One of the big, lingering disappointments for many Dark Shadows fans is the lack of a story resolution for Victoria Winters.
This question is the basis for the very beginnings of Dark Shadows, the meaning of which is spelled out in the opening narrative that launches the first episode: Who am I? And now, in her first full day at Collinwood, the hope that she may be able to find out something about herself – her past, her origin – is enough to convince her to stay on at her new job, despite having just endured what she later recounts to Carolyn Stoddard as “the most frightening night of my life.” Because if she goes, all she will have is the ten words written about her on a piece of paper when she was left at the foundling home: “Her name is Victoria. I cannot take care of her.” So she has decided to keep searching, hoping, waiting.
In the meantime things keep happening to her, like when a strange man attacks her in the basement with a fire poker while she is looking around for David. Mrs. Stoddard intervenes, explaining that his name is Matthew and that he, too, works for her on the estate. After sending him back upstairs, when Vicki asks what’s wrong with that man acting the way he does, Mrs. Stoddard proceeds to scold her, saying with a stern dryness, “Because he found you someplace you weren’t supposed to be.” Then Vicki explains she was looking for David. Mrs. Stoddard, in that same tone of a school headmistress who has just caught one of her charges misbehaving, counters with, “Why in the basement?” Vicki explains that she couldn’t find him anywhere when it was time to begin with the day’s lessons. Mrs. Stoddard asserts, “I’m positive he wouldn’t come down here.” Yet, just a minute or so after sending Vicki upstairs to wait for her in the drawing room to discuss a few things, Mrs. Stoddard does indeed find David in the basement, hiding in a crate. So, you see? It wasn’t Vicki’s fault – in fact it never was, from the beginning.
In the fifth episode, when Vicki revealed to Carolyn that starting at the age of two she would receive at the foundling home every month until she was sixteen the sum of fifty dollars in cash with no return address and that the envelope was postmarked as coming from Bangor, Carolyn suggested that her father leaving eighteen years ago around the same time the money started arriving at the foundling home might mean that this was the connection Vicki had been looking for. Vicki thought this as unlikely, and in the sixth episode as she waits in the drawing room for Mrs. Stoddard to return from the basement Carolyn again raises the possibility, and encourages Vicki to ask her mother about it, but which Vicki is quick to dismiss as “ridiculous.”
This would imply that Carolyn’s father is actually Vicki’s father, and that he was playing around during his marriage to Elizabeth, which of course is possible. But it would also suggest that perhaps it was Carolyn’s father who saw to Vicki’s financial care, which is highly unlikely given the way he walked out on Elizabeth six months before Carolyn was born, all the while never making one gesture of responsibility, financial or otherwise, in all the years since. And even if Vicki had been sired by Carolyn’s father through another woman, it is unlikely that Elizabeth would intervene to assist financially the daughter of a woman who had had an affair with her husband, much less one who had given her up for adoption after just two months. Or, would she?
Yet somehow Elizabeth Stoddard knew that there was a Victoria Winters at the foundling home in New York, and wrote her a letter to hire her for a job that would bring her to Collinwood. In the second episode Elizabeth told Vicki that she had been recommended to Roger by someone at the foundling home, but right away the viewer knows this is not the truth, based on the way Roger himself seemed quite surprised when Vicki mentions this to him during their first meeting later that same episode. Right from that moment, Vicki also seems skeptical. So perhaps there is indeed a connection for Victoria Winters to not only Collinsport, but also to Collinwood itself.
Let’s see how the conversation plays out when Vicki presses Elizabeth for answers in this episode:
Vicki: How much do you really know about me?
Elizabeth: Why… I don’t understand.
Vicki: Well I don’t know anything about myself. All I know is the name on a slip of paper that was pinned to a cardboard box. And the foundling home where that box was left. It’s not much of a past, is it Mrs. Stoddard?
Elizabeth: I suppose not.
Vicki: “Her name is Victoria. I cannot take care of her.” That’s what the note said. And someone left it there, Mrs. Stoddard. And someone also sent fifty dollars every month to help pay for my care.
Elizabeth: I see. Do you know who it was?
Vicki: No. All I know is that the money started coming just about eighteen years ago.
Elizabeth: Why are you telling me all this, Miss Winters?
Vicki: I suppose because so much seems to have happened here, just eighteen years ago.
Elizabeth: That’s true. A great deal happened. A very great deal. You’re asking a good many questions, Miss Winters.
Vicki: Not really. Everyone in town seems to know about Carolyn’s father.
Elizabeth: I suppose they do. And they love to talk, don’t they? All of them. Well he left me eighteen years ago, Miss Winters. But I can assure you there is no connection between that and your… how shall I put it, your monthly allowance.
Vicki: Then why am I here?
Elizabeth: I thought that was clear. To take care of David.
Vicki: I mean, why me? I was in the foundling home in New York, and I suddenly got a letter from you offering me this job.
Elizabeth: I’ve already explained that. My brother knew someone in the home. You were recommended. He was told that you were very good with children.
Vicki: Do you know who told him that?
Elizabeth: Does it matter?
Vicki: Yes. I’d like to send a note of thanks.
Elizabeth: I really don’t think that will be necessary.
Vicki: Why, because there is no such person?
Elizabeth: I don’t like your tone, Miss Winters! Nor do I like this interrogation.
Vicki: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. But it’s so important to me!
Elizabeth: Perhaps it is. But so is a simple matter of trust. I am telling you I know absolutely nothing about you, Miss Winters, except the fact that someone in the Hammond Foundling Home recommended you highly to my brother. Those are the facts, and I’ll have to ask you to accept them. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a number of other things to do.
Well, well, now. It was supposed to have been Vicki who got a good talking to, but she really turned the tables and caught Mrs. Stoddard off guard and set her on the defensive all the while.
The truth behind the origins of Victoria Winters could have been resolved in the first few months of the show, and it should have been. That it never was remains one of the unfortunate loose ends of Dark Shadows. Completing her story in this way would have made her a more interesting character in the long run, one that could have grown and become more integrated with her surroundings, rather than having her remaining rootless, with no past, drifting along from year to year until her quest was largely forgotten, and in her blank isolation becoming increasingly marginalized by newer writers who did not understand her original motivations and intentions.
Who knows, maybe even Art Wallace himself decided to, or was persuaded to, keep the actual truth of Vicki’s background, as with the possibility of David’s, open-ended — because after this episode, it will never again be indicated that there may be a connection between Vicki and Elizabeth’s wayward husband. But what will be revisited time and again is the fact that Elizabeth is keeping certain facts about the past hidden from Vicki, facts that Elizabeth admits may be damaging to herself. So, for the viewer who might overlook the assumptions about Vicki’s past that Carolyn puts forward in the fifth and sixth episodes, but then are dropped, and who does not have access to an out of print TV show story outline that, in the cheapest of transactions, would cost three dollars per page to acquire, that is, if you can find a copy, what should one assume? On the show, the viewer is even left hanging about the Bangor connection – a point clearly explained in the story resolution for Victoria Winters in Shadows on the Wall, but ultimately never on the air.
That there may be some connection for Victoria Winters with Collinsport or even Collinwood itself was certainly hinted at early on. So we shall just keep searching, hoping, waiting – if there is indeed a resolution to the story of Victoria Winters, a definitive but hidden clue, then in all likelihood it is to be found here, somewhere in the very beginnings of Dark Shadows.
Vicki meets Matthew Morgan.
Matthew makes a first impression on Vicki.
Mrs. Stoddard tells Vicki that the basement storeroom is always locked.
Matthew claims that Vicki was trying to get into the locked storeroom.
Elizabeth explains to Matthew that Miss Winters is not a stranger.
Mrs. Stoddard chides Vicki for being where she is not supposed to.
David is found hiding in a basement crate.
David claims Miss Winters wants to hurt him.
Elizabeth tries to comfort David over his fear of Miss Winters.
Matthew introduces himself.
Vicki begins questioning Matthew about Mrs. Stoddard’s past, particularly about her husband.
Matthew points toward the house Mrs. Stoddard gave him.
Vicki is struck by the fact that Matthew started working at Collinwood eighteen years ago.
Elizabeth gives David a book of adventure stories.
David decides he doesn’t want the Rover Boys book when told it belonged to his father.
David tells Elizabeth that his father hates him.
David claims Miss Winters’ presence at Collinwood is keeping his mother from coming back.
Elizabeth assures David that Vicki would never do anything to keep a child away from its parents, and reveals that Vicki grew up in an orphanage.
Vicki reads a book on ships.
Carolyn presses Vicki to talk to her mother about the money that started arriving at the foundling home eighteen years ago, and the possible connection between that and Mr. Stoddard leaving at that time.
Elizabeth tells Vicki that they have a great many things to discuss.
Carolyn takes a call from Joe Haskell.
Elizabeth explains that David has had a difficult life and that he is very attached to his mother, who is unwell and will be away for some time.
Vicki gets Elizabeth to talk about the events that took place at Collinwood eighteen years ago.
Immediately after being told by Elizabeth that someone at the Hammond Foundling Home had recommended Vicki highly to Roger, Vicki places a collect call to New York City for the foundling home.
Carolyn loans Vicki her car keys so that she can drive into town and make her phone call with the privacy of a phone booth.
Carolyn tells her mother that one of their ghosts is starting to rattle around a bit.
Matthew: Morgan. Matthew Morgan.
Vicki: Winters! Victoria Winters!
Vicki [to Matthew]: I hope we can be friends.
Matthew: What’ll you be doin’ around here anyway?
Vicki: Taking care of David mostly. Tutoring him. And helping out wherever I can.
Matthew: You gonna stay?
Vicki: Any reason why I shouldn’t?
Matthew [to Vicki]: Do you know what I was doin’ before? Sweepin’ out the floors of the cannery. And wonderin’ whether I’d be spendin’ the rest of my days in that stink!
Elizabeth: Just listen to me. Miss Winters, the last thing Miss Winters would want is to keep a child away from its parents. And do you know why? Because she knows what it’s like to be without a mother and father. She was brought up in an orphanage, David. And she was a very lonely, lonely child.
David: How do you know?
Elizabeth: I know.
Carolyn [to Vicki]: Well, remember. If you do want anything, you have to do something about it.
[After Vicki has stepped out the front door, having been loaned Carolyn’s car keys to drive into town]
Elizabeth [entering from the door below the foyer landing]: Did someone just come in?
Carolyn: No, mother, it was just one of our ghosts — starting to rattle around a bit.
The exterior establishing shot for the basement is a window at the base of the tower along the terrace.
The sixth episode takes place entirely in Collinwood, and only two sets are used: the new basement set and the foyer/drawing room.
In the drawing room, Vicki is reading the only real-life book in Collinwood ever to be seen with a dust jacket: America Sails the Seas, by John O’Hara Cosgrove II (published in 1962 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston). It’s surprising that this got past ABC’s Department of Broadcast Standards and Practices, which typically frowned on such things as a “gratuitous plug”; however, the book is worked into the script as Carolyn enters the room and comments, “Those were the days. The ships that built this house.”
Unusually, while Carolyn takes a phone call from Joe in the foyer, the phone is on a high table outside the drawing room doors that is never seen again in any other episode, probably for camera blocking purposes.
The Hammond Foundling Home in New York where Vicki grew up is referred to by name for the first time when Elizabeth explains to Vicki that someone in the foundling home recommended her to Roger.
List of commercials used for the second week of shows (broadcast dates July 4 to 8).
[Note: Above list of TV commercials is taken from page 252 of the book Dark Shadows: The First Year, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock (summary writers), Blue Whale Books, 2006].
The set for the Collinwood basement is shown for the first time. There are six steps from the first floor to the landing and five more from the landing to the basement floor for a total of eleven steps, the same number of steps for the staircase in the foyer.
As Matthew descends the basement steps to confront Vicki, there is a sound effect to accompany his footsteps. When Matthew pauses two steps from the basement floor, the sound effect continues two more times before stopping.
Joan Bennett cannot seem to get Matthew’s name right. When breaking up his confrontation with Vicki, she calls him “Matthews.” When telling David about the crate of books that can be brought upstairs, she says she’ll have “Mar — Martin — Matthew” bring them up.
When Matthew tells Vicki about how Mrs. Stoddard fired all the servants eighteen years ago, a crew member can be heard saying “Stay there.”
From the page I created for Dark Shadows Wiki:
Dark Passages is a novel written by Kathryn Leigh Scott and published in 2011 by Pomegranate Press, Ltd.
Set in the 1960s, Meg Harrison leaves her native Minnesota for New York to pursue a career in acting while working as a Playboy Bunny in New York’s Playboy Club. After changing her name to Morgana Harriott, she soon lands the role of Margie, a restaurant waitress and daughter of a local artist, in the new daytime TV serial Dark Passages. The show will eventually feature a vampire, but the catch is that Morgana is one in real life.
The characters described on the sets of Dark Passages resemble quite vividly those on Dark Shadows and the actors who played them. The diner set where Margie works is greatly similar to that of the Collinsport Inn restaurant on Dark Shadows.
For the back cover, Jonathan Frid wrote the following blurb: “Reading DARK PASSAGES was like being back on the sets of DARK SHADOWS, except with real vampires behind the scenes!”
In this eight-CD box set of composer Robert Cobert’s series soundtrack, every music cue used on Dark Shadows is available, including the full-length original recordings of the guitar instrumentals heard at the Blue Whale.
Since 2006, UK production company Big Finish has been extending the Dark Shadows legacy with audio dramas offering new stories featuring cast members from the original TV series. My favorite is the 2015 audio drama …And Red All Over, in which Mitchell Ryan reprises his role as Burke Devlin to the backdrop of an eerily compelling backstory on how he came to acquire his wealth in business. Also starring Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans, with original series themes and music cues composed by Robert Cobert. A must listen for any fan of the first year of Dark Shadows.
Coming next: Episode 7: Revenge and Retribution
— Marc Masse
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