Dark Shadows: An Alternate Dimension

Collinwood is a huge estate, but the more I see of it, the greater its state of disrepair becomes evident. It’s not only the number of disused outbuildings we’ve seen on the show; the main house itself is mostly empty. The west wing, where Adam once hid and where the children discovered Quentin’s bricked-up room, has been closed since the turn of the century. Lately, Barnabas has been prowling the equally abandoned east wing, although no information is given on how long that’s been shut up.

The 20th-century Collins family lives in a few rooms in the central block. They aren’t poor by any standards, but when I see what the Collinses were and what they might’ve been, I start to think this is one of those decayed New England families that you run into in Lovecraft stories–not as bad as the Whatelys, but kind of like the Marshes without all the amphibian intermarriage.

Angelique's parlor in the alternate universeIn his wanderings, Barnabas discovers a room that gives him glimpses of a very different Collinwood. Most of the time, the room is empty, but once in awhile he opens the doors to find it lushly decorated and occupied by alternate versions of people he knows well.

Elizabeth Stoddard is no longer mistress of the house, but she and her brother Roger appear to be poor relations living there on the generosity of a wealthy cousin–one Quentin Collins. Julia Hoffman isn’t a doctor, but the housekeeper.

A portrait of Angelique hangs over the mantelpiece; conversations between the people we see in the room establish that she was Quentin’s wife but died six months ago. This lush room was hers.

Willie Loomis isn’t a barely literate handyman, but William Hollingshead Loomis, author of the historical biography, The Life and Death of Barnabas Collins.

William Hollingshead Loomis, author of 'The Life and Death of Barnabas Collins'Miss Hoffman contemptuously flings a copy of this book out through the doorway while Barnabas is standing there watching–he can’t cross the barrier of the doorway himself and the people in the room can’t see or hear him. He reads the last pages and learns that this other version of Barnabas Collins died in 1836 after a happy and fulfilled non-vampiric life, survived by his wife Josette and a number of children and grandchildren.

Barnabas also sees that this Will Loomis is married to Carolyn! This takes me back to my review of Night of Dark Shadows, where I momentarily thought that Carolyn and Willie were a couple and wondered what demented plot development I missed after I stopped watching the show. Now I know.

When Barnabas consults Dr. Hoffman and Professor Stokes about the book and other things he’s witnessed, they explain it in terms of “parallel time-bands,” alternate universes where people have made different choices and so their lives are very different for better or worse. (Professor Stokes already seems to have dropped through some sort of alternate timeline where his parents made a different choice. In earlier episodes, his first name was Timothy. Now his friends call him Eliot.)

As Barnabas, Dr. Hoffman, and even Roger watch more of the goings-on in that alternate universe–because who doesn’t love a soap opera about rich people?–they learn more about those other selves and the much better kept-up Collinwood they live in.

It looks like the 1970s Not only is the entire house open, but they have a butler (Trask, presumably a descendant of the evil colonial and Victorian Reverends, since it’s the same actor), a bunch of maids, and gardeners to keep the grounds nice.

Plus everyone’s ultra modern; we’re only in the early months of 1970, but several of the main characters have clothing and hairstyles that remind me of John Travolta or Farah Fawcett from much later in the decade.

The devoted housekeeper Miss Hoffman has been jealously keeping Angelique’s room just as it was at the time of her death. The late Angelique Collins was also adored by nearly every man who ever met her. In addition to alt-Roger and Will, others are still hanging around the estate and make appearances in the room: a pianist and composer named Bruno who wrote music just for Angelique; a nerdy scientist named Cyrus; Chris, who isn’t a werewolf but is an acknowledged Collins cousin and works as the estate manager. Her own son, Daniel (who looks just like David), fervently believes that she’ll be coming back.

The one person who seems to have gotten over Angelique’s death is her husband, Quentin. The master of this Collinwood has been away, but is expected home soon. He’s just remarried and, after his honeymoon in Paris, is returning with his new bride, Maggie Evans.

“Do you think Angelique will allow another woman in this house?” alt-Roger sneers when Maggie is mentioned.

We’re going to get the Dark Shadows‘ version of Rebecca!

Watching this story unfold, I had to wonder who exactly this universe’s Quentin and Angelique were supposed to be. Are they the man born circa 1865 who has a painting that keeps him young and not a werewolf, and the witchy-woman who was born in 1774 and didn’t curse Barnabas in this timeline? Or are they entirely different people, perhaps descendants, who happen to have the same names and faces? Once we meet this Quentin, it seems unlikely he’s the same man with a long lifeline and occult experiences. We’ll also hear a lot about Angelique’s childhood in Collinsport and certain members of her own family, the Stokeses, so it doesn’t seem as if she could be nearly 200 years old.

Shortly before Quentin and Maggie arrive, Barnabas gets the idea that he might be cured of his vampirism if only he can cross the doorway barrier and enter that other universe. Dr. Hoffman’s last attempt to treat him hasn’t gone well, and he sees that the Barnabas in that timeline never became a vampire at all. So, one day while he’s hanging around the empty room, he gets his wish–he’s suddenly in the poshly furnished room.

Carolyn Loomis confronts him right away and wants to know who he is. Barnabas tries his same old distant cousin, descendant of the 1700s Barnabas story and shows her the copy of her husband’s book he has with him. But Carolyn doesn’t find this a satisfactory explanation for why he’s wandering around inside the house. Before she can summon help with this intruder, Barnabas falls back on his standard, bitey solution to every problem and adds another Nancy Barrett character to the long list he’s sunk his teeth into.

Now that this Carolyn’s his minion, she takes him over to the old house, here called Loomis House since it’s where she and Will live. She makes Barnabas comfy with a coffin in the basement and tells her husband that they’ll be renting a room to this visiting cousin.

Will brandishes a crossBut it seems that the story of Dracula is known in this alternate Dark Shadows reality. William H. Loomis knows a vampire when he sees one and immediately understands what happened to his wife.

Brandishing a large crucifix, he forces Barnabas to tell him the truth and traps him inside the coffin, where he’ll be keeping him prisoner for awhile.

Will calls Barnabas “my salvation.” He’s going to get another book out of this. The Undeath of Barnabas Collins?

Even though he’s in this alternate universe, Barnabas is shut up in a coffin and doesn’t get to witness the retelling of Rebecca that’s being played out at alt-Collinwood.

From the moment alt-Maggie enters the house as the second Mrs. Collins, Miss Hoffman is happy to give her the full Mrs. Danvers treatment to make her feel unwelcome. Young Daniel also has his own plans and little tricks to play to make his new stepmother leave the house as soon as possible.

For several episodes, the plot follows Rebecca fairly closely and Maggie becomes a nervous wreck–irritatingly so. But it isn’t Miss Hoffman’s nor Daniel’s efforts that finally force her out.

There have already been a few indications that Angelique hasn’t quite left Collinwood yet, in spite of being dead. Maggie received a note purportedly in Angelique’s handwriting telling her she isn’t wanted here, and she’s heard a woman’s voice singing a lullaby that used to be Daniel’s favorite. After these incidents, when she sees her husband in the drawing room with someone who looks just like his late first wife, it’s the final straw for the already half-hysterical Maggie. She flies upstairs to her room, and soon afterwards straight out of the house, without even pausing to wonder why Quentin is casually chatting with the ghost of Angelique and offering her a glass of sherry.

I have to wonder who did the closing credits for Dark Shadows. For the third time, they spoil an upcoming plot point by giving away the mysterious character’s name. In this case, the mystery is revealed in the next episode anyway, so it’s not like the reappearance of Paul Stoddard or Quentin himself, but it’s still irksome.

The woman who looks like Angelique is her twin sister, Alexis Stokes.

Maggie isn’t alone in her belief that Alexis is Angelique. In the Dark Shadows world and alt-world, a dead woman returning from the grave is a much more acceptable concept than identical twins who look exactly alike. Daniel, Miss Hoffman, and Angelique’s old boyfriend Bruno are absolutely certain it’s her and insist that, even if she must lie to other people, she can tell them the truth.

Alexis puts up with this patiently–so patiently that I began to wonder if they weren’t right about her.

Cyrus in his laboratoryIn addition to the Rebecca pastiche, there’s a subplot involving Cyrus the nerdy scientist. It’s the same actor who played sulky Leviathan Jeb Hawkes, Christopher Pennock, but I like him much better in this role. He has a black-and-white bunny in his basement laboratory that he feeds carrots while he’s talking to people.

I’m unclear if the lab is on the Collinwood grounds, or if this is Cyrus’s own house in town.

I didn’t get the character’s last name right away, but it might as well be Jekyll since that’s the type of experiment he’s conducting–trying to separate out the good and evil parts of humanity.

When Cyrus eventually takes a swig of the fizzy red formula he’s been developing in a large conical flask, he passes out. We don’t get to see him transform into his version of Mr. Hyde at this time, but when he wakes up his eyeglasses are broken and there’s an IOU note for $100 from someone named Yaeger on his desk. No bunnies were harmed.

The police pay a call to the lab and tell him that his fiancee Sabrina was attacked by a strange, dark man the night before; she wasn’t harmed, only shaken up and frightened, and her engagement ring was yanked off her finger.

Cyrus will later find the ring in his coat pocket.

While Sabrina is still disturbed following the attack, she exhibits some kind of psychic power and wants to hold a seance at Collinwood.

It’s here we learn that there was a seance at Collinwood on the night Angelique died; they summoned up a spirit that said something nasty about Angelique and Bruno, and made Quentin angry enough to put his hands on her throat. Then the lights went out. Angelique was found dead at the table when the lights came back on. The medical verdict was that she died of a stroke, which is unusual in otherwise healthy 30-year-old women.

Sabrina insists that they must recreate that seance in the same room, with the same people attending: herself and Cyrus, Quentin, Roger, Elizabeth, and Bruno. Alexis will sit in for her late sister.

The group reluctantly gathers around the drawing-room table where most Collinwood seances occur. Things proceed just as they did on that night 6 months earlier, but when Sabrina goes into a trance and contacts the spirit-world, she points at Alexis and shouts, “Murder! That woman was murdered!”

SeanceAlexis doesn’t fall over dead, following in her sister’s footsteps, but she is distressed by this announcement. She starts to wonder: if it’s true, who could have wanted to kill Angelique? Even though everybody says they adored her, there’s a good list of suspects. (Beginning with her husband; don’t forget what novel this storyline is based on)

Murderer or not, Quentin declares the whole idea of his first wife being killed nonsense. He’s also one of the few people who believes that Alexis is not in fact Angelique come back from the grave… or at least he was. As little incidents pile up–each readily explained by rational means, but cumulatively disquieting–the idea that Angelique has somehow come back begins to work on his mind. Is this woman his late wife?

Finally, he, Cyrus, and Alexis go out to the Collins family mausoleum and open up Angelique’s vault. Bruno had wanted to do it earlier to see if Angelique’s body was or wasn’t there, but Quentin was in a rationalist frame of mind at that point and refused to let him.

Angelique in her coffin Angelique is in her coffin, but looks perfectly fresh and lovely as if she’s taking a nap in this odd place and hasn’t been dead for six months. All three are unnerved by the unnatural sight. Quentin decides that the body should be cremated. Alexis objects at first, since it goes against her sister’s wishes, but after she sees that she can’t make Quentin change his mind, she returns to the mausoleum later that night for a final farewell.

This turns out to be a bad idea. Rebecca is about to become Ligeia.

When Alexis touches her dead sister’s hand, Angelique opens her eyes. She agrees that one of them must go, but it isn’t going to be her.

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.