Audio Review: Space 1999 Volume 2 – Earthbound

Review by Ian McArdell


Earthbound is the second volume of regular adventures for Big Finish’s reimagining of Space: 1999. Striking a happy balance between old and new, it provides an original character-based adventure, plus a smart re-working of a television which turns it into a high-stakes two-parter.


Mooncatcher

First up, writer Marc Platt provides an original episode. It begins with the first child being born on Moonbase Alpha. While most are thrilled, Paul Morrow is concerned about the age gap between the baby and the next youngest person on the base. As Commissioner Simmons comments, they’re no longer a base and now a colony.

Celebrations are disrupted by a transmission, which is soon followed by many others. Despite the fact that they sound like either a plea for help or a warning, Morrow and Professor Bergman are keen to investigate – a mission agreed to despite Commander Koenig’s misgivings.

What follows is a story of delusions and dreams, one which explores the backstories of both Morrow and Bergman as they find themselves pulled into the heart of the mysterious ‘Delta One’ object. It’s also a cautionary tale for Professor Bergman’s boundless curiosity as their discovery comes to endanger the whole base.

This story is a terrific showcase for Glen McCready as the unlucky-in-love Paul Morrow, with Big Finish stalwart Jane Slavin guesting as his fiancé Jeanette. Plus, of course, the delightful enthusiast that is Clive Hayward’s Professor Victor Bergman.


Earthbound / Journey’s End

Earthbound adapts the television episode of the same title, expanding it across two episodes, with the second part named Journey’s End.

While on the television series, Commissioner Simmons was purely a guest role for Roy Dotrice, who played the character in two episodes, on audio the role has been expanded. Timothy Bentinck’s superb iteration of the character has been a thorn in the side of Koenig and his crew, with events leading to this story.

Using all his political acumen, Simmons effectively stages a coup – demanding, with the base’s armed security personnel on his side, that the whole population of Alpha should consider his assertion that their mission should focus on getting back to Earth, rather than on looking for a new home among the stars. In order to diffuse the situation, Koenig agrees to put the question to a vote.

Despite all the logical arguments to the contrary, such as whether the Earth survived the Moon’s departure, the impossibility of creating a faster-than-light drive and the strain it would put on an already stretched crew, Simmons proceeds to run rings around Koenig, Dr Russell and Professor Bergman. Playing on a heady mix of cryogenics and hope, he (narrowly) wins the argument.

The Brexit parallels are writ large here, unsubtly but in entertaining fashion, by writers Iain Meadows (who is also the sound designer) and Nicholas Briggs (who also directs and script edits). Weeks in, the lack of delivery of Simmons’ promises become a problem for his followers; the ‘sunlight uplands’ for Alpha include accusations and threats of physical violence. It’s into this environment that a Kaldosian ship arrives, bound for Earth and with the potential to take someone with them.

With a developed sub-plot beefing up Dr Russell’s connection with the Kaldosian Captain Zantor (Barnaby Kay), terrific head-to-heads between Simmons and Koenig, this is an impressive reimagining of Earthbound. It cleverly plays with the expectations for those familiar with the television series, but in a way that I imagine is not at all off-putting for those coming to it fresh.


In Summary

In another satisfying boxset, the audio version of Space: 1999 again benefits from the pacer treatment that this modern adaptation provides; the 1970s show could be glacial at times. As ever, Iain Meadow’s sound design in on point to evoke the feel of the series and Joe Kraemer provides an absorbing score. Heightened emotions form an essential component too (longing looks are a tough sell on audio) as the attraction between John Koenig (Mark Bonnar) and Helena Russell (Maria Teresa Creasey) is tackled head on.

Given where the story concludes, it seems certain there are plans for more. While I’m being deliberately circumspect to preserve the surprises, the decisions taken here open up the story in interesting ways so I really hope so.

If you haven’t jumped on board yet, now’s the time – this Moon is really going places!


Space:1999 Volume 2: Earthbound is available on CD and download from Big Finish.
Order on CD from Forbidden Planet

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Review: UNIT Nemesis – Agents of the Vulpreen

Review by Jacob Licklider


There is something interesting about the way UNIT: Nemesis has been developing. The first set was quite a nice surprise with an introduction to the basic players and what makes them work. It was also good to see Kate and Osgood given more in depth characterisation than anything that Steven Moffat gave them. UNIT Nemesis: Agents of the Vulpreen moves beyond setting the stage and characters, giving us a look into what the four set miniseries is actually trying to accomplish and the story it is trying to tell. This is essentially UNIT’s chance to prove itself at thwarting a large alien conspiracy to invade the Earth, this set seeing the preliminary invasion being the main thrust of the story. It picks up from Between Two Worlds and explores what the ark is, what the Eleven was doing, and what happens to the captured Jacqui McGee who almost immediately returns in the first episode. It’s somehow a more focused set than Between Two Worlds as well, with only one episode feeling as if it is more of a diversion from what the set as a whole is attempting to accomplish for the furthering of the Nemesis story arc. The nemesis of the title is heavily implied to be the Eleven, who has his presence somehow increased here despite being in quite a lot of the first set.

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Audio Review: Survivors – New Dawn 1

Review by Ian McArdell


New Dawn 1 is the first of two 3-story boxsets which picks up the tale some fifteen years after we last heard from Terry Nation’s Survivors.
Although it eschews a move into double figures, making a fresh start with the subtitle New Dawn, this is effectively the tenth audio series. With six new episodes adding to the thirty-six already released, there’s now more Survivors on audio than were made for television in the mid-1970s, which is a remarkable achievement. However, it’s not the Seventies that we are concerned with here; though it’s not specified, by my reckoning the events of New Dawn occur somewhere in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Abby Grant returns: Fifteen years after she went into hiding, having prized her conflicted teenage son Peter from the clutches of the quasi-military operation he’d become a part of, and despite his crimes, the pair fled.

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Review: UNIT Nemesis – Between Two Worlds

Review by Jacob Licklider


The original UNIT mini-series from Big Finish Productions brought back Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but only for its opening and closing instalments and is generally regarded as a weak miniseries.  It would be shelved and not picked up again bar UNIT: Dominion in 2012, but 2015 saw a long running revival bringing for the first time New Series elements were allowed to be used.  The series ran for eight box sets from 2015-2019, ending, but being revived this month just a week before Kate Stewart returned to televised Doctor Who, Big Finish released the first of a four set miniseries subtitled Nemesis, beginning with Between Two Worlds, where the UNIT has to contend with the Eleven, trapped on an alien planet and scheming to gain power on Earth.  He is the through line for these four stories and Mark Bonnar plays the role brilliantly throughout, the set using the time to flesh out the different personalities of the Eleven with many of them getting to shine throughout.  Bonnar is a constant undercurrent providing a clear and present alien danger for UNIT to face, moving away from an older perception of UNIT as only fit to deal with threats like the Bandrils. Continue reading

Audio Review: Space 1999 (Vol. 1)

Review by Ian McArdell


Space 1999 Volume 1 continues Big Finish’s vivid reimagining of the late 1970s Gerry Anderson classic. After launching with the show’s pilot episode, refashioned as an epic audio movie, this boxset moves us into the realm of regular episodes. While remaining faithful to the spirit of the original, this first set holds two original stories and one adaptation. The first deals directly with the aftermath of Breakaway, and follows up on the mysterious call to the planet of Meta – a plot threat surprisingly forgotten onscreen as the Moon headed on out into the universe. Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who – Shadow of the Daleks 2

Review by Jacob Licklider


Shadow of the Daleks is an interesting idea for a Doctor Who Big Finish release, at least for the Main Range. Instead of a single release, this is a story arc crossing two releases made up of eight individual episodes from different writers, all with the conceit of the Time War breaking into the life of the Fifth Doctor and a collection of people.”

This is how I opened my review of Shadow of the Daleks 1 last month here at IndieMacUser, and sitting here about a month later having finished Shadow of the Daleks 2, I realised just how apt that description is of these two releases.

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Review: Doctor Who – Shadow of the Daleks 1

Review by Jacob Licklider


Shadow of the Daleks is an interesting idea for a Doctor Who Big Finish release, at least for the Main Range. Instead of a single release, this is a story arc crossing two releases made up of eight individual episodes from different writers, all with the conceit of the Time War breaking into the life of the Fifth Doctor and a collection of people. This review is of only the first release, as it serves as the October Main Range release, Shadow of the Daleks 1, as the second installment has not been released and the story has not been concluded. As a series of four individual stories that have an overarching narrative, I will be foregoing any sort of format and just talking about what strikes me as this is a very different type of story. Listeners going in should expect that the title Shadow of the Daleks is apt as while the Daleks appear, and Nicholas Briggs is always excellent, they are not the focal point, staying in the literal shadows of each of the four episodes. The implication is that they are fighting the Time War, and possibly dragging earlier Doctors into events in a gambit to win, but as it stands there isn’t much to know of what they are. They are even referred to only as the Enemy in one of the stories which brings back images of the Eighth Doctor Adventures and Virgin New Adventures where the Terry Nation estate did not allow their use in the novels.

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Audio Review: Space 1999 – Breakaway

Review by Ian McArdell


Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in the mid-70s and running for two Space: 1999 told the story of Moonbase Alpha and its three hundred and eleven crewmembers, stranded on the Moon after it broke orbit from the Earth on the fateful date of September 13th. Lovingly reshaped into an audio drama, but keeping true to the spirit of the original, Big Finish have recreated the pilot episode as a launchpad for a new series.

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