Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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

What's it about: Some describe it as the town at the edge of the world. When Melody and Michael Devereux come to Collinsport on their honeymoon, they don't know the secrets that are hidden behind closed doors. But those secrets will be unearthed when an innocent is viciously murdered. Collinsport will be a town divided. One woman's rise to power will lead to further death and destruction. Families will be ripped apart. Blood will be spilt. And the dark forces that wait in the shadows will wait no more. For in Collinsport, death is never the end...

 Maggie Evans: Not being a devotee of the TV series I had no idea that Maggie Evans had been bitten by Barnabas in the past. Does that suggest some kind of influence on her vigilantism? She admits that she has been protecting Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique...but to what end? Nothing has been right since the day Barnabas kidnapped and assaulted her, Collinsport became a sinister place after that day.

Standout Performance: Andrew Collins is a superb choice to play the very important role of Barnabas Collins. Like Alexander Vlahos in the Dorian Gray series his voice is like honey, smooth and sexy and addictive to listen to. Like Dorian Gray, Barnabas is fantastically attractive because there is something intimate and yet dangerous about him. I can't wait to hear more.

Sparkling Dialogue: Collinsport is for living, breathing people...'
'This how a book should be Quentin. Old and heavy and pregnant with power...'

Great Ideas: Poor Tommy. Barely out of the cradle, force grown by Angelique and now facing a terrifying transformation into a werewolf. How much can one kid take? Even with Quentin to hold his hand that is a lot to try and contend with. Kate isn't the kind of monster that murders people...but that doesn't mean that she doesn't have secrets. Kate is the sort of monster that turns to a bottle to soothe her woes, that hates other people who are content with their lives. We know that she saw Melody and Michael on the night of Melody's murder and a flashback to that evening sees the narrative starting to fill in some important gaps. The sad truth about Kate Ripperton is that she is desperately unhappy and her life came to a grinding halt all those years ago when she presented Beyond the Grave in Collinsport. Since then she has been relying on booze and cynicism to exist. In many ways that makes her more of a monster than the genuine supernatural elements in Collinsport, she is less alive than the undead. Sometimes a mine is just a mine...but Kate makes a great point about how everybody is being mightily distracted by the supernatural horror that is occurring in the town and forgetting all about the mining operation. What exactly is being mined? And were the murders a deliberate diversion? Something is shielding Collinwood from Angelique - another mystery to unpeel.

Standout Scene: Angelique's exploration of Collinwood...a genuinely unnerving audio experience that leads to a dramatic twist and a name I haven't heard for a while.

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

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