Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: "Last Orders at the Blue Whale" is a winner


I approached the first story in the latest DARK SHADOWS anthology from Big Finish with a degree of sadism. "Last Orders at the Blue Whale" kicks off the new release, "Phantom Melodies," and features none other than Collinsport's answer to Jar Jar Binks, Harry Johnson. Let's face it ... nobody likes Harry. As I fired up this story, it was in anticipation that we'd get to see him die a horrible, horrible death.

As it happens, one person likes Harry: writer Rob Morris. Part of Big Finish's unspoken mission statement is to redeem some of the lesser-loved aspects of DARK SHADOWS. They did it with the Leviathans in "The Harvest of Souls," Aunt Abigail in "Blood and Fire" and even managed to one-up Parallel Time by giving us a sympathetic counterpart to Cyrus Longworth. Morris happily lacks fandom's sadistic streak, though, and attempts -- successfully -- to paint Harry as a confused, sympathetic figure.

That's not the same as being a good person, though. As Roger and Carolyn are hustling Harry out of town (tying up a loose plot thread from the original series that most people might never have notices) our reckless rogue makes the mistake of trying to steal from a very, very bad person at the Blue Whale. He winds up on the hook with a sinister sailor, who gives him a few hours to offer up another soul to pay for his transgression. His options? Roger and/or Carolyn.

"Last Orders at the Blue Whale"  feels very much like a lost episode of DARK SHADOWS. It's a good script and a terrific delivery by Matthew Waterhouse, who's tasked with not only playing the entire cast, but also in making sure we never lose track of the story's rising menace. Audio director David Darlington also provides perfect sturm to Waterhouse's drang. It's enough to make we wonder what kind of live reading these guys could pull off if left to their own devices. There's no reason they couldn't do this in front of an audience.

I'll be back later with reviews of the other three stories in this anthology ... and then try to play catch up on the previous entries. Meanwhile, you can find "Phantom Melodies" for sale at Big Finish HERE.

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