Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Cicero: The Crossroads, by Big Finish

HISTORICAL: Rome, 60BC. Gaius Julius Caesar has returned to the city, forming an alliance – a new Triumvirate – with statesmen Pompey and Crassus. But when he extends the same invitation to Cicero, he is rejected: such a pact could threaten the Republic after all.

The second series of Roman lawyer Cicero tells a very different tale from series one, but it still manages to be entertaining.

It has been nearly three years since Big Finish released the first volume in the dramatisation of the life of the famed Roman lawyer, Marcus Tullius Cicero, to great acclaim. This set was also reviewed elsewhere on this site at the time. The fact that Big Finish has crafted a very different story for this second set shows a deep desire by the powers that be at the production company to expand their scope of storytelling.

In the previous set, we were introduced to the young lawyer Cicero who investigates and prosecutes cases in Ancient Rome. Over six hour-long episodes, we see his journey from young lawyer to established mover and shaker within the ranks of the Roman nobility. This second set jumps time to when a much less fiery Cicero who is debating whether to side with a rising young general called Gaius Julius Caesar. Cicero is now in his 50s and is rather less interested in the affairs of state than he is in keeping track of his young family.

This set is run more as a movie-length story (approximately two hours) and not in the episodic format of the first series. This is probably wise as it limits the amount of “padding” needed in a lengthy story such as this. David Llewellyn (who wrote the first series) continues his well-researched portrayal of Ancient Rome. His story starts slowly—indeed, the first half hour or so seems incredibly underwhelming—but then slowly the intrigue and story ramps up to a final climax that is very satisfying. It is masterful storytelling from one of Big Finish’s finest writers.

It also helps that his assembled cast is so incredibly talented. Once again, Samuel Barnett brings a lot of depth to his exploration of the title character and has managed to make the age jump in his character since series one look seamless. There is much to admire in his work and he provides the solid focal point for the rest of the cast. George Naylor, Sarah Ovens, Laura Riseborough and Rupert Young reprise their series one roles as Quintus, Pomponia, Terentia and Atticus respectively. Like Barnett, they all carry on their roles with much thought. They are joined in this series by another group of fine performers. Particular standouts are Henry Nott as Caesar, Joe Shire as Clodius and Silas Carson as Pompey.

As with series one, Scott Handcock directs with his usual flare and firm hand keeping things moving as the script allows. Rob Harvey’s music and sound design perfectly complement the story being told.

This is nowhere near as thrilling or intriguing as series one was but it is still an outstanding release for those that enjoyed the first series. I do question why the writers chose not to have such a long gap left untold in the history of Cicero but maybe that is for a future release. One can only hope that Big Finish chooses to tell some more wonderful stories from the life of this fascinating individual who lived through one of the most brutal and bloody times in human history. This is also highly recommended for people who would be interested in hearing an audio drama from Big Finish but are not necessarily science fiction fans.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Distributed by: Big Finish
Released: July 2021
Approx. RRP: $10 Digital Download

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