A brave attempt by Big Finish to challenge their listeners with a complex story that explores our humanity.
The latest volume in the series of Big Finish Originals is a bold and daring piece that explores humanity and our evolution as a people whilst setting it in a future that seems a little too uncomfortably real.
Big Finish Executive Producer Nicholas Briggs has penned this mammoth story as well as directing it (and playing the small but pivotal role of Hans Dendrick) and it is clearly a labour of love for him, as the Behind the Scenes bonus disc reveals.
The premise for The Human Frontier is a fascinating one. A group of humans are sent off to investigate a habitable planet some 1000 years away from Earth in the hopes of keeping the species alive. The program is so secret that nobody outside of the mission knows of it. Whilst the crew are asleep, humanity continues and eventually develops a faster-than-light drive, launches a ship that arrives some 300 years before the first mission does. Briggs’ question is a simple but thought-provoking one: how would humans of today react to humans from some 700 years ago?
The first two episodes are the most problematic with much time-jumping and crossing of stories. It makes for very confusing listening. It is not until the third episode that we really establish the story effectively. The ending will also cause a slight annoyance as nothing really wraps up (Briggs is obviously hoping a second series is commissioned and leaving the door open for further adventures) and it leaves the listener with a sense of frustration.
This is a massive pity as there is so much to commend in this story. The cast is excellent and is led by Pepter Lunkuse as Anna Swift who puts in an outstanding performance. Genevieve Gaunt (Daisy Bailey) and Lucy Briggs-Owen (Nilly) are also exceptional in their parts. The usually brilliant Mark Elstob is stuck in his role of Number 6 from his outings in The Prisoner and can’t seem to shake it for his role of Malden Grey (Briggs should have also told him to take one step away from the microphone as his saliva is very audible throughout). He does manage to do much better with his other two roles as Robert Harrigan and Oliver. Clive Wood rounds out the ensemble with a loud and blustering performance as the head of the human colony, Brett Triton.
Briggs has also composed the musical score (which is featured separately on a second bonus disc) and the sound design by Iain Meadows is outstanding.
This story feels like it would improve on a second listening but whether you want to spend the four hours running time (not counting bonus material) listening to it again is certainly up to the individual. Nevertheless, despite some flaws, this is a bold attempt by Briggs and Big Finish to try something outside the box which is challenging for the listener. Fans of science fiction who also like a slice of dystopia in their literature will find much to savour here.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: May 2020
Approx RRP: $17 Digital Download