Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: Wizard of Oz

Big Finish’s adaptation of the Wizard of Oz harkens goes back to L. Frank Baum’s original novel. Dorothy (Ally Doman) is thrown into Oz along with her dog Toto where she kills the Wicked Witch of the East when her house lands on the witch.

The adaptation is faithful to the novel and its darker tone rather than the more universally known 1939 film version. People who have only seen the film will be surprised by Dorothy getting the Wicked Witch of the East’s Silver Slippers, and even more shocked by the grisly tale of how the tin woodsman was changed from a normal woodsman to his tin form.

That’s not to say that the story is oppressively dark or over-accentuates these elements. It only does enough to convey what was in the original. The story moves at a good pace from one fantastical scene and setting to another, and the characters develop throughout. The score is nice, doing a good job setting the tone without overwhelming the story.

While Big Finish is a British company, the accents were very good for the most part. Canadian Actor Stuart Milligan was good as the Wizard and the narrator throughout the rest of the story. They did decide to make the lead flying monkey a British “Jobsworth” character, but I actually enjoyed it.
Overall, this an enjoyable take on a classic story.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Red Panda Adventure, Season 4

The Fourth Season of the Red Panda Adventures moves forward from the finale of Season Three. The Red Panda (Gregg Taylor) and his sidekick/driver the Flying Squirrel/Kit Baxter (Clarissa Der Nederlanden Taylor) finally admit their feelings for each other.

The series dealt with it well. I liked that the characters moved immediately from hero/sidekick to engaged rather than giving us an extra season or two of romantic tension. Given how much they ‘ve been through and how much they know each other already, it makes sense to get on with it. The series tone remains light and fun but acknowledges the challenges they face in this transition of their relationship.

The stories remain fun, with a lot of great action and adventure. The influence of pulp magazines, old time radio shows, and comics is clear. The influence of Batman: The Animated series can be seen in the episode, “Trial by Terror” where the Red Panda is held and tried by the criminals he ‘s put in prison. However, despite the obvious inspirations, Taylor manages to put his own unique spin on the story and on each story in the season.

Some of my favorite episodes from Season 4 included, “Murder in the Castle”  in which impossible murders are committed at a castle. It had a strong Shadowesque feel. “The Boy in Blue” was good as one of the Red Panda’s most trusted operatives appears to have gone bad, and it’s interesting to see how he responds. “Jungle of Terror” finds the Red Panda and Kit flying to South America to respond to a call for help from one of the Red Panda’s allies and  ends up in an adventure involving monsters and a trip to another dimension. The season finale, “Operation Cold Feet” finds a villain planning to strike as the wedding day approaches. Kit’s not sure about the planned month-long honeymoon and there have been sightings of the Red Panda and Flying Squirrel that Kit knows nothing about. It’s a good story with a nice payoff, including the reveal of the Red Panda’s true name, a twist spoiled by Wikipedia. Thanks, Internet.

Beyond that, the series’ ongoing plotlines continued to recur and involved supernatural incursions and fascist plans to gain a foothold in the City. The series has a good way of handling them. If you’d never heard these stories before, you won’t get lost listening to them. If you’ve been listening since the start, you’ll have a sense this is all heading somewhere big as the scale of these stories escalates from season to season.

If I had one nitpick, it’s that there’s two different stories in Season 4 that have our heroes teaming up with a mad, evil supervillain to stop another  mad, evil supervillain. That’s a bit much for the number of episodes, but that’s also pretty minor, all things considered.

Overall, this is a solid season that manages to build upon the foundation of previous seasons, have fun, and not get lost in its own continuity.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

The Red Panda Adventures Season 4 is available for download for free.

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Audio Drama Review: Night of the Triffids

In Night of the Triffids from Big Finish productions, the survivors’ great advantage against the Triffids appears to be thrown in jeopardy by the coming of a worldwide darkness. David Masen, the son of the protagonist in Day of the Triffids leaves the Isle of Wight by airplane to investigate.

The Production has some commendable elements. The cast is strong, particularly Sam Troughton and Nicola Bryant. The effects do a good job of bringing the Triffids to life. The sound design helps create tense scenes, particularly the part with David and Marmi swimming and battling Triffids who have evolved to survive underwater.

The writing is the challenge.  Night of the Triffids is a good adaptation of a so-so book. The story has some interesting ideas such as finding out how the United States fared in the catastrophic blindness, the encroachment of the Triffids, and the aftermath. Yet, the story’s inciting incident fades from importance and resolves itself in the last two minutes. At the same time, the story asks us to follow a lot of wild and improbable plot twists. Most notably is the attempt to take a character from the original book and turn him into the prime villain of this story when this story is set mostly in America. They have to explain how the character survived probable death, got across the ocean in a post-apocalyptic future, and rose to be a major leader.

This is not horrible, but it isn’t a worthy successor for the original.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Day of The Triffids


Day of the Triffids is a 1968 Radio Dramatization of John Wyndham’s classic British Sci-Fi novel by the same name.

The programs begins as believably as possible in explaining of how Earth came to have giant, walking, aggressive plants. It begins with the Soviets developing the Triffids to gain a competitive advantage in food production over the West. Due to a bit of espionage and misadventure, the Triffid seeds being spread across the globe.

The good news is the Triffids can be controlled and managed. Humanity has one advantage over them: Humans can see. Unfortunately, an astronomical event is seen across the Earth and the media urges every person to stare up at it. This stupidity leads to almost the entire human race going blind.

The hero of the story Bill Masen (Gary Watson)  worked in Triffid management and knows their dangers. Due to an accident, he’d ended up in the hospital with bandages over his eyes,making him one of the few people who still have eyesight. He’s left to navigate the perils of a post-apocalyptic world.

While the inciting event is a bit silly, the action that takes place after that makes for a compelling drama of what might happen if society in England collapsed due to a sudden cataclysm. Some interesting ideas are explored as plague and disease grips the country. Society crumbles and is unable to cope. Some loot existing stores and try to live off them while others try to figure out how to rediscover old ways of doing things that don’t require technology. Others sees the collapse as a reason to change social mores to suit various goals. Some folks band together to start a fascist state.

The soundscape is about average for the era, with enough sound effects used to aide the listener’s imagination. The cast turns in believable performances with the main cast being pretty likale.

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about Day of the Triffids is that the titular creatures are far from the greatest peril that Bill Masen and friends face. Though certainly the Triffids are menacing when they appear.

However, after disease, bandits, well-intentioned people who do things that make things worse, and the self-appointed military, the Triffids barely make the top five of the most perilous challenges that the survivors face.

Terry Nation did this story practically beat for beat in his 1970s TV series Survivors which was essentially Day of the Triffids without the Triffids. In Survivors, humanity was decimated by a plague and it worked as well if not better. So how much the Triffids contribute to the story is open to debate.

Overall, though, this is a sold 1960s adaptation of a Science Fiction classic that holds up fairly well for the most part.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: Christmas Eve 1914

The story of the Christmas truce in 1914 during World War I is an emotionally powerful and resonant event to anyone who hears about it. I’ve seen and/or heard several dramatic presentations of it. The Audible Originals audio drama Christmas Eve 1914 is the best dramatization of the event I’ve experienced.

The production focuses on a group of young lieutenants in a company whose captain has died. They’ve rotated in on Christmas Eve and expect a quiet night, but get word from the Colonel at HQ that a German attack is expected and they need to prepare. At the same time, a fresh young Sub-Lieutenant, who lied about his age to get into the Army, joins them on the front lines.

The play is well-written. Christmas Eve 1914 takes listeners in the thick of conflict and immerses us in the war-weary world of these young officers. The play focuses on the horrors of war and the way they relate to the war and each other for most of the run-time. The truce only comes into play in the last twenty minutes. As a result, we feel the bittersweet impact of the event, knowing, in a day, our heroes will return to the nightmares of war.

The acting is solid. Almost every character is well-characterized, and the best drama comes from hearing them interact and play off each other.

The sound design and music are superb, doing a great job creating a realistic feel and atmosphere. The sound design and music never overwhelm the listeners or the story.

The Colonel was written as a stereotypical clueless and hypocritical senior officer who was gung ho about putting other people in danger. The Colonel’s best skills is not-too-subtly trying to play the lieutenants’ ambition to become the next captain against one another. Thankfully, while important, the Colonel’s part is relatively small.

Overall, Christmas Eve 1914 is a great Christmas Story, a great drama, and a great example of how good modern Audio Drama can be.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Christmas 1914 is available as one of the free Audible orignal selections for Audible subscribes during the month of December.

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