The latest in the Big Finish range of special Dark Shadows releases, Dreams of Long Ago is four short tales focussing on both relatively minor and major characters from the series. Alan Ronald kicks things off with “The Reflected Man”, following a bereft and grief-stricken Sabrina Jennings in the aftermath of her husband’s death. In New York, a rundown Jennings finds out things can still get worse, however, when something the other side of mirrors and reflections starts trying to find its way through to her. But in all this darkness she might find the one thing she needs the most.
Next up is “Old Acquaintance” by Matthew Waterhouse, which begins with Quentin Selby reluctantly celebrating New Year’s Eve 1971 in the Blue Whale bar. There’s a sinister ancient evil from his long history coming to find him, however, and the consequences could be dire for the rest of the bar’s patrons unless he can find answers in the past. In “Devil’s Rock” by Kate Webster, Barnabas Collins and Willie Loomis hit the road in the search for Dr Hoffman but are to quickly discover their hometown isn’t the only one with dark forces at work. Finally in this set, “Cobwebs” by Aaron Lamont, finds Sebastian Shaw waking up from a nightmare to a deserted Windcliff Sanitarium, where there is no staff, but there is a spider on the wall and voices as company warning him and beckoning him to further madness in equal measure.
“The Reflected Man” attempts something darkly romantic and for the most part succeeds in this, including a hopeful ending to the tale that is at once nothing surprising but still welcomed. “Old Acquaintance” is too long and overwrought, but not without its merits in a grand, over the top way. Plus it’s read by David Selby and his voice remains captivating, his vivid and exciting performance giving the tale character. “Devil’s Rock” is leisurely in its build up towards an expected climax that’s part Shirley Jackson and a Dark Shadows riff on rural horror. There are no surprises here but it’s still effective enough. For the final story, we get an appropriately unhinged performance from Christopher Pennock as asylum detainee Sebastian. It’s an entertaining performance with Pennock having a lot of fun in a story that goes in a more unusual direction.
The basic stories feel noticeably more slight or formulaic this time around. Nevertheless, the writers do make an attempt to put the series’ unique spin on proceedings and the actors know their characters well. It’s an easy listen (that’s a compliment) and the familiarity with Dark Shadows is rarely a minus point anyway. If you’re following this range, it’s a solid release and comes recommended.
DARK SHADOWS: DREAMS OF LONG AGO / DIRECTORS: DAVID DARLINGTON, JIM PIERSON / WRITERS: MATTHEW WATERHOUSE, KATE WEBSTER, ALAN RONALD, AARON LAMONT / STARRING: LISA RICHARDS, DAVID SELBY, ANDREW COLLINS, CHRISTOPHER PENNOCK, BRENDAN O'ROURKE / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW