Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dorian Gray: The Darkest Hour written and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: Familiar faces gather as Dorian’s past comes back to haunt him in his hour of need…

The Painted Man: The painting is the only thing that hates Dorian more than he hates himself and it is coming for him and that makes him more scared than he has ever been in his entire life. He knows the man he is and what he can do and the painting is s much worse. It's lovely to hear Toby comforting Dorian in his darkest hour, for him to have somebody there that understands him completely and wants to help him get through this. I'm unaccustomed to listening to Dorian sound this paralysed with fear but I guess we all would be if we were confronted with the one thing that terrifies us the most in the world. Alexander Vlahos doesn't shy away from making Dorian utterly cowardly in the scenes where he is facing his alter ego, a brave acting decision after three seasons of granite certainty. Poor Dorian has to convince Toby that he doesn't love him to save his life, an act of desperation that tears his heart in two. To give him his credit he has a damn good stab at it, if we hadn't been under his skin in series one we might have been sure that Dorian was telling the truth. It would seem that happiness isn't something that Dorian can aspire to but he has decided that after the torture he has been put through here it is time to move one and try live his life again. Whether that means finding something useful to do, engaging with people again, forming relationships or simply trying to enjoy himself has yet to be determined.

Standout Performance: Go and listen to Bernard Holley on the special features of the Doctor Who releases he has been on. He seems like the most quiet, unassuming and pleasant of men. Then go and listen to him strut his stuff in The Darkest Hour and he is all consuming the most evil, malevolent voice that Big Finish has ever put out. It was a risk to hand over the first story of episode three to a brand new actor in the part of Dorian and whilst Alexander Vlahos is unsurpassed in the role, Holley brings a whole new dimension to the character the makes your skin crawl. He's terrifying and listening to him as I am at 4.00am it is making me peer over my shoulder every now and again to make sure I am completely alone. Sinister stuff.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Horrible to live in darkness, isn't it?'
'You disgusted me and thrilled me all at once.'
'Where are you going?' 'To live my life!'

Great Ideas: Victoria represents an organisation that is committed to eliminating the supernatural and they quickly came to realise that the only way to eliminate somebody as powerful as Dorian Gray was to use his twisted alter ego from the future. Remember the story about opening Pandora's Box? Fighting fire with fire isn't ever the best option because you still have another fire to contend with. Only those who truly care can grant someone life and in Dorian's case those people are few and far between, which is why they brought Toby back to life. Threading in elements of previous series and pretty much weaving together separate elements from every story of season three, this is a very satisfying explanations for why Victoria has been plaguing Dorian's life in recent months. The painting has been brought to life and it is coming for Dorian...a sinister idea that the series has shied away from until now. Magic may be strong but love is even stronger, a touching epithet for a series that often probes the darker side of humanity.

Audio Landscape: Crack of thunder, stabbing Victoria, taxi engine growling, choking a man, ribs cracking, heart beating, bloody trickling away, rain falling, closing the door on the painting.

Isn't it Odd: I'm sold by the performances but I am not quite as convinced by the Dorian/Toby relationship in this series as I was when they first met simply because their initial encounter was so damn horny. I had the impression that they ached for each other whereas this is a more conventional romance this time around. Perhaps Scott Handcock needed to make himself really horny before writing this story to recapture that sense of (blood)lust that comes when you want tot feast on somebody.

Standout Scene: Victoria's stabbing at Dorian's hands is quite simply horrible, the sort of flesh crawling horror that has been absent in the second half of season three.

Result: Frightening, romantic and poignant, The Darkest Hour is top dollar performance piece Dorian Gray featuring terrific turns from Alex Vlahos, Hugh Skinner and Bernard Holley (brrr...). It brings the threads of the series to close in a surprising way because it isn't the epic conclusion I have been led to believe is essential at the end of a series but instead something far more intimate and wrenching. It makes me wonder if Doctor Who should go for something more personal at the climax to its season arcs if it can be this effective. It definitely feels as though this chapter in Dorian's life has been drawn to a close and he is ready for another. How interesting that after so many plot heavy Big Finish audios that the most unusual series of the most accomplished range should turn out to be entirely about it's characters and their feelings. Regardless of how things have been left I would truly love to get back in touch with the painting again. It scares the shit out of me: 9/10


Carrick Nisbet said...

As someone who's read all of your Torchwood reviews I'm surprised to hear you complaining about the LACK of horniness on a relationship (I'm not trying to criticise, I'm just curious).

But I pretty much agree with everything you've said on this. And personally, Bernard Holley tearing a guys heart out is the most terrifying thing ever.

Bad Andy said...

Bernard Holley... yeah.. ooof.

Incidentally it's not the first time he's played Dorian - he did so on the Mayfair Monster too.

I never quite understood why Victoria's organisation felt the need to resurrect Dorian considering he was... contained at the start of the series.