Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Big Finish continue to work their way through the back catalogue of the legendary writer and futurist H G Wells. Although this one is set in the past it’s amazing how the themes of this one play out today in how we use animal organs for humans and we continue genetic research.
The plot follows Edward Prendick (John Heffernan) who ends up after a ship wreck being taken by another ship to a strange far off Island. He soon finds out that Dr Moreau (Ronald Pickup); a scientist of some note in England until his work came out of favour, had made this island his home and is conducting experiments on the local animals, transforming them into an enslaved form of intelligence and being able to talk. Is this moral and right? Can Moreau be trusted? And if not how will Prendick escape?
There are some really nice themes in this story. As above the genetic experimentation still sparks something relevant today. Moreau writes of laws that animals he experiments on must obey; they keep their human overlords safe and this mirrors Asimov’s laws of robotics designed to stop them behaving against human safety. It also examines how man behaves giving this power over to a new species. Maybe a little mirroring of how colonialists reacted to meeting native men they saw as inferior.
The cast is well chosen and they manage to make the characters interesting without excusing them. The are men of their time. You can see how Moreau really believes he is right and just in what he is doing and Heffernan as Prendick is our eyes into this world; but is far from being what you would call a good guy, especially by modern standards. I particularly enjoyed David Shaw-Parker as the irascible ships captain and Tim Bentinck as the Ape-Man and all of the animal men in the story. Ken Bentley as director has done a really good job at casting.
On the negative I found the dramatization a little too close to the book. I must admit that is partly supposition as I haven’t read the book. It just feels there are a lot of long and slow scenes and some of the language although beautiful could be trimmed. I feel like it takes a long time to get to the action and maybe taking a little licence with how the story is structured might have gone a long way. I was looking forward to hearing about the choices they made with the dramatization as sometimes they can have made decisions for good reason not first apparent, but as there was no ‘making-of’ included with the review copy, I can only guess.
In conclusion this is an interesting tale and I can see why the themes keep it as one of Wells’ most remembered works. The cast are great and the direction strong, just maybe a little restructuring and some further editing might have made it as good as it could have been.
I give this 6/10.
You can buy it on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-island-of-dr-moreau-1601