Survivors Series Four (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 21 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Survivors - Series Four (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Ken Bentley, Louise Jameson, Christopher Hatherall,  and Matt Fitton

Directed by Ken Bentley 

Cast: Ian McCulloch (Greg), Lucy Fleming (Jenny), Louise Jameson (Jackie), Fiona Sheehan (Molly), Zoë Tapper (Evelyn Piper), Ramon Tikaram (Theo), Jane Maud (Mildred Sanderson/Sarah), Paul Panting (Colonel Stephen Adams), Jonathan Oliver (Lewis Bartholomew MP), Terry Molloy (John Redgrave), Sean Murray (Dr Stewart/Terry Levinson), Alex Lanipekun (Roy), Vinette Robinson (Davina), Laurence Dobiesz (Michael), Enzo Squillino Jnr (Stan)

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

With the release of Series Five only a few weeks away, it seems an appropriate time to catch up on the fourth boxset of Big Finish’s extremely successful, dark, gritty and powerful audio revival of Terry Nation’s original 1970s TV series Survivors. It is terrible thing to admit, but when contemplating this release this reviewer finds himself to be at a loss for words. The problem being that whilst, taken on its own merits, this box set is just as strong as the three box sets that preceded it, there is a real sense of déjà​ entendu in terms of the repetition of the format which links the four stories of this box set.

That being said, The Old Ways by Ken Bentley is a very strong opening entry which takes us back to the original outbreak of “the death”. As well as providing a welcome cameo from Terry Molloy reprising his character of John Redgrave from the first audio series, this gives a great introduction to new character Evelyn Piper, played by Zoe Tapper who starred as Anya in the re-imagined Survivors of 2008-10. A neat way of squaring the circle by uniting actors from both TV versions. There is also a strong central turn in this episode from Jane Maud as the Prime Minister’s widow Mildred Sanderson. Having had a paramilitary group of thugs calling themselves the “British Government” in the last audio series, it is a neat contrast to now discover the fate of the surviving remnant of the actual government. It is however to be hoped that having revisited the starting point of the original TV series now in the opening stories of three separate box sets (with only series two having opened several months later), Big Finish will allow the series to move on a little in future releases.

For the Good of the Cause by Louise Jameson returns us to original series regulars Greg and Jenny (Ian McCulloch and Lucy Fleming on great form throughout) who are visiting a potential ally community with a quasi-religious outlook, The Belief Foundation, headed by an idealistic leader called Theo, played with great charm as charisma by Ramon Tikaram. As someone who was a teenager in the 1990s, Tikaram’s performance as Ferdy in the series This Life was extremely influential, and so this reviewer is delighted to hear this actor being regularly employed by Big Finish. I was also go as far as saying that of the four principal antagonists who have appeared in the audio series to date, Theo is by far the most compelling performance and after the chilling performance given by Paul Thornley in series three that is really saying something. However, herein the thorny issue of repeated formula begins to raise its head. Before moving on, some praise for Jameson’s excellent portrayal of Jackie, particularly in the scene where learns of the death of her friend Daniel whose loss is still felt by this reviewer.

The third episode Collision is a welcome contribution from a new writer Christopher Hatherall, who played Tyler in last November’s third series. It starts to become apparent that all is not quite as it seems in Theo’s utopia (this will ring bells for those who remember the villainous Gilligan from series one) as the survivors of the Tartarus bunker from the opening episode struggle to integrate with the Foundation. Meanwhile a young man called Michael seeks to make amends but a revelation about his past sets the scene for confrontation as Theo’s true motives become more apparent (although not especially surprising). There is a still plenty of tension as events build.

Forgive and Forget  by Matt Fitton brings about the expected crescendo. Perhaps the highlight is that the listener may not necessarily find themselves always supporting the decisions of the protagonists. There is, as expected, a predictably enjoyable confrontation between Greg and Theo but also some powerful scenes for Fiona Sheehan as Molly who continues to impress as she confronts her past head on.

Overall, this is another very strong entry to this audio series. However, having ended up with a very similar story arc to the three previous series each revolving around a single antagonist, it ends up losing something. It is to be hoped that the next couple of series can be less formulaic whilst maintaining the powerful storytelling and strong characterisation which continue to mark this series out as a must listen.


Survivors Series Four is available to buy now from

Dark Shadows: Echoes of the Past (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 6 October 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Dark Shadows: Echoes of the Past (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Jerry Lacy, Ian Farrington, Philip Meeks & Paul Phipps

Directed by Ursula Burton

Cast: Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker & David Selby

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

Echoes of the Past is the second of two special releases to mark the 50th anniversary of the original television series of the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. Unlike the full cast anniversary tale Blood and Fire, this is a collection of four separate, standalone stories, each narrated in character by a surviving member of the original cast.

Big Finish’s previous Dark Shadows audiobooks have usually featured two characters in a semi-narrated format similar to their Doctor Who range of Companion Chronicles. It is perhaps a slight disappointment that for this and the next release expected later this year, they have only used a single narrative voice for each story.

The opening story Trask the Exorcist is both written and narrated by Jerry Lacy, who probably knows the corrupt Reverend Trask better than most. It is an enjoyable tale of temptation with some great dialogue between Trask and a possessed girl which the author/narrator delivers with great relish.

The second story is The Missing Reel by regular Big Finish scribe Ian Farrington and read by David Selby as Quentin Collins, a character much missed from the previous anniversary release. This story finds the long-lived werewolf in 1950s Los Angeles on the trail of a missing reel of film from a horror film, only to cross paths with a super-fan who is determined to see the footage from his favourite film. This is another enjoyable well-told tale if not hugely original.

Next up is Lunar Tides by Philip Meeks. This finds Kathryn Leigh-Scott as Maggie Evans in the aftermath of the departure of Barnabas Collins during the period of the original 1970s series, struggling to make sense of strange events caused by unusual tidal behaviour and coinciding with the arrival of a young English girl. Again, whilst Leigh-Scott gave a strong portrayal of matriarch Patience Collins in Blood and Fire, this is a very welcome opportunity to hear her back in her usual character role.

Last, but by no means least of these four stories is Confession by Paul Phipps, narrated by Lara Parker as the ever popular witch Angelique Buchard. Angelique is alone apparently writing her final confession, but as ever the witch is not always to be trusted. This is a neatly twisted final tale and definitely the highlight of this particular boxset.


Overall, it is a pleasure to have four of the most memorable original series characters appear in these stories. It also serves to remind that whilst all four actors appeared in the full-cast anniversary special Blood and Fire, only one of their original characters appeared in that story meaning it was perhaps not as much of a celebratory release as it might have been. It might perhaps have been nice to have a set of stories with a linking thread (although this reviewer notes that something similar was accomplished with an earlier anniversary release, The Crimson Pearl  in 2011) but this is still good stuff and bodes well for the next release, another collection of short stories entitled Haunting Memories, just in time for the Christmas ghost story season.


Echoes of the Past is available to buy now from

Game Of Thrones Season 6: Episodes One + TwoBookmark and Share

Monday, 22 August 2016 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Image result for game of thrones season 6



STARRING: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Liam Cunningham, Carice van Houten, Natalie Dormer Alfie Allen, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Iwan Rheon + Iain Glen 

WITH: Conleth Hill, Gwendoline Christie, Jonathan Pryce,
 Michiel Huisman,  Michael McElhatton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivju, Alex Siddig, Tom Wlaschiha 

Guest Starring: Max von Sydow as 'The Three-eyed Raven'

Showrunners + Producers: David Benioff + D.B. Weiss

HBO/ Sky Atlantic 2016

*NB - Significant Spoilers feature for these episodes, and some of the preceding series. There also is comparison made with the original book series *

Game Of Thrones at this point in its history has become a true global phenomenon. Many millions of viewers, young and old, male and female, have been drawn into the political conspiracies and battle royales of the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos.

Come this new Sixth Season, much of the source material of 'A Song Of Fire And Ice' has been used up, or even bypassed. However such is the skill of 'D+D' - as the showrunners can be most succinctly referred to - and their close communication with George RR Martin as he writes his latest volume ('The Winds Of Winter') that there is the facility to still use up certain storylines by reworking the plot threads, with a bit of tender loving care.


Season FIve was at least to my eyes and ears, the weakest season of the bunch thus far. It had some great set pieces, but could at times drag, and the dialogue and character interplay was variable. Much of the new region of Dorne was host to borderline-amateurish efforts. A good number of the best characters are now written out including Tywin, Ygritte, Robb, Cat, Shae and Stannis. Even the more despicable ones could be missed every now and then such as Joffrey, Viserys, Pyat Pree, Craster and - despite his many fans who attest to his 'anti-hero' qualities - the Hound. Regretfully, there were not enough good replacements to cover the loss in dramatic potential

There was, however, a massive season cliffhanger involving Jon Snow. The most identifiable hero figure of the saga was last seen bleeding out from a number of deep stab wounds on the (appropriately enough) snow-covered ground of Castle Black. But, in our internet and social media age it was impossible to hide that Kit Harrington still was involved in the show in some way. Speculation was frenzied over just how delayed his resurrection would be, if such a miracle was indeed planned by the writers. And with no source material from Martin to confirm or deny Jon's fate, many millions again returned with bated breath. The hordes of fans now have access not just through conventional TV premiers on Sky Atlantic, HBO, and many foreign networks, but now additionally an online HBO streaming channel.


For this first review of the show to materialise onsite in 2016 I will divide the map by sections, and comment on both the progress in storyline, and how things are holding up in terms of program quality.



Our favourite Mother of Dragons Dany was unceremoniously whisked away by her strongest 'son' Drogon, leading her to be left vulnerable in the Dothraki sea. Now she must endure a journey back to Vaes Dothrak escorted by a notably large khalasar. Indicative of Season Five's problems lingering, there is some rather cringe-worthy dialogue from the riders that escort her, accompanied by subtitles for the viewers that don't speak their language. All the same, after such a long spell without any Dothraki in her inner circle, this does make us reflect on just how far Dany has progressed in five quick seasons. It also is fun to be reminded that she can pretend to not understand a given language, even if her captors don't realise. But other problems arise in that there is a rather unimpressive 'replacement' for Khal Drogo. I do not mean any particular knock against new cast member Joe Naufahu, (who once played professional rugby before trying out acting), but he is neither that funny in unpleasant way or threatening as some of the best secondary antagonists in the show. Dany also more than holds own with him, even if rather dishevelled from the long march she had had.

Meanwhile Jorah and Daario are on their beloved Queen's trail, and rather predictably find the ring she left in a massive circle formed by the riders that accosted her. However Iain Glen and  Michiel Huisman do spark off one another well, and hopefully get a better script to work with soon.



In the first episode of the two to visit this massive former slaver city, Tyrion and Varys rather carelessly walk around, dressed as commoners. Their purpose is to inspect the state of a Meeereen which has a gap at the very summit of its power hierarchy. It seems rather odd that they are as relaxed and lacking in guards during the walk, despite plenty of the Sons of the Harpy knowing at least Tyrion - if not Varys as well(!) This is a rather rushed scene in a busy premiere, and feels tonally off due to its weak humour between these two fan favourites. In the past there were many serious and moving scenes that they share, but recently the focus is on broad comedy, which just doesn't quite work. Viewers requiring a bit of slapstick or loveable clumsiness are better served by the likes of Podrick or Samwell.

However, a better moment for the eunuch/dwarf duo comes during their reaction to Tyrion's 'testing the waters', by his risky sweet-talking of the dragons, as he loosens the restraints upon them. He manages to overcome any fears he had of a painful demise - not least relating to the trauma of 'Blackwater'' where he got scarred -  but still it is clear he does not enjoy being exposed to such high risks.

But problems remain in this second episode of Season Six, as the dialogue scene with Grey Worm, Missandei and Tyrion seems somewhat pointless. Whilst Peter Dinklage normally has automatic chemistry with each and every cast member, the alchemy fails to occur here. Certainly the words given to a good cast are not the most quotable, unlike the vast majority of dialogue stretches in Seasons One to Four. Plus, Meereen has been the slowest storyline in the show, barring the adrenaline-rush 'breaker of chains' introduction, and of course the colosseum set piece in 'The Dance Of Dragons'.

Yet most viewers would still be realistic in hoping that some major developments finally happen this season. Of course Tyrion arriving in Dany's court has overtaken the books, and more plot developments are continuing. Some of these by now will cause those who like the novels unspoilt to accept the inevitable.



I made my feelings about this region of Westeros and the variable acting quality of its natives clear in my last batch of reviews on this site. Once again, there is minimal screen time for events, and plot developments happen in rather abrupt fashion. In this instance, there is little more than the seeming intent to shock outright. Prince Doran was a half-decent character in the books, despite his gout forcing him to be wheelchair bound. But in the show Alexander Siddig has been given little to work with, and so is one of the bigger wastes of a quality actor in the show. Various developments could have been made from the Sand Snakes and Ellaria betraying the trust of Doran, by their murder of Myrcella. The most efficient route for the showrunners, and least interesting for viewers is opted for, regretfully.

First Doran, and Areo Hotah are taken down with the barest of struggles. The death of Aero is itself galling as we never get to see his fighting skills, despite his considerable presence and intent persona. Many followers of Thrones will feel short-changed. Then soon after in a (possibly secondary) ship that arrived over in King's Landing, Prince Trystane is himself brutally killed, losing half his face in the process. With Ellaria declaring that 'weak men' will never rule in Dorne again, one does wonder where the season will go next in terms of the overall gender-balance of power. 



The season trailer built up some hopes for some enticing character moments in Westeros' capital. But thus far for these opening episodes, there is fairly slow progress made. This however may allow for suspense and then twists and pay-offs further down the line.

Margaery on the basic surface seems to kowtow to the 'pious' High Sparrow, but more almost certainly is going on, as she aims to resume her power play in court. Loras, whilst a great fighter, is not nearly as strong mentally as his sister, and continues to suffer grievously (off-screen).

Elsewhere, Cersei now is sporting a very different look thanks to the shearing of her atonement, and it seems to reflect her suffering as she only now has Tommen left of all her children. It could be seen that perhaps the Faith's punishment has changed her, and made her more humble. She is now seeing the prophecy from 'Maggy the Frog' continue to become cold hard reality. Yet her dismissal of Jaime in recent times is now forgotten, and the two are bonded closer than ever, if for the worst of reasons. And - similar to Charles Dance's cameo last season- there is the image of actor Nell Tiger Free lying commendably still, as the youngest female Lannister is mourned by her parents.

And as for Tommen, he is still involved in court, but otherwise is used as a crucial pawn by the likes of both the High Sparrow and his Uncle Kevan, now entrenched as the 'Hand' of the King. Whether Cersei can gain any access or real influence over her one surviving child will no doubt form a major hook for later episodes of this season.



Jon's corpse somehow manages to look every bit as elegant as any self-respecting living character. Harrington is required to lie still and look very dead, as Jon's supporters (namely Davos, the Wildlings, and those brothers loyal to him such as Edd) try to protect his body.

The Red Witch's interest in him last season is built upon here, as she is enlisted to try and revive Jon. We get an insight into her insecurities which works nicely, given just how confident she had been in the show, right up until things went south in more ways than one for 'King' Stannis Baratheon. Her unfeasibly long life span, thanks to her magic, is revealed too. The withered face and body of an old woman replaces the presentable image that most associate with Carice Van Houten.

This is a haunting end to episode one, but easily trumped by the terrific misdirection as a seemingly failed attempt to revive Jon is of course a calm before the storm, and one of the great TV moments of 2016.

It is also deeply satisfying to see both Alliser Thorne and Olly, plus several more forgettable traitor, taken away to the cells of Castle Black after their wretched betrayal of Jon. One can only wonder if they will be forgiven, now their victim is very much alive and well again, but possibly very different in spirit given the precedent we had with Beric Dondarrion in Season Three.



A lot of off-screen time has passed, since we last saw Bran's party make the relative safety of the weirwood tree, with of course Jojen Reed biting the dust in the eventful 'The Children'.  Isaac Hempstead-Wright has clearly aged some years, with a change in looks and voice that is rather remarkable.  But, as is rather common in Thrones, the Three Eyed Raven is now played by someone else completely, and looks distinctly different. Most discerning viewers would have no complaints surely though, as it is the redoubtable Max Von Sydow who now can flesh out a character, previously only seen in glimpses here and there.

The biggest draw for these scenes, which could seem too disconnected to mainland Westeros, is the sheer thrill of seeing young Eddard Stark along with other denizens of Winterfell, most notably a young Hodor who can actually speak properly. Bran's sheer interest in these visions is clearly significant too, and one senses it is not just the ability to see the past, but that something truly supernatural and significant is going on here altogether.



The literal cliffhanger over the fates of Reek/Theon and Sansa is quickly resolved, in that the leap they took neither injured them nor slowed down their run away from the confines of Winterfell - a prison for them both for some time, when previously it was a beloved home. A little leap of faith is needed at times from the viewer though. Given the quantity of Roose's men, it seems a little easy that the duo get as far away into the woods/stream area as they do. Then the manner in which Theon tries to draw off the men and hounds is rather silly, and is compounded by the 'teleporter' quick entrance of Brienne and Podrick, as they save the escapees from a likely grim fate at Ramsey's hands.

On the plus side, it is great to see Theon can still handle himself in battle despite being so emasculated and physically broken. Podrick may have some competence at times, but is still very clumsy, and it feels right that Theon should save him, despite no former friendship. It is also a sign that the traitor to the late King in the North may still have some redemption left in him.

Then, having had some good build up, in the form of Brienne's failed attempts to bring home first Arya, and then Sansa, the greatest warrior of Tarth is finally able to convince her 'Lady' that she should be her sworn sword. In the following episode, a similarly moving scene occurs as Theon insists that Sansa is now suitably protected to make the risky journey north to Castle Black to seek help from Jon (who of course they all assume is still alive and unharmed). 

Back in Winterfell itself, a quick succession of events see Lord Bolton meet poetic justice. His joy as he has a 'true heir' is quickly extinguished. Ramsey had felt undermined already in the middle sections of Season Five, and now has taken proactive action to pierce his cold-hearted father in a vital organ. This act mirrors just how Roose gave Robb the Lannisters' 'regards'. Having an ally in the form of Harald Karstark was a smart move, and it looks like Ramsey will gather other houses in the North to support his hold on the region.

However the most memorable part of these episodes' visit to Winterfell is also the most harrowing. With Roose dead and deposed, Ramsey has little love and time to spare for his father's widow and for his newly born half-brother. Whilst their murder by Ramsey's hounds is off-screen, it is still one of the darkest moments of horror in a show that is well-known for its grim subject matter.  



Compared to the books there is a by now long overdue death for Balon Greyjoy. The leeches-on-fire blood magic Melisandre used to doom both Joffrey Baratheon and Robb Stark had taken effect quite a while back now for those two, but the Lord of the Iron Islands remained a half-forgotten factor in the equation. It certainly is a dramatic end for Balon, even if he was probably not the most memorable character, and overshadowed for creepiness by the likes of Walder Frey.

There has been a long wait for Euron Greyjoy to be portrayed onscreen, given that other material in A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons was adapted last season. Thankfully, his entrance is played quite well. This man has no issue murdering his own brother to take the regal seat on the Iron Islands. Although weak, old Balon still at least attempts to kill Euron first, rather than just meekly succumb. However, such is their respective ages, and fighting prowess, there could only be one winner.

The question then arises: will Yara Greyjoy fight to become ruler, or will Theon, who decided to head 'home' be involved in some way, despite needing to travel countless miles away from Winterfell?



These sections with Arya, the Waif and Jaqen H'ghar are really just laying the groundwork. It is fun to see Arya truly tested in having no sight, as she fights the malicious Waif. It is an arguably fair punishment for her vicious indulgence in using up one of the names on her kill list. I found much of the previous year's sections in this city somewhat ponderous, but am hopeful that there will be some pay-off, and perhaps some vivid new characters unique to the location.



And there we have it. A lot of new plot threads are knitting themselves together, as other sections of the massive jigsaw storyline are requiring a bit of urgency and development. But the early signs are this will be a solid season. The dialogue could do with some improving, but the production values and acting efforts are as strong as ever.


Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 July 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Roy Gill
Directed by Ursula Burton & Joseph Lidster

Cast: Lara Parker (Angélique Bouchard), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Patience Collins), Mitchell Ryan (Caleb Collins), Joanna Going (Laura Murdoch Stockbridge), Andrew Collins (Joshua Collins), Daisy Tormé (Abigail Collins), James Storm (Abraham Harkaway), Lisa Richards (Euphemia Spencer Stockbridge), Christopher Pennock (Uriah Spencer Stockbridge), Marie Wallace (Dorothea Summers), Nancy Barrett (Isobel Collins), David Selby (Theodore Collins), Matthew Waterhouse (Reverend Samuel Cunningham) and Jerry Lacy (Malachi Sands) with John Karlen (Alfred Loomis), Ursula Burton (Peggy Griffin), Alexandra Donnachie (Sarah Filmore), Scott Haran (Lamech Gifford), Walles Hamonde (Roderick Haskell), Daniel Collard (Robert Hanley), Michael Shon (Wolf) and Natalie Britton (Storm Elemental).

Big Finish Productions – Released June 2016

This is the first of two releases to mark the 50th anniversary of the original television series of Dark Shadows. Of the two releases, Blood & Fire, on paper at least, would appear to be the more exciting prospect of the two as it is a full cast audio drama featuring numerous surviving members of the original TV cast alongside several actors from other series who have appeared in several previous dramatic readings and full cast releases including Matthew Waterhouse (Doctor Who) and Scott Haran (Wizards vs Aliens). However, where this prospect falls down is that most of the original series actors are not playing the characters with whom they are most readily identified, as such fans of some popular Dark Shadows characters such as the vampire Barnabas Collins and the werewolf Quentin to name but two of many, will be rather disappointed that they do not appear. This isn’t quite the same level of disappointment that was experienced by Doctor Who fans over their 40th anniversary special Zagreus which purported to be a multi-Doctor story but for this reviewer at least it was a similar experience.

Aside from opening and closing scenes set in hell, again another slight disappointment as the uncredited person playing the Dark Lord for this release was not anything like as sinister as the portrayal given by Nigel Fairs in previous audiobooks, the story is set almost entirely in 1767 which is established in the TV canon as a momentous year in the lives of the Collins family and the birth of the infamous haunted house Collinwood in which almost the entirety of the original TV series run from 1966 to 1971 was set. The witch Angelique has been sent back in time by the Dark Lord to destroy the Collins family a generation before the birth of Barnabas, the playboy turned vampire with whom she has been obsessed for the last 200 years. As ever Angelique is portrayed by Lara Parker who knows the character well and gives a strong performance. She encounters another original series character in the form of Joanna Going as the first incarnation of the tragic Laura Murdoch Stockbridge who is destined to be continually reincarnated throughout the history of Collinwood as a phoenix, as such Laura proves to be very much of a match to Angelique as she gains her powers for the first time. The Dark Shadows audio series is normally fairly accessible to those such as this reviewer who have never watched any of the television series, so it was rather a shame that I was left feeling the need to check on Wikipedia as to the significance of Laura Stockbridge’s appearance in this story. However, many long-term fans will have found plenty in this release to enjoy. As already mentioned it is littered with cameos from surviving cast members with prominent roles given to actors who have been the mainstays of the dramatic readings including Katherine Leigh-Scott as the matriarch Patience Collins, and Andrew Collins as her son Joshua who is destined to become the father of Barnabas, the role which Collins inherited on audio from the late Jonathan Frid. Jerry Lacy portrays one of the best original characters of this story, the sinister architect Malachi Sands and David Selby appears as another Collins ancestor Theodore, whilst John Karlen appears a direct ancestor of the caretaker Willy Loomis.

Overall, there is plenty of fan service to be had in this celebratory story which does include some suitably epic scenes and any fans of both Angelique and Laura will be particularly pleased. Anything that encourages listeners to want to delve into the history of this rather unique series can’t be all bad and along with everything else Big Finish have produced in their extensive Dark Shadows range, it remains a much more worthwhile use of one’s time than watching the travesty that was Tim Burton’s 2012 Dark Shadows film. This reviewer will however be looking forward to the other anniversary release, Echoes of the Past, a collection of dramatised readings featuring not just Angelique but also Reverend Trask, Quentin Collins and Maggie Evans.

Survivors - Series 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 1 July 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Survivors - Series Three (Credit: Big Finish)ritten by Jonathan Morris, Simon Clark,

Andrew Smith, Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Carolyn Seymour (Abby Grant), Richard Heffer (Jimmy Garland), Chase Masterson (Maddie Price), John Banks (Daniel Conner), Fiona Sheehan (Molly), Andrew French (Dalton Roberts), Paul Thornley (John Vincent), Damian Lynch (Marcus), Miranda Raison (Janet), Lisa Bowerman (Gloria), Christopher Hatherall (Tyler), James Joyce (Jonathon), Louisa Clein (Pam), John Voce (Walter)

Big Finish Productions – Released November 2015

Big Finish’s acclaimed continuation and expansion of the original 1970s TV version of Survivors continues with another excellent set of four interlinked stories, although listeners should be warned that the darker adult tone established in the first two series does not let up here. Once again, the action is moved away from the rural setting of many of the TV episodes with the audio medium being put to full advantage through the use of a range of settings from a cross-channel ferry through to the Post-Office Tower in Central London amongst others.

The opening episode, Cabin Fever, consists mostly of flashbacks as Jonathon Morris delves into the back story of Molly played by Fiona Sheehan, probably the most interesting of the new characters created for the audio series. Revisiting the horror of the outbreak of the deadly virus proves just as effective as it did in series one, it also serves to introduce the cruel character of John ‘Vinny’ Vincent, and his group of mercenary thugs who call themselves “the British government” (the irony of listening to this against the backdrop of current events was not lost), whose story runs throughout this box set, and is excellently portrayed by Paul Thornley. His chilling charisma gives The Archers’ notorious manipulative bully Rob Titchener a run for his money. The episode concludes with a shock twist that makes listeners realise that Vinny is not to be messed with.

The second episode, Contact, is written by Simon Clark who is the author of Night of the Triffids, the sequel Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic classic and therefore he feels very much at home writing for this series. This episode reintroduces Chase Masterson as Maddie Price, the American Lawyer from the first audio series who ended up stranded in the UK following the virus outbreak. This reviewer confesses that he may have been rather hard on her character in his review of that series as she seems a lot more agreeable in this box set. The story also marks the return of another original TV character Jimmy Garland as played by Richard Heffer, who slots back into his old role effortlessly after forty years.

The action of Contact segues almost seamlessly into regular Big Finish scribe Andrew Smith’s episode Rescue which sees Jimmy reunited with the only other original TV series character to feature in this box set, Abby Grant, once again effortlessly reprised by Carolyn Seymour who is fast becoming a Big Finish regular thanks to several appearances in their Doctor Who range. The rescue which the episode title refers to is not without cost as Vinny claims another victim and the scene is set for a serious reckoning.

Leaving by Matt Fitton who also script edits the series is a suitably epic finale, whilst one character does indeed achieve their ambition of being able to sail off into the unknown (albeit with a pleasing hint in the behind the scenes interviews that we may not have heard the last of them), the final confrontation is not without cost and one of the most likeable of the new characters created for this audio series is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice. This reviewer is still in two minds (as it seems was producer David Richardson) as to whether the right choice was made to kill off a character which a large swath of the audience would have identified with but in the final analysis this is a dystopian future in which survival is not guaranteed for anyone, and at least they get to go out in a blaze of glory.

To reiterate my introduction, this is an excellent third box set even despite the shocks there is still some hope left at the end. Listeners can only hope that the chances of a future coming to pass where a right wing group such as Vinny’s “British Government” might wreak havoc over a decimated country are a lot less likely than they might have been forty years ago. However, there is a worryingly believable quality to the story and in particular to the performances of the more extreme characters. It is a sign of the audio series’ strength that despite only two of the original TV cast appearing, one of whom was not even a series regular, this reviewer is still eager for more.

Big Finish: DraculaBookmark and Share

Monday, 30 May 2016 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen
Dracula (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Bram Stoker, Dramatised by Jonathan Barnes

Directed by Scott Handcock

Cast: Mark Gatiss (Count Dracula), Deirdre Mullins (Mina Murray), Joseph Kloska (Jonathan Harker), Nigel Betts (Abraham Van Helsing), Rupert Young (John Seward), Alex Jordan (Arthur Holmwood), David Menkin (Quincey P. Morris), Rosanna Miles (Lucy Westenra), Elizabeth Morton (Mary Westenra), Ian Hallard (Renfield), Edward Petherbridge (Mr Swales), Katy Manning (Sister Agatha).

Big Finish Productions – Released May 2016

Listening to this audio adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, this reviewer, who has never read the book, was struck by how familiar so much of the text is and how profoundly it has seeped into contemporary culture. And yet to hear such familiar dialogue as “The children of the night, such sweet music they make” in its proper context shows that this is a story which remains as unsettling as ever despite the many variations which have appeared over the last 119 years, a true classic of the horror genre. Following on from their successful 2014 collaboration on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, writer Jonathan Barnes and Producer/Director Scott Handcock have once again teamed up to produce an adaptation which remains extremely faithful to the original novel with only occasional alterations made to allow for the expediency of the medium of audio drama. The original novels’ format of being presented as a collection of journal extracts and letters lends itself very well to adaptation with any new scenes added by Barnes slotting in so seamlessly that only those extremely familiar with the novel would recognise them.

The cast are all excellent. Mark Gatiss, who has presented programmes talking about his love of the character of Dracula in the novel and of the famous film portrayals of the Count by Lugosi and Lee amongst others, gives a perfectly judged performance which avoids the trap of overacting in the style of Bela Lugosi and instead allows the text to speak for itself in a confident understated manner. Also anyone fearing that this incarnation of the Count will sound like Gatiss’ portrayals of the Master in Sympathy for the Devil or even Mycroft from TV’s Sherlock need not worry as his deep-throated Transylvanian accent renders him almost unrecognisable. Joseph Kloska and Deirdre Mullins are well matched as Jonathan Harker and his betrothed Mina Murray with Mullins being given particular prominence as this adaptation chooses to make Mina much of a lead heroine than some previous versions have chosen to do. Kloska of course gets to narrate much of the famous opening chapters which see Harker arrive as unsuspecting guest of the mysterious Count in the heart of the superstitious horseshoe of the Carpathian region. They are well supported during the subsequent sections by the three suitors of Rosanna Miles’ Lucy Westenra in the form of Dr John Seward (Rupert Young), the Hon. Arthur Holmwood (Alex Jordan), and the brash American Quincey P. Morris played by David Menkin. These three eventually join forces with Nigel Betts’ (again not too overplayed) Professor Van Helsing to form an enjoyable ‘Scooby gang’ of investigators as the curse of the vampire spreads to England’s shores. The remaining cast includes Ian Hallard, who gives a sympathetic portrayal of Renfield, Edward Petherbridge in a brief but enjoyable turn as Mr Swales, and a convincing performance from Katy Manning who is entirely unrecognisable from her usual self as Sister Agatha.

The production is well supported by James Dunlop’s score, especially the discordant opening theme which will surprise on first listening but gains much with repeated hearing. Extracts from the score are included on the extras disc whose cast interview section will be of particular interest to Dracula aficionados.

Overall then, an excellent addition to the Big Finish Classics range which may well encourage listeners to explore Barnes’ contributions to the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes range including the forthcoming release The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, the Big Finish Classics range will continue next year with an audio version of Nicholas Briggs’ current stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.