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TCDG04_1417

“You seem to have received some payment for lab work, assisting Dr. Notting?”
“Lab work?  Is that what he called it?”
“What are you implying?”
“What were you implying?”

Dorian finds himself summoned to an old university he’d once attended, to meet up with an old flame.  But as Dorian Gray regulars might expect, there’s far more to the story than that…

“Observing rules and regulations was never his strong point.”
“I daresay if he’d followed the rules, he’d be a different person.  Less brilliant, perhaps?”

A computer scientist experimenting with artificial intelligence, Dr. Adam Notting (Anthony Howell) has taught his pet project BEAST to compose poetry.  But when Dorian arrives, BEAST…and Notting himself, for that matter, are nowhere to be found…and BEAUTY is.

What is BEAUTY’s secret? Tragedy awaits…

“I have…many hidden talents.”

Roy Gill works up an unusually modern mystery, all too appropriate for a digital age marked by social anxiety and retreat into ever more hermetic individual fantasy worlds, where ostensible “connections” are formed and regulated mainly by the keyboard and mobile device.

“My mother saw fit to call me Dorian, which apparently comes from the Gaelic for stormy weather.  Very appropriate, given this blizzard.  Not the ideal weather for hitchhiking…”

Dorian heads off to Stockholm, and finds himself giving a lift to a beautiful young hitchhiker named after a Norse goddess (Katherine Pearce).  He even accompanies her to a secluded cabin in the woods…

Is Freya all that she seems?  And what is she so terrified of, out there in the snowy wastes?

“What are you doing?”
“What I do best.  Baiting the devil.”

An appropriately atmospheric bit of wintry claustrophobia, author Sam Stone pulls a bit of mythos into a spooky take on the siege setup, complete with some ancient rivalries to be addressed.

“Goodbye, Mr. Gray.  You asked too many questions, you were racist…and worst of all, you were boring.

Then Dorian has his appendix removed, but discovers his hospital is a rather strange one…only one nurse, always on duty (Ayesha Antoine, of Bernice Summerfield fame), empty corridors and disappearing patients.  And something stalks the echoing halls under cover of night…

What is the disturbing secret of Dr. Madras (Raj Ghatak)?  What exactly is the Asclepius Project?  And how is Dorian ultimately responsible?

Author James Goss pulls Dorian headlong into Cronenborgian body horror, but with a touch of Halloween II/X-Ray style hospital slasher atmospherics. Another unusual setting to match that of the earlier Gill tale, but it certainly works for what it’s trying to evoke.

“The party lifestyle suited us both. It was a rare day that we saw sunlight…at least as anything more than a dappled shaft in the gaps between my bedroom shutters.”

Then Dorian rings out the Jazz Age with a gorgeous young flapper (Laura Riseborough).  But a jealous cad of a beau (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) and a series of mysterious killings may just spoil this prohibition-era reverie…

George Mann keeps things atmospheric, with a hint of Holmesian gaslight mystery to the otherwise Agatha Christie-era proceedings.

“His new house was in the middle of an Irish bog…although his new home was certainly as large as he’d boasted, it had obviously been uninhabited for years.  Many of the windows were boarded up and the garden was ugly and overgrown.  This was a house that had been left to rot.”

Then Xanna Eve Chown brings us to the shores of Ireland for a tale of a gambling inheritance which comes with an unexpected catch or two.  Bruno Langley offers a believably blinkered uppercrust twit as Mardling, and the setting provides a welcome and somewhat isolated touch of frisson for the titular spectral presence.

“If they handed out medals for priapic endeavors, you’d be at the front of the queue.”

Then we take a trip up the Aegean in the mid-70’s, the heyday of Greek Tycoon Aristotle Onassis and his famed American beau.  Dorian’s latest flame Alyssa (a particularly snooty Yasmin Bannerman) brings him on a nautical adventure that portends ill: the Russians and the Turkish are grumbling about Greek vessels coming too near their oceanspace, and a more ancient menace lurks beneath the waves…

“We can’t even go on holiday without you attracting something supernatural!”

While it’s perfectly obvious that author David Llewellyn is using the ancient creature buried deep beneath the Aegean as a metaphor and parallel to the character dynamics taking place herein, the simple fact is that Dorian’s rather dicey relationship with his bristly beau makes this one a bit of a tough pill to swallow, particularly after the four far more relatable and entertaining offerings preceding.

“I can live very happily without Starbucks, Mr. Gray.”

Dorian heads to Iceland to view the aurora borealis, and winds up in yet another snowbound vehicular misadventure (you’d think he’d learn after his earlier trip to Scandinavia…)

This time around, he finds himself with a pair of slashed tires and forced to spend a snowy evening’s repose in a rented car, to the accompaniment of the greatest hits of Julio Iglesias…what fate could possibly be worse?

Thankfully, a friend of a friend (Aaron Neil) finds him before he’s buried alive in a lethal combination of snowdrifts and poor taste…

Why do the locals spit at the very passing of Dorian’s new friend?  And is this entire episode morphing into A Decadent Werewolf in Iceland?

Another nicely moody and claustrophobic piece courtesy of a Mark B. Oliver, “Inner Darkness” pushes Dorian into the borders of a rather Grimm fairy tale.

“The passengers weren’t all first class.”

Dorian takes a voyage by train a few years after the horrors of WWII…and finds himself face to face with a rather dull doppelganger.  But when the two agree on a Strangers on a Train-like swap of persona, the stranger’s wife Scarlet (Deirdre Mullins) proves too strong a temptation to resist…

Can the promise of a very ordinary life sway Dorian away from his world of parties, cocktails and sweet young things of all stripe?

“I saw how Jonathan Moore died a little more every day.”

“Scarlet and Jonathan lived life more fully those last few months than they had in all their years before.  It’s just a pity they didn’t do it together.”

Something of an old trope in fable and fiction, Matt Fitton trots out the old adage of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, but in all objectivity, who would be mad enough to trade Dorian’s lifestyle, however mad and tedious in its nigh-immortality, for the horrors of corporate life and the dubious charms of suburban child rearing?

Not this author, that’s to be sure.

“After all, what sort of intruder would give themselves away by leaving doors wide open?  The sort of intruder who wasn’t afraid of being caught.”

Also included in the download, though not part of the season proper, was Scott Handcock’s brief Halloween special, “Trick or Treat”, which episode is still available as a standalone free download for those interested.

Vlahos’ Grey has lost none of his Decadent charm or air of suave insinuation, his warm, oversmoked tones always a pleasure to the ear.

Keeping things firmly in the realm of horror and mystery rather than the somewhat Romantic antihero adventurer mold into which the character had been thrust for a season or two, this season retains the best elements thereof while playing in a more solid and familiar territory for the character.

Well worth the time of any fan of Wilde, the Decadents or the more mature end of gothic horror.

 

 

https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-confessions-of-dorian-gray-series-04-1195

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