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Series / The Confessions of Dorian Gray

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The gilded youth who sold his soul ...

To have written such a book was nothing, to convince the World it was a work of fiction was a triumph.
Oscar Wilde: from episode one, This World Our Hell.

Started up as an experiment for Big Finish to see how inexpensive, download-only stories would be received (essentially an attempt to draw in more modernised customers) this little series, directed by Scott Handcock, has been generally well-received by both fans and critics. The idea started out when a Bernice Summerfield audio play entitled Shades Of Gray (don't bother making jokes about the title, by now they've all been tried) featured Dorian Gray as played by Alexander Vlahos from the famous novel by Oscar Wilde. As this play was set in the early 27th century, the question was, of course, what happened between then and the 1890s? And so a series was born.

It essentially takes the premise that Dorian Gray was in fact a real person and the inspiration for Oscar Wilde's novel but that, unlike his fictional counterpart, the real Dorian never destroyed the painting and himself in the process. Instead, he went on to live a long and hedonistic life, encountering various supernatural phenomena, travelling the world and sleeping with anything willing (and free of the social conventions of the 19th Century, there is now no doubt about Dorian's tastes). This premise is similar to one attempted during the Doctor Who New Adventures, which was simply done so they could have Sherlock Holmes in a Doctor Who novel.


Tone-wise, it tends to follow a genre of Gothic Horror with romance and the occasional bit of social commentary thrown in. Something else that should be known. Big Finish warns its potential customers that this is unsuitable for younger listeners; considering what it has let go past its own radar a few times this should give you an idea of how adult this can be at times.

The series ended with its fifth season released in October 2016.


This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The gestalt entity of Dorian's departed friends and lovers is a major part of series 1 but doesn't show up in series 2 or 3.
    • The presence of Professor Moriarty and Mina Harker were originally supposed to be part of the final episode. Essentially Lucifer was pitting various immortal beings against each other. Dorian effectively won by default without even knowing what was happening thanks to his portrait. This was originally dropped in favour of the Or Was It a Dream? ending of the Fifth series but a reworking of the original idea was released as part of the Lost Confessions boxset.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In contrast to the book, Dorian is dark (again). It's even lampshaded in The Fallen King Of Britain when Dorian's current 'distraction' Simon reads the passage from the original novel and when he mentions 'golden hair' Dorian scoffs (apparently this was Throw It In! by Scott Handcock).
    • Justified this time as (in-universe) the book was only based on Dorian, and Oscar might have adjusted his appearence to suit the current beauty standards
  • Anachronic Order: Usually subverted within seasons, but as a whole the series jumps around Dorian's timeline.
  • Anti-Hero: Dorian is clearly a hero in name only, and it's pretty obvious he doesn't care what people think about him. There are many forces out to kill him (or worse) and the world wouldn't notice if they succeeded. Occasionally he deals with something which is actively harming people but only when it's in his interest (or, because it just sickened him on one occasion) and as it could've led to the end of the world in one case, it was very much in his interest. He doesn't actively look for trouble, he just stumbles across it.
  • Back from the Dead: In the Christmas crossover with Sherlock Holmes, Professor James Moriarty returns, years after his death, via a painting by Basil Halward. Unlike Dorian, he has supernatural abilities to disappear and reappear at any moment.
    • Dorian's powers mean that he can die and come back from the dead any time, as long as his picture is not touched. This is how he survives World War One and his suicidal binge in the mid-1990s.
      • The entire plot of series 3's opening story "Blank Canvas," concerning Dorian's return from the grave after stabbing his portrait at the end of series 2.
    • Toby in series 3 as well.
  • The Beard: In series 3, Simon and his wife are this for each other.
  • Blessed with Suck / Cursed With Awesome: Dorian does not have a soul. This impedes and saves him multiple times throughout the series.
  • Brain Uploading: Subverted in Season 4's opener; The Enigma Of Dorian Gray. While the audience are led to believe that Dr. Notting has recorded his brain engrams into his computer BEAUTY, he has merely recorded data and information in the hope that he can use BEAUTY to prompt him to remember when his Alzheimer's reaches it's advanced stages. Even that isn't enough.
  • Breather Episode: Murder on 81st Street doesn't have anything overly dark or personal for Dorian and is actually very funny at times. The guest character is Dorothy Parker, so the wit shouldn't be surprising.
  • Call-Back / Call-Forward: Due to the anachronistic nature of the series, the show is full of them.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Despite being a sound only medium, you only have to look at the cast photos that come with the downloads to know that most of the male cast are easy on the eyes, mind you, they all fade away when compared to the lead.
  • Character Development: Played with, Dorian has developed as a character but as the stories don't take place in chronological order Dorian will often change in characterisation and personality.
  • Christmas Episode: A few. "The Ghosts of Christmas Past" is a crossover with Sherlock Holmes and the short special "Frostbite" features Dorian in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1947.
    • The Spirits Of Christmas is a pair of hour long Christmas specials featuring Dorian and Toby and continue on from Series 3.
  • The Conspiracy: The main plot against Dorian in series 3.
  • Continuity Nod: In "The Picture of Loretta Delphine," set in 2012, Dorian does not smoke, unsurprising given what drugs did to him in The Fallen King Of Britain.
    • "The Mayfair Monster," set in 1999, sees Dorian burned out after losing Toby in "The Heart that Lives Alone."
    • Series 3's opener, "Blank Canvas," has a few. A jukebox in Dorian's mansion plays a song by Dorian and the Hedonists. At the end of Series 3 there are several nods to The Mayfair Monster.
    • In the first episode, Oscar Wilde tells Dorian to use his real name instead of aliases and to hide in plain sight. Dorian does this in a handful of episodes afterward.
  • Crossover: Used for Canon Welding which can be taken up to Mind Screw levels. As Dorian appeared in a Bernice Summerfield story, it follows on from that that this series must be part of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe. With references to the White Rabbit pub and the appearance of vampires and other features of supernature this theory is unaffected as such things are proven to exist in Doctor Who canon (although there they're usually Hand Waved with 'Time Rifts' being the usual excuse). But then Dorian had to go and meet Sherlock Holmes in the Christmas Special (as played by Nicholas Briggs). Again, not too much of a problem as the 'real' Sherlock Holmes is part of the Whoniverse thanks to All-Consuming Fire and The Adventures of the Diogenes Damsel; but the implication carried in this (and Word of God confirmed by writers) is that the Nicholas Briggs version of Holmes (who has had his own series for a while) is the same one introduced in All-Consuming Fire. Things finally reached a whole new level of ridiculousness when in Shades of Gray Dorian mentioned the 'Crimson Pearl' which was a reference to Dark Shadows, another classic series that Big Finish makes audios for. The Dark Shadows audio "The Skin Walkers" introduced the Lowell Foundation that would go to play a role in Series 3 of Confessions, and Dorian himself appeared in "The Darkest Shadow". Due to the self-contained nature of that series, no actual contradictions occur (hell, they've both got Time Travel and Alternate Universes) but the notion that an American soap/horror series from the late-sixties/early-seventies takes place in the Whoniverse is a little hard to swallow. In short, Big Finish loves to squeeze everything they possibly can under their umbrella.
    • Although fortunately, Word of God has it that this series isn't meant to be a spin-off so, regardless of where/when it's set, there shouldn't be any contradictions with other series (and virtually no references to them either) so they can easiy be enjoyed on their own. Although now the Worlds of Big Finish Cross Through may be raising the question again.
    • The Hedonists song pops up in the background of an Iris Wildthyme audio, another range Scott Handcock is involved in producing.
  • Cultured Warrior: Dorian fought in World War One, and with more than a century of experiences and a great education, he's versed in everything from poetry to travel to being a rock and roll singer.
  • Demonic Possession: An unusual case since the person being possessed is a vampire but Toby is irrevocably possessed by Lucifer at the end of "All Through The House"
  • Driven to Suicide: Toby in The Heart That Lives Alone. And Dorian himself in the season two finale.
    • In "The Mayfair Monster," set in the 1990s, Dorian goes on a suicidal binge after losing Toby. Of course, since he doesn't do anything specifically to his portrait, the suicides never work, and he makes a sport of it.
  • Downer Ending: Most episodes could qualify, but the season two finale goes all out on this.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "The Fallen King of Britain" takes this to new levels.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Sort of, the Big Finish version of Sherlock Holmes appears as a hallucination in The Fallen King Of Britain but we don't hear how he and Dorian meet until the next episode Ghosts Of Christmas Past
  • Even Evil Has Standards: After acquiring the deadly fog in a bottle in "His Dying Breath" Dorian debates keeping it, but decides that he isn't quite cruel enough to use it ...
  • Evil Counterpart: Loretta Delphine, who has supernatural abilities linked to a picture. She's not an archenemy though.
  • Evil Twin: In a way. Dorian's portrait comes to life at the end of series 3, and seeks to kill Dorian.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Justified since the series covers his life from the end of Wilde's book to 2012. He's fought in wars, traveled the world, headlined a mod band, and gotten in a grand amount of adventures along the way.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: When he returns from the dead in series 3, a few years after his death in 2012, Dorian finds himself having a bit of trouble adjusting to the post-Recession/Recovery era.
  • Flaming Devil: An utterly nightmarish version Lucifer has sex with Dorian while in Toby's body before revealing who he really is to Dorian's horror.
  • Gainax Ending: Series 5 ends with an Or Was It a Dream? episode where Dorian is institutionalised in a mental hospital for supposedly being a young man called Charles White who is deluded into thinking he is Dorian Gray through drug abuse. Given the previous episode ended with Lucifer escaping into the world in Toby's body Dorian naturally thinks it's all a deception. A character played by Tracy Childs, who previously played Victoria Lowell, claims to be his mother and he believes it is merely Lucifer animating her remains. Simon seemingly reaffirms the story that he's insane but Dorian believes he can still see Toby's bite marks on his neck. It ends with a Doctor, played by Hugh Skinner, taking him away for what is effectively a lobotomy, a process that would have no effect on him if he were truly Dorian Gray but the episode ends before anything is confirmed.
  • Grand Theft Me: Dorian does this in The Prime of Deacon Brodie on a comatose soldier, in order to spend time with an old flame who saw him die. The man who helped Dorian to do this takes over Dorian's body, as part of his attempt at immortality.
  • GuileAntihero: Dorian's main approach to dealing with the supernatural dangers he comes across, since he's not a particularly standout fighter.
  • Haunted House: The series 3 opener, Blank Canvas.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Dorian. A lot.
  • Historical Domain Character: In This World Our Hell. None other than Oscar Wilde. "Murder on 81st Street" features Dorothy Parker.
    • Ditto that with Season 5's "The Valley Of Nightmares", another Dorothy Parker episode that's a welcome breather after the previous two episodes.
  • Immortal Hero: Literally!
  • Immortality Immorality: Dorian's longevity tends to elicit this reaction in people although he himself disagrees.
  • Kick the Dog: Dorian has some truly nasty moments in his life. Special mention should go to Blank Canvas.
  • Kill It with Fire: How Dorian deals with Loretta Delphine.. Someone attempts it on Dorian himself in The Worlds Of Big Finish
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Dorian inHuman Remains.
    -Dorian: Do you mind? I'm narrating!
    • The narrator in Desperately Seeking Santa as well.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: "The Picture of Loretta Delphine" reveals that Dorian once teamed up with a friend in Florida to fight zombies raised by the titular villainess.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In the Fallen King Of Britain it's not made clear whether Dorian's hallucinations are caused by The Lost or bad coke.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Toby and Ivor, they disintegrate in sunlight and need blood to survive. They can turn others as well, but appear to need permission. And they're immortal.
  • Retcon: The series takes a new look at Dorian's immortality. In Wilde's original novel, Dorian is fearful of guns and knives, assuming they will kill him just like anyone else. Here, Dorian is full-on immortal.
  • Revisiting the Roots: In a way, the series 2 finale, which has flashbacks to a pre-Picture Dorian, showing the innocent Victorian youth he was before he met Basil.
  • Running Gag: In season 3, the houses in Mayfair (where Dorian lives) being owned by Russian oligarchs who don't live there.
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: Dorian is one in The Lords of Misrule, fronting a mod band called "Dorian and the Hedonists". They come into conflict with a rocker band called The Gravediggers.
  • Shoot the Dog: In The Twittering Of Sparrows Dorian has to save the western world by killing his sister. This would be counted as the action of a darker hero but he probably goes too far when he snaps her neck before she can even finish her last words.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Dorian and Isadora may once have had this, but now she claims to have no emotional connections to him at all; having lived to the age of almost ninety (without the need of a painting) and not having seen him for decades. Dorian does a good job of summing up their relationship.
    We have shared parents, governesses and lovers. Aren't we the perfect siblings?.
  • Soul Jar: The portrait is seemingly one it's actually not. While it keeps Dorian alive his actual soul was in Toby. It being returned to Dorian ultimately ends up a bad thing as it makes Toby vulnerable to possession.
  • The Corruption: As revealed in "The Houses In Between", a nasty side effect of the painting Dorian owns is that those he meets, corrupts and who eventually die do not pass on gently; they instead become a single gestalt entity, unable to pass on until Dorian's deal with the devil comes to end, and they are desperate to break it. Dorian excises them, but ponders on how long he can go on with them, given that the entity will simply grow the longer he lives. The worst part is that many, if not all of these souls belong to people he was genuinely fond of at some point, and unborn children are not immune either.
  • Theme Naming: Dorian's aliases tend to involve colors, such as White.
  • The Unreveal: Is Professor Moriarty truly alive or not?


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