Dark Shadows: Review: Big Finish Audio 8: Echoes of Insanity

Starring John Karlen and Lara Parker

Written by D. Lynn Smith, Directed by Darren Gross

In which Willie Loomis (Karlen), recuperating from his gunshot wounds under the care of Dr. Julia Hoffman, is contacted in his dreams by a “golden angel” (Parker) who promises to help him remember what led to his being committed to Windcliff…

One aspect of Willie’s character that fell to the wayside after he became Barnabas’s reluctant manservant was his past as a con artist with fellow grifter Jason McGuire. Echoes of Insanity makes up for this in spades, revealing quite a lot more of Willie’s backstory than ever was explored in the televised episodes. For example, he and Jason travelled the world for their cons, fleecing people in such exotic locales as Singapore and Jamaica.

And whereas onscreen Willie often came across as dim, weak and/or a dupe, this story reveals much of this to be a deliberate act as he bides his time for the perfect chance to turn the tables on those who’ve made him their stooge. If nothing else, Jason taught Willie the value of information, and how knowledge often equals power.

Angelique’s role in this story is reminiscent of The Skin Walkers – largely passive and reduced to dialogue rather than action, but appropriate under the circumstances. But at least here she’s able to spew fire as she relates how much she and Willie have in common – especially their treatment by their respective masters.

Echoes of Insanity is definitely John Karlen’s audio, though. While he has his occasional excesses, they’re more in a “Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” vein than his gleeful scenery chewing as Carl Collins in The Wicked and the Dead. It’s not often we get to see other facets of Willie, and Karlen makes full use of his first opportunity in the spotlight with considerable gusto.

Verdict: A taut cat-and-mouse script fills in many of the gaps in Willie’s background while he plays for the highest stakes of his life… 8/10

John S. Hall

Click here to order Echoes of Insanity from Big Finish


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