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Big Finish Audio Drama: The Rage Beneath
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CD Cover art by Stuart Manning
Image @Big Finish Productions USED WITH PERMISSION

Big Finish Audio Play The Rage Beneath
synopsis and review by JMW

A good touch in this, the fourth of the Dark Shadows Reborn series (written by Scott Alan Woodard), is the preamble of memories (perhaps nightmares) of Maggie Evans. This brings a new listener, whom the producers DON'T automatically assume has heard the rest of the series, up to date with the specifics of this particular universe.

The Rage Beneath opens with Quentin encountering Susan Griffin (originally introduced, along with her husband, in The House of Despair) in a rainstorm. First she, then Angelique, miles away at Collinwood, then Willie out on Widow's Hill, hear mysterious voices that no one else can hear (but the audience can, of course). Quentin and Susan return to the Blue Whale where her husband, Ed (Jamison Selby) is waiting, and tells them that the sheriff was telling him that the phone has been ringing off the hook with phone calls about mysterious noises/voices/singing. (It's a rather amusing touch to the piece that Ed, who is antagonistic and confrontational toward Quentin, is played by that actor's son.) As Susan tells Ed about hearing it too, he remembers and tells the others a ghost ship story he’d heard when he'd been at sea.

We then hear an encounter Angelique has with the ghostly voices, but in Collinwood. "Above" leads her to the attic, where she finds a trunk originally belonging to Joshua. In looking at a 1794 Journal of Joshua's the name Oswald Gravenor is written in red -- wet blood. Barnabas and Angelique read on, and learned of his rivalry with Joshua for control of the town -- and Oswald's ultimate fate when his house and business burnt to the ground and he was unable to prove Joshua guilty. He, too, then died in a fire while his ship was at sea. After Barnabas finished the tale, the journal suddenly burst into flame. As Barnabas angrily accuses Angelique of a trick, the voices begin again, repeating one phrase over and over again "Vengeance! Vengeance is mine!" The attic of Collinwood suddenly becomes very cold, and seawater bubbles UPWARD through the floor. The phenomena, whatever its cause, seems to be targeting Angelique's powers, making her feel and sense things that she, as a damned soul, should never feel or sense -- and is unable to stop. The cold seawater continues to rise, and Angelique loses hope, remembering that they drowned witches - then Willie comes along and opens the door, and the water disappears.

On the waterfront, Maggie runs into Ed and Quentin. Far out at sea they see an old two-masted ship (not a boat, as Ed hastens to correct Maggie). The ship is steering a deliberate course, not like a wreck churned up from the sea bottom at random to beach itself, and on the port bow can be seen the name Lorelei. As Quentin notes, an unusual name for a ship, as the Lorelei were known for tempting ships to their doom. As the threesome watches, the ship comes to a stop, docking perfectly. A crowd gathers, and Ed manages to make them disburse. Quentin expresses a genuine admiration of Ed's ability to calm the crowd and it comes out that Ed still neither likes nor trusts him. Some time later Maggie has arrived back at the Inn and meets Susan, who needs a break from the Blue Whale. They touch lightly on how she is recovering from the events of The House of Despair, and Maggie makes the comment (which has a sharp double meaning if you remember the events of her kidnapping and brainwashing by Barnabas) that sometimes it's better NOT to remember things. The women start discussing the ship, and where it might have come from, and suddenly Maggie passes out. As Susan tries to wake her, she repeats in a strange voice "Vengeance draws near!"

Barnabas then comes by the docks, meets Ed and Quentin, and is shown the brig and the name on its hull. "It can't be!" he exclaims, and speaks of Joshua Collins' connection with the ship and her owner. He goes on to mention a feeling of being watched (similar to a comment Ed had made earlier) and that it's coming from the ship. Then as they watch, the sails appear to be on fire, but aren't burning - green fire. They hear voices, louder and louder from within the ship, which now appears as if it's heading for Collinwood (bringing to mind the pirates of the Java Queen, brought to life by Gerard during the summer of 1970).

At Collinwood, Angelique is apologizing to Willie for the way she behaved earlier, which he accepts graciously. Then the wind rises and the candles go out when Angelique senses a presence, then is attacked. Quentin and Barnabas arrive, and Barnabas identifies the entity as Oswald Gravenor. Gravenor (Robert Rodan, Adam from the original series) is confused, as the face is not familiar, but the aura IS. Gravenor claims the present storm opened the way for his ship and has brought his crew - thieves and cutthroats from many nations, or as Quentin describes them "the lowest of the low" - back with him to seek the revenge that he sees as 200 years overdue. He will not accept that he brought his fate on himself with the original quest for vengeance, and is sworn to revenge himself on all Collins' to the present day. As Barnabas continues to try to persuade Oswald to give up his revenge and go back, the crew takes Angelique, Quentin and Willie captive.

An interesting take on the vampire legend begins the third act. The four who were captured by the pirate crew all wake up -- at 7:30 in the morning. Yet, Barnabas, still a vampire, was apparently protected enough to survive by the heavy draperies over the window. Angelique and Quentin have some banter about headaches and hangovers as they wonder what, indeed, had been done to them while they were unconscious. As Willie guides Barnabas slowly up to the tower room and his coffin, they make a horrifying discovery - the coffin is gone, and it is now full daylight. Angelique and Quentin are involved in reasoning out why the entity has appeared now, and what may have triggered this, when Willie comes in and tells them what has happened. Angelique gives instructions as to how to best help Barnabas regain his strength once Willie locates a coffin. They speculate on where he will locate such a thing at this hour, and Quentin decides that he'd really rather not know.

Maggie has wandered down to the dock in a haze, and tells Ed all kinds of facts about the Lorelei, explaining that she learned them from a history book. She seems in a daze throughout the conversation, and mutters, "Vengeance draws near". When he encounters Maggie in the coffee shop later, she has no memory of this at all.

Barnabas, safely tucked away in the substitute coffin, has had disturbing dreams. When night comes, Willie explains what happened, and what he's discovered, which is that the entire town of Collinsport fell asleep the night before at the exact same time the group at Collinwood did. The logical conclusion is that that's when Gravenor made off with Barnabas' coffin, and that it is now aboard the Lorelei. Barnabas decides to face off with Oswald on the Lorelei, and Quentin and Willie volunteer to join him, though Angelique, claiming Oswald is too powerful, refuses.

As they head for the Lorelei, Barnabas explains that he and only he can face Oswald and end the curse he and his men are under. When pressed, he explains that HE, NOT JOSHUA, set the fire that destroyed Oswald's life. Maggie, who has been missing for some time, reappears on the docks, in the same haze she was in earlier, and yet again repeats, "Vengeance draws near".

Oswald and the others meet on the Lorelei, and Barnabas' attempts - and fails -- to get him to leave. Oswald already knew that Barnabas had started the fire, and insists on his revenge on the man who set all this in motion. Apparently they have fallen right into his trap, for, as he says, "The trap isn't ON the Lorelei; the trap IS the Lorelei".

Just as Oswald has explained his plan to trap Barnabas beneath the waves for eternity (and free himself and his crew -- not ghosts, but revenants, neither alive nor dead -- in the process) Angelique appears on the ship, and orders Willie ashore to deal with Maggie (whom she knows is possessed). She then invokes her powers and orders Oswald to set Barnabas and Quentin free. But Willie is not having any luck with Maggie, who is muttering the words to "Blow the man down" in a mindless chant, and resisting Willie's attempts to help her because she doesn't believe his claims that he cares for her - even when he nearly blurts out that he loves her. Willie becomes more and more panicked by her behavior when he realizes that he smells gasoline.

Unaware of the events on the dock, Angelique is trying to force Oswald to her will. She points out that she has an understanding with the powers of darkness, and she intends to make Oswald endure the cold that he dared inflict upon HER. She recites an exorcism to banish Oswald and the crew to whence they came. As they disappear, and Quentin congratulates Angelique, a new threat arises.

Angelique materializes on the dock and faces off with "Maggie", now realizing that Gravenor is the spirit possessing her. Gravenor gloats that it has taken her so long, and that she was so intent in protecting the Collins' that she overlooked the girl that her pride would not LET her protect - the instrument of his vengeance. He leaves, and Maggie comes to herself, to be told what she has done by Angelique and Willie.

The piece ends, here, on this cliffhanger (one does hope that in the next set of dramas, it will be thoroughly resolved). The plot is a good one, plausible to the history of the Collins family. The established characters are well done, behaving plausibly within the confines of the story without any major contradictions with their characters from the show.

I find the choice to make Barnabas the ultimate villain of the piece a particularly good and interesting one. There was always in the character a tendency (clearly inherited from Joshua) to run roughshod over anything or anyone who was perceived to threaten the family, and to meddle in things when he shouldn't (note the time travel meddling, which in some ways may have caused as many problems as it fixed). This acknowledgment that Barnabas is a flawed character makes for a far more interesting character than the kindly protector of the family, or the ravening sociopath - more like a real person, written in shades of grey instead of extremes of black and white.

The bits of business used to establish relationships between our main characters are also well done, sometimes going back to the series, sometimes newly established. I particularly liked the rebuilding of a Maggie-Willie relationship, and the fact that he starts to blurt out that he loves her. This did seem to be a pattern in the series, where he cared for her, and did many things to protect her, but the potential for a relationship never seemed to be addressed in the plotlines themselves. Angelique is also well handled in these dramas - she can and does help people, but she is a creature apart and will either help or not help based on her own agenda. KLS' Maggie plays a pivotal role in this piece, but yet again it's through possession by some entity. (Anyone for a cartoon saying "This space for rent?") She does very well with what is essentially a dual role: Maggie and possessed Maggie.

Quentin and Willie are both more supporting characters in this piece, revolving as it does around the consequences of Barnabas' actions. They function more as back up, and most of their actions are character development rather than plot driven. As mentioned in the earlier review of The House of Despair, both Karlen and Selby fall right into their old roles, updating them perfectly to suit the new experiences the characters have had since the series.

Jamison Selby and Ursula Burton as Ed and Susan Griffin do well in their supporting roles. Ed and Susan are a good addition to this universe, being NORMAL people mostly untouched by the supernatural doings. Susan is a friend of Maggie's and gives her a touchstone and a confidante through whom we can be told things. Ed works well as a character: a former fisherman, sensible, levelheaded, rational.He and Susan now own the Blue Whale, and he wants NOTHING to do with any of the Collins'.

Robert Rodan also did a nice job as Gravenor: he also seems to have made a specific effort to speak differently, as I didn't recognize the voice until I checked the CD credits. His Gravenor was an interesting and plausible villain, who, from the nature of the cliffhanger this episode was left on, may well be making a return appearance when the loose ends are tied up.

In short, the series continues well -- and hopefully it won't be TOO much longer before the cliffhanger is resolved in the next series.

synopsis and review @2007 by JMW and may not be reprinted without prior permission from JMW

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