Big Finish: DARK SEASON: LEGACY RISING Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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When discussing the pantheon of British science fiction, it's impossible to overlook Russell T Davies' importance. Of course, many will go straight to his reinvigoration of the Doctor Who franchise in 2005. But there is another, perhaps less celebrated, gem that also merits special attention - the seminal series 'Dark Season'. Created by Davies, it first lit up our screens in 1991, delivering a brand of children's science fiction that was both fresh and authentically mature. The latest 2023 release from Big Finish productions, 'Dark Season: Legacy Rising', beautifully excavates this nearly forgotten franchise, seamlessly connecting its past to a promising future.

Dark Season, an ingenious blend of mystery, horror, and technological intrigue, was set in a school environment, and, for many, it marked the resurgence of children's television. It is known for introducing us to the formidable Marcie, a student whose curiosity lured her into a world of science-fiction adventure. It also offered us Davies' first iconic villain, the coldly intelligent Mr. Eldritch, long before the Slitheen or the Master. These characters, seemingly lost in the annals of sci-fi, find new life in the immersive soundscapes of 'Legacy Rising'.

The premise of 'Legacy Rising' is as tantalizing as the series from which it sprang. Set three decades after the events of the original series, it finds Marcie, voiced by the returning Victoria Lambert, now a leading voice in technology ethics. When a series of unexplained tech-related incidents trigger her memories of Eldritch and his nefarious Behemoth computer, she is drawn back into the underbelly of technological terror. Mr. Eldritch, once again chillingly portrayed by Grant Parsons, is revealed to have left a far-reaching legacy that threatens to destabilise the digital world. With the assistance of her former ally Tom, played by Ben Chandler, Marcie must navigate her past and future to save humanity from an insidious AI uprising.

It's worth noting how the returning stars Lambert and Chandler embrace their characters with renewed vigour, and Parsons' Mr. Eldritch remains as chillingly magnetic as ever. Lambert's Marcie, in particular, anchors the story, her character growth reflecting the evolution of the series itself. And it's that evolution that sees the introduction of new characters, notably Taylor Sullivan (played by Aitch Wylie), who, without spoiling the plot, may well just be a baton-passing future series leader for further audio adventures in years to come.

Kate Winslet's tenure in the world of science fiction began with the role of Reet in the original 'Dark Season' television series. Even then, her nuanced portrayal showcased a glimmer of the talent that would later secure her as a global icon. Reet, the supportive friend to Marcie and a voice of reason amidst the chaos, added an extra layer of depth to the series. Winslet played her with a balance of vulnerability and strength that made her character both relatable and compelling.

In 'Dark Season: Legacy Rising', Winslet reprises her role as Reet with an undiminished passion. In her capable hands, Reet has grown from a student caught in the thrall of science fiction adventure to a resilient woman navigating the terrors of a technology-dominated world. Her experience in dealing with the previous onslaught of Mr. Eldritch proves invaluable in the new narrative. The evolution of her character, especially in the context of the overarching storyline, not only adds a sense of continuity but also emphasises the passage of time and the lasting impact of the events from their youth.

One must admire the dexterity with which the various scriptwriters reinvigorate this universe, masterfully aligning Davies' 1990s vision with the realities of the 2020s. A richly diverse trio of writers – Tim Foley, Chris Chapman, and James Goss – were brought together with Davies to contribute to the 'Dark Season: Legacy Rising' story arc, each penning a distinctive tale that both complements and enhances the overall narrative.

Tim Foley, an experienced hand in the realm of Big Finish audios with titles such as 'Torchwood: Smashed' under his belt, penned the script for 'Spring'. His keen understanding of character dynamics and ability to craft intense situations imbues 'Spring' with a sense of growing tension as the narrative unfolds, expanding upon the original themes and characters in a refreshing manner.

Chris Chapman, known for his work on 'Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures', showcases his ability to weave complex narratives with his script for 'Summer'. Chapman brings to life a sweltering narrative that pushes the characters to their limits, highlighting their growth and resilience in the face of adversity.

James Goss, an acclaimed writer with a rich history in the Doctor Who universe, brings his unique touch to 'Autumn'. Goss, known for his intricate storytelling as seen in 'The Lives of Captain Jack', delves into the underlying mysteries of the Dark Season universe. His narrative skill adds further depth to the series, ensuring that 'Autumn' resonates with both long-term fans and newcomers, thus setting the stage for the dramatic finale.

Russell T Davies returns to this universe with his script for 'Winter', a tale that forms part of the 'Legacy Rising' story arc. Davies' work in revitalising Doctor Who, along with numerous other acclaimed dramas, has demonstrated his uncanny ability to weave compelling narratives that resonate with viewers and listeners alike.

In 'Winter', Davies introduces a chilling new threat that echoes his signature blend of science fiction with real-world issues. This new storyline, focusing on the dystopian implications of climate manipulation technology, showcases Davies' mastery of timely social commentary and his ability to adapt it to the audio medium. His understanding of the characters he once created and the world they inhabit is apparent throughout, making 'Winter' a fitting tribute to the past of 'Dark Season' while pushing its narrative boundaries towards an exciting future.

'Dark Season: Legacy Rising' is a masterstroke in the annals of audio drama. It takes an underappreciated gem from our television past and reforges it for a new era, proving once more the flexibility and enduring appeal of science fiction. While many may come for the nostalgia, they will stay for the gripping narrative, compelling performances, and the nuanced exploration of our relationship with technology. This production truly encapsulates the essence of 'Dark Season', preserving its legacy while raising it to new heights.

This is not just a resurgence but a rebirth, a compelling testament to the potential that lies dormant within past narratives, awaiting the right touch to bring them roaring back to life. If you were ever curious about what might have happened if Dark Season had continued, then 'Legacy Rising' is a must-listen. It stands as a fascinating exploration of the uncharted territories of a beloved series and a tantalizing promise of what might yet come. 

Dark Season: Legacy Rising is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

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