Dark Shadows: Review: Big Finish Season 2 Audios: Kingdom of the Dead

Written by Stuart Manning and Eric Wallace

Directed by Darren Gross

Starring: David Selby, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, John Karlen, Andrew Collins, Jerry Lacy, Ursula Burton, Lysette Anthony, Alec Newman and David Warner

After the Lorelei burns and sinks, Quentin (Selby) and Barnabas Collins (Collins) find themselves in the Underworld, where their immortal and vampiric natures pique the interest of the realm’s custodian, Seraph (Warner). Meanwhile, back in Collinsport, Willie Loomis (Karlen) brings Maggie Evans (Scott) – who torched the Lorelei while possessed – to the only sanctuary he can think of – Windcliff Sanitarium, where the sinister new administrator, Dr. Rankin (Anthony) has innovative treatments ready for her new patient…

Several years in the making, Kingdom of the Dead reunites castmembers from three incarnations of Dark Shadows for a sprawling storyline that abounds with betrayals, double crossings, bargains made out of desperation and enemies forced to work together against greater outside threats. And yet, somehow the story still meanders.

Partly this is due to Kingdom of the Dead having two antagonists working independently of each other. While this happened more than a few times during the televised run of Dark Shadows – where the languid pacing readily allowed for such things – on audio it’s not nearly as successful; the resolution of one plot strand feels like it comes at the expense of the larger, more interesting one.

Kingdom of the Dead also continues Dark Shadows’ tendency for its mortal characters to encounter the supernatural, much to their detriment. For instance, Susan Griffin (Burton), the local bar owner’s no-nonsense wife, has had several brushes with it so far, and finds herself drawn to it – and to Quentin Collins as well .  Then there’s the disgraced minister (Lacy), who finds a new purpose in life by following the angel who appeared before him. And Maggie Evans, usually the victim, actually gets her wish to know what’s really going on in Collinsport…

On the guest front, David Warner and his somber tones always make for a memorable villain; his Seraph is urbane yet implacable, a being whose thirst for order ironically results in more chaos than even he envisioned. Some of his modus operandi are peculiar – such as holding a costume ball for the people of Collinsport – yet somehow they work within Dark Shadows’ contexts.

This story abounds with long-overdue confrontations and conversations as the end of the world seemingly draws near.  When one character criticizes Quentin for his typical responses to stressful situations and his tendency to involve “innocents” in the affairs of the Collins family, one can’t help but agree, as so much of this drama ensues as a consequence of his actions, understandable as they are…

By the end of Kingdom of the Dead, the playing field has changed considerably – just in time for a familiar threat to emerge in a way that few will have seen coming. It ought to be quite a handful!

Verdict: Despite some mis-steps, Kingdom of the Dead makes a very compelling continuation of the Collins saga. And this time, listeners won’t have to wait three years for the next installment…  8/10

John S. Hall

Click here for our other Dark Shadows reviews

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