Review – Space: 1999 – Breakout

This is Wilf Base Alpha.

I cannot know if you will receive this message but I’ve just heard ‘Breakaway,’ the new Space: 1999 audio drama from Big Finish.

Why would they do this? This ‘reimagining’ of the TV programme from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who brought us the likes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO. Twenty years to the day after the 13th of September 1999, when the events of the original 1975 series began.

The Andersons and producer Reg Hill were known for intricately beautiful miniature effects and stylish designs in futuristic adventures on the small screen, the sort of thing parents show their kids when when they want them to grow up to be engineers.

By the time Space: 1999 was broadcast they’d made some progress toward widening their audience, mixing their love of technology and thrills with some nice moments of humanity. But the programme remained primarily a visual spectacle.

Big Finish love stories, however, and this one’s worth bringing into the future. A cataclysm with dire consequences for all Humanity is played out on the eve of its first foray to a distant planet.

A mysterious and deadly illness strikes the pilots of Eagle transporters, spacecraft servicing space voyage preparations at Moonbase Alpha. The base’s chief medical officer Helena Russell is aided in her search for a cure by John Koenig, who flies out from Earth to take command of the lunar city. As the nature of the disease becomes apparent, the scope of their crisis expands to disastrous proportions.

Big Finish have invigorated the adventure with a better sense of pace (that’s not to say they don’t let moments hang where they should) and a refreshing emphasis on character drama. The delightful gadgets of the original ‘1999’ can still be heard in use – Eagles, Moonbase travel tubes and hand-held Commlocks – it’s just that a model-maker’s sort of skill is instead applied to the intricacy of the soundscape.

There’s an interesting use of music in this story. Beyond simply hinting and sweetening action in progress, composer Benji Clifford inserts brief musical interludes to excite us in tantalising moments, such as the retrieval of an escape pod containing an unidentified passenger. Fans of the original series will appreciate familiar melodies amid the score, in addition to a familiar but fresh version of the original theme tune.

The unique selling point of this audio drama is no gimmick: it’s obeisance to the fact that what happens with the characters is everything. It makes this speculative exercise of the imagination into something we respond to as if it were really happening. Eagle transporters are cool but the challenge of surviving one crashing is really where it’s at.

Commander Koenig is played by Mark Bonnar, an actor familiar to Doctor Who viewers as the working father Jimmy in The Matt Smith story Rebel Flesh and as the supervillian known as The Eleven, who besets Paul McGann’s Doctor in audio. Mark hails from Edinburgh and follows the likes of Hugh Laurie in delivering an American accent good enough to live in. His Koenig is very relatable; the pain of each challenge glows darkly over him but his endurance shines brightly.

Maria Teresa Creasey is a new name to many of us – California born and New York educated, she’s nonetheless been rolled into a variety of UK productions. The Dr Russell she plays here is refreshingly active in the way she squares off against the impossible situation presented. It allows us to get get a good sense of her character early on. Big Finish have assembled a good pair of leaders in Creasey and Bonnar.

This 2019 view of an imagined, futuristic past makes an interesting novelty. A particular ‘minced oath’ dropped by Helene is a few years out of date by our standards but it comes from a time far beyond 1975. It’s not too far off from 1999, though. It kept me on my toes as I speculated on what might and might not be possible for the inhabitants of this story’s world.

A contemporary zeitgeist captured here (and one of my favourite Anglicisms) is brinkmanship. Both versions of ‘Breakaway’ begin by hiding Moonbase’s dire situation from Koenig but here, the stakes are higher: crowds of the general public are on Alpha, unaware of the expanding epidemic of pilot illness. The administration on Earth responds to this by redoubling its efforts to cover it all up.

Writer/director Nicholas Briggs has sanded smooth a number of rough edges that marred the uneven TV pilot. Sci-fi’s best known writer Isaac Asimov famously had a go at the old series’ scientific implausibility. The fantastic catastrophe played out in audio presents us with a nice combination of nods to real science and plausible fantasy. This puts our focus back on the drama and adds weight to its consequences.

Flawed as it was, the old Space: 1999 sometimes captured the awe felt by those of us who remember the Apollo space programme. I can barely wait to hear how this new crew face the unknown because what we can count on is that the characters and situations here are in good hands.

Space: 1999 – ‘Breakaway’ is available now from Big Finish.

Beeblepete out.

Review – Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon

The Dimension Cannon gives the character Rose Tyler her own series, in four audio dramas by Big Finish Productions. Billie Piper reprises her role as the first of The Doctor’s travelling companions in 21st century Doctor Who.

Shop girl turned sci-fi action hero Rose Tyler is consigned to a parallel universe with her mum, Jackie (Camille Coduri) and a parallel version of her dear departed dad, Pete (Shaun Dingwall). They’ve turned their attention to helping protect not only their world from extraordinary threats but also many other Earths. They’re following in the footsteps of Rose’s beloved Doctor: the charismatic, time-travelling space alien whose defence of Rose’s Earth left her separated from it – and him.

The Dimension Cannon offers Rose a chance to bring The Doctor back into the fight – and into her life again. For short periods of time the cannon allows her to visit other parallel universes that offer clues to the whereabouts of The Doctor. On her first trip she’s reunited with a parallel version of Clive, a conspiracy theorist who was murdered in Rose’s universe. Bark Benton reprises the role of Clive throughout the set and it’s good fun to have him back.

The four stories take us to four new parallel versions of London, where we’re introduced to startling alternate versions of the well-loved characters that head up this series. This collection of audios is not so much a spin-off from Doctor Who as it’s a spiritual follow-on from ‘Father’s Day,’ the episode that introduced us to the ‘original’ Pete Tyler and led us through dark times leading up to his death.

Chasing The Doctor inevitably means getting to know the locals in each different London and Rose finds she already knows many of them all too well. She gets personally involved in the lives of the people she meets, encountering Jackie, Pete and others in slightly different forms. It makes arriving in each universe a treat for the listener – and leaving each of them is tough all round.

Big Finish tie-in plays lure us into the audio realm by offering us characters and situations that are proven successes on television. They honour these successes with intriguing stories that at least equal their predecessors in quality. Rose’s story in Doctor Who has a lot of heart – and heartbreak. These new tales are equally engaging character pieces.

By presenting so many alternate versions of the original roles played by the cast, the normally-invisible work of the actors gets a bit of a peek into the limelight. I was properly immersed in and moved by the drama here but I also enjoyed listening for the subtle differences between the characters parallel to each other.

I’m very much opposed to more for more’s sake; I hate seeing delightful series run down by commercial supplements. You’ll find none of that here in Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon. This box set revisits the Tylers in a clever way that gives us more of what we’re counting on in ways that constantly surprise.

Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon is available now from Big Finish.

Review-Torchwood: The Hope

The Big Finish Torchwood range is always advertised with “This release contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners” never has that statement been truer, than with this release. One of the many things James Goss excels at, is bleak. After giving us all nightmares with Corpse Day. He’s back with The Hope.

Megwyn Jones is one of the most hated women in Britain. She used to run a home for troubled children in an isolated part of Snowdonia called The Hope. For a long time there were rumours about what was happening there, and then one day it was realised that the children had gone missing.

Ever since, Megwyn’s kept her peace. Is she innocent? Is she guilty? Where are the bodies?

An audio play about a convicted child-murderer is never going to be an easy listen. However, James Goss has carved something of a masterpiece here. This is an audio that definitely rewards repeat listening.

Burn Gorman and Tom Price had such brilliant chemistry, in Corpse Day that I’ve been waiting impatiently for a follow up, ever since. Their chemistry is still present and their scenes together are pure gold. Andy’s eternal optimism is a perfect foil for Owen’s eternal pessimism. They also get a chance to shine separately, in scenes that are up there with the most horrific in Torchwood’s history. Siân Phillips is mesmerising as Megwyn Jones, you instantly dislike Megwyn-but you’re also fascinated by her.

The Hope couldn’t be any further away in tone, than last month’s ‘Serenity’. But that’s what makes this series so great. I enjoyed Torchwood on TV. But Big Finish Torchwood, is Torchwood at its absolute best.

Review-Torchwood:Serenity

Serenity Plaza is the most exclusive gated community in South Wales.

Jack and Ianto have gone undercover as a happily married couple. There are rumours that something’s wrong at Serenity Plaza and they’re determined to investigate. But the problem is that Serenity Plaza is just so rigidly normal.

Suddenly, Jack and Ianto have to confront the problems that normal couples face. Sharing a house together, doing the washing up, entering the residents’ baking contest, and hoping to win the Best Kept Lawn.

Competition is fierce. Because this is Serenity Plaza. And you’d kill to live there.

Torchwood: Serenity is James Moran’s first Big Finish audio, so it’s fitting that it’s a sequel to his series 2 episode ‘Sleeper’ and this does what any good sequel should, it develops the threat originally presented and adds layers and complexities-all whilst playing to the strengths the medium of audio allows. Moran has crafted a continuation, that logically feels like the next step in the story.

Jack and Ianto’s relationship has always been popular with fans, so it’s great to have an outing featuring the pair. John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd are clearly having a lot of fun here. The script is full of innuendo, with GDL playing Ianto as a Stepford Wife-type. He even gets to turn his Welshness up to 11.

I laughed a lot and I laughed hard with this audio, this is one Torchwood fans won’t want to miss.

Episode 205: Doctor Who-Dimensions in time (Revisited)

Martyn is joined by returning guest Sam Michael and first time guest, Chris Walker-Thomson. The trio discuss the Doctor Who special ‘Dimensions in Time’.

Dimensions in time was a charity special cross-over, between the British science fiction series Doctor Who and the soap opera EastEnders. The special was shown in two parts on 26 and 27 November 1993.

It was filmed on location at Greenwich and the EastEnders Albert Square set.  It features several of the EastEnders stars of the time. Along with Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor), Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor), Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor, Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor), Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor).

It was Produced for the Children in Need charity, following Doctor Who’s hiatus in 1989 this special was the only dramatisation broadcast in celebration of the show’s 30th anniversary.

But, is it canon? 

The podcast is available from all good podcast services, such as-but not limited to;

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Episode 204: Shaft (2019)

Martyn and Gerrod only had 15mins spare when they recorded this, so here is a very brief review of Shaft (2019).

John Shaft Jr. may be an FBI cyber security expert, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education that only his dad can provide. Absent throughout his childhood, the legendary John Shaft agrees to help his son navigate the heroin-infested underbelly of Harlem, N.Y. Besides, the locked and loaded Shaft has his own score to settle — both professional and personal.

The podcast is available from all good podcast services, such as-but not limited to;

Audioboom, Player fm and Itunes.

Follow the Bad Wilf team:

Twitter:

Martyn – @BadWilf

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Gerrod @BW_Gerrod

Review-She’s Missing

This indie drama follows Heidi and her best friend Jane. When Jane vanishes without a trace. Heidi tries to make sense of the situation.

On a personal note, this film really resonated with me. I’ve spent time in small town America and these missing posters are a real life occurrence, especially near towns close to an interstate. People will vanish without a trace. Occasionally these people will re-emerge thousands of miles from home, but more often than not. They’re never found.

She’s missing perfectly captures Heidi’s quiet tedium from her moribund existence and juxtaposes it with Jane’s extremely volatile life. The film shines when it revels in the vastness of its Southwestern setting, which can lead to wide spread oppression and a feeling of utter hopelessness.

Alexandra McGuiness knows how to frame the perfect shot. The entire film felt very David Lynch to me. The back drop would fade from mountains to empty skyline. Accompanied by a somber score, this makes the viewer feel a sense of claustrophobic despondency, which is a stark contrast to the upbeat rodeo setting of the film.

She’s missing is the type of film Hollywood doesn’t really make any more, it’s well worth a watch. The film is a compelling struggle, which I think we can all identify with.

SHE’S MISSING is released on iTunes and On Demand from 1st July on Sky Store, Virgin Media, Google Play, Youtube and Amazon.

Review-The Queen’s Corgi

When the Queen’s favourite dog, Rex, becomes lost, he must make new friends and embrace new adventures in order to find his way back to the palace.

The Queen’s Corgi is clearly trying to emulate the success and charm of The Secret Life of Pets, instead it’s like a dog chasing its own tail.

The humour mostly falls flat, they’ve tried to put in jokes to entertain the parents. But they’ve not got the balance right. Which means it’s full of jokes children won’t relate to and an overly simple plot, that will bore anyone over 3-years old. Avoid at all costs.

Episode 200: Doctor Who TV Movie

Martyn is joined by stand-up comedian, Sam Michael. The pair discuss the 1996 Paul McGann Doctor Who TV movie.

The Doctor Who TV movie, also known as “The enemy within”-is a 1996 continuation of the long-running British science fiction series, Doctor Who. It was developed as a co-production between BBC Worldwide, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and the American TV network Fox.

The podcast is available from all good podcast services, such as;

Audioboom, Player fm and Itunes.

Follow the Bad Wilf team:

Martyn – @BadWilf

Pete – @BeeblePete

Gerrod @BW_Gerrod.

Follow Sam-@SamMichaelol

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Interview with Steven Moffat.

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Episode 198: Avengers Endgame

As nobody else on the internet is talking about it, Martyn and Gerrod decided to take 19mins and 39 seconds out of their busy schedules. To bring you the only review for Avengers: Endgame, that you’ll be able to find.

Check out our previous Avengers reviews;

Avengers Assemble

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The podcast is available from all good podcast services, such as;

Audioboom, Player fm and Itunes.

Follow the Bad Wilf team:

Martyn – @BadWilf

Pete – @BeeblePete

Gerrod – @BW_Gerrod

Check out the Bad Wilf Vlog.

We also have Facebook.

Check out Martyn’s new podcast ‘One foot on the stool’. 

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