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, 181

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 - 180
The Mystery of Karmina Sonata - 180

SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT:
Trio - 180
Honeymoon from Hell - 180
Retreat -180
1:53 AM - 180

MAGGIE & QUENTIN - THE LOVERS' REFRAIN:
The Girl Beneath the Water - 180
The Sand That Speaks HIs Name - 180
The Hollow Winds That Beckon
The Paper to the Flame
  

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THE TONY & CASSANDRA MYSTERIES

THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 493 by Alan Flanagan:

“When Tony and Cassandra board a flight bound for home they think that their latest case is behind them, until a terrifying creature begins to murder their fellow passengers. Something is hunting the people on Flight 493, and Tony and Cassandra must deduce what connects it with a story about a little boy who's terrified of what might be under his bed… before it's all far too late...”

COMMENTS: Have you seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause & Effect”? In it, the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, endlessly repeating the last half hour or so before a fatal collision with another ship throws it back in time and the cycle repeats. As the crew goes through the same series of events over and over, they experience an increasing sense of déjà vu, until they finally realize what is happening to them and they figure a way out of it.

If you’re familiar with “Cause and Effect” then “The Mystery of Flight 493” will hold no surprises for you.

THE TONY & CASSANDRA MYSTERIES

THE MYSTERY OF KARMINA SONATA by Aaron Lamont:

“When Karmina Sonata arrives in their office, Tony and Cassandra think it’s just another case. A séance gone wrong, a few violent deaths... Par for the course, if you specialize in the unusual. But what if this is not just another case? What if something else is going on? And what if, just if, their sins are about to find them out? Because for Tony and Cassandra, things will never be the same again...”

COMMENTS: Karmina Sonata is a fake medium who accidentally unleashes a true supernatural threat during a séance. When the participants in the séance begin dying one by one in grisly ways, Karmina seeks help from Tony & Cassandra. The fake gypsy accent used by the actress who plays Karmina is the same fake gypsy accent Grayson Hall used when she played Magda Rakosi on the TV show. Karmina is supposed to be young and sultry, but every time she speaks I picture Julia Hoffman. The Amy Jennings character has been recast (as an adult), and so have David Collins and Professor Stokes (not to mention Barnabas, come to think of it). If they ever decide to include Julia Hoffman in a story (rather than paying lip service to her being in India or some other exotic locale), Anna-Maria Everett would be a good choice to assay the role.

Those who participated in the séance are being killed apropos their vices based on the “seven Deadly Sins” of Catholic dogma. The clues are there for the audience to pick up on (I didn’t) before Tony and Cassandra figure it out. That’s a “writerly” kind of conceit, but there are enough twists and turns to keep it from becoming formulaic. (For example: there are seven deadly sins, but only four people participated in the séance. What about the other three sins?) Clever quips abound, especially between the two main characters, making this an enjoyable story, and series overall.

SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT: Four tales of horror, romance and intrigue…

Short story collections is the new thing between “seasons.” First up this time is…

TRIO by Nick Myles:

“Carolyn Stoddard and Amy Jennings are the greatest of friends and they would never let a man come between them. But the mysterious pianist Jude is no ordinary man…

Jude is a fascinatingly ugly concert pianist who apparently has the ability to make women fall madly in love with him. It’s definitely a story of the supernatural, but beyond that I’m not sure what the point is.

HONEYMOON FROM HELL by Antoni Pearce:

“Cyrus Longworth and Sabrina Jennings have finally defeated their demons and are now married. But, when on their honeymoon in Germany, they see a man watching them can they be sure that they’ve escaped their past?”

Honestly, I had forgotten that Cyrus and Sabrina were married. I’m not terribly interested in the character of Cyrus, and I like Sabrina only when her character arc is developed alongside [her sister-in-law] Amy’s. Plus, they keep referring to themselves and Cyrus and Sabrina Longworth-Jennings. Shouldn’t that be Jennings-Longworth?

RETREAT by Daniel Hinchliffe:

“Amy Jennings may be on vacation, but when a last day in Paris becomes a hunt for a friend through a long-neglected bookstore, it seems there are some things you can never run away from...”

This one starts out as gothic horror, then switches to modern horror (more Clive Barker than Staphen King I should say). It’s about a man perpetually trapped in a half-man/half-werewolf state due to an unsuccessful attempt at a cure some years ago. He finds out about Amy’s connections to werewolves (her son and her sister-in-law), and kidnaps Roger to enlist her help. She can’t cure her own son, but the creature doesn’t want to be cured, but returned to his full werewolf state. My favorite story of the set.

1:53 AM by Lila Whelan:

“Doctor Robert Harper is visited by his old friend, Carolyn. She needs his help to investigate what appears to be a case of possession in a typical suburban house. But he is about to discover that it’s not only the Collins family who have dark secrets…”

This one comes in second best of the set. It features James Storm (“Mr. Sneary-face” to you, Bob) as Carolyn’s professor. It also takes a stab at tying the four stories together. A man’s daughter is possessed, but Carolyn has reason to believe he may be faking it for reasons of his own.

SNEAK PREVIEW: DARK SHADOWS: “Maggie & Quentin”

“This June sees the release of a new Dark Shadows collection, ‘Maggie & Quentin: The Lovers’ Refrain.’ Co-producer Joe Lidster teases us about what’s to come with the witch and the immortal.

“He says: ‘It’s all Kathryn Leigh Scott’s fault! She wanted to do a series of stories with David Selby—and how could we say no? Maggie Evans and Quentin Collins are two of the biggest characters in Dark Shadows and the idea of uniting them in a series of adventures was too god an opportunity to miss. The only slight problem we had was that the characters actually had very little interaction in the television series.

“‘So, we decided to do a box set from when they were much older, detailing the days leading up to their marriage. Script editor and writer Alan Flanagan worked with the other writers to really produce something very different. It’s four stories featuring two characters in the later days of their lives exploring what it means to fall in love again—when you’ve already lost the love of your life. It’s very different to anything we’ve done before. The stories are linked by the elements and it all feels very beautiful and poetic without losing the humor and horror that’s so intrinsic to Dark Shadows. So, thank you, Kathryn. Your suggestion has led us to creating something that I think is genuinely beautiful.’”

I’m not sure why they refer to Maggie as “the witch.” And… “marriage”?

I’m going to take a short break from discussing Doctor Who audios to return to the first audio series from Big Finish I became interested in. I think I can answer those two questions I posed above last April. I think this series is set in “parallel time.” As such, I think this series could be a potentially good “jumping on point” for new listeners. Here’s what’s ahead.

MAGGIE AND QUENTIN – THE LOVERS’ REFRAIN

1. The Girl Beneath the Water by Lila Whelan
2. The Sand That Speaks His Name by Mark Thomas Passmore
3. The Hollow Winds That Beckon by Cody Schell
4. The Paper to the Flame by Alan Flanagan

"'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…’ Just the standard disclaimer - nothing to worry about."

THE GIRL BENEATH THE WATER:

“As Maggie Collins welcomes her children home to Collinwood to celebrate her husband Quentin’s 65th birthday, she is blissfully unaware of the cruel magic at work underpinning the heartwarming scene.

“In a battle for reality, Maggie and Quentin must come together to protect their children against an ancient magical force that knows no mercy. But in doing so, they risk losing everything they love. For who can be trusted when you can’t trust yourself?”

COMMENTARY: This story does a good job of introducing the new cast of characters without being overly expository. Quentin and Maggie have two grown children, Ronan and Emily. Ronan is 22 years old and just out of college. He is burning through his expense fund and his parents have offered to pay his way through law school when he’s ready and are encouraging him to travel. Emily seems to resent this. She is the stable one, in her late 20s with three children, all girls. There are also two servants in Collinwood, Peter Brewer and Maria Baily. Brewer serves as the butler and general handyman, Ms. Baily is the housekeeper/cook.

Maggie mentions something about Quentin’s portrait in conversation, but he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Upon reflection, she’s not sure she does, either. Maggie says something about her grandchildren to Emily, but Emily resents it. She free and single, and has recently bought a loft in Brooklyn. She certainly doesn’t want any kids to tie her down. Emily asks about the painting titled “Water’s Edge” hanging in the foyer. She used to think the girl beneath the surface was swimming, but she’s face down and the way her hair is billowing suggests she drowned. Maggie has never noticed a girl in the painting before. Emily asks where the painting came from, but Maggie can’t recall. She thinks it was a gift, but Quentin says he thinks it’s “always been there.”

Earlier Maggie had been talking about her job. When she tries to go to work, the others remind her that she retired years ago. When she sees Ronan later, his hair has grown noticeably since dinner and he needs a shave. When she reaches for his face, he growls and snaps at her. She passes the painting and notices clouds in it as a thunderstorm passes by outside. She tries to leave in the car, but a flash flood prevents her. When she looks at the painting again, the water level in it has risen.

Maggie becomes convinced that a force within the painting is trying to keep them at Collinwood. Neither she nor Quentin can remember the last time they left the grounds. The initials of the paining are P.B., and Maria is able to tell them his name was Peter Brewer, the same as their butler. She admits that she is the girl in the painting, and that Brewer is a warlock who drowned her, them trapped them both in the magical painting.

Maggie suggests burning it, but Maria explains that will only free him back into the physical world, no longer bound by the painting. Maggie and Quentin discover that they both have two distinct sets of memories, one in which they marry young and have children, another in which they fall in love and marry much later in life, When they confront Brewer, he has a much different story to tell than Maria’s. According to him, Maria was drowned as a witch, he got too close she pulled him under with her. She used her magic to trap them in the painting, and when human beings come close enough, they are able to manifest.

Apparently, Maggie has found a way to thwart her. The life they are living now is an amalgam of Maggie ad Quentin’s hopes and dreams, but their different desires create discrepancies. Maria is using her magic to create Maggie’s deepest fears in order to keep her in line. Brewer tells them that destroying the painting will break the curse, but when Maggie takes a match to it, it will not burn. That’s because only magic can destroy magic. Because f his werewolf curse, Quentin is able to destroy the painting, however.

Once the danger is past, Quentin and Maggie decide to take a holiday in New York City.

THE SAND THAT SPEAKS HIS NAME:

“A mistake from Quentin’s past casts a dark shadow over his and Maggie’s weekend getaway in New York City. A Golem is loose, threatening innocents and only Quentin knows how to stop it. But first, he must learn how and why the creature has come back to life, a task which takes Maggie and Quentin on a quest through the hidden supernatural network of the Big Apple.

“Will Maggie’s foray into the perilous life Quentin used to live drive an irreparable wedge in their relationship? Will the rampaging Golem give them the chance to find out?”

COMMENTARY: Someone has gained access to Quentin’s safety deposit box. Although it contained many things of greater value (and greater power), the only thing missing is a “shem,” the mystical piece of paper when, placed in a golem’s mouth, brings it to life. Back in the ‘20s, Quentin and his friend Matthias were up to all kinds of things. One of them led to Matthias’ soul being used to animate the golem. It is Matthias’ grandson who has tracked down the golem and the shem. He wants to use the golem to commit robberies.

The plot proceeds in a straightforward fashion at that point, with two twists coming at the end. 1) Matthias’ soul ends up inhabiting his grandson’s body, and 2) some kind of supernatural presence speaks through Matthias’ new body and threatens Quentin. This story is narrated in a sort of “Nicj & Nora Charles” style by both Quentin and Maggie. One of the underlying themes is that Quentin wants to protect Maggie from the supernatural things in his life, but she doesn’t want to be protected. This chapter ends with Matthias urging Quentin to take Maggie into his confidence.

I forgot to mention one very important thing about “The Sand That Speaks His Name”: Quentin’s portrait is missing from its safety deposit box, too. This theft is unlikely to be related to the theft of the shem because the deposit box with the portrait was in the name of Grant Douglas (Quentin’s alias from TV), and Mathias’s son wouldn’t’ve known about it.

THE HOLLOW WINDS THAT BECKON:

“A sunny day of fishing is interrupted by dark clouds as Quentin and Maggie find themselves swept up in events beyond their understanding. They’ll do their best to escape a mysterious island, even if their failure means joining those who have failed before them - the ghosts on the waves.”

COMMENTARY: The story begins with Quentin leading Maggie, blindfolded, into his workshop. He removes her blindfold to reveal his pet project, the restoration of her father’s little boat. It had been sitting in the yard of Maggie’s old cottage, and the renters asked if it could be removed. Sam stopped using the boat after Maggie’s mother died, but he used it a lot when they were courting. It is a 15-foot, pea-green rowboat named The Owl and the Pussycat.

They take the boat out on the ocean. The next scene has a lot of character development as the two main characters discuss many things, including Maggie’s mother. Earlier I speculated that these stories take place in “parallel time” but I’m not sure they do. In any case, they take place farther down the timeline (probably early 2000s) than the stories in the main range (1980s). Oddly, Maggie is not the owner of the Collinsport Inn (as she is in the main series, which makes sense), but the administrator of the Windcliff Sanitarium (which does not).

A sudden squall blows in and they end up being shipwrecked on one of the small islands that dot the coast. They see a sailor on a boat off shore, but soon realize he and the boat are transparent. He’s sailing directly toward them, and the boat does not stop when it comes to the shore but continues to move right over the sand. They flee and soon encounter a woman named Jacquélope. She speaks with a sort of Romany accent and says she has been shipwrecked there for seven years. She also says the apparition they saw is one of many ghosts of sailors who has drowned near the island over the years. She refers to the island as damned. Maggie rephrases, “An island of the damned,” but Jacquélope corrects her, saying, “No, it’s a damned island as in ‘I wish I was off this damned island.’”

Quentin goes to gather firewood, leaving Maggie with Jacquélope. Soon Maggie joins him, however. They begin to talk, and Quentin tells her that his portrait has been stolen. Maggie is upset that Quentin didn’t confide in her earlier. She also confesses she’s having doubts about their relationship. She had envisioned growing old along her husband, but now she knows that, so long as the portrait exists, Quentin is immortal and will never age. She is concerned that he is simply using her as a distraction and that he will easily move on when the time comes. Eventually Quentin deduces that it is not Maggie at all he is speaking to, but the ghost sailor who has taken her form.

Back at the campsite, when Quentin returns without the wood, Jacquélope goes in search of it. He tells her of the missing portrait, and of his encounter with the sailor. She suspects he isn’t telling her everything, and presses him for more details. Eventually, he becomes abusive and tells her that she couldn’t handle it if she knew all the details of his life. It soon becomes clear that this is not the real Quentin, but another manifestation of the sailor. Maggie runs off into the woods after Quentin and Jacquélope.

Quentin and Jacquélope meet in the woods where they are soon joined by Maggie. Jacquélope begins to tell them her real story. She’s been on the island for longer than seven years… more like several hundred. She is, in reality, a Greek muse. The island isn’t fixed in space, but her presence draws creative souls to it. Sam was drawn to her long ago, and something about Sam’s boat caused it to return. When they ask her if they’ll ever get off the island, Jacquélope replies, “I’m a muse, not an oracle!”

I’m still a couple of tracks from the end, but the three of them put their heads together to brainstorm a way to defeat the sailor, which I’m sure they do. If there are any further important twists I’ll report them here tomorrow.

I should really know better than to post my reactions before I’ve actually finished listening to the story.

IF the story had been only what I thought it was when I left off listening, I would have been happy with it. But there were a few more twists to come. First Jacquélope ends up not to be a Muse, but a Siren. Also, the sailor turns out to be the ghost of Joe Haskell, Maggie’s first husband and boyfriend from the TV series. He has been in the thrall of Jacquélope since his death, many years before. When he appeared to them of the beach, he wasn’t attacking them but rather trying to warn them. Jacquélope tries to use Maggie’s love for Joe as a wedge to drive her and Quentin apart, but Quentin accepts Maggie’s love for her first husband as part of who she is, the three band together to defeat her, and Joe’s soul is set free. It ends with the reciting and reenacting lines from the last stanza of the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”:

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon

(It also explains what a “runcible spoon” is: a sort of “spork” for eating pickles.)

THE PAPER TO THE FLAME:

“When a group of Windcliff patients start chanting a centuries-old song, Maggie and Quentin investigate - and find themselves drawn to an abandoned town with haunted streets and a fire burning deep below. There they must face an enemy far stronger, and far more unhinged, than they could ever have imagined – one with a grudge that stretches into both their pasts, and will have a profound effect on both their futures...”

COMMENTARY: The pre-theme sequence is of a young woman working late at an office and trapped by a fire.

Quentin joins Maggie softly singing a song in a chapel. We’ve never seen Maggie in church before, but it’s not necessarily out of character. It is for Quentin, though, and they joke about him “bursting into flame.” They eat dinner at the Collinsport Inn. She mentions that she used to own it before she went to work at Windcliff. Again, she softly sings the same song.

They are interrupted by a call from the sanitarium. A number of the patients are gathered in the common room, just standing there. By the time Quentin and Maggie arrive, they are singing a song… the same one Maggie had been singing earlier. The patients then raise their arms and point in the same direction. A call comes from a sanitarium in another town, then a third. Patients in those facilities are all exhibiting similar behavior. When the direction they are pointing is checked with a compass and drawn on a map, the lines form a perfect triangle. In the center of the triangle is a single town.

At first, the patients involved seem to have nothing in common. Then it is discovered they all suffered trauma from fire at some point in their lives. The song they are singing is about a girl named Sally, which was Maggie’s mother’s name. Maggie’s mother was the young girl trapped by the fire in the opening scene. She didn’t die in the fire, but she inhaled enough smoke that her breathing never fully recovered, and she died of respiratory illness many years later.

Maggie and Quentin drive to Borrowing, MA, the town at the center of the map. The sign says “Population: Medium to Well-Done.” They find the town deserted, except for one person they see from a distance who is following them around. Borrowing was a coal town until 1979, when the mine caught fire. It’s burning still, forcing the evacuation of the town due to the constant threat of collapse. Maggie and Quentin find hints of her mother everywhere. A note, signed C.D. Tate, directs them to the Sweetness Café. (“Sweetness was the pet name Maggie’s father had for her mother.) Fans of the television show will recognize “C.D. Tate” as the way Charles Delaware Tate signed his paintings.

Tate is the artist who painted Quentin’s portrait on an enchanted canvas. Years later, he painted a landscape over it, but this story reveals that within the landscape was the tiny figure of a man. This story also reveals that, in his youth, Sam Evans painted for a time under the tutelage of Tate. During that time, he added the figure of the man from a photo Tate had taken of a subject named Lucien Cray some time earlier, thus making him immortal. When Julia Hoffman and Professor Stokes had the portrait restored, it wasn’t done magically and the immortality spell remained in effect.

Cray had a bad time as an immortal. He was captured during the war and tortured. When they couldn’t kill him, they buried him. Eventually he found his way to the siren Jacquélope, who led him to Quentin’s safety deposit box. It was Cray who stole the portrait and set these events in motion. He wants revenge for the tortured existence he has led, and since Sam is dead, Maggie will do. His ultimate end is to force Quentin himself to destroy the portrait.

I know I should have learned my lesson from yesterday, but that’s where I left it.

I thought the premise of "The Paper to the Flame" (a deserted town with a coal fire buring beneath) sounded familiar last week when I listened to it. I thought I had maybe encountered it before on a Doctor Who audio, but I couldn't remember which one so I didn't mention it. I just happened to re-read Swamp Thing #35-36 over the weekend, which is also based on the true story of Centralia, PA.

DARK SHADOWS NEWSPAPER STRIPS: The long-awaited complete collection of the short-lived Dark Shadows comic strip finally shipped from Hermes Press. The production is not as good as the Pomegranate Press edition, but it’s hardcover, it’s produced at a larger size and the Sundays are in color. On slick paper.

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