Tag Archives: big finish

Episode 1068: Just a Girl

“I did it from right here — with this coin.”

Tumbling through time, Barnabas and Julia have come to a hard stop at 1995, lured by the siren call of alternative rock and Richard Linklater movies. No one has a mint-with-tag Beanie Baby or anything, but you can tell it’s 1995 because everybody keeps dying hard, with a vengeance.

The Collinwood of the future is in ruins, abandoned and left to rot after a particularly brutal cancellation twenty-five years ago. The main characters who aren’t dead are irretrievably insane, stumbling through a devastated ABC Studio 16, waiting for someone to turn on the cameras again. They don’t cancel soap operas like this anymore; they have a much more humane system, where actors who can’t be placed in foster soaps get their own web series.

Here in 1995, Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes, Dark Shadows’ signature twenty-something sweetheart, is now pushing fifty, and apparently she’s been pushing it with her face. She looks awful. She’s spent the last couple decades becoming that loneliest of creatures, a cat lady who doesn’t have cats.

But from our perspective, this is still the Carolyn Yet to Come, and if Barnabas and Julia can find out what caused all this daytime trauma, then maybe it’s avertable. Like A Christmas Carol, The Terminator and 12 Monkeys, the question of this story is whether the future can be changed if everybody stops acting like a jerk for five seconds.

Continue reading Episode 1068: Just a Girl

Your Lies and Spells (Blood & Fire)

“What demon have you summoned up with your lies and spells?”

Soap opera is a hungry beast. It chews through stories, as fast as you can write them. It eats ideas and feelings and relationships — stripping them down to the bone, and beyond. Creators retire and actors die, fashions change, networks rise and fall. And the soap opera keeps going, driven by its remorseless hunger for more story. You can cancel it, but it will be replaced by another, just as ravenous. Soap opera can not be stopped.

In its day, Dark Shadows was the hungriest of all, chewing up stories and characters and whole generations, every few months. And that’s why it stopped, in the end. The writing team stuffed the beast with tears and wit and English lit for all of 1969, but found their cellar depleted within a year.

Here on the blog, we’ve just reached the Leviathan story, an ambitious tale for a washboard weeper, and one of the first signs of trouble. The show will go on, for another sixteen months or so, but we’re already starting to line up suspects for the Who Killed Dark Shadows murder mystery dinner theater. As we go along, we’ll uncover a lot of different explanations for why the show eventually got itself cancelled, but the most important one is the simplest — they just ran out of stories to tell.

Dark Shadows flourished because they thought outside the box, busting out of the normal confines of a 1960s daytime soap, because it was fun and they didn’t know any better. They built themselves a new box — a mystery box, stranger and more exciting than anyone else’s — and they spent a few years exploring all its dark corners and secret passageways. But once they’d investigated the contours of that space, it turned into a familiar toy box, with a particular set of tropes and a limited set of characters. After a while, there just weren’t any new stories left to tell.

So that puts Big Finish in something of an awkward situation, because they’ve spent the last ten years making more than 60 new Dark Shadows audio dramas, continuing and expanding on a franchise that ran out of juice four decades ago. If the original creators couldn’t think of anything new to do with this story, then what hope does anybody else have?

Continue reading Your Lies and Spells (Blood & Fire)

Episode 880: The Further Adventures of Other People

“I like Collinsport. There’s all this stuff going on all the time. Weird stuff.”

The 1897 storyline is coming to a close this week, and once again Dark Shadows is tying up a time trip by murdering everybody who isn’t nailed down. Do you remember how they killed everybody at the end of 1795, and then went back eight months later because they realized they hadn’t killed Natalie? Well, they’re not going to make that mistake again.

This scorched-earth approach is hard on everyone, but it’s especially tough for the folks at Big Finish, who watch these episodes, and all they can see is the lights going out on one spinoff after another. Big Finish has been producing new Dark Shadows audio plays for the last ten years, and every character that gets exterminated is just money taken out of their pockets.

I mean, this is a production company that’s made twelve box sets worth of audio stories about Jago and Litefoot, two secondary characters from a six-episode Doctor Who story made in 1977. Now, I don’t think they would have squeezed that much juice out of The Adventures of Evan Hanley and His Assassin Associate Aristede, but I’m sure they would have appreciated the opportunity to try.

Continue reading Episode 880: The Further Adventures of Other People

Episode 805: It’s In His Kiss

“You can’t burn murder, Trask, or drown it, or even poison it. You can’t kill murder.”

Spirit of Joe Lidster, I invoke and conjure thee! Co-producer of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audio dramas and co-writer of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, I call upon the raven and the viper and all the dark creatures of nature to bring you here, so that we can watch an episode of Dark Shadows together.

Danny:  Hello, are you there?

Joe:  Yes, hello!

Danny:  I’m currently speaking to you through my fireplace. Are you okay in there? Is it hot?

Joe:  It is a bit hot. The reception’s good, though, for a fireplace.

Continue reading Episode 805: It’s In His Kiss

Episode 764: Straight Outta Collinsport

“The sensible option isn’t always the most interesting.”

When you get right down to it, what is a Dark Shadows story, anyway?

A couple months ago, I passed the blog’s halfway point, which means there’s now more Dark Shadows behind me than there is ahead. I mean, we’ve stll got plenty of time — it’s only 1969, and what does time really mean anyway — but it makes me start to wonder about what happens when there’s no more Dark Shadows.

One thing that I know for sure is that trying to retell the story over again is a bad idea. They’ve tried three times — the failed 1991 show, the failed 2004 pilot, and the failed 2012 movie — and there’s just no point to it. This is a story that can only be told once, and it’s not like it even made that much sense the first time.

But there’s another path for post-Dark-Shadows Dark Shadows which is marginally more sensible, and that’s the road taken by the Big Finish audio dramas, the Lara Parker novels and the Dynamite comics.

Instead of trying to squeeze the original story into a new shape, they say: Okay, it’s April 3rd, 1971. Now what?

Continue reading Episode 764: Straight Outta Collinsport

Episode 742: Home Alone

“It’s a very casual kind of love, isn’t it, Quentin?”

I’ve got a special guest star writing today’s post: Joe Lidster, co-producer of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audio dramas, co-writer of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, and writer for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. I told him that I would write a post about some of the recent DS audios if he would write one of this week’s episodes, and somehow that worked.

My name is Joseph Lidster. I have been summoned by Danny Horn to write something about Episode 742. And on this night of horror and intrigue, I will discover that I’m not as clever, as concise or as witty as Danny but that I bloody love Dark Shadows.

Continue reading Episode 742: Home Alone

13 Reasons Why You Should Buy “Bloodlust”

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.

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The British Invasion (Bloodlust)

“If my social life ground to a halt every time my mom was investigating a murder, I’d be a nun.”

Okay, here are some further thoughts about Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, because I have some and you might as well hear about them.

Bloodlust is a new 13-part miniseries by Big Finish, a UK audio-drama production company that is determined to fill up the world with things that we don’t strictly need. They’ve been at it for decades, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop them, so here we are. I wrote about episode 1 last week, and today I’m looking at episodes 2 and 3.

Now, the question that every DS spin-off has to answer is: What is the purpose of bringing more Dark Shadows into the world?

Because history is not on the side of people who think that they have Dark Shadows stories worth telling. The original excuse for making Dark Shadows in the first place was that the producers didn’t realize what kind of show they were making until it suddenly became a hit, and by then it was too late to do something more sensible. Everybody following them can only dream of having an alibi that strong.

Forty years later, we’ve seen movie adaptations and prime-time revivals, novels and comic books and View-Master reels. But Bloodlust poses a question that nobody’s ever asked before, namely: What happens if we let British people try it?

Continue reading The British Invasion (Bloodlust)

Another New Beginning (Bloodlust)

“We all know the supernatural is real and dangerous, and it’s time to do something about it.”

EVIL! That’s what’s here. You must leave this place! There is no peace for you here. The dead must rest!

Sorry, I’m having a little flare-up of my sudden-onset Caretaker’s Syndrome. While I’ve been going about my business in August 1968, an irresponsible troupe of time-travelers has been fooling around with the seals and sigils, recklessly summoning a fresh nightmare into our world.

Continue reading Another New Beginning (Bloodlust)