THIS EPISODE TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
JAMES PARSONS &
BIG FINISH CD#74
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
“You're listening to
LIVE 34 news on the
hour every hour
Colony 34 all day
every minute of every
news, all day, every
day LIVE 34."
"Reports are coming
in of an explosion."
"On the line now is the
leader of the FDP."
"We can see bodies in
James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown’s Live 34 has to be regarded as one of the most audacious and extraordinary productions that Big Finish have ever released.
To begin with, the format of the production is inspired. So much so, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that Big Finish haven’t used it before now. Not only is a radio news broadcast an ideal vehicle for audio drama, but it also allows the Doctor and his companions to be seen from a different, detached perspective. Are they really terrorists? Additionally, the shift between different programmes, each of which focuses on one of the regular characters almost exclusively before bringing them all together for the final half hour, adds to the gritty, realistic feel of the story and more importantly offers us a chance to really immerse ourselves in that character’s particular thread of the story. It’s a very different kind of storytelling, certainly, but it works wonderfully. It’s not hard to see why this pitch was pulled out of the slush pile.
The story itself is a fairly typical tale about the Doctor labouring to liberate a dystopian society, but it is delivered in such a new and engaging way that it’s completely and utterly compelling. In his segment, Hex gets to put his medical expertise to good use, serving as an ambulance driver, his open-jawed reactions to the events around him still convincing but not of as much interest as either the Doctor’s leadership of the ‘terrorist’ FDP or Ace’s alleged activities as some sort of ‘Rebel Queen.’ Incidentally, I’m pleased to see that old Dorothy McShane is referring to herself as Ace once again - the ‘Just McShane’ angle was an interesting knee-jerk reaction to Kurtz’ death in Colditz, but was never really built to last.
Live 34 is also magnificently presented, both in terms of David Darlington’s terrific sound design and in the more literal sense. Andrew Collins’ Resident Drew Shahan comes across superbly as a skilled radio presenter, but also - perhaps more surprisingly - as a very convincing character too, when Collins is required to act.
The only note of caution that I feel compelled to sound is that Live 34 contains some scenes that even Virgin would have thought twice about publishing. ‘Maria’s Story’ springs particularly to mind – kids shot in the head, execution-style? It’s chilling and effective, but inevitably well outside many listeners’ comfort zones.
Innovative, disturbing and utterly impossible to turn off, Live 34 may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but personally I regard it as one of the best very Big Finish audio dramas.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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