Thursday, 5 June 2014

Dark Shadows

The Death Mask: Inspired by Joe Lidster's beginners guide to Dark Shadows on the Big Finish forum I have decided to give this much praised by those who like them but rarely discussed by the masses series a listen in stages to see what all the fuss is about. What really struck about this release in particular was two names that I didn't recognise from the world of Doctor Who audio as the writer and director. Given the same names keep cropping up ad nauseum in the Big Finish world (for good or for ill) it is the ultimate refreshment to enjoy an audio and have absolutely no expectations of what I am about to listen to. So the big questions The Death Mask any good? Yes it is. If you are a fan of the murder mystery genre then you certainly wont be disappointed by the first tryst between Tony and Cassandra on audio, it has all the ingredients of a really solid Christie with a delicious supernatural twist. The suspects are well drawn and the setting claustrophobic and atmospheric and the story gains momentum as the suspects are slowly whittled down, And Then There Were None style. The central mystery is good but what really draws the attention is the relationship between Tony and Cassandra, their history in the TV series integrated into the story so we can concisely catch up with their back story. I had no idea who these characters were before I started listening but I know I feel as though I have known them for some time and the frisson between ensures things are never quiet. He's a bored lawyer looking to be a gumshoe, she's a no-nonsense witch who has a violent way of cutting to the chase. I enjoyed the suggestion that they might come together for further oddball investigations. Reminding me pleasingly of both the Sapphire and Steel (supernatural mystery) and Dorian Gray (period drama, well drawn characters) ranges, my first venture into Dark Shadows is a great success. More please: 8/10

Full Review Here:
Buy it from Big Finish here:

The Voodoo Amulet: New Orleans is a city I have always wanted to visit, to bask in the decaying atmosphere of the architecture and get caught up in the fascination with the undead. It is a location that I always get excited about when it features in books, novels and audios (it surprises me that Doctor Who has steered clear of it, City of the Dead aside) and seems to come with an atmosphere thick with dread. Perfect for a tale of zombies coming to life and pursuing Tony and Cassandra through the streets. It is a credit to Passmore that he has written another story for duo which is world away from their first encounter on audio. Directors Gross & Goss and in particular sound designer Nigel Fairs deserve a great amount of kudos for the evocating soundscape. Tony and Cassandra cover a lot of ground in this story and you will feel as if you have taken in the sights along with them. The focus is much more on Cassandra and her chequered past this time around and it proves a fascinating back story which explains why she is so cynical about the world now, lonely and vulnerable (however if this all played in the TV series I would love to see it!). Her relationship with Tony deepens as a result of her opening out and I was more invested in their future because of it. I'm glad that the character work and the setting were so evocative because zombies stories aren't among my favourites (I think I might be the only person who doesn't like Shaun of the Dead) but to my relief this is less about eating brains and more a pacy jaunt around an intoxicating city with some flesh eating terrors thrown in to add some action. Intelligently written and well realised, only the odd dodgy accent really jars: 8/10

Full Review Here:
Buy it from Big Finish here:

The Last Stop: 'All men have a price!' A fantastic script courtesy of David Llewellyn with line after line of great dialogue, The Last Stop is a terrific treatise on making the right choices in life and avoiding temptation. Go and check out my reviews of The Nowhere Place, Sapphire & Steel: The Passenger and Gallifrey: A Blind Eye - I just adore stories that are set on trains. They come with a built in atmosphere and self perpetuating character tales - everybody on a train is going somewhere for a reason. Ever hear the song The Gambler? Two strangers meet on a night train and one tells a story that touches something inside the other. There is a whiff of that about The Last Stop, a chilling tale that is dramatically presented as stories within stories. If I went through what Tony does on the night from Boston I doubt I would ever step foot on locomotive again. An endless journey, haunted by whispering wraiths that steal conductors out into the night. Pursued and analysed by a sinister old timer who seems to know his entire life story. Tony is trapped in his own personal hell and it turns into a therapy session of the most revealing and disturbing kind. As good as Tony Peterson is as Tony, W Morgan Sheppard is a revelation as Lou, a genuinely frightening piece of work who is likely to give you nightmares after your listen. Would you be bewitched into joining the Devil on his crusade? What would your price be? Terrific stuff, but don't listen to this one with the lights out: 9/10

Full Review Here:
Buy it from Big Finish here:

The Phantom Bride: The Phantom Bride reminded me of both Doctor Who's Curse of the Black Spot (a ghostly figure stalking a ship at sea) and Buffy's I Will Always Love You (a tragedy from the past being re-enacted by characters from the present). Fortunately it is much better than the former (an average Doctor Who romp at best) and almost on par with the latter (it doesn't quite have the same emotional punch). The Tony/Cassandra relationship is given a great deal of focus, a common trait of Passmore's scrripts and it feels like they are closer than ever by the climax despite Cassandra's rebuff of Tony's advances. It's a fairly engaging mystery with one or two surprises up its sleeve but I have to say it doesn't have the fear factor that the first three Dark Shadows had up their sleeves which means that whilst I was entertained, I wasn't wholly satisfied. Passmore works in a number of clich├ęs inherent in this kind of story but manages to give them a new spin and the whole piece skips by at a fair old lick. What's clear from The Phantom Bride is that the Tony and Cassandra relationship is a strong enough one to ensure a great deal of entertainment, even if the central narrative isn't quite gelling. I wonder how much longer Cassandra can enjoy this frolicsome life living as a human being and having adventures...there is a strong hint in this story that all of this frivolity is about to be torn away from her and she will be made to pay. I wanted to be properly spooked by the latest instalment (the blurb seemed to promise as much) but it was a story that got me thinking more than quaking: 7/10

Full Review Here:
Buy it from Big Finish here:

The House by the Sea written by James Goss and directed by Joseph Lidster

Result: Flesh creeping terror brought to courtesy of Colin Baker, James Goss and Joe Lidster. Let's deal with each of these individuals in turn. Baker is one of the shining stars of Big Finish, a man who has taken his scant reputation with the majority of Doctor Who fans and has managed to become the most popular actor to play the role in this medium. He tackles The House by the Sea with unrestrained gusto, giving an extraordinary performance that tops some of his very best in the Doctor Who range. He kept me on tenterhooks throughout. James Goss is slowly becoming the most reliable pair of hands writing for Big Finish, his works have all been gripping, surprising and really get under the skin of the characters in an intimate way. The House by the Sea is magnificently written and characterised with some deft and chilling moments. There wasn't one point where Goss wasn't leading me on like a dog hankering for a stick. Finally we have Joe Lidster, the man responsible for this range and who encouraged me to give it a try. I'm truly pleased that he did. I have been hankering on about missing his subversive style of storytelling in the main range for some time now but what I didn't realise was just how skilful he would turn out to be in the directors chair. As a piece of audio, this is a fantastic piece of work with some stunning editing that had me lurching for the light switch as I sat here listening in the near dark. It's very easy to assault the listener with a variety of scary noises but it takes much more skill to send subtle goosebumps up the spine, to make you feel as if there is somebody in the room behind you, to make you wonder if those sound effects are in your headphones or somewhere in the far distance... Lidster has a bright future ahead of him in the directors chair if this is the sort of horror he can produce on audio. This is a slow burn mystery that gets under your skin and sinks deeper as the mystery thickens and the terrors emerge. This is exactly the sort of bone gnawing dread that I expected to experience with The Phantom Bride and its ghostly apparitions but there are number of important differences. The House by the Sea is an intensely personal experience and told from the point of view of somebody teetering on the edge of a breakdown, the attacks are far more subtle and thus make much more of an impact and the direction truly pulls you into the mystery of the house, allowing us to experience Gerald's foolishness along with him. That mixture of visceral thrills and psychological terror is a winning, horrific formula. Definitely do not listen to this one in the dark. You might just cack your pants. The ending is unforgettable: 10/10

The Devil Cat written by Mark Thomas Passmore and directed by David Darlington & Darren Gross

Result: 'We never finished our dance...' A delightful departure from the norm for the Tony & Cassandra thread of Dark Shadows, this is a satisfying hybrid of Agatha Christie and supernatural horror set in rural England. Mix together old family wounds, a dotty old spinster with an eye for detail, the developing relationship between the leads, a supernatural feline that has developed a mythology of its own and some seriously dodgy cult action you have a hugely entertaining adventure to enjoy. One that traverses genres with some skill. I knew with a title like that there would be at least one sequence with hissing, squealing cats and I was dreading angry cat attacking is one of the most terrifying things imaginable (the most frightening moment in Ghostwatch is the climax with the chorus of angry moggies). I have two cats thank you very much Mr Passmore for making me eye them suspiciously tonight! What really satisfied me though was the consummation of Tony and Cassandra's relationship. Dangerous events seem to bring them closer together and they have now confessed their feelings for each other. The story itself deserves a solid 8 but because of the dramatic last minute developments that threatens to tear the two lovers apart forever, I award The Devil Cat two thumbs up in the form of: 9/10

Beneath the Veil written by Kymberly Ashman and directed by Darren Gross, David Darlington & Jim Person

Result: 'Would you like to see beneath the veil?' A smart piece that asks questions about murder, jealousy and life after death that is slightly hampered by two leads that display enough smugness for you to want them to reach an uncomfortable end. I didn't find either Alfie or Emma especially affable and so I couldn't really sympathise with their plight when old woman Evans started to pressing their buttons and exploiting the flaws in their relationship. Kymberly Ashman's script however deserves a great deal of kudos, for not only straying into some psychologically uncomfortable areas and pondering on some of the darker aspects of humanity but also giving the listener a great deal to ponder on once the story is over. The direction is strong too, providing some chilling moments and atmospheric sound effects. As a package it is a very satisfying story and you might even say that Alfie and Emma are deliberately ill-characterised so you are forced into the disquieting position of wanting unpleasant things to happen to them. There might be an element of that but that doesn't stop them from being a bothersome pair; ill-mannered, jealous and with some pretty unusual fixations. I certainly wouldn't want to spend any more time in their company as they are portrayed at the beginning of this tale and fortunately they undergo quite the transition before the end. A huge plus is how this story dovetails into another of the Dark Shadows entries and the extra dimensions it gives that. All told, this is another confident and creepy story and I would recommend it to anybody looking to push the boundaries a bit. The open ending suggests more horror to come: 8/10

The Enemy Within written by Will Howells and directed by Darren Gross & David Darlington

Result: 'Soon I will be free...' I have always been a massive fan of the horror genre and the psychological brand has always fascinated me the most so any story about a destructive imaginary friend was going to hook me in pretty quickly. The Enemy Within is almost exclusively told through the eyes of Cyrus and Sabrina and their maturing relationship which gives it incredible focus and allows both characters to shine with such exposure. Attraction, suspicion, divulgence, acceptance...this is a constantly evolving relationship that is thrilling to scrutinize. The opening suggests that both characters have thrilling secrets to divulge and they certainly do not disappoint when they are revealed, especially Cyrus'. The joy of these Dark Shadows releases is that not only do they open out a new audience to the eclectic world of this supernatural soap opera but they are able to push the boat out in ways that the Doctor Who ranges could only dream of in terms of horror and disturbing content. They are genuinely discomforting to listen to in parts and that is a fascinating feeling to explore on audio, when the horror is right in your ears and such a personal experience. This a tight script, superbly acted and another winner in this mature and formidable range. I would never have checked out Dark Shadows if it wasn't for a good friend because I have never seen a single episode of the series. What a crime that would have been as this range features some of the most challenging material that Big Finish has released: 9/10

The Lucifer Gambit written by Eric Wallace and directed by David Darlington & Darren Gross

Result: 'You're next you little harlot!' The weakest Dark Shadows story that I have listened to to date but still fairly enjoyable if you are in the right mood. This is camp horror all the way complete with a madly over the top villainess (played to the hilt by Sheila Steafel), devilish laughter, a haunted house and some hysterical, melodramatic reactions to all the madness that ensues. It's a huge diversion from the creepy storytelling I have seen so far but it does show that the range is diverse enough to experiment with different styles. The direction is unguarded too, throwing everything at the listener and hoping that some of it will make an impact. The best moments were those that concentrated on Amy's journey and the revelations about her brother. These Dark Shadows audios are standalone but some of them are linked in ways that adds greater to depth to each other. The Lucifer Gambit and The Enemy Within are well placed next to each other, feeding in to each others story and building an overall picture of the Sabrina/Chris/Amy triangle. It is a strange reversal of the usual formula, which features a functioning relationship at the beginning and poisons it throughout the course of the story. Pleasingly, The Lucifer Gambit brings two people together in a very positive way and reminds them of why they fell in love. I think it's best to consider this story like one of those holiday specials, a madcap adventure that pushes everything to the extreme but one which can be a hoot if you are willing to run with it. I enjoyed it, but it was a step down from the other stories that I have listened to so far: 6/10

Full Review Here:

The Flip Side written by Cody Quijano-Schell and directed by David Darlington, Darren Gross & Jim Pierson

Result: 'You dance like a dead woman...' I love stories like this when the central character of a series is targeted for terror tactics. The New Avengers mastered it with Dead Men Are Dangerous. DS9 scored a winner with The Darkness and the Light. Doctor Who redefined the idea in Midnight. And now Dark Shadows has it's own masterclass to add to the list...and the target isn't even who you might think it would be. How awesome that Dark Shadows has the elasticity to take on massive science fiction concepts such as alternative realities and run with them. It's something that was played about with in some depth in both the New Adventures (Conundrum and Blood Heat aced the concept) and the EDAs (The Last Resort and Timeless took the idea to some imaginative and sinister places)  and so you might think that I would be exhausted by the concept by now. Not a bit of it, The Flip Side shows that there are still stories to tell within the alternative universe format and that there are substitute versions of the Dark Shadows characters that are well worth exploring further. Many of my favourite stories in any franchise have been those that scale away the massive casts and focus on a couple of characters and explore storytelling possibilities in a highly intimate way. Cody Quijano-Schell has done a superlative job of that here, highlighting both Carolyn and Jonah as vivid, multi-faceted characters and using their history (both in this universe and others) to paint a much larger picture of the Dark Shadows universe. It's expertly done. Add to this melting pot a number of philosophical questions to ponder, the best acting you could ask for and the events of this story having a huge impact on potentially the most important character in this range and you have as close to a perfect Dark Shadows release as I have listened to so far. Sublime: 10/10

Beyond the Grave written by Aaron Lamont and directed by David Darlington, Darren Gross & Jim Pierson

Result: 'It's going to make us do horrible things, Maggie...' Do not, I repeat, DO NOT listen to this in the dark on your own if you are of a nervous disposition. Beyond the Grave is a terrific culmination of many of the Dark Shadows stories I have listened to so far, a chance to gather all the characters inconspicuously in one narrative and bring their stories together. It also manages to have a smart and original story of its own that exploits the audio medium to its full potential and provides many skincrawling scares. That is a fine achievement. To be honest you can tell, even on a first listen, that this is a script that has been crafted with great care. I make it sound so precise which isn't the case at all whilst listening, Beyond the Grave sports a fun Most Haunted style scenario with a presenter visiting Collinswood and poking his nose into all the sinister goings on...and suffering the consequences of that. Mad Jack (for that is the name assigned) is the most disturbing nasty that this series has come up with yet, a genuinely terrifying presence that I'll probably be seeing in the mirror now. There are elements of the cult classic Ghostwatch in this story and lots of clever narrative jiggery pokery that comes with a found footage tale. There might be three directors helming this tale and they all deserve a round of applause because this much have been an absolute nightmare to put together into a cohesive story. The fact that they manage to put the pieces together in such a riveting fashion and have time for so many chilling atmospherics is worthy of some kudos. Beyond the Grave is genuinely innovative storytelling wrapped up in that insidiously creepy Dark Shadows atmosphere, it breaks my heart to think that thousands are buying Big Finish's less challenging ranges and are ignoring where the treasures lie. If you want to experience something more demanding than a nostalgia rush, pick up this experimental horror: 10/10

Snowflake written by Joseph Lidster and directed by David Darlington

Result: This couldn't have come along at a more opportune time. My husband and I went out for a meal with a friend last night and then came home to watch a horror movie that turned out to be the worst film that any of us had ever seen (a million kisses if you can guess what it was). My friend said that we would have been better off turning the lights out and telling each other ghost stories...and I pointed out that I did have a story that we could listen to, one that kick started the latest Dark Shadows range. And so we listened on... Needless to say it was a massive improvement on the movie and we were all left intrigued because this isn't so much a horror story in its own right but a prelude to the Bloodlust serial that Big Finish are about to embark on. It promises dark and twisted events in a freaky location, a story that not only fans of the range can enjoy but anybody can embark on. There isn't much substance to this release because that isn't it's purpose...but it manages to pack in some real atmosphere in a short amount of time. The Dark Shadows range is one of the best ranges at the present for atmosphere, innovation and fresh talent and this is your chance to jump on board. Snowflake is a freebie too so snatch it up: 8/10

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust - Episode One

Result: 'Take my advice...honeymoon somewhere else!' Collinsport is a town with secret, that is my abiding impression of the first episode of Bloodlust. They are hiding in every shadow, whispering on the breeze, rolling in with the sea...everybody is keeping something and it is going to be our pleasure to watch them creep into the light over the next thirteen episodes. Wisely, Joe Lidster and his creative team choose to introduce new characters to the town and allows us to meet everybody afresh. It gives this serial a very fresh 'new beginning' feel and the soap opera nature of the show gives it the same kind of impetus and hook as classic Doctor Who, each episode closing on a cliffhanger designed to lure you back next week. I could see fans of Dark Shadows finding this a little bit of a time filler insofar as it is introducing elements that they recognise but once the introduction to the setting is out of the way the juicy stuff can get going...and that has already begun in the second half of this episode. The first murder has already occurred and any one of this sinister lot could have been involved. Roll on episode two:7/10

Full Review Here -

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust Episode Two written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joseph Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'Remember me?' On par with episode one, this episode feels lacking in some respects because it feels a little like a retread with new characters heading to Collinsport but there are enough hints of excitement for the rest of the story to keep the interest levels high. Bloodlust features a large cast for an audio drama (especially for Big Finish) and is adhering to the rules of a soap opera to tease the answers out each week and never offer too much, too early. As such this is playing out much like a current American serial style TV show, you have to wait to be completely satisfied and take in the manifest of subplots and hope that they all tie together satisfactorily in the end. We've found our way back to the cave, there is an intriguing link between the Devereux and Cunningham plots, a Beyond the Grave presenter is introduced and the murder investigation is underway...there is an awful lot going on and plenty to sink its claws into you. Less introductions next time and more embellishments of the characters already introduced and we will be in fine shape: 7/10

Full Review Here -

Dark Shadows: Bloodlust Episode Three written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'There's nothing wrong with being different...' Now things are really moving. Despite the large cast, this piece of the puzzle belongs to Andrew Cunningham and his motive for coming to Collinsport in the first place. An arrogant foolish opportunist, he's a really nasty piece of work and as such it is an absolute delight to listen to him dig a hole and get in over his head. I think bad things are coming for the character and I cannot wait. The murder mystery angle begins to take dominance too and it is starting to feel that anybody could be responsible. With the supernatural pumping through the residents of Collinsport like blood, who knows who can be trusted? Hints of Maggie Evans being an important player are very intriguing too and something that would be very welcome because Kathryn Leigh-Scott is such a delight to listen to. Like a locomotive that has already chugged away from it's starting point, we are really gathering steam now: 8/10

Bloodlust Episode Four written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: I'm starting to really fall in love with Matthew Waterhouse's deliciously twisted turn as Andrew Cunningham. There is simply nothing remotely likable about this man and the tides are gathering about his head. The games between Andrew and Angelique are the highlight of this episode, his insane notion that he has the power to harm her and the way she playfully lets him believe that he has conquered her. I have so many questions about both of these characters that have yet to be answered but there is still a long way to go yet. I want to know what Maggie Evans is planning, I want to know who killed Melody and I want to know why Angelique let Andrew all good soap operas the treads are trickling through the serial, gathering momentum, teasing us with anticipation. The cliffhanger ending to this story was completely unexpected - where do we go from here? It feels like in Collinsport, anything could happen and that is an exciting feeling: 8/10

Bloodlust Episode Five written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'There will be another attack tonight...' Time for some real substance. Until now Bloodlust has been chugging along the train line setting up the journey and slowly unveiling the secrets that everybody is hiding on board. This is the point where we really get in touch with everybody's feelings on what is happening and where the ladies about town make their move. With Amy, Angelique and Maggie Evans you have a trio of very strong female characters. It's a very satisfying piece of the puzzle because all the melodrama and surprises is worth nothing unless the characters are behaving to it in a natural and interesting manner. This is the first episode scripted by Joe Lidster and you can tell, he juggles up the threads very confidently and ensures that everybody gets some screen time and development. With the characters aflame, the narrative flying and the big question of the identity of Melody's killer becoming more and more enticing this is the most engaging episode yet. I was hooked throughout: 9/10

Bloodlust Episode Six written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'It's time for us to stop waiting to die!' Reasons to love Bloodlust at this point; it is completely unlike anything else that Big Finish has ever put out before in it's serial nature, it has an enormous cast of characters that are all well defined, it is juggling two murder plots with a plethora of suspects, there is an unusually dominant female presence which is hugely refreshing, it deals with elements of the TV show but has added all manner of intriguing extra characters and is pushing the established ones in fresh directions, the standalone Dark Shadows audios are being slotted into the central narrative to add further weight to the series and range as a whole, the serial is being scripted and directed by fresh talent (and some old talent that hasn't been exhausted out of constant employment in the Doctor Who ranges)... I might have been a little skeptical in the early episodes of Bloodlust because the set up took a little while to get going but now things are complicated and dramatic and running away at a rate of knots. It's probably the most substantial thing Big Finish has brought out in about three or four years, thanks to its serial nature and the fact that it is set in one place. Unlike Doctor Who, Blakes' 7 or Jago & Litefoot there is no need to maintain the status quo at the end of a story - people can be bumped off or treated appallingly and that is a very exciting prospect. Actions have consequences. Emphasis on Quentin is exciting...but it is the Angelique material that is the most exciting again. And Maggie Evans is on the warpath and anybody in their right mind would pay good money for that. And the ending had me salivating for more...the character I have been waiting for more than any other! Stirring stuff: 9/10

Bloodlust Episode Seven written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'I feel like we've hit breaking point...' Time for something a bit different. Bloodlust has skipped along in a certain formula for six episodes and now it is time to experiment. An episode staged in real time with the paranoia running rife amongst the people of Collinsport. A chance for all the secondary characters to have their say publicly. It is the opportunity to indulge in a performance piece where all the actors can come together in a crowd scene and strut their stuff, in a way that feels almost improvisational. Midnight style, the tension spreads through the crowd until they are all turning on each other. It's the ugliest form of conflict, one that is seeded with suspicion and where nobody is behaving rationally because they are scared. Where the episode ends up is quite interesting with the authority in the town shifting considerably. What impressed me most of all was how many characters were involved in these scenes and how vividly they have been written and portrayed to this point so I had no trouble understanding who everybody was, even when there was scrum of voices being thrown. Quite a few audios make it through their running time without highlighting one interesting character but Bloodlust has an entire cast of distinctive and fascinating personalities. That is another thing for the creators to be proud of. Once again, all bets are off. Time to vote, Amy: 8/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Eight written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: Less of a game changer than the less couple of episodes, this is one of this pieces of the puzzle that has to be filled in in order to get to all the juicy stuff. Dealing with the aftermath of Maggie's coup, blowing the lid of Harry's relationship with Cody, suggesting troubling times ahead for Tommy, revealing an intimacy between Barnabas and Angelique and unearthing some dirt on Kate Ripperton, episode eight has a shopping list of things to do and it achieves them in a very entertaining fashion. The production values continue impress in this series with the music standing out as being especially accomplished and moody. Whilst the feeding scene is one of the highlights of the series to date the episode doesn't really build to a terrifically rousing finish like the others have but then if every instalment rounded off on a stonking cliffhanger we would never be able to highlight the more successful ones. I'm ready for a bit more information about the murder of Melody now, whilst the town is reacting in an explosive way to the murder the investigation itself seems to have ground to a halt when it comes to sifting out answers. Or is there a revelation waiting just around the corner? Big Finish should pull their finger out and commission a second year (or continuation) of this is the most inventive and engaging material they have released in years. I haven't been this excited about where a series is going on a regular basis since the early days of Dalek Empire. This isn't even one of the strongest episodes but it is still a cut above a lot of the stuff that is going on elsewhere on audio: 7/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Nine written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'I would give up my soul to let his be free...' Is this what Dark Shadows was like on television? You see I just don't know. I came to this audio series with no knowledge and therefore no expectation whatsoever and that ignorance has allowed it to blow me away. But if the series was of this calibre throughout I can see why it ran so long and why it was so addictive. Just a quick scout around at the reviews online and I haven't read a single bad word about this miniseries. Not one. And that is rare because there is usually a detractor somewhere. Even the names that continually batter the main range (often for valid reasons, I might add) over at Gallifrey Base (including myself) have been effusive in their praise. I sound like I am trying to convince you to give this series a shot, don't I? And that is because I don't think many people who aren't aficionados of the series will and they would be denying themselves one of the most pleasurable things that Big Finish has put out in the last five years or so. Like I used to rant on about the Bernice Summerfield series when it had it's own identity back in the day, it is sad that stories of such quality will only be reaching a niche rather than a mainstream market. If I can convince a handful of people to give this series a shot then my words will not have been wasted. Slow burning for a few episodes of set up, arresting development in the middle instalments and now a fierce pace and shocks all the way as we race towards the conclusion. The pacing is quite excellent and the unusual episodic nature and twice weekly release of the instalments has gathered a momentum that is perhaps something the main range might like to try. It builds an interest and dramatic thrust that is missing in the central Doctor Who line and would bring it closer in nature to the TV series when it was originally transmitted. Here in episode nine more new threads are being introduced, characters (like Kate) are being paid off and established storylines are coming to fruition (Tommy's transformation). The mystery of Melody's death is given some elucidation and the supernatural characters (Barnabas, Angelique and Quentin) shine. And a double whammy cliffhanger ending that has left me eager to listen to more. Bloodlust has been a massive success for Big Finish and something wildly different in a time when playing it safe has become the norm: 9/10

Full Review Here -

Bloodlust Episode Ten written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'You're going to be torn apart by your own son, little girl!' The shit has really hit the fan now. It would seem that there isn't anybody that isn't cursed by the supernatural in this range, that nobody can lead a normal life and I wouldn't have it any other way. For the first two thirds this is quite a sedate piece, all told but with lots of ominous foreshadowing and gloriously atmospheric direction. However the whole piece explodes in the last ten minutes with some of the most dramatic material yet. Kate, Tommy and David all show their true colours and there is plenty of blood running the streets of Collinsport before the episode is over. I love the fact that nobody is safe, it is the sort of electric in the air excitement that you don't have with the classic series main range Doctor Who stories because TV continuity gives the regulars immunity. Dark Shadows isn't working to the same rules and it enjoys a spectacular culling in this instalment. Three episodes to go and so many questions still to be is thrilling to listen to this series come to fruition and pay off so many of its plot threads. Returning to humdrum normal life after a thirteen episode waltz through the dark streets of Collinsport is going to be a drag: 9/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Eleven written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: It cannot be a co-incidence that the killer of Lucy Beale is being revealed on the same night as the final instalment of Dark Shadows Bloodlust is airing. Two serials with plots that have bee gestating for a time, offering up hints and whispers and red herrings and both are now ready to spill their secrets. If you are a fan of both Eastenders and Dark Shadows it is going to be an incredible night. It's time for all the pay off now and the this episode and the last have been a real rollercoaster of revelations and drama. This is a prime example of the advantages of serial storytelling, it might take you a little while to lure in your audience but once you have their interest you can reward them tenfold for their patience. And they will lap it up. Again I am reminded of the strong female presence in this series; powerfully written scenes that allow Maggie, Angelique, Kate and Amy to shine. In comparison the male parts are almost overshadowed but it is so refreshing to have such to see a series fronted by so many confident female performances I simply don't care. Bloodlust is a series that is ticking every box demographically and in a hugely positive way. You can feel the threads converging in a very exciting way, characters coming together to uncover plots, alibis being established, disclosures being made...the last ten minutes are quite a thrill as more and more information is thrown at you via these characters you have come to know so well. This isn't even the penultimate episode...I bet that is going to be unbearable! Read the reviews, Big Finish. We need a second serial from Dark Shadows: 8/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Twelve written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: 'I forgive you!' And I thought the real time crowd episode was something different. This is wonderful stuff, the best episode by far and a gripping two hander between Maggie Evans and Angelique Bouchard. It is no co-incidence that these two are my favourite characters and it thrills me to see so much time being given over to them and their back story. The performances are extraordinary, both Kathryn Leigh-Scott and Lara Palmer take hold of this powerful material and sink their teeth into it. It doesn't matter that a handful of plot threads are effectively stalled for a whole episode because the drama that plays out between these two women had me rooted to the spot in astonishment for 40 minutes. It reminds me of that old adage that all you need is two great actors and one great script and you can capture your audience completely. This one of the most economic pieces of drama that Big Finish has ever put out and it blows all those action soundtracks of the Doctor Who main range to dust. Eleven episodes of the Bloodlust serial power this piece of drama and it is all the more satisfying and substantial for it. The ultimate bitch fight without a shred of violence. How will the finale top this? It sure has an awful lot to live up to: 10/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Thirteen written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

Result: As a testament to how strong the characters have been in Bloodlust, there is a fifteen minute coda at the end of Bloodlust that wraps up all of their journeys in a satisfying way rather than simply bringing the plot to an end. The final instalment of this serial is much more than the box ticking exercise than it could have been, it is a terrific piece of drama that brings all the threads to a rewarding conclusion (which I doubted was possible given how many characters were being handled). The reveal of the killer was surprising and the motive one that I'm sure anybody would recognise and understand. My favourite part of any murder mystery story are the flashbacks that show how the crime took place and this was handled with real aplomb in Bloodlust. Ultimately for a series about the supernatural, it has something quite reflective to say about humanity at its worst. As was revealed in the previous instalment, this has really been the story of Maggie Evans and Angelique Bouchard and it is glorious to see them both exiting the stage on such a high. What a run Bloodlust has been, completely justifying its serial format and becoming one of the most pioneering ranges the company has produced as a result. I have been following the reactions of the rest of the audience on several forums and I don't think there is anybody who hasn't been whipped up into a frenzy by this series, particularly in the final three instalments. As a performance piece it has offered some striking opportunities (Kathryn Leigh-Scott, Stephanie Ellyne, Lara Parker Asta Parry and Matthew Waterhouse take the honours but there isn't a weak performance in the run) and it has been a pitch perfect exercise in how to structure a serial of this length. You may be getting bored about me banging on about how good this is. Well you don't have to imagine me foaming at the mouth over its malevolent chapters, go check it out yourself. I would be very surprised if you were disappointed:9/10


Blogger said...

Did you know you can create short links with Shortest and get dollars from every click on your short urls.

Dovid M said...

I don't know if you'll see this but- do you plan to review the Dark Shadows Audios which followed Bloodlust? They set the stage for a lot of the upcoming Bloodline miniseries and I'd love to hear your thoughts

Also, if you are curious about the original soap opera, the blog dark shadows every day is a great source for discovering it. I've been binging the 1897 time travel storyline in honor of Halloween and it is absolutely insane, at times incredibly silly or nonsensical and at others totally enthralling, and it's great to read that blogs posts on episodes once I watch them.