‘Dark Shadows’ follows the lives of people who live in Collinsport and around Collinswood. Often their lives are mixed with the supernatural, with vampires, witches, zombies and werewolves turning up left right and centre.
‘Phantom Melodies’ is the latest excursion to Collinsport on offer from Big Finish Productions and offers us four, half-hour, tales of supernatural menace and suspense. Featuring narration from Matthew Waterhouse, Andrew Collins, Nancy Barrett and Stephanie Ellyne, it is an interesting little trip, but not one of the best visits to this strange little town.
LAST ORDERS AT THE BLUE WHALE by Rob Morris
The set opens with ‘Last Orders at The Blue Whale’. Matthew Waterhouse is on narration duty for this tale and he does a splendid job. I would have been perfectly happy to sit listening to him narrating every adventure on this release, he does his job so perfectly. He almost seems happier here than he is in ‘Doctor Who’. This story tackles greed with petty criminal, Harry Johnson stealing some coins from the wrong person. The person in question turns out to be a demon who offers Johnson a deal, find another soul to give him instead and Harry can go free.
Author Rob Morris could have taken the easy route out by making Johnson do what the demon wants. But what he makes clear is that Johnson might be a petty criminal, happy enough to steal money from people’s wallets, but he isn’t a murderer. What people will probably instantly pick up on is the internal struggle the character of Harry has once he enlists the aid of the wrong person.
‘Last Orders at The Blue Whale’ is an enjoyable tale, with Matthew Waterhouse on top form as narrator. He breezes through the story effortlessly, allowing us to enjoy some vivid imagery.
THE SCARLET BRIDE by Ian Atkins
The second story in the set, ‘The Scarlet Bride’ written by Ian Atkins and narrated by Andrew Collins, struggles to get out of the shadow of the tale that came before. The monster, a vampire, was initially described as a tall man with sharp teeth and a long red tongue. But as the story continues we are led to believe that it is actually a demon and not a vampire.
The story focuses on a feud between a couple of vampires and witches that doesn’t really get the exploration it needs. It takes quite a while to a build-up leaving the story to delve right into the action at the very end. The conflict feels rushed and a little confusing.
ON THE LINE by Ian Farrington
The second disc kicks off with ‘On the Line’, narrated by Nancy Barrett and is easily the best story out of the four. It mixes ‘Doctor Who’s’ time travel with magic. The story sees Carolyn Stoddard receiving phone calls from herself in the future. In the 1970s, she is embracing the college life, making friends and trying to forget about something that had happened in Collinsport. But Carolyn from the future is telling her to do things, things that past Carolyn doesn’t want to do, like leave her best friend and move to Paris.
Author, Ian Farrington uses, time travel in an interesting way, not a way that we haven’t seen or heard before, but it works well within the confines of the Dark Shadows world.
IN A BROKEN DREAM by Penelope Faith
The final story, ‘In a Broken Dream’ narrated by Stephanie Ellyne is about the hardships of leaving things behind. Amy Jennings has gone to Paris to try and forget about her past. But it seems that trouble always catches up with you if you come from Collinsport.
Unfortunately, like ‘The Scarlet Bride’, this story is one of the weaker of the set.
Overall, ‘Dark Shadows – Phantom Melodies’, is a bit of a mixed bag. The first two stories of each disc, are the best stories on offer here. Although all four stories are worth a listen, some will probably have their own fans. The stories are tight and the narration is brilliant across the board.
If you are planning a quick excursion to Collinsport, then Phantom Melodies will be for you. But if you are planning to stay a little longer, then you may find yourself wanting something more…
BLOGTOR RATING 7/10
Last Orders at the Blue Whale
Thrown out of Collinwood, petty criminal Harry Johnson is waiting to catch the next train out of town but a rash decision in the bar of the Blue Whale will unwittingly lead him into a battle for his very soul.
The Scarlet Bride
Agnes is getting married but what should be the happiest time of her life is being spoiled by strange dreams of a scratching at her bedroom window. She dreams of a mysterious man trying to break into her room… A man who stares at her as she dreams…
On the Line
Carolyn Stoddard is embracing her new life at university but a mysterious telephone call is about to change everything…
In a Broken Dream
In an attempt to distance herself from her past, Amy Jennings is visiting Elizabeth Stoddard and Roger Collins in Paris but, mysteriously, they are not there. Will her life ever be free from the unexplained?
Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator), Andrew Collins (Narrator), Nancy Barrett (Narrator), Stephanie Ellyne (Narrator).
Written By: Rob Morris, Ian Atkins, Ian Farrington, Penelope Faith
Directed By: Andrew Collins, David Darlington, Jim Pierson