"Welcome to Collinsport," said Burke Devlin, "the beginning and the end of the world."
No, this essay isn't about Burke. But his cryptic greeting to Victoria Winters set me thinking. Since the publication of Art Wallace's Shadows on the Wall, the original bible for the show, we've had a semi-official beginning and end for the fictional "world" of Dark Shadows. The end, of course, is the famous Sam Hall TV Guide article, read (in a revised version) on the last tape of the series. I'd like to analyze and evaluate both works, examining what they tell us about DS and how well they actually fit the show as we know it.
Shadows (a Pomegranate Press publication) is a revelation. It summarizes the originally planned storylines for the first two 13-week story arcs. Most of the familiar characters are in place: Vicki, Burke, Liz, Roger, David, Carolyn, Joe Haskell, Maggie Evans and her father Sam, Bill Malloy, the lawyers Garner. There's a character corresponding to Jason McGuire, though at this early stage of development he's called Walt Cummings. The first arc chronicles Burke's attempt to prove Roger framed him on that old vehicular homicide charge. The second deals with Cummings' plot to blackmail Liz into marriage by threatening to expose her "murder" of Paul Stoddard.
Among the minor surprises: there are no characters corresponding to Matthew Morgan, Mrs. Johnson or Willie Loomis (or, of course, Barnabas Collins). Bill Malloy is never murdered. Carolyn and boyfriend Joe bicker but don't break up; there's no hint of an attraction between him and Maggie. Maggie's sole raison d'etre is to become Vicki's best friend. Cummings is not killed after the collapse of his scheme, but merely kicked out of Collinwood. Burke Devlin leaves town soon afterward, with the issue of David's paternity unresolved.
The first story arc is much simpler and more straightforward than what viewers eventually saw on TV. Sam Evans had, as we know, accepted a bribe--the purchase of some of his paintings at an inflated price--to lie on the witness stand and claim Burke rather than Roger had been driving the car that struck and killed a pedestrian. With Burke's return, Sam is torn by guilt and begins drinking heavily. When Maggie brings her new friend Vicki to the cottage, Vicki hears some of Sam's drunken ramblings. She hasn't heard anything that incriminates Roger, but the increasingly paranoid Roger fears she has. He finally snaps completely. Wrongly convinced Vicki already knows the truth, he himself blurts it out to her. When he realizes what he's done he tries to kill her. But as he's about to push her off Widow's Hill, David, hiding in the bushes, cries out in horror. Startled, Roger loses his balance and falls to his death.
Yes, that's right. Roger was meant to be killed after 13 weeks!
I don't think there's a fan anywhere who would regret that plan being changed. But the storyline makes much more sense when we understand how it was originally meant to unfold. I, for one, have always felt Roger's crime against Burke was too serious to be resolved as easily (and anticlimactically) as it was. Roger deserved a prison term. But why did the writers begin a story whose only satisfactory outcome would require writing an indispensable character out of the show? Now we know. When the storyline was conceived, he wasn't meant to be indispensable. I'd love to know when the plan was changed, and whether the casting of Louis Edmonds had anything to do with it.
The second arc tells a familiar story. Liz confesses the "murder" rather than marry Cummings, there turns out to be no body in the basement, and his duplicity is exposed. But here too there's a major surprise. Vicki learns the identity of one of her parents--and it isn't Liz!
After everyone knows Paul Stoddard wasn't killed, Vicki happens upon an old letter from him to Liz. To her amazement, she realizes it was his handwriting on the note left with her at the Foundling Home. She confronts Liz--assuming, initially, that Liz and Paul are her parents, and they hadn't dared acknowledge her because they were not yet married.
But Liz regretfully tells her that isn't the case. She has always feared Vicki would imagine her to be her mother, because that's the most obvious explanation. But it's too obvious! Actually, it was Liz who made those support payments for Vicki. But she did it because Vicki is Paul's child, and she had guilt feelings over having "killed" him.
Liz has no idea who Vicki's mother is. She can tell her it was someone Paul met in Collinsport, because he was there throughout the period when Vicki must have been conceived. But it could have been either a full-time resident or a summer tourist who never passed through town again. (Wallace planned to establish that the Collinsport artists' colony attracted a summer tourist crowd.)
An interesting sidelight: I've read elsewhere that the name originally planned for the Victoria Winters character was Sheila March--March, for the month the newborn was left at the Foundling Home. That would have implied she was conceived in June.
For me, this story plan also clarifies early DS. We read everywhere that Liz was meant to be Vicki's mother; both the late Joan Bennett and writer Ron Sproat supposedly confirmed that. But it always has struck me as too obvious. And yet, when the role of Vicki was cast, the producers chose Alexandra Moltke partly because of her resemblance to Joan Bennett...
In early shows the writers seem to be setting up the possibility the mysterious Betty Hanscomb, a lookalike for Vicki, was her mother. Long before I read Shadows, I had theorized that Betty Hanscomb and Paul Stoddard were Vicki's parents. Stoddard's involvement provides the best explanation of Liz's having made those support payments, as I always assumed she did. I carried the idea a step further and hypothesized that Betty was herself an illegitimate child of Liz's father, Jamison Collins. That would explain why both Betty and her daughter bore a family resemblance to Liz.
The fact that Liz and Betty probably have the same name, Elizabeth, could be taken as a hint of revelations to come. They may have been named for the same woman, someone important to their father. If so, she was probably intended to be his mother. It was a later group of writers who named his mother Laura, and in fact, gave Jamison himself a name.
I feel vindicated by Shadows. How can we explain Joan Bennett's and Ron Sproat's statements? Here's my guess at what happened. When the show's bible was written, the character of Betty Hanscomb hadn't been conceived. But Paul Stoddard was definitely meant to be Vicki's father, someone other than Liz her mother. Then, by chance, the producers found themselves auditioning a young actress who looked enough like Joan Bennett to be her daughter. On impulse, they threw the original story plan out the window and hired her, meaning to capitalize on the resemblance and make Vicki Liz's daughter. Later, they had second thoughts. The resemblance was so strong that now, the mother-daughter explanation would really be too obvious! When the writers created the character of Betty Hanscomb, they were at least toying with the idea of making her Vicki's mother and Liz's half-sister. Perhaps Joan Bennett objected; she might have had enough clout to influence the writers. For whatever reason, they decided to hold off, delay committing themselves. And the "delay" became permanent.
But the plan revealed in Shadows is far better than the simple mother-daughter explanation. Here again, an understanding of Art Wallace's intentions makes better sense of what we saw on the air...and heightens this fan's respect for Wallace.
Now let's look at the TV Guide article. Sam Hall wrote it a relatively short time after DS was canceled; it purports to give us an idea of future storylines the writers had in mind for the show.
Liz finally finds the happiness she deserves with a new love. The luckless Roger discovers Barnabas is a vampire, and Angelique kills him to protect Barnabas. (Did the writers always want to kill Roger?) Carolyn realizes she's the reincarnation of Leticia Faye, and becomes a serious student of psychic phenomena. She also adopts Amy Jennings.
Maggie Evans (who, according to the article, had left town with "Phillip") returns after a divorce. She becomes a nurse at Windcliff, and eventually marries a cured Joe Haskell.
Barnabas falls gravely ill...which is hard to understand, according to the article, because he's a vampire. Julia realizes there can be only one explanation. Adam is ill somewhere, and the link with him is affecting Barnabas. She finds Adam in Asia, cures him (and Barnabas), but falls critically ill herself. When Barnabas fears he may lose her, he finally realizes how much he loves her. Julia recovers; they marry in Hong Kong, and decide to remain abroad to avoid problems with Angelique.
Quentin comes to regard eternal youth as a curse in itself. He roams the world in search of a legendary sorcerer, an old man with one hand...Count Petofi! Quentin is hoping against hope that he can persuade Petofi to free him from the werewolf curse and end his dependence on the charmed portrait.
Meanwhile, Chris Jennings, as a werewolf, kills his beloved Sabrina. When he realizes what he's done he commits suicide.
There was at least one glaring error in the TV Guide article, an error that couldn't be explained away. Maggie did not leave town with "Phillip"! The only Phillip in DS, Phillip Todd, was dead by then; and he never had a significant connection with Maggie. Maggie was last seen with Sebastian Shaw, who was supposedly taking her to Windcliff for her own protection. Kathryn Leigh Scott was leaving the show, and there were enough oddities in the scene to suggest Shaw might be abducting Maggie, out of love. Actor Chris Pennock could have returned as Jeb Hawkes or another lookalike, perhaps the counterpart of Parallel Time's deceased Cyrus Longworth.
Another seeming gaffe: Hall makes Barnabas a vampire, when he had been freed from the vampire curse in the 1840 storyline. But many fans justified that by assuming he found himself a vampire again on his return to 1971. As for the small detail that Angelique was supposedly dead...well, death rarely was final in DS, was it?
The revised version of the article read on the last DS tape corrects "Phillip" to "Sebastian." But to the probable chagrin of fans who had laboriously justified Barnabas's still being a vampire, it omits any mention of his being one! A dead giveaway that Hall had put very little thought into the original article, and had simply forgotten Barnabas had been freed from the curse.
With our faith in Hall already shaken, let's consider two other points he makes. First, it seems highly improbable Quentin would be searching for Count Petofi. With Petofi seeking to transfer his mind to Quentin's body, Quentin should be fleeing in the opposite direction! It's also unlikely he would have expected his enemy to be an old man with one hand. Petofi had regained the Hand during the 1897 storyline. That storyline established that he could switch bodies with surprising ease; and when he did, he took the power of the Hand with him. (But Quentin's body was still more desirable than any other, because the portrait protected it from injury or aging.) An obvious way to have Petofi played by Thayer David in the 1970s would have been for him to seize Elliot Stokes' body and impersonate Stokes.
Second, it seems improbable the werewolf-Chris could kill Sabrina. When Sabrina first walked in on a transformation, she suffered severe psychological trauma; but Chris never harmed her physically, never touched her. On a later occasion, when the werewolf saw his little sister Amy, he recoiled and ran away. Taken together, these incidents suggest some inhibition prevented Chris from attacking anyone he loved.
Even if the above "storylines" don't ring true, it's no proof the writers weren't considering them. But the more plausible Maggie-Joe plot is unlikely on other grounds: Kathryn Leigh Scott and Joel Crothers had both left the show, and Dan Curtis had an aversion to recasting. The last major role he had recast with any intention of permanence was Burke Devlin.
It's also hard to believe the writers planned a wedding for Barnabas and Julia. I've read elsewhere that they were thinking of killing her off! Barnabas would have become a vampire again, somehow; and he would have faced new challenges, new dangers, with Julia no longer around to protect him. Unpleasant as that sounds, it makes more sense than a Barnabas-Julia marriage. Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall were both, understandably, demanding more money. The producers may well have felt they could only afford to keep one of them.
The preponderance of evidence tells me the "story plans" outlined in Hall's article were never seriously considered. They were just his poorly thought-out attempt to wrap up loose ends. From a writer's point of view, this mishmash is far less significant than Art Wallace's thought-provoking plots.
Still, both the Barnabas-Julia marriage and Chris's suicide have inspired intriguing fan fiction. So we may after all owe Sam Hall a debt of gratitude for that article.