Dark Shadows (1991)
Last time I covered recasting the roles of the main characters. This time, we'll take a look at some of the supporting characters, changes to the original storyline and speculate on where the new series could have gone had not NBC staked the show after only 12 hours of episodes.
Spoiler Level: Moderate to high
“A Sea of Familiar Faces…”
The larger budget and 90’s special effects allowed the Revival to accomplish things that were not possible on the daytime soap. In a major change from the soap, Joanna Going was able to play both Victoria Winters and Barnabas’s fiancee Josette Dupres. Originally, Josette was played by Katherine Leigh-Scott, who portrayed Maggie Evans, waitress at the Blue Whale in the present. She was a minor character and Katherine Leigh-Scott played Maggie more of a townsey, lower class bar girl.
She had a boyfriend, fisherman Joe Haskell, who worked for the Collins family shipping business (I believe) run by Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds). Joe was played by Joel Crothers who was in the original Broadway cast of The Boys In The Band, then by Pretender Michael T. Weiss. Over time, Maggie softened up, becoming close friends with Victoria Winters. When Barnabas Collins arrived on the scene and saw Maggie he thought her to be the reincarnation of Josette. In one of Barnabas’s earliest storylines, he captured Maggie Evans and kept her locked up in the mausoleum he had been released from. People were always getting trapped in that place…most notably David Collins who was bratty but nothing like the little terror he was when he was played by Joseph Gordon Levitt in the Revival. But with Victoria Winters being the central character of both series (though her role dwindled more and more on the soap), it made so much more sense that she be the reincarnation of Josette. While it has always been a little tricky to have an actor play a scene next to themselves, this feat was simply beyond what a 60’s soap opera could achieve. So the story was tweaked to have Victoria and Josette be the same actress for the Revival.
Another change for the better involved Jeremiah Collins. In the first episode of Dark Shadows The Original Series, Victoria arrived at the train station in Collinsport with a mysterious man named Burke Devlin who was secretly in town to settle a score with Roger Collins. Over the next months Burke and Victoria began seeing each other romantically until Burke is killed in an airplane accident. Anthony George (the second actor to play Burke) returned in the 1795 storyline as patriarch Joshua Collins’ brother, Jeremiah Collins. With Burke Devlin out of the picture for the Revival series, Adrian Paul, best known for his Highlander series, was introduced as Barnabas’ brother Jeremiah in the 1790 sequence. By now you may be wondering why the Revival changed from 1795 to 1790 and that is a mystery I don’t have an answer to other than perhaps it made for a nice round number of 200 years between Barnabas becoming a vampire and when he emerges in the present. But I think having Jeremiah as Barnabas’ brother rather than his uncle made for better drama since Angelique casts a spell to make Josette and Jeremiah fall in love with each other so she could have Barnabas to herself.
One final familial change which helped fill a gap and answer a burning question was the inclusion of a fourth child of Joshua and Naomi’s. We had Barnabas and his slightly younger brother, Jeremiah plus the much younger Sarah Collins and for the Revival we were also given Daniel Collins played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. The original series also had a Daniel Collins in 1795 which was also played by the present day David, David Hennesy. But on the old show, Daniel Collins was the young brother of cousin Millicent Collins who arrives for an arranged marriage with Jeremiah. Just how distant on the Collins family tree Millicent and Daniel were is not known but, again, making Daniel another child of Joshua and Naomi was a much cleaner explanation of how the Collins family continued to flourish after the events of 1790.
Although Adrian Paul, making his first appearance during the 1790 sequence, did not have a 1991 counterpart, I was able to speak to Adrian Paul at the West Coast 25th Anniversary Celebration and he told me that had the show continued he was to have played another important Dark Shadows character, Quentin Collins. David Selby, who went on to much more fame starring on the prime time soap Falcon Crest, originally played Quentin Collins who lived during the 1800’s (yep, another time travel story). As I recall, Quentin makes his first appearance as a ghost who makes contact with David Collins and his friend Amy through an old phonograph in one of the myriad rooms shut down in the great house of Collinwood. Later, Quentin returns as a werewolf. I think Dan Curtis would have used the ghost version of Quentin for the Revival but I’d like to hope they would have eventually done something with werewolves once the show had been on and established itself. Quentin wasn’t the first werewolf to appear on the show though. The first werewolf was Joe’s cousin Chris Jennings, Amy’s uncle (or was it brother?). Or was it Chris’s twin brother Tom? My memory of the old soap isn’t as fresh as it is for the Revival. Anyway, one brother was a werewolf and one was a vampire created by Angelique in the present (1967-68).
Time After Time
Dark Shadows TOS took an enormous risk with the 1795 storyline but the recasting of present day characters as ancestors and more of the Collins family helped to make it a hit. When Vickie was sent back into the past for about six months, the producers and the network thought it might blow up the show. It was a groundbreaking move, one which proved to be so much a success that during its five year run Dark Shadows used the plot device several more times…they traveled to the 1840’s, 1890’s, the “future” of 1970 and even into parallel time. Dark Shadows always found novel ways of doing time travel…a seance, I Ching, and other methods were employed–better than a lot of science fiction movies. For the 1991 Revival, the whole time trip happened over 6 episodes.
Just as Barnabas is about to kill Dr. Hoffman over the failed experiment, Sarah Collins finally appears to Barnabas and tells him, Julia and Willie that all their lives are in danger and that someone must come back. But before she can explain further the screaming ghost of Angelique appears. Later on, just as with the original show, a seance is held. Victoria holds the Collins Family History book and Sarah speaks through her, telling the group everyone at Collinwood will die unless someone goes back and tries to change things. The window flies open and the lights dim and when they come up Victoria is gone, replaced by a woman who Roger discovers from a note the woman had is Phyllis Wicke and has come to Collinwood to tutor the children. In the next episode, Victoria finds herself standing outside a very fresh looking Old House and meets Barnabas who finds her strikingly familiar. Victoria is accepted as the new governess by Joshua Collins (played by Dr. Woodard, Stephen Gierash) but not so much by Joshua’s sister, Abigail Collins (Julianne McCarthy-Mrs. Johnson). She is suspicious of the “strange” clothes Victoria is wearing. After being given one of Angelique’s old dresses, Abigail examines the washing label on Vickie’s dress. “What strange language be these?” she asks. Victoria explains the symbols mean “machine wash, luke warm, tumble dry” then Abigail sees the “metal stitchery” and Vickie tells her it’s a zipper and Abigail clutches her heart! Julianna McCarthy, who played Mrs. Johnson the house keeper in the present day Collins household, absolutely excels as Abigail Collins. We get another wonderful performance from Roy Thinnes as the Reverend Trask, a Cotton Mather style witch hunter whom Abigail takes Victoria’s dress to. Pointing out the “runic symbols” Abigail says “She could read it as easily as you read the words of the Lord”. The two make a perfect match and are responsible for Victoria being charged with witchcraft. The original Trask, Jerry Lacey, made his debut in the 1795 storyline and returned in the present and began dating Carolyn.
Angelique refuses to let go of her love for Barnabas. First she uses her power to make Ben Loomis do her bidding in a scene that reuses dialogue from the soap. Then she sets about causing Josette and Jeremiah to fall in love. They marry and attempt to leave Collinwood but Barnabas catches up with them and is challenged to a duel with his brother for the hand of Josette.
Barnabas is unable to kill his younger brother and instructs Peter Bradford (Michael T. Weis/Joe Haskell), who has fallen in love with Victoria, to leave the ball out of the pistol. But nearby Angelique is calling upon the spirits of the wind and casts a spell so that Barnabas winds up killing Jeremiah. “He is the only one I will ever love!” Josette proclaims to Barnabas. What follows is the origin of Barnabas which I actually didn’t think was done that well. The origin was a lot more interesting in the old soap but also would’ve required a lot more time to pull off as back then they had Barnabas and Angelique wed and all sorts of sub-plots. Ah, but you gotta love Squeaky the Bat who flew in and bit Barnabas. Whenever Squeaky was called in the stick holding him would often get caught on camera.
The rest of the Revival plays out pretty much like the original…except for one thing. Victoria discovers that she hasn’t been pulled back in time to change anything. It was Angelique who was trying to change things…by stranding Victoria in the past and destroying the future of the Collins family once and for all. Daniel Collins is the future of the Collins and he is dying of the same fever that killed little Sarah, his sister. Vickie uses her memory of a childhood incident to instruct Peter Bradford to put Daniel in the bath tub and cover him with as much ice as they can find and sheets drenched in alcohol.
After Peter gets the message to Collinwood he rushes back to try to save Victoria but he is too late. The noose is put around her neck, a hood over her head and the gallows’ floor falls out from underneath her. When they pull the body back up and remove the hood it is the body of Phyliss Wicke. Victoria wakes up back home at Collinwood in her own time. She’s a little disoriented at first…then she looks at Barnabas and her eyes grow wide with fright. The End.
But….what if it weren’t the end? Where would the show have gone? That’s the question I posed to a Face Book page on Dark Shadows. One speculation that got a few people behind it was the return of Angelique…in a black wig, calling herself Cassandra…and married to Roger Collins who goes off on a business trip and returns with a new wife. Of course we know who she is and Barnabas knows who she is. I think if they combined this with the most popular speculation–the return of the Phoenix, Laura Collins, David’s mother…they could have a really great story arc going. I think it would be great for Angelique/Cassandra to have this big, final battle of the witches with Angelique winning, of course. That’s the one thing I missed in the revival regarding Angelique…she’s a bad witch without a doubt but the original soap had the time to develop Angelique more and we got to see a softer, almost vulnerable side to her. Having her take out the Phoenix would be great. Some responders felt Vickie would have some kind of memory trouble or amnesia of what she discovered in the past. It’s very hard to think of the show moving forward with her knowing Barnabas’ secret. Some other people wanted to see more time travel which I’m not opposed to but I don’t think it should come too soon after the 1790 trip. Oh, and the people were definitely ready for Quentin to come on the scene, especially given what Adrian Paul had said. Given the set of circumstances we were left with in the present during the Revival series, I think they were moving further away from the Dark Shadows episodes that came after the 1790 adventure. We will never know where the show would have gone had it continued because, like, if it had we’d have that answer now, wouldn’t we? Time travel….*sigh*….
When it comes to Who did it best? The answer is: they both did. For me, Jonathan Frid will always be the definitive Barnabas Collins. I think the remake did a fantastic job of turning a 60’s daily 30 minute soap into a weekly prime time soap. I like how they tightened up many of the extraneous plots and focused on the meat of the story– Barnabas, Victoria, Josette and Angelique. I like how they did Barnabas origin in the old soap and I loved the characters of Abigail Collins and Reverend Trask in the remake. Joanna Going was the perfect find for Victoria Winters. But I miss Professor Stokes (Thayer David). I never did finish watching the old soap in spite of having all the episodes. I really must get around to that.
If you would like more information on all things Dark Shadows and more, you really should visit The Collinsport Historical Society.
Special thanks to The Dark Shows Appreciation Society on Face Book for their help.
NOTE: In the first part of this article, I erroneously referred to the Revival going back in time to 1791 when, in fact–and I knew this–it was in The Countess’ words “This is the year One thousand seven hundred and ninety” …be sure to read that in a French accident!
The amazing story of Victoria Winters, Barnabas, Josette and Angelique and the rest of the Collins family will live forever in my heart. I cannot say I look forward any further versions of the show. The unsold Dark Shadows pilot from 2004 (see above for the full pilot) and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's 2012 travesty of a film (in my opinion) has me feeling only Dan Curtis knew how to tell this story. And he's gone now. There was another pilot The CW was working on that did not make onto the fall schedule this year. Whether it was completed or simply passed on, I don't think The CW would be the right home for Dark Shadows with the network skewing toward the YA audience. Our revels now have ended. For now, at least.
Dark Shadows The Revival: Part Two-The Blueprint For A Perfect Remake
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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