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.