Random Musings -- Double Darkness


Random Musings About Double Darkness:

I shall try to control myself this time and not write such a lengthy exposition, in the hopes of coming a bit closer to catching up with these musings. Not that it's likely that is ever going to happen, but I ought to at least try.

I've always found Double Darkness to be an odd episode; while it contains several outstanding character scenes it's also full of things which are terribly confusing, never fully explained, and just don't make sense. Thus, it's never been one of my favourites of the series. It's the only episode where I think the writer did a sloppy job. Sure, "Dracula: the Series" can be wacky and strange, but the plot should still make sense. Fortunately, Stu Woolley's other episode, I Love Lucard more than makes up for Double Darkness.

The acting and special effects are, as always, wonderful, and the dialogue is scintillating. We have some of Lucard's most memorable lines, from "I have a headache--get out!" to "You were a third-rate bungler when you forget to wake up Hitler on D-Day, and nothing's changed." My absolutely favourite part is when Lucard tells his receptionist, "If anyone should appear at the front desk tonight without an appointment, let... them in." Ordinarily, Lucard would never use the third person plural when singular is called for, but, not knowing in what form Nosferatu will appear, he's forced to, and he clearly does so with distaste.

My main problems with Double Darkness stem from the character of Nosferatu. The publicity material I have describes him as "less polished than Lucard, more primal, more thuggish and political. While Lucard has been piling up millions and creating economic evil as a venture capitalist, Nosferatu has been bringing misery to people by propping up repressive governments, fomenting civil wars, and so forth, and then cashing in--or biting in--on the resultant chaos." Nosferatu certainly is less polished than Lucard, with his leather clothes and shirt open to the chest, and he has too-close set fangs and an annoying, snide manner. What I don't understand is how he can be this thoroughly unattractive shallow worm when he's in his own form, yet apparently possess the wit to be able to transform his appearance to that of Max and pull off the impersonation so well that neither we nor Gustav, Chris and Sophie can tell the fake Max from the real thing. I don't even know when Max is supposed to really be Max, and when he's actually Nosferatu, and I am not sure the writer did either (nor that he cared, though he should have). I assume that the Max whom Dr. Cross meets at the door of the Helsing home to take on a date is not the real Max, since we later see that it's in fact Nosferatu whom she's at dinner with; yet, if that's true, where is the real Max? How did Nosferatu infiltrate the Helsing home (especially with the Cross of the Magyars there!!!), and how would Nosferatu know things like Max's middle name (Maurice)?

I also find it hard to believe that the Nosferatu whom we meet in Lucard's office, with his petty insults and ugly sneer, is capable of such a hilarious Gustav impression. The opening scene, where "Gustav" stops to "help" a woman whose car has broken down, and then pulls out her distributor cap and bites her, is wonderful. The "Far Traveler's Explorers Society"? I don't know, I just can't imagine Nosferatu being such a great actor. I guess he is, though... it's implied that he affected all sorts of events in history and had an in with Hitler... who knows in what form that was. He's also capable of wreaking great havoc for Lucard's industries; he's somehow responsible for no less than six of Lucard's constantly-mounting problems: his South African diamond mine collapses; his oil tanker sinks in the Indian ocean; there is a fire in his Korean computer factory; Mt. Vesuvius erupts (Nosferatu is powerful!) and the single lava flow destroys his villa (or maybe Nosferatu just controlled the direction of the flow); he gets nationalized by the Costa Bravan government; and his holding company in Tokyo is under siege from a corporate raider (Nosferatu). We certainly learn a lot about Lucard's various international holdings. Unfortunately, the bit about the corporate raider doesn't make any sense at all... Lucard claims that he avoided the buy-out by temporarily selling his company to an Arab nation, who will sell it back to him the next day. If Lucard owns more than 50% of the shares of his company (which presumably he would), why would he need to sell it to an Arab country to avoid being bought out by Nosferatu?

Anyway, Nosferatu is apparently very powerful; as far as we know, Lucard doesn't possess his transformation abilities (or perhaps he just doesn't care to change into such ridiculous forms). Nosferatu also has a different disappearance style from Lucard's; his is much more smoky and rather seems to pollute the air, leaving behind a great rising grey cloud. I never understood the ending of this episode; does anyone else have a grasp on what exactly is implied? In the scene at the Roman ruins, Lucard has lifted whom he believes to be Max by the neck when all of the sudden the real Max rides up on his bicycle and Lucard discovers the Max he's holding is actually Nosferatu. Nosferatu transforms back into himself (Lucard doesn't lose his grip) and then both Nosferatu and Dr. Cross attack Lucard, who is outnumbered. Lucard appeals to Max's sense of fairness, and Max helps him by throwing a balloon filled with garlic powder at Nosferatu and Dr. Cross. (What a clever kid that Max is! Although, when he's filling the balloon in an earlier scene, most of the garlic powder seems to fall out.) The balloon pops on a pointed vampire nail, and all the vampires start hissing and cringing, trying to shake the stuff off (fortunately, Lucard has dressed for the occasion, and easily swishes it off of his cape). Then Lucard throws a stake at Nosferatu (very smooth) and Nosferatu disappears along with Dr. Cross, who throws herself on him as he's fading out. All fine so far (just wanted to describe the thing clearly for those who haven't seen it or don't remember it), but I just don't understand the last scene of the show. Dr. Cross is shown dressed in a chauffeur's uniform, putting a coffin into the back of a hearse, which she then flies off and disappears with, vampire-fashion. Does this imply that Nosferatu is in fact not dead, even though we saw him disappear? What's in the coffin? How does Gloria Cross, a very new vampire (she was vampirized by Nosferatu only days before) have the power to make a whole hearse fly and disappear in a blue flash? Did she have help from Nosferatu? Did she save him somehow by disappearing with him when he was staked? It's not at all explained, and I really wish it wasn't so ambiguous.

Anyway, what redeems this episode for me is the lovely Max/Lucard scene just before the tag. I love these little snatches they give us which imply that Lucard is rather fond of the little guy and that Max is in some ways partial to Alexander, too. (My favourites are in Bad Blood and I Love Lucard). Max saves him, after all--from a pair of vampires he knows nothing about. He knows Lucard is evil, yet when he's about to be destroyed, Max comes to his aid. Perhaps Max thinks Lucard is redeemable? (A Darth Vader and Luke kind of thing??) I'm certain that Lucard must have some sort of plans for Max, when he gets a little older. He pretends he's about to kill him at the end, but then smiles and says, "Not this time... this time, we're even," and proceeds to tell Max to "drive carefully on the way home" and "watch out for vampires... they're everywhere." He's in an absolutely bubbly mood. I'd love to see what develops between those two in about ten years.


Follow-up Comments:

Sarah T.:
As ever, I will now boldly attempt to provide secondary rationalizations for an episode I haven't seen yet. I must agree with you that this sounds like a sloppily-written episode, but perhaps, in the fine tradition of fans of series everywhere, we can come up with some decent explanations to mask the obvious cluelessness of the writer.

Laura.:
But, of course. That's the job of a fan, is it not?

Sarah T.:
As for Nosferatu's surprising skill in masquerade, well, the series--indeed, much of the vampire legend--is founded on the disjunction between the apparent and the actual natures of the vampire. On the physical level, this is obvious, and emphasized strongly in the series (btw, it seems to be arbitrary whether or not Lucard loses his eyebrows when he vamps out), [...]

Laura.:
Ah... thanks. I wondered about the eyebrows, but I just couldn't remember if he always loses them or not. I was too tired at that point to go back and check for scenes where he doesn't.

Sarah T.:
[...] but this is true with regard to character, too. To return to my favorite overused example (won't you be glad when I get some tapes and can cite in detail a different episode?), [...]

Laura.:
I'm sure you'll be glad... I'm rather enjoying how much you've mileage gotten out of "My Fair Vampire," though. I still can't figure out whether it's a particularly deep episode or you're just a genius at analysis. I almost shudder to think what will happen when you actually have other episodes to refer to! ;-)

Sarah T.:
[...] is the Alexander Lucard who, perceiving her distress, laughs off Amber's destruction of one of his priceless statuettes the same person as the man who coldly flings her unconscious form aside (it's a scary shot) when Frederick Rilling bursts in on his dinner? So I think we must expect to see vampires displaying a certain degree of "schizophrenia." The better the actor and the writing, the more there will be a continuity even across this inevitable disjunction: this is one of the successes of GJ and Lucard.

Laura.:
Yes. And, I didn't really stress it in my review, but Nosferatu's "schizophrenia" is very effective when it's Bernard Behrens (Gustav) or Jacob Tierney (Max) playing the role, or when a transformation is taking place. In the scene where Nosferatu is having dinner with Dr. Cross, he starts out in Max's form, and it's chilling to see Max suavely holding a cigarette in its holder, speaking in an entirely un-Max-like manner to Dr. Cross. Then Dr. Cross complains about his appearance, and he transforms into Gustav, saying, "Do you prefer a 60 year old?" The burning cigarette remains the same, as Nosferatu slowly dissolves and fades in again, finally reverting to his own form last of all. Also splendid is the scene where Lucard is holding "Max" in the air by the collar and the real Max rides up on his bicycle. Lucard asks, doing a double-take, "Two of you?" and "Max" says, in Nosferatu's voice, "Just one of me."

Sarah T.:
But in a badly-written episode, the disjunction can become unbelievable. Thus, Nosferatu's character seems implausible. But remember--he's had a long time to practice (do we know how old he is? That he calls Lucard a "little brat" at least suggests that he is older than Alexander). And perhaps his very shallowness of character makes it easy for him to adopt others'.

Laura.:
No, we don't know how old he is--just that he's Lucard's "ancient and bitter rival" (as per my publicity stuff). I do think he is meant to be older than Lucard. His powers suggest so, as does the way they interact. And the "little brat" quote, yes.. ;-) I rather like that comment; Lucard can be bratty at times.

Sarah T.:
The final scene sounds incredibly pointless, so I will concentrate on explaining the penultimate one.

Laura.:
I find it so, but maybe I just don't get it. I don't know.

Sarah T.:
Much as I hate to suggest that Lucard could possibly miss a kill, we must keep in mind when considering what happens in this episode that Nosferatu is, primarily, an illusionist! If he can take on the form of Gustav, and he even has a distinctive form of teleporting (don't Lucard, Klaus, and Sophie "Queen of the Night" all employ the same method(s)?), surely he can fake being killed.

Laura.:
Yes, they do--as does Eileen. Jonas Carey (the silent film actor vampire) has his own method of disappearing when dying, though--he flickers out like a silent film.

Sarah T.:
Lucard is extremely strong, but maybe he was temporarily weakened by the garlic and didn't get adequate penetration with the stake. Nosferatu probably pulled Dr. Cross, knowing or unknowing, along with him when he teleported out. (What was their relationship, anyway?)

Laura.:
Dr. Cross was an archeologist who uncovered Nosferatu during one of her digs ("a bad career move," Gustav called it). Lucard had apparently imprisoned him in an old Roman ruin, since he comments to Nosferatu that when he started having such terrible luck he knew Nosferatu "must be free." Anyway, so Nosferatu is Dr. Cross' "master." They seem to have a somewhat romantic relationship, as well, as per their dinner date. I think you're right that it's implied Nosferatu may not be dead, but it's so ambiguous that I just don't know. It certainly looked as if Lucard aimed well with that stake. However, we never see the usual glowing skeleton, etc., as when a vampire is destroyed, so perhaps Nosferatu disappeared just in time and escaped.

Sarah T.:
The Lucard-Max stuff is always cute. In this episode, Max sounds like a traditional figure in children's stories: the kid who believes so strongly in justice that he thinks that even the bad guys deserve fair play (this kid then grows up to be Thomas More in "A Man For All Seasons" ;). In addition, when I was Max's age, I believed in the evil of various villains, but if one was actually about to be killed before my eyes, I probably wouldn't have been too enthused about it. What is more, Max isn't watching his loved and trusted Uncle Gustav about to dispatch Lucard; instead, unsavory strange vampires are threatening someone he at least knows (and who cleverly appeals for his help--Lucard shows a good grasp of psychology on occasion). It seems to me very plausible that he would want to save Lucard in this situation.

Laura.:
Oh, yes, I found it very plausible. And despite knowing that Lucard is the "bad guy," Max still has that "gee-whiz" feeling toward him. As he comments to Gustav in the first episode, "I was in the same room with Dracula, and I didn't even get his autograph!"

Sarah T.:
It sounds like Stu Woolley just needed someone to help with his guest stars and their attendant plot--he had the regulars down pat.

Laura.:
Yes, he did. The regular characters' characterization and dialogue is splendid. There are some wonderful Gustav-Max scenes that I didn't even mention, in particular the one where they "have a little talk" about how it's impossible for Max to have a relationship with a grown woman (the sub-plot in this episode is Max's crush on Dr. Cross). I just found the plot confusing; perhaps it was difficult to squeeze everything into a half hour and the plot suffered because of it.


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