Dark Season by Russell T Davies (audio review).

This is the audio book of the TV series, ‘Dark Season’ by Russell T Davies, which was originally broadcast in 1991 on the BBC. An extraordinarily prescient drama, ‘Dark Season’ featured a young then a complete unknown Kate Winslet and Jacqueline Pearce, already on our screens as the scary Servalan from ‘Blake’s Seven’. Marcie is the lead character in this drama and this novelisation is read by the actress who played her, Victoria Lambert.

A benefactor offers a computer to every pupil in a school. The mysterious Mr. Eldritch is in charge and keen to offer the computers to all the kids as soon as possible. Three of the pupils are suspicious and it looks like Marcie, Thomas and Reet have to save the school. It’s a story of friendship, too, with the strong leadership of Marcie who is of course a swotty geek who finds she’s the target of bullying by the super-cool pupil, Olivia.

Meanwhile, Olivia is transformed into a super-computer with terrifying powers and Eldritch is pursuing a master plan to take over the world. The group’s only ally is Miss Maitland, a teacher who is a strong believer in Marcie’s abilities.

It’s a story that follows a traditional pattern and a great one in which the kids that work hard at school are not the cool kids and, in Marcie’s case, are blessed or cursed with a calculating mind and an adult intelligence. She carefully guides the lesser beings of Thomas and Reet and saves the day. It’s refreshing because the lead is a ‘little girl’ and who leads the pack and the teacher here. How empowering this must have been for those growing up in the 90s.

There is also a follow-on story seen as slightly discrete from the first which takes place some months later. Miss Pendragon arrives with subordinate Luke, who supervises a dig to find a super-computer buried deep beneath the school. Once again, Marcie must save the day.

The final lines indicate that this might not be the last we hear of Marcie and, indeed, in the extras, it is evident that Big Finish is looking at a present day sequel. The extras are a fascinating look at Victoria’s experience and a revelation as to what she is doing now. It looks like ‘Dark Season’ will serve as a prequel to more adventures in the same vein.

As the first drama written by and then novelised by Russell T Davies, it has interest to those who see both the influence of ‘Doctor Who’ and the seeds of how he developed ‘New Who’. This already appears to have been obsessively analysed but the most important thing here is that this was a drama aimed at teenagers and the themes of friendship, desiring to belong and bullying are used to good effect. Although Davis was working for the BBC, this was written and produced quite quickly and sees him honing his skills for this audience.

The novelisation is enjoyable and the narrator is pleasant to listen to. Victoria Lambert doesn’t sound any different to me and it made it all the more in the moment. So if we could get Kate Winslet to pop over and do a cameo in the new adventures that would be a hoot.

Sue Davies

January 2022

(pub: Big Finish, 2021. 5 CDs 354 minutes. Price: £29.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-83868-824-0. Download: Price: £24.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-83868-825-7)

narrator: Victoria Lambert

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