As much as I love Dark Shadows, these are five of the show’s storylines most likely to make me drive a stake through my heart. In an interview about his upcoming film adaption of Dark Shadows, director Tim Burton commented that when the original show utilized time travel it made him want to do his homework. With one exception (which may be the storyline he is actually remembering but he instead generalizes all of the show’s time traveling adventures), it is interesting to note they all take place in the modern day (1960s).
5. Pre-1840 Buildup: Time Travel, Playrooms, & Hippie Astrologists
It’s 1970. Most teenagers are interested in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but David Collins and Hallie Stokes are different. They’re into playrooms, ghosts, and dressing up like dead teenagers from 1840.
Even though the 1840 storyline is one of my absolute favorites, I find the episodes leading up to the actual events of 1840 excessively tedious. First, Barnabas and Julia return from the world of parallel time in 1970 to find themselves in the year 1995, in which Collinwood is destroyed. Everyone is dead, crazy, missing, or simply unwilling (or unable) to talk about the events that lead to the disaster. Once Barnabas and Julia make it back to 1970, the disaster starts to unfold, yet they are unable to do anything to it. At the center of this tragedy is the teenage David Collins and Hallie Stokes, niece of Professor Stokes, and the fleeting playroom. Yeah, like David and Hallie are definitely not too old to be interested in a “playroom.” We sit through 40+ episodes of seeing the results of the disaster, the disaster unfolding, and we’re still struggling to understand its cause. It gets a bit old. The story is also interwoven with a mysterious vampire who’s not Barnabas (…who cares?) and a hippie astrologist named Sebastian Shaw whose outfits are outrageous as his name.
4. The Dream Curse: A Dream with Twelve Doors, Black Wigs, & Other Things That Make Me Want to Bury Myself Alive
Dream Sequences: a Dark Shadows specialty.
Soon after Victoria Winters returns from her trip to 1795, she discovers the year 1968 has brought Roger Collins a new wife, a woman named Cassandra aka Angelique in a (not so) chic black wig. Angelique, of course, has to ruin the lives of everyone but most of all Barnabas, whom, she is infuriated to discover, has been cured of his vampirism. She plans to reinstate the vampire curse through the grueling dream curse. One person has the terrifying dream and will continue to have it until they tell it to the next person. And eventually when someone tells Barnabas, he will awake from the dream to find a squeaking piece of cloth waiting to rip into his neck. So we get to see this dumb dream like…twelve times. Cassandra is also simultaneously torturing Elizabeth with the fear that she will be buried alive because Elizabeth said something snooty to her (she’s the mistress of Collinwood, Cassandra, she can do and say whatever she wants, get over it). So Elizabeth is running around making arrangements for her coffin to have twelve holes drilled into it or something, I don’t even know. It’s ridiculous.
We do get to meet Nicolas Blair, though, so…
3. The Leviathans: Don’t talk to strangers, Barnabas
Will the real Barnabas Collins please wake up and end this Leviathan storyline?
Joshua and Naomi evidently never taught Barnabas to not speak to strangers or take strange boxes from them because that’s what starts this whole nightmare. Actually, Barnabas’s never-ending obsession with Josette starts it, but that’s nothing new. Barnabas meets some creepy people, accepts a box (which has some sort of power?) from them, takes it back to Collinwood, acts really weird, and converts members of the family, one by one, to the Leviathan cause. Whatever that is. I don’t know. I guess it made sense to people in 1969.
Redeeming quality: Christopher Pennock. He makes all his greaseball characters worth it.
2. Adam & Eve: A Match Unfortunately Made in Dr. Lang’s Laboratory
Baby’s first words: Bar-na-BUS!
Ugh, ugh, ugh. I can’t even write coherently about this storyline because I hate it that much. The purpose of Adam was to cure Barnabas’s vampirism; it’s a success. The purpose of Eve was to create a mate for Adam; it’s not a success. Because she hates him. Because he’s dumb. But so is she, so I always failed to see the problem. It never ends. Unfortunately.
1. 1841 Parallel Time: What Could Have Been, But Never Should Have Been
Bramwell Collins aka Barnabas Collins with a really bad haircut and major anger management issues
What could be worse than Adam and Eve? Well, I forgot how bad this final storyline of Dark Shadows was until I reached the end of my DVD collection. In 1840, Daphne Harridge begins to witness the strange events of parallel time in the east wing. Once we conclude the 1840 storyline, we jump straight into this not-so-interesting world. Its premise is somewhat intriguing: a curse has been placed on the Collins family since the 17th century, requiring a lottery to be held each generation. One member of the family must spend a night in the locked room and either comes out dead or insane. The story swiftly loses color, accelerated by the lackluster characters–Morgan Collins (gag me), Catherine Harridge, Bramwell Collins. They just don’t work. The concept of parallel time is also no longer remotely interesting. It’s a really disappointing end to the show.
The wardrobe of Quentin Collins is exceptionally dapper, however, and Christopher Pennock as the alcoholic Gabriel Collins is a pleasure, as always.
Don’t forget to catch House of Dark Shadows on TCM tomorrow (January 31) at 10 P.M.!