leary’s cow later, fate Rube Goldbergs us to this point now. Together. If you’re reading this, I am lucky. Someone else out there gets it. What a strange, microthin streak of fortune brought us together. Lara Parker is gone. I hate those words bitterly. And that is a pain as deep and embarrassing as I ever want to feel. And, I suspect, as you ever want to feel. But think of how lucky we are to have such a reason to feel it. 

And that we are together.


Monday, February 6, 2023

"Unbound" a reminder of the possibilities of "Dark Shadows"

Imagine that you’re a college student in the late 1980s who vaguely recollected reading about a soap opera with a vampire in it. Your local mom-and-pop video store has reissues of that soap opera – on VHS! – Available for rental, $1.99 or 3 for $5. Of *course* you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on renting and watching ...

Because that college student was me, and that video store was my entry into Collinsport and Barnabas Collins, two DS Celebrations, and the writing of fan fiction. (Which is, thankfully, buried somewhere in the bowels of the internet) Flash forward a few years later, and I meet another second-generation Dark Shadows fan. One who shared my not-quite-that-serious love of the show and who was, remarkably, close to my age.  I was the Grayson Hall to his Thayer David...or was I the John Karlen to his David Selby? But several decades later, that friend wrote a collection of essays later published as THE DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK.

Yes, I am talking about Patrick McCray, and he’s released the inevitable sequel, THE DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND. But to call UNBOUND a sequel is misleading because it’s so much more than that.

Let me use an analogy: the first DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK was a kind of “greatest hits” compilation. Put together some great essays about Dark Shadows highlights, throw in a few assorted “should-have-been-hits,” and you have a decent collection. Well worth your time, and your intellect, but a necessary reminder that Dark Shadows matters.

However, the new DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is like one of the multi-disc boxed sets you would get in the 90s. (You even get the equivalent of “liner notes” in the form of an excellent introduction by writer/producer Mark B. Perry, working to reincarnate Dark Shadows for the 21st century). After he kicks off the book, Patrick provides a collection of great essays highlighting some of the more intricate emotional beats of the show…

But he also takes time to provide context for those cast members who have left: reminisces about Christopher Pennock, Diana Millay, and Geoffrey Scott are sprinkled amongst the discussion of the work of other cast members like Jonathan Frid, John Karlen, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, and Louis Edmonds. It’s a set up for the final set of essays at the end of the book. 

After discussing Episode 1198, DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND starts its endgame with a moving tribute to Ben Cross, followed by several essays about the 1991 revival. (Yes, he works the same magic for the revival). But it’s the one two-three punch that follows which cements the emotional core of the book. A moving tribute to Mitch Ryan leads to a loving discussion of the 2021 DARK SHADOWS CHRISTMAS CAROL…

And UNBOUND’S endgame is the epilogue to the made-for-television docudrama about Dark Shadows which will never happen. It’s a series of vignettes which focus on the cast, producers, and writers after the show ends, and which solidifies the themes of UNBOUND. 

DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is a well-needed reminder that Dark Shadows is more than just “that show that everyone ran home to see” or “that show that I learned about via VHS” or “that soap opera with vampires, ghosts and werewolves.” Integrating gothic and horror concepts within the limits of the soap opera genre, DARK SHADOWS became a singular exploration around themes of remorse, redemption, and character growth. In DAYBOOK UNBOUND, Patrick McCray provides a great reminder that the show not only had an impact on viewers, but also the producers, writers, and cast. 

DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is a great reminder of why DARK SHADOWS matters. 

It’s available for purchase on Amazon. Buy it and read it and you’ll be motivated to head back to Tubi, Amazon, or your video collection to revisit the show. 

I know I will.

— Gordon Dymowski 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Audi-O-Rama #3: Dark Shadows: The Christmas Presence

By Justin Partridge

Starring: David Selby, John Karlen, Andrew Collins, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and Toby Longworth

Written by: Scott Handcock

Directed by: Gary Russell

Sloat in This SPOILERS AHEAD World (III)

“Surely you have something more…substantial for me to feast upon? It is Chris-TT-Mass, after all.”

Our first double dip reveals an unexpected strength and deepened appreciation for Dark Shadows: The Christmas Presence! My third time at-bat overall for Audi-O-Rama; an exploration and analysis of Dark Shadows (and others!) at Big Finish Productions. 

In the interest of full disclosure, o readers, despite my excitement in the opening of this column, I was slightly worried about “re-covering” some of these for the CHS. Thoughts like “will people want to hear about them again?” and “Should I just move into the House by the Sea and become a crab-man?” rattled through my head. 

But much of that noise was blasted away once I finally sat down again with The Christmas Presence. As I found it a wholly delightful, well in-character single serial that is only improved with my as-chronological-as-possible listening order. 

Christmas Eve is approaching and Quentin Collins is keeping true to his word to regather his family. He has a canny plan for it too. First, he will send out a sort of “psychic signal” into the world, inviting them back to Collinwood. Once back, he will ply them with a sumptuous Christmas lunch. One he’s invited the whole town to as well, with the help of Willie Loomis and Maggie Evans. And even Anqelique and Barnabas are put to the task, as Quentin recruits our favorite witch and vampire combination to help don Collinwood’s most gay apparel. Hopefully transforming the once imposing and empty mansion into the inviting pillar of the community Quentin wants it to be. 

But someone…or someTHING else has other holiday plans. A ravenous creature that has been stealing children across Collinsport. Seemingly with the face of “whatever they want it to be”. For its latest victim it’s Santa Claus. But for Quentin, it’s the face of a family friend and only “person” to take him up on the invitation. Professor Timothy Eliot Stokes! Played with a hammy, but charming power by Big Finish veteran Toby Longworth. Drawing Collinwood once more into a tried and true supernatural scandal that is draped heavily in small-town tragedy, trauma, and torment.

What better way to spend a Christmas, right?

Oh, and also, a Christmas turkey bound for the oven comes to life and tries to kill Maggie. 

Gosh I just think Dark Shadows is really neat.

My big Marge Simpson energy aside, The Christmas Presence really is a tremendous third installment for this fledgling range. One that continues to make good on the intention to “reestablish” Dark Shadows as a whole. 

For one thing, they really start mixing up the character pairings, relying heavily on one of Dark Shadows’ most enduring and powerful elements; its cast. While David Selby’s more reserved and heartfelt take on Quentin Collins is still the de-facto “lead” of the serial, everyone down the line gets substantial time in the spotlight. Better still, they usually are paired off with someone else we love while doing so. Our beloved John Karlen gets some weighty scenes both with Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker. Andrew Collins’ regenerated Barnabas too is allowed ample room for charged, but largely courtly banter with Scott as well, tempered further with his hissed and powerful asides with Parker. 

This is the first one so far that felt as if everyone had plenty to do and talk about and I appreciate Handcock and company realizing that’s where the real strength of Dark Shadows lies. In its ensemble and character interactions. 

Better still, The Christmas Presence comes to the table with our first bonafide banger of a plot. The idea of Quentin imploring psychically for his family to come to Christmas lunch and then having to deal with how it pisses off the rest of the assembled cast to carry out said lunch could have been enough. But also further the inclusion of the “Nightmare Creature” that’s not only using Stokes’ face, but Stokes HIMSELF as a bridge into the waking world where he can feast on more nightmares. It’s just total candy, and right at home within Dark Shadows’ already established world of conceptual, but grounded monsters

The Christmas Presence ALSO comes with a great deal of expanded scope and attention being paid to its own internal continuity as my beloved Big Finishverse is starting to take shape. Folks wondering about Willie’s vampire bite from The House of Despair will be as disappointed as I was not to see that being followed up on just yet, but thankfully Handcock and Russell provide plenty more in its place. 

Chiefly, more exploration of Quentin’s “Graveyard of Memories” as well as the opening gambits of The Second Barnabas’ own memory gaps from the end of the TV show. Along with his possible “overwriting” of the soul whose body he now inhabits. All being brought to a head as the cast faces off against the Stokes creature, who offers them the chance to make all their “dreams” (read: nightmares) come true.

It’s a lot of really heady stuff, but I really applaud the creative team’s willingness to go this big and this weird THIS early on in the range. All while achieving the nearly impossible task of keeping everyone sounding and acting in character supported by a meaty premise.

I was slightly worried about diving back into The Christmas Presence. I know this is one some fans don’t really enjoy and it has a slightly spotty reputation thanks to the “undead, killer Christmas turkey” of it all. 

But truly, I was very impressed with it this second time around. It’s got all the major hallmarks one could want of “proper” Dark Shadows while also attempting to grow the franchise into new, interesting places. Using both known iconography, strong plots (finally) and the wonderfully spirited performances of the character actors we all have come to adore.

The Dark One bless us! Everyone!


  • My original review! Part of a pair of “Very Special Christmas Episode” reviews I did for our beloved CHS.
  • There is also a weird bit of discrepancy as to when this actually was released. The Big Finish website says “September 2006”, but the Dark Shadows Fandom Wiki (a resource I’ve found myself using more and more throughout this column) cites it as “January 2007”. Even in my OWN FIRST REVIEW, I say it’s 2006. One more thing to ask Scott Handcock and Gary Russell should I ever meet them.
  • The Second Barnabas has the sword cane too and I’m just as giddy rediscovering that fact as I was first discovering that fact. 
  • Sheriff Haggerty shoutout! It’s awesome seeing this range already dropping hints and teases for the incoming serialization elements and miniseries. (Haggerty makes a debut proper in Kingdom of the Dead). 
  • Composer Joseph Fox continues to excel with the new scoring of this era of DS, but the wholesale (largely unchanged) use of “Josette’s Theme” during this serial really nailed me in the ribs. Tremendous stuff all around, score and sound design wise. 
  • Speaking again of Scott Handcock, I’m mostly finished with Doctor Who: The Mind of Hodiac; the Russell T. Davies  “Lost Story” for the Sixth Doctor and Mel that he helped bring to life this past month. Expect a full review eventually over at my other gig Dis/Member, but a slight teaser, it’s tremendous (and oh, so, 80s, innit?!)

NEXT TIME: The Rage Beneath! Big Finish’s first arc finale! One I’ve never heard before! Be seeing you, house proud town mouses. 

Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 9

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 798


In the wake of Szandor’s death, Magda and Barnabas discover that her curse has destroyed Quentin‘s heretofore-undiscovered child. Meanwhile, Quentin is given reason to suspect that Victor is actually the Count.

It begins as the darkest of dark comedies, and Thayer David looks like he’s broken loose from the set of a mordant Blake Edwards movie. Szandor shows up at the door, eyes bulging and voice as monotonous as Ricky Jay’s. Classic TV hypnosis. Except that Barnabas very quickly realizes that he’s not hypnotized, as does Magda when her long-suffering husband finally falls dead at her feet, knife in the back. And in some ways, it really is a knife in the back from the writers of the show as Szandor and his laborious makeup job are replaced by Count Petofi and HIS laborious makeup job. Either way you slice it, it’s going to be early mornings for Thayer David for the foreseeable future.

With Szandor’s death, Petofi has officially arrived. Not a moment too soon. By “officially arrived," I mean that Quentin did what the Collinses do best, besides lying: he snoops in the garden to see the count in an intimate moment with the show’s favorite, insidious imp, Aristide. A connection!

And then the episode packs Quentin’s bags for a one-way trip to hell; the audience finds out that a gypsy curse has robbed him of a child he never knew existed. The revelation to Quentin is a cold, quiet study in stillness and being. Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall and David Selby sit with the dark luxury of simply being as the weight of one hundred episodes carries itself for once. It’s a remarkable slice of authentic theatre in a sea of breathlessly timed craft. 

It’s also the most authentically sobering moment on the series. Barnabas wisely corrects a grieving Aunt Magda that their former hostilities are no longer relevant. The program’s sinister antics are all fun and games until someone loses an infant. This suddenly becomes a very real-world horror, haunting every parent and older sibling watching the program. Dark Shadows is becoming very good at playing for keeps, Although it didn’t start out that way. Maggie‘s kidnapping flirts with it. So does the pain of 1795. And from 1995 until the end of the series, the show will excel at handcrafted discomfort. And few moments are as cruel as Barnabas experiences with the death of Angelique. But even that pales in comparison to this. I can aspire to glib detachment as much as I want, but the death of a child is a horror universal to humankind. Including me. 

Compound that with the knowledge that Quentin is the loneliest character in all of Dark Shadows, and everyone knows it. We can imagine, just from his interaction with Jamison, what a marvelous father he would have made. Move over Shatner;  I see your Transformed Man and raise you a Quentin Collins: parent. Not only do Barnabas and Magda discover that this was a possibility all along, but they also see a lengthening shadow that will redefine Quentin, and only for the worse. The question now is, what shape will that take?

We are nearly 100 episodes into the 1897 adventure. When we look back on this storyline, I think many of us just remember the color and humor and panache of it all. We forget how it begins to end. The party’s over, but the show refuses to turn on the fluorescents. Quentin emerges as the normative voice of reason as the staid world that was once his cosmic Margaret Dumont becomes an asylum. It is a transformation far more profound than his lycanthropic one. As he is thrust into bereaved sobriety, Quentin will be confronted with reflections again and again to quietly punish him for the sins of who he was. And can become at any point. Want proof?

Of course, the painting. A living testament to his animalistic urges, it will also record a decay divorced from age.  When we see him in the 20th century, Quentin will be one year shy of one hundred. Elderly, but not impossibly so. When he re-discovers the painting, it is not of a 99-year-old man. It is an EC Comics portrayal of the worst of syphilitic dissolution and decay. Yes, Quentin is dolorous and mature by then, but his immortality clearly led to decades of greater risk. Even a reformed sinner can fall off the wagon, and it’s clear that the wagon backed up and ran over him more than once. Even though he is, literally, the picture of handsome, the actual picture depicting the consequences of his actions can never be destroyed. Even more conscience. Yes, Barnabas suffers. But he suffers from comparably cartoonish tragedies. Quentin’s suffering comes from his regret of some very relatable mistakes. It’s a quiet acid that can never completely destroy him. It just burns without release. No one on the show could explore the humanity and range of that journey like David Selby. 

But Quentin has another reflection to confront: the Count.  Both men are mischievous magic users fully content to dissimulate with zest if it gets them what they want. By confronting the Count, and by occasionally inhibiting his body, Quentin will learn the value of choosing a better path. The Count is exactly who Quentin might have become without a tragedy. And any parent will tell you that the prospect of losing a hand merits less than a shrug compared to the thought of losing a child. 

The 60s, but especially the preceding year of 1968, would force the most carefree of Americans to grow up. Dark Shadows was doing the same.

This episode hit the airwaves July 16, 1969.
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