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!

Scramble

3-part (half hour episodes) BBC Radio SF/fantasy serial from, I think, 2008. It’s set in a fascist future where music has been outlawed (in addition to other oppressive measures). A loyal government scientist, involved in their central computer project, finds her loyalties shifting after her estranged father — a musician and rebel –is killed by the authorities, and she learns that the government is involved in some mysterious weapons project using sound, which her father was trying to stop.

Often the advice to writers is “write what you know” — but the addendum to that might be “with moderation.” In this case, scripter Martin Kiszko is primarily known as a musician and composer (this may in fact be his only scripted drama) and one can certainly see that influence in a story about outlawed music and which revolves around sound and harmonics. Unfortunately, the result’s a bit muddled. Kiszko throws in everything but the kitchen sink involving an Orwellian police state, the “ancients” who built Stonehenge, and cosmic mumbo jumbo involving — literally — the music of the spheres. It can all feel a bit weird and New Age-y, which might be fine if the telling matched it and was a wild ride with clever scenes and quirky dialogue.

But it’s fairly straightforward, generic telling, with characters that don’t entirely engage (there’s supposed to be some emotional aspect to the heroine having been estranged from her dad, without really being that deep or even convincing) as if Kiszko’s main interest was in the technobabble, with a lot of scenes of characters discussing harmonics and adjusting sound levels which might be interesting if you’re a studio sound mixer but is a bit dull if you’re not (particularly as it’s in service of a story where the science is a bit tenuous anyway). The cast includes Clare Corbett, Christian Rodska, David Collins, and others. Funnily, Corbett was also one of the stars of The Voice of God (which I’ve also reviewed) — another sci-fi radio serial which tried to meld a sci-fi/technothriller with more mystical New Age stuff, and revolving around a sound weapon!