Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands podcast)
Coming off the success of their wonderful production of ‘The Invisible Man’ featuring one of the last performances from one of the great actors of our time Sir John Hurt, Big Finish had a lot to live up to in the second release from their H.G Wells adaptions range.
It’s a great start to have Lisa Bowerman in the director’s chair and that she cast Nigel Planner as one of the 2 leads. Planner is delightful as the eccentric, somewhat vain and enthusiastic Professor Cavor. With the Big Finish link to Doctor Who, I can’t help but feel he brings out shades of the Doctor in his performance. The other lead role of Bedford is played by Gethin Anthony. A bit of a wheeler dealer, the character is sometimes charming but tainted with greed. Gethin makes this both likable and unlikable in all the right places; but you always feel you are on the side of our two leads, even when they are at odds with each other.
The story in itself is perhaps not as popular as ‘The Invisible Man’ but it is still a great and well told story. With the Professor’s drive for science playing off Bedford’s greed and belief in the all mighty buck over all, it has tones of something still all too relevant today. Whereas I fear money may be winning today; in this story science gets a fair crack at the whip.
The pseudoscience in this story is genius as well. I am reminded of Star Trek’s transporters. The main reason they could not work is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, so Gene Rodenbery came up with the idea of ‘The Heisenberg Compensators’ to solve the problem; thus in effect naming the solution after the problem without actually having to solve it. Here it’s the same. Gravity is why we can’t travel to the stars, so the substance ‘Carvorite’ repels it.
Wells even mentions a new element shipped in that goes into Carvorite which is a brilliant mcguffin. The framing device of having Bedford telling the story to someone over lunch seemed to begin with be unnecessary as you could do the same with an omniscient narrator; but this pays off nicely in the end.
I also wonder about the mood Wells was in when he wrote this story. Although you get a feeling of magic and wonder from the story, it has a lot of negative things to say about mankind being war like, arrogant and obsessed with money. Although I may prefer The Invisible Man, this makes this a more interesting story in some ways. Big Finish’s adaption brings it to life in their usual amazing fashion, for which I give Jonathan Barnes credit in his dramatization of the story.
I give this a well-deserved 8/10
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