Tag Archives: Time Travel

Dark Shadows (Issue #14)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #14
The Mystic Painting
Gold Key Comics | June 1972

While cleaning out the attic at Collinwood, Elizabeth and Barnabas discover an old family portrait. They uncover another painting hidden underneath, a landscape treatment of Collingreen, an extended family estate outside London. The painting seemingly calls out to Barnabas, issuing psychic vibrations and triggering an actual memory of a visit to his uncle, Lord Balsham, at the great house in 1743.

During his visit, Barnabas meets young painter, Owen Roberts, who hides a not-so-secret attraction to Barnabas’ cousin, Sara. Tragedy soon ensues when Sara is killed, and Owen takes the blame, and corporal punishment, for the crime from a vengeful Lord Balsham. However, Barnabas fears his own culpability since the violent attack occurred during a resurgent episode of his own vampiric curse.

The Mystic Painting fails to offer much new to the series, as Barnabas travels in time, faces a confrontational ghost, and—of course—attends a seance to end the suffering represented by the cursed painting. He ultimately discovers the true identity of the culprit behind Sara’s death, to little surprise. Continuing to make up new rules from one episode to the next (vampires cannot have their portraits painted; bat transformations are initiated by the full moon), this issue at least sends Barnabas traveling through time via the mechanics, however dubious, of a haunted painting, rather than by simply closing his eyes and magically wishing it to happen.

Ruminating on the conflicting details rising from the failed seance, Professor Stokes could have instead been reflecting upon the series canon by declaring, “Hmm…er, yes, it may have been! But then, who knows about these things?

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Oxenfree

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Oxenfree
Night School Studio | PC & Mac Versions | Download Available via Steam

A drinking party on a desolate beach turns into a battle against supernatural forces for a group of teens in this choose-your-own-dialogue adventure game.

Alex and her stepbrother, Josh, join fellow high school students Ren, Nona, and Clarissa for a party on isolated Edwards Island. Emotional tensions between the ostensibly light-hearted revelers are exposed in a game of “Truth-or-Slap” around the campfire. Players assume the role of Alex, choosing dialogue responses from a series of pop-up speech bubbles. Clarissa reveals an early antagonism towards Alex, stemming from the drowning death of her boyfriend—Alex’s older brother Michael. Exploring a nearby cave, Alex unwittingly opens a mysterious portal, unleashing a ghostly intrusion that threatens to possess them all.

Game play is mostly limited to navigating Alex around the island to various locations, selecting appropriate dialogue options as they appear in conversation with her friends. Forests, beach caves, a deserted town, and an abandoned military base are a few of the atmospheric locations traversed over the course of the five-to-six hour game. The puzzle elements are light, with players advancing the story simply by reaching the next location. Alex carries a portable radio that tunes in various broadcasts relating to the island’s history, and unlocks the occasional sonic padlock with a twist of the dial.

For a game with constant dialogue choices, the conversations play out in a convincingly naturalistic manner. Beyond directing their investigation of the island, the interaction also reveals further emotional connections between the characters, allowing players the opportunity to advance (or worsen) their relationships. Although Ren is arguably less charming than the developers intended, the overall writing compares favorably against any current teen horror film. There were only a few moments (while fiddling with locked gates) that I thought, “Will you shut up, already!”— a remarkable achievement in a game of nearly constant teen banter.

Collectibles, primarily in the form of letters relating to the history of the island and its residents, are scattered around various locations for the completionist to extend the experience, but I was satisfied just immersing myself in the eerie atmosphere, following the escape-first-fully-investigate-the-mystery-second strategy along the branching storyline to its conclusion.

But I still didn’t know what “Oxenfree” meant [thanks, Wikipedia!].

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Dark Shadows (Issue #12)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #12
The Glove
Gold Key Comics | February 1972

This issue initially flirts with the “killer disembodied hand” genre, as it opens with a ghostly appendage attacking Elizabeth Collins in the library at Collinwood. Barnabas responds to her screams, and his quick intervention (with rapid blows from his cane) saves her life. To calm Elizabeth’s shattered nerves, Barnabas dismisses the attack as an inexplicable freak occurrence, but recognizes the murderous glove and the volume whence it emerged.

Barnabas remembers the glove belonging to Cheshire Collins, yet another cursed ancestor of the Collins family. Dead for over 200 years, Cheshire was executed for murdering a romantic rival in the town square in the city of Leeds. In his original mortal form, Barnabas recalls visiting the city on his cousin Cheshire’s behalf (in a canon-be-damned flashback), but was unable to prevent the execution. Realizing that soothing Cheshire’s troubled spirit is the only recourse in preventing further attacks, Barnabas travels back in time to uncover the truth surrounding the murder.

Barnabas battling a killer glove is easily the early highlight, with the story quickly shifting to the drama of an earlier time. This series no longer even makes the slightest attempt at explaining the time travel mechanism, with Barnabas simply entering his coffin and somehow willing himself into the correct time.

Rules are also fast and loose regarding what form Barnabas takes in his travels, and what changes he can and cannot affect. Here he inhabits the body of a bystander and witness to the murderous events, when at other times he incarnates as himself. Although Barnabas is prevented in saving Cheshire’s life due to the laws governing time travel his actions seem able to easily cause the death of another character.

Visiting Cheshire in his cell, Barnabas ultimately discovers that his cousin fails one inexorable, governing law.

If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

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Dark Shadows (Issue #11)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #11
The Thirteenth Star
Gold Key Comics | November 1971

After Quentin Collins is attacked outside Collinwood by a strange creature, Barnabas Collins must battle against a curse handed down centuries ago by an ancestor weary of his family’s predilection towards the dark arts, in an issue that features a guest monster-of-the-week appearance by a Golem.

Even by the obscure standards of multigenerational curses, the one delivered by Mordecai Collins six-hundred years ago is exceptionally nonsensical. To exact payback against the ills he has suffered by the black-magic actions of his own family, Mordecai instructs a priest to form an unlikely vehicle for his revenge. Upon his death, Mordecai’s ashes are sealed inside a gargoyle-like figure made of clay. This Golem, marked with astronomical signs of the Thirteenth Constellation, will come to life upon the once-in-a-one-hundred-year visit of the Collins Comet in the night sky, and destroy any Collins family member with evil dwelling in his heart.

Trying and failing with brute force against Quentin, the Golem deploys a surprisingly clever (for a Golem) method against Barnabas. It steals the grave soil lining Barnabas’ coffin which allows him a safe place to rest during the day. Fearing that he will not have time to find the hidden soil before the rising of the sun, Barnabas calls an impromptu seance with the residents of the great estate, a seance he inexplicably uses to [suspend disbelief here] travel forward in time to the next visit of the comet and discover the location of the soil so he can travel back to the present with this newly discovered knowledge and find the soil, return it to his coffin, and save his own (undead) life.

A completely throw-away issue, The Thirteenth Star improvises the canons of vampirism, spiritualism, and time travel as it goes, propelling Barnabas Collins to the futuristic landscape of Collinsport in the year 2071. He meets his great-great nephew, Halperin Collins, who displays a groovy fashion sense more appropriate to the 1970s-era present, featuring an open-collared plaid jacket, Cream-era Eric Clapton hairdo, and matching white belt, pants, and shoes. After a brief monster rumble with the Golem that leads him to the location of the grave soil, Barnabas notices that the comet has disappeared from the night sky.

Returning to the present without the aid of either the comet or a seance, Barnabas tries to enlist Julia Hoffman’s aid, pleading for her unquestioning cooperation. She neatly sums up the whole adventure by responding, “I will…but understand…I won’t even try.”

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Through the Dark Curtain (The Guardians)

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Through the Dark Curtain (The Guardians)
Peter Saxon | Lancer Books | 1968 | 190 pages

The Guardians, a London-based group dedicated to fighting the forces of supernatural evil in the world, return to investigate the case of a young wife frightened into a vegetative state by an unknown encounter on a deserted Suffolk country road.

Wealthy industrialist Sir Giles Offord contacts Steven Kane—anthropologist, expert in all matters of the occult, and operational leader of the Guardians—for assistance in investigating the strange fate of his daughter-in-law. Stranded in their broken-down car by the side of the road while her husband walked to the nearest village for gasoline, Mavis Offord experienced a terror so profound that she collapsed into a state of catatonic madness. Later discovered curled in the fetal position in a roadside ditch, Mavis was removed shrieking to the local physician, eventually being admitted to a psychiatric hospital—where she is yet to recover or even talk about her ordeal. Answering Steven Kane regarding why he requests the special services of the Guardians, Sir Giles explains, “I think she saw the devil.”

Accompanying Steven Kane to Frenton, the small village where Mavis was found, is Father John Dyball—Guardians member and Anglo-Catholic priest with an expert knowledge in the dark side of Faith. After questioning some of the villagers, Kane and Dyball come to suspect the activities of a mysterious local organization, the Sons of Anglia, and its founder Lawrence Stow. An elderly and reclusive man, Stow is rarely seen in the village, but Kane does meet his daughter Barbara, who although a beautiful blonde of nearly Amazonian proportions, exhibits little signs of life behind her strangely dull blue eyes.

Breaking into Stow’s estate after dark, Kane and Dyball interrupt a strange ritual attended by figures in white robes. At its center, a nearly nude Barbara Stow is held in bondage and whipped by unseen forces. Left behind by the fleeing cult members, both Barbara and her father lapse into catatonic states. Anne Ashby, the Guardians’ voluptuously beautiful occult expert and telepath, arrives to provide assistance with Barbara, but immediately slips into a vivid trance-like state—experiencing a vision of Barbara as a Queen of ancient Britain, facing off against the oppressive rule of Roman occupation.

Following the timeworn tradition of depicting small English villages as insular worlds filled with dark histories of superstition, witchcraft and secret rites, Through the Dark Curtain benefits most from evoking this familiar atmosphere of malevolence. Although standard fare, the most enjoyable passages have Kane and Dyball acting as detectives, asking around the hotels, garages and pubs for information. They turn up tantalizing possibilities, such the “Black Dog” (who local myth claims is the devil’s companion, hunting for souls on certain nights of the year), and receive tips leading to the secret society—never knowing who may be part of the shadowy network. Once Kane and Dyball interrupt the secret ceremony, and Anne Ashby takes the story back in time to ancient Britain, everything becomes muddled. The flashbacks to ancient battles are not compelling, and the resolution never really clarifies whether the Guardians experience these scenes as reincarnation, actually travel back in time, or simply have a shared hallucination.

The conclusion stands out as being most arbitrary; rather than the bunk explanation of formulating Druid and Christian spells into some mystical concoction, Dyball could have just as easily cried out, “Shazam!” and sent the rescuing bolts of lighting down from the sky.

 

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Dark Shadows (Issue #3)

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Dark Shadows, Issue #3
Return for Revenge
Gold Key Comics | November 1969

The third issue of the Dark Shadows comic delivers the goods with several recurring themes from the television series—a haunting, a family curse, a multi-generational revenge drama, a séance at Collinwood, and Barnabas Collins traveling to the past to alter the future.

The spirit of Setauket rises from the grave and assumes mortal flesh to avenge the wrongs perpetrated against him by the Collins family. With a strangely persuasive demeanor, Setauket—now Charley Tauket—assumes the role of a gardener on the Collinwood estate. Immediately following his arrival, Roger Collins suffers several near-miss fatal accidents, from auto crashes to falling furniture to inexplicably levitating spears. The course of action is clear; Roger enlists the help of Professor Stokes to hold a séance, with the help of Barnabas and Elizabeth Collins.

Barnabas quickly realizes that the séance will not divulge the force behind the attempts on Roger’s life. Deducing that Charley Tauket’s arrival was not coincidental to the attacks, Barnabas calls upon his special nature to travel two hundred years back in time and fight the spirit at its source. Uncovering the fatal wrong inflicted upon Setauket by the Collins family, Barnabas races to find his ancestor Jebediah Collins in an attempt to alter history, thereby preventing Setauket’s curse from ever being uttered.

The stereotypical Native American curse subject matter does not diminish the fun of a séance at Collinwood, with a time-tripping Barnabas fighting off a vengeful spirit. Neither does the basic flaw of the generational curse—most villains would happily accept the retribution for their evil deeds being delayed for a few hundred years, inflicted instead on descendants they will never know. And how exactly does Barnabas travel through time? Does he just close his eyes, grit his fangs together, and concentrate on a date?

After Roger finds the gardener’s empty suit and facing questions from Elizabeth regarding the Indian she saw disappear through her window, the recently-returned-to-the-present Barnabas sweeps up all the loose ends by declaring, “There is Roger! There is an explanation…but it’s an explanation we must not seek!”

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Evil in the Family

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Evil in the Family
Grace Corren | Belmont Tower Books | 1972 | 222 pages

After the tragic deaths of her parents and brother in a car accident, Dana Gentry goes to stay with her estranged aunt Gladys in the rambling old Victorian house of her mother’s childhood. Upon arrival, Dana receives a hostile reception from Angela, the longtime housekeeper, and her elderly aunt—although friendly—seems reluctant to discuss the details surrounding her separation from Dana’s mother. During a visit to the kitchen for a midnight snack, Dana is startled by the sudden presence of Angela’s husband Ronald, who she suspects may be living in the house without her aunt’s knowledge.

Curious about the house and its occupants, Dana decides to look around. While exploring the cellar, she receives a sharp blow to the head. When she awakens, she makes to a startling discovery—she has been transported over forty years into the past, and now inhabits the body of her late aunt, Dana Wilson. Struggling to understand her new situation, Dana attempts to uncover the secrets that drove her family apart, and avoid the fateful day of her late aunt’s (and now, perhaps her own) death.

The narrative shifts back and forth in time with the fortuitous appearance of runaway trucks, knocking Dana back into her other timeline through violent traffic accidents. Interestingly for a time travel story, Dana ultimately accepts the notion of the past as immutable (to the great consternation of potential time travelers everywhere). Evil in the Family delivers only a modest amount of tension, through Dana’s knowledge of her aunt’s impending death in the past, and her fear of the mysterious force working upon her in the present. When finally revealed, however, the motivations and machinations of the person responsible are as unsatisfying as the ambiguous conclusion regarding the nature of Dana’s time travel.

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Night Gallery – Room with a View / The Little Black Bag / The Nature of the Enemy

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Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 2 | December 23, 1970

Segment One | Room with a View

This short, chatty segment stars Diane Keaton as an impressionable young nurse manipulated by her patient into exacting revenge upon his unfaithful wife. Although a violent encounter in the nurse’s recent past is mentioned briefly, the jump to the denouement is a quick one—especially considering the romantic fulcrum is a hairy-chested chauffeur. A brief glimpse of an amazing pair of ladies’ flair-leg trousers in motion serves as a fashion bonus.

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Segment Two | The Little Black Bag

An accident during a time travel experiment in the distant future—a future looking suspiciously like a poorly furnished apartment—sends an advanced medical kit back in time, where it is discovered by a down-on-his-luck ex-doctor on skid row. Burgess Meredith plays it up as a pickled hobo searching for redemption, but his booze-hound pal wants the eight dollars offered for the bag by the local pawn shop to start his next bender. The bit about the bag’s trans-temporal monitoring system is pure hokum, since a self-destruct option—if at all possible— would have been employed immediately.

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Segment Three | The Nature of the Enemy

NASA Mission Control watches a broadcast from a rescue mission on the moon, where one spacecraft has crashed and another has gone missing. The rescue team discovers a strange assemblage made of the ruined ship, leading to the wildly groan-inducing reveal of ***SPOILERS*** Mousetraps in Space! ***END SPOILERS***

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