Dark Shadows: The Leviathans – Week 0

This is the first in a series of blog entries about Dark Shadows. A show that is truly near and dear to my heart.

I could drone on about how much I love this show but let’s cut right to the chase.

Greg and myself have both been watching 5 episodes a week that the audience would have watched exactly 50 years ago. We experience the show how the captive audience experienced it, complete with the Friday cliffhanger. Since 2016, we have enjoyed lots of memorable moments and stories. If you know the show, you know what has happened.

At this point 50 years ago, the 1897 story, which was arguably the best storyline the show ever had in its almost five-year run, was wrapping up and the audience was about to be catapulted into one of the most interesting and daring storylines that they could have tried to continue the momentum that they had built up over the preceding months.

I realize that this isn’t the true beginning of the Leviathan plot, but I want to use these preceding shows for a couple of reasons: To get used to doing this and also to show how good the show is at this point before it’s creepy slight downfall.

I will be giving my thoughts episode by episode. I will not be going into too much detail on the plot, please use my episode guide and follow along!

Episode 881 – Monday 11/10/69

Garth Blackwood, played here by John Harkins, is really trying to chew up the scenery. Not quite on a Shatner level, but he sure leaves his mark on the walls. So much so that he flubs his lines in the teaser/recap of Friday’s cliffhanger.

Roger Davis doesn’t do much better. Through his eagerness, he has to pump the prop gun *five* times before it fires a blank.

So Petofi wants to change minds with Quentin a second time. Quentin Collins of course expects this. So why does he delay leaving? I would leave IMMEDIATELY!

The technical effect used during Pansy Faye’s second sight is quite good for the time. I am always amazed at what they could pull off with limited means of the era.

This 1897 plot has always been rock solid in so many ways. I don’t have enough time to describe them. My concern for Quentin is always at its peak, especially now. I suspect there isn’t a person in the 1969 audience who would even remotely be on Count Petofi’s side.

There is another viewing angle to note on this particular date… I defer to another great blog, Dark Shadows Everyday, to expand on that matter.

Episode 882 – Tuesday 11/11/69

Quentin has to stay awake to avoid the mind switch. Hasn’t anyone thought of using a carriage? A horse? Something else? These are the kinds of dilemmas that are all to absent in the plot to come.

Angelique is making a very hard plea here in her description of why she was granted a reprieve from the great fiasco she had in 1968! At least she wasn’t forced to keep wearing that black wig and green dress.

Of course they have to sing “I Wanna Dance With You” again, they have a record to sell! Problem is it didn’t sell that well.

Surely someone could try giving Quentin coffee to keep him awake!

But, alas, someone is caught trying to do something good by the bad person. A standard soap opera trope!

Episode 883 – Wednesday 11/12/69

Oh that hand. One last time it rears its ugly head.

There are all sorts of audio issues throughout this episode. The technical oriented side of me (blast having a career in this medium) notices this every time!

The great thing about a story that you have been following for months is watching the character you have hated get their comeuppance.

Why couldn’t Pansy Faye find the portrait of Quentin with her second sight before? It’s just a convenient plot point, isn’t it?

Episode 884 – Thursday 11/13/69

It’s sad to see the Evans cottage set go. It was one of the original sets from the beginning.

It’s also so sad to see the end of this part of the Quentin and Amanda story. If you’ve seen the show before, you know this isn’t the end for them. To be continued…

Now Kitty shows up and we start to get to the meat and potatoes of what leads up to the Leviathans. While Barnabas is trying to convince Kitty to do what is best for her, Jonathan Frid commits a very egregious flubbed line…

“To go among strangers…well, no one will love you nor you or Kitty or Josette.”

Barnabas Collins – 1897

You had to admire Judith for thinking out this entire plan in what seems like no time. Driving a scheming bastard like Gregory Trask to his comeuppance with great elegance. I will spare you the non-gory details. It’s not gory of course because the reader must remember that this is daytime television in 1969 and things aren’t very suggestive yet.

But, what is suggestive is how you can pull off the special effects in 1969 of having Kitty and Barnabas fade into the portrait of Josette duPres.

Episode 885 – Friday 11/14/69

So Kitty and Barnabas have both ended up in the past. Correction: Josette. Confused yet? So now we’re back in 1795… or 1796… or 1797… whatever the writers feel like referring to this time as.

So now we see all of the things that took place 460 episodes ago. Well, not quite the same. Or will it be? Josette is at the cliff of Widow’s Hill yet again, but as any good Friday cliffhanger would do, she doesn’t know what to do! At least this is a better cliffhanger (literally) than episode 425 in which she jumped! Maybe it’ll turn out different? Who knows. We’ll find out Monday.

Now, if the viewer back then had no indication that things were about to change, they certainly got a big clue from ABC. Have a listed to the audio of the closing credits from the original broadcast:

Indeed. See you next week!

RIP To 2 Shows I Watched

The toughest part of watching a TV show religiously is when a show gets cancelled.  It’s become a thing that you have to get used to.  Two shows I loved were “The Real O’Neals” and “American Crime.”

Read: More shows got the axe at ABC too (article from A.V. Club)

O’Neals was a funny comedy centered around Kenny O’Neal, who is in a catholic family and in the pilot, comes out of the closet.  Hilarity ensued for two great seasons.  Unfortunately, this season, it was on against the hot drama, “This Is Us”,  and it got trounced week after week in the ratings.  I loved the cast of this show, especially Martha Plimpton as Eileen O’Neal, she has great comedic talent.

“American Crime” was a show that was too good to be on network television.  What John Ridley did with this show was nothing short of amazing.  Each season of this show was a new story with new characters, but with many of the same actors.  Regina King, Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, they were all very dynamic on this show and showed a great range of flexibility in their acting range from year to year.  It’s a shame we won’t see what they can do with a Season Four.  Unless the show finds another home somewhere.  One can only dream.  (Hello Netflix, Hulu, or some other streaming service… are you listening????)

By the way, Connor Jessup is just sexy as hell.  There, I said it. 🙂

Shows get cancelled folks.  It’s nothing to lose sleep over, the world keeps turning on and great actors will find other jobs.  At least that’s what one would hope would happen!

“Star Trek” Season One Thoughts

The first season of a television series is interesting.  The characters are new and have a lot of wiggle room for the audience to get to know them as well as the actors who portray them.  The writers, directors, producers and all the people who create the show also have the same challenge of trying to bring to the screen an interesting, engaging and dynamic piece of storytelling as well.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

And then there’s Star Trek.  You see, it’s the show that broke conventional wisdom.  It was classic from the get-go.  It’s not like they had to try very hard to do well.  The characters were very strong and fresh from the moment they first called “Action!” on the set.  True, the writing may have been a bit suspect at times, but every story had one thing going for it:  it always attempted to be ambitious.

It could be said however that the show had two sides to its season, and it all boiled down to who produced the show.  The first half of the season was produced by the series creator, Gene Roddenberry, and the second half by Gene Coon.  The tale of two Genes has been told in print time and time again, so I’ll save you from regurgitating the background info (go seek out any number of books on this topic if you’re interested) and just give you my thoughts.

You can definitely tell a slight shift in how the characters interacted when Coon arrived.  The one dynamic that Gene Coon brought to the show was the strong bond between Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  That is what I always referred to as the “strong triad” of the show.  If you don’t get that central core relationship right, you don’t have Star Trek.  All of the other themes will naturally fall into place, but what those three do is of vital importance to make any story work.  Look at some of the best episodes, like my favorite, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  While McCoy make have been doped up on Cordrazine, Kirk and Spock realize that what he did must be corrected, but they never blame him directly for what’s going on.  A lot of TV shows these days would just outright blame him for negligence and make a whole 13 to 22 episode arc out of said negligence.  That’s the reason I don’t get into a lot of new TV shows, by the way.   Where a lot of TV shows fail in my book is that they fail to make me like the characters as well as I like these three.

Before you reach for that comment box, I do watch new TV shows, just the ones with characters I like.

The supporting players are just as vital to the show’s success.  Where else on TV 50 years ago could you see a diverse mix of races all working together on a ship?  Nobody putting the other down or hurling racial epithets at each other?  That aspect was truly ahead of its time.  Sadly, however, in 2017, that kind of acceptance and collaboration is still a challenge for a lot of people.  We all need to work together and treat each other equally, especially now.

You can’t think of this show without thinking of the massive fan support that was generated.  I do think that the network brain trust at NBC certainly was not expecting the massive letter writing campaign that they got to protest the rumors that Star Trek might be cancelled.  I do applaud them for taking the step of not only renewing the show, but making an on-air announcement to such (during the closing credits of “The Devil in the Dark” on March 2nd, 1967.)  I know that if I were around then, I would probably be devouring any information I could find about how to join a fan club and probably writing a letter as well to add to the mass protest that ultimately saved the show from cancellation.

Put simply, what a season!  The first season of any show is the most interesting one in my opinion.  It always is and always will be true.  I firmly believe that.

Easter Movie Tradition

Last night was the yearly tradition of ABC screening the epic Cecil B. DeMille film “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston.  The film has been broadcast annually by ABC since February 18, 1973.  Check out this ad from the premiere telecast:

This was back in a time when movies on television were a very big event.  It was of course the days before cable and home video pretty much ruined that epic feeling you might have gotten when a great movie was on that you just had to watch.

I thought to myself as this movie was on last night, “You know, this movie has nothing to do with Easter directly.”  True, but people love it more for it being inspirational.  Of course, this movie would be more identified with Passover instead of strictly Easter, so don’t write in or comment that I don’t know my religious holidays, because I do know.

I guess people just love this movie so much and people still turn out to watch it once a year, even though you can readily watch the movie on any number of home video formats that it has been released on over the years.

While “The Ten Commandments” is not my favorite biblical epic, I got to thinking about when my two favorites appeared for the first time on television.

“The Robe” premiered on ABC on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.

My favorite film of all time, “Ben-Hur”, premiered on CBS Sunday, February 14, 1971 and was watched by over 85 million people (a record for a movie on TV at the time).

Excuse me, I need to go get my sword and sandals.


Trek Review: “Operation: Annihilate!”

So, it’s come to this.  Our favorite crew against these plastic-looking blobs on the planet Deneva that afflict pain and mind control against their victims.  In a nutshell, that sums up the episode “Operation: Annihilate!”

In this episode, we finally get to meet some unfortunate victims of Captain Kirk’s family.  His brother Sam (played by Shatner with a moustache) is DOA in this plot.  Aurelan, his sister-in-law, and Peter, his nephew.  Aurelan dies in a very memorable scene in sickbay.  Peter never really comes out of it, at least in the footage that made the cut.  There was a scene filmed, intended to be at the very end of the episode, in which Peter appears on the bridge and tells his Uncle that he is staying behind on Deneva.

Scene with Peter Kirk that was cut from the episode

Let’s take a moment to talk about the creatures themselves.  Take a look at this image:

“It doesn’t even look real!” You said it, Yeoman!

I know the show was on a tight budget, but could they have made the parasites a little more believable?  It doesn’t take away from the potential of the story line for me if they are 100% realistic or not.  The viewer has to suspend their disbelief to the max on this aspect of the story.  I feel that someone who doesn’t know what they’re watching could flip over to this and instantly think the show is hokey because of these rather fake looking parasites.

What saves this episode for me is the excellent performance, as always, from Leonard Nimoy.  Spock has to go through a lot here to find the solution of how to cure the Denevans of this affliction.  Isn’t it convenient that he has the forgotten inner eyelid?  Those Vulcans, saving the day in unexpected ways!

So, that ends the first season of Star Trek.  I will be writing a post in the next few days of my impressions of the season as a whole.  Of course, the regular weekly reviews will resume on September 15th with “Amok Time.”

Home Cinema Experience

Recently we got tired of the arrangement of our living room.  I felt that the speakers were not configured properly to totally enjoy watching a movie in 5.1 surround sound at home.  So, we reconfigured our living room and arranged the speakers in a more favorable configuration.  It sounded pretty good.  It needs to be said here that we don’t actually have the .1 part.  You see, we never bought a subwoofer.  That got me to thinking, “Gee, I should really do something about that!”

Well, we are going to get one.  But then another problem came up.  Newer Blu-ray movies are in sound formats that our receiver can’t decode.  The standard formats are Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.  Even newer than that are Dolby Atmos and DTS-X, which are more directional sound formats than traditional surround sound.  A favorite YouTube channel of mine, TechMoan, has a great video where he installed some Dolby Atmos speakers in his living room, and explains Dolby Atmos as well, you can watch that at this link.

What spurred this thinking on was when I was watching one of my favorite movies recently, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  Greg noticed that the  Blu-ray had both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.  While we could decode the Dolby sound, when we tried to use the DTS track, it just came back in 2 channels instead of 6.  Our receiver is a 10-year old model.  Here’s a photo in case you’re curious:

That’s a Sony STR DG-810.  It’s actually capable of 6.1 channels, you could add a surround back speaker to the mix.  It’s a good unit, we got it from someone here in Knoxville via Craigslist for only $75, at a time when a very old RCA receiver we had started emitting very bad ground loop noise.  In a very strapped budget mode, it was a good buy at that time.

Now, however, we have a more flexible budget to play with.  After looking around at various websites, we decided to go with the Onkyo TX-NR555.  This amp is a beast, at least as far as we’re concerned.  It’s capable of 7.2 channels, 80W of power per channel, for up to 980W.  Here is a photo of the new receiver in its home:

Let me tell you, this receiver is sweet.  It takes a complicated setup of several devices in our home theater and lets us run it through one unit.  It eliminated a whole bunch of cables from our wiring.  That is a major fringe benefit.  It’s very convenient to be able to do that.  Watching CE3K with the true DTS-HD Master Audio is like night and day.  Particularly when you hear alien ship flybys.  The whooshes in surround sound make it very real, like you are really there.

I am very happy with this purchase.  It was about time that we upgraded!

Maybe someday, the price of 4K will come down enough to where we might consider that purchase.  Probably not for several years, at least.


Trek Review: “The City on the Edge of Forever”

It goes without saying that “The City on the Edge of Forever” is and always has been my favorite Star Trek episode.  There has never been any question of that.  But what makes it so great?  My review this week will attempt to explain why *I* think so.

The story is and of itself a great premise.  I say this of the finished episode.  There has been lots of articles and books written about the writing process of this episode.  In case you don’t know, the story idea was being worked on way back before the first season actually began filming.   The story was written, and rewritten, and rewritten again before we ended up with was was telecast 50 years ago on April 6th, 1967.

I must say, it was a true classic on the first viewing.  It remains a classic today for me and many others for one simple reason: it is deep.  The characters are so good in this story.  Kirk in love where he shouldn’t be.  Spock being the voice of reason he always is.  McCoy is the “random element” (as Spock puts it at one point), and Edith Keeler, played by the always dynamic Joan Collins, is a wonderful, fascinating, dynamic character. She is one of the best characters in any Trek episode.

The Guardian of Forever is a character in this too.  This mysterious portal of a long dead civilization that is the catalyst for the problem in this story is so fascinating.  I wish they would have found a way to do another story or two with the Guardian being possibly utilized in a more planned fashion that what happened here.   I know there is an episode of the animated series (“Yesteryear”) and several Trek novels that have explored the possibilities of the Guardian.  Honestly, I never read many Trek novels, although I do own a copy of the novel Imzadi” where the Guardian is used by Riker to travel back in time.

The climax of this episode is so riveting.  I have never watched this episode and have ever felt anything but tense and shocked by the decision that Kirk had to make to restore history to what it should be.  Just watch this clip.

I don’t know if I could have done what Kirk did given that situation.  It’s tough to make a personal sacrifice like that, even when the stakes of Earth’s future is on the line.  William Shatner plays the scene with all of his great talent.

I just can’t say enough good things about how much I have always enjoyed this episode.  It honestly has always deserved the recognition that it has gotten as one of the best episodes of any version of Star Trek there has ever been, before or since.

Next week, the season finale!  Blobs take over people’s minds, and well, Spock almost goes nuts!

Trek Review: “The Alternative Factor”

Where in the world do I begin to analyze this very confusing mess of an episode?

Any attempt by me to try and describe the plot here would probably confuse you even more and might melt your brain.  Suffice it to say that I don’t think anyone could do any better or worse.  If you are curious, just read the entry at Memory Alpha (the Star Trek wiki.)

This show was very troubled at every stage of production.  One of the great blogs out there that I love to read is Star Trek Fact Check by Michael Kmet.  He has done a whole series of articles looking through production documents trying to make some sense of what was going on behind the scenes in the production of this episode.  His blog was started to try and clear up misinformation printed in other books, but on top of that there is lots of great information about what was going on during the development of this disastrous episode.  Here is a link to Part 1 of his look at the production.  He will be writing more on the topic in the future.

It’s well documented that John Drew Barrymore had agreed to guest star in this episode and play Lazarus, only to not show up for work.  Desilu complained to the Screen Actors Guild and he got suspended for 6 months as a result.  Robert Brown had to step in on practically no notice and play this role.  He tried, but I don’t think any actor could have salvaged what was already a watered down, confusing script.

Let’s examine some of the many story points that I have problems with here:

The propensity for Lazarus to continue to fall off of cliffs and ledges is just flooring.  He does this multiple times throughout the episode.

I can understand it happening the first time, but *two* times?  Even the most inexperienced starship Captain would not let him go near a rock formation after the first time.  Maybe Kirk just hated Lazarus.  The galaxy may never know.

The cheapened Engineering set.  A set was already built, why did they go to this crappy setup?

I mean, it’s nothing but a small room with various consoles we’ve seen in previous episodes.  Granted, it was described in earlier drafts as the “Energizing Lab.”  Couldn’t they just have called it the “Dilithium Chamber Room” or something more conducive to it *not* being Engineering?  Another blemishing script detail that was overlooked.

Speaking of which, in that photo, is Lieutenant Masters, played by Janet MacLachlan.  She does as good as she can do here, but her role was to be so much bigger than it actually ended up being.  I refer to of course the fact that Masters and Lazarus #1 (the bad one) was supposed to have some sort of romantic relationship.  As the Fact Check article mentions, “Space Seed” also had a female crew member in love with the antagonist.  One of the stories had to be changed.   As a matter of fact, Stan Robertson, the NBC Standards and Practices representative assigned to Star Trek, suggested that Masters be a civilian instead of a crew member in order to make the plot in this episode make more sense.  That suggestion fell on deaf ears apparently, Gene Coon removed this aspect of the story.  I felt that if Robertson’s idea had been utilized, it might have made the story stronger and more coherent to me.

I get the story.  I get what it was aiming for.  Two beings in parallel universes.  The bad one, the negative one, trying to destroy the positive one and bring down two universes in the process.  Matter and anti-matter.  Like I said, it’s not that I don’t get the story idea at all.  It’s just that the execution of this is very, very sloppy, awful, painful, downright…. I think I’ve ran out of adjectives to describe the debauchery that is going on here.

I don’t think there is an actual soul out there that even likes this episode.  Is it the worst episode of the entire series?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say it very well could be.  If “Spock’s Brain” didn’t exist, I am sure that a lot of people would think that this would be the worst.  If you were to say this was the worst episode of the first season, then you would not be debated for an instant.

Fortunately, next week, we go from what could be the worst, to my absolute favorite episode of the entire Original Series:

Trek Review: “Errand of Mercy”

When this episode first aired, nobody had any idea that the Klingons would become such a formidable race in the Star Trek universe.  I certainly don’t think Gene Coon (the writer of this episode) would have thought that either.

I have always wondered exactly what Coon was drawing on in current events to craft this story of Kirk and Spock trying to win over the pacifist Organians from the militaristic Klingons.  Was he referring to the Vietnam war?  Maybe the Cold War?  It’s probably more an amalgamation of several conflicts.  Suffice it to say that war in any form is certainly not desired, but it happens.  Star Trek was sure at its preachiest in this episode, but that is definitely what the series has come to be known for over the years.  (This will be even more evident in the next season during “A Private Little War.”)

The ending on the other hand, is 100% pure Trek.  Just when you thought there was no turning back, these pacifists are much higher on the evolutionary scale than a mere mortal man.  Their power effectively ended the war before it really began.  Their influence even negotiated a peace treaty!

The 1967 audience would no doubt have thought that we would be seeing the Klingons again at some point in the future.  I admire the acting of John Colicos as Kor, he made a very formidable, very scintillating enemy for Barona…. er, Captain Kirk.

Unfortunately, we have to go from a great tale such as this, to a tale that is so broken, so painful to watch, so…. you get the drift.

Come back for a long rant next week about this:

Aww Man, My Show’s Not On!?

Back before there were a gazillion TV channels, I’m sure you remember the scenario of sitting down to watch your favorite program and being greeted with an announcement like this:

You probably reacted with some form of sadness and despair: “Aww man, my show’s not on!? What am I going to watch now?”  Then you start flipping channels to find out what you would watch.  50 years ago tonight, Star Trek was preempted for the second time in the first season, the program replacing it was highlights of the 1967 show of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus.  As you have probably heard, that circus is shutting down this year after 146 years in operation.  Here is an ad for the airing of that show on WNBC in New York:

The interesting thing is that, while the Thursday 8:30-9:30pm time period was preempted by WATE for the Rawhide repeats, the powers that be decided not to do that and instead air this program!  Guess they like lions and tigers and bears but not Vulcans! (Oh my!)

The 3/16/1967 TV Schedule

Now, I never really was a circus fan, so I probably would have flipped over to another network and watched something else.

In case you were curious what those programs were:


8:30pm –  My Three Sons – “Charley O’ The Seven Seas” (not seen in Knoxville on WBIR – instead it would be the final 30 minutes of Theater 10 – “The Gift of Love”)
9:00pm –  Beginning of the CBS Thursday Night Movie – “Major Dundee”


8:30pm – Bewitched – “The Crone of Cawdor”
9:00pm – That Girl – “The Honeymoon Apartment”

If I were somewhere else, I probably would go with My Three Sons. If I had to choose in Knoxville, it would be “Bewitched.”

By the way, have I ever told you how much I used to love that CBS Special Presentation intro of yesteryear?

I know I’m not the only one that loved that intro!