I’d like to start this continuation of the Dark Shadows discussion from the old board with a look at some of the new and upcoming Dark Shadows audio stories from Big Finish Productions. There aren’t nearly as many Dark Shadows audio adventures as there are Doctor Who ones, but the Doctor Who series has been around longer. The Dark Shadows audios are a mixed bag. The first release was a full-cast sequel titled “Return to Collinwood”. Later they began to release a series of interconnected sequential stories grouped in short “seasons”. More recently they’ve been going back to the timeline of the original television show and telling interstitial one-shots. As the Dark Shadows series seems to be catching on, Big Finish seems to be ramping up their production schedule. “Curse of the Pharaoh” was released in September, and the next four are set for monthly release beginning in January at a special subscription rate.

CURSE OF THE PHARAOH:

“Curse of the Pharaoh” stars Nancy Barrett (reprising her role as Carolyn Stoddard) and Marie Wallace (perhaps best known as “Eve” on the TV show) in a new role, famed Egyptologist Dr. Gretchen Warwick. The story doesn’t specify, but I assume it takes place shortly after the end of the series original TV series, circa 1970 or so. Both actresses are kind of rusty and sound as old as they are, not as young as they (Caroline, anyway) are supposed to be. Barrett was always a better actress than Wallace, and that remains true. Wallace’s shortcomings are spotlighted in this “dramatic reading” in which she plays other bit parts, most of the male (Bob the bartender at The Blue Whale, Eliot Stokes on the telephone, Carolyn’s father in flashback), which she performs in a gruff kind of storybook voice as if reading aloud to a child. The story itself is a sequel to the unpopular “Leviathan” television storyline. If you’ve never heard a Dark Shadows audio and thinking of trying one out, there are better ones to start with than this.

KEY: OB = Old Board; UR = Un-Reviewed

Return to Collinwood - 169

SEASON ONE:
S1.1 The House of Despair - 1
S1.2 The Book of Temptation - OB
S1.3 The Christmas Presence - OB
S1.4 The Rage Beneath - 7

SEASON TWO: Kingdom of the Dead - 7

DRAMATIC READINGS:

1. Angelique’s Descent-Pt. 1 - OB
2. Angelique’s Descent-Pt. 2 - OB
3. Clothes of Sand - OB
4. The Ghost Walker - OB
5. The Skin Walkers - OB
6. The Path of Fate - OB
7. The Wicked & the Dead - OB
8. Echoes of Insanity - OB
9. Curse of the Pharaoh - 1
10. Final Judgment - 1
11. Blood Dance - 1
12. The Night Whispers - 1
13. London’s Burning - 2
14. The Doll House - 30
15. The Blind Painter - 87
16. The Death Mask - 88
17. The Creeping Fog - 89
18. The Carrion Queen - 89
19. The Poisoned Soul - 96
20. The Lost Girl - 96
21. The Crimson Pearl - 114
22. The Voodoo Amulet - 129
23. The House by the Sea - 170
24. Dress Me in Dark Dreams - 154
25. The Eternal Actress - 162
26. The Fall of House Trask - 163
27. Operation: Victor - 166
28. Speak No Evil - 166
29. The Last Stop - 166
30. Dreaming of the Water - 167
31. The Haunted Refrain - 167
32. A Collinwood Christmas - 167
33. The Phantom Bride - 167
34. Beneath the Veil - 167
35. The Enemy Within - 167
36. The Lucifer Gambit - 167
37. The Flip Side - 167
38. Beyond the Grave - 168
39. Curtain Call - 168
40. The Harvest of Souls - 170
41. The Happier Dead - 168
42. The Carriage Damned - 168
43. The Devil Cat - 168
44. The Darkest Shadow - 173

SEASON THREE: Bloodlust - 170-172

45. Panic - 173
46. The Curse of Shurafa - 173
47. In the Twinkling of an Eye - 173
48. Deliver Us from Evil - 173
49. Tainted Love - 173
50. ...And Red All Over - 175

Echoes of the Past - 176

Blood & Fire - 176

Haunting Memories - 177

Phantom Melodies - 178

Dreams of Long Ago - 178

THE TONY & CASSANDRA MYSTERIES:
The Mystery at Crucifix Heights - 179
The Mystery of La Danse Macabre - 179
The Mystery of Flight 493
The Mystery of Karmina Sonata
 

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FINAL JUDGMENT:

In the afterlife, Josette has made a pact with the Dark Lord to try Angelique for crimes against true love. But Josette’s time spent as a restless spirit has taken its toll. Is she strong enough to take on her old adversary? If Angelique is convicted, her soul is forfeit, restoring Josette to life and beauty. If not…

“Final Judgment”, the first in a new monthly series of hour-long audio dramas, gets the series off to a somewhat shaky start. The idea of Josette facing off against Angelique is a good one, but the hoops the writer asks the listener jump through to get to that point are exhausting. The premise is hampered by a lack of internal logic (How did Josette come to ally herself with Angelique’s master, the “Dark Lord”? Why would a “jury of her peers” be interested in trying Angelique “for crimes against true love” in the first place?), but the continuity with the original TV episodes is strong. The audible gasps occasionally heard from the jury (presumably dead witches in Hell) are laughable. There’s a minor twist at the end which may account for some the questions raised by the premise, but without a strong set-up, this “courtroom drama” is a story better left untold. This initial offering in the new series reads (or perhaps I should say “listens”) like above average fanfic, but fanfic nonetheless.
BLOOD DANCE:

The year is 1929, and Quentin Collins finds himself in Chicago, captivated by the city’s energy and the prospect of a new love. Drawn into the twilight world of speakeasies and organized crime at the Arcadia Club, he becomes embroiled with owner Chandres Tessier — an enigmatic woman to whom he is inexorably drawn, but who hides a dark secret…

The most recent Dark Shadows audio adventure is set in an era left unexamined but the original television series. The daytime gothic soap spent an entire year set in and around the Collinwood of 1897, but other than a handful of brief flashbacks from 1948, no stories occurred between the turn of the century and the time the show began in 1966. Prohibition era Chicago makes for an interesting and unusual setting for a Dark Shadows story, and I enjoyed hearing the haunting “Shadows of the Night” (a.k.a. “Quentin’s Them”) reinterpreted as a Tin Pan Alley number. But apart from framing narration set in the present day, there’s not much to indicate who Quentin is, what’s so unusual about him or why we should care. On the other hand, I can’t imagine too many non-fans of the series listening to this dramatic reading, so I suppose that’s a moot point.

“Blood Dance” also stars Lisa Richards (Sabrina Stuart from the TV show and Daphne Budd from the movie), but she’s not convincing as the “enigmatic woman to whom he is inexorably drawn” she is intended to be. The make-up artists did a good job covering up 40 years of wrinkles, but the bags under his eyes make the the photo of David Selby on the CD cover look more like the zombie Quentin. Still I suppose it’s unfair to criticize the actors just for getting older. Actually, “Blood Dance” is better than the last several offerings in the Dark Shadows audio series.
THE NIGHT WHISPERS:

Long since released from his vampire curse, Barnabas Collins has settled into a new life away from the supernatural. But when a powerful storm sweeps through collinsport, the elements bring back memories of past sins. Who is the mysterious spirit whispering in the darkness, and what is its connection with Barnabas?

“The Night Whispers” is special among Dark Shadows audio dramas in that it marks the first time in 40 years Jonathan Frid return to the role he make famous, Barnabas Collins. John Karlen co-stars as Barnabas’ ever-present servant, Willie Loomis. Rounding out the cast is Barbara Steele, who played Julia Hoffman in the 1991 revival series, playing a new character, Celeste, who serves as a catalyst from the past to set the plot in motion.

Writer Stuart Manning listened to tape loops of Frid’s performances in order to better familiarize himself with Frid’s speech patterns and vocal tics. Manning also gained insight into the characters from John Karlen, who pointed out that Willie had suffered too much at Barnabas’ hands to ever consider him a friend. “That was a really valuable insight,” said Manning, “and exploring that lingering resentment between them was really interesting.”

The performances were a little surprising to me. Whereas Frid can definitely still act (he’s 86 years old), his voice has changed so much I have a hard time hearing any of the Barnabas of old in it. John Karlen has kept in character, though, and it’s his performance which, perhaps surprisingly, carries the show. The action takes place in a vague time frame “after the present timeline of the original series.” The main story, related by Barnabas to Willie, takes place in 18th century Martinique, but instead of focusing on Angelique (as so many Dark Shadows flashbacks do), this one focuses on Barnabas.

In the new audio series set in the present day, Barnabas has been reincarnated into the body of a younger man played by Andrew Collins (who, incidently, sounds much more like Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas that Frid now does), but “The Night whispers” very much brings to an end the original incarnation of Barnabas Collins.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
THE NIGHT WHISPERS:

In the new audio series set in the present day, Barnabas has been reincarnated into the body of a younger man played by Andrew Collins (who, incidently, sounds much more like Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas that Frid now does), but “The Night whispers” very much brings to an end the original incarnation of Barnabas Collins.

Can you elaborate on this reincarnation angle? I've yet to hear any of the audio series, but I'm intrigued by this twist.
Doctor Hmmm? said:
Jeff of Earth-J said:
THE NIGHT WHISPERS:

In the new audio series set in the present day, Barnabas has been reincarnated into the body of a younger man played by Andrew Collins (who, incidently, sounds much more like Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas that Frid now does), but “The Night whispers” very much brings to an end the original incarnation of Barnabas Collins.

Can you elaborate on this reincarnation angle? I've yet to hear any of the audio series, but I'm intrigued by this twist.

Well, you see, when a Time Lord receives damage to his body that would be fatal...

Oh. Sorry. Wrong audio production from Big Finish.

Carry on.
Doctor Hmmm? said:
Can you elaborate on this reincarnation angle?

SPOILERS for The House of Despair: Quentin Collins returns to Collinsport to find Collinwood deserted and many of the townsfolk afflicted by something which has turned them into wanderers known collectively as “The Lost.” The only one left on the estate is Willie Loomis, but he can no more explain what happened than could Maggie Evans. In desperation, Quentin and Willie resurrect Angelique. An entity known as Mr. Stryx is stealing the souls of the people of Collinsport and imprisoning them in a flock of continually circling Blackbirds or Ravens. Barnabas Collins had become aware of the situation, but Stryx killed him.

Quentin and Angelique manage to defeat Stryx and return the souls of the living to their bodies, except for one. Angelique, still not to be trusted, saved Barnabas’ soul and housed it in the body of one of The Lost. She also restored Barnabas’ curse, condemning him to be a vampire until such a time as he would come to love her. The three plus Willie form an uneasy alliance and settle into Collinwood. In the next episode, Maggie will meet the new Barnabas but does not know he is the same man she knew before.
For those of us who have Netflix-capable machines (a digital TiVo, a Wii, etc), you can instantly watch season one of Dark Shadows. I have it in my queue but haven't started watching it yet.

I've never seen an episode of the original series (yet!) but I did read several of the old novelizations when I was a teen and I thought the 1991 Dark Shadows series was terrific.
I remember the 1991 series: I haven't seen episodes of the original.

There's a bit in Fantastic Four #94 where the FF arrive at Agatha Harkness's house and the Thing says something like "Who's going to open the door - Barnabas or Quasimodo?" I figured Barnabas must be a Marvel villain, like Quasimodo.
Cavalier said:
For those of us who have Netflix-capable machines (a digital TiVo, a Wii, etc), you can instantly watch season one of Dark Shadows. I have it in my queue but haven't started watching it yet.

I've never seen an episode of the original series (yet!) but I did read several of the old novelizations when I was a teen and I thought the 1991 Dark Shadows series was terrific.

In fairness, I think most people would say that you'll wanna skip the first 180 or so episodes to get to the "good stuff." I'm a die-hard fan and even I find most of the pre-Barnabas stuff to be hard slogging at times.

I also liked the 1991 series.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
Doctor Hmmm? said:
Can you elaborate on this reincarnation angle?

SPOILERS for The House of Despair: Quentin Collins returns to Collinsport to find Collinwood deserted and many of the townsfolk afflicted by something which has turned them into wanderers known collectively as “The Lost.” The only one left on the estate is Willie Loomis, but he can no more explain what happened than could Maggie Evans. In desperation, Quentin and Willie resurrect Angelique. An entity known as Mr. Stryx is stealing the souls of the people of Collinsport and imprisoning them in a flock of continually circling Blackbirds or Ravens. Barnabas Collins had become aware of the situation, but Stryx killed him.

Quentin and Angelique manage to defeat Stryx and return the souls of the living to their bodies, except for one. Angelique, still not to be trusted, saved Barnabas’ soul and housed it in the body of one of The Lost. She also restored Barnabas’ curse, condemning him to be a vampire until such a time as he would come to love her. The three plus Willie form an uneasy alliance and settle into Collinwood. In the next episode, Maggie will meet the new Barnabas but does not know he is the same man she knew before.

Works for me! Thanks, Jeff.
Speaking for myself, I love the first nine (pre-Barnabas) months of the show! I don’t necessarily like them more than the early Barnabas stories, but I do like them more than the ones after the show went to color and started travelling in time. There are three main story arcs prior to the introduction of Barnabas, the second of which (my least favorite of the three) deals with the supernatural Phoenix. Chris Claremont was evidently a fan of the show. Not only did he “borrow” the name Phoenix for Jean Grey’s second heroic identity, he also took the name “Sebastian Shaw” (as well as the 19th century trappings of the Hellfire Club) from Dark Shadows.

I’d like to offer one caveat to anyone watching the show for the first time who decides to start with the Barnabas arc: if you’re watching on DVD or VHS, you should skip over the introductory footage as it reveals major spoilers of the series first year. You have been warned!

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