Thursday, February 21, 2019

Dark Shadows,The Road to Bloodline: Panic


“Can we please discuss this like normal people?
You know, academic to lunatic?”

Hello again, my favorite ghouls! It is me! I bet you thought I had forgotten about you, but I would never! I know it has been a while since we’ve last spoken and a lot has happened in that time! Stuff like I now hold an editorial position at a new horror site set up out of Bangor called Dis-Member! I’m gonna be talking all things horror there with some good buddies, but I will also be tackling the whole of Dark Shadows’ TV canon in a column called The Dark Shadows Diaries so keep a weather eye out for more entries coming soon. I also moved house! That’s right, I’m out of that shabby room at the Collinsport Inn and in a wonderful little cottage by the sea that goes by the charming name of Seaview! The landlord is a real prig and he keeps ducking my questions about the previous occupants, but it should be pretty great, you guys!

But enough about my personal and professional growth! That’s not the dross y’all are here for! You are here for me blathering about the Dark Shadows Big Finishverse (COPYRIGHT PENDING)! So I am THRILLED here today to bring you from my new office here at the CHS (A much, MUCH bigger closet out from under the stairs! Right next to the bathroom even!), The Road To Bloodline! A brand new column covering the post-Bloodlust audios in the lead up to the release of Bloodline! Named for the ridiculous lead up trade dressing comics use in the issues ramping up to big events. I would say Bloodline is going to be a big event, so why not treat it as such?

Kicking off the Road to Bloodline is 2015’s Panic, from writer Roy Gill and directed by good ol’ Joe Lidster and Jim Pierson. Largely told in flashbacks to Quentin Collins’ time in London, Panic follows Professor Lela Quick (played with a sharp wit and hilarious presence by Susan Sullivan) as she attempts to go about her day-to-day as a teacher while contending with a strange tune that seems to haunt her dreams. Complicating matters is her chance encounter with teacher’s assistant Robin Goodman, who also hears the tune, which finds them darkening the door of Quentin Collins’ junk shop Pandemonium Antiques, seeking out the source of the strange melody.

At first I was a little disappointed in the direction this story had started to take. Though the script picks up right after the events of Bloodlust, with Quentin back at Collinwood and looking after a very hungry Tom Cunningham (the affably adorable return of Michael Shon), these “present day” scenes are merely a framing device, encasing the main story back in London. A bit of a let down for a column that expressly about the aftermath of Bloodlust, but what can you do? I was also somewhat concerned that I wouldn’t have much stake in Quentin and Lela’s relationship. At least not nearly as much as the opening suggested I should. I knew Quentin had gotten married along the way somewhere, but since I hadn’t actually heard it yet, I was worried Panic would leave me cold.

But thankfully, due to Lela’s overall wonderfulness as a character and Gill’s breezy, two-handed plot, my concerns were lifted once the thing really got going. Sure the main crux of the narrative gets literally deus ex machina’ed with the reveal that Robin is the trickster god Pan, who had tricked Lela into a deal as a child and has now come to collect. But that turn brings out some neat turns from the actor John Askew and adds to the overall engaging dynamic Lidster and Pierson strike up between the core cast.

Obviously Lela and Quentin’s relationship is front and center and both David Selby and Sullivan lean into the flirty antagonistic courtship the two go through, giving this slightly broad plot a real fun grounding. A lot of this grounding is centered around Quick and her wryly hilarious reactions to the various supernatural elements of Quentin’s life, which Sullivan nails with consistently dry deliveries. Readers of my Big Finish coverage will know that I really love when audio scripts lean into the “civilians” of the universe being thrust into very, VERY spooky situations and in that regard, Panic delivers in spades. Though I was worried at the start that I wouldn’t really care about this relationship, by the time Panic ended I was singing quite a different tune. I mean, they aren’t like my One True Pairing or anything but I am curious to see where these two end up in the coming stories. If they get featured at all, who knows?! I certainly don’t!

So, yeah, not exactly the most grand start to this new column, but Panic nonetheless is a solid start on the Road to Bloodline. Filled with Thin Man-esque banter, eloquently acted by Sullivan and Selby, and tied together neatly with some tight framing from the directors, this first post-Bloodlust story must have been a welcome downshift from the nerve shattering tension of the epic serial. Could have used a bit more juice for me personally, but hey, the more Quentin Collins the better is good with me from where I’m sitting. I know at least a few of you out there agree with me.

NEXT TIME! The Curse of Shurafa! One of Big Finish’s Greatest Hits (or so I’m told)! This thing had me at “Julia Hoffman in Egypt”. Until then (which I promise won’t be nearly as long as last time), Be Seeing You.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

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