Barnabas Collins has entered an alternate universe via an empty room at Collinwood. Unfortunately, he gets locked up in a coffin almost immediately by this universe’s Will Loomis and doesn’t get to see all the interesting goings-on that the Collins counterparts are playing out–events that include the Dark Shadows‘ interpretations of Rebecca, with Angelique in the title role, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
But this version of Rebecca has an unexpected twist.
After weeks of putting up with everyone believing that she was really her dead twin sister Angelique, Alexis Stokes visited Angelique’s coffin in the family vault. This settles the question about Alexis’s identity for everyone, including me; Angelique’s body is in the coffin and looks perfectly fresh, not like a woman who’s been entombed for six months. But it turns out that there’s a reason for that and Alexis has made a bad mistake in touching her late sister’s hand when she bids her farewell.
A few minutes later, Angelique as Alexis returns to Collinwood, and the real Alexis is in the coffin, shortly to be cremated.
Angelique is determined to solve her own murder. She will later say that the last thing she remembers is someone sticking a pin into the base of her skull and falling to the table, but she didn’t see who did it. She also wants to get her old life back, including getting her husband away from his new wife.
The one flaw in her plan is that even if she’s up and about, she’s still dead and occasionally gets horribly cold. To stave this off, she has to get a man to put his arms around her (she’s pretty, so it’s not like her chosen victims are unwilling), then draws all the warmth of life out of them like a sort of body-heat vampire.
She is assisted in this–and her other plots–by an aunt who reads Tarot cards and has some small magical ability herself. Aunt Harriet is the only person Angelique has confided her true identity to, although she insists her aunt call her Alexis to avoid giving her away.
Miss Hoffman seems to be under the impression that she was right all along and there never really was an Alexis; Angelique does not disabuse her of this idea.
Their first job is to try and get Maggie to come back to Collinwood. You’d think she’d be glad to have her rival gone, but Angelique realizes that Quentin still cares for his second wife and if she’s to succeed in getting rid of Maggie permanently and expunge her from Quentin’s heart, she has to have her here where they can fight it out.
It looks as if they have a good opportunity at hand, once Quentin sees an empty room where Angelique’s lushly furnished boudoir usually is and watches the other universe’s versions of Julia Hoffman and Elizabeth Stoddard-Collins conversing about the disappearance of Barnabas.
It’s a pity he doesn’t listen more closely to what they’re saying, since Dr. Hoffman is trying to explain to Elizabeth about this whole alternate realities thing and where Barnabas went. Instead, the most he gets from them is the name of Barnabas and (from Julia, after Elizabeth leaves the room), that Barnabas is under some kind of “curse.”
The only Barnabas that Quentin knows is the historical one whom William H. Loomis wrote about, so even that doesn’t make sense to him. After he sees the empty room containing Dr. Hoffman again, Quentin thinks he’s hallucinating or having some kind of mental breakdown. Angelique is happy to believe so too, in hopes that it will cause his loved ones to gather around in support. Then she sees Dr. Hoffman having a soliloquy about Barnabas in the empty room for herself.
The coffined Barnabas has been sending out psychic “Help me!” messages to get someone into the basement to rescue him. Quentin is one of the recipients of these messages and thinks it’s the ghost of the Barnabas who died in 1836. He and Angelique hold a quick seance to try and contact this Barnabas; Miss Hoffman sits in with them at first, but gets frightened and runs out of the room. They don’t reach the dead or undead Barnabas, but do summon up Barnabas’s father, Joshua Collins. Joshua warns them that a great evil is about to be unleashed on the Collins family, but I’m not sure if he means Angelique or Barnabas, or somebody else.
(What’s fun about this seance scene is that seconds after Joshua’s ghost disappears from the dimly lit drawing room, Roger comes in at the door and wants to know what’s going on; Louis Edmonds must’ve been wearing his modern-day clothes under ghostly Joshua’s long cloak and ditched it running around the back of the darkened set.)
Angelique next slips Quentin a love potion that she hopes will make him bring Maggie home. Instead, the potion backfires and drives Quentin crazy. He slashes a portrait of Maggie that was painted during their honeymoon then, convinced he’s actually killed Maggie with this act, tries to hang himself.
At Miss Hoffman’s suggestion, Angelique falls back on the old tried-and-true tactic of sticking a pin in a wax doll. This gives Quentin all the symptoms of a heart attack–but it finally does the trick and brings Maggie rushing back from New York.
Angelique is now in a position to work on Maggie. Quentin recovers from his heart attack with astonishing rapidity. Cyrus, who happens to be his friend’s physician, checks Quentin out the next day and says he’s fine. It wasn’t a medical problem or mental/stress issue, so Cyrus suggests Black Magic and even discusses the stabby-doll practices of witches with Quentin. This seems like unusual information for a doctor, even a mad scientist, to have at hand; I think he must’ve picked it up via his friendship with Angelique.
This conversation gives Angelique some unwitting help when she suggests to Quentin that Maggie is responsible for all the weird things that have been happening to him lately. At the same time, under the guise of sisterly concern, she plants suspicions in Maggie’s mind that Quentin murdered his first wife.
Dr. Cyrus Longworth, meanwhile, continues his experiments in separating out the good and evil in mankind. Even though he has actual rabbits and guinea pigs in his lab, he chooses to act as his own test subject.
We didn’t get to see him transform into his own version of Mr. Hyde the first time he drinks his fizzy red formula, but the second time he downs it, there’s a trippy, psychedelic camera effect; the clean-shaven doctor with fluffy blond hair suddenly has one of those ’70s-style mustaches and dark, slicked-down hair like an oversized Tony Orlando impersonator.
As John Yaeger, he goes out drinking in the town, getting into brawls and accosting a barmaid named Buffie who used to work at Collinwood. Like most of the Jekyll & Hyde films, this version of the story has a nice-girl fiance and a naughty girl for the Hyde character to abuse (there are no characters like this in the original Stevenson story). He rents a room in Collinsport and furnishes it with stuff he “borrows” from Cyrus’s home.
Yaeger carries a sword-stick that he uses to threaten people, and eventually kills someone who gets too nosy about the connection between him and Dr. Longworth. He hides from the police in the cliff-side caves at Collinwood until he’s able to get back to his lab to drink the antidote that will change him back into Cyrus.
While he’s waiting, he explores the caves and find his way through a secret tunnel into the basement of Loomis House, where Barnabas is trapped inside a chained-up coffin.
For a moment, it looks as if Yaeger will open the coffin and free Barnabas. I entertained myself with possibilities of how a Dr. Acula and Mr. Hyde team-up might go. But Will and Carolyn go into the basement and discover the intruder before he learns what’s inside the coffin.
Although all the recent episodes of the show have begun by showing us the chained coffin, it turns out that Barnabas hasn’t been completely shut away all this time. Will’s been opening the lid at night, keeping Barnabas pinned with large crucifix while he questions him about his entire life from how he became a vampire to how he got into this alternate reality. Will plans to publish this interview with a vampire as his own work of fiction.
Yaeger escapes, but Will is afraid that he’ll come back or tell someone else what he’s found in the basement; he decides to move Barnabas to a new hiding place for safety’s sake.
He makes Barnabas get out of the coffin to make moving it upstairs easier and tries to control him with that big cross he’s been wielding–but this is the chance Barnabas has been waiting for. In an unguarded moment, Will gets some fangs in his throat.
Now that he’s in charge, Barnabas forces Will to burn the notes he’s been taking on Barnabas’s life, and they put the coffin in the secret room behind the bookshelf.
The next time Quentin comes over to Loomis House to ask Will what he knows about this Barnabas Collins whose name keeps coming up, Barnabas is right there to introduce himself. He tells Quentin he’s a descendant of the historical Barnabas, as usual, but this time says he’s been living in Peru rather than England. I guess people are harder to trace in Peru.
Quentin doesn’t entirely buy it, since he’s heard Dr. Hoffman calling out to Barnabas in the empty room. When asked, Barnabas lies and says, No, he isn’t that Barnabas, but he is interested in the alternate-dimensions room and goes over to Collinwood with Quentin to have a look. They both see Dr. Julia Hoffman, but she can’t see or hear them.
While he’s at Collinwood, Barnabas meets Angelique. He is not only convinced she’s the dead woman come back to life, but suspects that she’s the same Angelique he knew back in the 1700s. A little chat with her answers both his own questions and mine about her: this Angelique is a descendant of the witchy maidservant from Martinique, who married somebody in Collinsport after Barnabas married Josette. Although this universe’s Angelique didn’t curse Barnabas, we can assume that she had some powers and taught her daughters and granddaughters the ways of witchcraft. Angelique tells Barnabas that she and her late twin sister were the stepdaughters of Professor Timothy (not Eliot) Stokes and grew up in the town. The Collinses have known her from childhood.
Barnabas also meets Maggie and is instantly smitten with her resemblance to Josette. So we’re back to Square 1 with these two.
The next night, Barnabas goes up to the cemetery to visit his counterpart’s grave and see if he can summon his ghost up. I note that Barnabas’s birth-year on his gravestone is 1770–so he was only in mid twenties when he became a vampire. He really doesn’t look it. On the other hand, he’s in terrific shape for a 200-year-old.
Like Quentin and Angelique earlier, Barnabas doesn’t contact the spirit of his non-vampiric counterpart, but he does reach Joshua. When Barnabas calls him “Father,” Joshua denies he’s any such thing. He says that he’s the guardian of the Collins family and tells Barnabas to go away.
But Barnabas can’t go anywhere until he figures out how to access that alternate dimensions room and be inside it when it shifts to take him back to his own universe. He may be here for awhile.