Written by Alan Flanagan, Directed by David Darlington and Darren Gross
In which Sabrina Jennings (Richards) boards the midnight train from Collinsport to New York, intent on tracking down the thief who stole a dangerous relic from Eagle Hill Cemetery. Any of the quirky passengers could be a suspect – not only for the theft, but for the sabotage that has put everyone onboard the carriage in mortal peril…
Carriage of the Damned follows a tried-and-true drama trope: take a small group of high-strung individuals, trap them in an enclosed space with a menace, and let the chips fall where they may. It paid off in spades for Russell T Davies’ claustrophobic Doctor Who story Midnight, and this Dark Shadows audio is almost as successful.
It helps that Alan Flanagan has peopled the proceedings with larger-than-life characters all of whom have their own agendas. While Denise Nickerson’s grande dame Elspeth Gardner and Greg Patmore’s Major Jacobs – who vocally sounds uncannily like some of Louis Edmonds’ stuffier Collins family members – feel like stock characters from any number of murder mysteries, their actors plumb the characters’ nuances for all they’re worth. Also, the reappearance of Lucy Scott’s Nurse Brown from The Happier Dead is a pleasant surprise.
But for many longtime Dark Shadows fans, the return of Kathleen Cody – reprising her role of Hallie Stokes for the first time in over 40 years – will no doubt be this story’s biggest draw. It would seem that a certain event in 1971 had an even more profound effect on Hallie than anyone could have imagined, and this informs her actions throughout Carriage of the Damned. It’ll also be interesting to see how the apparent rivalry between her and Amy Jennings (Hallie’s uncle’s protégée in all things supernatural – a role that Professor Stokes may have been grooming his niece for) will play out in future installments.
In fact, Carriage of the Damned introduces a plethora of new plot strands even as it continues weaving a tangled tapestry out of several other ongoing plot threads. The resulting yarn makes for a gripping listen.
Verdict: Despite going off the tracks logic-wise towards the end, this story embodies Dark Shadows running at full steam… 8/10
John S. Hall