Following on from their successful first series, Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy are back in another thrilling set of adventures for supernatural detectives, Tony Peterson and Cassandra Collins. The set, produced by Joseph Lidster and David Darlington, sees the duo go on a plethora of new adventures, from a sound studio in the Hollywood hills, to a sanatorium, Cassandra’s new apartment and then a strange hotel where you will meet your soulmate.
The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios
The opening story for the set, authored by Philip Meeks, brings back all the macabre fun of the debut set for a very enjoyable opening adventure. The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios sees Tony and Cassandra called to a sound studio. Based in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, strange murders have taken place. The sense of fun that Meeks instils in this script is obvious from its opening moments, breaking the fourth wall with a recap speech. These opening monologues were one of the highlights of the previous set and it is nice that they’ve been retained.
Also apparent from the opening moments of this story is how much fun Meeks is having writing for these characters and this world. The dialogue for all the characters, but particularly the titular ones, is electric and plays to the fantastic chemistry between actors Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker. The story itself is a really fun run-around with some series ‘Hannah Barbara’ vibes. We’ve all wondered what havoc would be unleashed if out favourite animated characters came to life and it is that sense of wonder that Meeks taps into. The guest cast also do a fantastic job with Tom Michael-Blyth emerging quickly as a favourite as Myron Ratzenberger who gets some hilarious one-liners.
Overall, The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios is an enjoyable love letter to the weird and wacky world of Dark Shadows. Author Philip Meeks shows us how much he loves this world and the characters. It’s a terrific opening.
The Mystery of West Vale Sanatorium
The second story really kicks the horror-element of Dark Shadows into high gear and authors Joshua J. Price and Tanja Milojevic don’t hold back. It could be argued that this is one of the darkest Dark Shadows stories ever to be told in any format. The Mystery of West Vale Sanatorium taps into some grim visceral and realistic horror, which really works to its benefit. But one shouldn’t take this story just on that basis alone. The authors also include some enjoyable drama and moments for listeners. These include the return of a character from the previous set, Alice Wilkes, the duo’s companion during the standout story from the previous set, The Mystery of Flight 493. Played with gusto once more by Sydney Aldridge, she quickly fits into the banter and chemistry between the two leads.
Price and Milojevic don’t keep us waiting for the story either. We learn early on about the horrors going on at West Vale Sanatorium and the cruel experiments performed on the children there. The use of children manages to not only show Cassandra some emotions she never knew she had but the listener too. You would be hard-pressed to find a listener who isn’t moved by this tale by the time the closing credits kick in. For their debut Big Finish story, Joshua J. Price and Tanja Milojevic really knock it out the park. Hopefully they’ll return to the worlds of Big Finish for some more macabre storytelling.
A special shout out too for David Darlington and his music design, which really stood out, adding superbly to the overall atmosphere!
The Mystery of Apartment 493
The third adventure sees Alan Flanagan returning with another strange story surrounding the number 493. Last year he penned The Mystery of Flight 493, the strongest story of that particular set. His follow up, concerning Cassandra’s new apartment is just as strong an entry. While other stories have concerned the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ element between the two characters, Flanagan pulls the characters apart in a very interesting way, almost, but not quite, pitting the pair against each other.
What worked so well with Flanagan’s Flight 493 story was the claustrophobic setting. That sense is continued here, trapped in an apartment where you can’t get away. Flanagan’s script is full of delicious dialogue to really amp up the performances from Jerry Lacey and Lara Parker who deliver what is easily their best performances here. It was also nice that Sidney Aldridge gets some time to shine too.
Much like Flight 493, The Mystery of Apartment 493 really is the back-bone for the second series. It is lead by a stellar cast at the top of their games, a tremendous script and some excellent production values. Flanagan is still keeping what the number 493 has to do with the stories under wraps. Hopefully he never reveals the secret, so we might get some more enjoyable stories like this one.
This is one best listened to with the lights off!
The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel
Following the superb previous instalment, The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel by Grace Knight ends Series 2 on a seriously high note! Knight’s script has a lot of heart in its first half-hour as Tony and Cassandra go undercover in a hotel that plays matchmaker, hoping to find a missing person last seen at the Soulmates. That idea on paper sounds nice enough, but the script deals nicely with some real emotions. There’s hope, love, temptation and desperation. All are handled in a way that makes the script feel very intelligent. It’s a lot more than just another undercover adventure.
The whole cast do a fantastic job with the terrific script and each adds some real pathos to the characters and story they are telling. This serves to only amplify the chemistry between Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker and while the episode might not serve the particular payoff the fans may want in terms of their relationship, the strong script from Knight feels like a great way to tie up their storyline for now.
Abi Harris really stands out as the villain for this story, a demon who sends people off to their soulmates and then feeds off their most prized personality trait. Time travel isn’t something that one would expect to be included in the Dark Shadows universe but to see it used well proves that it can work in the right hands. There is also a crazy cliffhanger to leave us wanting the third and, for now, final set of stories! With a whole year to wait for this story’s conclusion, it’s going to be a long wait!
The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries: Series 2 is another triumphant entry into the world of Dark Shadows for Big Finish. We’ve got some fantastic scripts from Philip Meeks, Joshua J. Price, Tanja Milojevic, Alan Flanagan and Grace Knight, all of whom deserve to write more stories for these characters. Each script is full of delicious dialogue, strong ideas and concepts with the guest cast devouring them nicely. The direction across all the stories from David Darlington, Alan Flanagan, Darren Gross and Joseph Lidster is also excellent. All do a brilliant job as each and every story is a treat for the ears!
Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker continue to be amazing in their roles. Their chemistry is a pleasure to enjoy and one hopes that they will continue to work with Big Finish for a long time to come. The love that Joseph Lidster and David Darlington in particular have for the world of Dark Shadows is evident with every release. So long as they continue to create strong stories like these, there will always be a ready audience to engage with them. This set is another triumph!
She’s a witch. He’s a private detective. And when they get together, it’s magic…
The private detective and the witch are back investigating four new exciting mysteries:
The Mystery of Stone Heart Studios by Philip Meeks.
“All that creation can’t simply vanish. All that imagination. It has to still be here somehow; a power of its very own. And if that power joined forces with another power, surely a miracle might occur. I believe my babies are coming to life. After all these years they’re finally going to be real.”
Cassandra and Tony are hired to investigate an impossible murder high in the Hollywood Hills.
Once the home of Curdlespoon the Lion, Barbara Bison and a whole host of America’s favourite cartoon characters, Stone Heart Studio’s closed over a decade ago after a spate of unfortunate accidental deaths. Now Tina Heart has raised the funds to reopen the studios and finish the work of her late father and his partner. But history seems to be repeating itself.
An actress has been crushed whilst sealed in a sound booth. As other mysterious deaths follow Cassandra begins to realise there’s ghosts stirring within the walls of the studios. An ancient force has been unleashed and its making the beloved characters created within its walls anything but family friendly. Somehow, they’ve started to manifest as unstoppable monsters thirsty for blood.
The Mystery of West Vale Sanitarium by Joshua J. Price and Tanja Milojevic.
“There’s evil out there that would make the most vicious monsters look merciful.”
As Tony and Cassandra argue about whether or not to hire a new secretary, an old friend walks back into their lives. Alice Wilkes, who they previously met on doomed Flight 493, is ready and willing to take on the job but within minutes of stepping into their office, she is possessed. A spirit has been bound to our plane of existence because of the pain it feels for a group of children in upstate New York so Tony and Cassandra fly into action and travel to the West Vale Sanitarium to investigate.
But, for Cassandra, this case is going to be like no other, as she is about to discover emotions she has never previously experienced…
The Mystery of Apartment 493 by Alan Flanagan.
“We interrupt this broadcast with breaking news of a pair of deaths in Bangor early this evening. The deceased have been named locally as Anthony Peterson and Cassandra Collins.”
When Cassandra invites Tony over to see her new apartment, it’s meant to be a blessed night off — crack open a bottle of wine, reminisce about old times, make fun of Cassandra’s furnishings. But when you’re the best pair of detectives in the tri-state area, mystery has a way of arriving at the door unannounced. Soon Tony and Cassandra find themselves trapped in apartment 493, battling unspeakable horrors and a creature determined to feed on them both — and tear their sanity apart in the process.
And Cassandra thought it was just the rent that was killer…
The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel by Grace Knight.
“There’s a hotel in Bar Harbor that can take the faith of a pious man in a single night…”
When Tony and Cassandra go undercover to investigate some suspicious goings on at a famous matchmaking hotel, they think they’re in for a relaxing trip to the seaside (albeit one with more roleplay than Tony would like), but when people start disappearing, and the other guests’ personalities begin to change, they know they have to put a stop to it. Just who is the officious Mrs. Hill? Where are people disappearing to? And how long can Tony and Cassandra keep lying to themselves about their true feelings?
Producers: Joseph Lidster and David Darlington.
Script Editor: Alan Flanagan.
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs.
Written By: Alan Flanagan, Grace Knight, Tanja Milojevic, Philip Meeks, Joshua Price.
Directed By: David Darlington, Alan Flanagan, Darren Gross and Joseph Lidster.
Lara Parker (Cassandra Collins), Jerry Lacy (Tony Peterson), Sydney Aldridge (Alice Wilkes), Tom Michael Blyth (Myron Ratzenberger / Dale / Miles Wellington / Farmer / Officer 2 / The Football Coach / John Simmons / Daniel Jones), Abi Harris (Agnes Audley / Natalie Roth / Madeline / The Maid / Mrs. Hill), Jake Wardle (Randall Merrick / Billy Walker / Reginald / Steve Jones), Doireann May White (Duffy Guzman / Tina Heart / Caitlin / Officer 1 / The Architect / Jodie Price / Receptionist / Bartender), Philip Meeks (Mr Bluff), Alan Flanagan (Narrator / Newcaster), Tanja Milojevic (Deputy Jenkins), Joshua J Price (Officer Bradley). Other parts played by members of the cast.