“I was more surprised by the popularity shift. When did geeks become popular?”
New startup audio drama company Everybodyelse Productions debuts with the pilot for a projected new ongoing series that mixes The Last Starfighter, Hangar 18 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
An original story from author/producer Martin Johnson, Osiris takes a bit of Boys’ Own youthful adventure and mixes it with a more modernistic, almost Torchwoodesque locals vs. government black ops approach, while never falling too far on the side of seriousness or politicosocial commentary.
As so often is the case with UK science fiction and fantasy, some ancient legends of the nation come into vague play as well, making this an odd if quite intriguing melange of seemingly disparate elements which meld surprisingly well in a fast paced, generally upbeat bit of drama.
The story revolves around Nottingham graphic designer Jason Fox (Christian Edwards, Daleks Among Us), who accidentally falls into an underground system of caverns to discover a spaceship cocooned amidst the root system of Sherwood Forest’s famed Major Oak Tree (thus offering yet another speculative explanation as to its unusual size and longevity).
Sharing his discovery with his rescuers (sister Melissa (Liz White, New Who’s The Snowmen) and best mate William Tyler (Robert Whitelock, Jago & Litefoot & Patsy)), they shortly wind up piloting the craft and running afoul of a government who wants to keep things hush hush (and the technology for its own ends), led by a certain General Stone (Colin McFarlane, Torchwood: Children of Earth).
But when Stone and company take Melissa hostage, they may be biting off more than they can chew…because Jason’s well pissed, and he has Osiris on his side…
One slight gripe I did have here is that while the characters are both likeable and well fleshed out over the course of the opening sequences, once we move into the action per se it feels like Jason knows a bit too much about the spaceship right off the bat in a magical, nigh-deus ex machina sense.
In other words, as an artist and designer (not even a scientist, engineer or what have you, who might be expected to reverse engineer this sort of thing with relative speed), how would Jason know with such absolute assurance and “as if he’d always known”, of the existence of the ship, its organic nature, setup and controls and that it was “made to be piloted by (himself)”? Even for science fiction, this seemed a bit too mystical of a leap of logic (particularly as the others take this all in stride, without a great deal of protest and nary a raised eyebrow).
Even so, the release comes off more wide eyed if not (as much as I hate to use this phrase) family friendly than most Big Finish offerings (with their tendency towards dark doings and oft grim psychological, emotional and politicosical contrivances),* and its unique provenance (which includes mapping to Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound for those whose systems are set up to accommodate such – for less high end audiophiles, it will automatically default to a more standard stereo configuration) should make for an additional point of interest to the prospective listener.
* hell, it even closes on a Good Charlottesque pop-punk number by one Josh Woodward about shutting off and taking a holiday from all the tech we’re societally plugged into, which both fits story and tone perfectly and simultaneously comes off a tad ironic – more like trading Earth tech for space tech, actually…
Despite hailing from the Midlands, performer accents would appear, at least to this Stateside observer, to range from Welsh to Scouse, which followers of modern-era BBC Cardiff productions such as Doctor Who and Torchwood should find well within the bounds of familiarity and comfort (though older fans accustomed to the pre-1980’s revolution and a stuffier, RADA-approved “Queen’s English” may find it a tad hard to follow at times). I personally found myself unusually relaxed by the melliflous lilt of it all, so fellow Anglophiles can consider this as a definite positive.
Directed by stalwart Big Finish veteran Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield, Jago & Litefoot, Companion Chronicles, Blakes Seven), events move along at a brisk pace, with sufficient attention to both characterization and action to keep listeners of all preference well chuffed. As is her wont, Bowerman even makes a quick if welcome cameo as Melissa’s friend Kate (who has something of an unrequited thing for our hero…or at least so his matchmaking sister would have us believe!)
Johnson himself has had some involvement with both Big Finish (Colin Baker/Mel effort The Doomwood Curse, Eighth Doctor Adventures The Eight Truths and the Book of Kells) and Bafflegab Productions (The Scarifyers‘ the Horror of Loch Ness, the Thirteen Hallows) in the areas of music, sound design and post production prior to founding his own company late last year.
As such, the impressive quality of music and sound on display herein offers little surprise, except to those unfamiliar with his earlier work. For the benefit of those unfortunate few, what you can expect from Osiris is a particularly crisp, well appointed production that sounds comparable if not superior to far larger scale efforts in the audio drama field.
In all, particularly at the reasonable price point being offered, Osiris seems to be a promising start to what looks to be an interesting new series and company, and certainly one worthy of being given a listen to see whether it tickles your fancy as well.
Osiris takes off on November 28, on CD (£10, via www.everybodyelse.co.uk or through Amazon) or digital download (£8 via BandCamp at https://everybodyelseproductions.bandcamp.com/releases or iTunes).