Dark Shadows: Review: Big Finish Audio 35: The Enemy Within

35_theenemywithin_cover_mediumStarring Lisa Richards, Christopher Pennock and James Unsworth, with Nancy Barrett, Jonathon Marx, Barra Collins, Aaron Lamont, and Simon Lee Phillips

Written by Will Howells, Directed by Darren Gross and David Darlington

In which Bangor handyman (and former Collinsport resident) Cyrus Longworth (Pennock) takes an interest in his new neighbour, Sabrina Jennings (Richards), but is in two minds about how to act on his infatuation…

In the 1970 Parallel Time Dark Shadows storyline, Cyrus Longworth was a scientist who experimented with separating a person’s good and evil natures. Sadly, this had a Jekyll-and-Hyde affect on Cyrus, and his alter ego John Yaeger caused much mayhem before being discovered and killed.

Unfortunately for him, Cyrus’s counterpart in the main timeline (who was never encountered in the TV show) has an even worse affliction – he’s the living vessel of the Dark Lord’s son (Unsworth), whom Cyrus calls “John”. This is but the first of many parallels to Parallel Cyrus’ story, which are all handled cleverly as sly asides to longtime fans but won’t impede the enjoyment of those unfamiliar with such minutiae.

Undoubtedly The Enemy Within will disappoint Chris Jennings fans who were hoping that the character – a sympathetic present-day werewolf – would re-appear courtesy of an actor recasting, but no such luck. Chris’s original actor, Don Briscoe, departed Dark Shadows abruptly after drugs-related issues, which meant Chris’ plotline was cut short with a half-hearted explanation that he left Collinsport suddenly with girlfriend Sabrina and sister Amy in tow. Now, at long last, we learn the in-story reasons for that departure, and its tragic results.

A newcomer to the Dark Shadows range, Will Howells delivers a taut script filled with rising tension and a tendency to toy with listeners’ expectations as resident after resident of a quiet Bangor street is found horribly murdered. Is Cyrus as in control of himself as he thinks? Is Sabrina really as innocent as she seems? However, the script delivers more than just chills – Howells has a deft hand at capturing the awkward interactions of two people whose situations have left them as damaged goods. A particular highlight has both Cyrus and Sabrina phoning old friends in Collinsport to perform background checks on the other, with the script adroitly intercutting and weaving between the two conversations.

Way back when I reviewed the early Big Finish Dark Shadows audio drama Blood Dance, I observed that Lisa Richards’ performance seemed perceptibly flatter than her co-star’s. At the risk of being churlish, I must repeat this observation, especially when compared to Christopher Pennock’s conflicted anguish and James Unsworth’s sardonic deliveries. While Richards is definitely more animated in The Enemy Within than in her previous audio performance, hers is still the weak link in an otherwise strong cast.

Verdict: There’s no two ways about it – The Enemy Within is a terrific addition to Big Finish’s Dark Shadows audio range! 8/10

John S. Hall

Click here to order The Enemy Within from Big Finish

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