A B7 Media Production in association with Big Finish
Distributed by Big Finish
Directed By: Andrew Mark Sewell
Series Main Cast: Ed Stoppard (Dan Dare), Geoff McGivern (Digby), Heida Reed (Professor Peabody), Michael Cochrane (Sir Hubert Guest), Raad Rawi (The Mekon)
Associate Producer Fiona McAlpine
Development Producer Patrick Chapman
Series Script Editor Colin Brake
Executive Producer Simon Moorhead
Producer/Director Andrew Mark Sewell
Executive Producers for Big Finish Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
The Audio: Three audio adventures based on the Eagle comic strip “Dan Dare” created by Rev. Marcus Morris, written and drawn by Frank Hampson
Episode Two: The Red Moon Mystery by James Swallow
Unable to return to Earth, Dan Dare and the crew of the Anastasia head to the desolate planet Mars, where Dan’s estranged Uncle Ivor is part of a research team working on a top-secret archaeological dig.
But when they find the base wrecked and the scientists missing, Dare, Digby and Professor Peabody soon discover that the Red Planet is not nearly as dead as everyone thought and that Ivor’s expedition has woken an army of deadly insect-creatures that threaten to swarm and engulf the Earth…
Dare must stop the aliens, but can he really resort to genocide in order to save the human race?
The Review: So here we are with Dan Dare audio adventure number two. The preceding tale, Voyage to Venus, set the bar pretty high and if anything this is slightly better. The story starts with Dan giving a talk to a group of schoolchildren – a nice device for re-capping the events of the previous story and perhaps a homage of sorts to the current popularity of real-life British astronaut Tim Peake.
One of the students even has a name which will be familiar to long-time Dan Dare fans, so it seems likely that we’ll be seeing the character again in a future story.
Our regular cast of characters continues to develop nicely. Ed Stoppard portrays Dan Dare as a genuine hero and thoroughly decent chap but has enough flaws and occasional lack of self-belief to keep him believable. Heida Reed continues to develop Peabody as a character who is basically decent but more pragmatic and less idealistic than Dan and doesn’t see why morality and profitability should be mutually exclusive. Geoff McGivern is again superb as Digby and nearly gets the best line of the two stories so far (‘Well, I’ll be b#ggered!’) although Peabody’s comeback line is even funnier. I’ll not spoil it by saying what it is!
Hugh Fraser debuts as Dan’s Uncle, Ivor Dare. I’m a huge fan of Fraser’s portrayal of Hastings opposite David Suchet’s Poirot and I’m delighted the actor slips equally effortlessly into the world of Dan Dare. The relationship between the space pilot and his uncle is very well explored and adds a family dimension to the already potent mix of relationships and tensions in these stories.
The “Indiana Jones in Space” description mentioned in my last review does seem more fitting here, with a story about excavating ruins and uncovering secrets on Mars. It’s all very mysterious and intriguing, which are two of the things good science-fiction should be. The writers are taking the strengths of the original stories and shaping something new and exciting and that can only be a good thing. The best of the old and the best of the new, brought together seamlessly.
There is plenty here for fans young and old and anyone who just enjoys a story well told.
Like Voyage to Venus, The Red Moon Mystery is about an hour long but it really doesn’t seem that long. The action passes so swiftly and the writing is so effortless that listening to it, it feels like you’ve only been there half an hour.
My only minor criticism is an attempt to introduce a gay character in this instalment, which I have no issue with, but it did feel a bit shoe-horned in, as though it were a box that needed to be ticked. Rather as with the Sulu scene in Star Trek Beyond, it does not fit into the story as seamlessly as it might.
Nine and a half spaceships out of ten for this second entry in the series.
Oh – I criminally forgot to mention the theme tune in my last review – it’s superb!
• Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures Volume One featuring “Voyage to Venus”, “The Red Moon Mystery” and “Marooned on Mercury” is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31st January 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date
Former Co-ordinator of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. Publisher and Editor of comics-related fanzines. Contributor to books on Doctor Who from Virgin and Miwk Publishing. Contributor to cult TV fanzines and periodicals.