Category: Golden Age Article

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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Understanding the Expanding Public Domain

The public domain is that magical place which creators can draw inspiration from. Public domain works can be published and sold by anyone. It includes the works of Shakespeare, Dickens,  and Edgar Allen Poe. However, in the US, it doesn’t include many works made after 1922 and the public domain has remain frozen since 1998. However, on January 1, 2019, New Year’s Day will be Public Domain Day, as a plethora of works created in 1923 will enter the public domain.

Why the Public Domain was Frozen

Until the early 1990s, the public domain grew in two ways. First was expiration of the original copyright term. Works written prior to the 1976 Copyright Act  had twenty-eight year copyright terms that could be renewed for another twenty-eight years (increased to 47 years though the Copyright Act.)  If the copyright owner didn’t renew their copyright, their work came into the public domain after twenty-eight years. This is how many Hollywood movies, TV episodes, and a few books from 1963 and before slid into the public domain. Congress put a stop to this by renewing all outstanding copyrights in 1992.

The other way the public domain expanded was when the renewal term expired. That ended in 1998. Media companies led by Disney had been trying to get  the copyright extended for years. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie was set to enter the public domain in 2004. Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act  (named after the late singer and Congressman) which added another twenty years to all Copyrights. Works passed after the 1976 Copyright had a term of the author’s  lifetime plus 70 years, and those pre-1976 works had a term of 95 years.

At the time of passage, copyright extension promotions seemed to want far more. Bono’s forth wife  and successor in Congress, Mary Bono made the point that Sonny Bono had believed Copyright should last forever. That is unconstitutional. The Constitution requires  copyright be for  “limited times.” She spoke favorably of long-time Motion Pictures Association of America Chairman Jack Valenti’s suggestion this could be worked around with a copyright term of “forever minus one day.” Opponents of further Copyright extension didn’t expect an effort that audacious, but they did expect some effort to increase the length of copyright if for no other reason than for Disney to save “Steamboat Willie.” In the end,  no effort was made and the Public domain will grow once again.

What Will Happen

At the end of 2018, copyrights on works created in 1923 will expire. On January 1, 2019, the public domain will expand.

Starting on January 1st, organizations such as Google Books and Project Guteneberg will make books written in 1923 available to readers across the Internet to download for free. Librivox will make audiobook recordings of them.  In addition, filmmakers will be able to adapt them, as will American audio drama producers such as Colonial Radio Theater.

Mystery fans will enjoy the third Agatha Christie book to enter the public domain, Murder on the Links. In the addition, one of only ten Sherlock Holmes stories still under Copyright in the United States, “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” will enter the public domain.

Silent films such as the original Ten Commandments or Charlie Chaplain’s The Pilgrim will be enjoyed online for free as well as on discount DVDs.

Filmmakers will at last be able to freely include songs such as The Charleston and Yes! We Have No Bananas Today in their films.  Churches won’t have to pay to include “Great is thy Faithfulness” in their services.  Community theaters will be able perform Noel Coward’s first play London’s Calling.  Before, doing all of these legally required paying a royalty or license fee. However that all changes in 2019.

The public domain will continue to expand, allowing free distribution of an ever-growing number of influential works. The Jazz Singer, the film that launched the era of talking pictures, is set to enter the public domain in 2024. Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon will enter the public domain in 2026, and Fer-de-Lance, the first novel featuring Nero Wolfe, will enter in 2030.

Continued growth of the public domain will depend on Congress not extending copyright again. Entertainment companies have powerful lobbyists on Capitol Hill and may demand more protections. If Disney lets “Steamboat Willie” go into the public domain, they may raise a fuss at the prospect of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves entering the public domain in 2033, one year before the first Superman comics are set to become public domain.

For now though, the long overdue expansion of the public domain is beginning. Here’s hoping it continues for many years to come.  If you want more information on works entering the public domain in 2019, check out this article from the Duke University School of law. 

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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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Audio Drama Review: The Avengers: Too Many Targets

“Too Many Targets” in an adaptation of the Avengers novel of the same title. It brings together all the lead characters from the six seasons of the British classic TV series The Avengers in one giant case. It begins with Steed (Julia Wadham) being advised Mother (Christopher Benjamin) has gone over and become a double agent. At the same time, Mother is telling Tara King (Emily Woodward) the same thing about Steed.

The story is a lot of fun and does a good job giving each and every member of the Avengers something to do and their own individual entrance into the story. Eventually, they’re drawn into groups before coming together. The casting in this great particularly for roles not heard in Big Finish’s audio adaptations with the roles of Mother, Tara King, and Cathy Gale (Beth Chalmers). These characters were well-realized and fully brought to life, so  they each contributed to the story.

The biggest challenge with this release is the final quarter. There, so much of the story is spent explaining a convoluted and confusing plan. The villains are defeated in an odd way that’s a bit of a letdown.

Still, story problems aside, the release is a nice romp for fans of the Avengers with quite a few Easter eggs. It makes me want to hear more of these characters.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0