Dark Shadows turned 50 last year!

And while it might not be the huge television event that Doctor Who was, Big Finish are celebrating in earnest. We got the marvellous ‘Blood and Fire’ which won a Scribe award for best audio drama. And now we are getting a brand new Dark Shadows series — The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries.

In a recent interview, producer David Richardson said he was astonished how many people wanted to hear more from Tony and Cassandra. Otherwise known as Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker respectively. This boxset is the answer to those wishes.

Fifty Years On…

The set kicks off with Tony and Cassandra at the other end of the partnership spectrum. Neither want to see the other again. We learn that, some time ago, Cassandra and Tony were investigating a group of Gorgons. Cassandra had managed to convince them she was on their side and Tony fell for it completely. Now, given that Cassandra is a powerful witch sometimes known as Angelique, a lot rides on who’s telling the truth. But the rift between them was powerful enough to pull the pair apart.

The Mystery at Crucifix Heights by Philip Meeks

Following the death of a movie director who collected items related to the occult and the supernatural, Tony is hired as a private investigator at the ominously named Crucifix Heights. Joined by his secretary and friend, Rita, who must pretend to be his Aunt, he heads out to the remote location.

Crucifix Heights is holding an auction for ‘collectors’ items. Cassandra finds herself hired by some mysterious party to purchase a strange wing. The auction sees several strange and interesting characters in attendance but, one by one, they begin to be killed.

Writer Philip Meeks has all the well-trodden horror tropes in place for his story. We’ve got the out-of-the-way location cut off by a snow storm and a murderer on the loose. The location has a ‘Shining’ feel about it. Meeks forces Tony and Cassandra together and to confront one another in a way that proves they still have strong feeling for each other.

Meeks obviously has a lot of fun writing for these characters. Each one feels alive and there are plenty of funny moments to be had. ‘The Mystery at Crucifix Heights’ is a strong opener that keeps you guessing right up until the ending. Though it feels somewhat anti-climactic when you consider what had lead the characters to that point. But this ending does pay off at the end of the set, so the disappointment is brief.

The Mystery of La Danse Macabre by Zara Symes

Zara Symes brings us the second story of the set, which sees Tony and Cassandra having joined forces again, while showing us that the pair are still rocky. While pouring punch at a birthday party, they’re approached by the owner of an abandoned music hall in Boston. A music hall he believes to be haunted.

This story is perhaps the weakest of the four, but following on from a strong opening story  wasn’t going to be easy. This episode plays out like something from ‘Scooby Doo’ for its first half. But it is only after the villain is, literally, unmasked, that things start to go west for Tony and Cassandra. For most of the episode, Cassandra has felt something dark and powerful. But Tony hasn’t really trusted her and this is introduces a lot of the drama. Tony can’t bring himself to trust his partner fully, something Cassandra has trouble coming to terms with even with her history.

Ultimately though, ‘The Mystery of La Danse Macabre’, is a character piece exploring what it is that makes the pair tick. It’s just a shame that, between the attempts on their lives, deals with the devil and battling against an evil curse, something got lost in translation.

The Mystery of Flight 493 by Alan Flanagan

Alan Flanagan gives us easily the best story of this set. Tony and Cassandra are headed back to their office, taking a flight back from their latest investigation. On board the plane, things start to happen and they are buffeted by turbulence. Then the plane crashes. And crashes. And crashes. Crashes. Crashes…

Flanagan gives us a really good, non-linear story, something which we don’t get to hear enough of. Every time the plane crashes, time resets itself to when they are boarding. It was nice to hear the characters begin to see things happening and when the story reaches its climax. There are a couple of characters who the listener is really drawn to, which often spells doom for somebody.

The only fault with this story is how these events link to a story about a boy in his bedroom who is afraid of something under his bed. Though there’s extra detail, the link between this story and the events unfolding around Tony and Cassandra feel a little confused in their explanation. But an ambiguous resolution ties it up nicely and reminds the audience that not everything can or should be explained.

The Mystery of Karmina Sonata by Aaron Lamont

The boxset boils down to this fourth story, ‘The Mystery of Karmina Sonata’. What’s fun is the narration that happens at the beginning of each of these stories. Tony gives us a little background on each of the stories we are about to hear. When giving us the lowdown on this tale, Cassandra hilariously interrupts him. Not only is this funny, but it shows us that the pair have grown enough to enjoy this little bit of friendly banter.

This story concerns a séance gone wrong and a demon being unleashed that prays on the seven deadly sins and those who commit them. While many of the deaths have seemingly nothing to do with the overall arc, it all comes to ahead in the climax. The story links back to Crucifix Heights and what happened there. It pays off what happened before and adds a satisfying resolution to that dangling plot thread and the series as a whole.

Overall

The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries is a great way to kick off what could be a brand new spin-off series. There are some strong scripts, ideas and concepts at play here. The performances from Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker are particularly strong as the pair are obviously enjoying themselves. It’s a credit to them that they can make roles they have been playing for fifty years feel fresh and new again.

Blogtor Rating – 8/10

The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries is available to buy now from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

This title was released in October 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until November 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.

She’s a witch. He’s a private detective. And when they get together, it’s magic…

The Mystery at Crucifix Heights by Philip Meeks

“We need someone who doesn’t, shall we say, ‘scare’ easily.”

When private investigator Tony Peterson goes undercover to Chicago with his no-nonsense secretary Rita Channing, he has no idea the formidable witch Cassandra Collins is about to make a suitably dramatic entrance back into his life.

At a rambling mansion called Crucifix Heights and cut off by a ferocious snowstorm Tony and Cassandra have been hired by separate clients to attend an auction of deadly arcane objects and artefacts.

The pair at first struggle to reconcile their differences but then people around them start dying horribly, one by one. They have to try to work together, because the killer at large is ingenious and seemingly unstoppable. Everyone stranded at Crucifix Heights is in peril. Including themselves.

The Mystery of La Danse Macabre by Zara Symes

“I don’t take kindly to almost being killed. One attempt, maybe two; well, fair’s fair. But I won’t stand for three.”

Tony and Cassandra knew when they took their first case together that there would be a few bumps in the road but when the supernatural detective duo arrive at Busby Hall in downtown Boston, a dilapidated music hall that’s rumoured to be haunted, they’ll find that there’s more danger afoot than just things that go bump in the night.

Battling against curses, bargains with the dark side, and more than one attempt on their lives, will Tony and Cassandra be able to overcome their differences and work as a team? Or will this be their last waltz?

The Mystery of Flight 493 by Alan Flanagan

“Nobody move! There’s a man standing in the doorway of the cockpit…”

When Tony and Cassandra board a flight bound for home they think that their latest case is behind them, until a terrifying creature begins to murder their fellow passengers. Something is hunting the people on Flight 493, and Tony and Cassandra must deduce what connects it with a story about a little boy who’s terrified of what might be under his bed… before it’s all far too late…

The Mystery of Karmina Sonata by Aaron Lamont

“So just for clarity’s sake. You think you’ve accidentally unleashed a demon from the Spirit World during a bogus seance which is… potentially… killing your wealthy clients. And you want us to stop it before it gets to you. Have I missed anything…?”

When Karmina Sonata arrives in their office, Tony and Cassandra think it’s just another case. A séance gone wrong, a few violent deaths… Par for the course, if you specialize in the unusual. But what if this is not just another case? What if something else is going on? And what if, just if, their sins are about to find them out? Because for Tony and Cassandra, things will never be the same again…

Producers Joseph Lidster & David Darlington
Script Editor Alan Flanagan
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Philip Meeks, Zara Symes, Alan Flanagan, Aaron Lamont
Directed By: David Darlington, Darren Gross, Joseph Lidster

Cast

Jerry Lacy (Tony Peterson), Lara Parker (Cassandra Collins), Julia Duffy (Rita Channing), Sydney Aldridge (Mona Lockhart/ Katerina Lienkov/ Alice McGill/ Sadie Mulholland), Anna-Maria Everett (Sister Layla Kincaid/ Peggy Duntroon/ Veronica Phelps/ Karmina Sonata), Brendan O’Rourke (Vincent Danville/ Max Ellison/ Alfonso Grosso), Greg Patmore (Professor Larry Dennis/ Russ Duntroon/ Danny Lloyd)

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