“But last night, she sent me a message… from the past.”
The morning of a new day at Collinwood. Plans have been made to take two children away on an extended trip. But there are unseen and evil forces at work within the great house — forces that have possessed both children, and decreed that — oh my god, Vicki, WHAT IS IT NOW?
Yup, guess who’s back. Two weeks ago, girl governess Victoria Winters Bradford-Clark finally vacated the premises with her new husband, and as far as we can tell, she’s not enjoying the honeymoon.
She’s been causing various minor haunts, and she left a note that said, “I am alone. Help me! Help me!” Today, David took a picture of Barnabas and Carolyn, and when the picture was developed, there was a figure of a hanging woman in the background.
This just goes to show that you should never use a magic wristwatch to follow your dead husband back in time to the 18th century, where you already know that you were both executed. This is not a particularly helpful thing to know, because it’s something that never occurred to anybody before. Once again, Vicki is breaking new ground in the field of mistakes.
So the answer is: No, Vicki. We already have a new governess. Thank you for your interest. The position has been filled.
But, fine — as long as she’s here, we might as well try to figure out what in the Sam Scratch is going on.
To begin with: who sent Vicki to the 18th century in the first place?
Everybody who watches Dark Shadows assumes that Vicki’s first time trip was initiated by Sarah, the little dead girl haunting the estate. It’s a natural conclusion — they were holding a seance to communicate with Sarah at the time — but it’s not as cut and dried as people think.
At the climax of the seance, Sarah was speaking through Vicki. This is the crucial exchange:
Vicki: Barnabas, when you marry Josette, will you still love me? Will you come and see me at the new house?
Roger: You come to the new house to see David. Why?
Vicki: To tell him the story. The story of how it all began…
And then the lights went out, and the next thing they knew, Vicki was replaced by a startled woman who identified herself as Phyllis Wick.
If you think about it, Sarah never actually said, “And now I shall use my special dead-girl all-access pass to the time vortex; please turn off all electronic devices. Ta-dah!”
Sarah said she came to the new house to tell the story to David. She never promised to tell Vicki anything — and as it turns out, Vicki never learned most of the story anyway. She mostly just got herself arrested. So why do we assume that it was Sarah who actually pulled the switch?
I know, once again I’m nattering on about my weird “lost princess” time travel conspiracy theories, but Dark Shadows keeps doubling down on this story point, and it makes less sense every time they mention it.
We’ve all accepted, on very flimsy evidence, that the ghost of a ten-year-old has the ability to pick up a governess by the scruff of her neck and transport her, Quantum Leap style, to a convenient dropoff point in the ghost’s own timeline, swapping her temporarily with another member of the Collins family support staff.
But we’ve seen lots of other ghosts on Dark Shadows — Collinwood has restless spirits like other houses have mice — and we’ve never seen them exhibit any power over time mechanics. In fact, they usually don’t even have the strength to speak clearly.
So far, the specter starter pack includes the ability to open a casement window, blow out a candle, and make a chandelier swing back and forth. That comes standard on all models. Beyond that, we’ve seen ghosts appear, disappear, cry, laugh, knock down a brick wall, appear in someone’s dream, testify for the prosecution, write the word “JAMISON” on a mirror, murder a grandfather clock, and play the gramophone.
Now, it’s true that Sarah had an unusually strong power set — she could manifest herself for minutes at a time in a solid form that could play catch and scatter personal items around. But Sarah, as we know her, is nothing special. She’s not a ninth level sorceror supreme or anything; she’s a nice and rather dim little girl. So who died and made her the boss of dead people?
The story, as we’re expected to understand it, is that Sarah can send Vicki tumbling through the centuries because she’s a ghost, and it’s her seance. But if every ghost was able to toss people through time in order to illuminate a specific chunk of backstory, life at Collinwood would be insupportable. Phyllis Wicks would be stacking up everywhere; we wouldn’t have room for anything else.
Clearly, somebody’s responsible for this irresponsible time travel, and I’d bet you anything that it turns out to be they. This has they written all over it.
I’ll back up a step, if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology. Back in April, Vicki ran into a guy named Jeff Clark. Well, she didn’t run into him, specifically; she actually ran into a highway embankment, and he happened to be standing next to it. Then she said that Jeff was the reincarnation of her 18th century lawyer boyfriend, and she repeated it so many times that he practically started to believe it himself.
Finally, Jeff consulted with local occult expert Professor Stokes, who gave him some special herbs to eat, which would expand his consciousness and get him in touch with his past self. This was common practice in 1968. Either you do that, or you watch Here’s Lucy; those were basically the only entertainment options.
So Jeff ate the herbs and concentrated, and pretty soon, he started seeing twinkly lights, and he felt himself losing touch with the now. “They’re pulling at me,” he said. “They’re calling me back!”
And then Vicki ran in, and threw her arms around him, and shouted, “Commit yourself to this life, to this time! Say you will, Jeff — and they will let you stay!”
At press time, we still haven’t figured out who “they” are, but at least now we know that they have kind of a sick sense of humor.
Now Vicki’s coming at us from the other direction, calling collect from 1796 and reversing the charges. She’s the ghost now, reaching out across the centuries.
So here’s a question: why is she trying to contact Barnabas? I mean, we know that he’s a vampire and therefore he has some experience in this area, but last time we checked, Vicki thought he was just a very polite guy who likes candles. And either way, there’s no reason to think that he has any kind of influence over current events in the late 18th.
But now that I think about it, how do we know that Barnabas is the first person she’s tried to reach? I mean, let’s say that Vicki is flailing around in the ether somewhere, putting “help me” notes into bottles, and throwing them out to sea. Who, in all of time and space, does she have the closest connection to?
She had a close relationship with Barnabas, but he’s always taken second place to her real love interests — Jeff and Burke. If she’s sending out an SOS to the future, wouldn’t she try to reach Burke first?
Now, the last time that Vicki saw Burke, he was flying to Brazil on business. So imagine a small private plane somewhere over the South American jungle. Suddenly, the radio crackles to life, and Burke hears a familiar voice, crying, “I am alone. Help me! Help me!” Startled, the pilot looks around — and the image of a hanging woman appears in the reflection of a window.
It’s like the old joke: What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic? Halfway.
Look, I’m just saying it’s a possibility. And what’s one more accident on Vicki’s record? She smashed up the car when Peter showed up, and when Phyllis Wick was snatched out of the timeline, her carriage overturned.
A plane crash, a car wreck, and a derailed carriage — maybe somebody’s trying to send Vicki a message about the dangers of transporting yourself to someplace where you don’t belong.
So, if this is they, then what are they trying to achieve? Why would somebody create this jagged wound in space-time, just to help an orphaned governess jump back and forth over 170 years? What could they possibly have to gain?
But it’s like I keep telling Vicki: there are consequences to time travel. In fact, you usually get the consequences first; that’s the whole idea.
That means we’re seeing it backwards. They’re not messing with time just to help a governess. They’re using a governess to mess up time.
They’re up to something. I don’t know what they’re trying to do — who even knows with they — but for some reason, they need to create an area of instability, some kind of chrono-synclastic infundibulum in the fabric of space-time, running from 1796 to 1969.
We’ve known for a long time that Vicki is not the main character of Dark Shadows — but it turns out she’s not a character at all.
Vicki is a weapon.
So let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there’s no such thing as a naturally-occurring Victoria Winters. You do not get this level of mess just happening all by itself. Somebody did this on purpose.
It’s not the Leviathans, by the way. The first person who says “It’s the Leviathans” is going to get their carriage overturned. Yes, the Leviathans are a time-traveling death cult that uses a magic altar to transport lost vampires and ancient artifacts on a direct shuttle route between 1796 and 1969. Yes, they have a far-reaching global network of deep-cover operatives bent on altering the destiny of the Collins family. Yes, they can possess people, and force them to act against their very nature to pursue some unearthly goal. But that’s not the important thing about the Leviathans.
The important thing is that whatever the Leviathans are trying to do, they totally suck at it. After countless millennia, the only thing they ever achieve is setting fire to their own sacred altar. “The Leviathans” is never the correct answer, unless the question is “who runs the stupidest time-traveling death cult in history?” Forget about the Leviathans. Seriously, they’re not worth it.
But let’s think for a moment about the complex space-time event that calls itself Victoria Winters. What do we know about her?
Well, she was dropped off on the doorstep of the Hammond Foundling Home in winter 1946. And she’s put so much energy into finding out where she comes from, that it’s never occurred to us to ask when she comes from.
After all, even before her time trip, she kept talking about “the past” like it’s a single, specific thing; e.g., “Josette’s music box reminds me of the past,” and “Maybe Burke’s right, maybe I’m getting too caught up in the past.” We never paid much attention, except to think, well, that’s why she’s a governess and not in graduate school. But what if that actually meant something?
Also, why is her prime directive to always, always create time paradoxes? She literally did nothing else for the entirety of 1968, and she’s still at it.
And why did she start every episode with “My name is Victoria Winters,” like she has to keep telling us over and over? Why is she so desperate for us to believe that that’s her name? What is she trying to prove?
There’s really only one explanation that makes sense.
The girl that we know as “Victoria Winters” is actually Phyllis Wick. The babies were switched, a normal soap opera cliche that’s been weaponized, and used to destabilize time. One girl from the 1770s, another from the 1940s, swapped in their cradles. They’re like a stretched rubber band, marking a route from one century to another.
So they — of course it’s they, it’s always they — just went and stole this baby away from her parents, Phil and Felicia Wick. The child was taken from 1775 to 1946, and they brought some random 1940s kid back in time to take her place.
So the real Phyllis Wick — codename: “Victoria Winters” — was placed at a foundling home, and every month, she received $50 in cash, postmarked from Bangor, Maine. That was the honey trap, giving her a reason to take the job when somebody recommended her to Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. (We don’t know who pointed Liz in the right direction, but I bet it was they. It’s usually they, one way or another.)
So Phyllis comes to Collinwood, anxious to link her past with her future. She keeps telling herself, “My name is Victoria Winters,” because deep down, she knows it’s not true. She feels the past pulling at her, calling to her, inviting her to come back home.
Finally, she makes contact with a mad, dead kid named Sarah. And it’s in that moment of contact — when she’s connected to another little girl from the past — that the rubber band finally snaps her back where she belongs, with a concussion that knocks “Phyllis Wick” right out of her carriage and all the way to the 1960s.
Things go badly, of course. They planned it that way. They made sure she was holding that impossible book, the Collins family history.
And “Vicki” runs riot, grabbing everybody she can get ahold of, and begging them to alter the course of history. This is what she’s for.
“Victoria Winters” is literally a time bomb. She was created to blow up time.
So at the last moment, she finds a way back to the 1960s, and “Phyllis” swings backwards into the past again — the two of them, crashing their way through the underbrush of history, laying down a track for others to follow.
And pretty soon, what do you know — Peter Bradford takes the same route, losing his memory along the way, followed by Angelique, and Danielle Roget, and Reverend Trask, and Josette, and Nathan Forbes, and Ruby Tate, and mad little Sarah — all of them, traveling back and forth through this channel that Phyllis and Vicki carved through the centuries.
I don’t know who they are, or why they needed to create this portal, but they probably had a very bad reason. If I were you, I’d keep an eye on they, and vice versa.
Tomorrow: The Secret to Time.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Barnabas has trouble clearing the launchpad:
Barnabas: Julia, wait. There’s something I want to show you.
Julia: What is it?
Barnabas: Well, I’m not… I’m not certain about it yet, but… I think that I may have to change my plans concerning the children.
In act 1, Barnabas tells Julia, “I’m going to see Baro — Carolyn.”
Somebody in the studio’s got a bad cough. We hear one cough when Carolyn tells Barnabas that her mother is alive, and a couple more when David is developing the pictures.
David and Amy talk over each other a couple times after they notice the extra figure in the photograph of Barnabas and Carolyn.
There’s a lot of studio noise when Carolyn tells Harry to take the bags out to the car — people shuffling around and closing a door.
Tomorrow: The Secret to Time.
— Danny Horn