Sunday 20 September 2015

The Omega Factor Series One

There is a much maligned film that myself and Mrs W really enjoy, and that is Vanilla Sky, I really don’t understand why it gets such a hard time from critics; I think it is rather beautiful and I have just found out it is out on Blu Ray!
Anyhow, how is this relevant to the latest Big Finish release, well, dear reader, please read on. Vanilla Sky is an adaptation of a Spanish Language film called “Abre Los Ojos” – or in English, “Open Your Eyes” and this phrase is repeated in the remake. So thinking of all the new worlds I have been introduced to whilst reviewing Big Finish releases, I have opened my eyes, my ears and my mind to these worlds and embraced them wholeheartedly – and the latest of these worlds is “The Omega Factor”.
I will admit, until Big Finish started advertising it, I had never heard of The Omega Factor, possibly because I was only seven years old when it was broadcast, never repeated, never released on VHS, then on DVD to little fanfare, so I came to it without any expectations at all, had no frame of relevance to the original series – I was ready to have my eyes opened by Big Finish once again.
The Original series starred the late James Hazeldine as Tom Crane and Louise Jameson as Dr Anne Reynolds, they worked for Department 7 and investigated paranormal occurrences. Tom Crane discovered throughout the series that he had psychic abilities.
The Big Finish box set picks up 36 years later, Department 7 is “under review” (read being shut down) as it is not productive. Dr Anne Reynolds finds herself and her life’s work being rendered redundant, and then she bumps in to Adam Dean and things get interesting. You see Adam is the son of Tom Crane and he has been reading his late fathers reports into the cases he and Anne were involved in in the 1970’s…
The Set is made up of four loosely linked stories:
From Beyond by Matt Fitton
This story sets the scene and the tone for the box set, one word “OMINOUS” – a real sense of dread and impending doom pervades the proceedings. Desperate to keep Department 7 going, Anne revisits an old investigation she has had on the back burner. Mary McConnell is trying to contact her brother Malcolm from beyond the grave through the medium of recordings and believes she has made a breakthrough. Adam’s emerging psychic powers reveal a long hidden tragedy and force Mary to confront her past. Really heavy stuff for a season opener. Both leads are not initially likeable, Anne is obtuse, Adam is argumentative but through the events that they experience together they form a bond. The subject matter is also harrowing and it takes the more worldly experienced Adam to notice what the academic Anne cannot see, or is too caught up in her research to want to see. Interesting, but very grim.
The Old Gods by Phil Mulryne
Following a lead from Tom Crane’s investigations leads Anne and Adam to a remote community ruled of by Edmund Fennick (Terry Molloy) that has been stripped of the trappings of the modern world. Adam poses as a sufferer of electrosensitivity and is admitted to the community to investigate further. This one is pure Amicus – remote community, cult trying to summon an ancient god, psychic powers – basically the horror kitchen sink. Terry Molloy is superb as Fennick, not evil, worse, a fanatic who truly believes his world view is the right view. Really exciting stuff, again doom laden in atmosphere, but a different less personal take on horror than the previous story.
Legion by Cavan Scott
I got the feeling from listening to this one that it was a sequel to a TV episode (I looked it up, it is) and features a catatonic lady called Morag in an institution, an exorcist called Wanda Maccrum. This is good, really really good, so good that I want to see the original episode it is based on. Morag has been catatonic for over 30 years, but she is becoming active, her mind is reaching out to Adam for help. This episode is worth the entry price alone it has it all, brilliantly acted, very visual, full of genuine danger for the characters, a winner.
The Hollow Earth by Ken Bentley
Investigating disappearances of homeless people at an Edinburgh church Anne and Adam along with the Vicar and church warden are trapped in the church as a portal into hell is opened. A suitably maudlin, but compelling episode to end the set, death, murder, sacrifice, faith, revenge and a big explosion . A really deep story and thematically very similar to the first, exploring the darker more base side of human nature, not for the faint-hearted or the easily disturbed…
So four doom laden tales; I felt that the characters didn’t experience the stories but suffered through them, boy do they go through the emotional wringer Louise Jameson and John Dorney don’t put a foot wrong – world weary, panic stricken, desperate, intelligent, compassionate and that is just Louise in her first scene – this really put the actors through their paces, the material demands nothing less than a real human performance and we get it in spades from all the actors. With material that could lend itself to scenery chewing it is played completely straight and is teated with the respect that it deserves making the drama real and believable.
If I had to criticise at all, maybe it is a little slow paced, especially the last episode, but maybe this slow ponderous pace is part of the atmosphere building…
So eyes open, ears open and mind open – and wallet open as well as the DVD has been added to my wish list on a well known site named after a South American river – a great first box set and hopefully many more to come I factor in a score of 9/10.

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