Monday, December 18, 2017

Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus

Collinsport has little use for the outside world. Moon landings? Vietnam? Woodstock? DARK SHADOWS refused to make room in its narrative for anything taking place outside its own magical realm (although The Beatles somehow managed to slip onto the jukebox at The Blue Whale just a few days before Barnabas Collins made his debut.) Current events had a way of sometimes interfering with the show's broadcast schedule, but nothing ever seemed important enough to force the writers overtly recognize the march of history.

The show's mania for narrative also meant ignoring everything from the change of seasons to traditional holidays. In answer to Bob Geldof/Midge Ure's question, "No, they don't know it's Christmas." Or any other holiday, for that. When your cast of characters involves blood-drinking fiends, werewolves, black magick aficionados and charlatan ministers, it's probably best not invite Santa Claus to the party.

But that leaves us with questions, doesn't it? Unless Collinsport is an extra-dimensional limbo, Christmas had to have rolled around at some point in the course of events, right? I like to imagine that Barnabas Collins halted his blasphemous plans to graft his head onto the body of a golem in hopes of making a developmentally delayed young woman fall in love with him, taking a moment to celebrate the birth of Christ ... but the writers only had 30 minutes a day to tell their story, so why not focus on elements that aren't going to get them massive amounts of hate mail?

Big Finish had a very different set of creative obstacles to clear when they revived DARK SHADOWS as a series of audio dramas. Hitting a day-to-day broadcast schedule with ruthless efficiency was not one of them, a situation that freed the producers to pluck from the show's rich, centuries-spanning history. And among that history, we soon found, were traditional holidays. Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus.

Released in 2006, "The Christmas Presence" reunites Lara Parker and John Karlen as "Angelique" and "Willie Loomis," two characters that didn't get much screentime together on the original series. Also appearing are Kathryn Leigh Scott as "Maggie Evans," and Big Finish's official successor to Jonathan Frid, Andrew Collins as "Barnabas Collins." If you want to let DARK SHADOWS help you conjure a holiday spirit or two, there are a lot of interesting ways to get your hands on this 76-minute long tale. First, you can visit Big Finish directly, which has the story available as a MP3 download and compact disc. "The Christmas Presence" is also available on Amazon, but for reasons know only to its own mysterious algorithm, expect to pay a little more for it there than at Big Finish.

Amazon also has "The Christmas Presence" available through it's Audible service. And, if you're already subscribing to Spotify, you can listen to the story (and lots of other DARK SHADOWS audio dramas) in their entirety.

Back in 2012, Big Finish crafted a second Christmas story, one that felt a little like the kind of offbeat specials presented seasonally by DOCTOR WHO. Despite it's rather direct title, "A Collinwood Christmas" veers about as far from expectations as possible, casting David Selby's son Jamison in the role of "Jamison Collins." If you're just tuning in, David Selby so liked the name of David Henesy's character "Jamison Collins" that he gave the name to his own son, thus creating a reality-threatening maelstrom of Davids and Jamesons that made this paragraph super complicated to write.

I liked "A Collinwood Christmas" so much that the CHS hosted a "tweetalong" event on Twitter so that DARK SHADOWS fans could listen and chat about the episode live ... and hardly anybody showed up. I remain unbowed in my original assessment of "A Collinwood Christmas" and still think it's worth an hour of your time this holiday season. As with "The Christmas Presence" it's available from Big Finish, Amazon, Audible and Spotfy.

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