Audio - The Secret of Springheel'd Jack: The Peril of the Empires

Peril of the empire

Susan Omand settles into the Victorian armchair again and tunes in to listen to the start of series 3 of the Springheel Saga from the Wireless Theatre Company...

It’s more than 30 years after the conclusion of series 2 of the Springheel Saga (see my review of series 1 & 2 here) and the story opens as the soldiers of Aldershot barracks fall victim to an attack by the beast that they call the Night Terror, who raids the stores before disappearing into the night. Concerned at the reason for the attack, the Prime Minister and his aide, Anstruther, have to come up with a cover story and they have a discussion about “their man” codenamed Cheshire Cat, who had warned that such an attack may happen. The PM demands that Cheshire Cat is brought to him but the agent is missing in action. The possibility that Springheel Jack is behind the attacks is brought up and the PM calls for their foremost expert on the subject, other than the missing Cheshire Cat, to be brought in on the case – the now ex policeman Jonah Smith. Anstruther is dispatched to find Smith and, in the meantime, the German embassy in London gets word that a Countess de Sadesky will be arriving in London.

Anstruther, armed with a bottle of gin, arrives at Smith’s door at 8 in the morning to try to persuade him to help out on the case. Finding Smith, Anstruther, using the code name White Rabbit, goes over Smith’s background then explains the situation at the barracks. He goes on to talk about those who have an interest in the case, namely Cheshire Cat and the person who may have killed him, a Prussian aristocrat code named the Queen of Hearts. He warns Smith that he may be involved whether he likes it or not. The case, and Springheel Jack, is then codenamed Jabberwock and Smith, now codenamed Dormouse, is instructed to pick up the trail from Cheshire Cat and locate Jabberwock before the Queen of Hearts can get to him. There’s only one problem though...

I really enjoyed the first two series of the Springheel Saga, so I was looking forward to picking up the story for the third and final series and I was not disappointed. The writing of Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine has a real Boy’s Own quality about it, reminding me very much of the Dick Barton radio dramas of old. They manage to provide a great introduction to both the characters and the situation while still maintaining the action and an air of suspense, meaning that you don’t have to have listened to the previous series in order to enjoy this story but, if you are already up to speed with the previous tales, this episode doesn’t drag on a recap. Christopher Finney as Jonah Smith was very believable as the world weary ex-policeman and has managed to age his voice well. The affected accents of the Germans/Prussians though were somewhat comedic though which spoiled the atmosphere a little but I don’t know how this could have been avoided while still conveying their nationality. As far as the other smaller roles were concerned, Capt Hamilton was notable as the bluff and bluster commander of the barracks. The incidental music in the episode really enhanced the tension building of the attack on the barracks at the start and continued throughout, giving the whole story an air of discomfort that really suited the narrative. With a shock cliffhanger ending to this first half hour episode, I’m eager to see how the story will now unfold and to finally discover the Secret of Springheel’d Jack.

Image - Wireless Theatre Company

The episode is available direct from the Wireless Theatre Company here.