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“You lot haven’t changed. You really thought embarking on a program of homicidal lunacy would turn his frown upside down?”

Who veteran Katy Manning returns for another round of adventures from her second most famous character, the mad time travelling force of sheer chaos, Iris Wildthyme.

First up, James Goss gives us yet another Scorchies adventure, but this one’s less panto/music hall than usual: in fact, we’re talking mid-80’s style Northern Soul!

Iris is glad to see old flame Brian Bomany once again…but why does he refuse to perform his lone hit for the punters? And what’s this about Iris being a “vocal vampire”?

Despite the Style Council by way of Blow Monkeys material Brian actually performs at his shows, those who prefer the more blatantly camp associations The Scorchies bring should still be well pleased to hear their endless loop of the Ivor Biggunesque “oh, dear Sally”. Worth a mild titter at first, but it goes on…and on…and on…

“Come on, Brian Bonamy…let’s go out and make horrible music together!”

Even so, hearing a rather Simply Redlike performance of a song containing the verse “It’s gotta be thou and thee, onanism ain’t the key to make it up to you” is absolutely priceless. The best Scorchies appearance to date.

“It’s a disembodied intelligence I caught skulking around the Earth one night…you know, the way they do.”
“So…naturally, you decided to build a house around it!”
“…and into the bargain, I get a haunted house that sweeps its own chimney!”
“And makes soup!”

Next, we pay a visit to the stately Pink Gables, former residence of none other than Iris Wildthyme, courtesy of author Nick Campbell. But Captain Edwin Turner (Geoffrey Breton) is a mite too curious about the intricacies of the home for his own good…and wait…is the house situated on the moon?

As Iris attempts to bring the unfortunate Captain back to this mortal vale, she
finds herself beset by the residents of the house both old and new, one of whom is none other than David Warner…

Iris convinces some Edwardian spirits to get with the times and lose their more parochial leanings, and the good Captain saves the day! There’s even a happy ending for all concerned…

“Roll up, see Cassie Burdock, the oracle of the supermarket. Get your shopping and your fortune told! Find your fish fingers and see the future! Pick up your pickles and hear your predictions!”

Then Roy Gill brings us to North counties supermarket Fergusons, where a checkout girl mooning over her oblivious manager discovers she can predict the future…but at what cost?

“You poor little thing…it’s never easy to be out of step with everyone else, is
it? You need to make yourself that bit bigger and brasher and bolder just to find a way to cope with it all.”

With a bit of a comic nod to D.H. Lawrence and the Rocking Horse Winner, Gill
crafts a silly bit of kitchen sink business that manages to tap into the driness of working class life while simultaneously satirizing the literary (and televised) milieu built around it. Think of this one as Eastenders goes comedy.

“I’m going to be engaged in some good old fashioned class warfare in the kitchen!”

Mark B. Oliver spirits us off to the Fothergill estate for a bit of drawing room
mystery, when she plays Poirot to solve the Murder in the Abbey.

“It’s not my fault that inbreeding has dulled the aristocratic mind!”

Tracey Childs (best known as Klein from the Sylvester McCoy Who audios) is well cast as the imperious Lady of the manor, all huffing indignation and stuffiness.

“Spit it out, woman. Did someone kill my niece, and if so, whom?”
“Don’t you know? Don’t any of you know?”
“Of course we don’t!”
“Oh, bugger. Neither do I!”

It’s all a bit silly and too short for the sort of story it’s attempting to be, and
it even gets a tad modernistic with its Cold War-era ending, but hey, it’s Iris
playing detective – what did you expect?

“That’s the whole point of casinos. The architects build them in such a way as to make you lose track of time. No clocks, no windows, just the slots, shows and getting sloshed on overpriced booze.”
“Overpriced? Everything is paid for on our free guest credits.”
“I know. And I still feel ripped off!”

Then we go on a gambler’s holiday with Hamish Steele, where Liberace analogue Seth the Sensational (Stephen Fewell) holds court, the slots are chiming in mad rhythmic cadence and fortunes fall on the spin of the wheel, cut of the cards or roll of the dice.

“There’s something uniquely human about being entertained by watching your money literally going down the drain.”

But when one of the geriatric slot patrons falls dead at her machine, it becomes apparent what’s really being gambled away at Giza…

“Captain…what the hell are you doing in a bath with Seth the Sensational?”
“It’s not what it looks like!”

Fewell is a fairly fabulous malfeasant, for what it’s worth, and while once again overly short (leaving this like most of the others contained herein feeling both somewhat superficial and undeveloped – a longer running time would have allowed for a fuller experience and far more characterization), there are enough amusing bits and clever lines to keep the listener entertained throughout.

“I always did like to go bump in the night!”

Things turn a tad eerie when Cavan Scott steers the double decker to the Garden in the Clouds, where anything but tranquility awaits…

Is Iris haunting herself?  Who are the mysterious broadcasters taking on the
challenge of the “Garden of Death”?  The revelation will be televised…

Not a lot to comment on here, bar Iris’ uniquely happy go lucky resignation in the face of her eventual mortality.  Once again, there’s a bit too much going on here plotwise (not to mention in terms of characterization) to be explored in such an abbreviated form.

“All those years I’ve wasted…waiting and searching…and you found it in a
charity shop?”

Then producer/director Scott Handcock puts hair on your chest when Iris and Captain Turner head back to the 1970s for an encounter with a werewolf.

When Turner heads into St. Rumbold’s cathedral, he runs across a sinister guide who takes the trusting time traveller to the basement and tells him the legend of “old red eyes”…a creature who may not be too happy with Iris’ taste in couteure…

The good Captain then surprises everyone by getting something of a heroic sendoff (and subsequent happy ending!), leaving Iris flying solo for her final adventure this go around…

Another overly short but sweet one, with a touch of horror to spruce up the comedy.  In fact, that designation can be applied to many of the stories in this set…

“Shove off, will you?  I don’t relish being harangued by bag ladies on the streets of Soho!”

Finally Paul Magrs brings us the denouement of this series’ adventures, with Iris become something of a barfly, killing time and waiting year after year for a certain someone to drop by…but when he does, there appears to be a clear case of mistaken identity…

“You seem to be under the impression that I require the dubious services of a goodtime girl well past her expiry date…and frankly, nothing could be further from the truth!”

Simultaneously the warmest and wittiest of the stories contained herein, Looking for a Friend is an oddly poignant sendoff to a beloved companion. Nuff said.

While both Panda and the longer form story are clearly missed, the simple fact is that any Iris is better than none.

Geoffrey Breton does a bang up job as the practically Haggardian Captain Turner, whose turn of the century manners offer as much amusement as our heroine’s own loveable antics.

And of course, the inimitable Katy Manning continues to essay what has become an equally beloved successor to her Jo Grant – in fact, even moreso.

After all, who but dotty, scatterbrained, much-lived in Iris could make Jo seem positively stiff by comparison?