Audio - Red Moon Phase II: Umbra

Susan Omand heads back to an alt-London to listen to Phase II of Red Moon thanks to Wireless Theatre Company (slight spoiler for Phase I)...

Having stumbled across a dangerous conspiracy and uncertain who to trust, Sloper’s clandestine investigation draws him into the shadows.

We pick up with Sloper the next morning, with his ex-MI5 colleague Quirke standing over him as he wakes up from his hangover. Quirke delivers the news about Wilkins and, after some serious jibes that define their previous relationship as being none too cosy, Quirke takes Sloper to the crime scene as “their man in the SLD.” Quirke brings Sloper up to speed on the case, saying that the US embassy is being kept out of the loop for now and warns Sloper not to tell them anything either. As we expect Sloper “goes for coffee” and ends up at the embassy where he bumps into an old friend from the US military, Lt Gen Atherton, although it turns out this meeting might not be as coincidental as it first seemed.

Meanwhile at Jodrell Bank, there’s an unconfirmed discovery of a new pulsar but it highlights the fact that the lunar mainframe is glitching. This sends head scientist, Dr Susan Madison, on the war-path, as she was responsible for writing their Aero-detection protocols in the first place and she isn’t happy about her results getting skewed. This may prove to be a mistake on her part as she is summoned to a meeting with the rep from Space-Com. However, it seems she has also attracted the attention of someone on the other side of the Atlantic too.

I must admit I was slightly disoriented by the start of this episode as, to me, the background noise made it sounds a bit like they’re on a boat (they aren’t, they’re in Sloper’s flat – I assume it’s bed springs or something) but other than that this episode is a really good introduction to Sloper’s MI5 ex-adversary Quirke. The thought experiment that Sloper asks Quirke in the car is very reminiscent of the Voight-Kampff test in Blade-Runner and, as such, defines Quirke’s character by pop-culture inference which is a clever piece of writing. There were, however, other allusions that I’m afraid I had to look up, like who “our friends at Grosvenor Square” were (that’s the US Embassy in London apparently) and I’m still not sure who “you know who” at Colorado Springs is yet (I'm assuming for now that it is something US Airforce-ish) but I’m sure all will become clear. One pop culture reference that I did get though, and one that will make a lot of Whovians smile, is the BBC Two programme announcement that’s on in the background of one of the conversations. Nice touch for grounding the alt-universe differences, guys.

Again though, the characterisations, both in writing and delivery, are all very strong and building and rounding out nicely. I particularly enjoyed Quirke’s character, we all know somebody like that, and the way he can antagonise Sloper with just a few words is flinch-inducing (in a good way) so kudos for the coldness of actor Joe Riley. And the plot-line so far, for being deliberately alt-universe, has managed to remain completely plausible with it being very easy to visualise the drama as it unfolds. The steady pacing too means that the suspense and excitement are ramping up in this second episode as the story evolves but it’s at just the right speed to make sure the listener doesn’t miss anything because of too much happening at once nor get bored and bogged down in details and over-explanations. And, once again, there is an intriguing cliff-hanger ending that has left me on tenterhooks to find out who the mystery caller is. Hurry up with Phase III please!

You can stream Phase I of Red Moon FREE on the Wireless Theatre Company website where you can also buy Episode Two for only £1.49 and find the rest of the series as the episodes are released.

Image - Wireless Theatre Company