Audio Review: The Wireless Theatre Company – Red Moon

Review by Ian McArdell

From novels to films to comic books, ‘What If?’ tales and alternate histories are often compelling as they offer a rich playground of almost familiar events to play in. In just this vein, Red Moon looks at one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century and poses the question… What if the Russians had beaten the Americans to the Moon?After Yuri Gagarin beats Neil Armstrong to that coveted place in history, everything is different; Nixon ends the Vietnam conflict promptly, but not before America has readjusted its objectives for the end of a new decade: transforming NASA into the militarised United States Space Command with plans for a permanent manned presence on the Moon.

With the arms race inevitably entwined with the space race, Britain is very much the junior partner in an Anglo-American space accord as the US builds its nuclear presence on the Moon – and the Soviet Union aims to do the same.

Phase I: Moonrise

Moonrise introduces us to this altered world at the end of the 1970s. Narrated by Eddie Sloper (Phillip Bulcock), a former M15 agent wallowing in grief, we learn about this world through his role in a logistical back office; the Space Liaison Department concerns itself with tracking equipment to and from the US Moonbase, Eagle One.

We are also introduced to Eddie’s boss, Nigel Wilkins – in a charming performance from Stephen Critchlow – a man of his time who finds it difficult to express sympathy for Sloper’s grief and amusingly describes the space race having descended into political dick swinging!

Meanwhile, on the American moon base Eagle One, we learn that all is not well; the mundanity of life is addressed, as well as the systems failures…

Phase 2: Umbra

The story continues as Sloper finds himself slowly drawn back into his past life by the arrival of the Brian Quirke (Joe Riley), a hard bitten former colleague who warns him about rocking the boat with “the cousins”.

Quirke is not the only one giving out warnings though, as tensions escalate during a meal at the Post Office Tower with an old American counterpart – and through the story of American astronomer Dr. Susan Madison (Yasmin Holness-Dove) we discover that those failures on the moonbase might be much more serious than first suggested.

As much a spy thriller as a sci-fi tale, writer, director and producer Robert Valentine’s Red Moon offers a richly conceived world and is slowly developing into a fascinating story with multiple threads. Conspiracy and murder, for an agenda yet to be revealed is being played out under the ominous shadow of a space based nuclear arms threat – one which sees the Doomsday Clock inching nearer and nearer to midnight, all the more relevant in this times of heightened international tensions!

Cleverly, the story makes abundant use of radio and television announcements to drop in information which both colours this world and entertains too – I want to eat Space Snaxx in Cape Canaveral flavour!  Also, I adored the alternate Doctor Who reference, which announced the start of a story starring Graham Crowden, titled “Last of the Jagaroth”.

‘Phase I: Moonrise’ is available to stream for free from Wireless Theatre’s audioBoom channel

‘Phase II: Umbra’ is out now, and the subsequent episodes will be available monthly from the Wireless Theatre Company website for £1.49 each.

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