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Every episode of Dark Shadows begins with a voice-over introduction, or opening narration, read by a member of the cast. The narration may provide a brief synopsis of the story thus far, or, as in many of the early episodes, simply set a mood, without giving any specifics about the ongoing story. The cast member reading the introduction, the narrator, is in most cases someone who appears in that episode. Accompanying the narration is composer Robert Cobert's incidental music piece, "Cue 76: Show Sub-Theme". (Entitled "Collinwood" on some soundtrack albums.)

In the first 270 episodes (1-274) the narrator is always Alexandra Moltke, who reads the narration in character as Victoria Winters, beginning every episode with the statement, "My name is Victoria Winters." In these first 270 episodes she is even the narrator in episodes in which she does not appear.

This changes beginning with episode 275, in which Nancy Barrett is the narrator. At this point in the series, the vampire Barnabas Collins, who was originally supposed to appear in a 13 week storyline which would end with his destruction, presumably by a wooden stake driven through his heart, has, thanks to his unexpected popularity, become a permanent part of the show and has replaced Victoria Winters as the main character. Since Dark Shadows is no longer the story of Victoria Winters, it is no longer necessary for Alexandra Moltke's character to introduce every episode. From now on, when Moltke does not appear in an episode, someone else will be the narrator. Moltke is also absent from 276, which is narrated by Kathryn Leigh Scott. The next two episodes without Moltke, 291 and 296, are narrated by Grayson Hall. Then Kathryn Leigh Scott narrates her second episode, 297, and Grayson Hall narrates 305, etc.

Also beginning with 275, the opening narrations are not in character, but are in the third person. Barrett, for example, does not introduce the show as Carolyn Stoddard. This includes Moltke's narrations. When Moltke returns as narrator in 277, she does not begin by saying, "My name is Victoria Winters," but is also a third person narrator.

The next change occurs in 332. Although Moltke appears in this episode, she is not the narrator, Grayson Hall is. From now on, Moltke is no longer the show's main narrator, but simply shares rotating narrator duties with other cast members. From 332 through her final episode, 627, Moltke narrates 73 episodes, which is still more than her fellow cast members.

The total number of episodes narrated by Moltke is 381 (270 as Victoria Winters and 111 in the third person), which is more than any other cast member. Grayson Hall ranks second with 159, followed by Nancy Barrett with 118, Kathryn Leigh Scott with 80, Joan Bennett with 76, and Lara Parker with 69. (Everyone else has less than 50.)

For a time the narrator is always a woman. (This results in Vala Clifton, an actress who appears in only three Dark Shadows episodes, having to narrate two of these episodes because she is the only woman in them.) 459 is the first episode narrated by a man, Thayer David. In this episode, the only woman is Rebecca Shaw, who only appears in this one episode, as an unnamed barmaid. Rather than let a "day player" narrate the episode, the task is given to one the the male actors. The second episode with a male narrator, also Thayer David, is 527. Alexandra Moltke is also in this episode, so this time the role of narrator is not given to a man out of necessity. Although from now on men will also take turns as narrator, the majority of episodes will still be narrated by women. Only 264 of the 705 episodes from 527 through 1245 have male narrators. The man who narrates the most episodes is David Selby, with 47 (putting him in 7th place after Alexandra Moltke, Grayson Hall, Nancy Barrett, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Joan Bennett and Lara Parker), closely followed by Thayer David with 46, then Louis Edmonds with 33, and John Karlen with 25. (Every other man has less than 20.)

In all but two episodes from 275-1245, the narrator is always a member of that episode's cast. The exceptions are 1079 and 1082. The narrator of these episodes is an unidentified man, who does not sound like anyone who has ever appeared in a Dark Shadows episode. (It's the same man in both episodes.)

1219 is one of two episodes with two different narrators. The videotape of 1219 has been lost, and no kinescope copy exists, so the episode had to be reconstructed from a fan's audio recording and from stills from other episodes. New footage was added of Lara Parker, who hosts the episode. In an introduction she explains the reconstruction process and, because of the audio recording's poor quality, provides a running synopsis throughout the episode. The fan's audio recording begins in the middle of actor Keith Prentice's opening narration. Because the original narration is incomplete, it is unheard in the reconstruction. Instead, Lara Parker reads the opening narration. (The script for the episode has also survived.)

The final episode, 1245, also has two narrators. The show begins with Grayson Hall reading the opening narration and concludes with Thayer David reading a closing narration. 1245 is the only episode with a closing narration.

The episode with the longest opening narration is 461. In every episode the narration is heard during the "teaser" sequence which precedes the opening title. 461 is the only episode in which the narration briefly resumes after the opening title.

Narration is also used in the 1991 revival series, the unaired 2004 WB pilot, the 2012 Tim Burton film, and the Big Finish audio dramas.

Following is a list of cast members who have served as narrator in the original series. It is in chronological order, according to the first episode narrated by the cast member.

Alexandra Moltke (381 episodes) Edit

1-108, 111-130, 132-224, 225/226, 227-274

  • as 3rd person narrator (111 episodes)

277-290, 292-295, 298-304, 306, 307, 309, 311, 312, 313, 315, 316, 320, 324-327, 334, 336, 338, 343-347, 349, 352, 353, 354, 364, 365, 371, 373, 379, 389, 398-401, 404, 408, 412, 416, 421, 427, 433, 436, 437, 452-456, 458, 460, 462, 465, 470, 471, 473, 474, 476, 478, 479, 482, 487, 490, 504, 509, 517, 519, 523, 525, 526, 531, 539, 547, 550, 552, 565, 567, 575, 576, 579, 583, 585, 603, 620, 622, 624, 626

Nancy Barrett (118 episodes) Edit

275, 310, 356, 357, 359, 361, 362, 377, 403, 415, 419, 420, 428, 447, 449, 450, 451, 457, 461, 463, 468, 477, 499, 501, 502, 505, 534, 536, 542, 545, 549, 551, 553, 555, 577, 581, 586, 588, 589, 591, 592, 601, 609, 635, 640, 642, 659, 667, 668, 671, 681, 684, 687, 693, 727, 738, 742, 753, 756, 767, 773, 781, 786, 799, 804, 805, 808, 818, 829, 833, 845, 855, 860, 866, 869, 872, 873, 874, 881, 886-890, 897, 899, 919/920/921, 929, 948, 949, 953, 959, 962, 972, 975, 989, 1011, 1017, 1035, 1042, 1046, 1048, 1062, 1064, 1068, 1074, 1080, 1081, 1097, 1101, 1105, 1130, 1174/1175, 1189, 1190, 1214, 1215, 1241

Kathryn Leigh Scott (80 episodes) Edit

276, 297, 319, 321, 322, 323, 342, 360, 370, 374, 378, 383, 384, 388, 392, 406, 410, 417, 418, 430, 483, 488, 497, 518, 524, 529, 541, 559, 563, 572, 573, 584, 587, 593, 598, 599, 608, 611, 616, 630, 632, 652/653, 656, 670, 679, 688, 689, 695, 699, 707, 709, 714, 717, 722, 732, 751, 852, 854, 870, 892, 908, 924, 927, 939, 941, 955, 965, 973, 981, 1037, 1051, 1054, 1056, 1060, 1073, 1077, 1090, 1093, 1100, 1108

Grayson Hall (159 episodes) Edit

291, 296, 305, 308, 314, 317, 318, 328, 329, 330, 332, 333, 340, 341, 350, 351, 358, 363, 375, 386, 393, 422, 423, 425, 443, 464, 466, 469, 472, 484, 494, 496, 500, 503, 507, 511, 512, 515, 521, 522, 544, 554, 557, 558, 561, 568, 569, 580, 582, 595, 597, 604, 606, 613, 618, 619, 627, 628, 633/634, 637, 638, 639, 649, 651, 654, 661, 672-675, 677, 698, 702, 706, 708, 713, 715, 718, 733, 745, 746, 748, 752, 757, 759, 763, 765, 778, 783, 784, 787, 788, 810, 815, 819, 835, 839, 847, 849, 856, 885, 896, 898, 900, 903, 905, 907, 909, 912, 922, 923, 930, 931, 933, 934, 937, 943, 951, 952, 957, 963, 969, 977, 982, 984, 985, 1007, 1015, 1019, 1024, 1025, 1026, 1031, 1034, 1038, 1041, 1045, 1052, 1078, 1087, 1089, 1107, 1114, 1148, 1168, 1172, 1176, 1187, 1191, 1203, 1223, 1224, 1229, 1234, 1238, 1242, 1243, 1244, 1245 (opening narration)

Joan Bennett (76 episodes) Edit

331, 335, 337, 339, 348, 366, 367, 368/369, 376, 382, 395, 397, 402, 407, 409, 413, 414, 424, 426, 432, 434, 438, 441, 444, 445, 446, 448, 467, 491, 495, 506, 513, 514, 520, 610, 614, 617, 629, 641, 644, 645, 646, 655, 685, 686, 694, 703, 704, 705, 716, 719, 723, 739, 744, 758, 764, 766, 768, 771, 774, 785, 861, 862, 878, 879, 884, 894/895, 911, 913/914, 936, 945, 966, 968, 1088, 1126, 1179/1180

Clarice Blackburn (22 episodes) Edit

355, 385, 394, 429, 431, 442, 486, 489, 492, 493, 612, 669, 676, 680, 691, 762, 772, 789, 790, 917, 1061, 1104

Lara Parker (69 episodes) Edit

372, 380, 381, 387, 390/391, 396, 405, 411, 435, 475, 480, 481, 485, 498, 508, 510, 516, 528, 530, 532/533, 535, 537, 538, 543, 556, 560, 574, 605, 607, 615, 711, 721, 779, 792, 795, 828, 831, 836, 838, 842, 858, 864, 867, 871, 882, 940, 944, 947, 954, 996, 1008, 1012, 1013, 1023, 1029, 1036, 1049, 1129, 1143, 1144, 1169, 1173, 1177, 1195, 1199, 1210, 1219 (reconstruction), 1236, 1240

Vala Clifton (2 episodes) Edit

439, 440

Thayer David (1st male narrator; 46 episodes) Edit

459, 527, 596, 636, 660, 662-666, 682, 700, 701, 710, 724, 725, 740, 794, 800, 823/824, 825, 826, 832, 843, 844, 853, 865, 875, 876, 910, 928, 1030, 1039, 1047, 1058, 1059, 1065, 1067, 1070, 1072, 1083, 1084, 1111, 1113, 1198, 1245 (closing narration)

John Karlen (25 episodes) Edit

540, 564, 566, 570, 590, 696, 956, 971, 1020, 1043, 1044, 1120, 1122, 1160, 1162, 1163, 1165, 1196, 1202, 1207/1208, 1216, 1225, 1227, 1233, 1239

Louis Edmonds (33 episodes) Edit

546, 578, 623, 625, 643, 697, 730, 731, 749, 760, 770, 775, 776, 793, 834, 837, 846, 857, 859, 863, 868, 925, 958, 960, 970, 976, 979, 1040, 1050, 1053, 1118, 1145, 1231

Humbert Allen Astredo (12 episodes) Edit

548, 562, 594, 621, 791, 801/802, 978, 1157, 1161, 1178, 1185, 1194

Don Briscoe (11 episodes) Edit

571, 657, 678, 683, 690, 692, 734, 736, 820, 974, 983

Marie Wallace (9 episodes) Edit

600, 602, 720, 891, 893, 901, 915, 926, 961

Betsy Durkin (1 episode) Edit

631

Cavada Humphrey (2 episodes) Edit

647, 648

Roger Davis (9 episodes) Edit

650, 712, 737, 743, 806, 848, 850, 851, 883

Vince O'Brien (1 episode) Edit

658

David Selby (47 episodes) Edit

726, 728, 729, 741, 747, 761, 780, 796, 798, 814, 816, 840, 877, 880, 916, 918, 935, 964, 990, 991, 999, 1018, 1021, 1069, 1071, 1075, 1076, 1085, 1086, 1096, 1098, 1099, 1102, 1103, 1123, 1132, 1136, 1140, 1142, 1201, 1204, 1209, 1211, 1212, 1220, 1222, 1230

Jerry Lacy (19 episodes) Edit

735, 782, 809, 811, 812, 822, 830, 1000, 1001, 1004, 1124, 1133, 1138, 1139, 1149, 1152, 1167, 1171, 1197

Terry Crawford (7 episodes) Edit

750, 754, 769, 797, 803, 817, 841

Diana Millay (1 episode) Edit

755

Kay Frye (1 episode) Edit

777

Jonathan Frid (12 episodes) Edit

807, 821, 827, 904, 950, 980, 1186, 1200, 1205, 1228, 1232, 1235

Michael Stroka (4 episodes) Edit

813, 986, 992, 994

Dennis Patrick (2 episodes) Edit

902, 906

Emory Bass (1 episode) Edit

932

Peter Lombard (1 episode) Edit

938

Ed Riley (1 episode) Edit

942

Geoffrey Scott (1 episode) Edit

946

Christopher Bernau (1 episode) Edit

967

Christopher Pennock (12 episodes) Edit

987, 1014, 1016, 1022, 1027, 1032, 1094, 1106, 1128, 1154/1155, 1159, 1226

John Harkins (2 episodes) Edit

988, 1006

Paula Laurence (2 episodes) Edit

993, 1003

Lisa Richards (5 episodes) Edit

995, 997, 998, 1002, 1033

Jared Holmes (1 episode) Edit

1005

Ken McEwen (1 episode) Edit

1009

Elizabeth Eis (1 episode) Edit

1010

Ray Carlson (1 episode) Edit

1028

Brian Sturdivant (1 episode) Edit

1055

Collin Hamilton (1 episode) Edit

1057

Don Crabtree (1 episode) Edit

1063

James Storm (11 episodes) Edit

1066, 1109, 1125, 1127, 1134/1135, 1137, 1151, 1181, 1184, 1192, 1193

Unidentified male voice (2 episodes) Edit

The same voice in both episodes; does not sound like anyone who has ever appeared in a Dark Shadows episode, and thus far has remained unidentified by fans.
1079, 1082

David Henesy (3 episodes) Edit

1091, 1092, 1095

Virginia Vestoff (10 episodes) Edit

1110, 1112, 1115, 1116, 1117, 1119, 1147, 1156, 1183, 1188

Kate Jackson (13 episodes) Edit

1121, 1141, 1146, 1150, 1153, 1158, 1164, 1166, 1170, 1182, 1213, 1217, 1221

Norman Parker (1 episode) Edit

1131

Mary Cooper (2 episodes) Edit

1206, 1218

Keith Prentice (2 episodes) Edit

1219 (original), 1237

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