After the extremely disappointing set 12, which centered almost completely around the two intolerable children, set 13 is a real breath of fresh air. For the most part, it reinvigorates my love for the show. It takes a few episodes, but by about the middle of the first disk Barnabas uses the I-Ching wands to travel back in time to 1897. The scene where Professor Stokes performs the dark ritual to enable Barnabas to do this is fabulous - this is the kind of stuff I watch the show for. Pure Gothic suspense.
Once in the past, all the actors play different parts. Barnabas first meets Sandor the gypsy (formerly Professor Stokes), and another gypsy named Magda (formerly Juliet Hoffman). They live at the old house. The reason they're there is the matriarch of the Collins family employs Magda to tell the future. This matriarch is now on her death bed, and the Collins family members are all anxious to see how the will is split up. Besides Edward and Judith (formerly Roger and Elizabeth Collins), there's also Quentin - we saw a lot of him in DVD set 12, but now we finally get to hear him speak in his New England accent. Quentin is a real good-for-nothing, returned from England just in time to try to ingratiate himself with grand-mama before she dies, and he's incredibly full of himself. However, Selby's marvelous acting leaves the character rather sympathetic and not all together unlikable.
Once the will is sorted out, the plot lines start coming fast and furious. Governess Rachel Drummond (formerly Maggie Evans) notices lights on in the tower room and investigates. We eventually discover the secret - good stuff! Quentin along with the family lawyer Evan Hanley (formerly Nicolas Blair) conduct a black magic ritual and summon Angelique to help them in their fight against Barnabas. To say this doesn't turn out the way they intended is a bit of an understatement. Edward's wife Laura shows up, but Quentin is sure that he saw her die. There's something very odd about her. I'm only touching on the high points, there are all sorts of other happenings taking place. Barnabas is a vampire again, Quentin is turned into a zombie, an insane woman runs loose in the house, Angelique starts blackmailing Barnabas like she always does, it goes on and on.
Eventually the children are taken away to Reverend Trask's school, where Rachel ends up as well. This is unfortunately where it gets bad, as "The Shrieker" is back: Denise Nickerson, the child actor who plays Nora Collins, and who apparently never saw a line of dialogue that she didn't think could be improved by adding three exclamation points to the end of it. I'd compare the experience of listening to her to going out to dinner and being seated next to a couple with an infant who won't quit screaming. It is painful, to say the least. Young Jamison Collins does his best to annoy as well. With so many wonderfully intriguing plot lines going on at once, I really can't fathom the thought process that went into putting these two brats at center stage once again. Our ears have only recently stopped ringing after enduring their squealing barrage in DVD set 12, and now they're doing it again.
Fortunately this doesn't happen until the midpoint of disk four; We can only hope it will be short lived. Other than that, the rest of the episodes are absolutely fantastic - exactly the sort of stuff that keeps me buying these DVD sets one after another.