Starring Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, Andrew Collins, Jerry Lacy, Marie Wallace, Stephanie Ellayne and Alec Newman, with Asta Parry, Roger Carvalho, Jamison Selby, Ursula Burton, Daisy Tormé, Jeff Harding, Lachele Carl, Alexandra Donnachie, Walles Hamonde, Scott Haran, Wallace McBride and Matthew Waterhouse
Written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster
Directed by Ursula Burton and David Darlington
In which the continued rash of attacks and murders has everyone in Collinsport suspicious and on edge, and draconian measures to root out the culprit will pit the town’s supernatural denizens and its mundane residents against each other…
Up to this point, Bloodlust has shied away from the Great House of Collinwood, preferring to linger among the townsfolk of Collinsport, letting listeners familiarise themselves with the new characters, their motivations, foibles and the like. It’s a calculated risk, but one that pays off well for newcomers to Dark Shadows, building up the suspense until characters finally realise that someone – or something – within Collinwood has been responsible for the waves of panic and unease which blanket the town, and the only way to defeat it is a united attack at its source…
While the televised Dark Shadows had more than its share of “filler” episodes – basically designed to occupy half an hour of television airwaves while the story continued in a holding pattern – Bloodlust has very little of this fluff, instead delivering episode after episode of taut drama with frequent lashings of melodrama. Of particular note is a fraught town meeting which takes place in real time, occupying most of episode seven as frightened townsfolk turn on the local law enforcement for their perceived incompetence, drawing strong, believable performances from all involved. And while the penultimate episode may not seem the most opportune time for two adversaries to square off, Maggie Evans and Angelique do just that, and the results are electrifying. The two veteran actors essentially get a two-hander to themselves, and it’s easily one of the best things ever put out by Big Finish.
Unfortunately, this makes the final episode that much weaker by comparison. Like many a drawn-out Doctor Who story, Bloodlust finds itself having to wrap up too many plot threads in too short a span of time. The fact that the main villain’s motivation – or a minion’s interpretation of this, at any rate – is completely at odds with the character’s previously established personality, only compounds matters.
Despite its disappointing resolution, Bloodlust can only be considered a triumph for Big Finish, not only in terms of logistics, but also in story quality and recapturing the serial nature of Dark Shadows. Its sheer ambition is a thing to be marveled at, and one can only hope that the company plans a follow-up return to the accursed town and its residents, especially with the show’s 50th anniversary lurking around the corner in 2016…
Verdict: Eighteen months in the making, Bloodlust should be considered one of the jewels in Big Finish’s crown… 9/10
John S. Hall