Episode 21: The Road Not Taken

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Dark Shadows was originally about the story of Victoria Winters, an orphan governess from New York City who accepts a job in a small town Down East where she will live in a large dark house by the sea and tutor a nine-year-old boy. She accepts the job because she hopes it may lead to information about her undiscovered past, in particular the anonymous monthly payments from Bangor that started arriving at the foundling home when she was just two years old.

 

As envisioned by story creator Art Wallace, who wrote the outline Shadows on the Wall that became the show’s series bible early on, the story of Victoria Winters was fully realized from the start, with a beginning, middle, and complete story resolution. But unforeseen circumstances along the way prevented the story from being told in full as originally planned. Other things got in the way; the murder of a Collins family friend and business associate, a couple of ghosts, a fire goddess from a spirit netherworld, a vampire, time travel, witchcraft, and on and on, until finally the actress playing the role said enough was enough.

 

Perhaps the biggest factor was the frequent turnover in the episode writing staff. Enough time went by and enough writers came and went that the original framework laid out for the story of Victoria Winters was simply forgotten, a beginning left dangling somewhere in the middle for more than two years of episodes. Below is an examination of the original story resolution, as outlined before Dark Shadows first went on the air.

 

The story of Victoria Winters is the road not taken.

 

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Episode 15: Mechanics Made Easy, Pt. 1

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After three weeks on the air, Dark Shadows has created its first monster.

 

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Episode 14: The Fifth Wheel

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To close out his visit at Collinwood, Burke has asked Roger to drive into town to meet him at the Blue Whale to discuss a business matter. A short time later, Burke is found by Vicki in the garage standing next to Roger’s car with a wrench in his hand. Meanwhile David, who has been up in his room reading a magazine on do-it-yourself mechanics, takes from his dresser a small cylindrical metal object which he then attempts to stash in Vicki’s room, but flies into hysterics after she walks in and catches him in the act. Joe stops by to pick up Carolyn for a date. They are planning on a movie, but when Carolyn finds out from Vicki that Burke will be at the Blue Whale to meet Roger, she talks Joe into taking her there instead, which is where he started a fight just the night before over Carolyn’s eager interest in the other men there. To top it off, Dark Shadows is featuring its very first in a long line of dry thunderstorms.

 

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Episode 10: Little Monster

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Months before becoming known as the vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows was a show about ghosts and goblins, or at least the frequent mention thereof. But on the Friday of the second week, the show produced a monster, one that proved especially unnerving because it was so real and true to life and therefore possible – a nine-year-old boy named David.

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Episode 7: Revenge and Retribution

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For Dark Shadows fans who view the series beginning with episode 210, Sam Evans is likely perceived as a sympathetic character. At the very least, he seems innocuous, and for the most part you feel for him because his daughter Maggie, a character who is universally well liked, is soon to be kidnapped and you understand the tortured anguish of a loving father who only wants for his daughter to be returned home safely. Even Roger Collins at one point manages to almost express a measure of sympathy for Sam’s plight – almost, that is.

 

But taking the series from the beginning, it’s a different story – and not just because the first actor who plays him, Mark Allen, doesn’t seem to find as much favor with Dark Shadows fans the way his successor to the role does, David Ford. Perhaps it’s the company he keeps.

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Episode 6: Searching, Hoping, Waiting…

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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.

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Episode 5: Hope Fades with the Light of Day

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On Vicki’s first morning in Collinwood, Carolyn knocks on her door to offer some coffee, but is dismayed to find that a suitcase is in the process of being packed.

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Episode 2: A Friend of the Family

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“They said this joint starts jumpin’ when the kids get here,” private detective Wilbur Strake notes approvingly to his client Burke Devlin as they sit at the bar in the Blue Whale observing the action on the dance floor. “They sure were right!”

There’s a party going on, and Carolyn Stoddard, daughter of Collinwood matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard, is at the center of it, frugging her way all around the room as surf-style guitar instrumental music is blaring from the jukebox.

In his story outline, Shadows on the Wall, Art Wallace describes Carolyn, seventeen, as “an attractive, vivacious young girl who enjoys every moment of life” and also as one who plays the field. Her introduction in the second episode of Dark Shadows certainly lives up to this description, because she is dancing with every available young man on the floor – everyone, that is, but her date, Joe Haskell, who sits at their table with a beer before him, looking sullen and forlorn while Carolyn, not bothering to notice, treats him more like a chaperone than a date.

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Episode 1: “Next Stop, Collinsport!”

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From the beginning, Dark Shadows lives up to its name. Full of mysterious characters with secrets to be kept, the debut episode, and the three that follow, is set during the nighttime, when a sense of foreboding pervades the deepest, when the ghosts of yesterday seem the most threatening, piercing the looming shades of darkness like the light of an oncoming train.

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