Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 8

The eighth volume of Twilight Zone radio dramas features six more stories adapted from the classic TV series.

“The Long Morrow” is about an astronaut who is chosen for a long-term deep-space mission because he has no attachments to anyone on Earth. Right before he’s scheduled to leave, he goes on a date, meets a woman, and falls deeply in love with her. He’s to go into a stasis capsule and not age during the whole voyage. There’s a lot I like about this story. The romance and character stuff is engaging, but they also explore some interesting sci-fi concepts that a lot of the “going into stasis until you arrive on a new planet” stories kind of ignore. It’s an all-around solid listen.

“The 7th is Made of Phantoms” is about an Army National Guard Unit in the 1960s that’s on maneuvers and finds itself interacting with the Battle of Little Big Horn. This is one of those stories that I just don’t get the point, the moral, or the lesson. There’s no explanation or hint of one, so it’s a very unsatisfying story.

“Mirror Image” is a really unsettling tale where a woman with an apparently poor memory at a bus station comes to believe she has a doppelganger who is trying to take her place. There’s little atmosphere or real explanation of what’s going on, but it really builds tension and atmosphere to make it a worthwhile listen.

“A Thing About Machines:” A man who lives alone seems to be constantly at war with his machines and for his machines, the feeling appears to be mutual. This one doesn’t work for me because the machines only go so far, and since we’re not dealing with like a computer or artificial intelligence, it’s just a bit silly.

“The Last Night of Jockey”-A disgraced jockey gets one wish and wants to make himself a big man. This is an interesting story and it works as a morality tale. It’s an interesting theme that the Twilight Zone examines where a protagonist thinks they need just one break in order to escape their failed lives, they get a break, and ultimately they prove that fundamentally their own character flaws led to their downfall.

“The Fever”-A tightwad (Stacy Keach) is afraid his long-suffering wife will get hooked into out-of-control gambling when they win a free trip to Vegas. So, of course, it happens to the husband instead. This has been a pretty common plot, though this has a supernatural twist. The success of the production ultimately comes down to Keach’s performance.

The stories in this set are fine, but I’d only say “The Long Morrow” and “Mirror Image” are very strong pieces. This is one collection where it may make sense to go on audible or the Itunes store and purchase your favorite episode as a standalone, because the quality in this set is a bit mixed.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 6

The Sixth Volume of Twilight Zone radio dramas features six radio dramas that recreate classic episodes.

The Dummy: Bruno Kirby plays a ventriloquist who believes his dummy is alive. Trouble starts when he decides to replace his dummy with a new one.  Ventriloquist dummies are great in creepy stories, and I think they work particularly well over audio.

No Time Like the Past: Jason Alexander stars as a scientist who tries to change history three times to make a better world before giving up and deciding to go and live in history, where he falls in love with a woman who is fated to die. Some of the emotional beats in this story work, but the logic of both the scientist and the story are a bit strained. His attempts to change history were haphazard at best and doomed to failure due to his lack of planning. A theme of this episode is that history can’t be changed, but the overall point can be taken as, “History definitely can’t be changed if you don’t actually think through your plan.”

Still Valley: Adam West plays a Confederate sergeant who is given a chance to win the war through witchcraft. I do love Adam West, and he puts in a very good performance, and the story goes in a direction I didn’t expect. There’s some great atmosphere and nice music. This is a really easy listen.

King Nine Will Not Return: The story focuses on the pilot (Adam Baldwin) of a crashed bomber searching for his crew in the dessert.  The story itself is pretty good, with a nice twist, and a bit of unexplained spookiness at the end. But what makes this a standout is Adam Baldwin’s performance. This is his second Twilight Zone and once again, he’s got nearly all the lines and his performance is superb. These two plays convince me that Baldwin’s talents are underrated. If radio/audio were as huge in America as it used to be, Baldwin would be the guy I’d want to listen to all the time.

I Am the Night Color Me Black: A man (John Ratzenberger) is about to be executed for killing an abusive racist when strange things begin to happen. This one was definitely a very moody, suspenseful, and surrealistic play. It’s definitely a different role for Ratzenberger, who is best known for his work in comedies like the TV show Cheers. It’s well worth listening to.

The Incredible World of Horace Ford: A toymaker (Mike Starr) is literally transformed back into a kid when he visits his old neighborhood. This isn’t a bad story. It deals with the idea of the dangers of living an idealized past, and the importance of living your life in the present. It’s a recurring theme in the The Twilight Zone. But that also means its a story they’ve done in more interesting ways. In particular, I think of, “Walking Distance.” (Done on Audio in Volume 5.) This feels like a slightly inferior exploration of the same theme and a little too on the nose.

Overall, this is a pretty strong set. While the stories aren’t perfect, these feature a couple of my favorite stories so far, and everything else is fine.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations, Volume 4: Steed and Mrs. Peel

The 1960s Avengers return in a series of four 50+ minute audio dramas. The dramas are based on comic strips written in the 1960s about the adventures of John Steed (Julian Wadham) and Emma Peel (Olivia Poulet.) These are based on the TV series starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg and are released by Big Finish Productions.

In “Listen Hear,” Steed is spiriting Emma away on his uncle’s boat to retrieve a mysterious invention the government can’t let fall into the hands of the other side. It was lost at sea along with one of the top British agents. Two foreign agents are also after the mysterious device, and both groups soon figure out someone else is trying to get it, too.

This story had just enough mystery, and a great deal of whimsical humor that fits  into this era of the TV show.

In “The Clown Has Two Faces,” top secret plans have been stolen from a scientist who only mentions the word “clowns,” which sends Steed and Mrs. Peel on separate trails. Both land at a sinister circus that’s been part of a foreign government’s plot to acquire the plans.

This episode does feel like one of the color Steed and Peel TV episodes. It’s got some fun characters, a nice chase, and good atmosphere. It works for a solid fifty minutes of entertainment. It just lacks the extra something special or memorable to take it from being a good story to a great one.

In “White Heat,” Steed and Peel have to find and stop a mad scientist who blew up a top British Agent and is threatening to unleash a giant fireball on London if not paid a big ransom.

In many ways, this is a standard (almost generic) Avengers plot. However, the key to this story and what makes it so good is the style and the charm. The way the villain is played is perfect, we get plenty of laughs without it becoming ridiculous or over the top. There’s some superb one liners here that led to repeated fits of laughter while I was listening to it.

This simply delightful and of the best stories in this range.

In “Now You See Him,” an investigation of scientists who disappeared mysteriously, seemingly into thin air, ends up setting Steed and Peel on the trail of a sinister magician.

This one moves a great pace with funny moments. The villain works great within the context of the Avengers. The ending sets up the sequel and is a bit hard to swallow. Still, this is a fairly good story to round out the box set.

Overall, I had a lot of fun listening to this set. It feels authentic to the era, without being overly derivative. If you loved the 1960s Avengers TV show or outrageous 1960s spy adventures, this is definitely worth a try.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

The set is currently available as a download or CD at Big Finish  

Audio Drama Review: The Red Panda Adventures, Season 7

At the end of Season Six, during World War II, the entire Canadian Home Team of superhuman allied soldiers was wiped out. The Red Panda (Gregg Taylor), in the guise of August Fenwick, had his plane explode while heading to Europe.

The first half of Season Seven picks up where Season Six left off with The Flying Squirrel (Clarissa Der Nederlanden) having to pick up the pieces. Missing her husband and crime-fighting partner,  Kit Baxter-Fenwick has to keep the city safe while expecting the birth of her first child.  It’s decided that neither the fifth columnist or the criminal element in Toronto should know of the Panda’s apparent demise so the android John Doe (Christopher Mott) pretends to be the Red Panda. Kit has to mentor John and also help him as he tries to move on from the death of his wife.

This first half of the season works really well. While Season Six tried to develop Kit/The Flying Squirrel, those attempts came off as a bit artificial. In Season Seven, we get some really good character development, as well as a nice mix of solid adventures that we’ve come to expect.

**spoilers warning**

In the second half of the season, we learn the Red Panda survived and we pick up his story with him imprisoned in a POW camp. However, before his capture, the Red Panda (I believe) used his mental powers to segment all he knew of being the Red Panda from August Fenwick so he could not be coerced into revealing information. Fenwick meets up with former Red Panda Operative now Army Captain Andy Parker and his commando unit. He teams up with Parker, and is able to get them out of prison using Red Panda powers and abilities while denying being the Red Panda. They then make their away across Europe to the season’s denouement where the two halves of the season tie together.

There were things about the second half of the season I enjoyed, like the reappearance of a character who was presumed dead, and I think the last episode is good. However, what happened  with the Red Panda/August Fenwick is convoluted and I’m not sure I understand it right. The plot also got repetitive with the denials of him being the Red Panda and members of Parker’s Rangers thinking he was.  It felt a bit padded at six episodes. The arc would have been better if it’d been only three episodes long.

Overall, this is a still a solid season, owing to the strong first half, but it’s the weakest of the seven seasons I’ve listened to so far.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

You can listen to Season 7 of The Red Panda Adventures here.

Audio Drama Review: The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 7

The seventh volume of the Twilight Zone Audio Dramas adapts six more stories as audio dramas:

“Hocus-Pocus and Frisby” is the story of a small-town braggart and teller of tall tales who garners the attention of aliens from outer space who think his whoppers are true. This is a fun story, with a nice dish of the absurd.

“Cavendar is Coming:” An angel with a problematic track record is given one last chance if he can help an awkward young woman. This is just bad. The premise is stupid (and depressing), the story is nonsensical and the dialogue is unimaginative. The TV version had the benefit of featuring a young Carol Burnett as the young woman Cavendar “helps.” The TV episode was released in 1962 and was a backdoor pilot for an unrelated series. It does not hold up.

“The Little People:” Two members of a spaceship crew land on a planet that’s seemingly uninhabited and work on repairing their ship. However, one of them sneaks away and discovers there is life: tiny people with their own society, who he decides to oppress by pretending to be their god. This is a somewhat typical Twilight Zone story, with some nice details and even a computer that plays a role, as well as a solid twist.

“One More Pallbearer:” A wealthy man invites three people over for dinner who he blames for embarrassments earlier in his life. He has a scheme to make all of them apologize and beg him for shelter. This is  the best story in the release. While actor Chelcie Ross isn’t a household name, he’s great in the lead and manages to embody the pettiness and the damaged mind of the wealthy man. The story has not only a twist ending, but a double twist.

“The Big Tall Wish:” A washed-up boxer boards with a single mom and is beloved by her son. He decides to make a comeback and a hopeful boy makes a wish, the biggest wish (a big tall wish) but will it be enough for the boxer to win. This is a simple, wistful tale, with a downbeat conclusion.

“The Living Doll:” A tyrant of a father is infuriated that his wife spent money to buy his stepdaughter a doll at the department store. The father doesn’t like the Talking Tina doll and is shocked when Tina lets him know the feeling is mutual. He hears the doll speaking, but only when no one else is around. Probably of all the stories I’ve listened to in the first seven volumes, this is the one that fits most easily into the horror genre, though it’s definitely a more psychological horror.

Overall, this box set is a mixed set. “One More Pallbearer” and “The Living Doll” are superb, “Cavendar is Coming” is awful. The other three are between okay to good.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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