Author Topic: The Christmas Presence  (Read 503 times)

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Offline The Doctor and K9

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The Christmas Presence
« on: February 06, 2007, 02:22:24 AM »
The third Big Finish audio drama was well worth the wait.  The story picks up where the second left off, with tensions within our favorite dysfunctional family.  They've decided to put aside their differences to celebrate the holidays together.  The actors stepped back into their roles as if only a few years had passed between the original show and its new incarnation.  Newcomer Andrew Collins has settled in nicely, improving with every story.  A new visitor arrives, skillfully played by the talented Toby Longworth.  Mr. Longworth may be familiar to fans of the Judge Dredd audio series (also available from Big Finish).  He's quite frankly, a master of voices.  In fact, on the last CD of the Dredd series, he played all the parts!  His talents are a welcome addition to the DS cast.

The story moves quickly, without neglecting to give us ample interaction between the characters.  Lara Parker and John Karlen are particularly entertaining as Angelique taunts Willie.  I won't say too much about the spectral presence that menaces them.  I'm trying to review this story without resorting to those spoiler shades.  I'll just say that the use of Chrstmas carols as the spirits haunt the denizens of Collinwood is very chilling and effective.

I've decided to wait until tomorrow to hear "The Rage Beneath".  I'd vowed to serialize the rest of the series over the next six days, but I consumed "The Christmas Presence" in one greedy gulp.  Oh well, Christmas is a time for indulgence.  So is the New Year.  I'll trade in the karma I've collected not being tdrunk on the 31st by treating myself to the whole tale tomorrow.

If you've not gotten these stories, YOU ARE MISSING OUT!

Offline Brandon Collins

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Re: The Christmas Presence
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2007, 05:17:48 AM »
Thanks for the review! I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting my copies of the final two CDs for Series One. I hope I get them sometime this week, hopefully tomorrow. I can't wait to check them out!
Brandon Collins

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Offline Brandon Collins

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Re: The Christmas Presence
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2007, 05:39:42 AM »
***Please note the spoiler icon above.


I've completely listened through this first of our second wave of new DS CDs. And personally, I think it's the best so far.

I must admit that at first I was skeptical. Reading the title and seeing that it had Christmas in it was quite disturbing. Christmas? At Collinwood? Had someone lost their marbles? Surely Santa wouldn't visit the Collinses? Well, no, Santa did not visit. But what did visit was quite gripping and extroardinary.

We come into the new episodes having learned from "The Book of Temptation" that Maggie will be the center of a future "battle" that will bring vengeance to Collinwood. Little hints are dropped throughout this new tale of that upcoming event. Just enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to give it away.

As with anything, "The Christmas Presence" has it's good and bad points. I'll lay them out simply:

Good things:

1. Angelique's taunting of Willie was quite enjoyable, as much as it pains me to say so. It was so in character for her to do something like that, and both actors play the scene out remarkably well. It would have been my favorite scene had the last few scenes not stole the show.

2. An old (and do I mean OLD) face returns. [spoiler]Prof. Elliot Stokes[/spoiler]
returns to the fold, but there is something eeriely different about him. Something's not right. We the listeners know this because his voice is too similar to the badguy we hear in the first scene. Instantly our minds are astutely listening, hoping that our favorite Collinses will figure out what's going on.

3. The climax scene nearer to the end of the disc really had me gasping for air. Could it really be possible that Barnabas would murder poor [spoiler]
Stokes[/spoiler]
even though it wasn't his fault that he was overtaken by this malevolent spirit? When Barnabas was enticed to come and spend a happy life with Josette and the others, who all have been captured by the spirit and supposedly are living in peace and harmony, I thought for a split second that he might take the offer. But that would be too unlike Barnabas, because as we all know, he's determined to suffer.

4. The final few scenes steal the entire story, and even if the plot had've entirely sucked, which it didn't, the last two scenes would make the whole disc worthwhile. The first of the last two scenes gives us more information about the missing Collinses, using one of them to communicate. A letter appears on the doorstep of Collinwood, and upon reading it, it is from one of the Collinses we watched change over the course of the original series, reprised by the original actor. (I would give it away, but I fear that it would be a disservice to the wonderful writing and production). And the final scene finds Barnabas visiting Josette's grave, and bearing his soul to her for one final time. This scene is expertly written, and will definitely bring tears to your eyes.

Bad Things:

1. I couldn't help but laugh, rather than be scared, at Maggie's near-death experience with the Christmas turkey. It was completely absurd, and even though it may have been very frightening to Maggie, I couldn't help but chuckle along with Quentin at the absurdity of her repeating the story.

2. This is the third entry into our beloved world in this format. By now we should know the feelings of the major characters. Quentin wants to find his family. Angelique has something sinster planned, or so it would seem, and wants to continue her hold on Barnabas. Barnabas wants to find a way to save Collinwood and those surrounding it. Willie is bound to the family, though it seems he wishes he weren't. And Maggie detests being at Collinwood and says she doesn't belong there. All these things are established in the first, and the beginning of the second disc. All are dropped (by this I mean that we aren't reminded of them time and time again), except for Maggie's. Maggie has had the same conversation with nearly every major cast member on every disc, and it is possible every episode. We KNOW that she doesn't want to be at Collinwood. Stop telling us the same thing over and over. We GET the point. That conversation is tired now.

3. The Carolers did nothing for me. They did not envoke fear at all. The screams from "The Book of Temptation" were more frightening. When I heard that this familiar Christmas happening was to occur on this new release, I thought perhaps a redention of "Deck the Halls" or "Away in a Manager" or "Silent Night" would be used to frighten us. Alas, this was not the case. I did not even recognize the carols, if they were intended to be familiar to anyone. And I couldn't half understand what they were actually saying when they were supposed to be "singing". It was more like talking. A true way to frighten someone is to take something familiar to them and make it become something quite horrid. That is what could've been accomplished if a song like the ones I named above had've been utilized.

4. This is directed more at the acting rather than the writing. I've been noticing throughout that it's not like the way these characters were acted on the original series. Now, I do take into account that the voices have grown older, and the actors much wiser in their arts. But still, these things bug me. The first is Quentin. On the original series when he was aruging with someone, he became quite passionate about it, flailing his arms about and yelling. Sure, he raises his voice on the discs, but we don't get an image of him waving his arms about, and his voice doesn't quite hold that same passion. His fighting is more muted than anything else. And the other is Angelique. One thing that takes me out of character in her case is that Ms. Parker's voice has changed much more than the others. It's no longer the high-pitched, breathy, explicit voice and evocation that it was was. I've found myself struggling, at times, to recognize that it is actually Angelique when she is speaking. Her portrayal is a bit slower. Instead of rushing through the lines and being frantic as Angelique was on the original series, in a similar situation she would now be a bit slower, perhaps more choosey (even a word?) with her speech. I prefer the former to the latter.

All in all, I'm quite impressed once again by these new entries into the world of Dark Shadows, and "The Christmas Presence" is the best disc thus far, not only because of the reintroduction of the familiar face, and the plot, but because of the final scenes which are TRULY touching. Let's hope that "The Rage Beneath" lives up to this precedent.
Brandon Collins

http://rebellionbegins.blogspot.com

Twitter: @AwesomeBran