Dark Shadows was a Soap Opera which ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. While the show had Gothic themes from the very beginning, it was not until six months into the first season when it gained notoriety by introducing overtly supernatural elements.
Though many soaps have since flirted with plots involving ghosts and psychic energy, Dark Shadows used almost every classic horror element (vampires, werewolves, zombies, magic users) as well as sci-fi tropes like Time Travel and alternate dimensions.
The show was also notable for having storylines taking place in different time periods and parallel worlds, allowing the same actors to play identical relatives or lookalikes.
Dark Shadows has been an inspiration for numerous other supernatural series, including Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One plotline even involved a vampire who gives an extended interview about the supernatural to a hack writer.
The show's musical score was considered notable, receiving a Grammy nomination and spawning a top 20 Billboard hit in addition to several soundtrack albums.
Dark Shadows is one of the only soaps of the era to boast a nearly complete archive. All but one episode survives intact, most as the original color videotapes, with a handful as black-and-white kinescopes. (An audio track exists for the "missing" episode, which was mated with publicity stills for later commercial release and syndication.)
There was a short-lived television remake in The '90s, as well as a still ongoing Big Finish Audio Play series. A Tim Burton movie version came out in 2012, with Johnny Depp portraying Barnabas Collins.
Needs a character page.
Dark Shadows provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: Victoria's parentage, once the Driving Question, was left unresolved once Alexandra Moltke left the show. Word of God says: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is her mother.
- Anachronism Stew: Oddly enough for a show not only set, but created, in The '60s, the series, with few exceptions, seems to be almost completely oblivious to technological and social changes, particularly after the first season or two. The aversion of this trope by The Movie makes this glaringly obvious.
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: An inversion, as the Leviathans aren't allowed to use lethal force on humans.
- Artistic License Biology: After Barnabas feeds on Willie for the first time, a doctor examines Willie and declares his arm to have been "completely drained of blood."
- Back from the Dead: It's a soap, so pretty much everyone. Angelique deserves special mention, though, due to sheer persistence, even travelling forwards and backwards through time to do so.
- Betty and Veronica:
- Barnabas Collins is torn between the memory of his fiancée, Josette du Pres, a Betty type, and the Veronica type (to the max) his ex-wife Angelique, the witch who gave him the vampire curse. At the end he gets over his torch for Josette, and avows to Angelique that he loves her. She is then killed, and Barnabas ends up with neither.
- Sam Hall in an article in TV Guide claimed that, had the show continued, Barnabas would have married Julia and found his cure to turn him human. Both would have ended up living in the Far East. There's a casual reference to their journey together away from the family danger in Return to Collinwood.
- Burn the Witch!: Averted. Those sentenced to death for witchcraft are either hanged or beheaded. Laura tries to burn Angelique, but Angelique gets better.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Gold Key Comics kept the exploits of Barnabas going for several years after the series ended. The 1991 remake also got a short-lived comic version.
- Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Barnabas tried to turn Maggie into this and failed. He also attempted it with other love interests, even though they didn't resemble Josette.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- As noted above, there were no supernatural themes when the show premiered.
- In the pre-Barnabas episodes from 1966-67, instead of fading out into the opening titles, it cuts to the opening titles.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: At the beginning of every episode in order to attempt to set a gothic mood. Originally done by Victoria, but others started joining in especially after she left the show.Vicki: My name is Victoria Winters...
Audience: WE KNOW!!!!
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Barnabas, after significant character development. In one of the better done sequences, we see Barnabas Collins the man regain the upper hand over Barnabas the Monster, when he refuses to be party to murdering a man to gain freedom from his curse.
- 5 * Genre Launch: For the Supernatural Soap Opera.
- Ghost Story: Barnabas telling Vicky and Carolyn how Josette died. That he did it during a thunderstorm with the power out was a nice touch.
- HeelFace Turn: Barnabas, initially an Expy of Dracula, became a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire. Quentin II was originally an evil ghost who terrorized David and Amy. When his death was prevented, he became one of the main protagonists.
- I Have Your Beloved: Subverted in the Leviathan arc, when the Leviathans claim to be holding Josette hostage to pressure Barnabas to carry out their schemes. When a seance is held to contact Josette, she assures them that she knows of no Leviathans.
- Identical Grandson: Unsurprising, since actors often played different characters within the same time period.
- Jekyll & Hyde: Literally, in one of the Mad Scientist plotlines... mild-mannered lab rat Cyrus Longworth took a potion that turned him into aggressive psycho John Yeager.
- Kill 'em All: The 1795 storyline comes damn close, given that the writers were essentially just playing around with a whole new cast of characters they wouldn't have to worry about after the storyline ended. Pretty much the only thing stopping them from truly killing everyone was that someone needed to live to provide future generations of the Collins family.
- Lampshade Hanging: Unintentional. Louis Edmonds once flubbed a line, referring to his character's ancestors as "incestors." See My Own Grampa below.
- "London Bridge" for Sarah.
- Both music box tunes for Josette.
- "Ode to Angelique" in both the 1970 parallel time plot and the film Night of Dark Shadows.
- The theme referred to as "Joanna" on most soundtracks was also (over) used in Night of Dark Shadows in scenes featuring Kate Jackson's character Tracy.
- Quentin's gramophone song. Not only is it a plot point at times, but in the Big Finish drama The House of Despair he and Angelique discuss why it fits him.
- Love Transcends Spacetime: Peter Bradford follows time-traveling governess Victoria Winters from 1795 to 1968, based entirely on the strength of his love forever. Immediately following their wedding, Vicki and Peter disappear, returning to the 1790s for an off-screen life together.
- The Movie: House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, neither of which took place in the main continuity despite featuring the same actors. House was a more grisly retelling of the introduction of Barnabas, whereas Night was barely connected at all, essentially retconning all characters and lore for a new story.
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: Originally aimed at women like most soap operas, but its supernatural plotlines soon attracted a lot of young monster-movie fans as well.
- My Own Grampa: Almost. Laura, a phoenix who was reincarnated every few decades, ended up married to her own biological grandson. Never mentioned in the show, either due to censorship or the writers not having the best grasp on the continuity.
- Never My Fault: Matthew Morgan claims that he doesn't want to kill Vicki, but she forced him into it. Naturally, she calls him on this.
- Never Sleep Again: Inverted in an arc where a character turns into a werewolf and kills people in his sleep. He is able to trap his curse in a portrait, but needs to stay awake until it is finished.
- New Era Speech: Although not a speech, in the 1840 storyline, Gabriel warns Barnabas that, with Daniel dead and Quentin in jail, there will be a "new régime" at Collinwood. Gabriel's right as far as it goes — only he will have no part in it; according to Daniel's will, Gerard is to hold Collinwood in trust for Tad until he comes of age, and Gabriel will be killed a few episodes later.
- Normally, I Would Be Dead Now:
- Hardly surprising, given the number of supernatural characters, but a special shout out has to go to the human Julia, who survives being attacked and drained by two separate vampires, shot in the chest with a pistol, poisoned, barricaded in a remote location and left to starve and possessed by a malevolent spirit who drains her life force when Barnabas attempts to sever the connection.
- Inverted in the case of Angelique, the immortal witch, who rescinds her powers in the 1840 storyline and is felled by a bullet to the chest two days later.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: The word "vampire" is used pretty rarely, not showing up at all until the 1795 storyline when Angelique explains her curse to Ben. This makes the scene where Barnabas reveals himself to his father by shouting "I am a vampire!" quite shocking and moving.
- Outside-Genre Foe: Barnabas. Before he shows up, the only other paranormal thing in town is Josette, whom every other character believes is a figment of David's imagination. Throughout all the investigation of the mysterious puncture wounds that show up on the necks of Loomis, Maggie, and assorted cattle, no one so much as utters the word vampire, even in jest, as though they don't know what one is.
- Panty Shot:
- In one scene an unconscious Maggie is carried by another character. Her skirt is so short that we catch a glimpse of her underwear.
- When Carolyn was knocked out by the Leviathans and spent the rest of the episode on a bed with her legs spread towards the camera.
- Pendulum of Death: In episodes 795 and 796 ("The Pits" and "Death and Taxes") Aristede straps Quentin to a table beneath a slowly descending swinging axe blade as he attempts to extort the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi from Angelique.
- Recycled Soundtrack: Not only did the series re-use its music, House of Dark Shadows was also almost entirely reliant upon the show's recordings. Night of Dark Shadows, though also featuring a Recycled Soundtrack, had more original music written for it.
- Running Gag: Reverend Trask and his grandson, Gregory, both get bricked.
- Although the big guy himself appears in only two episodes in the series, during the Nicholas Blair arc, he serves as a Greater-Scope Villain, being behind such figures as Angelique, Nicholas Blair, Judah Zachery, and, according to Word of God, the Leviathans.
- Evan and Quentin attempt to summon him in 1897.
- Scarpia Ultimatum:
- Levelled against Barnabas by (who else) Angelique. She actually uses this twice: once she makes him marry her if she saves his sister (whose pains Angelique caused for exactly this purpose), and once they are married, she threatens Josette's life to keep Barnabas acting as a "faithful husband." When he tries to remove Josette from danger, the threat is simply expanded to his family.
- During the 1897 arc, she uses this against Quentin as well. She persuades him to marry her in exchange for healing Jamison from Petofi's spells. Later, when Quentin reneges and tries to pursue Amanda Harris, Angelique threatens Amanda to keep him in Collinsport.
- Security Cling: Done wordlessly by Daphne and the possessed David and Hallie, when Gerard who is really Judah Zachery, kills them.
- Series Continuity Error: A few, including:
- During his earliest episodes, it's clear that Barnabas was supposed to be from the 1830's, rather than the 1790's.
- Originally, Dr. Hoffman was supposed to be male, and was referred to as such shortly before her first appearance.
- Similarly, Amy's original name was Molly.
- After Vicki's return, Elizabeth referred to Daniel as her great-great-grandfather. Later episodes would reveal that he is, in fact, her great-great-great-grandfather.
- The Show Must Go On: Numerous times:
- Barnabas's heart-wrenching dramatic pauses were reportedly just Jonathan Frid forgetting his lines.
- Frid accidentally walked in on the end credits while carrying everyone's coats...
- The camera once caught Frid quite visibly picking his nose when he thought the camera was pointed on Robert Rodan and Betsy Durkin.
- Given that the show was "live" because at the time editing costs were off the chart there are really too many to list from bugs flying around actor's heads to people tripping. In a rare instance Frid managed to get them to edit an particularly bad gaffe on his part by agreeing to waive a bonus owed for working extra late on an episode.
- Plus, the very first thing the show ever aired: The ABC announcer saying in an irritated tone, "Okay, I'm here. What do you want me to do?" (pause) "I can't see the slate!" He then proceeds to read the episode number as usual.
- In one of the better-done dramatic moments of the series, when the witch Angelique is face-to-face with the newly risen vampire Barnabas, alone and cornered by the monster she has created, simultaneously grief-stricken, terrified, and even remorseful, as Barnabas realizes the true horror of his new status, we see a stage hand realize that he is in the camera view-zone...
- Maggie mysteriously receives a pair of expensive earrings. Joe and her start fighting about her wearing them... And one falls out, causing the two to continue to have the argument while one of them is missing. Kathryn Leigh Scott attempts to hide it with her hand but it's obvious.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: To save the present family from the ghost of Quentin Collins, Barnabas travels back to 1897 to save the living Quentin. Once he returns, the family, especially Amy and David, still has memories of Quentin's ghost, despite the fact that, with history changed, Quentin is now still alive and has lived away from Collinsport for decades.
- Title Drop: Near the beginning of Collection 3.Vicki: Barnabas likes this house more than you do.Burke: Yeah, all the darkness and the shadows...
- An exact title drop is given during the 1840 storyline.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- At one point in the 1795 flashback, Jeremiah Collins buries Angelique alive because her hypnotizing him into marrying Josette led to his death. So where the hell was he when Angelique cursed his cousin with vampirism, which in turn led to practically his whole family being wiped out?
- He's returned to the grave by Angelique in the very next episode, so absent from subsequent events.
- Whole Plot Reference: Several StoryArcs were taken whole hog from classic horror fiction; The Turn of the Screw, The Lottery, H. P. Lovecraft, etc.
- Woman Scorned: It's heavily implied that Barnabas and Angelique had sex. It was before he became engaged to Josette, but Angelique still got the short end of the stick. These events were the catalyst for Angelique's hatred for the Collins family.