Pixie Juice

45 min. BBC Radio production from 2014 written by Ed Harris that’s a kind of Twilight Zone-ish tale and a quirky mix of comedy and drama, kitchen sink realism, fantasy, and horror.

A down-on-her-luck working class London tattoo artist (Indira Varma), looking after her dad (who’s losing his sight) one day discovers strange fairy/pixy creatures and after an accident with one, discovers their blood can be used in ink to create magical tattoos. A snappy-pace and the mix of elements, where it can be funny, serious, and creepy all at once, is part of what holds your attention (given, as mentioned, in a way it’s a pretty standard type fantasy tale). Good dialogue and good performances, too — especially Varma.

She

BBC Radio adaptation from 2006 of the classic, Victorian fantasy novel by H. Rider Haggard, adapted by Hattie Naylor and directed by Sara Davis. A trio of Englishmen set out for the African interior to investigate stories (part of one character’s family legends) of a tribe ruled over by a mysterious — and immortal — white woman. Tim McInnerny stars as Holly and Mia Soteriou as Ayesha (“She”) with Oliver Chris, Howard Coggins, Ben Onwukwe and Janice Acquah.

I’ll admit, I have some ambivalence to the source novel (which I read years ago). Although a genuine classic of fantasy fiction, it’s kind of an odd story in that, though technically an “adventure” — it’s not really very exciting, being slow moving and more about the characters than the cliff hangers…without the characters necessarily being as well rounded as they need to be. So in that sense, I can’t fault the radio version for its presentation of the material (although the initial quest does seem a bit perfunctory as dramatized here, the characters seeming to find this “lost” civlizxation rather quickly).

McInnerny is fine as the lead character and narrtror, but some of the supporting roles aren’t as memorable (including Leo who, in a sense, is the more stereotypical handsome leading man role) — but, again, I think that relates to the novel as much as the tradio versiopn. And I’ll admit I didn’t feel Soteriou quite evoked the presence of She (admittedly, in a radio version, I’m not sure what sort of voice I’d want — though funnily I think Janice Acquah brought more personality to her supporting role). Bottom line: it’s suitably atmospheruc and a perfectly respectable, perfectly competent adaptation of the novel, and faithful within its time and format. And I suspect it’s a hard story to dramatize as there have been a few movie versions over the years — but few are well regarded.

The Ghost Train

90 minute BBC radio adaptation from 2008 of Arnold Ridley’s vintage 1923 stage play that mixes mystery, supernatural, and comedy with a story of passengers aboard a train who get marooned at a desolate train station for the night…where local history warns of a mysterious ghost train.

It’s a decent production, lively, and well acted (in a slightly fruity, OTT way) though some of the voices are hard to distinguish from each other. But the play itself is…problematic. For one thing, we’re probably half way into it before we even get to the spooky stuff (the first half more just introducing the passengers on the train) and, though it might have been more surprising when first written, nowadays kind of comes across as a predictable Scooby Do episode — as such, doesn’t quite succeed as being too scary/spooky (and even though it’s light-hearted…isn’t that funny). Still, an agreeable enough way to kill 90 minutes.

The Adventures of JAGO AND LITEFOOT

Big Finish’s Doctor Who plays have proved enormously successful…but the company has had more modest success with other franchises, leading to them to occasionally look to Doctor Who for something that will tie into the franchise…even as it allows them to stretch creatively. Which led them to…Jago & Litefoot. A couple of characters first — and last — seen in the perennially well-regarded 1970s TV serial Dr Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

Set in an archetypical Victorian London of fog and back streets, Professor George Litefoot (Trevor Baxter) is a police forensic pathologist and Henry Gordon Jago (Christopher Benjamin) a bombastic theatre impresario with an amazing ardour for alliteration who aided the Doctor and Leela on that adventure. On a whim, Big Finish reunited the actors for one of their Companion Chronicles enhanced audio books (The Mahogany Murders)…and were so struck by the potential, and the genuine chemistry between the actors, and how easily they re-inhabited their roles (after 30 years!) that they decided to launch them into a series of full cast audio plays, with the unlikely duo investigating strange events and mysterious goings on — from werewolves to psychics.

Funnily, despite the inherent humorousness of the characters — particularly Jago (Litefoot is played more straight) — leading one to think they were intended as an answer to the popular audio comic-thrillers of The Scaryfiers (which BF had begun distributing for Cosmic Hobo Productions) the plots are actually serious. There’s lots of humour and comedy, but basically arising from the characters and to leaven the drama, rather than as an out-and-out parody. And it works tremendously well, succeeding as being both like Dr. Who (in that they are thrillers involving steampunk sci-fi and the supernatural) yet with their own tone and flavour, most notably because the heroes are more “everymen.” The lead characters are the stories’ anchor, delightfully realized and exceptionally well performed by Benjamin and Baxter who you really would assume have been playing these roles for years, they seem so comfortable with them and with each other (indeed, their performances are even better than in the old TV serial!) The humour is well captured, the Victorian flavour (in themes, dialogue and period detail — Oscar Wilde even guest stars in one story) nicely evoked, and the plots interesting enough to keep you listening. An unexpected success.

BF has presented them in a series of “series” (or seasons) each of generally 4 one hour dramas, sold as boxed sets, each series usually made up of relatively stand alone adventures linked by a sub-plot/recurring nemesis to form arcs of four episodes. At this point I’ve heard Series I, Series II, and Series IV and all are generally highly enjoyable. I also listened to Dr. Who: The Companion Chronicles: The Mahogany Murders, which is more an enhanced reading by the actors as opposed to a full cast dramatizations (though acts as essentially the first episode in the Series I arc). The characters have also guest starred in some of BF’s Dr. Who audio plays, including the 6th Doctor stories Voyage to Venus and Voyage to the New World — both quite good, though with Voyage to Venus getting the nod as the more fun, while Voyage to the New World boasts the more ambitious plotting.

Dalek Empire (series I – IV)

Big Finish has been having great success producing popular (and critically acclaimed) Doctor Who full cast audio dramas, but is always on the look out to expand its line beyond simply Doctor Who. And part of that has been to try spin-offs from Doctor Who that could benefit from the association, while nonetheless allowing them to create a new property — ranging from Jago & Litefoot, to Graceless, to Vienna.

With Dalek Empire — mostly written and directed by Nicholas Briggs — they took  the recurring alien villains from Doctor Who and feature them in sagas in which the Doctor doesn’t appear — allowing them to create new heroes and, arguably, a darker, grittier air (since there’s no Time Lord in a magic box to sweep in and save the day). Think of it in the way there have been whole franchises created around the creatures from Alien, or The Predator movies — same villains, different heroes. (Funnily, I think there was talk of a Dalek-focused TV series in the 1960s!) And you don’t really need to be familiar with Doctor Who to listen to these (since the Daleks could be any alien invaders). There are occasional cryptic references but not important to understanding the plot here (though Big Finish preceded this series with a few official Doctor Who plays under the umbrella title Dalek Empire).

The potential downside for someone like me is that, for all the Daleks are Doctor Who’s most identifiable villains — they are really, really annoying. I mean, they are one-dimensional and their shrill voices are grating and the prospect of a whole (audio) series featuring them just seemed uninspiring. So I gave this a pass for a long time. But it turns out that at times it’s shockingly good!

Series I and Series II (2001-2003)

The first two series (four episodes per series and ranging from about 55 to 70 min each episode) form one eight episode arc, albeit with a shift in focus. The first series, instead of being simply plucky heroes getting into big fights with Daleks — which could be bland and just noisy in audio — actually goes for a more intriguing theme, about living under the occupation of the fascist Daleks. Two of the main heroes being Susan “Suz” Mendes (Sarah Mowat) and Kalendorf (Gareth Thomas) who manage to convince the Daleks they will get better use out of their captured populations by treating them humanely, rather than exclaiming “exterminate” at the drop of a hat. So Suz is working to save human lives, dubbed the “Angel of Mercy” in the occupied human colonies — but is equally viewed as a human traitor, the public face advocating collaboration with the Daleks. A moral quandary that eats away at her and Kalendorf both — even though they are secretly working with the resistance in a long term plan to overthrow the Daleks. As I say, it’s a smarter, more political/character based story than you might expect (and putting me in mind of the early 1980s U.S. TV mini-series, “V”, also about covert resistance under an occupation rather than simply shoot outs). Additional characters include a government agent, Alby (Mark McDonnell), more actively fighting Daleks on the outside of the occupied planets — but in love with Suz and trying to reunite with her. Although building to a climax after four episodes — it ends on a cliff hanger taking us into series two.

Here it’s more what I first expected — a lot of interstellar fighting with Daleks, except with an added twist that the humans have found an unlikely — and uncertain — ally. It’s certainly grandiose and “big-budget” — but it’s also quite compelling, with a heavy helping of secret agendas, double crosses, and moral quandaries, with maybe more focus on Kalendorf. That is season one could be seen as about Suz and Kalendorf (as well as Alby and others) while series two is more about Kalendorf and Suz (and Alby and others). There are some initially confusing, but ultimately effective, narrative tricks in the second series as each episode begins further in the story than you left it, as if you missed something — only to then have flashbacks fill in the gaps, And with the whole thing being framed by people millennia in the future reflecting back on the events. Although it ends setting things up for the third series set in this distant future, nonetheless the first two series form a complete and quite gripping epic. And one helped by good performances and interesting characters (and a nice, nonchalant use of U.K. dialects, with various characters English, Scottish, Welsh).

And with a special mention of Gareth Thomas, and a clever bit of typecasting — as Thomas is known to SF fans as the rebel hero Blake in TV’s Blake 7 (which Big Finish later added to its audio-only catalogue). So there is an added resonance to him playing another erudite sci-fi rebel — as if it’s Blake battling Daleks! He’s also just very good (based on this and other things I‘ve heard, Thomas seems fully comfortable with audio acting) — as is the cast in general.

For someone sceptical about the project, I must say the Series I/Series II arc is quite an impressive, intelligent, exciting and memorable sci-fi epic — all the moreso as it’s completely original to audio, as opposed to being adapted from some novel or something. To be honest, if it had been higher profile, written as a novel, or filmed as a movie or TV mini-series — I suspect it might be considered an SF classic!

Series III (2004)

Series II was framed by characters in a distant future learning about those long past events. Series III begins in that future — a future so far removed from the Dalek wars that the Daleks don’t even exist as a rumour! So when there are vague and unconfirmed reports about a possible incursion by mysterious “Daleks” it is treated more as a curiosity than a galactic threat.

In a way, Series III is more like what I might have expected from the series — at least, it seems like a more traditional Dr. Who type take on a Dalek story only, y’know, without Dr. Who. Yet it too emerges as a surprisingly exceptional effort — here spread over 6 episodes (although some of the episodes begin with a deliberately choppy mash-up of overlapping scenes that might put off a listener — but they settle down quickly into more conventional tellings). In this case the Dalek’s are just an added factor in an emerging galactic schism as some outer colony worlds start to secede from a interplanetary alliance, the regional schism partly fuelled by the colonies being struck by a plague and quarantined by the central worlds. A plague the Daleks claim they can cure, so form an alliance with the rebel worlds. So there are themes of prejudice, regional bigotry, fascism and “following orders.”

The strength here is the unusually big cast of characters. So we get a rather broad canvassed view of the building conflict, essentially three or four different storylines that slowly tie together, the various characters becoming drawn into each other’s story — ranging from planetary park wardens on a world who are the first to discover the Dalek’s sinister side, to Galactic intelligence agents trying to figure out what’s going on, and more. It’s also got a uniformly fine cast, including David Tennant, Ishia Bennison, William Gaunt, Steve Elder, Laura Rees and others all bringing the roles to life, giving us people that involve us (and, as mentioned, it’s an unusually large cast for a BF audio drama — indeed, the overall production seems like BF spared few expenses).

A special mention must go to David Tennant, whose character doesn’t even come into play until an episode or two, but quickly emerges as one of the central heroes. Tennant had already worked with BF on a few projects, and would shortly be cast as Dr. Who on TV. But despite Tennant facing off against Dalek’s — you don’t find yourself thinking of his Dr. Who too much, his character here sufficiently different. And Tennant always seems comfortable with audio and radio plays — and is an effective and vocally charismatic performer.

As I say, it might seem less “atypical” compared to Series I/II, but it’s equally ambitious in its own way and quite a gripping, top drawer effort, keeping you guessing where and how it’ll all tie together, and with interesting characters to keep you emotionally involved. You don’t generally need familiarity with Series I/II (given it’s set thousands of years later) but it does tie into it and make references to it occasionally. Strangely, although it does build to a climax, it still feels as though it was meant to continue into the next series since the climax is more about the heroes finally exposing the Dalek threat rather than actually stopping it. But maybe since Dalek battle stories are a dime a dozen in Dr. Who, they figured this was the more interesting story to tell.

Because by the time series IV came along (many months later) it had no relation to Series III and, indeed, was throwback to the era of Series I…

Series IV (released 2007)

As mentioned, series IV is a throwback to the era of series I — an untold story from another part of the war. It took a long time to get made, and one might wonder if that was partly because creator Nicholas Briggs himself was running out of ideas. Because it’s probably the weakest of the three arcs and it’s certainly the most traditional, or at least most like what I expected the series to be from the beginning. A big, brash, testosterone-driven, grunts in space adventure. In this case the focus is on a Salus Kade, a single-minded, takes no guff space soldier, as well as General Landen, the superior officer who first recruited him.

There’s plenty of action and shooting and daring space missions (the plot two or three stories that segue into each other). But even here there’s a certain ambition in terms of the characterization. At first Kade seems a bit one-note, just the driven, single-focus, soldier’s-soldier, but eventually you realize the characterization is kind of at the heart of it, and particularly the uneasy relationship between Kade and Landen. The casting is definitely aimed at Whovians, with Kade played by Noel Clarke (Mickey from the modern Dr. Who TV series) and Maureen O’Brien as Landen (who played young Vicky years ago during the Hartnell years). Both are good — especially O’Brien (ironic given she admits in interviews she doesn’t like sci-fi) — and nothing like their more familiar Who roles. Indeed, there was some suggestion that Kade was specifically written for Clarke as a counterpoint to his comical Mickey persona — and that the serious, macho Kade is closer to his real personality!

It isn’t that series IV is bad just, as I say, more what you would expect from the Dalek concept — and part of the reason I was hesitant to try the series to begin with. Though the third episode tries an interesting trick of telling the scenes in reverse order (unless there was something wrong with my copy!) which created an interesting suspense, as we’re waiting to see, not what will happen, but what led up to what’s happening. But the characters aren’t as complex (and being mainly soldiers, of limited personality types) and with its smaller core cast, the plotting isn’t as twisty.

So as I say: Series IV is certainly okay, and might better appeal to those who like their military SF ala Starship Troopers. But the early arcs are the more intriguing, with bigger core casts, and more Byzantine plotting — from the compelling political/moral dilemmas of Series I/II to the twisty, multi-character espionage-like plot of Series III.

All in all, for someone like me who was dubious about the Dalek-focus nature of the series, I’ve got to admit they delivered some surprisingly rich and ambitious — and entertaining — epics.

Professor CHALLENGER

Professor George Edward Challenger enjoys a kind of odd placing in popular fiction — that of an “almost” iconic character. He only appeared in a small handful of short stories and novels, but as they were written by Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that makes him the 2nd most important character created by one of the most famous authors in the English language! As well, Challenger was a principle character in Doyle’s The Lost World, a seminal novel in adventure/fantasy fiction, and which has been adapted innumerable times to film and radio, with Challenger played (on screen) by, among others, Wallace Beery, John Rhys-Davies, Patrick Bergin and Bob Hoskins and on radio/audio by Armin Shimerman and others.

So within certain circles Challenger is an iconic character — yet other than The Lost World (which remains perennially in print), his other appearances tend to be more obscure (or simply get re-issued in hopes to cash in on the Lost World/Sir Doyle connection). Other than The Lost World I don’t think any other Challenger story has been adapted to film or TV.  And part of that is because I’m just not sure his other stories were really, well, that good. They are fantasy/early SF stories (rather than the secular mysteries of Sherlock Holmes) and Doyle himself seemed to approach them often with tongue-in-cheek — or at least so the rather vague and loose logic would imply, where “plot” and “character” could seem subordinate to simply presenting an outlandish concept. While Challenger himself was deliberately eccentric — a brilliant scientist but arrogant, bombastic, aggressive (assaulting those with whom he disagreed) — he was supposed to be outrageous, but as such not easily relatable (Doyle might have been better to treat the characters of The Lost World as a set cast, rather than simply re-using Challenger).

Anyway, at long last in 2011 the BBC produced two half hour adaptations of two of the original Challenger short stories, When the World Screamed and The Disintegration Machine. Bill Paterson is nicely cast as Challenger, capturing the jaunty tone and outrageous personality while keeping it grounded and real. But as I say, the stories themselves were uneven as simply stories. In the When the World Screamed Challenger attempts an experiment to prove the planet earth itself is a living being (told you the ideas were a bit scientifically dubious) while the other has him investigating the invention of a disintegration machine that authorities worry will be sold to foreign spies. In both cases the idea seems to take precedence over the plot, and they are tongue-in-cheek without quite being comedy. I’m not faulting the adapters, who do a good job, but the source material.

One wonders if these adaptations were all that was intended, or whether the producers had hopes to adapt all the Challenger stories as a series, maybe even climaxing with another version of The Lost World. Perhaps the longer stories might have had better developed plots (though years ago I seem to recall reading the short novel, The Poison Belt — or some of it at any rate — and not finding it that effective). Certainly with Paterson on board as a consistent element it might have been interesting to have tried a complete cycle of adaptations. But as it stands, the two radio dramas basically are interesting simply as chance to experience Doyle’s “other” hero, but fail to quite reveal themselves as lost classics.

War With the Newts

Karl Capek’s (who coined the term “robot” in his play R.U.R.) satirical parable about the discovery of humanoid reptiles on earth and how they are at first exploited, then become a threat to human life, was turned into a 90 minute BBC Radio play in 2005.

Unfortunately, the source story may have proven problematic to adapt to a conventional drama as it’s more a broad canvassed tale, with no main character to follow, so the radio play turns it into a story-within-a story, as we keep cutting between the story…and Capek and his wife discussing the story, presumably partly to give us consistent “main” characters. It’s an unsatisfying solution (though the actors are fine) the scenes with Capek and his wife self-conscious and too obviously just stuck in to pad the running time or to bridge the narrative.

As well, though no doubt seminal, the overall story/theme is pretty standard by now, and since it is just the theme and metaphor (as opposed to being a character drama or adventure plot utilizing a familiar theme and metaphor) it can all seem a bit obvious and straightforward — the outline for a story, rather than a story. And, by mixing his metaphors and allegories, Capek kind of ends up with mixed messages. The first part seems to be a satire/criticism of imperialism and racism, as the Newts are exploited…but then it becomes a metaphor for the rise of Nazism (the story first written in the 1930s) as humans turn a blind eye to the growing threat of the increasingly militaristic Newts. But as such, the two metaphors (Newts as victims, Newts as villains) kind of work against each other.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Funnily, I’m not sure there have been many other (or any other!) radio adaptations of the story in the modern/post-OTR era (other than talking books). So this is an hour long BBC Radio drama from 1985 and scripted by Glyn Dearman. It takes an unusual approach to the classic horror/mystery story by Robert Louis Stevenson — by actually sticking close to the source novel!

That is, though the story has been filmed and staged innumerable times over the years, usually the focus — logically enough — is on Jekyll/Hyde. But the original novel was actually written as a mystery, with another character, Utterson (here voiced by Bernard Hepton), as essentially the main hero, who finds himself investigating the strange events surrounding the sinister Mr. Hyde and trying to fathom the man’s connection to the respectable Dr. Jekyll who seems to be covering for him. It’s not really until half way through the novel that the solution is revealed — and then it retells the events from Jekyll’s perspective (such spilt-perspective mysteries were not uncommon in the 19th Century, including some Sherlock Homes novels).

So this radio drama decides to go back to basics, and tells the story as a mystery (though with the revelation serving as the climax of the story, as opposed to then launching into an entire second half detailing it). And even knowing the solution (as most people will) it’s an effective, intriguing approach (if only just as something different from the standard Jekyll/Hyde movies) — much as I found it intriguing when I first read the novel. And the production itself is well done, and briskly-paced. Obviously, the fantasy/horror aspect is less pronounced (since it only comes into play toward the end) but compelling nonetheless — and an interesting chance to perceive the story as Stevenson originally intended it, as a “mystery.”

STRONTIUM DOG (2000 AD)

Two hour long “Strontium Dog” adventures (well, three — more on that in a moment) were produced by Britain’s successful Big Finish based on the science fiction comic book adventures of an intergalactic bounty hunter, Johnny Alpha, and his allies (though using original scripts/stories). There was a third play, in that Johnny appeared in the Judge Dredd audio drama, “Pre-Emptive Revenge” — and since it‘s an equal teaming, it could just as easily be regarded as a Strontium Dog play guest starring Judge Dredd.

BF produced these as part of their 2000 AD line (a title borrowed from a British comic book) along with dramas based on the much more famous Judge Dredd comics. The line didn’t really seem to take off (they produced 16 Dredd plays over two years, then scaled back to a handful of enhanced readings, then stopped altogether). But they may have backed the wrong horse — because the Strontium Dog tales were arguably the superior, and perhaps should’ve been marketed on their own. And rely less on the 2000 AD connection — since it might’ve made people unfamiliar with the comic give the audio dramas a miss, assuming they’d have to already be a fan (I’d never even heard of the comic and yet really enjoyed the audio dramas).

Judge Dredd is a, frankly, problematic property — since it’s constantly torn between being camp/parody and straight adventure. But the Strontium Dog plays were more straight-faced — plenty of wit and comedy, sure, but less overt camp, so you could still groove to the characters and the action-suspense.

Simon Pegg voiced lead character, Johnny Alpha — Pegg best known as a comic actor in movies, but here truly excellent in a serious role as the gruff-but-sympathetic mercenary. And there was nicely evoked camaraderie and comic banter between the characters (Johnny, Wulf, McNulty and Grokk) — the characters and the actors really gave the plays an extra soul.

Although the plays are unconnected, “Down to Earth” (2002) makes a good intro to the premise, as it takes place on earth and explains the reality and the history (Johnny and others are mutants — caused by Strontium radiation — in a world where anti-mutant prejudice still lingers). It has a cyberpunk-ish vibe with Johnny returning to earth to find his kidnapped partner, Wulf.

“Fire from Heaven” (2003) has them in their more typical milieu of deep space, tracking a fugitive on alien worlds for a more Star Trek/Star Wars feel (and with more humour — a comedy-drama adventure). Both are quite entertaining — well acted, good sound production (though some of the action scenes are a bit confusing, and with a slight “mature” edge) and with some clever twists and turns (and some imaginative SF concepts).

The Judge Dredd play, “Pre-Emptive Revenge” (2004), has the two characters bickering as they traverse a bombed out wasteland, and coming upon a seeming deserted enemy outpost. Also quite entertaining, with an added eerie atmosphere because of the setting.

The fact that each has a slightly different milieu/vibe maybe means if they were only going to do three, at least they aren’t just carbons of each other (one cyberpunkish near future, one Star Trek-like deep space, one post-Apocalyptic).

Down to Earth and Pre-Emptive Revenge are still available for download from the BF website. Fire from Heaven is available for free streaming at a BBC website. All are available from iTunes.

I suppose the limited number might also be because Pegg‘s film success made it harder to find windows in his schedule to record them. But whatever the reason, it’s really too bad BF didn’t do more, because these stand among my favourite audio SF adventures.

The Voice of God

2007 BBC Radio thriller/sci-fi by Simon Bovey told in 5 half hour episodes. A couple of geologists, investigating mysterious earth tremors in the Australian Outback, stumble upon a secret military research base developing sonic weapons — whose side effects may have the potential for even greater catastrophes down the line.

Decently acted suspense-thriller, with a cast including Clare Corbett, Matthew Dyktynski, and with Geoffrey Beevers especially good. And it’s suitably pulpy at times (building to an almost James Bond-like climax) but does suffer from logic/plausibility problems (from this being a seeming British project in Australia, to even just what does the villain thinks he’s going to accomplish toward the end?) As well, for a five episode serial, it doesn’t really seem that complex or twisty (there’s a murder midway through — but there aren’t a lot of suspects) — seeming too much a cerebral procedural at times to quite score as a fun thriller, yet too much a pulpy thriller to quite score as an intellectual drama (despite a few conversations that are mainly ideological discussions).

And I’m reminded of another Bovey-written radio serial — Slipstream — which also left me ambivalent. Despite genuine attempts at character stuff (one of the geologists is half-Aboriginie) it never quite becomes a character drama where the characters are what’s holding your interest, and though it is, in a sense, supposed to be a liberal drama with an anti-military theme — in other ways Bovey seems a little ambivalent toward the fascist aspects (maybe because the civilian heroes seem a bit quick to unthinkingly throw in with the army types at the beginning). But, admittedly, some of that’s just me — I’m not necessarily keen on stories where characters find themselves in a military/fascist environment and, at least at first, don’t resist it.

The main flaws, as I say, are just that I didn’t really care much about the characters and, given it’s stretched over 5 episodes, the plot (more or less) goes where you expect it to. Coincidentally, Corbett starred in another BBC Radio sci-fi thriller, Scramble, which shared some conceptually similarities!