“My advice to you about love? Don’t. Never go back. Only goldfish swim in circles.”
Remember Charles Delaware Tate?
The mad painter, granted the power to create life through his art by the sinister Count Petofi, lived long past the loss of these supernatural abilities, with intervening decades spent in regret and a sense of loss. He had, after all, achieved the Pygmalionesque dream of creating his ideal woman…only to find himself unequivocally spurned by his Galatea.
What always struck me strange about this story in the teleseries was how irredeemably unlikeable his creation, who had adopted the name of Amanda Harris, actually was.
Haughty, imperious, snotty and petulant, Harris spurned her wild eyed progenitor’s overeager advances while running from one supposedly passionate love to another – first the equally crazed and quite sinister Timothy Shaw (we won’t get into the whole Gregory Trask storyline here, but Big Finish has produced several excellent stories wrapping that one up), then the tormented Quentin Collins, whose apparent distaste for the lady shone far brighter than any scripted passion between the two ever could (nominal “love beyond the grave” or no).*
*and McKechnie’s dispassionate first meeting with the apparent Quentin Collins (‘Milo Channing’, played by Walles Hamonde) shows this sentiment to be something of a mutual one!
After making a deal with a rather portly and unassuming incarnation of death, Harris lived on more or less into the present day (at least with respect to the original series airdates), awaiting the return of the eternal Quentin and his recognition of his ostensible “lost love” while building a career as an actress under the name of Olivia Corey.
And so we join the nominal Ms. Corey in this heretofore unexplored grey period, long after her days at Collinwood but prior to her final reunion with Quentin Collins. Retaining her typically unpleasant and huffy demeanor at an unveiling of a Warhol portrait in her honor, Corey discovers her next role will bring her back to the climes of Collinwood…and that the script’s author would appear to know far too much about her personal, heretofore secret life story…
Donna McKechnie returns to the role she essayed so many years agone appropriately without the apparent ravages of age. Sounding as young and vibrant as she did on air for Dan Curtis and company (and look out for the rather tongue in cheek name check herein), she certainly brings the role back to life in a manner fans will remember. That said, given that we’re talking about the character we are, what that statement actually implies is really down to the individual listener…
McKechnie’s Harris/Corey finds herself surrounded by bizarre characters as fellow cast and crew, from the toadying runner “Sketch” (Jamie Zubairi) to a distaff Erich Von Stroheim as producer and (on-set) directress (Zeynep Sandi), the rather flamboyant aforementioned Milo Channing and the rather snippy Gerald Wilde (Richard Crowest), the bubbleheaded Marnie Sloman (Emma Carter) and mad “psychically attuned” Elspeth Gardner (Dark Shadows veteran Denise Nickerson).
Moreover, there are some elements of the production that come off even stranger: the author/director’s insistence on not being seen, the attention to authenticity of the set, a clause that everyone refer to each other solely by their character names both on and offset, and some rather sinister insinuations between the producer and members of her cast…
Aside from all the particulars of the ostensible action, the largest question here is why exactly she let this fellow Norman (Wally Wingert) latch onto her, given that he’s an apparent fanboy/stalker type. Somehow he’s privy to her entire lifestory and acting as a sort of personal assistant and confidante throughout. And there’s even more mysteries and complications to come…
“We have enough history without having to regurgitate bits we’ve already consumed.”
It’s nice to hear David Selby once again, particularly in a reasonably meaty role (to reveal much more would comprise somewhat of a spoiler), and as noted, McKechnie reprises her earlier role with sufficient gusto to recreate the character “as was”.
There’s a surprise cameo from Alexander Vlahos’ Dorian Gray who enlivens the affair considerably by spewing forth a rapid fire battery of cheap jokes and asides relating to The Beatles, Sinatra and pictures in the attic, Blakes 7’s Cally, Jan Chappell drops by for a minute, and it all ties in rather neatly to the legacy of Charles Delaware Tate in clever if unexpected ways.
Author Nev Fountain (of the only truly Bernice Summerfield-like episode of the recent New Adventures thereof, The Revolution) brings his notable wit and strong sense of story structure, actually offering a sense of closure (gasp! Who would have imagined that in 21st century scripting…) and further providing both explanation and even something of a heroic turn for Denise Nickerson’s nutty Elspeth Gardner (!)
It takes a strong piece of authorship to pull together a good story based around a central character so thoroughly self centered and unlikeable as Amanda Harris, but Fountain’s done a damn creditable job thereto.
You get plenty of Selby, Elspeth…and Andy Warhol (!) save the day, there are several clever asides and interesting plot twists to televised canon and after a mere two minutes of airtime provided herein, this listener’s mouth is certainly watering for the next round of Dorian Gray adventures. Four months to go and counting…
Definitely worth investigating for the curious.