Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 9

The ninth volume of Twilight Zone radio dramas features six more audio recreations of tales from the Classic TV series.

The set kicks off with “Time Enough at Last” where a bank teller who wants to do nothing but read and talk about what he’s read is persecuted by both his wife and his employer. It’s a classic story. The TV version is tragic and depressing and the expanded time for the audio drama manages to make it even moreso.

Next up is, “Will the Real Martian Stand Up?” There’s a report of a UFO, state troopers go out to investigate and find footprints leading to a diner. A bus has just arrived. The driver says he had six passengers, but there’s seven in the restaurant. Who’s the real Martian? This story is a nice science fiction mystery with a very clever twist at the end.

“The Trade-Ins” takes us to a world where the elderly can have their life renewed with a new body. An elderly couple wants to do this so they can have a fresh start on life. But they’ve only saved enough for one of them to get the treatment. The story has a few logical issues but still has some very sweet and surprising moments in it.

“A Passage for a Trumpet” features a trumpet player whose career has been ruined by his drinking. He’s ready to pack it in, selling his trumpet, and getting ready to leave town when he steps out in front of an oncoming truck. The story gets interesting when we find out what happens next. The story is heartfelt and earnest even its turns are a bit predictable.

“I Shot an Arrow Into the Air…” follows the crew of a downed spacecraft. One crew member sees this as a cutthroat survival experience. They have limited rations and the more of them there are, the less long those rations will last. So if fellow crew members die off, that’s longer for him to live. This one turns on a huge twist which changes everything for both the protagonist and the listener.

“The Brain Center at Whipples:” The owner of a factory (Stan Freberg) is bringing automation to spur on efficiency and eliminating jobs. This is a heavy-handed story about the anger and fear at the coming of automation. There’s a twist but you can see it coming a mile away. It does seem when Freberg did the Twilight Zone radio dramas, he tended to play roles that were much more caricatures than characters. Still, he does convey good emotion when the owner gets his expected comeuppance.

Overall, this was a pretty solid set. The stories were told well and adapted well (for the most) so the expanded running time the radio dramas offered was to put to good use. There were issues with a few of the stories but even the last (and least favorite) story wasn’t bad. All in all, a decent collection.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Audio Drama Review: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (BBC)

There have been multiple books as well as an American audio series from Jim French Productions released under the name, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This BBC version was a little late to the party airing between 2002 and 2010 on BBC Radio 4, but is certainly a memorable take.

The sixteen episodes (eapproximately 45 minutes in length) eac tell a Holmes story based on some reference in an original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. The last story, released in 2010 was a two-episode story that harkened to a previous Further Adventure.

Each of the stories is written by Bert Coules, who does a great job capturing the spirit and feel of Victorian times. Given their release date, there’s very little revisionism to suit modern fancies and tastes.

The soundscape is minimal but sufficient for capturing the Victorian era. The supporting actors are really superb, boasting a very solid professional cast. I’m no expert on British Television but Mark Gatiss, Siobhan Redmond, Stuart Milligan, and Tom Baker (Doctor Who actor who also played Sherlock Holmes) were all names I recognized. Even those I didn’t know gave compelling performances.

I will admit it took me a while to settle in on Clive Merrison’s Holmes. While he had appeared in adaptions of all the classic stories, I’d not listened to them. Still, I think he does do a good job with his own take on the character, which is  true to tradition and I’ll have to seek out more of his work.

Most of these stories are quite solid although I have my favorites. “The Savior of Cripplegate Square” is a great listen due to Tom Baker’s superb guest performance and the way Holmes as a young detective finding his way. I also quite enjoyed “The Abergavenny Murder”  is an unusual case because it mostly is Holmes and Watson (played by radio legend Andrew Sachs) trying to solve the death of a man who died at 221B Baker Street before the police arrive. Other than “the client” being heard briefly, the play is just Holmes and Watson and is a great opportunity to examine how they work together as well as a bit of their personal relationships.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the original Doyle stories and want to hear stories in a similar style performed by a top flight cast and crew, this product is a much listen.

Rating; 4.5 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Black Jack Justice, Season 8

Black Jack Justice eighth season was released monthly between September 2012 and March 2013, once again featuring Christopher as Jack and Andrea Lyons as Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective.

The series at this point was in a nice groove and the first four episodes reflect the typical episodic nature of the series up until this point. In “Jawbone of an Asp,” they find themselves drawn into the middle of an academic controversy.  In “Two is Too Many,” they end up trying to see if long-time underworld supporting character “Freddy the Finger” Hawthorne and his cousin have inherited a fortune. And in the best episode of the season, “The More Things Change,” the duo are hired by a woman who wants them to prove her fiancé to be virtuous.

The final two episodes are inter-related. “The Late Mr. Justice,” grabs the listener’s attention as Jack informs us that he’s about to die and explains how he got to this point. An old-time gangster Jack sent away has been released and is out for blood, having taken Jack’s girlfriend hostage. The gangster threatens to kill her if Jack doesn’t show up at an old abandoned theater. There’s some great noirish feel that leads to a solid finale.

The second episode has Trixie in an empty office wondering what happened to Jack after the events of the last story and whether he’ll be back. A boyfriend comes from a big agency with a clients…and with hopes of  becoming Trixie’s new partner if they uncover a missing will. A wealthy woman supposedly left it, cutting a repentant black sheep in for part of her estate. This was a good story that Trixie managed to carry quite well but I had a couple problems with it. Innuendos which Trixie used occasionally in most episodes were way overused as if writer Gregg Taylor was leaning into them a bit much.  In addition, this is the second story in six episodes involving a will. But other than that, it was a pretty good finale with a nice revelation to wrap up Black Jack Justice’s Eighth Season.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Black Jack Justice Season 8 can be downloaded for free at Decoder Ring Theatre.

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