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 13: Meeting in the Odd Places

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It’s a Wednesday in 1966, and Burke Devlin has been hanging out in the drawing room at Collinwood since Monday. Fortunately, there’s plenty of brandy on hand to keep him hydrated while he chats with Liz and waits for Roger to show up, who’s been avoiding the drawing room since last Friday, ever since Carolyn brought Burke to Collinwood.

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Episode 8: Answers for the Future

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If there’s one aspect of Dark Shadows that comes across as comedy, it’s the notion of romance. Naturally, because this is Detergent Land Drama, one shouldn’t expect to begrudge the characters with any happiness in that area, at least not for the long term, but when it comes to even finding a suitable mate the folks at Collinwood, and anyone who chances to come into even remote contact with them, are positively doomed!

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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 4: Avoiding the Pain

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A door slams in the night, and newly arrived governess Victoria Winters, sitting up in bed reading a book, is understandably alarmed as she turns her head with wide-eyed concern to place the sound. She has journeyed hundreds of miles up the coast from the orphanage where she was raised, having accepted a job that she hoped might lead her to find out about herself, the true identity of her origins. But instead all she has found in the three hours or so since her arrival are the strange and unpredictable turns in temperament that come from those who hold within themselves hidden fears, deep despair, or desperation. Not to mention closed doors that seem to open by themselves.

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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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