The first volume of Dan Dare adventures released by Big Finish late last year made my Top 10 audiobook picks for 2016. Created by artist Frank Hampson and his editor, the Reverend Marcus Morris, in the 1950s for Eagle Comics, Dan Dare is a science fiction British adventurer who continues to appear today in the magazine Spaceship Away.
B7 Media are producing these new full-cast audio adaptations and they are sensational. Volume 2 continues the escapades of Dan Dare and his crew with three more missions and a return of their nemesis, the Mekon. The boxset is topped off with a surprisingly comprehensive and fascinating 48-minute documentary about Dan Dare and the British space program, hosted by science journalist Richard Hollingham. Wowsa!
The action takes place on Earth, Saturn and Venus this time, beginning with the crew’s return home to London, only to find that 10 years have passed and Earth has been enslaved by an army of merciless robots. Reign of the Robots by Simon Guerrier is an ominous tale that puts the crew in double jeopardy not only because they have to face a new enemy, but deal with the passing of time that has placed them in a future they know nothing of. It’s an epic, primarily Earth-bound adventure on a global scale and a gripping opening to this much-anticipated new volume.
Patrick Chapman continues to thrill with the second story, Operation Saturn, which leaps ahead one year after the events of the previous story. Earth is still being rebuilt when the experimental ship Nautilus reappears around the Moon’s orbit after being missing for 12 years. It’s broadcasting an alien signal which sends Dan Dare, Digby and Peabody on an investigative mission that will take them to Saturn and a new foe.
Colin Brake’s Prisoners of Space winds up Volume 2 and the first season of stories, opening with Dare and his crew finally catching a breather – a break that won’t last long when supply ships begin to go missing and a student accidentally launches the prototype of a new spaceship.
Under the slick direction Andrew Mark Sewell, all three stories bring out the fun and excitement of classic sci-fi, with these modern reworkings once again adopting the feel of 1950s radio dramas. Alistair Lock’s sound design is exquisite. Science fiction radio plays and films from the mid-20th Century had a very distinct sound, with their spaceships being a much simpler design than those found in modern fare. Lock conjures up visions of those earlier designs, taking the listener on a trip back in time. The subtle background environmental sounds add to the full-bodied world of the characters without overwhelming the action or dialogue.
The stellar lead cast all return, including Ed Stoppard (Dan Dare), Geoff McGivern (Digby), Heida Reed (Professor Peabody) and Raad Rawi (The Mekon), and they’re joined by a number of other fine performers including Doctor Who’s voice of the Daleks, Nicholas Briggs, playing The Vora, and director Alistair Lock as the Treen Captain.
Standing out above all else however, is Imran Ahmad’s outstanding orchestral score, beginning with the theme tune and continuing behind every story.
Dan Dare Volume 2 is a worthy continuation of the series and cements B7’s adaptation as one of my favourite audio serials of recent times. Treat yourself to something that’s out of this world.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10