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Barnabas’ Column #17: Those Pesky 1840 Loose Ends; Kathleen Cody Remembers

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In early 1970, DARK SHADOWS entered into its third year as one of the most wildly popular and talked about shows on television. As the year progressed, the ratings began to dip considerably. By January 1971 the show had lost around 3 million viewers. It was cancelled soon after. 

There are many theories as to what caused the collapse of DARK SHADOWS during those final months. Some blamed the HP Lovecraft-inspired Leviathan storyline, which was not popular with the fan base. This appears to be an unlikely scenario, as the attempt by the Leviathans to dominate the world has proven to have a small legion of loyal fans, and besides, many shows bounced back with newer, better storylines after unpopular plots had fizzled out.

If one listens to interviews with some of the cast members, it would appear that the main problem was burnout. Working on a show which produced five episodes per week, year round, with the added burden of special effects and period costumes not employed on other daytime dramas had proven to be exhausting for some of the longer term personnel. They were ready to move on.

Kathleen Cody and David Henesy on Dark Shadows, circa 1970

Kathleen Cody and David Henesy on Dark Shadows, circa 1970

This becomes quite evident during the final weeks of the 1840 storyline, which concluded in January 1971. Technically, that storyline had begun during the summer of 1970, when Barnabas and Julia (Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall) first met the ghosts of Gerard and Daphne (James Storm, Kate Jackson) during a ten-episode time trip 25 years into the future. To their horror, they found a destroyed Collinwood, with the family they knew and loved either insane or long dead. After returning to 1970, Barnabas and Julia desperately tried to stop Gerard from possessing the children (David Henesy, Kathleen Cody) and from destroying the house. Many, many clues were dropped as to Gerard’s motivations and what he wanted from the kids.

They failed. With Collinwood in ruins and the Collins family decimated, Barnabas and Julia traveled back to 1840 to meet the living Gerard and to do battle with Judah Zachary, the evil warlock who had possessed him.

When the 1840 storyline concluded, many viewers were bewildered. Gerard had been killed before the later death he’d been fated for, thus undoing the tragic events of 1970. But with DARK SHADOWS’ cancellation looming and Jonathan Frid’s refusal to continue playing Barnabas, the plug was pulled on 1840 before many of the plot points had been resolved.

How did the 1840 deaths of the vampire Roxanne and the witch Angelique, both of whom were established to be alive in 1970, affect the histories of characters who had interacted with them in the future? The 1840 death of young Edith Collins, who had been seen as the old family matriarch during the 1897 story arc 18 months earlier, was also perplexing.

One of the beauties of the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas currently being produced by UK based Big Finish Productions is that several of the CDs have gone back to original series storylines and tied up some of those pesky loose ends.

In DARK SHADOWS: THE PATH OF FATE, David Selby and Lara Parker once again reprise their TV roles as Quentin and Angelique. Narrated by Parker as a dark fairy tale (which is what DARK SHADOWS was) the disc takes Quentin and Angelique to a deserted Collinwood, where they battle demonic forces. Parker is wonderful as she delves further into Angelique’s psyche, offering deeper explanations as to what motivates her actions.

PATH OF FATE resolves one of the many perplexing questions from 1840: how was the first Quentin Collins able to construct a stairway through time and how did the damn thing work? Stephen Mark Rainey’s script offers a plausible, supernatural-based explanation that answers this head slapping question.

OK, one mystery solved.

In the audio drama CARRIAGE OF TH EDAMNED, Kathleen Cody returns as Hallie Stokes. It’s the mid-1970s as CARRIAGE begins, and Hallie has strange memories. She remembers being killed by Gerard in 1970. But she also remembers living a wholly different life, the life she was able to lead after the altered events in 1840 prevented her 1970 demise–are you confused? It all comes together nicely via Alan Flanagan’s script, in which Hallie describes her life as being lived on two separate paths simultaneously. Cody’s eloquent performance as Hallie also explains how DARK SHADOWS’ parallel time theories may have come into being.

For Cody, it’s a return to acting after a long hiatus. Her post DS career had included many guest shots on prime time TV and leading roles in films for The Walt Disney Company.

“I never thought I’d be reopening the door to my acting career at all after leaving it to raise my daughter,” Cody told Fango. “I had gotten to the point where I no longer had to audition, producers and studios would just book me for parts. But when I gave up my career to raise my daughter, I really thought that part of my life was long gone and in the past.
In truth, I never wanted to leave.”

Cody’s career had begun many years before DARK SHADOWS, doing TV commercials at the age of six months. “But I fell in love with my craft at the age of 12 after being part of an amazing ensemble acting group that Arthur Miller and David Susskind put together to act in the first televised production of Miller’s THE CRUCIBLE,” she recalled. “George C. Scott, Melvin Douglas, Colleen Dewhurst, Tuesday Weld and so many more wonderful actors who accepted me and expected from me all that any professional actor would be expected to give in a three time Emmy Award winning production. From that moment on I knew what I wanted for my life. And now I’m so glad second opportunities are a part of life.”

Cody admits that she never thought she’d be talking about DARK SHADOWS in 2014. On returning to the role that gives her a still active fan base, Cody was determined to bring new dimensions to Hallie. She tells Fango that scheduling conflicts prevented her from reprising the role in THE LUCIFER GAMBIT, an earlier DARK SHADOWS CD. “It would have been more of the same Hallie from 1970,” she said, expressing her excitement for the Hallie that instead appears in CARRIAGE OF THE DAMNED.

“With the change over to CARRIAGE, I was able to let my imagination go where it wanted to. How did the death/undeath of Hallie and David by Gerard Stiles affect and shape the future for Hallie Stokes? Great fun!” Cody exclaimed. Cody, we might add, sounds like the Hallie we remember from TV in CARRIAGE OF THE DAMNED. It’s a delight to have her back in the DARK SHADOWS fold, and to see some of those pesky 1840 loose ends get resolved.

For more info on The Path of Fate, Carriage of the Damned and other Dark Shadows audio dramas, visit Big Finish Productions.

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About the author
David-Elijah Nahmod
David-Elijah Nahmod is an American-Israeli half breed who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv. Currently in San Francisco, his eclectic writing career includes a variety of horror mags, LGBT publications, and SF Weekly. He was thrilled and honored to be named Best Reviewer of 2012 at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. You can find him on Facebook (David-Elijah Nahmod, Author) and Twitter (@DavidElijahN)
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