Dark Shadows is a cult TV soap opera that was airing weekdays on the ABC television network from June 27, 1966 to April 2, 1971. It added a gothic vampire story to the standard "soap" plots and stories, and it won a cult following that mirrored that of another long-running science fiction TV series, Doctor Who. more...
Victoria Winters: episode 1 (6/27/66) to 127 (12/20/66)
Laura the Phoenix: episode 128 (12/21/66) to 192 (3/21/67)
Barnabas: episode 193 (3/22/67) to 365 (11/17/67)
1795: episode 366 (11/14/67) to 460 (3/29/68)
1968: Dream Curse/Adam and Eve: episode 461 (4/1/68) to 637 (12/3/68)
1968: Werewolf/Quentin's Ghost: episode 638 (12/4/68) to 700 (2/28/69)
1897: episode 701 (3/3/69) to 884 (11/13/69)
The Leviathans: episode 885 (11/14/69) to 980 (3/27/70)
1970 Parallel Time: episode 981 (3/30/70) to 1060 (7/17/70)
1995: episode 1061 (7/20/70) to 1070 (7/31/70)
1970: Gerard's Ghost: episode 1071 (8/3/70) to 1109 (9/24/70)
1840: episode 1110 (9/25/70) to 1198 (1/27/71)
1841 Parallel Time: episode 1199 (1/28/71) to 1245 (4/2/71)
The series' beginnings
Originally conceived with a gothic twist on the usual afternoon soap, Dark Shadows ambled along during its first year, garnering a small following who were weary of the everyday love libations offered by the plethora of other soaps of the time. Set in the fictional small fishing village of Collinsport, Maine, the series revolved around the rich, powerful Collins family, owners of a fishing fleet and cannery. Dark Shadows developed several mysterious kernels during its initial seasons, which later germinated into the supernatural series that still attracts thousands of fans to yearly conventions. With the Vietnam War raging and racial discord commonplace on the early evening news, the show's original viewers were ready to escape the reality of their own situations and involve themselves in the remote and foreboding problems of this troubled family whose own Pandora's box seemed far removed from the social revolution going on outside their front door.
The original story bible, "Shadows on the Wall," came from the creative partnership of writer Art Wallace and television producer Dan Curtis. Wallace is arguably most responsible for establishing the Collins family and its mysterious relationship to the orphan Victoria Winters. When Vicki becomes the family governess at Collinwood, she becomes embroiled in a web of conspiracy, murder, and secrets -- highly reminiscent of several Alfred Hitchcock pictures. The earliest plot involves Burke Devlin, an innocent man framed for a fatal drunk driving accident by the actual culprit, Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds). Once the best of friends, Roger and Burke became romantic rivals over Laura Murdoch (Diana Millay), who married Roger after Burke went to prison. Cleared of his dark past, Burke Devlin (played by Mitchell Ryan and briefly by Anthony George) later became Victoria's love interest. As portrayed by Alexandra Moltke, Victoria's relationship with the Collins family would never be fully resolved — although it is implied she may have been the illegitimate daughter of the family's matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (played throughout the series by actress Joan Bennett).
The use of "flashbacks," in which the scene shifted to some time in the past, was the single, most omnipresent element of the show. The first of these occurred in the episode that aired on July 10, 1967; on that date, the setting flashed back to 1949, and revealed that Elizabeth Collins Stoddard murdered (or so she thought at the time) her husband, Paul Stoddard (Carolyn's father), and ordered an accomplice to hide his body in the basement (this flashback was confined to this single episode only). The motive may have been that Paul Stoddard found out about the extramarital affair Elizabeth had that led to the birth of Victoria, but this was never explicitly stated.
As each mystery came to light in Collinsport, the producers struggled to hold the interest of its steadily declining audience. The show needed something to give it the added dimension that would set it apart. According to producer Dan Curtis, ABC was ready to drop the show because of faltering ratings. Acting on a suggestion from his children, and desperate to save the series, Curtis decided to cross the supernatural line, a bold move given the conventional nature of soap operas. A mysterious ancestor named Josette Collins thus became the Collins family's spectral guardian. (Josette is first introduced as a sobbing woman in the 37th episode, which aired on August 16, 1966). Later, she would be revealed as a ghost whose mortal shell died in 1795.
In 1966, Josette saves Victoria Winters from a deranged killer, the caretaker Matthew Morgan (played by series stalwart Thayer David). Morgan had been driven to murder in order to protect the Collins family, but kidnaps Victoria when she discovers his secret. While hiding in the Old House (the first Collins estate, which features prominently in later stories), Matthew Morgan is confronted by Josette Collins, who summons other spirits to kill Morgan. This storyline encouraged Dan Curtis to involve more ghostly and supernatural aspects. In 1967, Laura Murdoch Collins returns to Collinsport after a lengthy separation from Roger, with the vowed intent of reclaiming nine-year-old David. Victoria enlists the help of a parapsychologist to investigate many strange events at Collinwood that coincide with Laura's arrival. Roger's wife is revealed to be an undying creature known as a phoenix, who plans to take David into the fire. With Josette's help, Victoria is able to rescue David before he burns with his mother, and life returns briefly to normal in Collinsport.
Although Laura the Phoenix would return to plague the Collinses, she would be overshadowed by the popularity of three characters debuting in 1967-68: the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), the beautiful witch Angelique (Lara Parker), and the brooding Quentin Collins (David Selby).
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