“The powers you have, they give you a certain amount of control over time and space.”
Once upon a time, there was a little lost princess…
Once upon a time, there was a little lost princess named Victoria. When Princess Victoria was a baby, the good Queen Elizabeth sent her away to an orphanage, to protect her from her stepfather, the Wicked King.
Years later, the Queen gave birth to another little princess named Carolyn. But the Wicked King was very wicked indeed, so the Queen bashed him on the head with a fire iron and buried him in the basement. At least, that’s how she remembers it.
Danny (thinks): The thing about Six Twenty Two is that it’s like a solar eclipse. You can’t look at it directly; it’s too brilliant and beautiful and damaging. Also, it doesn’t really exist.
Eve: I want you to help me prove beyond all doubt that Jeff is really Peter Bradford!
Nicholas: And how do you expect me to do that?
Eve: The powers you have, they give you a certain amount of control over time and space.
Nicholas: Yes? So?
Danny (thinks): Really, the biggest mistake you can make is to treat Six Twenty Two as if it were real. It is clearly not a real episode of a network television show.
Princess Victoria stayed in the orphanage for many years. And when she grew up, the Queen sent for her, and invited her to live in the palace.
But even though the Wicked King was gone, the Queen didn’t tell the princess the secret of her royal lineage, because this is a daily television series, and we have a hell of a lot of half-hours to fill up.
And then Eve just sits on the couch, and reads The Saturday Evening Post.
“Victoria is so dumb,” Moltke said with an exasperated grimace. “All I do is stand around saying, ‘I don’t understand what’s happening.’”
As Victoria traveled to the Queen’s palace, she met a handsome, dark prince named Burke Devlin.
He was a cross between Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, and he was played by an alcoholic character actor who couldn’t remember his lines.
Danny (thinks): The “experience” that you have watching Six Twenty Two is really a mental construct that you create on the fly.
It’s a natural defense mechanism that helps you deal with the existential meta-crisis of actually watching this lunatic mess of a show.
One day, the handsome Prince Burke showed up at the studio, and he sat in the wastebasket, so drunk that he couldn’t go on.
So the producers gave all of the prince’s lines to Joe, and hoped that nobody would notice. And nobody ever did.
Angelique: I can do for you what Nicholas refused to do.
Eve: I don’t believe you. You don’t have that kind of power.
Angelique: I can send you back to the past, for a brief period of time — long enough for you to do what you want to do.
Danny (thinks): It’s like a near-death experience. There isn’t really a bright light that guides you towards heaven. That’s just your brain desperately trying to make sense of the limited sensory input it’s getting, as vital systems in your body start to shut down.
You think that you’re seeing two noisy women in gowns, standing outside somebody else’s house, arguing about reincarnation and time travel at the top of their lungs. You think that this is something that was written and filmed by grown-ups, and then broadcast on ABC television at four o’clock in the afternoon. But it isn’t real.
“Jonathan has hypnotized me into eloping with him, tried to cut off my boyfriend’s head to stick on that goofy monster they made, even sent me hundreds of years into the past during a seance. And I still haven’t figured out that he may not be quite normal.”
And so the recast Prince Burke won the heart of the little lost princess. They made ever so many plans, and they decided that when they were married, they would live in the palace with the Queen and her family.
The lost princess still didn’t know that she was actually the Queen’s daughter, but by this point she was marrying a prince anyway, and she was going to be a princess one way or another. So who even cares?
Angelique: But the proof exists — in the year 1795. And I can send you there. When you return, you’ll be able to be with Jeff again!
But Prince Burke was killed in a super unlikely plane crash in Brazil, and the lost princess never found her happily ever after.
Although she did manage a happily ever before…
“Ask Barnabas about Fort Wayne. Terrible things — eleven women, and the shrubbery… Something happened in Fort Wayne…”
Danny (thinks): My point is that history is getting over-written, again and again. Somewhere in there is the “real” story — Barnabas and Josette and Angelique, loving and betraying and outsmarting each other, with poor Phyllis Wick caught in the crossfire.
But then Vicki stumbles into the middle of things — Phyllis Wick’s underprepared understudy, pushed on stage by a mad, dead ten-year-old — and Vicki instantly starts telling people things that they shouldn’t know. She spends every waking moment deliberately trying to create paradoxes.
It’ll be so easy!
Think about it, Eve!
It would be so easy!
Danny (thinks): After a while, there are so many inconsistencies and muddled mysteries that Vicki’s crumpled-up character arc becomes a monster — a huge, unfulfilled, all-consuming loose end. And then she falls downstairs through time, crushing every butterfly she sees along the way.
That’s why Vicki has two of everything; her entire storyline is just one Schrödinger’s cat after another. She’s living two parallel lives, and the only way to resolve it is to look inside the mystery box that nobody wants to open.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard or Betty Hanscomb? Mitchell Ryan or Anthony George? Victoria Winters or Phyllis Wick? Peter Bradford or Jeff Clark?
And the least-answered question — the one great unsolved mystery of Dark Shadows:
Did Burke Devlin fall, or was he pushed?
Ron Sproat: The first law of thermodynamics is that storyline material can be neither created or destroyed.
Sam Hall: The second law of thermodynamics is that of course you can create new story ideas, Ron, we’re doing it all the time. That’s our job.
Danny (thinks): I keep trying to explain to Vicki that there are consequences to time travel. In fact, you usually get the consequences first; that’s the whole idea.
But Vicki never listens.
Then the lost princess had a time-travel adventure in the distant past, and when she finally returned to the Queen’s palace, nobody ever mentioned Prince Burke again. She just started talking about this new prince — Peter, or Jeff, or whoever — and everybody went along with it, even though in story time Burke was only dead for about two weeks at that point.
And that’s because something is seriously wrong with time, and I’m pretty sure that Vicki broke it. Vicki is an idiot.
Danny (thinks): I do know, by the way, that my bonkers half-kidding-but-not-really “Vicki destroys time” conspiracy theory is completely impenetrable, even if you’re obsessive enough to know who Betty Hanscomb is.
But this is something that I actually sincerely love about Dark Shadows. All of the inconsistencies and retcons and recasts and bloopers invite active audience participation, to fill in the gaps. Yeah, I have my own personal head-canon that I’m making up as I go along. Everybody does.
Dark Shadows is complicated, and mysterious, and rich in detail and backstage lore — just like Lost, and Doctor Who. Just like life, actually.
“We have the only show on the air that kids can accept all the way as make-believe,” Curtis said. “If you watch it regularly, you’ll see what I mean. Nobody ever really dies.”
Danny (thinks): In tomorrow’s episode, we’re going to see that Joshua copied the “official” version of the Collins family history out of the book that Vicki brought with her from 1967. This is absolutely unpossible.
Flash-forward to a year and a half from now, in March 1970: We’re going to hear about a whole new tragic ending to Vicki and Peter’s story, which creates its own weird ripples and eddies through history.
And in the very next episode, Barnabas Collins walks into the abandoned east wing of Collinwood, and has his first glimpse of Parallel Time.
As far as I’m concerned, that means Vicki’s reckless time travel has created all of these tangled timelines.
Parallel Time is Vicki’s fault. Everything is.
There are 1,245 steps to complete the ritual. One of the steps is missing. The ritual has only been completed once.
Danny (thinks): So whatever happened to Victoria Winters?
We know what happens to Alexandra Moltke — she has a baby, and turns into Betsy Durkin.
But did Vicki really run away with Peter, or did the Leviathans kill her? Why did Barnabas remember Phyllis Wick? Did Vicki’s time travel create a chronographic instability that fractured the space-time continuum? Was she really Liz’s daughter? Who was actually hanged that night?
Seriously, does anybody actually know what happened to Victoria Winters? I thought this used to be a television show about her. What happens to an unfinished story, when you get distracted and start talking about something else?
Tomorrow: This Is Happening.
Today’s entry brings together several long-running themes of the blog. If you’d like to understand what the hell I’m talking about and you don’t happen to have a Ph.D. in Dark Shadows Every Day, here’s where you can get more information:
The Lost Princess:
Episode 269: Loving the Monster
Episode 345: Rest in Pieces
Episode 385: The End of History
Episode 465: The Best of All Possible Worlds
Episode 531: The Interpretation of Dreams
Episode 627: Bad Moon Rising
Episode 650: Happily Ever Before
Episode 967: The Way It Happened (post to be written in December 2016)
Episode 1219: The Missing Step (post to be written in February 2021)
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Nicholas tells Eve (and an eavesdropping Angelique) that Julia and Willie sent Barnabas to a hospital a few miles away. But there’s no way for him to know this — I’m sure Julia didn’t send him any telegrams with updates on Barnabas’ condition. He couldn’t even listen in on Julia and Willie’s conversations, because he doesn’t have the magic mirror anymore.
When Angelique approaches Eve on the terrace, the boom mic drops into the shot at top left.
Tomorrow: This Is Happening.
— Danny Horn