Thursday, 16 November 2017

30 Discs Hath November #16: The Mystery of Flight 493

Dark Shadows: The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries 1.3:
The Mystery of Flight 493
written by Alan Flanagan

Tony Peterson should just give up on mass transportation, shouldn't he?

Funnily enough, after making suck a big thing about the inspiration behind the last two episodes, this one strikes me as being pretty much pure Dark Shadows. Again I stress that I've seen basically nothing of the original show and I know the Burton movie is hardly representative but this episode deals with a confined space and a lurking, unseen threat which has been the basis of most of the audios I've heard from this series.

Today's confined and not quite real environment is a domestic flight trapped in a time loop. I'm not usually fond of time loop stories but a recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery convinced me they can be done well so I decided to give it a fair hearing. Like the aforementioned Discoery episode, The Mystery of Flight 493 dispenses with the total loss of memory when the time loop resets relatively quickly. After all, its something that's obvious to the listener and frustrating to sit through time and time again. Instead, Flanagan uses the repetitions to slowly build an idea of who his one-off characters are and what motives drive them, which is pretty tight writing considering the brief period he has to write each development into and the pre-set events that have to take place around it all.

Not to spoilt the conclusion but the other thing that makes me feel this is the most Dark Shadows-esque episode of the set so far is that the threat, when eventually revealed, is not completely explained or defeated but rather survived. There's always seemed to me a touch of Lovecraft about the Dark Shadows universe and this, perhaps more than any audio I've listened to so far, carries that sense that the uncanny is not only there but impossible to truly fight.

Honestly, of the three stories in the set so far this is my favourite by a long chalk and that's why this is a short one. Time loop stories, by necessity, sacrifice having a lot of plot for their central gimmick and I'm reluctant to discuss the actual important events of the story (which are, naturally, loaded towards the conclusion) for fear of spoiling what I genuinely think is a great little story. 

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