Today’s the release day for the 13th and final episode of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, the fantastic new Big Finish audio drama miniseries. I’ve written about the series a couple of times so far, and I want to mark the final release day with a list of 13 reasons why Dark Shadows fans should listen to and enjoy Bloodlust.
#1. It’s a workfare program for original series actors.
Bloodlust brings together some of the all-time great Dark Shadows actors, for another lap around Collinsport: Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, Jerry Lacy, and Marie Wallace. Obviously, that’s a big treat for the fans — getting to hear new stories with Maggie, Quentin, Angelique and Trask — and it’s also following through on our responsibility to make sure that they’re happy, and doing interesting creative work. I mean, who’s been checking in to make sure that someone’s feeding David Selby? Nobody, that’s who. So it’s fortunate that Big Finish has it covered.
#2. They know how to tell good serialized stories.
Serialized narrative, when you do it right, is a rich and productive collaboration between writers and audience — exploring story threads, discovering new ideas, keeping the stuff that works and discarding the rest. Serialization is natural selection for narrative, creating things over time that nobody would ever have expected. Big Finish has been producing Dark Shadows stories for close to ten years, and Bloodlust inherits all of the interesting ideas that they’ve found along the way.
#3. The recasts are really good.
Obviously, many of the original Dark Shadows actors aren’t available anymore, for one reason or another, but the judicious use of recasting can keep important characters on the canvas. When Big Finish started producing new DS, one of the first things they did was to bring Barnabas back to life in a new body, now played by Andrew Collins. He’s great at it, and the “cousin from England” finally sounds English. Bloodlust also has adult versions of David and Amy, played by Alec Newman and Stephanie Ellyne, who create really good, thoughtful interpretations of the people that these haunted children grew up to be.
#4. Women and children first.
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks on the blog talking about how badly Dark Shadows was treating its young female characters in fall 1968. During the “Adam’s mate” storyline, Vicki, Maggie and Carolyn were basically treated like objects, who could be moved around, manipulated and exchanged without their consent or knowledge. This didn’t really make sense, because the target audience for Dark Shadows was women and teenagers. Bloodlust takes this into account. I don’t actually remember if there are any adult men in Bloodlust. There probably are. I guess somebody has to take care of the house when the important people are busy.
#5. There are more people in it than you think there are.
The actors that I mentioned above are on the official cast list, but there’s also surprise appearances by [spoiler] and [spoiler], who fans of the original series and the Big Finish audiobooks will be happy to discover. Also, halfway through, [spoiler] turns out to be [spoiler]. It’s awesome.
#6. They get the details right.
Blooper-loving nitpickers, I have bad news: those clever Big Finish boys know what they’re talking about. I couldn’t find a damn thing in the whole season that they got wrong.
#7. The rise and fall of Maggie Evans.
From the start of Big Finish’s run of Dark Shadows stories, “mad Maggie Evans” has been the heart, the conscience and the steel backbone of the series. She’s the survivor, who graduated from Windcliff and decided that she wasn’t going to be run out of Collinsport just because every single person that she ever knew turned out to be a horrible monster. Bloodlust is an amazing story for Maggie, and she experiences surprising triumphs and devastating failures. Also, I have it on good authority that in Bloodlust, she is wearing the above outfit THE ENTIRE TIME.
#8. Justice for the Jennings family.
The Jennings family never got a satisfying conclusion on Dark Shadows — at a certain point, Chris and Amy and Sabrina just slipped out of town while we weren’t looking. The clever folks at Big Finish are aware of this deficit, and they have taken care of the situation.
#9. They’re establishing a next generation of the Collins family.
If a soap opera is going to work long-term, then you need to set up the next generation while the current generation is still around to be the parents and grandparents. I mean, let’s face it, Big Finish can build up a cast of Collinsport townspeople, and that’s great, but if they want to call this Dark Shadows, then we need kids with some Collins blood in their veins. As I mentioned in my first Bloodlust post last month, I was especially concerned that they weren’t taking the “sexy Quentin offspring” problem seriously. I am no longer concerned about this.
#10. It’s good value for money.
It’s three bucks to download each half-hour episode, and even less if you buy the whole set. This is ridiculously affordable, especially considering the star-studded cast and all the surprises.
#11. You don’t have to be an expert.
You don’t have to know all the ins and outs of the series, or the Big Finish range. There’s lots of connections to old stories, but if you don’t happen to know why Angelique’s in a cave or where that mysterious hand came from, they give you enough background to follow what’s going on, without smacking you over the head with it. I’ve still got some of the audiobooks to listen to, and there were some references to stories that I haven’t heard yet. It wasn’t a problem.
#12. Roger Davis isn’t in it.
I’m just saying. Also, Maggie’s wearing this skirt the whole time.
#13. Finally, and most importantly: if you buy this season, then they’ll make more.
And that would be good for the world. More Dark Shadows! So I’m going to need everybody to work together on this.
That name again: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust. #sixseasonsandamovie
Next: This Old House.
— Danny Horn