Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: The Wisdom of Father Brown, Volume 1

Colonial Radio Theatre has begun release of its second series of G.K. Chesterton’s legendary crime-solving priest, Father Brown. This latest series of sets will focus on the second book, The Wisdom of Father Brown.

First up is “The Perishing of the Pendragons,” a story featuring Father Brown, Flamebeau, and a friend encountering one of the last surviving members of a supposedly cursed sea-fearing family living on a remote island. There’s a lot of backstory until the mystery gets going but its to Father Brown’s credit that he sees the plot at all.

“The Head of Caesar”-Father Brown stumbles on a proper young lady in a quite improper place fleeing from a blackmailer who has threatened to expose her theft from the family coin collection. It’s an interesting tale with a good solution that includes a thoughtful exploration of the difference between collectors and misers or the lack thereof.

“The Absence of Mister Glass”-Father Brown goes to a super sleuth for help in investigating a young woman’s boyfriend. They find the boyfriend tied up and our super detective has to figure out what happened. He has a brilliant solution—but is it the right one? This is one of the funniest Father Brown stories and Colonial does a superb job performing it.

“Paradise of Thieves” finds Father Brown in Italy in a swirl of intrigue.over tourists and the re-emergence of a romantic bandit. In my opinion, this is one of Chesterton’s weakest stories because he gets so carried away making his points that he gives us a confusing plot where the actions of the villain are puzzling to say the least. Still, Colonial does the best they can with it and manages to capture the best the story had to offer in its atmosphere and a little bit of humor.

Overall thoughts: While all the Father Brown books have their charms, I have to admit The Wisdom of Father Brown is the book I enjoyed least. There were so many stories where mysteries were buried or hard to follow in that particular collection.

Colonial deserves credit for a collection that makes these stories accessible. G.K. Chesterton had a fantastic way with words. One of the best things about the way writer MJ Elliott does in adapting these stories.is to take Chesterton’s beautiful descriptions and commentaries and turn them into dialogue which allows the listener to enjoy the richness of it.

The direction and music are all at Colonial’s usual strong standards, and the acting is mostly very good, although there were a couple of accents that could have been done a bit better.

Still, this is a worthy and welcomed production for fans of Father Brown and the works of G.K. Chesterton.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Disclosure; I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Audio Drama Review: All Consuming Fire


Despite both series being produced by Stephen Moffat, BBC’s hit shows Sherlock and Doctor Who are unlikely to crossover despite the desire of many fans to see such an event. However, with its adaptation of Andy Lane’s novel All Consuming Fire, Big Finish gives listeners a chance to hear a meeting of the two great heroes with Sylvester McCoy reprising his role as the Seventh Doctor and Nicholas Briggs taking on the role of Holmes (one he has played quite well in Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes range.)Books stolen from a church library set Sherlock Holmes on a collision course with the Doctor. We’re given a very intriguing concept involving spooky ancient spirits, and a planned human invasion of alien worlds from Victorian England.

The plot is fun, if a bit dense, which often happens when novel plots are heavily condensed. The key to enjoying this is to properly set expectations. This is definitely a Doctor Who story guest-starring Sherlock Holmes as opposed to a story where the two are equals. Things really go beyond Holmes’ experience in the last two parts, although he does a relatively good job of rolling with the punches.

While the actors are the same as for Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the characterization is different both because the novel was written independent of other Holmes pastiches and the story was set prior to the seminal events of the the last two Sherlock Holmes box sets and therefore the characters are younger.

Still, this story is quite enjoyable. There’s a great mix of suspense, mystery, and atmospheric moments, as well as some comedic ones such as Holmes’ response to the Doctor’s compliment at the end of the story. And there are enjoyable interactions between the Seventh Doctor’s companion Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) and Dr. Watson (Richard Earl).

One complaint is the role of the Doctor’s other companion Ace (Sophia Allred). She only plays a part in Episode 4 in helping the Doctor and a friend stay alive on an alien planet but makes cameos in the prior episodes to remind us that she is eventually in this story. It’s an odd use of a popular companion and the cut scenes throughout the other episodes are a bit jarring.

Still, despite some minor production errors, this was a satisfying and entertaining audio drama that delivers a fun story worthy of these iconic characters.

Rating: 4.0 stars out of 5.0

 

 

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Audio Drama Review: The Judgment of Sherlock Holmes


The box set begins with Holmes visiting Watson in the early 1920s on urgent business that involves setting down a key adventure that occurred after the events of the Final Problem when Dr. Watson believed his old friend was dead. However, the Society believes Holmes is alive and wants to find him. To do it, they’ll threaten everything Watson holds dear. Watson faces this threat in London while, unbeknownst to him, Holmes is on their trail in Tibet.

This is a rich story spread out over more than four hours. The music and sound design by Jamie Robertson is some of the finest work Big Finish has done, and it makes the story come to life.

The script is meaty. The production successfully mixes mystery, political intrigue, and great character moments in a constantly entertaining story. Watson is pressed to his limit, into taking actions he would not normally countenance. Holmes ends up facing choices that haunt him (and perhaps the world) decades later. We’re also given insight into Holmes’ family and background.

I appreciated the way the villains were drawn. We’re inundated with fictional villainous organizations bent on world conquest that introducing such a group is not in itself remarkable. Barnes does a great job of casting the Society as a fanatical, apocalyptic cult without going over the top. There’s a certain realism to them that makes their fanaticism frightening.

Nicholas Briggs makes a superb Holmes, and nicely manages to distinguish his Holmes from 1892 from that thirty years later. Richard Earl gives one of the best interpretations of Watson I’ve heard and really does well in a story that requires him to carry far more action than is typical for Watson. They’re supported by an absolutely superb supporting cast who don’t miss a beat.

My only criticism is, after the Society’s Plan is dealt with, we’re treated to more than twenty minutes of decompression and clean up and much of that is still in the 1890s. In addition, the fate of Mary Watson was so central to this story but is dealt with in a bit of an anti-climatic way.

Despite these minor issues, the Judgement of Sherlock Holmes is a thoroughly entertaining and well-produced audio drama that shines some light on Holmes’ lost years with a cracking adventure as well as, perhaps, setting the stage for adventures to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes

To call The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes ambitious would be an understatement. It’s a collection of four-hour-long, original audio dramas from the life of Sherlock Holmes that spans nearly forty years, has an underlying plot that ties together through the set, yet each story holds up fairly well on its own.

The stories are an interesting mix. The lead off tale is set before Holmes and Watson met and has Holmes having his first meeting with Lestrade in England, while Watson is kidnapped from his unit to care for a dying Englishman in Afghanistan.

The second story is set shortly after Holmes’ return from being presumed dead and after the Adventure of Empty House and a series of great successes which leads to arrogance and a failure that leads to a well-deserved dressing down. The third part tells the reason why Holmes retired so young from Detective work. The final story is set after World War I and finds Holmes and Watson on their way to Europe to apprehend an old enemy only to discover the mastermind behind the entire affair.

The stories are well-written both individually and as a collection. It really hangs together quite well. The acting by the leads is superb as Briggs and Earl really inhabit the roles. The set manages to highlight the warmth and strength of the Holmes-Watson friendship that has survived so much. This combination is a really a pleasure to listen, particularly with stories as strong as these. The music and sound design are also up to the high standards Big Finish has established on all its releases.

Overall, The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes is a great box set that offers fans of Sherlock Holmes fresh stories that feel true to the spirit of Sherlock Holmes.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Audio Drama Review: Return of the Jedi (the Original Radio Drama)


As the movie-viewing public awaits the seventh Star Wars film in December, we’ve been taking taking a look at the radio dramatizations. See my reviews of Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back

While Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back were dramatized within four years of their release date, it took twelve years for Return of the Jedi to be made due to behind-the-scenes drama. It didn’t come until 1996 and was produced by Highbridge Audio.

Compared to Star Wars, this radio adaptation did a far better job in taking the visual excitement of the source material and turning it into good audiodrama that painted pictures for the audience. The story was expanded in a few cases but generally remained faithful to the original story. They do a great job painting audio “pictures” of scenes like the madness of Jabba’s lair and Luke’s post-victory vision. The sound design is simply marvelous as is the direction with narration used naturally most of the time.

Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, the roles of Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian had to be recast with Joshua Fardon as Luke and Arye Gross as Lando. Fardon does a superb job as Luke. His voice is similar to Hamill’s and his acting is equally good, perhaps better in a few places. Gross is less satisfactory as Lando, though acceptable. Ed Asner plays Jabba the Hutt and does as good a job as the film.

The rest of the returning cast of major players turn in wonderful performances with Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Brock Peters as Vader, Ann Sachs as Leia, and Perry King as Hans Solo. John Lithgow is far better as Yoda in Return of the Jedi than he was in Empire Strikes Back. 

Return of the Jedi works as the final act of this trilogy as the conclusion of our journey. In the first two  films  and the first half of this one, we see the characters struggle. Timidity, greed, fear, selfishness, treachery, and arrogance are things the characters  exhibited during the course of this trilogy. Yet, the end of Return of the Jedi, you see them at their very best in a glorious ending. The final episode of the Radio Drama captures the joy, exhilaration, and redemption of the end of one of the greatest science fiction sagas ever.

This is a tremendous adaptation with solid acting, superb sound design, and the brilliant music of John Williams.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.00

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