“He left the sanitarium with no memory of the circumstances which had caused him to lose his mind.”
And in another band of time, running parallel to our own, ABC-Television makes some different choices, and Dark Shadows stays on the air.
Here’s how it wouldn’t have gone.
Today is Dark Shadows’ last pre-emption day, scheduled in advance for the Apollo 14 splashdown: a suitably space-age event to mark our final Time Travel pre-emption post.
On these extra snow days when there’s no episode to watch, the blog time-travels into the future, to catch visions of Dark Shadows as it someday shall be. So far, this has included the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows, the 1971 movie Night of Dark Shadows, the 12 episodes of the 1991 NBC revival, the 2004 WB pilot and the 2012 Tim Burton movie.
Now, faced with such unkind predictions of Christmas Yet to Come, we might ask, as Ebenezer Scrooge did, “Are these the Shadows of the things that Will be, or are they Shadows of things that May be, only?” And unfortunately, with the exception of the WB pilot, they’ve been firmly in the “Will be” category.
But today, for this final visitation, we’ll look at the ultimate Shadows that May be: Sam Hall’s TV Guide article from October 9, 1971, “In case you’re curious — Here’s What Really Happened to Barnabas & Co.”
This was published six months after the dreaded April Third, when Dark Shadows was off the air, never to return. Looking back on this final Parallel Time storyline, the viewers of today recognize that 1841 was essentially a coda, an extra nine weeks with an unfamiliar Collins family, and that Barnabas and Julia’s one-scene return to the present day in episode 1198 was the actual end of the show as we know it.
But even if the 1971 audience was aware that the show was going to be cancelled soon, I imagine that most of them were holding out hope that Bramwell, Catherine and Morgan would wrap up their business so that the show could return to the real characters. Struggling through the lottery saga, just to end with the series still stuck in the wrong universe, must have been a pretty crushing blow.
So head writer Sam Hall, besieged with inquiries from the fanbase, wrote a two-and-a-half page article for TV Guide that suggested what the future would have been for the core characters, if they’d continued to produce the show.
Obviously, the article is pure fantasy, especially Sam’s assurance that “we had certain long-range plans” for the characters. As we have seen throughout this entire blog, they had absolutely no such thing. Pretty much the only “long-range plan” that Dark Shadows ever had was for Vicki to find out that Elizabeth was her mother, and they never even bothered to follow through on it. The entire reason that the show went into 1840, and then ended in a parallel universe, is that they didn’t have long-range plans for the core characters; they didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them.
But this article is Sam’s kiss to the crowd, a last serving of impossible ideas for us all to enjoy. I’m going to give you the whole text of the article below, and then some of my own commentary. I’ll put the images of the original pages at the very bottom, so you’ll have those too. Mr. Hall, the floor is yours.
In case you’re curious —
Here’s What Really Happened to Barnabas & Co.
Sam Hall — TV Guide, October 9, 1971
When Dark Shadows recently went off the air, the audience was left with an estate full of troubled characters — and many questions as to their fate. We had certain long-range plans for most of them [Mr. Hall was one of the writers of Dark Shadows — Ed.] — but what the characters would do with the rest of their lives can only be fantasy. However, after three years of living with them, I feel I know moments of their future.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard remained the matriarch of Collinwood. After the sudden death of her brother, Roger, she was determined to hold the Collins business empire together until Roger’s son, David, was old enough to take over. She did — with the help of an elegant, very bright man she brought from Boston to help her. With him, she finally found some personal happiness.
Roger Collins, just before his death, discovered the secret that his cousin Barnabas was a vampire, but he told no one, and vowed to end Barnabas’ unhappy existence. Armed with a stake and a hammer, he discovered Barnabas’ coffin during the daytime, but Angelique appeared and killed Roger. She forced Willie Loomis to carry Roger’s body to the woods, where it was found. Death was attributed to a heart attack.
Shortly after the funeral, Mrs. Johnson was cleaning out Roger’s room. She swore later that a cold hand had touched her. At first everyone felt she was simply hysterical. But one night, Carolyn saw Roger’s ghost standing in the great hall. The ghost pointed a spectral finger at the portrait of Barnabas Collins. When Carolyn implored the spirit to speak, it disappeared.
Carolyn, with the aid of T. Eliot Stokes and Julia Hoffman, attempted a seance to find out why Roger’s spirit could not rest. But the seance was unsuccessful. It is known that on certain stormy nights Roger’s ghost can be seen coming down the stairs, staring at the portrait of the man who caused his death.
Carolyn Stoddard found herself more and more interested in the world of the occult. She knew that, with the death of her husband, Jeb Hawkes, one part of her life was finished, and she determined to understand the unknown forces which had taken him from her. She began studying with T. Eliot Stokes, then went on to a large university which had a department of psychic research. While there, she discovered that she herself was the reincarnation of Leticia Faye, a woman who had lived at Collinwood during the 19th century.
Working with the various mediums, she became a psychic-research investigator. She published many books on the supernatural and has established a foundation to examine the existing evidences of the world beyond. She continued to regard Collinwood as her home and established a mother-daughter relationship with Amy Jennings which contributed greatly to the stability of that confused and scared child.
Years later, Carolyn remet Adam, who had loved her so deeply. He had become a successful, sophisticated man, and he wanted to marry her. But she knew she could not go back in time. They parted warm friends.
As time went on, Quentin Collins found living at Collinwood more and more difficult. He was unable to forget his love for Daphne, though both she and Gerard were finally at peace. And he was afraid to love again — afraid that his own secret would be discovered. For, as long as Charles Delaware Tate’s portrait of him existed, Quentin would not age. And he well knew that if he destroyed the picture, he would suffer the awful curse of the werewolf.
Finally, he left the town of Collinsport to roam the world — Athens, Alexandria, India… always hunting some solution for his existence. And with each country, he became more and more withdrawn. He became more aware that he could never become close to another human being.
Often he was tempted to return to Collinwood, destroy the portrait and kill himself before the full moon could cause him to change into the wolf man. But some slight hope stopped him from doing that. For, at the beginning of his travels, he had heard rumors that there existed a man — a man with a wooden hand and miraculous powers. A man who had transcended time — a Count Petofi. And so Quentin kept on, looking for the Count, knowing that if he could find him again, perhaps the Count could take pity on him and help him find peace at last.
Maggie Evans, who left Collinwood with Phillip [sic], returned a year later, a divorced woman. She moved into her father’s cottage and began working at Wyndliff [sic], the private sanitarium. There she remet her former fiancee, Joe Haskell. With her help, Joe managed to regain his sanity. He left the sanitarium with no memory of Angelique and the circumstances which had caused him to lose his mind. Joe and Maggie married. He returned to the Collins fishing fleet. They lived happily in Collinsport.
But Chris Jennings and Sabrina did not have Maggie and Joe’s luck. For they found they could not run from the curse that afflicted him. Though they had a few days of happiness when they left Collinsport, they both were aware that time was their enemy. For soon the moon would be full and Chris would become the werewolf again. They constructed a cell to lock him in. But when he became the wolf man, he broke out of it and killed Sabrina. Her brother found her body that same night. The following morning, Chris returned to their home. When he discovered what he had done, he committed suicide.
Barnabas was deeply affected by Chris’ death. He and Julia Hoffman had tried desperately to help Chris. Barnabas identified with him very much. He began to feel that it was only a matter of time until he too would become a victim of his curse. When he learned from Angelique that Roger had discovered his secret, his depression deepened. Again, Barnabas felt that he had brought new tragedy to those he loved at Collinwood. He knew that his vampirism would be discovered.
Julia and Willie Loomis decided they must get Barnabas to leave Collinsport. They were willing to sacrifice their lives and travel with him. He finally agreed to go, but just before they were to start, Barnabas became very ill. Julia was astonished. She knew that Barnabas could not, because of his vampirism, have human ailments. Yet the mysterious fever so ravaged him that Julia feared for his existence.
She suddenly realized that there could be only one explanation for Barnabas’ illness. Adam. She remembered the mysterious link which began to exist when Barnabas helped bring Adam to life. At the time Adam disappeared from Collinwood, they knew that if he died, Barnabas would, too. Julia knew she must find Adam, wherever he was. Adam must have the same fever. He had to be cured if Barnabas were to be saved.
Enlisting the aid of T. Eliot Stokes, she did find Adam — in the Far East. She managed to cure him, but in the course of the treatment, she contracted the illness herself. She was near death when Barnabas — well now — came to her. He realized how he loved her, and promised her that if she lived, they would marry.
They were married in Singapore. Barnabas felt they must never return to Collinsport. Angelique must not find them — for she would never allow Julia to live. So they stayed on. Julia began working with an Asian doctor and experimented with a new treatment which she was positive would take away the curse of Barnabas’ vampirism. They began the treatments. They were successful. Barnabas Collins at last could walk in the light of day — walk with the woman he loved, but walk with an ever present fear — a fear that Angelique would find them, and destroy the only happiness he had had in his life.
No audience will see those stories playing out. But for those for whom our characters were real, these are merely signposts pointing a direction the characters might have gone.
So: what do we make of that vision glimpsed through Sam Hall’s crystal ball?
Well, to begin with, it doesn’t sound a hell of a lot like Dark Shadows. These are all plausible futures for these characters, but if the show had continued, it certainly wouldn’t have been like this.
The most obvious difference between this text and a soap opera storyline is that most of the characters go off in different directions, away from Collinsport and each other. Sam makes sure to scatter as many people as he can on eternal, lonely journeys.
Barnabas and Julia go to Singapore, and can never return to Collinwood. Quentin is off on a vision quest to find Count Petofi and his magical unicorn. Carolyn goes away to college, Adam roams the world, Chris and Sabrina die, and Maggie and Joe settle into a happy household, at arm’s length from everyone else. The folks left at Collinwood are Elizabeth and her unnamed companion, Carolyn, Amy and probably David, with Roger’s ghost and the specter of Angelique hovering in the atmosphere.
On a soap opera, you can’t send the main characters off on their own like this; they need to stick around and interact with each other, in overlapping storylines that keep the narrative moving. There’s very little here that suggests ongoing stories; the one tale that’s narrated in detail is the aftermath of Roger’s death, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. This is not a blueprint for another year of storylines; it’s a collection of endings — some happy, some unhappy and some unresolved.
Carolyn going to college and becoming a psychic-research investigator is pleasingly appropriate, giving her a direction in life that’s grounded in her past experiences while getting her out of the rut that she’s in during 1970’s is-Sebastian-actually-Jeb storyline. Bringing Maggie home from the sanitarium and then back again to work there is an irresistible idea, as is reuniting her with Joe. And having Barnabas and Julia off traveling somewhere in Asia has given both Return to Collinwood and the Big Finish plays a way to explain the absence of Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall.
There are also a few threads that suggest a partial rejection of the 1970/1840 storyline, and its aftermath.
For one thing, Barnabas and Angelique’s momentous, tragic finale is completely ignored here. Angelique isn’t loved and lost, as she was when we last saw her; she’s still hanging around Collinwood and killing people. The text says that she “appeared” to Roger and killed him, which suggests that she’s a ghost, but then it says that Barnabas “learned from Angelique that Roger had discovered his secret,” which is unclear. Then we learn that Barnabas and Julia have to stay away from Collinwood so that Angelique won’t take revenge on Julia. There would be room here for Sam to acknowledge Barnabas’ last-minute realization that he loves Angelique, which only happened nine months ago on the show, but he doesn’t mention it, and suggests the opposite.
And then there’s Quentin’s love for Daphne, which he shouldn’t be feeling. The clear intention of the returning time travelers scene in episode 1198 is that the events leading up to the destruction of Collinwood never happened, thanks to the trio’s interference in the past, which should mean that Daphne and Gerard’s haunting never happened. But Quentin still remembers Daphne, and recognizes that “both she and Gerard were finally at peace.”
There’s also a conspicuous absence in the text: Hallie Stokes, who was living at Collinwood when we last set eyes on the place. Hallie isn’t mentioned in Sam’s piece, but Amy, the character that she replaced, gets a mother-daughter relationship with Carolyn.
And then there’s the blooper that Sam makes about Maggie’s trip to Windcliff: “Maggie Evans, who left Collinwood with Phillip, returned a year later, a divorced woman.” There’s two things going on here — first, it was Sebastian Shaw who took Maggie to the sanitarium, and more importantly, they weren’t getting married. I think that Sam is conflating the fictional event (Maggie going to Windcliff) with the actual real-world event (Kathryn Leigh Scott leaving the show to marry her fiancee).
And it’s remarkable that Sam clearly remembers why Joe went to Windcliff (“he left the sanitarium with no memory of Angelique…”), which happened in January 1969, but mixes up why Maggie went to Windcliff, which happened just a year ago, in September 1970.
When you put all of that together, I think that it indicates some real ambivalence on Sam’s part about the show’s final year. He is, unconsciously at least, erasing some of the show that he wrote, in order to replace it with references to earlier, happier times.
There’s a lot of 1968 and 1969 in this piece, more so than 1970. Adam, who could easily have been forgotten, shows up twice. Chris, Sabrina and Amy are back in play. It recalls Joe’s encounters with Angelique. Quentin turns away from Daphne, and goes in quest of Count Petofi instead. Barnabas is afraid of Angelique, and needs yet another cure for vampirism, as he did in 1968.
The way that I read this, it looks like Sam’s heart is in the show as it was when he loved this job, in 1968 and ’69 — when there was a real team of writers, Sam and Gordon and Violet and Joe, who talked and laughed and made up crazy stories together — before Dan sidetracked them with House of Dark Shadows, and before he had Sam and Gordon working as a two-person factory farm in 1970, churning out scripts that they didn’t care about anymore.
This TV Guide piece is not Dark Shadows as it really was, or as it would have been. This is Dark Shadows without deadlines and demands. It is Dark Shadows without Don Briscoe suddenly getting fired, and Kathryn Leigh Scott suddenly moving to Paris to get married. It’s Dark Shadows without a movie script to work on, without the constant fear that you’ll run out of ideas, without the need to calculate how many actors you can afford, and how many sets you can have up at the same time.
It is, essentially, Dark Shadows without Dark Shadows — which at this point, I’m afraid, is the only option available.
Tomorrow: A Duel’s House.
Kosmo13 posted in the comments that there was another, parody version of this concept published in June 1971 (two months after the show ended, four months before Sam’s article). The article is called “Where have all the werewolves gone? An attempt to tie up the loose ends left by Dark Shadows“, and it’s based on a letter sent by a fan, asking questions about what happened to the characters. The questions were “answered” in a joking manner by a TV Guide editor who’d never watched the show. It’s pretty obnoxious and not funny, in line with the magazine’s dismissive review of Dark Shadows published in February 1969. Kosmo13 suggests that maybe fan letters criticizing this treatment was the inspiration for the magazine to ask Sam Hall to write his article, which is plausible.
— Danny Horn