Big Finish: Stingray OPERATION ICECAP Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Stingray OPERATION ICECAP Review

Matthew Kresal is about to launch Stingray...
The early 1960s feels like a golden age for the work of then-married couple Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. One of their biggest hits, and the one that arguably set the stage for the show they're best known for, was Stingray. Featuring the adventures of Captain Troy Tempest of the titular submarine of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), Stingray has remained fondly remembered as a Supermarionation adventure series in its own right. Now, as part of the ever-expanding line-up of audio dramas and audiobooks based on Anderson properties, Stingray has come to audio with Operation: Icecap, with Big Finish distributing its download version.

It's worth saying upfront that this release isn't the standard sort of audio drama listeners might expect going into it. Like Thunderbirds: Terror From the Stars earlier this summer, Operation: Icecap is much 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.

Also worth mentioning is that Operation: Icecap is 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, with Troy Tempest and the Stingray crew of Lieutenant "Phones" and the mute lady of the sea Marina discovering a diving saucer pre-dating any known civilization. Sent by WASP leader Commander Shore, the Stingray crew follow the trail of the saucer's ancient voyage to Antarctica, facing the forces of the undersea dictator Titan, sea creatures, and nature itself as they arrive on the continent of ice. Featuring a cavalcade of the series characters, including Titan's surface Agent X-2-0 and Lieutenant Atlanta Shore, Operation: Icecap feels like it could have easily been the script for an unmade Stingray feature film, something that this production of it seems to embrace wholeheartedly.

Having found the earlier Thunderbirds audiobook release solid but perhaps overlong, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised by how well Operation: Icecap flowed. Adapted Ben Page (who also voices the Aquaphibians) strikes a nice balance between using Theydon's original prose and dramatization, using the descriptions for sequences when the latter won't quite convey things on audio. That's especially true of the numerous action sequences where Wayne Forester's narration neatly complements the cast, sound design, and music. It also keeps the plot from dragging or the audiobook from outstaying its welcome.

All of which is bolstered by how well-made it is. The voice casting alone makes this worth a listen. Marc Silk presents a solid take on Troy Tempest, with his performance often echoing Don Mason's iconic voice while also making the part very much his own. The same is true of much of the cast, including the aforementioned Forester (who, in addition to his narrating, also voices Phones and Titan’s surface agent X-2-0), Jules de Jongh as Atlanta, and Nicholas Briggs pulling double duty as the voices of Commander Shore and the malevolent Titan. Some inevitably sound closer 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 Benji Clifford's music magnificently pastiching the Stingray TV scores and Toby Hrycek-Robinson'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, even cinematically.

For fans of the Anderson world and the TV incarnation of Stingray, especially, Operation: Icecap comes wholeheartedly recommended. There's no doubt listening to the production of the time and love going into every minute of it, with everyone having their Supermarionation loving heart in the right place. And whether you're a fan of the original series looking for a nostalgia rush or someone new to the adventures of Troy Tempest, it's a jolly good way to spend three and a half hours or so.

"PWOR" and give this a listen.

Stingray: Operation Icecap 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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