Big Finish - STAR COPS: MOTHER EARTH Part 1 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish - STAR COPS: MOTHER EARTH Part 1 Review

Matthew Kresal reenlists with the International Space Police Force.

In 1987, Star Cops aired on British TV across nine weeks at the height of summer. It was a series that, while flawed, showed plenty of promise it was never quite able to fulfill thanks to the BBC deciding against a second season. Star Cops was gone, but not forgotten, finding new generations of fans thanks to VHS and later DVD releases. So it perhaps isn't surprising that Big Finish, which has had great success with Cult TV properties including Doctor Who, Blake's 7, and The Prisoner, would be the ones to resurrect this overlooked gem, beginning with this box-set released in June 2018.

Like with Russell T Davies TV regeneration of Doctor Who in 2005, the Big Finish Star Cops is both a continuation and updated take on the original series. That approach is particularly apparent in the opening installment, Andrew Smith's One of Our Cops is Missing. Smith, a former police detective, brings a sense of both the police procedural and the realistic near-future genre setting together for this episode. Not only is it re-introducing some of the original TV characters, but also bringing in new ones, telling two different mystery plots, and getting a crucial arc in motion. It's a tall order, but it's one that Smith accomplishes brilliantly. Indeed, it might be a better opener for the series than its TV one was back in the day.

Ian Potter follows Smith with the wonderfully titled Tranquility and Other Illusions. With Star Cops beginning to investigate and seek out the Mother Earth terror group bent on getting humanity to abandon the high frontier, a murder happens just a stone throw away from where Apollo 11 first put men on the Moon. Are the two connected? This second episode is a prime example of what Big Finish does with their Cult TV properties: not only revitalizing them, but sometimes realizing them better than they were the first time around. Potter's mix of crime thriller, hard sci-fi, and character moments (especially for Trevor Cooper's character of Devis, who was old school even in 1987) is first-rate and finds a balance that the TV show itself seem to struggle with finding at times.

Chris Hatherall's Lockdown brings things down to Earth as Mother Earth's action lead to a conference at Tech Tower in Paris, which Star Cops commander Nathan Spring has to attend. Of course, things take on a base under siege air soon enough as Mother Earth locks everyone in the building. Hatherall and director Helen Goldwyn craft a version of Die Hard on audio, in effect, but one that is very firmly rooted in the universe of the TV series. Nothing here is over the top as a result, from Spring in the building interacting with those present to Devis and Paul Bailey investigating from orbit, which only adds to the sense of reality and tension. Indeed, with thematic elements in line with televised episodes such as In Warm Blood, it's easy to imagine this episode being part of some unrecorded season of the series in the late eighties.

The set concludes with Guy Adams' The Thousand Ton Bomb. Bringing together plot threads from the previous three stories, Adams not only crafts an engaging thriller as our heroes race to figure out Mother Earth's next move, but also gives them all something to contribute to proceedings. The result is that there is never a dull moment, either for them or for the listener as it races headlong, never letting up. Plus, for longtime fans of the series, there's the added thrill of Pal Kenzy, played by Linda Newton, making her return in more ways than one. The Thousand Ton Bomb is both an immensely satisfying conclusion to the set and nicely sets up the second set with some loose threads left hanging for the future.

The Star Cops: Mother Earth Pt 1 box set also features two other things that have long been in Big Finish's favor: strong casts and excellent production work. Like the TV series, it has a compelling cast of characters. The trio of returning ones, Nathan Spring with his trusty pocket computer Box (David Calder), Colin Devis (Trevor Cooper), and Pal Kenzy (Linda Newton), all feel very much present and correct, like they were on the BBC TV Centre studio floor once more. The new additions, particularly Rakhee Thakrar as Priya Basu and Philip Olivier as Paul Bailey, settle right in perfectly alongside their TV forebearers and prove more than a match for them. Beyond the cast, Helen Goldwyn's direction is first-rate, getting the best out of the cast from humor to moments of seriousness while Martin Montague crafts an immersive soundscape that brings this world of moonbases and space stations to life. Last but not least, Howard Carter's music offers more appropriate underscore for the series than the original TV version had, including the decision (likely to be controversial among die-hard fans) not to use a version of the infamous Justin Hayward theme tune.

Whether you're a viewer of the series already or are one of those intrigued by Big Finish's trailers, this first Star Cops set is worth seeking out. Like the TV series it germinated from, it's a compelling mix of a plausible near-future with space having become a frontier in more than name and of crime fiction, with often flawed members of the law facing off against criminals high and low. As realized by Big Finish, complete with some returning members of its 1980s cast and some welcome new additions, Star Cops is back and better than ever.

So why not reach across the net and give it a listen?

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.  

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