Dark Shadows: Review: Big Finish Audio 49: Tainted Love

dsab049_taintedlove_1417_cover_largeStarring Kathleen Cody, Alec Newman and Stephanie Ellayne, with Daniel Collard, Simon Kent and Alexandra Donnachie

Written by Daniel Collard, Directed by Joseph Lidster

In which guilt-striken David Collins (Newman), now free of the Hand of Petofi’s influence, turns to his childhood friend Amy Jennings Cunningham (Ellayne) for guidance and support in helping rebuild Collinsport. But as David and Amy’s friendship begins turning into something deeper, who should return to town but Hallie Stokes (Cody)…?

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the drama.

Given Dark Shadows’ propensity for love triangles, a storyline like this has seemed inevitable for some time now, but I’d hoped Big Finish would resist the temptation to do it. Let’s face it – these things never turn out well for anyone (just ask Barnabas, Josette and Angelique). In this instance, it also feels like a case of a character acting out-of-character to suit the needs of a particular storyline rather than the storyline flowing organically out of the character.

Granted, Carriage of the Damned hinted at Hallie Stokes being damaged goods, but nowhere to the degree revealed in Tainted Love. I suppose it’s unrealistic to expect all of the characters from Dark Shadows to emerge stronger from their travails, but it’s still disappointing that instead of the story of a powerful demon hunter teetering on the verge of becoming a monster herself, we get the story of a woman defined by her obsession with a man who doesn’t feel the same way about her that she does about him.

Sound familiar? This storyline has already been played out with Barnabas and Angelique, and with a lot more character development, subtleties and shades of gray than what David and Hallie get to experience in this audio drama. In fact, at times it hews so closely to the original material that I half-expected a rubber bat to flutter onto David’s neck and vampirise him like Cousin Barnabas was all those years ago… And considering that death is as much a minor inconvenience for Angelique as it is for the Master in Doctor Who, why does Big Finish feel the apparent need to create a replacement for her?

If it seems like I didn’t enjoy Tainted Love, that’s not entirely true – yes, the story’s use of Hallie Stokes rankles, as does the treading of familiar ground. And aside from a few moments of impassioned railing against his lot in life, David Collins remains a frustratingly passive and ill-used character. But from a technical standpoint, this release is up to Big Finish’s usual high standards, and the actors (particularly Stephanie Ellayne and Kathleen Cody) give it their all; if any of them had any disagreements with the material at hand, it doesn’t come across in their performances.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of this story is its much greater timespan than most Dark Shadows audios, as well as numerous “off camera” appearances by beloved characters which hint at probable future storylines which sound quite enticing and hold the promise of more interesting times to come.

Verdict: As much as I wanted to love this one, it ain’t happening – and that’s no soft sell… 6/10

John S. Hall

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