Three decades on, and Dr. Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson) now heads Department 7. Journalist Tom Crane is dead, and his son Adam (John Dorney) has come to deliver a very special missive on behalf of his late father.
“So…that’s about the size of it. Fielding telephone calls from cranks and
vicars. I can see how it’s kept you so busy, Miss Reynolds…”
Whitehall bean counter James Doyle (Alan Cox) views the project as something of an anachronism, an easy cut from the budget.
But before Reynolds is sent packing to the unemployment queue, she’s drawn to some ghostly tape recordings from the surviving half of psychic twins Mary McConnell (Sandra Voe), and a casually tagging along Adam discovers he’s inherited his father’s unique gifts…
“I am the carrier of the ancient way…the spark of the flame of thy love…Come!”
“These are nothing…I do not know you.”
Then the pair investigate the disappearance of one of their more promising test subjects, Elinor Gordon (Kate Bracken). Apparently, the lady’s run off to The Solstice Center – a research project cum commune run by Dr. Jane Wyatt (Camilla Power), but with an oddly pagan orientation, courtesy of self-styled Magus Edmund Fennick (Terry Molloy).
Are all the odd doings wholly attributable to ley lines and electromagnetic field sensitivity? Or is there something more sinister going on?
“Morag…the empty vessel.”
“They needed a host…I gave them one.”
Then Morag (Natasha Gerson) herself comes into play, as part of a very Scottish possession in Cavan Scott’s Legion.
Just what is self styled ‘exorcist’ Wanda McCrum’s (Georgie Glen) interest in “Charlotte”, a patient at Dr Jacqueline Everson (Hilary Maclean)’s private clinic, the Kalka Institute?
“Unless an adult is within our criminal justice system or detained under the Mental Health Act, the truth is, they have the legal right to go missing.”
Finally, Reynolds and Crane investigate a series of disappearances of homeless people across Edinborough. When Chief Superintendent Malcolm Wade (Terry Molloy) effectively washes his hands of the matter, responsibility falls to the local parish…
Reverend Lucy Douglas (Tracy Wiles) is open and cooperative to the team’s investigation, but church warden Fraser Kirkland (Derek Hutchinson) is not only suspicious, but hostile to their efforts…is the church haunted? Or is there more to the story?
“With this lot, you won’t just be able to hear a mouse fart at a thousand paces, you’ll be able to see the fart.”
Pushing the hints and correspondences of the teleseries straight into full blown occultism and supernatural doings, the debut of The Omega Factor audio series holds up quite well to scrutiny by those of a darker sensibility. While still operating in the realm of In Search Of / Stone Tape style pseudoscientific investigation of metaphysical phenomena, the authors appear unintimidated by the sort of cautiousness that, in all honesty, seemed to hold the interesting but flawed 1979 series back somewhat.
While hardly moving into, say, Jules de Grandin, Diana Trelawny or Dennis Wheatley territory, to encounter a story like Phil Mulryne’s The Old Gods is a bit of an eye opener, a sort of delayed fulfillment of the promise which Drexel and Morag seemed to be pointing towards in the first episode or two (before things got a bit more muddled, down to earth and governmentally conspiratorial in focus). It may therefore be taking liberties with Jack Gerson’s original, more subdued intent, but it leaves the listener with a much stronger product in the end.
Returning series veteran Louise Jameson comes off a bit overcaffeinated (doubly ironic, given her more subdued performance in the teleseries and her adjurations to Adam Crane in Matt Fitton’s From Beyond!), though all the exasperation is quite understandable given the even more precarious status of Department 7 herein.
After all, with her relevancy being questioned and authority undermined, how stoic could the lady possibly be?
Author (Justice of Jalxar, King of Sontar, The Crooked Man, The English Way of Death) and occasional actor (Light at the End, The Romance of Crime) makes for a likeable enough co-lead, with a touch more humanist warmth than his strident, often wildly emotional televised forebear.
While keeping a very British reserve, the experienced listener can easily divine his confusion about life direction and reluctant involvement with Reynolds and Department 7, not to mention his concern for his fellow man (note his actions and relationship to Mary McConnell – how many would just shrug and walk away, where he more or less bends over backwards to ensure the well being of an effective stranger?) It’s a winning touch, and feels rather genuine.
Additional bits of business from veterans Terry Molloy and Natasha Gerson lend a measure of gravitas and versimillitude to the proceedings.
There’s certainly the chance that longstanding aficionados of the original source material (whether the novel cum audiobook or the teleseries proper) may find the more openly esoteric/metaphysical leanings of Series One a step too far, a bit less constrained in its approach to the unknown.
But for my part, I found this one a refreshing fulfillment of the original series’ somewhat stifled promise, and look forward to the next season.