Big Finish - STAR COPS: MOTHER EARTH Part 2 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish - STAR COPS: MOTHER EARTH Part 2 Review

Matthew Kresal returns to service.
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, when the BBC decided 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. Following their first set in June 2018 introducing the threat of terrorist group Mother Earth, their second set in November of that year continued the adventures of the titular organization.

Mother Earth 2 picks up with Dead and Buried, written by Guy Adams. Set a few months after the end of the first release (whose concluding episode Adams also wrote), the script settles listeners back into action. Indeed, it splits the characters between two different cases, unconnected from one another. Or are they? Like the opening story from the first Mother Earth box-set, Adams' script has a lot on its plate. Not only re-introducing characters from the TV series (in this case, Pal Kenzy, played by Linda Newton, who essentially had an extended cameo in the first set) but telling two different mystery plots and getting the story arc in motion as well. It's something that Adams handles deftly with worldbuilding, tension, and well-placed moments of humor.

Regular Big Finish contributor John Dorney crafts a compelling whodunit with his script for The Killing Jar. In a topical nod toward space tourism, the Star Cops head out to investigate a series of accidents and a reported fatality on board tourist space station the Charlie Chaplin, run by entrepreneur Martin Thane. Expecting to find an informant, they instead find themselves in an increasingly lethal death trap, one whose mastermind seems to know their every move before they make it. The Killing Jar is a prime example of what Big Finish has excelled at doing over the last twenty years: taking what would seem to be visual stories and finding engaging ways to produce them on audio. In fact, there's a visceral quality to the production, and Dorney's writing, that comes out of the choice of medium and one that allows the script to play around to a degree with audience expectations. Armed with a clever solution (which this reviewer won't spoil), the result is one of this set's highlights.

Roland Moore changes tracks with Moonshine. As the title may suggest, this episode deals with an apparent outbreak of illegal alcohol on the Moon. But when one person claims his innocence before dying in a mysterious suicide, and someone likewise cries foul of claims of drunkenness, the Star Cops start asking some serious questions. Like with Lockdown that occupied this same slot in the first set, Moonshine splits the action before a foreign location on Earth and up in space. In this case, Australia, allowing a chance for Moore and actress Linda Newton to explore some of what makes Kenzy tick as a character, including encountering her ex-fiance Police Superintendent. The script features plenty of character moments of Kenzy, something that Newton relishes in both in her scenes with Trevor Cooper's Devis and Timothy Hofmeier as Phil Bovey. The episode also introduces the visiting dignitary Godfrey Miller (a suitably oily William Gaminara), whose time on Moonbase and watching the Star Cops in action helps set the stage for the finale.

The finale in question being Andrew Smith's Hostage. A former police detective in real life, Smith, in his opening script in the first box-set, showed a knack for this series that's on display here as well. Hostage is nothing short of a thriller, one packed with incident, action, and surprises as the Star Cops future is put on the line by Miller as Mother Earth's attacks take on a deadlier quality. But when moon outpost worker Mary Ward (Sarah Sutton, best known to Big Finish listeners as Fifth Doctor companion Nyssa) begins making demands after taking a hostage, the stakes have never been higher or the future more uncertain. As the conclusion to both the box-set and the Mother Earth story arc, Smith's script has a lot riding on it, and it delivers in every way possible, from a moon rover chase to a pair of jaw-dropping plot twists. This reviewer doffs his cap to Smith on a superb piece of audio thriller writing, even more so with an SF twist.

Given this is a Big Finish production, it also has two other things in its favor: solid casting and production work. Commander Nathan Spring, with his trusty pocket computer Box (David Calder), Colin Devis (Trevor Cooper), and Pal Kenzy (Linda Newton), all introduced in the TV series, all feel as if they're on the TV Centre studio floor once more. Newer cast members Rakhee Thakrar as Priya Basu, Philip Olivier as Paul Bailey, and Nimmy March as Moonbase Co-ordinator Shayla Moss nicely sit alongside the TV trio, bouncing off them with the ease of a rep company. The supporting casts are equally solid, with Gaminara as Miller, Hofmeier's Bovy, and Sutton's Ward being among the standouts. Production-wise, Helen Goldwyn's direction is first-rate, getting the best out of the cast from humor to moments of seriousness. Martin Montague crafts an immersive soundscape that brings this world of moonbases and space stations to life with as much ease as the Australian outback. Finally, Howard Carter's music brings a cinematic underscore to proceedings, with his score being one thing that the audios certainly have improved upon from the original TV series.

Star Cops: Mother Earth Part 2 is nothing short of a triumph. It not only resumes Big Finish's continuation and updated take on the original series but also concludes their first arc for it with a bang. With a compelling mix of a plausible near-future setting and crime fiction, not to mention members of the original cast settled back into their roles, Star Cops is back and better than ever.

And with more that's followed, clearly here to stay.

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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