After news that Wireless Theatre Company have very generously made all their work FREE to download, here's a reminder of Susan Omand's thoughts on the first episode of their Cold War Alt-History audiodrama, Red Moon...
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“One tiny detail out of place and everything changes...”
Fade up on JFK’s memorable 1962 ‘moon’ speech, media reports of rocket launches and ... wait... in 1968 it’s Yuri Gagarin, NOT Neil Armstrong, as the first man to set foot on the moon? Yes that’s the idea behind the alt-universe created in Red Moon from the Wireless Theatre Company. It was Russia, not America, that won the space race and went even further, building their own base on the moon. However, America is not a country that likes being beaten to anything (even in an alt-history) and builds a moonbase of their own, adding nuclear capability, absorbing the NASA programme into the new militarised United States Space Command in the process much to the apprehension of the rest of the world. Fast forward to 1979 and we meet Eddie Sloper, former MI5 agent now working an admin desk in the SLD (Space Liaison Department), waking up to the news that the USSR is delivering its own first payload of nuclear warheads to their moonbase. Heading into the office, he tackles his boss, Wilkins, about reporting a seemingly trivial discrepancy in a payload manifest. However, unbeknownst to them, this seems to have attracted the attention of some unexpected sources and leads on to something far bigger than both of them...
I have been a fan of the Wireless Theatre Company’s audio work ever since I listened to their Springheel’d Jack stories a few years ago. I like the way the writer Robert Valentine presents a tale, harking back to the old radio tales of Dick Barton et al with a Boys Own adventure feel and good cliff-hangers at the end of every episode, so I was looking forward to this one. This story has a slightly different feel about it than the Springheel Saga, not quite so gung-ho, but it is just as good even though it seems to be a slower burn. Being the first episode, a lot of time is spent building the character of Sloper, which allows the listener to settle into his mindset, and the character is wonderfully played by Philip Bulcock as a jaded and cynical pen pusher with tragedy in his past. I loved his voice-over narration style too which gave the whole thing an old-school detective noir feel (albeit with a Mancunian rather than a Manhattan accent) and the dialogue with his boss, Wilkins (played to clipped, officerial perfection by Stephen Critchlow) was completely believable.
The sound design too added to the authenticity, although I’m not sure we needed to hear quite all of Sloper’s morning routine (TMI on the toilet thing for me) and the use of genuine news reports mixed in with the fictional ones helped to ground the whole story in reality. I must admit, though, that the Space Snax advert with Emperor Zurk part way through the story lost me a bit and broke the mood, maybe just because it was unexpected.
However, this is just the first episode of a six part series and, as such, builds a solid foundation for the mystery that has been hinted at throughout. Episode one of Red Moon ends, as I had hoped, with a suspense-filled cliff-hanger so, if you’ll excuse me, I have five more episodes to listen to and a crime to solve.
Read the rest of Susan's reviews of the series (but be aware of spoilers) HERE.
Image - Wireless Theatre Company and @arbernaut