Editorial note… This is by an astoundingly talented and insightful author. She worked on the same team as Kathleen Resch, who created smart and insightful viewer commentaries long before the home video versions were available. It is work that rivals any that the Okudas may have done on behalf of Star Trek. If you ever chance upon their publications, including very detailed concordances, get them!
How Dark Shadows might have continued…
By Adriana I. Pena
In September Kathryn Leigh Scott decided to leave Dark Shadows. Though no one seemed aware of it, that was the death knell of the show. Yes, it went on, but there was a tired quality to it, a sense of “been there, done that” (David and Hallie playing where they shouldn’t and being possessed by ghosts AGAIN! I can excuse Hallie, but shouldn’t David know better?) And another trip to the past, and another Quentin with marital problems…And then the show limped in Parallel Time 1841 until it came to an end.
There were problems in those episodes, though there was quite a number of good ones, and some excellent ideas (Flora Collins who seemed to be even more prolific than Dan Ross) but the problem ran deeper than with plot lines, or devices, or conflicts. The problem was that the show no longer had an overriding arc, and the one that should by logic be there had aborted due to Kathryn’s absence..
The show’s first arc was the mystery of Vicky’s parentage. It kept on through the storylines, advancing a bit, but not too much, as the other plotlines developed, and while the bond between Vicky and Elizabeth grew. It might have reached a conclusion had the series been cancelled, as it threatened to do before Dan Curtis gave the go ahead to the vampire storyline. Instead it sputtered out with little interest of the viewers and the next arc took center stage.
This arc would run from the moment Willie opens that coffin to the middle of the Parallel Time storyline. It could be called “the education of a vampire’ or “how Barnabas finds that his condition is better handled without melodrama”. An arc that starts with his depredations in 1795, when new to his curse he dealt death needlessly, strangling his victims most of the time = to his feeding on Buffy Harrington in Parallel Time. when he leaves her basically unharmed, does it n private, without witnesses, and makes sure than when she faints it is on the mattress. This arc through its meanderings, and different storylines shows how he downgrades himself, from a deadly menace -The Collinsport Strangler – , to be more of a regular annoyance that people can live with, and ends with him able to fly under the radar from now on. He will still feed, but none will be the wiser, and his feedings will not be shown unless a plot point hangs from them. Notice how no one mentions vampire attacks in Parallel Time, and the only time attacks are mentioned in 1971 will be only in the past tense.
If the starting point Barnabas was a stock figure from a Hammer movie, at the end of arc hat is sharing the space of Henry Fitzroy from “Blood Ties”. The arc is over, and he cannot go further along it, Unable to move forward, he can only repeat himself, or worse, regress.
No wonder Jonathan Frid wanted out. He knew that Barnabas’ story had been told, and the rest would be superfluous commentary.
Unless there was a new arc, one that could be as gripping and fascinating as the previous one. And indeed there was such an arc, one that screamed to be developed and put on film: the confrontation of Barnabas with his earlier self, the one in 1967.
Consider these snippets.
In Parallel ‘Time, Maggie is abducted, and Barnabas is involved. This time as the rescuer, not the kidnapper.
Barnabas makes a half-hearted attempt to stalk Maggie, repeating the pattern of 1967. Interrupted before he can bite, he completely forgets about it. He realizes that he does not really want it and walks away. But still, he was tempted to reenact an old scene.
When faced with Maggie attacked by Roxanne, he makes a bitter comment “so that’s what it is like.”
Then in 1840, by traveling back in time, he stops his old self from killing Julia. His enemy this time is himself.
So, start by establishing that Barnabas remembers very little of the details of what he did in 1967. He has a vague idea that he did something wrong of which he should be ashamed. But he does not remember what, and he prefers it that way. He is determined to move forward, and denies that those deeds are part of him.
Then he starts having flashbacks..
These flashbacks can work as a background while another storyline moves forward. As some time, between storylines, all his memory comes back. All of it.
Big emotional scene, with Barnabas falling apart at the seams, understanding how badly he abused the two people how are now his support system: Julia and Willie,
From now on, Barnabas will go through a rollercoaster of emotions, and he would deal as best he could, while the storylines move on. He will have good days, when he thinks that he has his emotions under control and he will have bad days when he will be close to a nervous collapse. Sometimes only the certainty that he has to act against the current menace can pull him out of a catatonic state.
He will overcompensate for his misdeeds by being extra nice an helpful. He will stage small psychodramas to attack happy endings to particular horrors he inflicted. He will go through feelings of worthlessness which may become less frequent with time, but which can cripple him.
At some point Willie, remembering his own experience at AA will give him a copy of the Serenity prayer, which he will nail to the wall, and we will see him touching it when times get tough.
He will confront the ghosts of his victims, which will demand redress. Some demands will be reasonable and Barnabas will be able to satisfy them. Other demands will be destructive and unreasonable, but Barnabas will not be able to deny them, and will thus get into trouble. Those confrontations will be more painful because he will be aware that they died not because of his curse, but because of the clumsy way he handled himself. He had choices, he made the wrong ones, and people died for those bad choices. This does not improve his depression.
(If they were willing to hire Robert Gerringer again, we might see Dr. Woodard looking at him and commenting that nothing that he could inflict on Barnabas could be any worse than what Barnabas is already doing to himself. He might be a recurring ghost, who will comment on Barnabas with pungent one-liners).
But this arc would need at its core a confrontation: That of Barnabas and Maggie, where they finally slug it out.
And that was rendered impossible due to KLS no longer being available.
But we can dream. We can have one big explosion, everything but the kitchen sink, and the only thing that keeps Maggie from denouncing him is the bigger threat they face, and the fact that they need each other. There will be painful adjustments later.
Or something more subtle. Maggie has been recovering the memory by bits and pieces, but in the meantime she has discovery that she can make Barnabas do anything she wants just by whistling Josette’s tune. This gives her power, and she relishes it. And that power corrupts her in small ways. When she finally remembers all, she does not want to give back that power and keeps silent. She’s got a tame vampire to do her bidding, and she is not giving it up.
It becomes clearer along the way that not only Barnabas will not be cured, but that he will never have anything resembling a normal life. It might well be that at some point only an heroic sacrifice can save the day, so he dies a hero, and is remembered as such.
And with luck, there would be other overriding arcs which were growing in the back burner to take over.
We can only dream…