A B7 Production in association with Big Finish
Distributed by Big Finish
Directed By: Andrew Mark Sewell
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 1 – Voyage to Venus by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle
Brilliant test pilot, Dan Dare, is chosen to fly the Anastasia – a new experimental spacecraft – on its maiden voyage to Venus. This isn’t exploration – it is to make first contact with a mysterious civilisation that has sent technological secrets as a goodwill gesture.
However, what Dan, Digby and Professor Peabody find on Venus isn’t goodwill, but a terrifyingly intelligent, cold-hearted ruler, the Mekon. A creature destined to become Dan Dare’s nemesis – and Earth’s greatest threat…
The Review: When the B7 Media Dan Dare Audio Adventures project was announced, I had doubts about its chances of success. Why? Because Dan Dare fans are notoriously hard to please. They each have their own favourite version of the character (the 1950s original, the 2000AD re-boot, the 1980s version etc) and many aren’t keen when the character deviates too much from how they think it should be.
Indeed, you could argue many are far harder to please than fans of Star Trek or Doctor Who. The perfectly-reasonable Dan Dare animated series of several years ago was not terribly well received by many, so I worried whether this new project would make its mark.
But, I think fans will like the new audio adventures from B7 Media.
For one thing, the characterization of Dan Dare himself, played by Ed Stoppard, is spot on. Big Finish, the company distributing these audios, have described Dan as being like ‘Indiana Jones in space’ in the latest issue of their Vortex magazine. Personally, I’d say he’s more like Biggles with a dash of James Bond and the morality of Doctor Who. This first story of the new series, Voyage to Venus, manages to make him all of those things and presents a rounded and likeable version of the character. He’s just posh enough, without being too posh.
The rest of the cast also do their jobs well. Professor Peabody (Heida Reed), Sir Hubert Guest (Michael Cochrane) and the Mekon (Raad Rawi) are all brilliantly observed. For me, though, it is Geoff McGivern as Digby who shines the most. He’s given some excellent dialogue with a nice line in humour and he manages to pitch it perfectly.
I was slightly surprised by the amount of friction between Digby and Dan but this works well and makes for good drama. This is a spikey Digby, reactionary in many ways, and I rather like him.
The plot is refreshingly simple. We live in an era of very complicated storylines (especially on TV and film) and it’s nice that the story here is relatively straightforward and linear whilst still being very strong.
Music and sound design and all superb, as one would expect from the people involved. The design on the packacking is fresh and modern, although the sidebars on the covers of the individual discs do make them look a bit like PlayStation games.
If you’re intrigued by this new take on Dan Dare, I’d recommend you buy the CDs rather than just the download as it’s a handsome set. The sleeve notes are informative if a little quick to apologise for the the 1950s values of the original Eagle comic, which if anything were ahead of their time, especially in creating such a strong female character as Peabody. To call the old Dan Dare stories ‘jingoistic’ seems just a little bit little harsh to me.
Overall though, nine spaceships out of ten for this first entry in the series.
I’ll be reviewing the other two stories from this set soon…
• 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.