Tag: Radio Drama

Audio Drama Review: Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 11

This set collects six more Twilight Zone radio dramas recreating classic Twilight Zone stories.

“Five Characters in Search of An Exit” finds a man (Jason Alexander) in a major’s uniform dropping into a cylindrical room where four other people are located. They’re dressed as a clown, a hobo, a bagpiper, and a dancer. None has any memories or knows why they’re there. The newly arrived Major tries to engineer an exit. This is a solid tale that delivers a classic Twilight Zone twist and also ties in nicely to the Christmas season.

“The Arrival” is set at a small aiport where a flight comes in on time, but it’s the wrong plane and no one’s aboard. This leads to an experienced FAA investigator being called in. This one has some pretty good twists. I’m not sure its story logic holds up well. But it’s still a decent listen.

“Queen of the Nile” is about a reporter who goes for an interview with a beautiful Hollywood actress who looks far younger than her age or career should indicate. While I do think the solution (or something like it) was a kind of obvious answer, the way its delivered and some of the details make this a pretty engaging outing.

“I Dream of Genie” is about a born loser who finds a magic lamp with a genie who will provide one and only one wish. He begins to mull over the most popular wish options and imagines how good they could be, before also imagining how it would all end horribly. It’s an interesting concept and his solution to the wish dilemma, while simple, is kind of intriguing.

“It’s a Good Life” is one of the most nightmarish tales The Twilight Zone came up with. A small town in Ohio is cut off from the rest of existence and held in thrall to a six-year-old boy with amazing mental powers but zero emotional maturity. The adults in town spend the entire episode cowering. Those who say the wrong thing or think the wrong thing about him risk his wrath. With a thought, the boy could strike you blind, turn you into a monster, or strike you dead. The town, in order to keep him calm and happy, affirms everything he does as good. The transition to radio is very well-executed and this makes for an entertaining if unsettling half hour.

“Masks” finds an elderly man (Stan Freberg) dying on the last day of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and his family (his hypochondriac daughter, his greedy son-in-law, their vain daughter, and their cruel and stupid son) are coming to visit before they start dividing the spoils of his estate. Lest you think my description is unfair, this is the entirety of their characterization and we’re given an introduction telling us explicitly who these people are…because some of us might not figure out after three minutes. It’s made obvious bad things are going to happen to them and that they deserve it. That does tend to make this a bit predictable and on the nose. However, the way the change is realized and the sound design does make it unnerving. It’s not a bad release, but it is one of the weaker stories in this set.

Overall, this was another solid release with a combination of skilled acting, solid sound design, and scripts that mostly tended to be among the stronger ones from the original series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

EP3286: O’Hara: The Judas Face

Someone is calling around Hong Kong looking for a woman who identifies herself as Mrs. Calhoun whenever she has a few drinks.

Original Air Date: July 22, 1951

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Audio Drama Review: The Diary of River Song, Series 7

River Song (Alex Kington) was married to the Doctor in Doctor Who, making her last appearance opposite Peter Capaldi. This spin-off series continues her adventures.

One thing that was established in the TV series was that River Song was a detective, operating in New York under the name Melody Malone. For the Seventh Series of her spin-off, Big Finished did an anthology release featuring River encountering mysteries in a series of different genres from Scandinavian Noir to Legal Dramas.

“Colony of Strangers” finds River Song in a Nordic Noir story on an Earth Colony world that just happens to feature a Fjord and a perpetually frozen landscape. Bodies of creatures begin washing up on the shore where River Song is renting her house and the local police begin to suspect her.

The mystery, its solution, and the sci-fi element are all well thought out, but ultimately what makes this story so compelling is how it goes all in on its concept. This is River Song doing Nordic Noir and they hold to that pattern, unlike the 2018 Doctor Who audio story Hunting Grounds which borrowed some elements but was essentially a Doctor Who story. It maintains clipped stylized dialogue, sparse soundscape, and a downbeat feel. This could easily come off as pretentious, but it’s done well and the result is something that’s very different from any other River Song story we’ve heard.

In “Abbey of Heretic,” River arrives at a 12th Century convent disguised as a nun. When she arrives she discovers a strange disease spreading with the blame being cast throughout the nunnery.

“Abbey of Heretics” is inspired by the Brother Caedfel Mysteries and the TV adaptions starring Derek Jacobi which are set during the same time period. This is a fairly good story, though it felt longer than it needs to be. There’s a great sense of atmosphere and each of the characters is well-drawn. I also thought it showed a sufficient amount of respect for faith.

In “Barrister to the Stars”, River’s accused of murder at a bizarre space station. River appoints an English attorney from the 20th Century as her barrister. This is a remarkable story, particularly for the writer’s first Big Finish. While the writer cited a number of sources in the extras, Rumpole of the Bailey’s influences are clear from the barrister’s asides during Counsel/judge statements, and he refers to himself as an old Bailey hack. This is nearly a perfect Rumpole pastiche but set…in space. David Rintoul is fantastic as the barrister.

There’s quite a bit of imagination and world building that goes into creating this situation and the weird and amazing creatures that inhabit it. It’s a wonderful, hilarious, and practically flawless mix of genres.

“Carnival of Angels” is the only story in the set that doesn’t standalone. It’s a prequel to the Doctor Who TV episode, “The Angels Take Manhattan” and also sees the return of what seemed to be a one-off assistant character from the fifth River Song box set, though its not required to have listened to that story as its explained with some blatantly expositional dialogue.

The story finds River Song operating as a private detective in New York City as Melody Malone when a hard-boiled musician comes into her office to report he saw someone murdered…himself.

Like all the stories, this one aims for a sense of atmosphere…this time the feeling of 1930s and 40s Film Noir. It hits somewhat, but at times it tries too hard and at others gaps in knowledge show up. For example, the writer has American characters use British idioms like, “What are you playing at…”

Still, there are are some spooky moments as well as a great hook for the start of the episode. Despite the flaws, most American production companies couldn’t have done better in creating the feel of film noir. So this story was still a worthwhile hour of listening.

Overall, if you liked River Song on Doctor Who, or if you just like mysteries with a Science Fiction twist, this is a pretty good box set with Barrister of the Stars easily the highlight of the set.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Audio Drama Review: The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 4


The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 4 brings together six more Twilight Zone radio episodes:

“Steel” stars Lou Gossett, Jr. as a fight manager and former fighter in a world that’s outlawed humans boxing and now leaves it to robots. Gossett’s character has an assistant who doubts the efficacy of everything Gossett’s character does which begs the question of why the question of why the guy is training an outdated robot boxer. Despite that, this one still works for its overall thrust about the triumph of the human spirit in a world that seems to try to move human beings towards obsolescence.

“Four o’Clock” stars Stan Freberg as a crank who persecutes everyone as guilty of some kind of evildoing and sets out a plan to shrink every evil person to two feet tall. This episode is mostly Freberg ranting as an over the top character. It seems like a commentary on the McCarthy era using the most cartoonish caricature possible.

“Uncle Simon” features a woman named Barbara (Beverly Garland) who has spent her life caring for her disabled, brilliant, and cruel uncle (Mark Richman) in hopes of inheriting his estate. He has a secret experiment he carries on but won’t tell her about. This is an all-time classic Twilight Zone story with a great twist. Garland was a true professional and turns in the best performance of the entire set.

“The Parallel” is about an astronaut (Lou Diamond Phillips) who returns to Earth from space but everything in his life seems to be slightly different. This one may be a story that doesn’t hold up well in modern times. Genre savvy fans will easily guess what’s going on and the title may give the game away for modern fans. The solution to the problem is well-executed but  simple with relatively little consequence. The story’s strength is supposed to be its concept but the concept’s been done so often and so much better that this is the most forgettable story in the collection.

“A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” begins with a wagon train traveling from Ohio to Arizona. A man (Jim Caviezel) goes to see if he can find help for his sick son and stumbles into the then-present day. While in some ways, this feels like the Time Travel version of “Parallel,” there’s a bit more to the story emotionally with our hero trying to save the son, plus there’s a powerful idea of pioneers seeing the West that was founded on their efforts and the society that emerged. It’s a solid tale.

“One for the Angels” is about a kindly salesman (Ed Begley, Jr.) who has just gotten by in life. He’s kind to the kids in the neighborhood but is otherwise unremarkable. That’s when Death arrives to tell him to give him time to prepare to die. However, the Salesman objects he never had a  successful big pitch and asks time to achieve this pitch “for the angels.” Death agrees, but the salesman resolves to one-up Death by never making the pitch. However, Death is hard to cheat. Over television, the part of the salesman was played by comedy Ed Wynn. While Begley’s not the same sort of actor, he does do a good job and this is an enjoyable take on the story.

Overall, this is a pretty good collection. While there were a couple of stories that didn’t work as well as I’d like, these six trips into the Twilight Zone make for nice listening.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

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Audio Drama Review: The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 3

This is the third six episode set of the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas presented by Falcon Picture Group. This volume, like most others in the series, adapts stories from the TV Show.

“The Obsolete Man” stars Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) as a librarian in a totalitarian state who is sentenced to die because he’s been declared obsolete. I have to admit, I was nervous about this one because the TV version featured an iconic performance by the great Burgess Meredith, but Alexander does a good job carrying the performance off and the timeless message of the story still makes it work today.

“Back There”starts Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) as a young man who visits a Washington DC based club and has a conversation with four wealthy men over whether a time-traveler could change history. As often happens with those sort of debates, he finds himself transported back to 1865 on the day Abraham Lincoln is assassinated and gets a chance to test his theory. This was a nice story with a good twist at the end, though a lot of the time travel stuff is never explained.

“A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain” stars Adam West (Batman) as an older wealthy man married to a gold-digging wife who he wants to please. His brother is working on a de-aging formula that works on animals and he pressures his brother into trying it on him. The TV version is not a favorite of most fans, but this was entertaining and it’s all down to Adam West’s performance. You feel sorry for this guy, who, by modern standards, we’d consider a victim of emotional abuse.

“Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room” stars Adam Baldwin (Firefly) as a two-bit crook who has been ordered to commit murder. He rents a cheap room and waits to do the job and encounters one person who tries to change his mind: The man in the mirror. This one works over radio and Baldwin does a good job playing both versions of his character.

“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” finds a suburban neighborhood cut off from civilization when power fails and no one can leave. Paranoia spreads as the residents suspect one of them is in league with whatever caused this. This was a great tale of what fear and paranoia can do to a community and, by extension, to the world. It’s a chilling cautionary tale and the radio version is almost as good as the TV take.

“Escape Clause” is a Faustian bargain story where a middle-aged hypochondriac (Mike Starr) sells his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to live as long as he wants. The story is a bit of dark comedy as the protagonist finds out immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, however I think the story has a more subtle message.

Overall, I probably enjoyed this Twilight Zone collection. The stories all work fairly well and there are a couple all-time classics that are well-handled. On top of that, we get to hear radio acting by some actors who never got to work much in the medium due to when their careers began.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 

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