FROM A STORY BY
BBC AUDIO CD (ISBN 1-
IN JULY 2006.
on a remote Scottish
island, a community
of human mutants
capable of telepathy
IS Discovered, AND A
plan PUT in place to
use them to control
Aliens in the Mind
Aliens in the Mind began life as a submission for Doctor Who in the late 1960s by
the now legendary Robert Holmes. Initially titled Aliens in the Blood, it would have featured the second Doctor, Jamie, and presumably Zoe. For various reasons, the script was never picked up, but several years later its outline was, and used to form the basis of this radio serial. Holmes was apparently unable to write the script himself, and it was instead handled by one Rene Basilico - although, having been unable to find any further information on this individual, he may be a pseudonym for all I know.
Rewritten in its entirety, the story is centred around two academics, Professor Curtis Lark and John Cornelius, who are played by two absolute legends of horror and sci-fi. The more stoic and mild-mannered Cornelius is played by movie Doctor Peter Cushing, while his witty American parapsychologist foil is voiced by Vincent Price. Cushing is, of course, perfect in his role as a gentlemanly surgeon, while Price is as wonderfully fruity and sardonic as ever. Honestly, I could listen to that man read out telephone book - what a marvellous voice he has, capable of making anything seem witty or haunting with the The duo are old acquaintances, reunited when their friend, Dr Hugh Dexter, is killed under mysterious circumstances.
Travelling to the remote Hebridean island of Lerwigh, the doctorish duo find that Baxter’s death is just one part of a far greater mystery. For the Lerwigh is plagued by something known as ‘island sickness’ - a strange affliction that affects the locals minds in their teens. Further investigation reveals that this is merely the maturation stage for a race of mutants - human anomalies with telepathic tendencies. Tendencies that even they, for the most part, are unaware of. They’d be harmless were it not for the occasional second-stage mutation, the so-called Controllers or Masters, who have the ability to psychically control the main mutant populace.
Uncovering the signs of a
conspiracy, the pair take the
young Flora (Sandra Clarke)
away for examination. To all
appearances, she is nothing
more than a mentally-disabled
young adult, but is, in fact, a
budding Controller, able to call
her fellow mutants from anywhere
within a mile radius to obey her every command. In London, they discover that the emigration from Lerwigh has created a greater threat to humanity than they could ever have realised.
It’s a slow-paced drama, concerned with gently racking up the tension rather than providing action and thrills. It’s perhaps too slow at times, dragging in the middle episodes, although continual revelations and plot developments maintain interest. Cushing and Price dominate a fair-sized cast, their voices always distinct against the array of Scots accents. Scenes which have them simply sitting down to dinner are used to summarise the plot, with just a smattering of banter to help keep it diverting. There are flashes of Holmesian wit, but the dialogue does sometimes slip into dry exposition. Nonetheless, the tension gradually mounts to a chilling finale, which manages to tie up the immediate threat, while leaving the ending open to the greater consequences. Who fans will enjoy hearing Richard Hurndall in the cast, bringing two substitute first Doctors together. There’s some subtle but effective sound work, including some very restrained gunshots, but the main strength of the play lies in Price and Cushing’s earnest depiction of the concepts, which take in telepathy; hypnotism; slavery; politics; and eugenics.
While not the classic that Holmes’s reputation suggests, Aliens in the Mind is a worthwhile and intriguing example of audio science fiction.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2011
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