Big Finish: Thunderbirds TERROR FROM THE STARS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Thunderbirds TERROR FROM THE STARS Review

Matthew Kresal does the countdown.

For those of a certain age, just a mention of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds offers up an exciting whiff of nostalgia. For this reviewer, it takes one back to my teenage years nearly two decades ago when re-runs of the series on TechTV (as it then was) introduced me to the series as part of my discovering what my British colleagues would call Cult TV. It has also been high on my wishlist for Big Finish to tackle as they've gradually brought to audio more of the Anderson catalog. At long last, the iconic atompunk series comes to audio, with the company distributing the download of Terror From the Stars.

It's worth saying upfront that this release isn't the standard sort of audio drama listeners might expect going into it. Terror From the Stars is more in the vein of the enhanced audiobook format that Big Finish employed in their Doctor Who - The Lost Stories releases featuring the first three Doctors. On the one hand, it features narration and description to fill in more visual moments. On the other hand, it has dramatized scenes as well as both sound effects and a score. The result is a cross between the audiobook and audio drama formats, offering a best of both worlds approach in bringing the story to life.

The story of Terror From the Stars being an adaptation of a novel published in the original TV series heyday and written by John Theydon (which the internet tells me was a pseudonym for the prolific John William Jennison). The plot feels entirely in keeping with the TV series, bringing together elements from across its run, seeing International Rescue dealing first with a mysterious attack on the Thunderbird 5 space station that leads them to the Gobi Desert and then (of course) to London. In addition to the various Tracy's, Brains, Lady Penelope, Parker, and the villainous Hood feature. It's a story that, in many ways, would have made a fine Thunderbirds feature film, something that this production of it seems to embrace wholeheartedly.

Which isn't to say it's not without faults. Adapted for the enhanced audiobook format by Andrew Clements and running over four hours, there is a sense that it perhaps leans a tad too heavily into being faithful in retaining prose from the novel. That includes lengthy descriptive passages such as Scott Tracy's boarding of Thunderbird 1 that, while neat, slows things down as a listening experience. Or, indeed, given the work that sound designer Benji Clifford has done in releases such as the most recent Third Doctor Adventures set, if some of the things described could have played out in dramatized sequences instead. By and large, under the direction of Samuel Clemens, Terror From the Stars finds a good balance, though the production might be faithful to a fault in places.

Though let there be no doubt it's a solid piece of work. The voice casting alone makes this worth a listen. The ever-reliable Jon Culshaw steps into the roles of the patriarch Jeff Tracy and burglar turned butler Parker, wonderfully bringing both iconic characters to life with the attention previously brought to bear on Doctor Who's icons. The same is true of much of the cast, including Genevieve Gaunt as Lady Penelope, Justin T Lee as Scott Tracy and the Hood, and Wayne Forester as Brains. Some are closer matches to their sixties counterparts than others, but all show respect for the original and are very much in their spirit. Beyond the cast, the sounds of the series are there, too, with Joe Kraemer's music magnificently pastiching the scores of the original series and Clifford's sound design bringing the world to life. So much so that at times one can close one's eyes and imagine it all in the glory of Supermarionation.

While one can fault it perhaps for being too long and bound to the prose of its source novel, there's no doubt that Terror From the Stars has its Supermarionation heart in the right place. And whether you're a fan of the original series looking for a nostalgia rush or someone new to Thunderbirds, chances are this will leave you smiling from ear to ear. Not to mention proclaiming that "THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!"

Thunderbirds: Terror from the Stars 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.

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