Rich Handley Author and Editor

Dark Shadows: The 1795 Storyline

In my DARK SHADOWS re-watch, I’ve reached my favorite era of the show: the werewolf saga. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this storyline again, for so much goes on here that had me glued to the set the first time:

* The arrival of Amy Jennings, the best of the show’s child characters, and her sad plight as a young girl who has lost her family and becomes vulnerable to possession

* Barnabas trying to help Chris Jennings during his werewolf phases

* Quentin’s ghost manipulating David and Amy–David Selby is downright terrifying as a malevolent spirit!

* Betsy Durkin replacing Alexandra Moltke (OK, I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I think Durkin is SOOOOO much better in the role than Moltke was–of the six actors to portray Vicki Winters, Durkin comes in second only to Joanna Going, as far as I’m concerned)

* Joe Haskell going completely bug-nuts insane–what a great performance Joel Crothers puts in after Joe is bitten by Angelique!

* Professor Stokes (my favorite character on DARK SHADOWS) becoming an even more integral part of the show thanks to his knowledge of I Ching and the mystic arts

* The exploration of the closed-off west wing of Collinwood, which is always fun–I find myself thinking that I would love to get into that part of the house and look around (it’s also my favorite aspect of the early Dark Shadows novels)

* Quentin’s ghost taking possession of the house and driving every terrified family member out the door

* The return to 1795, leading to the amazing 1897 storyline, featuring some of DARK SHADOWS’ all-time best elements: Quentin’s origins, Magda Rakosi, Reverend Trask, Charity Trask, the return of the Phoenix and Count Petofi

What a fantastic period of the show. It’s a shame that all of this wonderful storytelling and all of these great characters will be followed up by the dead-on-arrival bog-slog that is the Leviathans arc. It’s like going on a cruise and enjoying non-stop gourmet food and romance for a week, then coming home to an empty house and eating undercooked Swanson’s frozen TV dinners while reading past-due credit card bills you can’t afford to pay because you’ve just used up all your money on the cruise. Ah, well.

Regarding Durkin being better than Moltke: Dark Shadows is interesting when it comes to replacement actors. Some of the replacements (Woodard, Burke, Patterson, Vicki #3, one-off Carolyn) were vastly inferior to their predecessors, whereas others (Vicki #2, Sam, Willie, and especially Matthew) were soooo much better in the role. I may be the only Betsy Durkin fan out there, though, as I rarely read any good reactions to her performance. Most seem to hate her; I don’t get it. Moltke as Vicki was as bland as canned vegetables that have been steamed for 20 minutes too long and then served without seasoning. Durkin, by comparison, threw herself into the role with gusto.

I just re-watched the gripping scene in which Vicki almost committed suicide at Widow’s Hill, for example. As it played out, with Vicki standing at the cliff’s edge and contemplating jumping while Elizabeth and Stokes begged her not to kill herself, it occurred to me how relieved I was that it wasn’t Moltke in that scene. She’d have ruined it with her one facial expression and her use of head-shaking as a stand-in for actual emoting. Durkin sold the scene for me and deserves more respect than she gets. It’s a shame the producers didn’t keep her around long enough to prove it, because HER replacement, Carolyn Groves, is cringeworthy.

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