UFO: DESTRUCT POSITIVE!
The Coming Of SHADO
After previously tackling Space: 1999, Big Finish’s latest Gerry Anderson reboot rewinds to the early days of SHADO, the top-secret organisation defending Earth from organ-harvesting aliens.
If you cringed at Han being awarded the sobriquet “Solo”, you may prefer the TV show’s approach. If you’re dying to hear Ed Straker coming up with that acronym, or having the brainwave of a film studio front, you’ll be in heaven. Introducing Straker as a test pilot buzzed by a UFO, who is fast-tracked to Commander within days, doesn’t really fly.
Some tweaks are sensible modernisation, though: second-incommand Alec
Freeman no longer hits on every woman in a half-mile radius, for example.
After the opener does the introductions, episodes two and three present missions that neatly distil the essence of the series. “Things We Lost In The Darkness” is a characteristic tale of a UFO landing in the English countryside, with a woman seeking help after a friend’s abducted. Meanwhile, the Skydiver-based “Full Fathom Five” gives Straker a chance to demonstrate that he can make ruthlessly dispassionate leadership decisions when needed.
At times, the series strives for realism: writer Andrew Lane has clearly done his technical research, and knows that, for example, it shouldn’t be possible to hear that familiar Ufo-in-flight sound effect from a sealed cockpit. At others, it embraces the corn: Lane surely chuckled as he typed out lines like “That’s fighting talk… I like it!”. And Nicholas Briggs’s Dr Schroeder simply must be a homage to the ropey Eastern European accents of a bygone era.
It’s consistently entertaining thriller fare, formulaic in the best sense: it knows what the original series is all about, and strives to reproduce it faithfully. Whether it can take Anderson’s concepts in surprising new directions remains to be seen. Calvin Baxter
The recording was a reunion for Barnaby Kay (Straker) and Jeany Spark (Virginia Lake), who worked together on Wallander.