Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Echoes written by Gary Russell and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: Trapped alone on the last Tube home, Dorian finds himself confronted by phantoms… but why have they waited until now to track him down?

The Painted Man: Since Dorian has come back to life it has disturbed something. His miraculous comeback is causing attention. He likes to keep himself to himself. When you have lived for several centuries you don't always recognise anachronisms when you see them. Dorian has lived a long and busy life...how could he be expected to remember the faces of all those whose paths he has crossed. Does he enjoy his immortality? It has its moments, but even those are growing few and far between. Even when he thought he has ended it, the portrait brought him back. They are linked and one cannot exist without the other. In order for Dorian to leave the world behind (an offer he sounds like he is considering) there is a bargain to be made. The painting has to be sacrificed, the symbol of the deal he entered into. Surrender the painting and get a free pardon to paradise. No matter how many false memories they try and plant in his head he would never betray the painting to anybody. He knows these aren't people who have walked into his life because he has a picture sharp memory of everybody who has died because of him. Creatures have started to stir because of his revival.

Standout Performance: Come on, it's Tracey Childs. How can you fail to be impressed? And she's only in a single scene. Nicola Bryant is on board too and she's using her natural accent (well a slightly upper class version of her natural accent) and like in The Church and the Crown, it is a delight. It proves there is far more to her than Peri.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'So what is this? A train ride to purgatory?'
'I prefer to think that life clings on to me.'
'You're telling me I can just leave the world behind?'

Great Ideas: I love the idea of a train station turning out to be a trap for Dorian. Quite apart from the fact that I am slightly addicted to stories set on trains (I'm practically Sheldon Cooper in that respect) there is something spectacularly creepy about that voice booming from the intercom ordering Dorian upon the train. In order for Dorian to pass this test he has to try and recall the faces of the phantoms that appear on the train, not any easy task given all the people he has met. Was it the portrait that brought Dorian back to life or was it something else? Something other? This is the first time that something like this has been hinted at in season three and going forward I think it is a very important piece of information. Was his resurrection somebody's design? And if so for what purpose? The people on the train are those who have stood by him whilst he has investigated strange and the bizarre happenings over the years.

Isn't it Odd: I think you have to be very certain of where you are going if you are trying to pull off a story that revels in the surreal. You cannot just have random things happening for apparently no reason, which is how this story comes across for much of its running time. Don't get me wrong it isn't offensive material or anything but for quite some time I wondered why I happened to be listening to it and how it fitted into the large whole of the running story this season is telling.

Standout Scene: Where has Dorian's soul gone?

Result: 'All aboard, Mr Gray...'' This feels like something quite different from Dorian, a decision to cohere the season into a running storyline rather than continue with standalone adventures. I think that every series needs to shake up the format every now and again and it is a testament to Dorian Gray's unique formula that adhering to what is common practice (a story arc) feels like a departure from the norm. Is this as exclusive as the scattershot settings from series one and two? No, but it is being delivered in as assured a fashion. Gary Russell's name isn't one that I crave for in the schedules (he did bring two of the worst audios to my mind - Zagreus and He Jests at Scars - to life) but his script for the last season of Dorian was exceptional, the best thing that I think he has ever written. This isn't quite as exceptional because it doesn't feel as though it has been written with quite the same passion as The Picture of Loretta Delphine and it enters into the realm of fantasy and dreams more perhaps than I think this series should. Saying that the dialogue is still excellent and the performances really help to sell the material and there are some important plot revelations that are vital to the season as a whole. It was perfectly entertaining to listen to but it didn't get under my skin in the way that the previous three instalments of the season did. The last five minutes promise great things for the future though, once the cards are all on the table. This is definitely a case of okay journey, great destination: 6/10

Monday, 23 February 2015

We Are Everywhere written by Roy Gill and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: When a serial-killing stalker discovers the truth about Dorian and his immortality, a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse ensues…

The Painted Man: The body can heal a nasty injury but the bones always remember...and you will always recall the pain that you experienced. That is what is like when Dorian dies. It fades from the surface but it stays inside. That is a rather clever metaphor for what he goes through each time he is reborn. Healing but never forgetting. He can't be killed for good but he can be killed over and over until what is left is just a husk of a man that remembers dying too many times to function. What sort of a sick, twisted individual would want to do that to a person? There was a point in Jack Harkness' life where he spilled to the Doctor the various ways that he had been inadvertently or deliberately killed throughout the 20th Century and I couldn't help what that might do to a person inside. Dorian experiences as many killings in this one story as Jack mentions in Utopia and I can only imagine how that list of horrific experiences has affected him.

Standout Performance: I was scratching about inside my brain trying to figure out where I head Blake Ritson's voice before. I knew I recognised it but it wasn't until I checked out IMDB that I realised it could be any number of television shows given he is quite a prolific actor. Rather unkindly it was Justin that popped into my mind earlier, the character he played in The League of Gentlemen and a victim of the German sexual predator Herr Lipp. He gives a remarkable performance here though, from meek and mild mannered in the coffee shop to the sick and twisted killer that is playing games with Dorian. It's not easy to take a character on a journey of those opposites in half an hour but Ritson pulls it off with consummate ease. Although let's not undersell what Vlahos does in We Are Everywhere. He's always good but when given challenging material he periodically rises to something quite spectacular.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'You must feel very empty, Luke Glass, to feel the need to do this.'
'You can get used to anything over time, even death...'
'There is nothing waiting for you. I just thought I'd let you know. Before the end.'

Great Ideas: Twice a day at full tide the room that Dorian is trapped in will flood and he will suffer another death as the hands of the waves wash over his head. I love the piece of dialogue that prompts an answer to the question of whether you would save many or a few in an impossible choice. I was trying to gauge what my reaction would be if I had to make that call and wondering if I could live with myself either way. It is wonderful how the tables turn during this story with Luke seeming to hold all the power until Dorian stops reacting to the murders. Luke craves the fear, the excitement of his victims' anguish and when Dorian stops offering that to him he feels in some way inadequate. Perhaps Dorian is the worst possible victim that a serial killer could have because he can come back from the dead and tell you what a terrible job you did of it. How mundane it was. With a few words, he can emasculate a killer to the point of anxiety.

Audio Landscape: I can honestly say that  have never had a reaction to the sound of the water rushing in as I did during the first scene of this adventure. After being told that there was no way out of the room and given Dorian's panicked reactions it feels like you are trapped in that situation with, the water closing in. I ripped the headphones out of my ears and gasped for breath. What a way to start a story. Dripping water, a frothy coffee being made, a ticking clock, Dorian underwater, a strong breeze, Dorian screaming as he is thrown from the bridge, the phone buttons,

Result: Is Dorian Gray the perfect victim for a serial killer? The sort of man who can be killed but leaves no shred of evidence because he springs back to life again but loses a little bit of himself each time it happens? It's fascinating to go from the half hour hit of supernatural soap opera of Dark Shadows and it's serial format to Dorian Gray because both come in bite sized instalments (ideal for a reviewer who wants to fit in an episode before work) and yet they come with very different challenges for the writers. With Bloodlust it was a case of a team of writers attempt to create a running storyline that maintains interest and builds momentum but with each half hour chapter being satisfying in its own right and carrying the writers distinctive voice. Dorian Gray's episodes are much more unique because although there is a (subtle) arc running through them, each piece has to stand up as an individual story that is being told with such brevity of time that they have to get to the point like a knife to the heart and keep twisting throughout. It's like comparing poetry to a novel. With a novel you have the luxury of taking your time with the characters and the plot but with a poem you have to choose every word carefully to make as profound an impression. And that is how I feel about these Dorian Gray audios, they feel perfectly sculpted. Because of the economy of the setting, characters and even word count the writer has to hit the ground running every time and it surprises me that it is rare that I am disappointed. I think with Scott Handcock's guiding hand (it is clear he had a unique vision for the range from the off) the series is always going to be in good shape. And whilst series three has made a stab at something different (it doesn't flit about in time like previous years, it is told in consecutive order) the individual pieces are still as thrilling and as frightening as ever. It might just be my favourite Big Finish spin off. This cat and mouse game between Dorian and Luke is another example of this series at its peak; uncomfortable, thought provoking and bolstered by fantastic performances: 9/10

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Needle written by David Llewellyn and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: Reunited with his former colleague, Simon Darlow, Dorian uncovers an centuries-old conspiracy behind one of London’s newest office blocks

The Painted Man: Dorian has had accounts with Parkers for many, many years and thought it was time to drop by and cash in. His million and half isn't just sitting in a vault, it has been invested in businesses and companies, hopefully gestating and growing. The world has changed since he has been away - people aren't buying anymore. His house is worth more now it is dilapidated and covered in ivy than it was in tip top condition - that something very profound about the world of finance. There is a real feeling of the ship that sailed with Simon, a chance that they could have had a shot of it when he was young and virile and less sceptical. He's not really one to hold back because of how somebody looks so I don't think hat age is a barrier...I just think that since Dorian returned from the dead he just isn't interested with connecting with people anymore.  

Sparkling Dialogue: 'The dead can really hold grudge!'

Great Ideas: Wow, what a cynical view on love Simon Darlow expresses. According to him love is fleeting, just a chemical reaction and once it wears off you need a practical long term solution for sharing your life with someone. Or you're fucked. I think he might be confusing love with lust. He's a cheerful sort in general I have to say, commenting that the supposed ethnic diversity of the financial business is all a smoke screen and a box ticking exercise. White, middle class straight men are the most successful people in the business for a reason. He's in a relationship with a woman and he is gay and she is in a relationship and she is a lesbian. Such cynicism. Finally somebody knows what happened in this building and that is why it allowed Dorian and Simon to escape. I wonder if we will ever see him again? The finale scene suggests that somebody is monitoring Dorian's return from the dead and has spies everywhere. I smell an arc...

Audio Landscape: Working on the running treadmill, footsteps, the creaking lift, dogs barking, giggling, church bells, squeaky doors, telephone ringing, screams, the building collapsing around them,

Standout Scene: The last thing you want to hear when phantoms of the past are coming back to haunt you is that your place of work used to be the setting for a plague pit. What hideous phantoms would that project on the future? Especially with the revelation that Lyle didn't even have the bodies moved. He had it built on top of where they laid.

Result: A marvellous Sapphire and Steel-esque tale set in a shifting setting with two well defined characters. David Llewellyn is somebody who has snuck in under the radar as far as Big Finish is concerned and yet you look at his efforts across the various spin offs and he has produced some very nice material (particularly Dark Shadows' The Last Stop, which was extremely creepy and Paradise Frost for Bernice Summerfield that lingers in the memory to this day). I think it is time that he qualified for a main range adventure, I think he might be able to shake things up a little bit and provide a fresh voice. A contemptuous corporate setting featuring a right sleazebag of a banker, The Needle isn't the sort of story to put on when you are looking to discover all that is wonderful with the world but it does make some powerful observations about the less salubrious aspects of humanity that are worth contemplating (if only to try and do something about them). It's marvellous to have Alexander Vlahos back in the driving seat (although I did enjoy the malicious nature of Holley's interpretation in the last story) and I am enjoying this darker, soulless version of the character. Without a heart he gets right to the nub of the problem without any pesky feelings getting in the way. This absolutely shot by in the way that only really smart, really creepy Dorian Gray can: 9/10

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Dark Shadows Bloodlust - What the critics said...


For anybody who reads my blog it cannot be any secret that I thought that Dark Shadows Bloodlust has been a resounding success. A 13-part serial that spawned one of the most exciting storylines of any Big Finish endeavour and accessible to newbies to the range or the most seasoned expert on the TV series, bringing together an impressive cast of characters and providing some of the most thrilling moments from the company in about five years. However what has impressed me even more has been the near universal praise for the serial and from of the Doctor Who ranges most staunchest critics (including myself). Because the spin off series struggle in the sales compared to the Doctor Who ones (by their very nature there isn't as much interest), I thought I would compile a piece consisting of what people are saying and why you should give the series a try. I hope the powers that be are listening because this serial was a huge success and deserves a follow up...

'With a gentle start, we are soon drawn in and this Bloodlust storyline has been fashioned to welcome those who are unfamiliar with the show, as well as catering to long term fans. With its myriad cast of characters, some from the original series and others brand new, it is clear that there is plenty to learn; from the ghost politely haunting her husband at the local bar to the Witch who lies entombed, biding her time. Released twice weekly across January and February on download, to mirror the episodic soap opera structure of the original, Dark Shadows: Bloodlust looks set to be an engrossing storyline and a great jumping on point for those new to the show. It will also be available on two CD volumes.' Cultbox Reviewhttp://www.cultbox.co.uk/reviews/books-a-cds/big-finish-dark-shadows-bloodlust-audio-story-review

'Big Finish really ought to be reading all the Bloodlust reviews. From the few I've read, and the threads on their own forums, I've not seen a single bad word (save for concerning the hospital nurse) written about this new series, which is virtually unheard of given I mainly checked sources run by Doctor Who fans! I don't know what story could be told with a second serial, but I'd trust in the same team that's behind Bloodlust to deliver again. There's some refreshingly untapped talent working on this series, and Big Finish would be mad not to note the positive reaction. This is Joe Lidster's final episode of Bloodlust, and he certainly goes out with a bang. Over the course of his four episodes, I've got the real sense that his strength lies in increasing scale, and throwing things together to see what comes out. It's worked beautifully, and made him an invaluable addition.' Artron Reviewshttp://artronreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/bloodlust-xi.html

'But all of that pales by comparison to this surprisingly fully fleshed out, amply casted short run series, whose sheer breadth of interweaving characterization and storylines builds a complicated skein worthy of a Dan Curtis Production. One wonders, in fact, just how closely authors Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster studied at the feet of such men as Sam Hall, Gordon Russell and Art Wallace, so closely reminiscent are their efforts here to the original 1966-71 teleseries. Without being overly nostalgic or quaint in any way, there is no question that, at least to judge by the first six episodes contained herein, this is the first time the Dark Shadows audio series really felt like the televised Dark Shadows – not in oft-impressive, individual character backstory-exploring parts, but as a living, breathing, integrated whole.' Third Eye Cinemahttps://thirdeyecinema.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/audio-drama-review-dark-shadows-bloodlust/

13 Reasons You Should Buy Dark Shadows Bloodlust by Dark Shadows Every Day http://darkshadowseveryday.com/2015/02/20/13-reasons-bloodlust/

'Acting-wise, the veteran actors deliver their customary strong performances, with Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker being especially well-served by the scripts. And special mention must be made of Matthew Waterhouse’s Andrew Cunningham, a misogynistic, opportunistic bastard of a journalist brought to delicious life by the once and future Adric. People who only know his acting from Doctor Who will likely be bowled over by his performance here.Travelling back to its roots – with slight elements of Twin Peaks and Broadchurch blended in to good effect – Bloodlust proves that sometimes you can go back home again… 8/10' SciFi Bulletinhttp://scifibulletin.com/us-tv/dark-shadows/dark-shadows-review-big-finish-audio-bloodlust-volume-1-episodes-1-6/

'I don't think I've loved every single aspect of a production as much as I've loved this. What an absolutlely brilliant, brilliant series. Well done and thanks to all concerned.' Planet Klibignaitis, Gallifrey Base - http://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=9

'Yeah, this was as close to perfection as it's possible to get. Best. Thing. Ever.' DavidXBrunt, Gallifrey Base - http://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=9

'This really has been a great series. It's pure storytelling. Perfect, exquisitely timed, perfected storytelling. Now, don't rake me over the coals if I say it's an 8/10 for me - That doesn't mean I underestimate in any way how fantastically well realised it is. It's just a personal matter of taste that the stories that really, really engage me are the ones that throw up high-concept ideas that I can think about afterwards, and sometimes a high concept story will thrill me more than another story that's actually better told. I don't think anyone has ever told a story with more skill than Bloodlust, and it's purely a matter of personal taste that I rate it an 8. Listening to it I am utterly immersed, but just on a personal level, it's not the kind of story that tends to stick in my head you see. That and the few criticisms mentioned earlier in the thread (I never was sold on the Collinsport Goonies, I'm afraid). But really, this is still a masterclass in how to tell a tale. The town meeting episode and the penultimate episode in particular are works of art.' Eiphel, Gallifrey Base - http://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=9

'Episode 12 is quite firmly my pick for top episode, and a triumph from Big Finish as a whole, but an honourable mention must go to Episode 7 for making me audibly gasp an obscenity on a public train, to the incredulity of the passengers squashed around me. Despite my misgivings about the slightly muddled finale, Bloodlust definitely left me with a ton of great memories, and is as a whole a solid addition to the canon.' James Sucellushttp://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=9

'My wallet hurts, but it's all sooooo gooooood....' Zagreus, Gallifrey Base - http://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=9

'I never watched the series, but love a good scary tale, so was always curious by the Dark Shadows range, but hesitant to jump in after a rather bored reaction to the first series. But after asking for advice, i got Kingdom of the Dead and LOVED it. Bloodlust is even better, i've gorged on the whole series over the last week, and now am all caught up. They've done a fantastic job juggling characters and plot-lines, keeping the soap opera aspects, but also the horror and mystery. I am head over heels, and bought all of the audiobooks (I had actually bought some before, but finished buying all the rest) since I now am hooked!' jjjj, Gallifrey Basehttp://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=8

'That. Was. Amazing. Really, just breathtaking. If you needed any more proof of how talented the wonderful Dark Shadows cast is then look no further: those were truly, truly absolute powerhouse performances; I'd put that episode up there with Just War and Scherzo. And the script, I mean, just... wow. If Big Finish produces a better half hour of audio drama this year I will be astonished. And there's still an episode to go!' Bellis, Gallifrey Basehttp://gallifreybase.com/forum/showthread.php?t=177506&page=8

'Big Finish has done such a stunning job on this audio series and I'm glad to hear that it is bubbling up, not only on the nuanced fanbases, but in the more mainstream. Well done all! Hopefully this means more fans of the audios and more support for more audios to come!' Silveredknickle, Big Finish Forumhttp://forums.bigfinish.com/threads/3798-Dark-Shadows-Bloodlust/page26

'I honestly think Bloodlust surpasses any of the excellent work on the series by Big Finish that preceeds it. It's very obvious and very much appreciated how much has gone into the writing and production, and I keep getting the sense that the performers are giving it extra too because they can tell they're part of something very special.' Barnabas Lives, Big Finish Forumhttp://forums.bigfinish.com/threads/3798-Dark-Shadows-Bloodlust/page26


The Confessions of Dorian Gray: Blank Canvas written by James Goss and directed by Scott Handcock

What's it about: Two years after the death of Dorian Gray, his home is broken into… but the intruders aren’t expecting what they’ll find there.

The Painted Man: How very Dorian to have an answerphone message that climaxes with the succinct point 'If you're interesting, I'll get back to you...'  And for him to manipulate the young slips of things that have broken into his house. There is a reason it was boarded up, it is not a happy place. The house is Dorian's keeper now, loyal. Life caught up with him and he is no longer beautiful. The four victims would restore him back to health. One would give him voice, one body, one youth and one a soul.

Standout Performance: Gone is he pure velvet voice of Alexander Vlahos and in steps the huskier and more sinister tones of Bernard Holley. A staple of the Doctor Who ranges, Holley has the perfect, gravelly voice for audio and provides a chilling and world-weary Dorian to open the new season. Dorian is clearly in a disturbed place and I got the impression that both the character and the actor had a lot of fun in this moment of madness. He's genuinely frightening in the last scene, a haunting version of the character I recognise.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'It was a portrait of a man who knew he was damned. The story goes that as he knew one day he would end up in hell he constructed a way out. A fire escape, if you will. He made a more dangerous bargain, to restore his own life he would have to offer several more. Four would have been ideal. But three...three would suffice.'
'Don't turn round. I'm not a pretty sight...'

Great Ideas: My friend Kate and I have a penchant for horror movie nights and in particular we love the sorts of films where friends come together to investigate a creepy house or asylum in the dead of night with little more to protect them than a video camera. We must have seen dozens by now and more often than not they are pretty bad. If Dorian was to come back from the dead then I can think of no better way than for the creators to tip their hat to this particular sub genre of horror and have a group of youngsters exploring his house. In the first scene they are laughing and joking and you can almost be certain that come the conclusion at least one of will be dead and the truth about Dorian will have been spilled. They even reference that they are in something of a horror movie. Discovering blood, phones being left filming, shadows that lunge and terrify...all good horror movie material. Did I give Dorian a bad review once? There's a character called Joe who meets a very sticky end.

Audio Landscape: Telephone ringing, heavy breathing, screaming, laughing, doors opening and closing, footsteps, rewinding tape, mobile buttons, splashing water, draughty old attic, easing open the skylight, traffic, banging on the door, the wind from a great height, car alarm.

Standout Scene: There's a terrible (as in the character acts in a terrible fashion, not that it is a terrible moment) in Blank Canvas when you realise that is entirely without honour and will leave his friend at the mercy of whatever horror is brewing in Dorian's house in order to escape himself. Do watch yourself ladies if an attractive young guy suggests that you visit a creepy old house on your first date. Chivalry is dead, you know. There's something of Avon hunting Vila through the corridors of the shuttle in Gold to these scenes as a cat and mouse game emerges amongst Sofia and to see which of them will survive.

Result: 'If you want me to escape, leave me the girl...' Almost clich├ęd in how it relies on horror movie tropes to see through its running time but confident in a way that only this series knows how to be, Bank Canvas kicks us into the third series of Dorian Gray with some aplomb. I've always rated James Goss as a writer and it would appear he is quite adept at pulling off the condensed hit of horror that this range excels in. Coupled with typically strong direction from Scott Handcock (much of this story relies on how it is realised) and you have a stylish piece to re-introduce the character after he bought the farm at the climax of last season. Much like the beginning of Bloodlust, this features three new characters who are completely unaware of the central concepts of the range so this is an ideal jumping on point as it is effectively a reboot of the series. I certainly wouldn't suggest that, the first two seasons were sublime but you could step into the series at this point and head backwards at a later date. I would even go as far to say that this story could be longer, with more chance to flesh out the characters and revel in the haunted house formula but it does exactly what is needed and that is to restore Dorian to his former glory. Minus one very important element that I'm sure will play a very important part in this season. Creepy stuff: 8/10

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Thirteen written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

What's it about: Some describe it as the town at the edge of the world. When Melody and Michael Devereux come to Collinsport on their honeymoon, they don't know the secrets that are hidden behind closed doors. But those secrets will be unearthed when an innocent is viciously murdered. Collinsport will be a town divided. One woman's rise to power will lead to further death and destruction. Families will be ripped apart. Blood will be spilt. And the dark forces that wait in the shadows will wait no more. For in Collinsport, death is never the end...

The Cunninghams: As Amy travelled through what could only be described as Hell to reach her son I was reminded of the hallucinatory dream sequences of Twin Peaks; disturbing, unnatural, unpredictable and preying on your every fear. How she manages to hold it all together is something of a miracle. How wonderful to have Matthew Waterhouse back, even if it was just for a cameo. Andrew (even as a phantom) is as petty and spiteful as ever.

Angelique: She has to get used to be outside of her cave - the world is so much bigger than she remembers.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Do you want to see what has been causing Collinsport's Bloodlust?'
'I couldn't dig a mine deep enough to house the things that you don't understand!'
'I so hate to break pretty things.'
'We're not talking about the destruction of Collinsport! We're talking about the world!'

Great Ideas: Just as the killer of Lucy Beale reveal came with some surprises, I was certain the reveal of Melody Devereaux would follow in its footsteps. So cards on the table time...here is my guesstimate on who was responsible before I listen to episode thirteen. I am usually so far off the boil with these things (and if I'm honest I often prefer it that way, particularly in a good Agatha Christie adaptation) but I am going to go for Harry Cunningham! Possessed by the hand of Petofi. Either him or Tommy Cunningham (who was still a baby at that point) under a similar influence in a Maggie Simpsons Who Killed Mr Burns style revelation. Let's see how I fare. What this guessing game should reveal is how much fun a good murder mystery is and how it manages to grip an audience just by wielding a big secret. If you skip back a few instalments and you will see that I suggested at the time that the murders were just a smokescreen for the sinister happenings in the mine to continue uninterrupted. Now it is time for all the characters to converge on that location and discover what has been going on. The mine is the jewel in the crown of the beloved Collins Empire and employer to over 200 people. More profound statements about humanity and the supernatural - it isn't anything down the mine that has been causing this town tear itself apart...they did it to themselves. Petty revenge, paranoia, jealousy, rage...all those destructive emotions that turn people into monsters. While David and Carolyn have been wonderful puppets for Count Petofi, Mike Devereaux has been the brains of the operation. A picked upon geek at college, he read the book of Petofi at college. Laughed and ignored, he was a stuttering fool who stumbled across a dark God and chose to worship him. Once he got Melody on his arm he managed to lure her to Collinsport and he murdered her with a two pronged fork and attacked himself to cover his tracks. The werewolf attack was nothing of the kind, Mike replicated it using a pair of garden shears. It is a truly disturbing, graphic scene featuring a number of horrific murders. Barnabas wasn't under the influence in the sense that he was being controlled but Mike threatened his beloved Maggie Evans if he didn't give her a biting. The truth is that the motive of the pathetic, bullied child wanting to make it big and get everybody to pay attention to him by becoming the servant of a demon is pathetically convincing. It looks like Maggie Evans is going to skip town and get the happy ending she deserves. However if a second serial is commissioned I am almost willing to bet that she will be back. The questions is...is it possible to start again? Look at my opening statement of this section. Harry Cunningham? Oh geez, Joe! 

Audio Landscape: It's well worth pointing out at this juncture that David Darlington has doe a sterling job both the post-production and the music for the entirety of the Dark Shadows Bloodlust series. A stalwart of the range, he's mastered the art of conjuring up spooky and suspenseful scenes through the medium of sound alone. His work throughout the 13-part series has been exemplary and should be applauded. Slower, more contemplative moments have been bolstered by atmospheric ambient sounds such as the sea rolling or gulls screaming in the air and the more dramatic scenes have worked thanks to his mastery over convincing crowd scenes and vicious animal attacks. A lot has been asked of him (the running time of this entire story comes in at over 7 hours) but he has risen to the challenge and delivered some outstanding work.

Musical Cues: Whilst I am waxing lyrical, Darlington's score also needs complimenting. Whatever his inspiration was, the use of vocals was inspired and help to brew up a potent atmosphere of doom. The score has to marry the melodramatic nature of the original Dark Shadows TV series but also appeal to a modern audience that expects something more stylish and subtle. The result is an unforgettable soundtrack (especially during the attacks).

Isn't it Odd: Without wanting to give to give everything away, there is a sacrifice at the end of this story that quite took my breath away. Given everything that we have come to know about the character it is a great surprise that they would give up their life for the greater good but it sure makes for a tear-jerking moment. Self sacrifice is a long staple of fiction and is so often pulled off in the most predictable way but I found this to be one of the most moving examples in recent memory.

Standout Scene: The flashbacks to the murder of Melody Devereaux and the lead up to the crime are terribly exciting. After all this build up is fantastic to see how the story all slots together as the killer is revealed.

Result: As a testament to how strong the characters have been in Bloodlust, there is a fifteen minute coda at the end of Bloodlust that wraps up all of their journeys in a satisfying way rather than simply bringing the plot to an end. The final instalment of this serial is much more than the box ticking exercise than it could have been, it is a terrific piece of drama that brings all the threads to a rewarding conclusion (which I doubted was possible given how many characters were being handled). The reveal of the killer was surprising and the motive one that I'm sure anybody would recognise and understand. My favourite part of any murder mystery story are the flashbacks that show how the crime took place and this was handled with real aplomb in Bloodlust. Ultimately for a series about the supernatural, it has something quite reflective to say about humanity at its worst. As was revealed in the previous instalment, this has really been the story of Maggie Evans and Angelique Bouchard and it is glorious to see them both exiting the stage on such a high. What a run Bloodlust has been, completely justifying its serial format and becoming one of the most pioneering ranges the company has produced as a result. I have been following the reactions of the rest of the audience on several forums and I don't think there is anybody who hasn't been whipped up into a frenzy by this series, particularly in the final three instalments. As a performance piece it has offered some striking opportunities (Kathryn Leigh-Scott, Stephanie Ellyne, Lara Parker Asta Parry and Matthew Waterhouse take the honours but there isn't a weak performance in the run) and it has been a pitch perfect exercise in how to structure a serial of this length. You may be getting bored about me banging on about how good this is. Well you don't have to imagine me foaming at the mouth over its malevolent chapters, go check it out yourself. I would be very surprised if you were disappointed: 9/10

Dark Shadows Bloodlust Episode Twelve written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells & Joe Lidster and directed by Ursula Burton & David Darlington

What's it about: Some describe it as the town at the edge of the world. When Melody and Michael Devereux come to Collinsport on their honeymoon, they don't know the secrets that are hidden behind closed doors. But those secrets will be unearthed when an innocent is viciously murdered. Collinsport will be a town divided. One woman's rise to power will lead to further death and destruction. Families will be ripped apart. Blood will be spilt. And the dark forces that wait in the shadows will wait no more. For in Collinsport, death is never the end...

Maggie Evans: Angelique throws some light on her character, suggesting that whenever anybody questions her convictions or beliefs that she plays the victim. Maggie turns the tables on Angelique by suggesting that none of this madness occurred in Collinsport until Barnabas and his entourage visited town. Maggie wants to finally rid this world of monsters, even if she is one herself. There's a good chance the Agreed Death spell will kill her too but she is firm in her resolve to cleanse the town. He mother died when she was very young and after she was gone her father threw himself into a painting as a way to replace her. To capture her in a moment. It became an obsession. I am intrigued as to what kind of monster Maggie Evans might turn out to be. A succubus? A Dijnn? Or a monster who'd rather exercised her malicious deeds through others rather than bloody her own hands? No, she's a monster because she is human. A massively profound statement for Angelique to make. In a town full of creatures, the biggest monsters are the human beings.

Standout Performance: Bringing together Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh-Scott for a lengthy dialogue scene is a dream come true. What fantastic performances and they bounce off each other so well. The characters have such history and it all comes spilling out spectacularly throughout this half hour. I'm surprised that the creators of this series have kept them apart for this long given the wealth of drama that exists between the but it sure gives the penultimate episode a huge eruption of emotion that was needed to throw us into the finale.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'I don't pretend to look confused every time a man falls into my lap.'

Great Ideas: Everything and everyone is converging on Collinwood, the beating heart of this town and where most of its problems come from. In 1797, Petofi arrived at Alexandra's villa late one night with a business proposition. He was paranoid, believing gypsies were trying to track him down and is raving about 'the age of Petofi.' All the diaries hint at is that Petofi's plans are over 200 years in the making. Agreed death - a spell that is designed to kill supernatural creatures and yet can only be cast by a supernatural creature. Few people know how the spell works. Petofi was a trickster but most of his power was concentrated in the hand...which is the only part of him that we know has survived. The reason that Barnabas doesn't want Angelique is the same reason that nobody wants her; because she is poisonous and manipulative. Before Barnabas all Angelique wanted to do was to make perfume, a simple dream that has remained unfulfilled. Petofi's desire for nothing isn't what it sounds like...it is a literal interpretation of his desires. It's not that he wanted for nothing...he wanted nothing.

Standout Scene: Just as Bloodlust has been building to a spectacular climax, episode 12 is a self contained piece of drama that builds to its own apex. Two wronged women coming together to put their differences apart and cast a spell that could put an end to all of their troubles. Who was telling lies? The emotional sting comes when Maggie forgives Angelique despite everything...and she even surprises herself in offering such a gift. It reminded me of the Doctor granting his forgiveness to the Master at the end of The Last of the Time Lords but it affected me even moreso. Something about the intimacy of audio, of having these characters in right in your ears. The performances at this point took my breath away and I had goosebumps.

Result: 'I forgive you!' And I thought the real time crowd episode was something different. This is wonderful stuff, the best episode by far and a gripping two hander between Maggie Evans and Angelique Bouchard. It is no co-incidence that these two are my favourite characters and it thrills me to see so much time being given over to them and their back story. The performances are extraordinary, both Kathryn Leigh-Scott and Lara Palmer take hold of this powerful material and sink their teeth into it. It doesn't matter that a handful of plot threads are effectively stalled for a whole episode because the drama that plays out between these two women had me rooted to the spot in astonishment for 40 minutes. It reminds me of that old adage that all you need is two great actors and one great script and you can capture your audience completely. This one of the most economic pieces of drama that Big Finish has ever put out and it blows all those action soundtracks of the Doctor Who main range to dust. Eleven episodes of the Bloodlust serial power this piece of drama and it is all the more satisfying and substantial for it. The ultimate bitch fight without a shred of violence. How will the finale top this? It sure has an awful lot to live up to: 10/10