Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Scarifyers: The Secret Weapon of Doom - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"Lionheart investigates the disappearance of a fabled super weapon - and discovers they aren't the only ones searching for it... Death stalks our heroes at every turn. Lionheart and Dunning must fight for their lives..."

More rollicking good fun from those people at Bafflegab Productions (formerly Cosmic Hobo) with the fifth installment in their hugely popular "The Scarifyers" audio plays. Sadly this is also Nicholas Courtney's last appearance in the series, who passed away in 2011. Produced in 2009, "The Secret Weapon of Doom" ultimately serves as a swan song for the actor, whose other roles included that of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in popular BBC production "Doctor Who".

As you can expect from such a fantastically-produced play, there is much in the way of word play, humour, frolics, mysterious happenings and a taste of the supernatural. It has to be said that both Terry Molloy (as Professor Edward Dunning) and Courtney (portraying the role of Lionheart) work well together, delivering fine entertainment and intriguing plot. Without doubt Simon Barnard and Paul Morris write something pretty amazing here, bringing prison escapes, murders, and phantoms into being with swift talent and passion. Just where do they get their ideas from?

Following an accident, Professor Dunning is temporarily out of action, allowing his partner Lionheart to team up with MI-13 agent Victor Bright (Nigel Havers). Together they engage in a new case: investigating the whereabouts of a new super weapon so secret that no one knows what it does, where to find it, or what it looks like! Just another day at the office for Lionheart, then? Bright is such a fun character, and Havers' casting is pure genius: "A man noble of brow, stooped of gait and fat of belly.."

Keeping himself occupied, Dunning decides to spend his spare time writing, collaborating with friends of his writing group the Fantasists. However, it looks as if this simple pastime could conceal dangers of its very own... The biggest question is: just what is the connection between the professor's recent experiences and Lionheart's investigation? Add to the mix legendary English actor Leslie Phillips as Colonel Black, a man whose obsession with wasps equals my own, and you have an ingredient for success! First mentioned in The Scarifyers debut "The Nazad Conspiracy" (published in 2007), Black had not appeared in a single story until "The Secret Weapon of Doom", so it makes for a nice addition.

Ever since discovering Bafflegab with their sixth installment of The Scarifyers, The Magic Circle (thank you, Simon Barnard), my appetite for more of this kind of audio play has grown. Set in the 1930s, The Scarifyers explores all manner of supernatural creatures, ghosts, demons and strange phenomenon. Inspector Lionheart had once refused to believe in unearthly beings, until life taught him otherwise. Professor Dunning is a naive and rather easy going horror writer - Oh crumbs! Together they make for an interesting team.

In this installment, prepare for more of Edwin Sykes' deliciously composed music, as Barnard and Morris dream up yet more ways for people to die. Voice artists David Benson, Alex Lowe, Lizzie Roper, and David Bickerstaff play multiple roles, as some face death in unusual ways: for example, what better way to kill Heinz Soss (Bickerstaff) than with some soup? Heinz... soup... Courtney's involvement brings humorous scenes such as face-offs with soup (yes, as previous) and out-smarting a matron (Roper). Did I mention soup? How can you also not enjoy a tale that throws such characters as "Jimmy the Spiv" and "Primula Manningtree" at you? What delightfully imagined names...

Anyone who appreciates the art of audiobooks will no doubt admire the sound design for The Scarifyers, this time around the work of Anthony Danbury, who has been with this audio series since its first outing; he was later replaced by Martin Johnson for "The Magic Circle". Another mention should go to Garen Ewing, whose fabulous cover art brings an extra dimension to each story - he is the writer and artist of award-winning comic "The Rainbow Orchid" featuring the character of Julius Chancer.

Carry On Scarifying (as I like to think of it) is a highly recommended series that will entertain all who enjoy their radio with a slice of sharp humour and wonderful fantasy. The quality improves with each, and the laughs increase. The perfect companion.

Purchase The Secret Weapon of Doom from Bafflegab Productions:
CD or download