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!

Slipstream

BBC Radio science fiction serial from 2008 in 5 half hour episodes by Simon Bovey about a British team that goes into Nazi Germany to investigate a mysterious new German plane…that’s far beyond normal technology.

Well enough acted (by Tim McMullan, Rory Kinnear and others) and put together, but I never found myself interested in, or caring about, the heroes. And ultimately the story is too simple. Briskly-paced, to be sure, but more like an action movie broken up into segments rather than a story that unfolds and develops over its 5 chapters. The core plot is straightforward, lacking any real stand out action scenes or twists, and with the basic premise pretty obvious (the fact that the German’s are using alien technology isn’t much of a twist — it’s pretty much given away in the synopsis!) But instead of that being the beginning of the story…that IS pretty much the story as we never really learn much about the source of the technology or anything. (Even though the technology has sentience).

Plus…there’s just a kind of moral sordidness to the story (which I kind of associate with some British stuff). Even though the story purports to have a kind of liberal anti-war undercurrent, one of the central characters (the leader of the operation) is basically a suave-but-amoral “ends justifies the means” sort of guy (the sort of guy who will liberate a Nazi work camp…then force the prisoners back to work for his agenda!) And though other characters criticize him…the obvious subtext is that he’s supposed to be kind of cool. In other words, it’s an action-thriller about battling fascists…that kind of sends mixed signals about the appeal of fascism!

So ultimately, though not boring, per se…the story could’ve used some beefing up beyond the obvious, and the character/human drama doesn’t really pick up the slack.