Sunday, 9 July 2017
First viewed : 13 December 1985
I'd resolutely ignored this since it debuted on BBC 1 in May 1982 but lately my mum and sister had started following it. With her royalty obsession , my mum kept bleating on about how the cast featured a real princess ( Catherine Oxenberg who is a scion of the former royal house of Yugoslavia ) and she couldn't act. I think Oxenberg owed her involvement to being a drop dead gorgeous supermodel rather than her disinherited blue blood but Mum was right about her acting abilities. I had already been drawn back to Dallas by this point but the real carrot for watching my first episode was that it was going to end with all the cast being gunned down in a massacre at the wedding between Oxenberg's character Amanda Carrington and Prince Michael of the now- fictional Moldavia played by Michael "Robin Hood" Praed who'd taken the US TV dollar.
Dynasty was launched in the US in 1981 with ageing John "voice of Charlie" Forsythe as Blake Carrington, head of an oil company marrying his much younger secretary Krystle ( Linda Evans, previously best known as Steve McQueen's love interest in Tom Horn ) to the disgust of his daughter Fallon ( Pamela Sue Martin who of course was Nancy Drew ) . His son Steven ( Al Corley ) , being gay was more accepting. The ratings were disappointing but the producers had an ace up their sleeve at the start of the second season with the arrival of Joan Collins as Blake's first wife, Alexis who became a thorn in the flesh to Blake with a deathbed marriage to his business rival. Collins was merely camping up the sexy older woman role she'd played in The Bitch but she caught the mood of the times perfectly and saved the series. She knew her worth too and ruled the roost behind the scenes demanding that all her close-ups used soft focus so that you always saw Alexis through a veil of mist.
The cast gradually expanded to include Gordon Thomson ( in reality only 12 years younger than Collins ) as Adam the kidnapped son they'd forgotten about , Heather Locklear as Krystle's scheming neice Sammy Jo and Michael Nader as croaky-voiced Dex who seemed to be perpetually auditioning for the next Bond movie.. Corley left and was replaced by Jack Coleman, a change explained by plastic surgery while Fallon was apparently killed off. When I came in they were just bringing her back as a wandering amnesiac but Sue Martin had declined to return and so the role went to a young British actress Emma Samms.
The "massacre" was actually very well executed and there were suggestions that part of the reason for it was that the producers were using it to strengthen their hand in contract negotiations for the next season. If that were true Collins turned the tables on them and secured a hefty pay rise for herself to continue. At the start of the next season, the death toll turned out to be precisely two unimportant characters ; people you'd seen taking a bullet just got up and brushed a bit of dust from their sleeves , a serious anti-climax.
The whole Moldavian angle was quickly dropped over the next season in favour of a ridiculous storyline involving a doppelganger for Krystle - Evans' limited talent certainly didn't stretch to playing two characters - and Alexis's elaborate scheme to dispossess Blake using his not previously mentioned much younger brother Ben ( Christopher Cazenove )
The series began to fall in popularity. Oxenberg was sacked and replaced by Karen Cellini who was just as bad an actress without being so attractive and the character was unceremoniously written out and not mentioned again. Fallon and her husband Jeff ( John James ) were brought back in from dismal sister soap The Colbys ( which we'll discuss in due course ) when that was axed in 1987. The main series finished in 1989 with an episode leaving a number of unresolved cliffhangers. These were partly answered by a 1991 two part mini-series chiefly notable for Robin Sachs replacing the unavailable Thomson as Adam and thus making it a clean sweep of changed heads for all Blake and Alexis's offspring.
Was Dynasty better than Dallas ? I'd say no. It was more outrageous and therefore funnier but you could never believe in the Carringtons as a genuine family in the same way as the Ewings. There was no character consistency. Ben and Adam were dastardly villains when they first arrived and then turned into decent guys with no real explanation. For all her skills, Collins couldn't make the contradiction between plotting the downfall of Blake's company and being a tender mother to his children convincing. Dynasty tried to outflank its rival on the socially liberal front but it always seemed a bit tokenistic. Steven never got to spend too much time with his boyfriends while Diahann Carroll as Blake's black half-sister Dominique was left a dangling spare part after the initial revelation. And of course Dynasty didn't have J.R.