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.