Category: Audio Drama Review

Audio Drama Review: Avengers, The Lost Episodes, Volume 7


Big Finish concludes its four-year promise of adapting all the episodes from the mostly lost first season of the Avengers starring Anthony Howell as Dr. David Keel and Julian Wadham as John Steed. There are three stories in this final release, but only one features both protagonists.

Dragonsfield is a superb Cold War story that finds Steed on his own and investigating espionage at a British lab. The lab is trying to create a top-of-the line space suit in order to sell it to the Americans. This story is a delightfully done mystery with plenty of suspects and manages to keep you guessing. We do see Steed using some enhanced interrogation methods on one spy, but other than that this is a very well-done story featuring Steed alone.

In the Far Distant Dead, on his way home from a South American holiday, Dr. Keel stops to provide medical relief in the wake of a cyclone. In the process, he encounters a fisherman with food poisoning and discovers the source–a can of hydraulic fluid mis-labeled as olive oil.

Keel sets out to get to the bottom of the deliberate act meant to save on custom fees. Following on the heels of a solo episode for Steed, this solo episode for Keel balances things out and we get a story that centers on Keel as a physician and where the mystery is driven by Keel’s compassion and righteous anger. Dr. Sandoval is an interesting supporting character. Is her outrage real or is she in on the conspiracy?

The story does suffer from a villain who is over-the-top. The way he says “Kill him!” is hilarious but I don’t know if that goes well with the tone of the story.

Finally, in The Deadly Air, Steed and Keel investigate sabotage at a laboratory trying to discover a vaccine. This story suffers from being in the same box set as Dragonsfield which is a much better story, rendering The Deadly Air a repetitive episode.

The story is okay, but it pales in comparison to Dragonsfield which has more suspense and more interesting characters. This adventure by comparison is an average story with a few good moments.

Overall, this is a good set in what’s been a good series. The Lost Episodes has filled a big hole in the history of one the 1960s most beloved and iconic programs with superb acting, good writing, and a dedication to authenticity.

Overall rating for this box set: 3.75 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations, Volume 2

The second and final volume of Big Finish’s Avengers Comic Strip adaptations offers four more hour long adventures featuring Julia Wadham and Olivia Poulet playing the iconic roles of of John Steed and Emma Peel.

The set begins with “Playtime is Over” in which Steed and Peel investigate a series of daring robberies apparently committed by children. When a man who has offered them a lead is murdered by a toy boat, that sets them onto a toy factory run by an eccentric man who never quite grew up.

This takes the offbeat nature of the Avengers and ups the zaniness to the level of a 1960s Batman TV episode. It’s incredible fun, if a bit predictable at times.

In “The Antongoniser,” after several strange deaths, Steed and Mrs. Peel are put on the case and discover the cause of death is animals gone bad. This is an entertaining program, with some fun moments, but it doesn’t measure up to the better episodes in the series with a mystery that’s too quickly solved and a villain that’s not that interesting. Still, worth a listen due to the fun one-liners.

In, “The Mad Hatter,” a visiting foreign princess becomes a target for assassins. As the title implies, a theme villain is behind it, but the story has a lot of twists on its way to the big reveal. The dialogue is hilarious as are many of the situations. Although, the idea of a rattlesnake being hidden in a bowler hat does cross the line from hilarious to ludicrous. Still, a fun episode.

“The Secret Six” is a perfect finale for the comic strip stories as Steed and Mrs. Peel find themselves prisoners at a country estate where they are held by six master criminals from around the globe who have decided that eliminating Steed and Peel is critical for their evil plans to succeed. It’s an action packed and dizzying ride as the two have to dodge bullets and even a tank in their quest to stay alive. Overall, this is a fun and exhilarating conclusion to the series. My only complaint is  several of the six villains were not quite credible as crime bosses. In the end, that doesn’t stop this finale from being a pleasure to listen to.

Ratings: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: A Gun for Kilkenny


Back in the 1990s, Random House produced a series of audio dramas based on the work of the great Western Writer Louis L’Amour and originally released on cassette.

In “A Gun for Kilkenny” a stranger shoots and kills a local badman in a bar and is taken to be the mysterious Marshall Kilkenny. The town is grateful for the stranger doing the killing and he milks the gratitude for all it’s worth because…what could go wrong?

The characters at first blush seem to fit the Western Archetypes (the saloon girl, the pacifist Quaker storekeeper, the saloon owner,) but they kept surprising me throughout the story. While we may have guessed the gist of the ending, how we get there is surprising. The story raises several great questions. What’s the difference between a “good” gunslinger and a bad man? What happens when you embrace a seemingly friendly killer?

There’s no big stars in the cast, but the performers turn in universally solid and believable performances. The soundscape is well-done and captures the Spirit of the Old West fine. The sound quality is good for something originally made for a cassette tape.

Overall, this was an engrossing performance that made me curious to hear more.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Review: Avengers: The Lost Episodes, Volume 4


The fourth volume of Avengers, The Lost Episodes offers listeners four more recreations of the lost first season of the Avengers.

The set kicks off with, “Kill the King,” in which Steed has to protect a visiting king who is key to the British gaining access to his country’s oil. The story becomes a pretty interesting thriller as we encounter three separate individuals who all appear to be setting out with the same assassin’s mission. The story has a very clever twist at the end that hits Steed like a punch in the stomach. It’s the best episode of a very good set and probably one of the most innovative stories in the Lost Episodes range.

Next up is, “A Change in Bait.” Originally, aired at Christmastime, this episode has a lighter tone than, “Kill the King,” as Steed tries to break up a complex insurance racket involving arson at warehouses. The story isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious,or so over the top in its humor that it would feel like it didn’t belong in this season, rather the humor is mixed in in a way that feels quite natural. The arsonist is probably the most amusing guest character. His stance that they couldn’t steal money from a building they were burning because that would be unethical is priceless. Overall, a fun story.

In, “Hunt the Man Down,” a convicted robber is released from prison and immediately waylaid by two thugs who want to know where his loot is. Steed intervenes and Keel treats the ex-convict. Carol is kidnapped by the gang who believe she knows where the loot is. Overall, this is an exciting case with good twists, particularly as to who the boss of the gang is. A very solid outing.

Finally in, “Dead of Winter,” Steed investigates a body found in a shipment of beef and sends Keel undercover to a man he suspects is behind it after a a pathologist is murdered and the body disappears. This one of the more fantastic plots in the Lost Episodes and very reminiscent of the sci-fi like stories that would come during the show’s most well-known run with Mrs. Peal.

Overall, this is a strong set. It’s not as great as Volume 3, but there’s not a poor episode in this bunch.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes


Continuing where the previous box set left off, this box set finds Holmes overseeing the funeral of his brother Mycroft. Holmes is the only one who believes Mycroft’s death is anything other than an accident. More than a quarter of a century after he and Watson faced off against the Society in the prior box set, the anarchist evil organization returns with a vengeance with the goal of bringing down the war-weary British government and the world.

This is a  rich set. The four episodes tell one story over the course of a single day. Several themes run through them: Holmes’ retains much of his deductive powers but finds himself out of place in the 1920s. At many times, Holmes feels like John Wayne’s character in the Shootist past his prime but with one last fight in him. The Society’s strike comes right after World War I, and shows a younger generation wants to escape from war and is willing to pay any price to appease them, compared to Holmes and Watson who view them as intolerable evils.

Watson’s marriage is an interesting focus as Eleanor is cool to his adventuring ways and he feels she loves him less than his first two wives. Plus Holmes is menaced by a figure from his past.

Some elements in this story don’t quite work for me. The Extras portion of each CD references this as being, “Victorian Melodrama,” which neither of the previous box sets were. This seems to paper over a few elements that are over the top and out of place in the tone set by the previous sets. This isn’t enough to ruin the stories by any means but without them this would be a perfect four-hour, suspense-filled, action thriller with many great character moments.

As usual, Briggs and Earl are on top form as Holmes and Watson. Natalie Burt and Elizabeth Rider are superb additions as ex-spies. (Vivienne Scott and Eleanor Watson respectively.) The soundscape conveys the epic power of the script quite nicely, and despite a few minor issues, the story is compelling listening from start to finish.

Rating 4.0 out of 5.0

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