Operation Saturn by Patrick Chapman
Directed by Andrew Mark Sewell
Part of Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures Volume Two
Produced by B7 Media
Distributed by Big Finish
Featuring cover art by Brian Williamson
The second story of the second volume of the critically celebrated audio reinvention of the classic British SF hero Dan Dare, starring Ed Stoppard, Heida Reed, Geoff McGivern and Raad Rawi
The Story: As work begins to rebuild planet Earth after the devastation of the robot invasion, Dare and his friends in Space Fleet remain vigilant, certain that it is only a matter of time before the Mekon launches a fresh attack. When the wreck of the Nautilus – an experimental ship lost over a decade before – appears in orbit of the moon, Dare, Digby and Peabody are sent to investigate. They find the ship and its crew were destroyed by advanced alien weapons. All clues lead them to Saturn’s moons. With Earth still vulnerable our heroes must journey to an unknown world – to discover who sent the Nautilus back, not realising that for once the source of their latest conflict comes from a lot closer to home. Not all would-be conquerors of planet Earth are alien…
The Review: After a nice big Earth invasion epic in Reign of the Robots, we come to what feels like a slightly smaller scale mystery story (I say ‘slightly’ smaller, because all Dan Dare stories are epic to some degree!). This is the fifth B7 Media-produced audio adventure for Dan and his friends and by now it’s starting to feel as though we are really getting to know and care about the characters.
It’s VM day on Earth (Victory Over the Mekon). Dan is shunning any credit for his heroic adventures and luckily for him there isn’t time to reflect on past glories. An old experimental spaceship, the Nautilus, turns up in orbit around the moon after being missing for 12 years. It has three strange holes in its portside and the crew are found frozen with their throats slit. And one of them is missing.
Once again, the regulars are on good form. Dan (voiced by Ed Stoppard) is heroic, self-effacing and once again finds time in this busy adventure to reflect on his relationship with his father, a theme which has been well developed in these stories. Digby (Geoff McGivern) is as flippant as ever and dismissive of politics and politicians. Peabody (Heida Reed) is the glue that binds the others together and is pragmatic and less idealistic than Dan but still a true friend and heroine. Sir Hubert (Michael Cochrane) feels more anchored in the past than the others – very much the old reactionary of the 1950s comic strips – but this feels right as he was older than the other main characters anyway and has now grown another ten years older in relation to them due to a previous plot development.
Our villain this time is Blasco (played by the excellent Jonathan Rhodes) and if ever a character deserved the label of smooth-talking rogue, it’s him. He has an aristocratic swagger and is rotten to the core. An ‘enhanced human’ – I’ll let you listen to the story for the details – he has past history with the Mekon and is an utter cad. An ideal baddy then for the moralistic Dan to spar with.
It’s nice also to have Bijan Daneshmand back as Sondar – it’s always cool when he pops up in these stories and it feels as though there is plenty of mileage in the character yet.
Sound design and music are spot on as always and the story moves along at a cracking pace whilst still giving the characters room to develop. The narrative is clear and script writer Patrick Chapman’s storytelling is never too clever for its own good. Chapman’s sleeve notes for this release are excellent by the way and show just how well he understands the necessity of preserving the integrity of the original comic strips whilst updating the characters for a modern audience.
The story leads in nicely to the next adventure which is Prisoners of Space – more on that soon. I’m going to miss these audios when I get to the end of them, so I hope that the B7 team get working on some more pretty quickly!
• Seek out Dan Dare – Volume 2 – available on Download for £20 or CD for £25: these pre-release prices will be frozen until the set is on general release at the end of May when they go up to £25 and £30 respectively
• For the curious who’ve yet to Dare to experience Dan at large, Big Finish have a free download of the first chapter of this set’s Operation Saturn story, while the first chapter of Volume 1’s Voyage to Venus is similarly available.
• Special Dan Dare bundles have been set up offering both volumes together for £40 and £50. Any CD purchase unlocks a download version exclusive to Big Finish listeners – the perfect format for those with Android or Apple devices using the free Big Finish download/playback app
• Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures Volume One is also available from amazon.co.uk – using this link will help support downthetubes