The Catacombs The Merchandise Guide
Records, tapes and CDs
Compiled by Martin Willey

Big Finish Audio Dramas

UK 13 September 2019
CD: ISBN: 978-1-83868-069-5 €18.32
Digital download: ISBN: 978-1-83868-070-1 €14.99

Breakawat cover

Big Finish started producing licensed audio dramas based on Doctor Who in 1998, and have diversified into other UK fantasy television franchises, including Anderson's Captain Scarlet and Terrahawks. The "audio dramas" are produced like radio dramas, with professional actors often including original cast. They are sold on CDs and internet downloads. Senior producer is David Richardson, who used to write about Space: 1999 for TV Zone magazine in the 1990s.

Big Finish previously did an audio "re-imagining" of another ITC series, The Prisoner, starting in 2016. The series featured an updated format, with new music, and used a mixture of adaptions based on original episodes and new stories. It seems this is the template for Space: 1999.

The co-executive producer, writer and director is Nicholas Briggs, an actor and writer best known for voicing the Daleks on the BBC Doctor Who since 2005. Most of the Big Finish productions are written and directed by Briggs.

Jamie Anderson (son of Gerry Anderson) has worked as script editor for Big Finish on Doctor Who and other productions, including Space: 1999

The first play, Breakaway, was announced 12 August 2019 (with a premature advance announcement by Jamie Anderson on 11 August), for release on 13 September 1999. "An additional box set of four episodes will follow early in 2020." Two stories will be based on original episodes (one is Death's Other Dominion), two will be original. Briggs intends the stories to be more of a continuing serial, with a development over the stories.

The adaption (over 2 CDs) of Breakaway is based on the original episode (with some original dialogue) but expanded significantly. It was written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, with Jamie Anderson script-editing. On a third disc is a 1-hour audio documentary about the making of the play. Total length is given as 167 minutes, so play length must be a little under 2 hours.

Music is by Benji Clifford, an actor and sound editor who does music and sound design for Big Finish, and also co-hosts their podcast with Briggs. It is a new score (and sound effects), but the main theme is closely based on Barry Gray (channelled via Geoff Love).

Big Finish cast

Big Finish typically uses some original cast-members for their plays, but they elected to use new actors for Space: 1999. All have worked with Big Finish on other productions. The cast is mostly British. Bonnar is Scottish, but his accent is British or occasional mildly American for this production. Creasey (raised in the US and UK) uses an American accent. McCready has a rather broad Australian accent as Carter, and a thick Russian accent as Gorski. Kano and Nordstrom are now female. The production released a photo of the cast in replica uniforms and two original spacesuits. The play was recorded 8-9 July 2019.

Mark Bonnar (Commander John Koenig). In the press release, Bonnar says "Space: 1999 and Martin Landau were two of my favourite things growing up," says Mark. "So my ten year old self was jumping up and down when I got the news that I'd been cast!"

Maria Teresa Creasey (Dr Helena Russell)

Clive Hayward (Professor Victor Bergman)

Glen McCready (Commander Gorsky/Paul Morrow/Alan Carter)

Susan Hingley (Sandra Benes/Alpha Computer/Sian Springer)

Timothy Bentinck (Commissioner Simmons)

Amaka Okafor (Dashka Kano)

Jules de Jongh (Petra Nordstrom)

Strangely two characters have subtle and rather needless name changes, neither of which will be obvious in an audio format (Simmonds becomes "Simmons", Gorski is "Gorsky"). "Sian Springer" is a new character. Petra is the newscaster who interviews Simmonds and Koenig is the early scenes (a newscast establishes the opening of the story, replacing the Simmonds/Koenig briefing in the Eagle).

With different sound effects and different voices, the first impression from the previews is a more professional version of the 1970s Power Records adaptations. There is no narration. Some of the dialogue is taken directly from the original ("Coffee, Commander Koenig?"), and it resurrects some of the lost friction between Helena and Gorski, but with new dialogue ("Asshole"). It adds scientific explanations (a "traversable wormhole" from the planet Meta), but it's not really any more credible than the original. The main difference is broadening the characters, particularly with more friction between between Koenig, Helena, Gorski and Simmonds. The pace is slow, some of the dialogue and new plot is awkward, but the main cast is fine.

Jamie Anderson's company, the Gerry Anderson Store, produced a special edition, limited to 500 copies, with a slipcase, a "Gerry Anderson photo archive" booklet (the "exclusive" photos in the promo photo are all ITC shots seen on the Carlton and Network DVDs). A podcast, hosted by Jamie Anderson and Nick Briggs with clips of a 1990s Gerry Anderson interview was made available for download on 10 September 2019 (28mins 30seconds).

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Copyright Martin Willey