When a former coworker (David Blackwell) arrives at the inobtrusively suburban(!?!) home of Dorian Gray, he comes bearing a message…and discovers a rather unusual housesitter.
Victoria Lowell and the Skinwalkers, enemies of all things supernatural, have charged him with silence – a silence he means to break. Because they wanted Dorian to remain ignorant of the Brigadoon Hotel…a Kensington hotel that only appears on Christmas Eve…
When Dorian (Alexander Vlahos) and Toby (Hugh Skinner) return home for the evening, they discover yet another stranger awaiting them…none other than a homicidal Father Christmas (David Warner)!
Dreadful Christmas singing! Serial Santa Clauses! Zombies! Vampires! Rude neighbours!
“Brilliant. Nice to see the festive spirit alive and well. And a crappy new year to you too!”
A particularly dour Christmas present, Tim Leng’s Desperately Seeking Santa kicks off with a whole lot of setup for the subsequent tale, then settles in for a gruesome winter’s nap, complete with some painfully off key renditions of holiday favourites for your delectation.
While vaguely bringing to mind holiday slashers like Don’t Open Til Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night, this one puts those oft derided bits of coal for the Christmas stocking to shame with its buckets of grue and bad cheer for the unfortunates who encounter our rather grotty zombified St. Nick.
It’s atmospheric, to be sure, and Sophie Aldred even drops by for a quick guest bit as one of the victims, but I’m certainly glad I wasn’t doing reviews over the holidays – this certainly would have left something of a bad taste in the mouth during all the festivities.
Then, despite the intervention of our first mysterious home invader earlier, Dorian and Toby manage to stumble upon the aforementioned Brigadoon hotel, and on a whim, decide to check in.
“I see. Two queens, I take it?”
“…or would you prefer a double?”
Katy Manning is on hand as Dorian’s long dead sister Isadora…strangely hale and hearty. Or is she?
For the hotel bears more than one secret, and its sinister manager (Miles Richardson) has more than a second chance to offer guests…
As the boys take a cue from Lin Ye Tang and pass through one Doorway to Hell after another, they encounter any number of unusual, timelost personages, inclusive of a memory-addled Dora and a half-mad Teddy Roosevelt type (Sarah Ovens), before they finally meet up with the devil himself…
“Tell me, Dorian. Whatever did happen to that silly old soul of yours?”
More of a character piece with some existential elements than its more typical atmosphere-and-grue companion, Alan Flanagan’s All Through the House forces Dorian to face up to some old regrets and make a troubling choice or two along the way.
While still essentially driven by a busy “action” setting with all that battlefield schmutters, it’s a bit more true to the original Wildean conception of the character than the (admittedly quite enjoyable) monster of the week traveler through time setup the Confessions series tends to stick to.
There are several guest stars in this two part set: Warner, Manning, Aldred, Richardson, even Lisa Bowerman drops by for a line or two, and all of them make the most of their respective airtime, however lengthy or brief.
Vlahos, as ever, delivers a winning performance, leaving listeners with a true pang of regret that come this time next year, the series will be little more than the stuff of fond memory.
As a bonus, Big Finish tags on last year’s brief Christmas offering Frostbite, so those who hadn’t already downloaded that one get an extra bit of business for their pound note.
Separate from the standard season both for reasons of story length and the holiday setting,* The Spirits of Christmas offers an unusual bit of Christmas downer for Dorian fans…who might be better served by the series proper than these two ostensibly standalone tales.
* Some may offer the loosely “tied” nature of the presentation here, but the wraparound bit from the intro of Desperately Seeking Santa could easily have been dropped or settled in to a more proper place in All Through the House, leaving such connections more loose than it may at first appear.