From Big Finish comes another in their special Dark Shadows releases containing four more stories set within the established universe of the franchise. As with previous entries in the range, each tale is self-contained but slots into the overall timeline of the series at various points, here ranging from the original episodes and up to the continuing story of the new Big Finish chronology.
Things kick off with Last Orders at the Blue Whale by Rob Morris. After being thrown out of the main house at Collinwood, shady criminal-type Harry Johnson is cooling his heals in the Blue Whale bar for a few hours until his train leaves town. A chance encounter there with a mysterious figure, and a seriously unfortunate spur of the moment decision, soon means Harry is in danger of losing his very soul. To save it, he must do the unthinkable.
The Scarlet Bride by Ian Atkins finds the young Agnes approaching her upcoming wedding. It should be the best of times, but Agnes can’t shake nightmares of a ‘cadaverous’ man watching her sleep and trying to break into her room, a man Dark Shadows fans know well. Agnes’ letters to her ill mother build an escalating picture of her sanity unravelling before the truth is revealed.
On The Line by Ian Farrington has Carolyn Stoddard enjoying her fresh start at university, but an impossible voice on the telephone threatens to bring all that crashing down around her.
Finally in this set, In A Broken Dream by Penelope Faith follows Amy Jennings as she tries to escape her haunted past by visiting Elizabeth and Roger in Paris. But upon arrival they are not there, and Amy realises she might never escape from the unknown.
Morris’ tale is a tale of curses and desperate deals that references not just Dark Shadows, but many supernaturally-inclined stories. Despite it being slight, it has that feel of the show that carries it through and Matthew Waterhouse’s reading is gripping stuff, drawing you into Johnson’s slimy desperation. Similarly, Atkins’ episode is stitched together from familiar influences but the opening stretch, as Agnes’ hopeful wedding planning gives way to a weary but intense terror, is atmospheric. Farrington’s episode starts slowly but picks up for a great ending. Faith’s portion of the release keeps up its pace straight from the off and it’s these two that offer something different.
Overall, it’s another strong showing for Big Finish and proof that the Dark Shadows universe is in safe hands, with great performances throughout. If you’re a fan it’s undoubtedly a worthy purchase, and though perhaps not quite up to previous release Haunting Memories, it’s still recommended.
DARK SHADOWS: PHANTOM MELODIES / DIRECTORS: ANDREW COLLINS, DAVID DARLINGTON, JIM PIERSON / WRITERS: ROB MORRIS, IAN ATKINS, IAN FARRINGTON, PENELOPE FAITH / STARRING: MATTHEW WATERHOUSE, ANDREW COLLINS, NANCY BARRETT, STEPHANIE ELLYNE / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW