‘Dark Season’ (TV)

‘DARK SEASON’ (TV)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Russell T. Davies’ First TV Drama

This is a good time to check out ‘Dark Season’ before RTD returns to showrun ‘Doctor Who’! 🙂

Yes! At the time of this review, Russell T. Davies, who showran ‘Doctor Who’ from 2005 to 2010, is due to return being showrunner of the series for its 60th anniversary as well as hopefully the Fourteenth Doctor era. So, why not check out what his first BBC TV drama for children was like here?

‘Dark Season’ was shown from November to December in 1991, many years before RTD took the reins and resurrected ‘Doctor Who’ back onto our TV screens in 2005. It’s interesting to uncover this unique children’s TV drama, which I purchased on DVD from Amazon.co.uk before Christmas 2021. 🙂

Admittedly, I became aware of ‘Dark Season’ through the Big Finish audiobook of the BBC novelization by RTD, but I still wanted to check out the original TV serial first. I’m pleased I was able to purchase ‘Dark Season’ via Amazon, which was released on DVD in 2006. Must be rare nowadays!

Sadly, the DVD doesn’t come with any bonus features such as a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary or interviews with the stars. Thankfully, a collectors’ booklet is contained in the 2006 DVD with viewing notes by Andrew Pixley, providing behind-the-scenes information about the serial.

At the time, RTD was already in the TV industry, working at the BBC Children’s Department. He worked on shows like ‘Why Don’t You…?’ and ‘Breakfast Serials’ (the latter which he set up). ‘Dark Season’ is the first TV production RTD did where he wrote the scripts as a writer, which is so fascinating.

The idea behind ‘Dark Season’ was to tell a series of adventures involving three teenagers at a school. The working title for ‘Dark Season’ was ‘The Adventuresome Three’. I agree with RTD. A terrible title! 😀 Nevertheless, the idea was liked and a six-part TV serial was produced because of it.

In watching ‘Dark Season’ on DVD, I had no idea that this was two three-part stories in one serial. I assumed all the six episodes formed one serial. Shows what I know, doesn’t it? 😀 Well, to be fair, the two three-parters connect with each other in terms of the evil Mr. Eldritch being in both stories.

The episodes themselves are also about 25 minutes each, matching to how classic ‘Doctor Who’ serials were produced with 25-minute episodes in each of them. ‘Dark Season’ was produced by Richard Callanan (who also produced the BBC’s ‘Five Children and It’ and ‘The Return of the Psammead’).

He also produced the first season of ‘The Demon Headmaster’ and would later work with RTD on ‘Century Falls’, another children’s drama. On a side note, there are elements of ‘The Demon Headmaster’ featured in ‘Dark Season’, especially as it’s set at a school and a mystery occurs there. 🙂

The serial was directed by Colin Cant, who would later direct RTD’s ‘Century Falls’. The cast includes Victoria Lambert, Brigit Forsyth, Jacqueline Pearce and a young Kate Winslet. Yes! This features Kate Winslet before she became famous in movies like 1995’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and 1997’s ‘Titanic’. 😀

It’s extraordinary to see Kate Winslet in her first ever role in BBC TV. I’d like to think after she did ‘Dark Season’, she thought about improving her figure considering she looks a little bit chubby here. I couldn’t help look at Kate Winslet’s ‘behind’ when watching her run off somewhere in the series. 😀

Despite this not being ‘Doctor Who’, there are references in ‘Dark Season’ to the TV show RTD would take charge of. Some of these references are subtle, some aren’t. One of these references is when Eldritch says the line “Nothing in the world can stop me now!” in ‘Episode One’s pre-credits scene. 🙂

Sound familiar? 😀

PROFESSOR ZAROFF: “NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN STOP ME NOW!!!!!”

The character Kate Winslet plays named Reet uses a yo-yo to perform a gravity test, which was something Tom Baker’s Doctor did in ‘The Ark In Space’. I also like to think that Eldritch is in some way the Master from ‘Doctor Who’ for our three heroes Marcie, Reet and Thomas to fight against. 🙂

Yeah, as well as Kate Winslet as Reet, Victoria Lambert plays Marcie Hatter and Ben Chandler plays Thomas, as they form ‘the adventuresome three’. As far as I know, ‘Dark Season’ is Victoria Lambert’s only acting credit on TV. The same thing can be said for Ben Chandler in terms of acting. 😐

One of the references to ‘Doctor Who’ you might not have picked up on is that Marcie seems ‘Doctor-ish’ whilst Reet and Thomas are her companions. Mind you, Victoria Lambert played Marcie in a manner that was akin to the Mad Hatter from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, which is nice.

I don’t know if it was intentional on RTD’s part to make Marcie ‘Doctor-ish’ (though she could be the first female Doctor before Jodie Whittaker came 😀 ), but it’s not hard to see it evident in the character and in the actress’ performance. Mind you, she seems to be in Peter Capaldi’s category of Doctor. 😐

By that, I mean she often seems rude, is a bit know-it-all; and doesn’t answer anyone’s questions when people don’t seem to know what’s going on whereas she seems to. I wouldn’t call that an ideal Doctor-like role model in a main character for a BBC children’s serial. After all, a wise alien said to someone…

DOCTOR: “A scientist’s job is to ask questions.”

Incidentally, apparently RTD included a memo written by Marcie Hatter, who ends up a colonel, in the appendices for his ‘Doctor Who’ book called ‘Damaged Goods’. I checked my copy of the book to be sure of that. So…does that mean ‘Dark Season’ exists in the same universe as ‘Doctor Who’ then?

In terms of the companion characters Kate Winslet and Ben Chandler play, there’s not much to say about them. Oh to be sure, they’re performed well and Reet and Thomas are likeable characters – especially with Reet being red-haired and Thomas blond-haired ( 😀 ) – but I don’t know much about them.

It was nice to see Brigit Forsyth playing the teacher character of Miss Maitland at Marcie, Reet and Thomas’ school. Brigit Forsyth herself has been in the ‘Doctor Who’ story called ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ and she’s pretty well-known for playing Thelma in ‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads’ series. 🙂

It’s interesting how Brigit Forsyth plays an active role in a sci-fi children’s drama. Most of the time, Miss Maitland is disbelieving of the claims Marcie, Reet and Thomas have made when discovering extraordinary things about computers and dig-sites at the school, but she becomes curious herself. 🙂

Grant Parsons plays the villainous Mr. Eldritch in ‘Dark Season’. I don’t think it’s ever revealed where Mr. Eldritch came from and whether he’s an alien or not. The series sort-of plays in the same manner as ‘The Demon Headmaster’ where the villain is mysterious throughout and is never revealed.

I’d like to think Mr. Eldritch is an alien, but I can’t be certain of that. He’s devious when wanting to unleash the Abyss Modem computers upon the children at Marcie, Reet and Thomas’ school. It’s fascinating that he appears in the second story too since the villain for most of that story was Jacqueline Pearce. 😀

Speaking of which, Jacqueline Pearce plays Miss Pendragon, the villain for the second story of ‘Dark Season’. Many will know Jacqueline Pearce for playing Servalan in ‘Blake’s 7’. She’s also done some ‘Doctor Who’ stories including ‘The Two Doctors’ with Colin Baker and a number of Big Finish audios.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline Pearce in real-life at ‘Regenerations 2016’. It’s sad she died not long after in 2018. 😦 It’s interesting how she played the leader of a group of Nazis that wanted to unleash a Behemoth, although she refused to dye her hair blonde and she wore a turban instead. 😀

In the serial’s first story, the cast also includes Tim Barker as Dr. Osley, Samantha Cahill as Olivia, and Cyril Shaps and Rosalie Cruchley as Mr. and Mrs. Polzinski. In the serial’s second story, the cast also includes Martina Berne as Inga and Stephen Tredre as Luke. All give good performances throughout.

By the way, Roger Milner as the Headmaster in ‘Episode One’ can’t be a very good school headmaster if he can’t get everyone to be silent when making announcements. Wendy Wareham also plays Marcie’s mum, but she barely appears in the first episode when seeing Marcie off for school.

I’ve enjoyed checking out ‘Dark Season’ on DVD. This has been a fascinating sci-fi children’s drama serial, as it establishes Russell T. Davies’ screenwriting breakthrough. It was also intriguing to see the references to ‘Doctor Who’ in ‘Dark Season’, especially as RTD is a huge fan of the show in general. 🙂

It’s a shame that ‘Dark Season’ didn’t go beyond one season, as it seemed it was going to be the case judging from the end of ‘Episode Six’. Hopefully, as I’m about to check out the ‘Dark Season’ audiobook of the BBC novelization by RTD, Big Finish can create new enjoyable things for the series.

Incidentally, does Marcie always carry a paddle in her rucksack when going to school? 😀 Also, don’t Marcie, Reet and Thomas change clothes? They wear the same clothes in the two stories of ‘Dark Season’!

‘Dark Season’ (TV) rating – 8/10


‘DARK SEASON’ (NOVELIZATION/AUDIOBOOK)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Russell T. Davies’ First TV Drama in Book Form

I’ve checked out the BBC novelization/Big Finish audiobook of ‘Dark Season’! 🙂

Before Russell T. Davies novelized the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Rose’ into a Target novelization in 2018, he novelized his first children’s TV drama ‘Dark Season’ into a BBC novelization in 1991. This was shortly after the drama ‘Dark Season’ was shown on BBC TV from November to December 1991.

The primary reason for purchasing ‘Dark Season’ on DVD on the 14th of November 2021 was so that I could check out the Big Finish audiobook read by Victoria Lambert, which was released in that same month. A week later, I purchased the actual book via Amazon.com, as it was available from overseas.

I enjoyed checking out the BBC novelization/Big Finish audiobook of ‘Dark Season’. It was nice to have the book in my hands and read the story whilst hearing the audiobook in the background. I purchased the audiobook as a download. I heard it on the Big Finish app on one of my android tablets. 🙂

I must admit, I’m not very familiar with ‘Dark Season’ as a story as well as a TV production. This is because I’ve seen the serial a couple of times on DVD and on YouTube. Also, the fact that it was only on TV for one season means that it doesn’t seem to have been talked about much by the general public.

It’s interesting how Big Finish were determined not to let ‘Dark Season’ die by producing an audiobook of the BBC novelization by Russell T. Davies. I became aware of early RTD TV productions whilst checking out ‘Doctor Who’, but I didn’t go off pursuing them to find out what they were like. 🙂

It’s only recently through Big Finish working with Russell T. Davies on some audio productions involving his writing such as the ‘Doctor Who’ audio story ‘Mind of the Hodiac’ and through RTD returning to showrun ‘Doctor Who’ again that I became aware and interested in ‘Dark Season’ itself.

Grant Parsons and Victoria Lambert in ‘Dark Season’.

I have enjoyed ‘Dark Season’ very much as a TV production and could see familiar aspects of RTD’s writing from watching his ‘Doctor Who’ episodes in the TV series from 2005 to 2010. Mind you, I wouldn’t say this would be enough for me to be very familiar with the ins and outs of the TV drama.

I say this because I was going into the ‘Dark Season’ BBC novelization/Big Finish audiobook fresh from watching the TV serial on DVD. I saw the first two episodes a couple of times on DVD before checking out the rest of the serial. That in itself helped me a lot to be familiar with some of the story.

I also watched the serial bit by bit on YouTube whilst reading the novelization and hearing the audiobook a chapter per day. But I wouldn’t say I knew every detail of the story to know what the plot differences are in the novelization, as there isn’t really that much difference between the two. 🙂

The story is more or less the same in the BBC novelization from watching the TV serial. There are subtle differences such as the rearranging of dialogue between characters as well as certain omissions from watching the serial. But most of what’s shown in the TV serial is intact in the book. 🙂

As usual, I’ll try my best to establish what’s different in the BBC novelization/Big Finish audiobook and how it contrasts to what’s in the TV serial. It was intriguing to see how RTD novelized ‘Dark Season’ for BBC Books compared to when he novelized ‘Rose’ and wrote the ‘Damaged Goods’ book.

For one thing, the book is mostly a straightforward retelling of the TV serial. In the ‘Rose’ novelization and (to an extent) the ‘Damaged Goods’ book, there are embellishments provided in the stories to add more details to the characters. There isn’t a lot of that when reading the ‘Dark Season’ book.

Ben Chandler and Kate Winslet in ‘Dark Season’.

Oh to be sure, there are enhancements given on the relationship between Marcie, Thomas and Reet in how they met each other at school and how they formed as ‘the adventurous trio’. It’s interesting that Thomas and Reet are older than Marcie, yet they’re so willing to join her during school breaks. 🙂

It’s also interesting to learn more about Miss Maitland and how her interactions with Marcie, Thomas and Reet change throughout time during the two stories featured in the ‘Dark Season’ serial. Miss Maitland’s scepticism about the events in the two stories is also explored in more detail.

However, unlike the ‘Rose’ novelization and the ‘Damaged Goods’ book, RTD doesn’t emphasise on the sexual orientation of certain characters. I know this is a children’s book and that sort of thing would’ve been frowned upon had RTD included it in the BBC novelization while writing it at the time.

But I’m surprised RTD didn’t do it compared to when he wrote his ‘Doctor Who’ books. He could’ve easily made Thomas a gay character, although I’m sure that must be the case when watching the TV serial and checking out the novelization/audiobook. Marcie could be a lesbian in this. 😐

Another thing I’ve noticed about the BBC novelization is that RTD paraphrased quite a number of scenes in the early parts of the book. This is especially when Marcie, Thomas and Reet are on their way to school. I recall Marcie, Thomas and Reet discussing a yoghurt pot in ‘Episode One’ of this serial.

That’s not included in the novelization. I almost feel that the novelization ended up being like what Peter Grimwade did in his ‘Time-Flight’ novelization when he paraphrased a number of scenes that omitted dialogue between characters. I like all of the characters’ dialogue to be included in the book. 😦

Incidentally, the book is divided into 21 chapters. The book also has two sections, entitled ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’. ‘Part One’ covers the Abyss Modem computers story, which was featured from ‘Episodes One to Three’. ‘Part Two’ covers the Behemoth story, which was featured from ‘Episodes Four to Six’. 🙂

‘Part One’ contains Chapters 1 to 11 whilst ‘Part Two’ contains Chapter 12 to 21. It’s interesting how the six episodes are structured in novelization form. In ‘Part One’ of ‘Dark Season’; Chapters 1 to 3 cover ‘Episode One’, Chapters 4 to 7 cover ‘Episode Two’ and Chapters 8 to 11 cover ‘Episode Three’.

In ‘Part Two’ of ‘Dark Season’; Chapters 12 to 15 cover ‘Episode Four’, Chapters 16 to 17 cover ‘Episode Five’ and Chapters 18 to 20 cover ‘Episode Six’. Chapter 21 is an epilogue detailing what happened in the aftermath of ‘Dark Season’ as well as maybe setting up the next ‘Dark Season’ story.

It’s interesting how Russell T. Davies structures the novelization and allocates certain chapters for each episode of the serial. It’s not like what Terrance Dicks would usually do in allocating equal amounts of chapters for each episode of a ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’d be three chapters for an episode.

Victoria Lambert reads the ‘Dark Season’ novelization.

Talking about the audiobook reader, it was amazing to hear Victoria Lambert read the novelization. She doesn’t sound any different compared to when she played Marcie in the TV serial. It’s like she never left being an actress, as she’s really into the characters and giving them their voices from the serial.

Whilst Victoria Lambert hasn’t done much in terms of TV or film work according to her IMDb page, she has been teaching drama according to her interview at the end of the audiobook. It’s amazing RTD was able to locate Victoria on her Facebook page, according to his YouTube video about the audiobook. 🙂

Understandably, Victoria Lambert has to be the reader of the ‘Dark Season’ audiobook by Big Finish, as it’s Marcie who takes centre stage for most of the time she’s in the serial. I imagine it would be difficult to get Kate Winslet to read the audiobook, since she herself is a pretty busy film/TV actress.

At this stage, I’m curious as to what future Big Finish has in mind for bringing ‘Dark Season’ back on audio. Would it feature a reunion between Victoria Lambert, Kate Winslet and Ben Chandler as their characters from the TV serial? Would that be possible? It would be incredible if that were to happen.

This could almost end up being like what Big Finish did for the ‘Timeslip’ series, as Simon and Liz were brought back from the TV series, except they were older and the stories took place in the present day. I wonder if a new ‘Dark Season’ audio series would have Sarah Sutton making an appearance in it. 😀

Incidentally, from hearing Victoria Lambert being interviewed by producer/director Scott Handcock, I’m pleased to hear that she’s a ‘Doctor Who’ fan herself. It was also interesting to hear her reminiscences of making ‘Dark Season’ as a TV serial, since there aren’t any behind-the-scenes DVD special features. 😦

Victoria Lambert’s interview conducted by Scott Handcock in the audiobook might be the closest we’ll get to know more about how ‘Dark Season’ was conceived and developed as a TV serial. That and the viewing notes featured in the DVD booklet which contains a lot of behind-the-scenes info. 🙂

Going back to the novelization/audiobook, as well as the Chapter 21 epilogue detailing what happened in the serial’s aftermath, it was interesting to learn more about what happened in the interim between ‘Parts One and Two’ of the serial, or essentially between ‘Episodes Three and Four’.

In Chapter 12, it’s established that three months have passed since the Abyss Modem computers incident. It’s interesting to learn what happened to Marcie, Reet and Thomas as well as what happened to Olivia. Apparently, RTD hates Olivia, since she ends up in a boarding school where it’s all ‘hell’ for her.

The scientist Dr. Osley who worked with Eldritch also commits suicide when he’s in a prison cell. Wow! Even for a kids’ book as this, that’s quite dark. In the third month, it’s revealed that it snowed, causing an extra holiday for the school. We must be in the winter season by this point in the serial. 🙂

When we get to the fourth month, Pendragon arrives. The book itself doesn’t reveal a lot about Eldritch’s origins, as his mystery is still intact from the TV serial. I wonder if RTD would have revealed Eldritch’s origins had more ‘Dark Season’ seasons been produced by the BBC to be shown on the TV.

One of the things that disappointed me about the ‘Dark Season’ novelization/audiobook is the omission of ‘Doctor Who’ references like Eldritch’s “Nothing in the world can stop me now!” quote from ‘The Underwater Menace’ as well as Reet using a yoyo to test gravity from ‘The Ark In Space’.

As established, I like everything to be included in a novelization of a TV story or a film that I’ve enjoyed. So the omission of those ‘Doctor Who’ references felt wrong to me somehow. It’s one of the reasons why the ‘Dalek’ and ‘The Day of the Doctor’ novelizations didn’t win me over as they omitted things. 😐

Another thing I noticed is that the pre-titles scenes for ‘Episodes One and Four’ aren’t included in the novelization. We’re not given an explanation for why Eldritch ended up in Marcie, Thomas and Reet’s school. He and Abyss Modem computers just show up without the opening scene from ‘Episode One’.

Whilst it’s established Pendragon arrived in the fourth month after the Abyss Modem computers incident in Chapter 12, the scene where Pendragon digs into the earth whilst joined by her Nazi lot isn’t included either. I do wonder why RTD decided to omit those scenes when writing the novelization. 😦

I know I said there’s not much in terms of plot differences between the TV serial and the novelization, as RTD writes the events as they happened in both versions. It just it gets annoying when the omission of certain scenes and moments that I vividly recall from watching the TV serial happen here.

As well as the interview with Victoria Lambert conducted by producer/director Scott Handcock, there’s also a suite of incidental music to enjoy from listening to the audiobook. Whilst the incidental music is enjoyable to listen, I’m rather disappointed that the theme tune from the ‘Dark Season’ TV serial isn’t included. 😦

The ‘Dark Season’ audiobook in the Big Finish studio.

The ‘Dark Season’ novelization/audiobook has been enjoyable to check out. I wouldn’t say this is an exact translation of the TV serial into novelization/audiobook form, but it has been worthwhile and it was fun to hear Victoria Lambert read the story in the audiobook. She’s clearly into the story when reading it. 🙂

I don’t know where Big Finish is going to go in terms of continuing ‘Dark Season’. Whether it’d be with Marcie, Thomas and Reet in future full-cast audio dramas or whether it’ll be more audiobook readings of original stories by Russell T. Davies, I’m not so sure. I hope it’ll be very exciting when it happens.

‘Dark Season’ (Novelization/Audiobook) rating – 8/10


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