Rather than the collection of stories from throughout Dorian’s timeline that we’ve had in the two series so far (and the specials), this third set of stories has much more of a serial feel to it, an advantage of its release as a box set.
It follows on from Dorian’s death at the end of series 2, and while it would be a shame to spoil James Goss’s creepy haunted house story Blank Canvas, and reveal exactly how Dorian returns to the land of the living, it’s hardly a surprise to hear Alexander Vlahos in action throughout this set. Dorian encounters some faces from the past – David Llewellyn’s The Needle sees the return of Simon Darlow, for example, and there’s a strong part for Bernard Holley as the Old Dorian – but there are plenty of new menaces, including Tracey Childs as the enigmatic Victoria Lowell, and Blake Ritson as compelling as ever as a serial-killing stalker who has some deliciously evil plans for our Dorian. Not all of these are laid to rest completely either…
The standard of scripting is consistently high – Roy Gill’s We Are Everywhere, Gary Russell’s Echoes, and Cavan Scott’s Heart and Soul all take what could be clichéd situations and do something different with them – and Scott Handcock threads various plotlines through the first six episodes before dealing with them (and throwing in a couple of surprises) in his concluding two-parter. The only one that doesn’t quite work for me is Xanna Eve Chown’s Pandora, despite Annette Badland’s terrific performance as a Madame Arcati-esque Tarot reader.
The sound design is similarly excellent across the board: in this set we visit a deserted house, the circus, the Tube, and a London party (among many other locations) and Neil Gardner places listeners exactly where they need to be to get the most from the drama. The moments of horror are not shied away from (and I really don’t want to think what Gardner used to depict some of the grosser moments!).
The new set-up allows for some real character development, particularly for Dorian himself. He’s faced with a lot during this, and Vlahos rises to the challenges – it’s fair to say that there are forces out there which could break Dorian, and Vlahos shows what the character has learned (and failed to learn) from his experiences.
Each time Handcock and his team have brought Dorian back, they’ve done something new with him, and this series repositions the character – it will be very interesting to see where they take him next.
Verdict: The half-hour length of each tale means that none ever gets the chance to outstay its welcome, and there are some great twists in this varied and enjoyable set. 8/10