Big Finish: FIRST ACTION BUREAU Series 1 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: FIRST ACTION BUREAU Series 1 Review

Matthew Kresal stands by for action.
Say the name "Gerry Anderson," and what comes to mind? An exciting whiff of nostalgia, perhaps, remembering childhood favorites? Or, like this reviewer, things you came to during some formative years becoming a geek? Whatever the case, there's no doubt that the Anderson stable has entertained generations of sci-fi and action-adventure fans. It's something that runs in the family, as the output from Anderson Entertainment under his son Jamie has shown. Now the younger Anderson has teamed up with Big Finish producer/writer/director (not to mention the voice of Doctor Who's Daleks and Cybermen) Nicholas Briggs to create a new audio drama series in the Anderson vein.

First Action Bureau (whose initials will be recognizable to fans of the Anderson canon) certainly captures aspects of those earlier works. The spy-fi series is set in 2068 and focuses on agent Nero Jones (Genevieve Gaunt) of the eponymous Bureau. Armed with data mining capabilities and AI technology, the Bureau protects a near-utopian Earth and its space colonies under the direction of the mysterious Zero One (Patterson Joseph). But when headaches start plaguing Jones as she begins to investigate entrepreneur Charlize Wilkin (Nicola Walker), in addition to receiving insistent calls from Bureau techie Benjamin Saal (Sacha Dhawan), it soon becomes clear that there may well be a snake in this near-utopia’s grass.

While it fits the bill for Anderson fare, it does so with a twist. Namely, Anderson and Briggs seek to buck the view that their productions are meant solely for a younger audience. As is apparent by the time the opening sequence concludes, First Action Bureau is a series aimed at an adult audience as it tackles both some big themes and, on the odd occasion, language as well. Indeed, the influences talked about in the extras range from John le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold to Atomic Blond and the Bourne films, just as much as things like Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet, which also get a mention. What the pair create in their scripts (plus with Anderson producing and Briggs in the director chair) is something that captures the thrills of the Anderson canon with a more adult sensibility, taking the spy-fi genre and making it grow up a bit.

It's something that the small but impressive cast likewise brings out in their performances. Listeners to Big Finish's output in the last couple of years will have noticed Gaunt appearing in a fair number of productions, including Briggs' reimagining of the iconic sixties spy-fi series The Prisoner, which makes her an ideal choice for the role of Nero Jones. It's a challenging role for anyone to take on, given the need to portray both immense strength of mind mixed with vulnerability as the story moves along, something that Gaunt seems to do with enviable ease. Patterson Joseph makes a most effective M-like boss of the Bureau while Dhawan offers an earnest but concerned approach to his character, making his motives unclear for much of the narrative. Nicola Walker's performance as Charlize Wilkin walks an intriguing line, leaving both Jones and listener alike wondering about her motives, never quite sure what she's up to with her upbeat manner and friendliness. With Wayne Forester and Richard James filling out the supporting cast (not to mention the odd cameo by Briggs), it's a collection of voice talent every bit as strong as anything that's come before.

It's also exceedingly well made. Hearing in the extras that it was recorded remotely during the 2020 lockdown makes it all the more impressive for how consistently good it is throughout, with my hat going off to Benji Clifford's work in getting everyone to sound like they recorded in the same studio. It also let sound designer Iain Meadows create an impressive set of not only edits but soundscapes, taking listeners from late 21st-century London to colonies out in the solar system in an ever-expansive narrative. The icing on the cake is the score from veteran Hollywood composer Joe Kraemer, whose music captures the adventurous spirit of earlier Anderson shows while also giving a sound that is nothing short of cinematic. Indeed, the music tracks available as extras on this collected release make it worth picking up on their own.

First Action Bureau is, to coin a phrase, fab. It's a fantastic piece of audio spy-fi, creating a very grown-up take on the worlds that made previous Anderson works so successful. In a way, perhaps the highest compliment I can pay is in saying that it feels like a chip off the old block. And it doesn't get much more "FAB" than that.

First Action Bureau is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad