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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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

Review: Doctor Who – The Eleven

Review by Jacob Licklider


There is often a complaint from Big Finish Productions that there are characters whom they put at one point before bringing them back making them confusing. The Eleven is one such character, being introduced in Doom Coalition as a Time Lord whose previous regenerations are still living in his consciousness before appearing through the Eighth Doctor box sets to the end of Ravenous, and being brought back with other Doctors. They appeared in The Legacy of Time, Dark Universe, and the Time War box sets, though often in past and future incarnations, and the latest release is The Eleven, a three-episode box set where the Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke encounter the Eleven on the planet Molaruss. Like any of the new Big Finish box sets which have been successful, it’s essentially a three hour miniseries chronicling the Eleven’s rise and fall from power. Setting up a box set as a miniseries of connected stories flowing from one to the next is a brilliant setup as it allows an avoidance of a lot of the issues of one hour stories not living up to their full potential, and in The Eleven each installment manages to tackle different things involving generally small casts of characters going from each scenario to the next.

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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 – Dark Universe

Review by Jacob Licklider


Since 1989’s Survival there has always been a question of what exactly happened to Ace? She obviously didn’t appear in the TV Movie, and the expanded universe has had several explanations for what fate she underwent, ranging from death, to becoming Time’s Vigilante in Paris, and even entering the Academy on Gallifrey. Now in my personal opinion there is a way to reconcile all of these, the Time War does allow for separate fates, and now Big Finish has released Dark Universe. Continue reading

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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Review – Ravenous 3

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


The 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) from before the Time War, continues his battle with the deadly Ravenous with the help of Liv (Nicola Walker), Helen (Hattie Morahan) and a host of former friend and foes, in this 3rd set in the series. Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who – Ravenous 2

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


The 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) continues his adventures with Liv (Nicola Walker) and Helen (Hattie Morahan); occasionally battling the Ravenous along with other foes in this second series in this run. Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who – Ravenous 1

Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)


Following on from the Doom Coalition boxsets, the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) and Med-Tech Live Chenka (Nicola Walker) are back; in search of their friend Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) and the insidious, multi persona’ed The Eleven (Mark Bonnar). Continue reading