Monday, 30 November 2015

The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 4

Where to start? where to start? Hmmm… The beginning was a long long time ago, Oscar Wilde wrote a book called The Picture of Dorian Gray, which went on to become a classic. In this book a young member of the upper classes called Dorian Gray, who is the epitome of male beauty, has a portrait painted – he muses that he would like to remain as un-ageing as the portrait, and he gets what he wishes for. As Gray leads a more and more debauched life it leaves no mark on him: the drinking, the indulgence in drugs, the womanising – all leave no mark on Dorian  - whilst his portrait bears the brunt of his excesses and grows more and more monstrous. The story is a fiction written by Oscar Wilde, but what if it wasn’t? What if Dorian Gray was real? What if he were a peer of Oscar Wilde and Wilde just wrote a sort of biography disguised as fiction? that is the theory that the Confessions of Dorian Gray presents and now in its fourth series we have another eight stories, another eight interludes from the immortal Dorian Gray.
Dorian is real, he lived and still lived and these are his confessions – and the title “confessions” is very apt – these audio stories are unlike any other series the Big Finish have produced.
First of all there is no title or closing theme music – now in itself that isn’t a big deal, but these stories don’t feel like stories – they are a lot more intimate than that.
Secondly, I have a feeling that Mr Gray is not the most reliable of narrators – that the stories he is relaying are merely his take on circumstances, that with hundreds, maybe thousands of years of hindsight from when these events happened to when he tells the story, certain embellishments may have been made.
No – this is a very unique series, in fact the listener is made to feel like a confessor or a psychiatrist as Gray relays his tales of terror and debauchery. The eight stories are in no particular order, they are not consecutive, they flit back and forth throughout Dorian’s long long life – it is almost like Dorian is in the room with you and is unburdening himself, and the stories all have one thing in common – they all deal with the theme of loss. Because as long and as varied as his life is, being immortal Dorian has to deal with loss – sometimes people die, sometimes they move on, sometimes assignations are only fleeting, people and times move on – parties, substance abuse, alcohol and womanising loses its lustre, but Dorian Gray goes on.
And bringing Dorian to life is the one and only Alexander Vlahos – narrating seemingly random tales from Dorian’s life he imbues Gray with a weariness of a man who has lived too long, a man trying to fill in eternity when life has lost its taste where people he has me sometimes become memories and then forgotten altogether – a man so bored of life that in one episode he books himself into “a very nice private hospital” to get his appendix removed just to remove the boredom of existence. Vlahos captures the weariness perfectly and at different points in his life he really does want to do the right thing (or maybe this is just as the unreliable narrator remembers it) but throughout his life he is plagued by demons of one form or another – metaphors for his guilt at the life he has led or literal monsters is up to the listener to decide but the demons are there.
Some audios are good to be listened to with friends or family – The Confessions of Dorian Gray demands  to be listened to as a solitary experience, because for the duration of the box set YOU the listener are the confessor and Dorian is talking just to you – give it a try episode one The Enigma of Dorian Gray is available free HERE and you will see what I mean.
I recommend that these reminiscences are accompanied by a glass of fine Shiraz, with the lights dimmed and for you to lose yourself in Dorian’s confessions – I for one will certainly be catching up with the earlier stories and I recommend that you do too. An uncomfortable, intimate and soul-bearing experience, superbly performed and leaving a feeling of loss and melancholy that maybe just one more glass of Shiraz may not take away… 10/10.

The Other Woman

The thing I like about the short trips is that they are just so characterful and this month’s release is no exception. In 38 short minutes it gives us a very Pertwee-esque “they come to us” story, but also examines the depth of the relationship between Jo and the Doctor. And who better to tell this touching story than Jo Grant herself, the wonderful Katy Maning.
Beginning with Jo reminiscing about a date she has been on (not with Captain Yates this time) and finishing with a reaffirmation of Jo and the Doctor’s relationship, this is another small story with big ambitions.
The “Other Woman” of the title is an alien called Callandra who has landed her escape pod in the Kent countryside – the home counties had a lot of that back in the 70’s (or 80’s depending on UNIT dating!), a striking woman with something of Circe about her, she seems to mesmerise all men into doing her bidding, and being stuck in the UNIT era, she has a lot of willing soldiers and a willing Third Doctor to do her bidding – it is only Jo that hasn’t fallen under her spell…
Is Jo jealous of an other woman becoming close with the Doctor or is there a hidden side to Callandra that only Jo can see?
Katy gives an assured, confident and convincing performance not only as Jo, but as The Doctor, Callandra and the Brig, her Jon Pertwee is rather good and she imbues Jo with such character that i forgot that her and Katy were the same person.
In strictly Who chronological time, this story is set prior to the Three Doctors so is many many years before River Song made her entrance in the Library – but the relationship the Doctor has with Callandra shows off his charm and his romantic side about seven (or eight) incarnations too early.
The Other Woman is another short trip that delivers a big impact and adds layers of depth to an already charming relationship between Jo and the Third Doctor.

The Early Adventures 2.3 - The Black Hole

It’s not often I find myself lost for words when writing a review. This is one of those occasions. The Black Hole is a very difficult story to talk about unless the person you are talking about it with has already experienced the story. To quote Blackadder “it twists and turns like a… twisty turny thing” and covers several different types of storytelling while still remaining faithful to the ethos of the Troughton era and making you view a certain Colin Baker story in a completely different way. This is a really important story, and skirting around the “twisty turny things” I will try to give you a flavour of what its all about…
Simon Guerrier is a brave man – a very brave man indeed – because, lets face it, Who fans are a (small “c”) conservative lot when it comes to established canon (QI Klaxon alert!) and continuity. So, me being the radical rebel that I am take my reviewer’s hat off to Simon for not only for going against established canon, but for going against it and winning – you see The Black Hole introduces the Time Lords to Doctor Who, and in terms of continuity they are introduced at least 18 month earlier than in The War Games. Now before you all start building Troughton sized Wicker Men to hold Mr Guerrier, you may also want to consider his second crime of – CENSORED TO PRESERVE “TWISTY TURNY” ASPECT OF STORY! – that happens during episode three…
So, what can I tell you about The Black Hole? Well, it has a Black Hole and this is causing time to keep standing still on a research station. Being Time Travellers, The Second Doctor (amazingly realised by Frazer Hines), Jamie (Frazer Hines, again) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) are not affected by the phenomenon. They meet up with Commander Flail (Janet Dibley) and investigate the cause. And it’s during these investigations that they meet Constable Pavo (Rufus Hound) a Time Lord and Constable of Chapter 9, and after a false start, the Doctor and Pavo come up with a plan to stabilise The Black Hole.
And that is really all I can say without totally ruining the story – it starts as a mystery, transforms into a time travel story and finishes with, well… I will let you find out for yourselves.
The sound design is pure “Troughton”, close your eyes and the images in your head will be in Black and White – for all its radical ideas it is very much rooted in 1968. It was lovely to hear Deborah Watling back as Victoria, she is a character I would love to hear more from on Big Finish. Frazer Hines is uncanny as Troughton, all the pauses, throat clearings and vocal mannerisms are superb, and he can now play Jamie to perfection in his sleep, he just slips back instantly into character. Janet Dibley gives a no nonsense performance as Flail, but the real star of the proceedings is Rufus Hound as Pavo. Take a look at his picture on the cover, imagine the sort of performance that type of character would give, turn it up a notch, and you are there. Hound is wonderful, fruity, snooty, dangerous, manipulative and vindictive – a magnificent addition to the pantheon of Time Lords, I do hope he shows up in another story very soon…
So vaguery rules the day in this review, but my vaguery is well justified – there is a link below that says “BUY YOUR COPY HERE” and I suggest you do because The Black Hole is a corker of a story that will make you revise opinions of several eras and of one of the central aspects of Who Mythology, and there are not many stories that I can say that about.
Overall a Cosmically balanced and Twisty Turny 10/10.


Though they are commonplace in the revived post 2005 series, the “classic” series didn’t really do “blockbusters”. I mean they did, but they were very few and far between. The thing is the set up of the series was different then – a series of serials rather than (mainly) standalone episodes, with a linking theme leading up to the inevitable series finale. Classic Who didn’t really do event TV – in fact the only times I can remember it being an event was when Tom Baker regenerated and when The Five Doctors was broadcast. Things were different back then, not better or worse, just a different style for a different era. But then we have this months release – Shield of the Jotunn – on the one hand it follows the style and format of “classic” Who, it features Old Sixie, is a four part serial yes but (and it is a big but) the scale is huge - Hollywood blockbuster huge, and what starts as Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke looking for a restaurant ends with a battle of the Titans.
So the aforementioned trip to a restaurant doesn’t really go to plan – in fact the Doctor and Mrs Clarke materialise in a Viking burial mound. This is no ordinary Viking burial mound though (as if it would be) in fact it is in Arizona USA (yes you read correctly) in the year 2029. And so begins one of the most tense, frantic and down right action packed Who stories I have ever had the delight to hear. This is Doctor Who with a Michael Bay budget – in my mind it was all being played out on big budget super Hi-Def cameras and I was watching it on IMAX, not on 625 line VT on a 22 inch Panasonic as it would have been in the 1980′s.
The plot is a little bit base under siege and a little bit giant monster battle – think The Thing meets Transformers and you wont be far from the mark. Part one sets up the story and introduces Dr Hugo Macht (Michael J Shannon) and his team Professor Lisa Zetterling (Nell Mooney) & Major Vincent Da Costa (James Caroll Jordan) – Dr Macht has devised a plan to save the world from climate change by cleaning the atmosphere with nanobots, but the discovery of the Shield of the Jotunn puts a huge spanner in his good works as the shield is in fact an alien artefact brought to the USA by the Vikings – and this shield brings with a a whole load of trouble, from killer snow to Frost Giants. It also brings with is a Viking Saga…
Oh the Vikings and their saga – their tale is told by Mrs Clarke (Miranda Raison) who continues to excel and is fast becoming a classic companion and foil to Old Sixie – she discovers the TARDIS gift for translation and recounts their saga, the narration here being taken over by the Viking leader Herger (also played by James Caroll Jordan) and is an excellent piece of direction as Mrs Clarke’s cut glass voice fades out and is replaced by Herger’s gruff tones and then fades back as we return to the here and now. It’s little touches like this that raise this story, and the story has a very special director you all may have heard of – Louise Jameson makes her Big Finish directorial debut on this release and does not leave the listener wanting. From casting to scene construction, Louise does not miss a beat and crafts writer Ian Edington’s script into a tense, action packed and characterful blockbuster.
So far so epic – and that is only part of the story, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger (literally) and finishes in an explosive denouement; it does not miss a beat, does not put a foot wrong, the cast are uniformly excellent, Colin Baker is exceptional as always – he has a few melancholic speeches to deliver and there are a few scenes where he almost outdoes his successor for manipulation – just listen to the climax of part four – Old Sixie does something almost completely out of character and it is all the more powerful for it.
So three stories in and I am already chomping at the bit for more stories of Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke – a classic TARDIS team, they just go together like, well Old Sixie and Mrs Clarke really.
Overall a saga worth listening to – stunningly written and acted, a brilliant “Season Finale” an exceptional debut for Louise Jameson as director and another classic release from Big Finish.
Overall a blockbusting 10/10.

UNIT - Extinction

One of the most affectionately remembered groupings from “classic” Doctor Who was the UNIT “family”: The Doctor, Jo Grant, The Brigadier, Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton – they had a real camaraderie – likeable believable characters fighting off the unlikeable, the unbelievable and the incomprehensible!
I make absolutely no apologies for the fact that I am a massive fan of “New Who” (actually after 10 years, is it still new?) but my one bugbear (apart from the casting of Matt Smith!) was that UNIT just wasn’t done right. Or maybe it was done too right. Gone were the cosy old days where a scientist, a dippy girl, three soldiers and a load of extras in uniform would save the world – UNIT in the new Who world were a lean mean military machine – a very corporate, soulless outfit, led on screen by a collection of bland soulless Colonels and Captains. Even the addition of former companion Martha Jones to the ranks of UNIT didn’t humanise it nearly enough. Yes UNIT had become a modern efficient paramilitary force. And then one day in September 2012 all that changed with the introduction of Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. UNIT were still a modern paramilitary force, but they had a face, a heart and a soul, for Kate was the daughter of the late great Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Adding Ingrid Oliver as Osgood into the mix a year later, and finally New Who had a New UNIT “family”.
It is amazing just how popular Kate and Osgood have become with fans – they have only appeared in a handful of episodes but they already feel like part of the makeup of modern Doctor Who and it is already difficult to envisage UNIT without them.
So imagine how thrilled I was when it was announced that Big Finish had the New Series Licence and that their first foray into this world was a UNIT Box Set featuring Kate and Osgood.
But it’s not just Kate and Osgood, they have their own “family”: Warren Brown as Lieutenant Sam Bishop, Ramon Tikaram as Colonel Shindi and James Joyce as Captain Josh Carter, and this first box set sees them face off against The Nestene Consciousness.
 As is the form with Box Set releases, this one is split into four interlinked parts:
Vanguard by Matt Fitton
This one sets the tone for the series – it is grand and epic in scale and almost has the feel of a Bond film. It introduces the villain of the piece Simon Devlin (Steve John Shepherd) a billionaire semi reclusive head of Devlin Future Tech who has developed a revolutionary 3D Printer which his corporation is almost giving away…
Add to the mix Tracy Wiles as Jacqui McGee, an undercover journalist and mysterious objects falling to earth and you have the beginnings of a global thriller of epic proportions.
Earthfall by Andrew Smith
 This story really gives Ingrid Oliver the chance to shine as Osgood – because in this part Osgood is sent on a field mission.
I love Osgood, she is fast becoming one of my favourite characters in Doctor Who, and it is lovely to get to know her character a bit better. She is a scientist, not a field operative, yet in this episode we see she is more than just glasses and an inhaler. She, along with Sam Bishop, are sent to the Gobi Desert to retrieve the Nestene swarm leader unit, but they are not alone, the Autons are also looking for it…
The great thing about audio drama is the scale, an almost limitless budget of the imagination – and the soundscapes created here transported me right into the middle of the search for the energy unit. This one is pure adrenalin, after the measured episode one, the clock really is ticking, the sense of urgency is palpable.
Bridgehead by Andrew Smith
This is it, this is where it all “kicks off” (to coin a phrase), all the pieces put in place in episode one and two pay off and the invasion begins. Josh is undercover at Devlin Futuretech as the Nestene plan is revealed. There are some genuinely disturbing body horror moments in this episode – several very David Cronenberg moments when Josh is captured and subjected to, well, I will let you find that out for yourselves – but it really isn’t pleasant.
The story is really fast-paced helped along by the new Who story telling trait of rolling news coverage – this gives the Nestene threat a really global scale and instills the production with a sense of urgency and danger.
Armageddon by Matt Fitton
A truly epic finale sees Osgood paired with Jacqui and Kate with Colonel Shindi as they both try to come up with solutions to the Nestene Invasion. Rolling news again forms the backdrop to the storytelling with news of pitched battles in the major cities of the world, of humans being rounded up by Autons and of desperate resistance to the invasion.
The story is very UNIT – in fact in structure it is quite similar to the original UNIT story, The Invasion. Head of corporation allied with aliens, starts off as a thriller and turns into a high octane action movie with lots of explosions, the world saved by a combination of science and military might. Yes indeed it is a classic UNIT story. My one gripe is this – I worked out after a few minutes of episode one how the invasion was going to be staged, but it came as a surprise to the characters when it happened (not wanting to give spoilers away), now this may be because I was 1. aware who the enemy was, and 2. because I have seen all the Auton episodes on TV and obviously the characters have not – still, they would have surely been aware as characters of previous Nestene incursions, or at least had a chance to view files…
I am sounding like a real nit-picker, but it really did bother me. But that is only one little thing in an otherwise marvellous box set. The acting, the sound design, the pacing, are all excellent. Jemma Redgrave is her usual Kate, unassuming on the surface with a keen mind, Ingrid Oliver continues to charm as Osgood, and newcomers Ramon Tikaram, Warren Brown and James Joyce give head, heart and soul to the proceedings. Steve John Shepherd as Simon Devlin comes across as evil, but also tragic (as all the best villains do), the way he was brought under the influence of the Nestene is shocking and gruesome and Nick Briggs gives us a truly frightening Nestene voice.
So a strong start to hopefully a long running series of new UNIT stories. It’s nice to see what Kate and Osgood can do when the Doctor isn’t there to save the world, and judging by this box set, they do a pretty good job.

Jago & Litefoot & Strax - The Haunting

When is a crossover not a crossover? When it features characters that originated in the same series. Confused? You will be….
Crossovers are the holy grail of geekdom – Batman meeting Superman, the Avengers Assemble, Simpsons meets Family Guy, Coronation Street with Albion Market (well maybe not the last one… then again).
As a child I could never understand why Doctor Who didn’t turn up in Star Trek, it seemed the obvious thing to happen. Forty years of cynicism and knowledge of boring things like rights and actor availability have scuppered that dream, but the news of a crossover still makes me happy.
There is happy and then there is HAPPY. Imagine happy (lower case) as having a great day out with your family or friends. Now HAPPY – is your birthday, Christmas, Wedding Day and winning the lottery all rolled into one. Well HAPPY is what I was when I found out about Jago & Litefoot & Strax. I actually screamed and punched the air and exclaimed “Oh yes!” and “BA-DA-BING!” (in the style of Sir David Tennant).
So what exactly has got me so excited about this release? Well, I will give you a clue. First it contains Jago, secondly it contains Litefoot and thirdly it contains Strax. What is so marvellous about that, I hear you ask? Well dear reader, please read on…
So, Jago and Litefoot – London’s premiere pursuers of paranormal panjandrums, and everyone’s favourite comedy Sontaran, Strax – together at last. I have been hoping for this for years, both Messers J & L and the Paternoster gang inhabit Victorian London – both sets of protagonists are canon in the Whoniverse, it was inevitable that they would meet eventually, and in this special release, meet they do.
Starting off in the Red Tavern, and as always ending in the Red Tavern – this is story is firmly rooted in the style of Jago and Litefoot with Strax as a guest star and sees Strax on the trail of an energy source and after causing a bar room brawl in the Red Tavern, he meets up with the infernal investigators and -to use one of Mrs W’s favourite phrases – “hilarity ensues”.
This is a very funny story – humour has always been a part of Jago and Litefoot’s world, but the addition of Strax is an inspired piece of writing – he fits in just so well and is very very funny. From misunderstanding basic questions, to mistaking Jago for Jenny and Litefoot for Vastra, to thinking someone has stolen the kitchen, to a disastrous visit to the theatre, the laughs come thick and fast – and it really is testament to the writing and interplay between Trevor Baxter, Christopher Benjamin, Dan Starkey and Lisa Bowerman. As or the plot – well it involves a haunted house, and a woman who steals brains (a delightfully arch Carolyn Seymour of Survivors fame) – a typical day at the office for our heroes and it is no coincidence that the haunted house – Number 27 Bruton Street, is also the source of the energy that Strax is searching for.
As a Jago and Litefoot story it is wonderful, the addition of Strax makes it a classic a dream combination that I hope to hear from again the addition of Madam Vastra and Jenny to any future releases may just make me want to invent a whole new word for how happy I am.
Overall a delight from beginning to end – I  have not laughed so much in a very long time.
10 /10.

Torchwood - Forgotten Lives

Made in Wales, set in Wales, with a cast including many Welsh actors. As a Welshman I was over the moon. A Welsh genre fantasy show?  This sort of thing neverhappened. But in 2006 Russell T Davies made it so (to paraphrase some other sci-fi show or other). However – and it is a big however – it didn’t seem to stray too far from Cardiff, and we up here in the North, (the Gogs), didn’t have any encounters with Jack and rest of the Torchwood team.  Until now.
You see in Forgotten Lives we are introduced to the previously unknown Torchwood – Wrexham. Oh yes! I literally cheered on my drive to work whilst listening. In my mind, if there is a Torchwood Wrexham, then surely in some part of the Torchwood Universe there is a Torchwood Trefriw…
But I digress, as always – and force myself away from my usual flights of fancy (Torchwood Trefriw – come on Big Finish, you know you want to do it – and bring myself back to this months release.
As with the previous two months, this release deals with particular character from Torchwood and in this one it is Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Rhys Williams (Kai Owen) who take centre stage. It is four years since the events of Miracle Day – Gwen and Rhys have settled down and Torchwood is a thing of the past.  They are parents to a four year old girl called Anwen. Life is – well, normal. And then they get a phone call. A strange call in Welsh from an old lady – and the mention of a name from the past: Jack Harkness. This is a phone call that will change their lives and take them to the promised land of North Wales (yay!) in fact the phone call takes them to the Bryn Offa Nursing Home (not far from Llangollen) and there they meet an old man who claims to be Captain Jack Harkness…
Kai Owen and Eve Myles slip right back into the characters of Rhys and Gwen, it’s like they have never been away – the interplay is just so natural and realistic – yes, they save the world, but they need to worry about baby-sitter too.
This is a very interesting story, and in fact will keep you guessing for the first half or so as to whether “Mr Griffith” really is an ancient version of Jack Harkness or just a poor old man suffering from dementia who happens to think he may have been someone else.
Tonally this is a story of two halves – the mysterious investigation in the first half leads to a shocking confrontation, a terrible mistake and an unforgivable act. The tension is almost unbearable and Gwen is seen to really be someone you do not mess with. Rhys Williams continues to be the heart of Torchwood – the us, the in, the voice of common sense and real world – he utterly grounds the show and makes it believable – his talk of being a driver in North Wales, of a burger van called “Hot Buns” that always parked in the same lay-by as a contrast to the world which Gwen and Jack inhabit.
This story works as a standalone; there are a few lines of dialogue that hark back to Miracle Day and the previous audios, but this shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment one little bit. Another worthy addition to the Torchwood range, a great big Welcome back! to Gwen and Rhys and a Big Hello Torchwood! from North Wales.
Definitely not one to forget. 9/10.

Survivors Series 3

As the mighty Tom Baker once boomed out “Britain, Britain, Britain” But what is Britain? Well apart from the obvious answer, to me Britain is a collection of many nations (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Manx); an alliance bound together by an act of Union. We are home to many different creeds, cultures and philosophies. We welcome with open arms those who are different as they will enrich our society and they in turn enrich us and with evolution and learning from each. But the fundamental building blocks of fairness, liberty and respect remain in place. This is the Britain I love and this is the Britain I inhabit. I am Welsh, I am a Welsh speaker, I love my nation, but I love the whole that it is a part of; co-existence, support, respect (ribbing over sport) all part of our national make up – and as part of the European Union our cultural, philosophical and economic boundaries have grown and been enriched further. My Britain.
There are some who see Britain in a different way – they see Britain as an isolated island nation, a place where foreigners are not welcome, where those that are just a little bit different are to be feared. The sort of person who would see the pandemic in Survivors not as a disaster but as an opportunity, the sort of person who previously had their worst excesses reined in by the rule of law. The sort of person that would kill those who are different just because they are different and enjoy it. A bully, a tyrant, a bigot, a fundamentalist. Survivors Series 3 is the story of just one of those sorts of people. Survivors Series 3 is the story of John Vincent.
John Vincent, or Vinnie to his friends is a thoroughly frightening creation. A fully rounded three dimensional believable character – his hate oozes out of the production.  His oily, supercilious exterior barely covering a bubbling rage. A truly hateful character and utter plaudits to Paul Thornley for bringing him to life. As far away from an arch panto villain as you can get – Thornley injects Vinnie with a visceral hate fuelled energy, a genuine belief that the pandemic was caused by foreigners.  His rag tag band of Fascists have labelled themselves “The British Government” and are intent on rebuilding Britain in Vinnie’s distorted image – no foreigners, no gays, no contact with the outside world – England for the English.
The box set is spread over four interlinked stories and makes a good jumping on point for new listeners, because in episode one, we go back to the beginning, back to the pandemic:
Cabin Fever by Jonathan Morris
This is Molly’s origin story. Molly from Series 2 returns again played by Fiona Sheehan – she is being cared for by Dalton (Andrew French) as she has come down with a fever, and recounts a tale to him of how she came to survive the Pandemic. Turns out Molly was on a cross channel ferry with her friend Janet (Miranda Raison) returning to England. But England is blockaded, under quarantine because of the plague, so is the rest of Europe and they are left adrift, floating in the channel, abandoned, as death takes hold. This is a real powder keg situation and a certain Vinnie sees it as an opportunity to take command.  He and his “lads” waste no time asserting their authority and as the situation worsens so Vinnie’s attitudes become more and more extreme, revealing the sort of person that he really is.
Molly it turns out is an unreliable narrator, and the story of the relationship she forms with Gloria (an unrecognisable Lisa Bowerman) is all the more horrific when the reality of the situation dawns on Dalton. Vinnie is a man who will not be crossed, will not be spoken back to and will not compromise. His character is established here – he could be just another right wing thug, but the writing and the characterisation raise him to a whole new level of evil.
Contact by Simon Clark
Remember Series 1? Remember Maddie Price (Chase Masterson) the American Attorney trapped in the UK? Well she is back, and she has a plan. Maddie is holed up in the Post Office Tower with communications expert Jonathon (James Joyce), she is the voice of London Calling – reaching out to the world on shortwave radio to try to build an international community. But she is attracting attention. Abby Grant (Carolyn Seymour) and Daniel Connor (John Banks) have worked out where she is and are heading to the tower to ask can they use the Radio to ask for help in finding Abby’s son. Others have also picked up the voice of London Calling – a certain group calling themselves “The British Government”, a group led by one John Vincent, an if there is one thing Vinnie does not want is foreigners being called in to Britain. After all in his twisted mind foreigners caused the pandemic so why invite them in. By subterfuge Vinnie works out where the broadcasts are coming from and his group set so ff to the tower to stop them. What a tense episode, the verbal sparring and pretence of Vinnie that he is respectful when he meets Abby – he is an intelligent man, he wants Abby with her cultured English voice to be the voice of the British Government – Abby stands her ground which leads to…. well that would be telling.
A very tense episode, you can just feel the disaster coming, my heart was in my mouth as I inevitably waited for Vinnie to play his hand.
Rescue by Andrew Smith
Jimmy Garland is a bit of a hero, and an excellent character, played by Richard Heffer – he is the perfect anti-Vinnie. Cultured, well spoken, intelligent and British in the best sense of the word. He is also an ex-army officer and knows a thing or two about guns and explosives. Jimmy is the sort of man that instils loyalty, not through fear but through respect – something Vinnie will never have – and what better man to lead a rescue mission to the Post Office Tower. This is a real edge of seat episode showing all the best and worst in human nature. In fact this is a theme of Survivors – the triumph of hope over fear, of cooperation over isolation and it is no better personified than in Jimmy and Vinnie.
There are some very upsetting scenes during this episode, and some of the language is unpalatable at best – but these are the sort of people we are dealing with and Andrew Smith pulls no punches in his depiction of unfettered Fascism in its purest form – disturbing and humbling.
Leaving by Matt Fitton
A rumour of a ship leaving for America is enough to get Maddie Price ready for the journey. As our heroes head for Plymouth to meet up with the Captain of “Mayflower 3” – a voyage is planned to the USA, Maddie and Daniel have passage guaranteed board the Mayflower 3 – but Vinnie and the British Government have different ideas – they want to “protect our borders” whatever the cost. A chilling and heart pounding conclusion as the forces of progress and regress have their final confrontation. Sacrifices for the good of all are made, and Survivors will never be the same again…
What an exceptional set. Exceptional. I found Vinnie abhorrent, but superbly acted, he stole the show – no scenery chewing or panto just a violent thug with no-one left to tell him no – where his world view is the world view.
The stories are moving, but they are hard going – no soft soak, this is a brutal world and even the “good guys” who are trying to maintain a form of civilisation have to do some pretty extreme things – difference is they do these things because they have to not because they want to. It is a story of hope versus fear, I vote for hope every time, but hope has a price, and a very high one at that. If I lived in the world of Survivors, I don’t think I would have lasted long – I am an idealist and this is a world where your ideals can lead to your swift demise.
Brilliantly written, utterly compellingly acted and directed, to say I enjoyed it is not quite right, but boy did I appreciate it.
An unreserved 10/10.