Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: Too Many Have Lived

In “Too Many Have Lived,” the Hollywood Theater of the Air presents a half hour Black Mask Audio Magazine dramatization of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade short story of the same title.

Sam Spade is hired to find a missing poet by a man who would very much like to marry the man’s wife. When the poet turns up missing, there are plenty of suspects around.

“Too Many Have Lived,” is a fine classic hard-boiled story. It’s no “Maltese Falcon,” but the Theater of the Era does a great job capturing the mood and it’s very well-acted and narrated with a decent amount of sound design. The story has a solidly clever solution that’s worthy of Hammett.

It also serves as a nice sampler for Hollywood Theater of the Ear’s longer works, including a collection of Black Mask stories.

This story is available for free to Audible Members through Audible’s new “My Content” feature and it also can be purchased by non-members for less than $1.50

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: The Lost Episodes, Volume 3


Volume 3 of Big Finish’s Avengers: The Lost Episodes recreates four more lost episodes of Season 1 of the Avengers which featured John Steed (Julian Wadham) and Doctor David Keel (Anthony Howell).

The Springers: This story finds Keel undercover in prison as a notorious convict he hopes to impersonate. The story is a somewhat typical crime story but feels a bit more playful in places than some of the stories in the first box set. It’s a solid if unremarkable tale.

The Yellow Needle: An old friend of Keel’s is Prime Minister of an African nation about to declare its Independence from Great Britain. After an attempt on the Prime Minister’s life, Steed and Keel become involved in the case from several thousand miles away. The story reflects the process of breaking up the British Empire as former Colonies became Independent and the politics that often went into that. This gives it a definite historic value. Beyond that, it’s a taut and well-written political thriller.

Double Danger: Dr. Keel is kidnapped by desperate men who want him to treat a man they kidnapped so they can extract the secret of the location of stolen diamonds. This is set up like a traditional crime story but has a bit more going for it than many earlier stories. First of all, Keel’s adventures apparently have given him a bit of an edge of toughness as he’s far more calm than one would normally expect. There’s almost a hard-boiled aspect to some of the dialogue, and there’s more menace in the villains in this story than in many “thugs of the week” who have appeared before . The story moves at a fairly quick pace, and there’s a very effective use of humor with the old landlord.

The Toy Trap: This story takes a look at the seamier side of London life with a bit of a personal touch for Keel. Keel is to play chaperone to the wide-eyed innocent daughter of a friend, who has taken a job in London at a shop. They find one of her friends missing and that she’s been drawn off into a pornography racket exploiting naive young women. It’s a very well done crime story and it also introduces some genuine conflict between Steed and Keel. In the early going, Keel sharply disapproves when Steed starts doing his typical ladies man routine around his young charge, and then when Steed’s method for breaking the ring puts her jeopardy, Keel really lets Steed have it. Overall, this is probably my favorite episode in this series so far.

This collection contains some of the greatest Avengers Best Episodes Big Finish has produced and is my favorite of the four I’ve listened to.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: Steed and Mrs. Peel The Comic Strip Adaptations, Volume 1

Big Finish has so far adapted 20 of the 26 episodes from the lost season of the ITV hit The Avengers. Still, when people think of that classic British program, they think of the period with John Steed and Mrs. Peel that allowed the show to cross the pond to American Television.

In 1966 and ‘67, at the height of their popularity, several comic strip stories were written featuring the duo of Steed and Peel. Big Finish brings them to life in a new range with Julian Wadham playing Steed and Olivia Poulet offering her take on the iconic role of Mrs. Peel. Volume 1 of the Series offers four hour long stories.

Both the new actors are superb. I was familiar with Wadham from the more strait-laced “Lost Episodes,” but he does a good job playing the Steed of the Peel era with aplumb. Poulet offers a lively take on Mrs. Peel. Both succeed in making the rolls their own.

Here’s a breakdown of the episodes included in Volume 1 of the Comic Strip adaptations:

Return to Castle De’ath: A follow up on a T.V. episode, finds Steed and Peel returning to Castle De’ath to protect an insufferably arrogant prince who is key to British oil interests. This snappy script is littered with witty one-liners and the plot has outrageous twists. Only a few moments don’t quite translate to audio. But overall, a very good beginning for the series.

The Miser: A dangerous saboteur calling himself the Misers rocks Great Britain. Mrs. Peel and Steed go to work to find him before the nation’s leaders are forced to hand all of Great Britain’s wealth to him. Overall, this is fun, with a grain field that doubles as a minefield, impersonation, a wax works, and a notable villain, though the plot’s too predictable on the wind up.

The Golden Dresses: Several prominent officials have disappeared after their wives purchased fabulous dresses from a posh boutique. The story is well-told but a bit predictable. The villainess goes a bit too over the top even for the Avengers in the final minutes. Still, it’s a decent episode.

The Norse Code: Steed and Peel search for a missing colleague in Norfolk and find themselves having to thwart a Viking plot to destroy Great Britain. Overall, it’s a perfectly outlandish tale that’s clever and would have fit in with the 1960s show. There are many humorous parts, particularly the opening with Mrs. Peel learning conversational ancient Norse. (”Excuse me, my warship is on fire.”)

Overall, this set offers a fresh spin on two classic characters. While the adaptation from a strictly visual medium leads to a few uncertain moments, these are a few and far between. Fans of witty dramas will love this set.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Audio Drama Review: The Rivals (BBC)


For the average mystery fan, when it comes to Victorian detectives, one name stands out: Sherlock Holmes. Other than perhaps Father Brown, most will know of no great detectives who were published between the first appearance of Holmes and that of Hercules Poirot. Yet detectives proliferated on both sides of the Atlantic in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

BBC Radio 4’s series, “The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes,”  introduces us to a few of Sherlock Holmes’ contemporaries. The collection from the BBC contains all twelve episodes from three series of audio dramas. In the first series, Lestrade is relaying the incidents to a reporter who originally approached him for insight on Holmes. Instead, Lestrade gives her tales of these rivals. In the latter two, Lestrade is writing his memoirs. He’s essentially a Victorian Age Forest Gump of detecting, rubbing elbows with nine different detectives and sharing their adventures. Paul Beck, Max Carridos, and Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen make two appearances each.

Overall, fans of mystery fiction owe a debt of gratitude to the BBC of the series. Like a similarly themed Television series from the 1970s, it succeeds in bringing to life forgotten detectives and clever mysteries. The acting and production values are top notch, as you would expect with a recent BBC radio 4 series. The stories are (with one exception) true to their era with few embellishments. We get a great variety of detectives, including a fat gourmet detective in Eugene Valmont, a blind detective in Carrados, and a Columbo-esque gardener in Paul Beck, as well as three different lady sleuths, most notably Lady Violet Strange and Loveday Brooke.

On the negative side, the Series episode “Seven, Seven, Seven” added an adult plot element that wasn’t in the original story, was gratuitous, and untrue to a story of that era. In addition, Lestrade is written as having a huge chip on his shoulder about the prominence and fame of Sherlock Holmes. It seems like this series could have been made without making Lestrade into a man who is so bitter against Holmes and his portrayal in the Holmes story that he has to find every way he can to undercut Holmes.

Despite these flaws, this is a solid collection and will introduce fans to many interesting and long-forgotten detectives.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Avengers, The Lost Episodes, Volume 5

The fifth volume of lost episodes of the Avengers featuring John Steed (Julian Wadham) and Doctor Keel (Anthony Howell) offers four more adventures from that mostly lost first season of the 1960s classic.

In, “Nightmare,” a researcher who is one of Dr. Keel’s patients disappears and Keel impersonates him while a search is made to find the missing man. Keel finds himself the target of gangsters who want to make use of his patient’s research in psychological drugs. Overall, a pretty standard crime drama story that’s reproduced in a way that feels completely authentic to the era. I do wonder if the original screen version might have made the psychotropic drugs used feel more trippy which would have added to the period feel.

“The Girl on the Trapeeze” is a rare Steed-free episode as Dr. Keel appears to witness the suicide of a woman who he remembers from somewhere. A magazine picture leads him to a circus where a big secret is being hidden. It’s a nicely done mystery with some great moments between Keel and Carol.

“Crescent Moon” features Steed going to the Caribbean to investigate the kidnapping of the daughter of the late dictator of an island. It’s very well-done multi-layered story with a lot of great guest characters. At first, it appeared that, following the previous Steed-free story, we were going to have a story without Dr. Keel, but he ends up appearing in the second half of the episode and plays an interesting role in the denouement without ever leaving England. This has actually been my favorite lost episode so far.

Finally, “Diamond Cut Diamond” finds Steed going undercover as an Australian Airline steward to bust a diamond smuggling racket. It’s a solid and well-paced adventure even though it’s very similar to many earlier stories in the Avengers series. Okay, but not remarkable.

Overall, this collection is enjoyable and has a more solid sense of identity than many of the earlier sets partially because the original 1960s writers had a better sense of what they wanted the Avengers to be as well as the fact that Big Finish is very comfortable with these characters.

While there’s no “Making Of” extras on this CD, there’s a tribute to the late Patrick Macnee from the writers and cast. It adds a touch of class to an already very classy release.

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