Adriana on Building Dark Shadows Today. #dsxp #darkshadows

As always, she nails it all!


Here is my contribution to the retooling of DS




I found another blog on the the discussion of “how would you do DS now if you had an infinite budget?” I thought that I would bring my view on what a contemporary, successful DS would be now.

1) Study “Battlestar Galactica” both he original, and the new version. Note that people who dismissed the original love the new version. Watch the Sean Connery Bond films, and move to the Daniel Craig ones. Notice something? They do not make fun of the originals, do not camp it up. On the contrary, go deeper, and more realistic, with strong characterization, and real dilemmas. So, you know what direction to go.

2) Make it a weekly series. There must be a situation solved per episode -at most in two. Those people are competent, and nothing sells competence like solving problems on a regular basis. In the meantime develop arcs that take place over several episodes. Better yet, have two or three arcs going on at the same time. Those arcs should be staggered, so that once an arc gets finished, there may be one episode to catch one's breath, but the other arcs will kick in high gear now.. The situation solve in every episode will have different degrees of seriousness (and sometimes may be humorous), but the fact that there are problems to be addressed explains why they do not pay more attention to suspicious behavior or circumstances. They will be noted, but not pondered till later. This way you do not have irritation at your characters because they take forever to do anything, nor a letdown when an arc is done, and the plot founders trying to figure out what to do next.

3) People in there by now are cool about the supernatural events. They have seen worse, and know that they can survive. Base that attitude on that of the characters in SyfFy's “Eureka” No matter how bizarre and out-of the-left field the situation the answer is “We'll deal with it” no “Arrggh…Horror…I can't believe this.” After a couple of years you know that anything is possible. and also that there is an answer that you can find.”

4) Practice economy on the supernatural happenings. When you have one, instead of throwing another one right into the mix, and another yet, develop the one you have, and the most implications you can get out of it. Also, the plot may not be so much about the supernatural element per se, as long as the plot involves characters that are supernatural. This expands the field of potential plots. Now you can raid swashbucklers, romantic comedies, screwball comedies, noir movies, war movies, spy movies, and all other different genres. Just have a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost involved in it to provide a peculiar twist. Pick your favorite movie. Any movie. Make it a DS plot by giving a prominent role in it to Barnabas, to Quentin, to Chris Jennings, to Angelique, to Nicholas… Give it a tweak while keeping its essence, And voila, you have eaten your cake and kept it too.

5) Practice economy in the killings. Yes, they will happen once in a while and “everyone can die”(and come back a ghost), but do not make it a daily occurrence. Collinsport is a small town, and if it gets a death rate similar to an area inhabited by a drug cartel, people WILL notice. You may get the National Guard, and CSI: Collinsport, and end up with a lot of cop talk. That or you may have to posit that the characters are real idiots. (I recall a comment about 'Interview with the vampire” in which it was noted that while the black slaves knew what the vampires were, and tried to burn them off, the white characters seemed oblivious to their depredations which meant that WHITE PEOPLE ARE SURE STUPID). Establish that as a rule (with exceptions every now and then) the effects of Barnabas' feeding are similar to a bad cold (You feel like sh*t, you have to stay in bed, your head does not function, you moan a lot…. and a couple of days later it is over).

6) On the same vein, create a “Minnow three hour charter tour” that will disappear characters when either the actor becomes unavailable, or the writers do not know what else to do with the character. This means that BARNABAS IS NOT A DISPOSAL SYSTEM for lazy writers.. It is one thing to have him kill a character for reasons intrinsic to the plot, or for personal reasons that may be good, bad, or indifferent, it is another to have him, say, kill Carl Collins because John Karlen wants to do a play away from NY. Let those characters end up in a desert island with a millionaire and his wife, a movie star, a professor and Mary Ann. Maybe bring them back sometime later with ominous warnings, and a hazy memory where they have been. Create a mystery about their absence, which may be explained by pseudo science babbling…

7) Character matters. Make each character an individual, with likes dislikes, and quirks, with motivations for doing the things they do. You may start with the stock figure “ingénue' or “stalwart hero” or “villain”, but in the end each character has to become interesting in his/her own right, no matter what else is happening. You may bring all the spook stuff you want, but that has to happen to real people Remember, the viewers did not find Barnabas fascinating because he was a vampire, but because he was a sharply defined individual. And the reason why Kolchak is beloved by the fans is not the Monster of the Week, but the behavior of Kolchak, who would have been interesting. no matter what he tackled. Which means retool the three ingénues, Vicky, Maggie, and Carolyn, and give them something to do, and want, and like through the plot. All characters can initiate plots, all characters can solve at least one crisis or find the necessary information. They have opinions. Those opinions may be wise or they may be incredibly stupid. But it is important that they have them.

8) Politics and religion. People have to discuss it in the show. Why? Because in real life people do that. It rounds their characters As I pointed above, people do have opinions, good, bad, and indifferent. And they have opinions about politics – even if is is the feasibility of a Jacobite restoration. The same goes for religion. There is another consideration. Current events involve situations of high dramatic impact. Just think of what might have happened if in 1795 they had acknowledged the French Revolution. Why, you might have had guillotines, and tumbrels, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Also, the games of power and political maneuvering are a fascinating theme that can be adapted to any backdrop. And since religion tends to involve games of power, including it may give rise to plot developments. (Plus the realization that a political campaign turns reasonable people into raging lunatics.)

9) FORGET HODS AS A STARTING POINT. HODS deals with a vampire killing off most of the cast before being killed himself. From that beginning you may not have the time to backtrack and make Barnabas sympathetic again before cancellation. (since we are talking about a weekly series). Better make him sympathetic, though flawed, from the start, picture him as avoiding doing major damage (as I pointed above, the consequences of his attacks are no worse than a bad cold). Yet there is always the danger of his going off the deep end due to unresolved issues. When he freaks out, watch out!

So, with these rules, can we get a new retooled series?

About these ads


  1. lennysmom says:

    Can’t agree with #8, that characters and stories should express opinions about religion and politics because this reflects how it is in reality. . A part of the success of the show isn’t that it reflected reality, but that it created it’s own reality. And I think that’s true with any show that goes on to become a “cult show”.

    • AdrianaI. Pena says:

      Lenny’s Mom: I do not say that stories should express opinions about religion and politics, only that characters must. They do not have to be about the latest current issues, only the local issues that are likely to arise in that time and place. Local politics is an activity that all people engage in, if only to curse their alderman. A national election makes people comment at the bar, and their opinions are colored by how much beer they had. Some issues can drive a wedge among characters, which can start the plot in differnet directions. Some local issues, and some national ones, applied to the local setting, can be the starting point of new plotlines. Then political maneuverings make for great drama. What makes “The Game of Thrones” so fascinating is the political maneuverings everyone engages in. Only since it involves politics in a different world we accept them. There are politics in “Star Trek” and on “Babylon 5″. In fact the big arc of “Babylon 5″ was the descent of Earth into a police state, and the overthrow of that state by Sheridan – whose hero was Abraham Lincoln. Politics at its best. Do not bring in issues to mount a soapbox but to bring in exciting elements to plots.

      As for religion, you have to start pondering it the moment you wonder if Barnabas is trulyn damned or if there is redemption for him… aind if that redemption may take more than some injections by Julia…. You cannot escape religion when you can protect yourself from certain creatures by teh use of religious symbols (crosses).

      • Yes, I even recall Willie and Jilia quite literally beginning to pray when they think that Barnabas is dead.

        To me, there is an elephant in the room when religion and Dark Shadows mix, and that is that there are no (or almost no) positive portrayals of the clergy in Dark Shadows.

        Bunch of reasons for this. Horror has a fine history of anyone in a position of authority being revealed as disreputable. The key weapons in horror are knowledge and self-determination. The more you take away either (or both), the scarier things get. Not being able to trust an authority (especially the ultimate one), the scarier things can get.

        On the other side, if you bring in a clerical “good guy” and they don’t readily defeat the bad guy, it can cast aspersions on the efficacy of the related religion… and it’s representatives.

      • AdrianaI. Pena says:

        Well, I recall the Trask family. all wrong’uns… Not a decent one in the bunch. On the other hand, I got news from Argentina, and how the Catholic Church there collaborated with the bloody dictatoriship, how they knew about the “disappeared” and how they helped hide the evidence, and how they aided and abetted those crimes, I have the strong suspicion taht there is no Catholic Bishop nor Cardinal who is not an thorough son of a bitch… Actually the Trasks are rose-colored version of the breed…

        Still there is an interesting theological debate to be made in Dark Shadows. I do not want to beat my own drum, but later on in the Chronicles, when they have to deal with Laura, they reach an understanding that Light is not always Good and Dark is not always Evil, and the problem with the Church is that it swallowed taht lie, and tehrefore got tainted with evil members of the Light…. It is and explanation, I do not know if it is a good one, but it is one…

  2. Turtleman says:

    First off, I am unfamiliar with Adriana and having said that I congratulate her for writing such a readable and understandable piece for just not a future DS, but as a general guide (albeit with some reasonable specifics) to understanding just about any series. Her points about plot and character development are right on from the perspective of someone who has never written a series but who has viewed many, many of them often with the finger poised on the remote ready to delete often for reasons that I don’t understand other than, “I don’t like this!” The author has given me something akin to a model to understand how a series should work. Thank you…TM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 318 other followers

%d bloggers like this: