The Carringtons and the Colbys; ah me…how times and television have changed – arguably, not for the better. For nine seasons, we thrilled to their lavish escapades and marveled at Nolan Miller’s often absurd, though never anything less than dramatic high fashion. In its prime, Aaron Spelling’s Dynasty (1981-89) was not simply ‘event’ TV, but a way of life that indelibly etched its ‘spend/spend’ hysteria as a cornerstone of that fabulously superficial decade. The real thrill for the audience was divided between the lavishness of the pursuit itself, finely wrought as a straight-forward drama (at least in the beginning) by husband and wife writing zeitgeists, Richard and Esther Shapiro; also, the notion that rich people still had their modicum of unhappiness and problems, despite their excessive wealth – or rather, because of it. Dynasty’s style permeated eighties’ pop culture like nothing before it, inspiring perfumes, tuxedos and an entire generation of shoulder-padded, cinched waist designs in ladies’ apparel, not to mention the Chrysler Corporation naming a car after it. And since it officially left the air in 1989, Dynasty has never been without its loyal fans, thanks to cable syndication around the world. The series’ lynchpin is, was and will always be Joan Collin’s uber bitch, Alexis Morrell-Carrington-Colby-Dexter; the woman we all loved to hate. That Collins found her way to the franchise second best, as a Season Two replacement for Sophia Loren after another unknown extra had already debuted at the end of Season One, looking remarkably Joan Collins-esque, while concealing her face from the camera under a large-brimmed white hat, is a tale in and of itself. Aaron Spelling, then a spy fifty-seven, had sought Collins out for the part after talks with Loren’s agents stalled, asking for too much money. “But she’s English!” producers protested. “Yeah,” Spelling admitted, “So’s the Queen…it didn’t seem to hurt her any!” Indeed, Collins’ English-ness was to prove an advantage at the end of Season 4 when Pamela Sue Martin – who originally played daughter, Fallon, wanted off the show and was, after a period of adjustment, replaced by the very British Emma Samms’ at the end of Season 5.
The success of CBS’s Dallas (1978-91) initially necessitated this ambitiously launched competition for the ratings over at ABC, with former network chairman, Ted Harbert endeavoring to have his own titanic primetime soap opera. If Dallas was responsible for putting Texas on the television radar, then Dynasty was squarely aimed to give Denver, Colorado its glam-bam pizzazz, even though the series was virtually shot in its entirety in California. Transparently named ‘Oil’ by its creators, Dynasty was dubbed the Dallas ‘wannabe’ by its critics; even following Dallas’ tried and true formula of premiering first as a three-part mini-series. What set the then new and fledgling franchise apart was Spelling’s golden touch; also, his heavy revisionist undertaking to rid the series of its early middle-class subplots, making the eventually rechristened ‘Dynasty’ a megawatt smash that set fashion and hairstyle trends on fire, the world over. Part of the enduring success of Dynasty is owed designer, Nolan Miller, whose weekly ‘million-dollar’ clothing allowance was enough to produce an entire episode of Dallas. In Miller’s mélange of haute couture these characters became a handsome – occasionally bizarre – fashion parade, emblematic of the 1980’s. Who today can forget the endless permutation of turbans and furs sported by Alexis (Joan Collins) or Krystal’s (Linda Evans) power-brokering shoulder pads that grew exponentially as her character became less demure and more assertive? Dynasty conquered such heights precisely because it struck a chord with the go-go eighties. It dared to be ultra-glamorous and, in retrospect, typified the bawdy/gaudy excesses of that generation, eager to get out from under Jimmy Carter’s cardigan-era penny-pinching and live a little. Ronald Reagan’s presidency did more than suggest an end to these hard times. It represented a more muscular economy that took off like a brush fire in Southern California, fueling a decade-long love affair with Reagan-omics and the all-mighty buck.
Fans tuned in for the turbulent marital roller coaster of Blake Carrington (originally Blake Barkhurst, to have been played by George Peppard – the part eventually recast with John Forsythe), his ever-devoted second wife, secretary Krystle Jennings (Linda Evans) and the complicated lives of their mostly dysfunctional children; the forthright and occasionally scheming, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) and sexually conflicted, Steven (Al Corley). A third son, Adam (to be played with devious aplomb by Gordon Thompson) would later surface, after having been kidnapped from his pram some thirty-years earlier. Dynasty thrived on sin, sex and seduction, albeit in a more or less recklessly playful way than we are used to seeing it on television these days. Audiences were quick to overlook the show’s more glaring absurdities, such as Steven, having survived a devastating off-shore oil rig explosion, only to resurface as the much beefier/bronzed Apollo, played by Jack Coleman, after reconstructive surgery, or Fallon suddenly morphing from the rather mousy Martin into the more sultry and petite Emma Samms. A fragmenting of the original cast to accommodate the spin-off series, The Colbys at the end of Season 5, and the eventual departure of Linda Evans, given an acute case of amnesia – but recovering off screen at a clinic in Switzerland, while Fallon was whisked into the clouds by a ‘Close Encounters’-styled alien abduction, marked an end to the once venerable Carringtons and Colbys – abruptly pulled from ABC’s fall line-up without any closure to the various plot entanglements embroiling the cast in 1990, only to resurface one year later in a 4-hour mini-series: Dynasty – The Reunion, a truly bungled affair that left more questions than answers in its wake.
In hindsight, Dynasty had everything going for it. So, it is easy to see why the show was such a colossal smash on both sides of the Atlantic in 1981. Alas, and also in hindsight, the show’s oversights and misfires become all the more glaringly obvious when binge-watching the series. Viewing Dynasty Season One today, one is immediately dumbstruck by how stilted the whole enterprise seems, both in its storytelling and character development. The series opens with an engagement: Krystle Jennings to Blake Carrington and follows Krystle’s awkward assimilation from working-class secretary to elegant matron of one of Denver’s most affluent and influential families. It seems that everyone, from the Carrington’s Major Domo, Joseph Andres (Lee Bergere) to Blake’s daughter, Fallon treats Krystle as though she were a poor relation rather than the new mistress of the house. Of course, it does not help matters that – at least in these early episodes – Krystle is as placid and malleable as a doormat, allowing everyone to wipe their feet on her goodwill. From the outset, the one accepting heart belongs to Blake’s intelligent and ‘sensitive’ son, Steven (Al Corley); a closeted homosexual, reunited with his former New York lover, Ted Dinard (Mark Withers) much to Blake’s chagrin.
Ironically, Steven’s sexuality will come to dominate much of the plot development in Season One. Clearly concerned with introducing a gay character into prime time television circa 1981, the Shapiros repeatedly tempered and diffused Ted and Steven’s relationship throughout its rocky evolution. As for Blake, he absolutely refused to accept Steven’s lifestyle, creating constant friction that eventually forces Steven to move out on his own. Meanwhile, across town, Blake’s overseer, Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins) returned home with his wife, Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) after her lengthy stay at a retreat to recover from a nervous breakdown. Although there was little doubt Matthew loved his wife, he deliberately left out the fact that during Claudia’s prolonged absence he had been having an affair with Krystle before her engagement to Blake. The final lover’s triangle that rounded out Season One belonged to Blake’s daughter, Fallon, her new husband, the forthright Republican, Jeff (John James) and his wily uncle, Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner). After dalliances with the family’s chauffeur, Michael Duchane (Wayne Northrop), the rebellious Fallon made a failed play for Cecil, before agreeing to marry his nephew.
In all these relationships, Fallon was the malignant fraud (in retrospect, the Shapiro’s first failed attempt at the crafting of a viper – a role eventually filled to perfection by Joan Collin’s uber-bitch Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter). Despite her ‘wild child’ attitude, and failings as a human being, there was nothing to match Fallon’s genuine love for her father. Blake repeatedly placates his daughter’s interests in assuming a stake in the family business. As Season One drew to a close, Fallon made it clear to Jeff she did not love him – driving a wedge in their marriage. Matthew tried to seduce Krystle without luck and Fallon quietly – if briefly – fell in love with Matthew. Having renounced Ted, Steven had a brief flagrante delicto with the still emotionally scarred Claudia, whose mental state once more began to deteriorate. Discovering Ted in Steven’s bedroom, Blake assumed the two were on the cusp of a lover’s reconciliation. Blake flew into a rage and pushed Ted, who thereafter stumbled and fatally struck his head on the fireplace grate. At the resulting murder trial, Claudia confessed to her affair with Steven, leaving Matthew jilted at the courthouse. Meanwhile, Claudia’s failed attempt to lure Lindsay – their daughter – away from Matthew turned tragic when Matthew and Lindsay became involved in a near-fatal car wreck. Back in court, a star witness with damning testimony for the prosecution emerged – Blake’s first wife; Alexis.
By today’s megalomaniac standards, Dynasty Season One is a decidedly downplayed affair with little to suggest the heady vitriol that would prove so gosh darn entertaining from Season Two on. The Shapiro’s valiant – if inept – struggle to balance the Carrington wealth alongside the Blaisdel’s middle class propriety by including a back story involving Matthew’s wildcatter/best friend, Walter Lankershim (Dale Robertson) miserably failed to gel. Despite its clumsy start, for the next eight years, prime time Wednesdays were dominated by an infectious blend of intrigue and sinful laisse faire sexuality. Such was the implausible world of television’s night time soap operas in the 1980s; a glittery playground of tangible perversity made somewhat wholesome by the latest fashion. In Season Two, Dynasty really hit its stride to develop staying power as a pop icon. The story lines crafted by the Shapiros became tighter; character development, more linear and engaging. Just as Dallas – another ensemble melodrama – had evolved into Larry Hagman’s gig as the unscrupulous J.R. Ewing, by the end of Season Two, Dynasty had quickly morphed into the Joan Collins’ show. Fallon’s wicked, wicked ways were grafted onto Collins’ Alexis, leaving television’s original Nancy Drew, momentarily at least, without any great purpose. But it was a role Joan Collins – with all her sporting Brit-based class and seasoned training from Hollywood’s golden age – was born to play. And thus, Alexis began her tirade on the house of Carrington, first, by lying on the witness stand at Blake’s murder trial – claiming he had been an abusive spouse, quick to use physical harm if she ever came back to Denver to see her children. This slander was partly responsible for Blake’s conviction; the verdict, distilled into a suspended sentence, affording Blake the opportunity to move on with his professional business dealings.
Unfortunately, for Blake, his refusal to accept Steven’s homosexual lifestyle only served to widen the rift between father and son. Meanwhile, Fallon and Jeff’s marital relations continued to disintegrate, especially after Fallon began to flirt with the family’s personal physician – Nick Toscanni (James Farantino). Nick harbored deep, though as yet hidden resentments toward Blake after discovering that his own brother was murdered while overseeing oil fields in the Middle East for Denver-Carrington. As for Claudia, she attempted suicide before mobilizing her efforts to learn where Matthew has taken Lindsay. Blake gave Claudia a job at Denver-Carrington; a decision that rival, Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner) took advantage of by promising to unearth Matthew and Lindsay’s whereabouts, but only if Claudia spied for him on Blake’s oiling deals. Alexis moved onto the Carrington estate and into the artist’s cottage, a wedding present from her ex-husband for which she had retained the deed. From this inauspicious beginning, Alexis’ presence was to cause constant friction between Krystle and Blake. After learning of Krystle’s pregnancy, Alexis ratcheted up her desire to destroy their happiness by firing a gunshot into the air while Krystle was out riding her horse. The animal became spooked, threw its rider to the ground, and then dragged her for several miles, causing Krystle to lose the baby.
Enter Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear), Krystle ‘s scheming, poor niece who immediately set her sights on becoming a Carrington to inherit her piece of the pie. Sammy Jo seduced and then wed Steven, much to Alexis’ chagrin. However, realizing Steven had no tangible wealth other than what his father provided, the greedy Sammy Jo quickly lost interest in her new husband, running off to Hollywood to seek her own fame and fortune. Meanwhile, Blake began receiving taunting messages from an omnipotent oil tsar named Logan Rhinewood (actually Cecil Colby) who threatened to take over Denver-Carrington by buying up its stock. After a car bomb set by Rhinewood’s henchmen temporarily blinded Blake, he shunned Krystle and the rest of his family – relying almost exclusively on Joseph to guide him. Discovering she was pregnant with Jeff’s baby, Fallon gave birth to their son. After spying for Cecil and even sleeping with Jeff in order to steal his keys to Denver-Carrington’s secret files, Claudia learned Cecil had been lying to her about Matthew and Lindsay all along. Already mentally unhinged, Claudia plotted to kill Cecil. Only Krystle discovered the gun first. The two women struggled and Claudia was accidentally wounded in the head. On the eve Alexis was set to marry Cecil on the Carrington estate, he suffered a massive heart attack and had to be hospitalized. Blake Jr. was kidnapped and Claudia, having once more lost her grip on reality, disappeared into the night without a trace, thus becoming the prime suspect.
Unfortunately, Blake’s time with Nick Toscanni had also run out. In the first of Dynasty’s many memorable season cliff hangers, Nick unsuccessfully tried to seduce Krystle – then, decided to go after Blake on the mountaintop retreat where he and Krystle were vacationing. Nick confronted Blake on horseback; Blake, thrown down a steep ravine and left for dead just as a violent storm approached. In hindsight, it is a genuine pity the character of Nick Toscanni was written out of the series thereafter, because James Farantino managed to convey great menace throughout Season Two. Coming off such a ‘high water’ mark, Dynasty Season Three represented something of a minor step backwards with the complete obliteration of Nick Toscanni, who vanished all too conveniently without a trace and to parts unknown – never to be heard or seen again. Instead, realizing something was desperately wrong, Krystle galloped on horseback through the perilous torrential rains to rescue her husband. Meanwhile, Claudia, suspected of kidnapping Blake Jr., was tracked down by the police, Jeff, Krystle and Fallon to a high-rise roof top, clutching what appeared to be a baby. Tossing the bundle over the side of the skyscraper, it was revealed Claudia actually had a doll in her arms – not Jeff and Fallon’s baby. Suddenly, and far too conveniently, Jeff suddenly recalled that a groundskeeper he casually met while visiting his father’s grave, exhibited a curious fascination toward his son. Together with Blake, they hunted down this man and saved the day.
From here, the plot shifted to Billings, Montana and an old woman dying from heart failure, though not before revealing to her adult son, Michael (Gordon Thomson) she had stolen a baby from its pram in a park in Denver, claiming the boy as her own. That child was Adam Carrington – the youngest heir of Blake and Alexis. The dying woman now confessed to Michael that he was, in fact, Adam Carrington. After the funeral, Adam became insatiably determined to reclaim his birthright. Family friend, Dr. Jonas Edwards (Robert Symonds) made several veiled and feeble attempts to discourage Adam from pursuing his destiny, revealing for the audience how Adam’s recreational use of psychedelic drugs had irrevocably tainted his better judgment. Nevertheless, Adam returned in Denver and after some initial apprehensions from the family, was accepted back into the Carrington/Colby fold by Alexis. After marrying Alexis, Cecil Colby died, leaving her a very rich widow, whose controlling interest in Colby Co. Oil placed Alexis in direct opposition to Blake’s Denver-Carrington empire. At the reading of the will, Jeff also inherited half of his late uncle’s company, forcing him to quit Denver-Carrington and go to work for Alexis. But Adam – also employed by Alexis – had other sinister plans, redecorating Jeff’s office – presumably as a gesture of goodwill – but with paint tainted in mercurochrome oxide. The hallucinogenic properties of this compound eventually weighed heavily on Jeff’s ability to reason or even function properly.
Meanwhile, Joseph’s daughter, Kirby (Kathleen Beller) returned from her schooling in France to renew a childhood infatuation with Jeff. Regrettably, Adam also took an unrequited interest in Kirby, one that would eventually lead to her rape and pregnancy. The ever-scheming Alexis, having learned Krystle ‘s divorce from first husband, tennis pro – Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott) had never been finalized in Mexico (thus rendering her present marriage to Blake null and void) eagerly pursued this latest policy of destruction while Fallon encouraged her father to allow her to become the owner of one of his failing hotels, La Mirage. Inadvertently, Fallon became Alexis’ unwitting accomplice after she hired Mark to be the new tennis pro at La Mirage. Shortly thereafter, Fallon fell in love with her stepmother’s ex-boyfriend, though not before Alexis also seduced Mark with plans to use him to destroy Krystle ‘s love for Blake once and for all. Having departed Denver to work on an off shore oil rig, Steven was later presumed dead after a deadly explosion. Although Krystle and Blake pursue leads in Indonesia, they were quite unable to locate Steven – forcing an extremely reluctant Blake to accept that his son was dead. After an absence of some length, Sammy Jo surfaced at Steven’s memorial service, carrying Danny – Steven’s son; a reunion, met with mixed emotions and more than a modicum of skepticism.
Having become sufficiently disorientated with mercurochrome oxide poisoning, Jeff signed over all of his Colby company shares to Alexis while Adam now redoubled his efforts to implicate Jeff in the Logan Rhinewood scandal. Meanwhile, Alexis learned a scandalous truth about Kirby’s late mother – that she had been a prostitute – and threatened Joseph to expose the details should Kirby’s blossoming romance with Jeff continue. Desperate for some quick cash, Sammy Jo tried to sell Danny to Krystle and Blake, using the money to pursue a career as a New York fashion model. While Blake refused to buy the child, he did agree to file for a possible adoption. Rather insidiously, Alexis began to pursue a devious takeover of Denver-Carrington by forcing the banks to call in Blake’s loans prematurely. She further tried to blackmail Blake’s Washington politico, Congressman Neal McVane (Paul Burke) by threatening to reveal his extramarital affairs to his wife and the press. Next, Alexis forced Blake’s Board of Directors to side with her on a merger, lest they be destroyed by her venomous revenge. Having broken ties with Alexis earlier, Adam now turned to Blake, attempting to frame Alexis for Jeff’s mercurochrome oxide poisoning. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, an unconscious body of the sole survivor from the oil rig explosion was pulled to safety; the mysterious stranger, sent to recuperate inside a hospital in Singapore. Knowingly assuming the identity of his dead co-worker, after having had major reconstructive surgery, Steven (played for the first time by Jack Coleman) was discovered and confronted by Blake in Singapore and told Sammy Jo had given him a son.
Reluctantly, Steven returned to Denver, welcomed by the entire family who briefly rejoiced in his survival. Fallon’s romance with La Mirage’s tennis pro, Mark Jennings was thwarted by Alexis after she deliberately sneaked into Mark’s room just as he had already stepped into the shower – pretending to have slept with him by crawling into his bed moments before Fallon’s arrival. Back at the Carrington mansion, Kirby became jealous of Jeff’s friendly relations with Fallon, whom he had since divorced. In the scorched earth season finale, Alexis lured Krystle to Steven’s remote cabin to confront her with news about her marriage to Mark Jennings never having been annulled – offering Krystle a cool million if she would simply leave Blake for good. Insulted, Krystle tried to leave the cabin, only to discover someone had already locked them in. The mysterious stranger then doused the cabin in kerosene, setting it ablaze. In the ensuing firestorm, a beam dislodged from the ceiling, knocking Alexis unconscious and leaving Krystle surrounded by the inferno. Unfortunately for Richard and Esther Shapiro, Season Four of Dynasty fizzled almost from the moment Krystle and Alexis were rescued by Mark, who just happened to be nearby and able to carry them both to safety. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Joseph inexplicably lost his grip on reality – a plot entanglement even more feeble than Mark’s presence at the cabin. Presumably, because he could not bear to have Kirby learn the truth about her mother from Alexis, Joseph now confessed to having set the blaze that trapped both she and Krystle in the cabin, before taking his own life with a pistol.
Meanwhile, Blake tried to gain custody of Danny, using Steven’s homosexuality as the chief reason for his being unfit to raise the boy himself. Sammy Jo lied on the witness stand to further derail Steven’s chances. But Claudia proposed she and Steven wed in Reno – having once had a brief affair before she had entered the sanatorium. Steven agreed and the judge declares the couple as Danny’s rightful parents. Adam switched the original purchase orders for the mercurochrome oxide with copies he fooled Alexis into signing. Next, Adam confronted Blake with the forged copies and Blake, in turn, uses them to blackmail Alexis into giving Jeff back his shares of Colby Co. stock. He also foiled the merger between Colby Co. and Denver-Carrington. In an attempt to break out of the insular Carrington/Colby world, three new and devious, though largely forgettable faces joined the cast in Season Four; Deborah Adair, as scheming Denver-Carrington P.R. maven, Tracy Kendall; Helmut Berger, an unscrupulous playboy/drug smuggler, Peter De Vilbis, and, Michael Nader as wealthy rival businessman, Farnsworth ‘Dex’ Dexter. Only the latter would survive the season. After Blake appointed Krystle as the head of Denver-Carrington’s public relations, Tracy did everything to wreck Krystle ‘s chances for success while gaining access to Denver-Carrington’s’ top secret’ files. Estranged from her husband, Krystle agreed to marry Blake for the second time. At a horse race, Fallon met the arrogant Peter De Vilbis; the bad girl within, instantly smitten. Peter introduced Fallon to the drug culture and then feebly plotted to blackmail Blake by having one of his own prized race horses stolen from Blake’s stables.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger began to taunt Claudia by telephone with recordings of her late husband Matthew – nearly pushing her over the edge. Blake learned Adam had raped Kirby and that the child she was now carrying was his – not Jeff’s. Estranged from Jeff, Kirby compounded the errors of her life by agreeing to wed Adam; shortly thereafter her health taking a turn for the worst. Peter was finally exposed as a fraud after Claudia confided in Fallon, he had been making sexual advances toward her for some time. Blake unearthed it was Peter behind the kidnapping of his horse. Alas, by then Peter had dug his own grave, apprehended at the airport for possession of drugs. Thus, concluded Fallon’s brief infatuation, inconsolably throwing herself in front of a moving truck in a suicide attempt that instead left her briefly paralyzed. Krystle discovered she was pregnant, precluding her from attending a Hong Kong summit as Blake’s PR representative. Instead, Tracy went along and, on their first night, tried to seduce Blake in his hotel room. Tactfully thwarting her advances, Blake had Tracy investigated, only to unearth she was working for the competition. Promptly fired from Denver-Carrington, Tracy went to work at Colby Co. digging up dirt for Alexis. Pushed to the brink of sanity by all those mysterious phone calls, Claudia flew to Peru in search of Matthew and Lindsay with Steven tailing his wife. Together, they discovered what appeared to be the truth – both Matthew and Lindsay had been killed in a horrific wreck in the jungle; their bodies, presumably, carted off and eaten by hungry wild animals.
Back in Denver, Blake brokered a deal with wily Arab millionaire, Rashid Amed (John Saxon) to drill for oil in the South China Seas. Instead, at Alexis’ behest, Amed leaked news to the press that the one hundred-million-dollar payoff from Denver-Carrington was to launch a private war in the Middle East. The revelation rocked Denver-Carrington to its core. Banks responsible for the loan suddenly forced Blake into receivership just as Jeff and Fallon announced their plans to remarry. Discovering it was Alexis who drove her father to suicide, Kirby twice attempted – unsuccessfully – to murder her. Meanwhile, Dex infuriated Blake with threats of his own corporate takeover of Denver-Carrington, before embarking upon a torrid liaison with Alexis. Meanwhile, the uber-elegant Dominique Devereux (Diahann Caroll) arrived in town, flaunting her extreme wealth and tempting Alexis’ vitriol with hints that their paths had crossed long ago in Europe. Despite the very real threat of losing his empire, Blake vowed to give Fallon and Jeff a lavish Carrington wedding. Unfortunately, the headaches Fallon was suffering from ever since her foiled suicide, had, by now, driven her mad. On the eve of her wedding, Fallon suffered a breakdown. While guests gathered in the main foyer for the wedding, police arrived to confront Alexis with the news Mark Jennings had fallen to his death from her penthouse balcony. Arrested and taken to prison under suspicion of murder, Alexis became determined to clear her name. Ditching her wedding dress moments before the ceremony, Fallon slipped out the back and jumped into her car. Derailed in his pursuit of Fallon by road construction and a cement truck, Jeff looked on as a little further up the road, Fallon lost control of her getaway car, driving over a steep precipice, presumably to her death.
In hindsight, Fallon’s wreck is an obvious way to rewrite the character – either off the show or as an entirely different actress (the latter occurring when Emma Samms took over the role late in Season Five). Yet, in general, the fourth season of Dynasty already appeared as a show on the verge of cancellation. A new writer, Camille Marchetta, was brought in to spruce up the contemptible alliances, devious mistresses, borderline psychotic villains and even a palace coup that would re-envision the show’s next season as a global phenomenon. Indeed, Season 5 was the most watched of any prime time soap in 1985; Dynasty overtaking Dallas in the Nielsen ratings. By Season 5 the whole of Dynasty had been swamped by Joan Collins’ Alexis; virtually all of its plots and subplots revolving around this uber-bitch/queen bee. Top marks must be given to Collins – for creating this towering figure. The show did try to create fascinating story lines for its remaining characters. But inevitably, when all else failed, the writers fell back on Collins’ ability to continue being the gal we all absolutely loved to hate. As Collins’ manipulative vixen was incarcerated at the start of Season 5, Jeff Colby began to conduct his own valiant search for Fallon. This led, first, to a youth hostel, then a college campus, and finally, a monastery where Jeff was informed by a monk that the woman he knew as Fallon Carrington was dead. Enter Nicole Simpson (Susan Scannell) the ex-wife of Peter DeVilbis. Nicole seduced Jeff, wed him, then realized he would always love Fallon – even if only her ghost. Next, Nicole attempted to lure Jeff on an expedition in pursuit of a priceless gold artifact in Guatemala. The went, never found the statue or Fallon and returned home as bitter enemies.
Unable to paint themselves out of this narrative corner, the producers next shifted their focus back to Alexis, since charged with the murder of her former bodyguard, Mark Jennings. Steven alleged in court he saw a shadowy figure push Mark from Alexis’ balcony wearing the same dark cape Alexis had donned for Fallon’s wedding. One problem; Alexis arrived at Fallon’s wedding wearing a stunning red dress! Meanwhile, Alexis’ husband Dex began an affair with her daughter, Amanda Bedford (Catherine Oxenberg) whom Alexis had given up to her sister to rear in Britain. Blake discovered Amanda was also his child and welcomed her into the family. At the same time, Steven and Claudia’s marriage began to crumble, thanks to Adam’s chronic meddling and well-timed, if innocuous outings Steven had with his male social secretary, Luke Fuller (Billy Campbell). In hindsight, the ambiguity surrounding Steven’s sexuality increasingly became one of the most regrettable misfires of the entire series. Meanwhile, Krystle began to doubt Blake’s marital fidelity after receiving mysterious photographs of him in the company of Lady Ashley Mitchell (Ali McGraw); a fashion photographer, shooting a spread on Denver’s oil baron and entertaining romantic ideas about Jeff – not Blake.
At this same juncture, Krystle ‘s heart was stirred by old flame, Daniel Reese (Rock Hudson); a horse breeder and sometime mercenary, who indulged his spare time in rescuing political dissidents from obscure prisons in third world countries. Daniel and Krystle ‘s innocent rendezvous was also photographed and sent to Blake to further stir their pot of marital discourse. In another part of Denver, Dominique Devereaux revealed herself to be Blake’s half-sister. She lost her husband, Brady Lloyd (Billy Dee Williams) in the process but gained a powerful ally in Blake. Stricken with a heart ailment that nearly costs her life, Dominique was then rushed to the hospital and gradually restored to health. While on a conference with Alexis and Dex in South America, Amanda was introduced to Prince Michael of Moldavia (Michael Praed) with whom she began a tempestuous affair. Her heart still tethered to Dex, Amanda bitterly agreed to marry the prince, a vow made even more complicated when it was revealed Alexis had once had a passionate affair with Michael’s father, King Galen (Joel Fabiani). Alexis convinced Galen that Michael should break his betrothed engagement to Elena, the Duchess of Branagh (Kerry Armstrong) and marry Amanda with all speed. Alexis sweetened this deal by suggesting to Galen that Colby Co. might invest heavily in his country’s ailing economy after the marriage took place. But the Captain of the Guard (Michael Gregory) had other plans for a bloody palace coup.
With so much going on in Season Five, inevitably, these narrative threads became sloppy, as in suggesting on the fly, Congressman Neil McVane was somehow Mark’s killer, wearing a wig and clothes to look like Alexis (utterly laughable and entirely implausible), or, when inferring Sammy-Jo was responsible for sending Blake and Krystle the fake photographs of each other’s presumed affair, merely to screw with their marriage, or, in recasting Fallon as Emma Samms (who does not even remotely resemble Pamela Sue Martin) and then changing every family portrait of Fallon to look like Samms, Season Five was awash in misfires and missteps. Curiously, none of these was enough to sink Dynasty in the Nielsen ratings. In fact, the show soared to #1. By the end of the next season, it had slipped to #7, clearly indicating the end had begun. The Shapiro’s debut of Dynasty II: The Colbys splintered the cast with cross-over episodes making it exceedingly difficult to follow various plot lines as even more new characters were introduced. While Season One’s rocky start without Joan Collins had left Dynasty foundering at #28 in the Nielsen’s, during the latter half of its prime time run, Dynasty became utterly notorious for introducing, building up and then dropping characters without any sufficient resolution to their story lines. Some, like Deborah Adair’s venomous social climber, Tracy Kendall were, arguably, disposable from the outset. But others like Kate O’Mara’s as yet to be introduced slinky sex kitten, Caress Morrell and James Farentino’s already ditched, Nick Toscanni remain unforgivable.
Barreling into its sixth season on the ether of a dramatic palace coup that had left everyone for dead, Dynasty has a mountain of hurdles to overcome – some visible, others rocking the series from behind the camera. After topping out as the #1 show in America, Season Six had nowhere to go but down…and did! The laughable aftermath of the ‘Moldavian massacre’ illustrated only two minor characters, Lady Ashley and Luke had perished in the violent coup. King Galen (Joel Fabiani) was taken prisoner by Minister Warnick (Theodore Bikel) while Prince Michael was informed his father was dead. After some very minor legal haranguing, Michael, his bride and the rest of the Carringtons and Colbys were put on a plane to America. From Denver, Alexis next plotted to restore the Moldavian monarchy – partly for Amanda’s happiness, but moreover because Galen has promised her absolute control over Moldavia’s leading financial institutions. Alexis encouraged Dex to risk his life and hers in a return to Moldavia. Posing as a nun and her peasant driver, Dex was taken captive and tortured by Warnick’s men while Alexis hid in a nearby convent. Eventually, Dex tricked one of his guards and escaped, slinging Galen over his shoulder and storming out of Moldavia with both the King and Alexis in tow.
Meanwhile, back at the Carrington homestead, Krystle began to suspect she was being stalked by ‘has been’ movie director, Joel Abrigore (George Hamilton). Her suspicions confirmed too late when, upon arriving at the Delta Rho Stables to confront Sammy Jo, Krystle was instead knocked unconscious by Abrigore and locked away inside the stable attic. It seemed Sammy Jo had concocted everything to gain access to her late father’s estate. To further this deception, she and Abrigore taught a dead ringer look-alike, Rita Miller (also played by Linda Evans) to impersonate Krystle until they could convince the real Krystle to hand over her power of attorney. The first half of the entire season exclusively focused on Krystal’s kidnapping, reducing the real (and usually feisty) Krystle to a puddle of tears inside the attic while Rita slowly began to poison Blake so she and Abrigore could inherit the Carrington estate. Apparently, this convoluted and depressing storyline was predicated on the fact that behind the scenes Joan Collins had been bartering with producers for a bigger salary and refused to come to work. The series shot around her absence. Alas, what they shot was pure pulp with more than a tinge of ennui.
Worse, Dynasty had retired two of its most popular ongoing characters, Jeff Colby and Fallon Carrington-Colby to The Colbys, leaving a void that proved impossible to fill. Fallon (now played by Emma Samms) inexplicably re-emerged in California, suffering from amnesia and having rechristened herself, Randall Adams, had promptly fallen in love with wealthy playboy, Miles Colby (Maxwell Caufield) – Jeff’s cousin. As this love was barely glimpsed on Dynasty proper, Jeff’s impromptu decision to quit Denver-Carrington after being offered stock options in Colby Enterprises by his estranged aunt, Constance (Barbara Stanwyck) really did not make a lot of sense, and neither did the brief mid-season re-emergence of Fallon alone (with her memory suddenly restored) to comfort Blake as Alexis plotted to take over his empire. These off-screen machinations aside, Dynasty suffered from a dearth of viable plot lines to sustain the audience’s on-going interests. One of the better story lines involved Fallon’s beloved La Mirage – the ultra-fashionable watering hole of the elite. Previously managed by the indescribably fragile Claudia Blaisdel, its hotel and country club were inexplicably taken away from her by Blake and given to Michael. Adam pursued Claudia – whom he began dating and eventually wed to spite Steven. In one of the hotel’s suites, Blake’s half-sister Dominique Devereaux struggled with a deep secret; her daughter, Jackie (Troy Byer Bailey) was actually the love child of Garrett Boydston (Ken Howard) – an attorney for Jason Colby (Charlton Heston).
A deal between Jason, Blake and the LexDex Corporation had just been signed to build a pipeline to the coast under the strenuous objections of Senator Fallmont’s enterprising son, Bart (Kevin Conroy). Adam learned Bart was gay and ruined his chances for a run at the senate by planting the story in the tabloids. Meanwhile, Galen became ensconced in Alexis’ apartment until the coup to regain his throne could proceed, gradually driving a wedge between her and Dex. Michael was sworn to secrecy by his father and worked in the underground with former lover Elena, the Duchess of Branagh to regain his throne. This put a strain on Michael’s marriage to Amanda. The two became estranged and, in the heat of the moment, Amanda and Dex wound up in bed together. Alexis walked in and vowed to destroy Dex. She also disowned Amanda. Alexis then learned Galen had been siphoning money from her accounts and promptly kicked him out of her apartment. She next made an impassioned move to seduce Blake. Again, this went nowhere fast. Finally, Alexis made the impromptu decision to ruin Blake once and for all by using his estranged brother, Ben (Christopher Cazenove) against him.
All of this would have seemed utterly plausible, except Alexis’ sister, Cassandra ‘Caress’ Morrell (Kate O’Mara) has recently arrived in town after spending five years in a Venezuelan prison – presumably at Alexis’ hand, and was now more determined than ever to expose Alexis’ foibles in a ‘tell all’ biography. Even though the two despised one another, Alexis permitted Caress to live in her penthouse, sip her champagne and indulge in wearing her clothes. However, when Ben learned Caress had the power and the proof to expose them both in their scheming against Blake, he kidnapped and chloroformed Caress in a back alley, promptly shipping her back to prison after paying the Venezuelan authorities to keep her there indefinitely. At a trial to gain control over one quarter of Denver-Carrington’s vast empire, Ben lied on the stand; accusing Blake of having murdered their invalid mother many years ago. Already convicted of the murder of Steven’s gay lover, Ted Dinard, the judge now reasoned there was ample evidence to support this erroneous charge and forced Blake to pay Ben $125 million in damages. Ben was elated. But Alexis remained dissatisfied. She plotted to buy up Denver-Carrington stock and gain a controlling interest in the company. Blake counteracted by launching a takeover bid for Colby Co. Unfortunately, to seal the deal he has to borrow a billion dollars from the banks. After virtually all of his time-honored business associates refused to loan him the money, Blake agrees to an unholy alliance with Arab financier, Faruk Amed (Kabir Bedi) whose brother, Rashid (John Saxon) he had earlier double-crossed.
Unbeknownst to Blake, Faruk was now working for Alexis. After Blake signed away his company for the loan, Faruk called in his markers, forcing Denver-Carrington into receivership. Following a bit of pointless teen angst regarding Jackie’s father, Dominique and her daughter reconciled and Dominique and Garrett decided to marry. Dominique threw a lavish engagement party at La Mirage where Alexis informs her that Garrett had never been married before. This was crucial, since Garrett had always insisted to Dominique, the only reason he had never proposed to her so many years ago was because he had a fictional wife, he called Jessica. Presumably, Dominique was about to call off the wedding. Alas, having retreated to her suite at La Mirage after moving out of Adam’s bedroom, the emotionally unstable Claudia held a silent candlelit vigil for the death of her dreams. Unfortunately for everyone, one of the candles fell from its silver stick, igniting the curtains and everything else. As guests at Dominique’s wedding continued to dance in the grand ballroom a whiff of smoke began to seep from the air ducts above them, foreshadowing catastrophe. Meanwhile, Blake and Krystle, having exited this deluge prematurely, were in for an even ruder awakening back home as Alexis was waiting to confront them with the news: not only had she taken over Denver-Carrington in a shrewd proxy, but she was now in possession of the deed to the Carrington mansion – ordering Blake and Krystle to decamp the premises immediately. Incensed and driven into an uncontrollable rage, Blake charged his ex on the staircase, strangling Alexis as Ben and a helpless Krystle looked on.
In retrospect, Season Six suffered partly from Joan Collins’ absence early on. Yet, the most egregious misfire was the unceremonious dispatch of Kate O’Mara’s Caress Morrell. Clearly, the actress had more to say than her character, because whenever O’Mara is on the screen it is impossible to take our eyes off her. If only the writers had been more proactive in crafting a storyline worthy of her talents, we might have had some real fireworks to appreciate. Instead, Caress entered Alexis’ life with all the promise of a thunderous catfight that never came to pass. She valiantly set up ambitious roadblocks for Alexis and Ben to overcome, but was then quietly written out of the rest of the season – never to return. Season Six also did not do right by Diahann Carroll’s Dominique Devereaux – relegating her to predictable third string hysterics after Jackie’s brief runaway attempt. By the late eighties, the life expectancy of the prime time soap was in very steep decline. Even Dallas was foundering in déjà vu and cliché. Dynasty, more so, and hardly immune to this shift in public tastes. In fact, as it entered its seventh year, the party was decidedly over for the Denver Carringtons and Colbys. While the first season of Dynasty’s spin-off series, The Colbys, had won a primetime Emmy for Best Newcomer, its second season had proven a disaster, particularly after Barbara Stanwyck’s defiant exit and show’s writers could think of no better excuse to explain Fallon’s most recent flight from her husband than to infer she had been kidnapped into outer space by aliens. In retrospect, the exodus of longtime stalwarts, Jeff Colby and Fallon Carrington-Colby had left Dynasty with a narrative void producers struggled to fill for nearly two years, and with an increasing lack of success; the overlapping story lines, forcing viewers to simultaneously invest themselves in both Dynasty and The Colbys to follow the increasingly convoluted narrative. In Season Seven the sacrificial lambs in this awkward trade-off became plentiful. Amanda Bedford Carrington (played by Catherine Oxenberg in Seasons 4 and 5, was recast with the rather tepid and simpering Karen Cellini). Having bedded her mother’s lover, Dex Dexter in Season Three, and divorced her own one-time Prince of a husband, Amanda now moved on to a new love – Blake’s ex-chauffeur; the lazy-eyed bo-hunk and Fallon’s castoff, Michael Culhane.
In escaping the blaze at La Mirage, Michael rescued an unconscious Amanda and soon afterward an affair commenced, vehemently – if rather predictably – opposed by Blake. Meanwhile, Dex was back to his renegade ways, choosing to divide his time between running the multi-million dollar Lex-Dex Corporation, presently involved in a natural gas deal with Blake, and, indulging his private time bedding Alexis in seedy out-of-the-way places; also, a hobby – his own particular brand of third world freedom-fighting, this time with the assistance of Clay Fallmont (Ted McGinley), whose brother, Bart’s (Kevin Conroy) promising political career had been destroyed when Adam revealed to the media Bart was a closeted homosexual. Dex and Clay broke Caress out of her Venezuelan hole Ben had left her in, and, without much of a tussle; the trio returning to Denver, where it seems Caress later decided to forgo her sisterly acrimony toward Alexis – after the latter refused to pay out with some hush/blood money. Instead, Alexis offered Caress a job at her newly acquired newspaper, presently embroiled in a smear campaign to ruin Blake’s reputation. Ousted from their estate, Blake and Krystle and their few pre-packed belongings found their way to the Carlton Hotel where Blake plotted his own sweet revenge. In the meantime, Clay – a randy playboy suddenly decided that Krystle’s niece, Sammy Jo was for him; at least, temporarily. Interestingly, the morally bankrupt Sammy Jo of seasons yore was replaced herein by one who was just too good to be true. This nobler reincarnation of the saucy diva we had all come to know and hate, now reconciled with Steven, had a meaningful relationship with their son, and, was making inroads into a loving relationship with Clay, after a false positive test revealed she was pregnant with his child. Only she wasn’t, leading to all sorts of tension compounded by the fact Clay’s father, Buck (Richard Anderson) was a fall-down drunk whose own wife, Emily (Pat Crowley) had had an affair with Ben Carrington on the eve their mother – an invalid he was supposed to be looking after – burned to death in a house fire later blamed on Blake.
Emily’s indiscretion had been kept from Buck throughout their marriage, but was destined to resurface after Caress – desperate for money – decided to blackmail Emily for some quick cash. Instead, Blake caught wind of Caress’ dire plot. Despite Buck’s hatred for the Carringtons – including Sammy Jo – Blake harbored a soft spot for Emily – the arbitrator of common sense, who also had a good heart. Regrettably, Emily became increasingly unhinged by Caress’ threats. Blake’s assurances aside, Emily’s fear could not be assuaged. So, she confessed her affair to Buck who flew into a drunken rage at the Carlton Hotel. Fleeing, Emily ran into traffic and was subsequently rundown by a taxi. She died, but not before giving Blake a hand-written confession she urged him to use in his defense against Alexis and Ben to regain control of his South China Seas oil leases, wrongfully stolen from him. Not wanting to make the letter public, Blake instead used it to blackmail Alexis into giving him back the mansion and his company, much to Ben’s chagrin. Alexis, however, had already begun anew with Dex, leaving Ben to stew in his own juices and discover he had an estranged daughter, Leslie (Terri Garber) living in Australia. Leslie eventually moved to Denver with the express purpose of wrecking her father’s new life.
In the meantime, Clay – newly estranged from Sammy Jo after having discovered she was not going to have their child – decided to pursue Leslie. But the affair that ought to have become hot and heavy was doused to embers after Buck revealed to Clay he may be Ben’s son – not his – and therefore Leslie’s brother. Ben and Buck both took paternity tests. But Clay then buggered off to parts unknown in the wilds of Canada, leaving Leslie – who had segued from bitter to broken-hearted – merely to pout. Self-serving Adam shifted his alliances back over to Alexis, disillusioning Blake yet again, as well as Blake’s ever-devoted secretary, Dana Warring (Leann Hunley) who had recently become Adam’s lover. Adam could not abide Ben. Rather pointlessly, Ben’s vitriol towards Blake evaporated in Season 7; his psychotic hatred inexplicably turned to gumbo when, during an oil rig explosion in the South China Seas he saved Blake’s life. After being told by a school therapist that their son was drawing ‘unhappy’ pictures, Sammy Jo and Steven came to an understanding about rearing the boy on a united front. Dominique, having sent Jackie away for burn therapy following the blaze at La Mirage, was the latest to depart from Dynasty’s dwindling roster of regulars; briefly, returning to pursue an aimless passion with thorny rigger, Nick Kimball (Richard Lawson), who eventually proposed marriage. Having run out of reasons to destroy Blake, Alexis retreated – almost willingly – into a gushing mid-season pixie. By the end of the season, the viper that was Alexis Dexter became unfathomably reduced to a wailing self-destructive cry baby after being admonished by Dex for being a heartless fool. She inadvertently drove her car off a bridge, her vision impugned by some streaking mascara.
Somewhere in the middle of all this mess, there evolved a subplot involving Krystle and Blake’s pluperfect moppet, Krystina (Jessica Player) who suddenly developed congestive heart failure, necessitating a transplant. The girl from whom a heart was harvested was related to Dex; her mother – Sarah Curtis (Cassie Yates) – later invited by Blake and Krystle to partake in Krystina’s healing process. Regrettably, this act of kindness caused Sarah to suffer a mental breakdown and kidnap Krystina, whom she became unable to distinguish from her own dead child. Introduced too late in the season to acquire its necessary legs before being quickly dispatched, Krystina was eventually rescued by Blake and Krystle from a nearly incoherent Sarah, still cringing inside her squalid little apartment. Conflicted over his own birthright, Adam proposed to Dana. Nick also proposed to Dominque. Ben revealed to Leslie that he could no longer remain in Denver, having suffered an attack of conscience. Inexplicably, the season 7 finale resurrected Matthew Blaisdel from the ashes, now mentally disturbed and out for revenge. While The Colbys crossover died after Fallon was absorbed into the stratosphere by aliens, Dynasty proper endured the indignation of being in business for another two seasons. As a cost-cutting measure, producers hired high-priced alumni, Linda Evans and Joan Collins for only a few episodes, sporadically spreading their talents throughout the rest of the series, merely to suggest, though never entirely regain, the show’s continuity. Secondary characters continued to come and go while stories lines emerged, only to be prematurely discarded.
With The Colbys cancellation, Jeff and Fallon returned to their old stomping grounds for Dynasty’s eighth season, their marriage – again – falling apart. Matthew took the Carringtons hostage, hoping against hope he had convinced Krystle to leave Blake for him. Instead, Steven ended this siege by stabbing his old friend to death. Alexis was dredged from her watery grave by a new stud, Sean Rowan (James Healey) who, predictably, she later married without first realizing he was Joseph’s son and Kirby’s brother, thereupon hellbent on avenging the death of his father and sister. Even more predictably, Steven and Sammy Jo’s reconciliation was short-lived. Ditto for Adam and Dana’s marriage. Embarked on his campaign to wreck the Carringtons from the inside out, Sean and Dex would later do battle while Blake returned from his failed run for the governor’s race, only to find Krystle vanished and their bedroom in tatters. For the ninth and final season, ABC moved Dynasty from Wednesday to Thursday nights and brought in David Paulsen as executive producer. Further trims in budget resulted in Linda Evans leaving the show – her character appearing in only a handful of episodes; her absence, explained away on emergency brain surgery to save her life, performed in Switzerland, but leaving her in a persistent vegetative state thereafter. Similarly, Joan Collins would only appear in 13 of Season 9’s 22 episodes; the dearth created by her absence, filled by bringing in Stephanie Beacham – who had made a success of her own back-stabbing bitch, Sable on The Colbys; also, Tracy Scoggins, as her more loyal and devoted daughter, Monica.
Season 9 is a curiosity indeed, as Dynasty tried in vain to keep up with the changing times. Almost all of the story lines scraped together involved an ‘old family secret’ between the Carrington/Colby and Dexter clans, destined to threaten their legacies. In the background, Alexis and Sable sparred over matters of business, with Sable making a play for Dex, much to Alexis’ chagrin. Endeavoring to streamline the storytelling, Dynasty’s final year put a period to many of its previously developed characters. Sean died in a hailstorm of bullets, leaving Alexis and Dex shell-shocked. Dana left Adam, but Sammy Jo agreed to marry Jeff. Discovering a dead body in his bedroom, Blake telephoned the police, who put an APB out on Krystle, whose car was later found abandoned. Krystle resurfaced in Dayton, Ohio at her cousin, Virginia Metheny (Liza Morrow). Meanwhile, Adam made a valiant stab to regain access to his son after Dana’s departure, but to no avail, and Dex – left to clean up Sean’s mess – was taken out of the running with business matters. Adam used Steven’s old secretary to gain intel. At the morgue, Blake faked not recognizing the body on the slab while the plot continued to curdle as Jeff rejoined Fallon and Adam at Denver-Carrington. A very nosy Sable learned of Krystle’s deteriorating mental condition, and Sammy Jo unearthed that Jeff had since slept with Fallon yet again. Told of her perilous condition, Krystle and Blake flew to Switzerland for her emergency surgery that ended with Krystle in a coma from which she was to never awaken…at least, not within the confines of the show. In her absence, Sable made a play for Blake while Virginia forced Dex to recognize her as his old flame. Meanwhile, Sgt. John Zorelli (Ray Abruzzo) assigned to investigate the case, began to get a little too close to Fallon for Blake’s liking. Meanwhile, Sammy Jo spied a shadowy figure at her stables, engaging the mystery figure in a gun battle that ended with both of them left unconscious on the floor as a fire breaks out all around them.
Up to her old tricks, Alexis hired a terrorist, Creighton Boyd (Ed Marinaro) to get back at Sable whom she suspected is having an affair with Dex. Meanwhile, Adam tried to frame Virginia as a prostitute, a ruse that ended badly for Adam when Dex pummeled him senseless. Fallon fell out of love with Zorelli and Virginia left Denver. In the eleventh hour of Dynasty’s swan song, the backstabbing culminated in a terrible revenge scenario gone hopelessly awry as Sable unearthed enough intel to destroy Colby Co., Alexis and Boyd, and Dex and Sable all became very strange bedfellows. Blake, having learned of Adam’s behavior toward Virginia, threw him out of the mansion once and for all. Fallon eventually unearthed the terrible family secret; that her grandfather had been involved with smuggling Nazi treasures out of Europe to line his own pockets. Believing she had been used by Zorelli, merely to solve his case, Fallon dumped him before he quit the force to prove his loyalties to her instead. Having unearthed several skeletons from the basement of the mansion, Blake astutely reasoned that Zorelli’s superior, Capt. Handler, had been using them both to spy on him. Meanwhile, Alexis publicly revealed Tracy was not Jason Colby’s daughter, but the bastard child from an unwanted pregnancy brought on by a rape. In the convolution of mounting sins, Blake and Alexis, mortal enemies from the outset of the series, inexplicably agreed to settle their differences and form a united front. Even as they reconciled, Krystina and Fallon were placed in peril, having unearthed a tunnel within some abandoned mine shafts near the mansion. A cave-in prevented their further discovery as well as their escape to safety. Meanwhile, at the Carlton, as all the interested parties gathered for a truce, old wounds were reopened, causing a terrible fight and resulting in Dex and Alexis being pushed over the balcony, presumably to their deaths. Back at the mansion, Blake was confronted by the police, resulting in a gun battle that left him and Zorelli’s superior, Capt. William Handler (John Bradon) for dead.
Presumably, assured of yet another season to follow it, the producers of Dynasty chose to place virtually all of its central players in mortal peril at the end of Season 9; the show’s cancellation, leaving a giant question mark, in no way resolved in 1991 with the failed mini-series. Dynasty: The Reunion. This neither reunited all of the principle cast for one last hurrah, nor did it make even the slightest effort to address – much less resolve – most of the story lines left in limbo by Season 9’s cliffhanger. And thus, we come to CBS/Paramount’s incomplete box set of Dynasty – erroneously advertised as ‘the complete series.’ Setting aside the obvious – the omission of ‘The Reunion’; also, The Colbys (without whose episodes, virtually none of Dynasty proper’s Season 5 or 6 makes any sense at all) the studio’s overall neglect of including any of the various ‘made for TV’ documentaries that have covered the Dynasty phenomenon from every conceivable angle, just seems like shoddy oversight at best. In its prime, Dynasty was a major force to be reckoned with in the Nielsen’s and a crowd-pleasing bit of super kitsch besides. While one can definitely argue its timely narrative, ensconced in the whack-tac-u-lar/uber glam-bam of the eighties, has not aged particularly well since, there is little to deny how successful the franchise was in its prime, nor how beloved it remains among its legion of fans even today – and even more iconic – acquiring new devotees who, never having experienced the eighties first-hand, nevertheless continue to find something quite magical – even via its camp – in revisiting this grand ole relic from that bygone era of sex and glamour.
CBS Paramount has released all 9 seasons of Dynasty in one weighty box set. Interestingly, the studio farmed out its sister series, The Colbys to Shout! Factory. Earlier, seasons of Dynasty proper were parceled off via CBS/Paramount in half-season reissues that sold for a premium and for which the studio made fans of the show wait – in some cases, almost an entire year between releases to capitalize on their profit margin. Disgusting marketing ploy! As now, one can own the ‘almost’ complete franchise for a fraction of what it originally cost collectors to buy these half-seasons. Another footnote worth mentioning: the original first season of Dynasty was released on home video via 2oth Century-Fox Home Entertainment in less than admirable quality before Paramount assumed the rights to distribute the remainder of the show. The Fox release was initially on flipper discs. But the discs housed in this box set are all single-sided, although they continue to sport the same flawed masters as before, with grainier than anticipated image quality, wan colors, and artificial sharpening, resulting in a lot of edge effects and halos. The remaining seasons were all mastered by CBS/Paramount and vary in video quality. It’s odd, because while some of the original half seasons were impeccably mastered, others were riddled in edge enhancement. Overall, the quality here is inconsistent. Colors toggle between vibrant and dull. Contrast can lean towards solid to weaker than anticipated. As the entire series was shot on film, age-related artifacts are everywhere and, at times, extremely distracting. The main titles for all 9 seasons, sporting dissolves and opticals, look absolutely awful and far worse than they ever did during analog television broadcasts.
The audio throughout is 1.0 mono and adequate. Extras are limited to two brief interviews on Season One with Pamela Sue martin and Al Corley, plus a vintage ‘Entertainment Tonight’ sound bite, covering the death of Rock Hudson from AIDS. Many will recall that when Hudson died from this fateful disease, he had just finished shooting scenes in which he passionately kissed Linda Evans. In the days before much was known about AIDS, this revelation sent shock waves throughout the set of Dynasty, with some fearing for Evans’ own life. Parting thoughts: given the lavishness afforded its production back in the day, Dynasty is a series that positively screams to be remastered and upgraded to 1080p Blu-ray. Certainly, the original film elements are there to achieve spectacular results. But much work needs to be done on this iconic bit of 80’s super kitsch if a proper Blu-ray release is ever to result. For now, CBS/Paramount’s repackaging of their separate seasons will have to suffice; a genuine shame, since Dynasty on DVD is a rather grand disappointment at best. We need a deluxe edition – one with all the archival footage, culled from Paramount’s own archives, plus the various documentaries produced for E!, the BBC and TV Guide to find their way to home video; not to mention, the inclusion of The Colbys in 1080p, plus the still MIA release of Dynasty: The Reunion. Lots to consider. I sincerely hope the folks on the mountain are giving their TV back catalog at least some consideration. Judge and buy accordingly.