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DVD Review: Dynasty – The Fourth Season, Volume One

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1983 was not a year that Dynasty fans will look back at and say, “They had a gay old time.” It was the year that both Dallas and Dynasty felt the heat — literally. Just by coincidence, both series aired previous season cliffhangers that threatened some main characters with death by inferno. Southfork ranch was set on fire during a fist fight with half the characters trapped inside, and on Dynasty, Alexis (Joan Collins) and Krystle (Linda Evans) were last seen locked in Steven’s remote cabin after it too had been set ablaze. Krystle’s ex-husband Mark Jennings heroically comes crashing through the door, which had been locked from the outside, and rescues both damsels in distress.

In the weeks that followed, everyone in the cast is accused of trying to murder the two grande dames of the series. It is eventually discovered that master butler Joseph went crazy and set the fire in an attempt to kill Alexis. In his insane state of mind, he thought he could stop the Colbyco/Denver-Carrington merger by murdering her, which is revealed in a suicide note he left behind after shooting himself in front of Blake and Jeff.

We also find that Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) is still obsessed with her suspicions that Adam poisoned and nearly killed Jeff last season. When Adam discovers that Fallon and Jeff have succeeded in getting positive proof against him in Montana, he tricks Alexis into signing some contracts. What she didn’t realize is that the second and third copies are falsified receipts for mercuric oxide, the toxin Adam unsuccessfully used on Jeff. When Blake confronts his ex-wife with the false proof that she tried to murder Jeff, he doesn’t believe her denial. Without enough time to prove her innocence, she reluctantly drops her attempt to force Blake to merge Denver/Carrington with Colbyco.

Meanwhile in true soap opera form, the power struggle between Adam (Gordon Thomson) and Jeff (John James) for influential control of Colbyco while Alexis convalesces continues. When Alexis solidly puts Jeff in charge and Adam in his place, Adam leaves in a huff to go and work for his father at Denver-Carrington. A few weeks later, and much to Adam’s chagrin, Jeff forces Alexis to trade his stock in Colbyco for hers in Denver/Carrington and becomes a 47% owner and member of Blake’s board of directors… becoming Adam’s boss once again.

On a business trip to Los Angeles, Blake buys a beautiful, race-winning  horse from a millionaire playboy named Peter DeVilbis as an engagement gift for Krystle. Fallon accompanies them there and falls in love with Peter, not knowing that he’s scheming to con Blake out of millions to pay off his drug habit debts.

Mark begins to sense he’s losing the battle for Krystle’s affections and proposes marriage to her in her hotel room. When she turns him down he attacks, trying to force himself on her but she fights him off. Blake’s ongoing campaign finally wins Krystle over and by the end of volume one of this collection she re-marries him. The act that seals the deal was his offering her a more prominent role in his life by making her Director of Public Relations of Denver-Carrington. Meanwhile the woman the job was promised to seethes with resentment and joins with Adam in behind the scene plots against her.

Jeff’s wife Kirby spends the entire first half of the season fretting over how to tell him that the child she’s carrying is the result of Adam raping her last season. That comes to a boil when Jeff discovers that she’s five months pregnant instead of three, meaning he couldn’t possibly be the father. When she admits that Adam raped her and that he’s the real father, Jeff confronts Adam on the top of a high-rise building under construction and nearly kills him. Adam didn’t know he’d fathered a child and goes on a relentless campaign to break up Jeff’s marriage. While in anguished grief for her father Joseph and after several attempts at intentionally losing the baby, Kirby relents and agrees to divorce Jeff and marry the evil Adam.

This was also the year (one of several) that the character Steven Carrington (Jack Coleman) “chose” to go heterosexual, alienating a good portion of the show’s fan base. On a personal note, I stopped watching the show midway through this season in disgust that they would present a harmful theory that someone could on a whim just change their sexuality at will. To make matters worse, in subsequent seasons he “chooses” to be gay again, only adding "support" to the religious right's claim that sexuality is a conscious choice of lifestyle.

Under President Ronald Reagan’s guiding wing, the religious right movement was gaining influence across the country. They began a negative letter writing campaign against Dynasty’s producers for presenting a positive gay role model during prime time viewing hours. As a result of the pressure that was brought to bear, strong speeches were added to the new scripts. John Forsythe as Blake began angrily railing against his gay son for raising a Carrington grandson “in that homosexual environment” with his supposed gay lover. More often than not the word “homosexual” began being used instead of “gay” as well. The net result was Blake suing his own son for custody of Steven’s infant son rather than see the child being influenced in such a twisted household.

When this plot line was revealed to the cast the previous season, Jeff Corley walked off of the show halfway through, and Jack Coleman was hired to fill in for him. Steven was almost killed in an oil rig explosion to explain away the difference in the two actor’s physical appearances.

After a year of playing “gay for pay,” straight actor Jack Coleman was increasingly accused of secretly being gay himself. With his male ego being threatened, Coleman intimated he’d leave the show unless Steven miraculously turned straight. With that and the additional pressure from the religious fanatics, the producers cooked up a plotline where Steven sees the error of his ways and marries Claudia Blaisdel (Pamela Bellwood) straight out of her sanitarium. Incredibly, but not surprisingly considering the times, the judge is instantly convinced that Steven is now completely morally straight and allows him to retain custody of little Danny.

Blake too is immediately certain that his son is now acceptably heterosexual and allows him to move back into the mansion with his new wife. The family warms to their patriarch for his compassion, but actually it’s a way of easing back into their affections after they all turned on him by testifying on Steven’s behalf during the custody hearing. Steven has always been an honest, straightforward man on the show, but flabbergasted fans began to wonder if he had merely used Claudia to keep his son, but as scenes of him making love to her in nearly episode afterward seem to prove, he’d gone completely straight… well, at least for now, anyway.

Heather Locklear as the evil, scheming Sammy Jo Carrington has only a small role in this volume, limited to testifying against Steven during the custody hearing. She’ll play a larger role in the latter part of the season not covered here.

Michael Nader joins the cast as the love-obsessed Dex Dexter, who is determined to win Alexis’ affection by using a scheme to acquire oil in Canada in their new LexDex Corporation as a way into her checkbook of a heart. His financial interests in Denver-Carrington won’t hurt his campaign either. A few days later, Alexis comes home to find her apartment ransacked and she hires Mark as a live-in bodyguard; which of course is an excuse for knock-down drag-out fight scenes between him and Dex.

The midseason cliffhanger serves as an inferior and disappointing finale to this first volume of season four. Someone seems determined to wrest Claudia’s sanity away from her again by sending her violets in her dead husband’s name the way he used to do.

This collection includes an appearance by President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty, along with Henry Kissinger in a charity ball scene.

The transfer to DVD is crystal clear, as is the sound. The collection contains few extras in order to squeeze fourteen episodes onto only three discs. They consist of choices of English or dubbed Spanish soundtracks with English or Spanish subtitles.

I confess to not being a fan of the recent trend of breaking up series collections into two or more volumes. The majority of studios present classic TV shows as a convenient one-piece six-disc collection. The practice of breaking them up gives the impression that an effort is being made to harvest as much cash as possible out of the fans by charging them a little less than twice as much as what they’d normally pay for only one season.

I found the series very enjoyable to watch again, if only for the nostalgia and would recommend it to any fan of the show.

Cast:

  • John Forsythe – Blake Carrington
  • Linda Evans – Krystle Carrington
  • Joan Collins – Alexis Carrington Colby
  • John James – Jeff Colby
  • Pamela Sue Martin – Fallon Carrington Colby
  • Jack Coleman – Steven Carrington
  • Gordon Thomson – Adam Carrington
  • Michael Nader – Dex Dexter
  • Heather Locklear – Sammy Jo Carrington
  • Pamela Bellwood – Claudia Blaisdel
  • Geoffrey Scott – Mark Jennings
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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • ok-auguste/patricia

    Just reading this brings back memories of the series and life in that decade. Dynasty was massively popular worldwide and certainly gripped Uk audiences. It does seem soooo long ago. A kind of “blue remembered hills” of TV land. The article brought all the characters leaping back to life!

    Jet – wishing you the best,
    Patricia

  • http://jetsgaypride.blogspot.com/ Jet Gardner

    Thanks Patricia, I’ve been away in the hospital but I’m back now-glad you liked the article

  • ok-auguste/patricia

    Hi Jet,
    Knew you’d been in hospital and thoughts were with you. Very good news to hear yr out. Thanks for another great article.