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The Scarifyers: The Nazad Conspiracy
Cosmic Hobo
CD audio drama, 87 minutes

The Scarifyers: The Nazad Conspiracy
Cosmic Hobo
Cosmic Hobo Productions is an independent audio production company producing quality original drama. Their first production is The Scarifyers: The Nazad Conspiracy. It mixes a dose of Dick Barton with a dash of The Devil Rides Out, by the way of just a hint of Quatermass. This rip-roaring tale of supernatural intrigue in 30s London stars Doctor Who actors Nicholas Courtney and Terry Molloy.

Cosmic Hobo Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Martin Lewis

This audio play from the new company, Cosmic Hobo, opens with a hammy, plumy voice delivering a clichéd ghost story. It doesn't bode well for the listener. Luckily this is Terry Molloy in character as Professor Dunning who, in addition to being an Ancient History don, is a hack writer of supernatural thrillers. Dunning's tale to his students is interrupted by the appearance of a Russian émigré who arrives in something of a panic and promptly jumps out the window. His death is then investigated by Detective Inspector Lionheart (Nicholas Courtney). Wouldn't you know it, there is more to the death than meets the eye.

And so begins this supernatural thriller set in 1936. Along the way we encounter secret societies, ancient tomes, naughty animals and even Rasputin. It is a breezy British affair: the tone is very much ripping yarn rather than creeping terror. In fact, for much of the play's duration, it seems that this could all be an instance of the man in the monster suit so beloved of Scooby Doo episodes. But no, there actually is a supernatural presence. This prompts a very silly meeting with Aleistair Crowley which is one of the moments when the play tips over from having a sense of the absurd to simply being absurd.

British TV series Doctor Who has managed to spawn a huge and passionate fandom. This has been refreshed by the successful of the two most recent doctors and, although an original work, The Nazad Conspiracy can be considered a sort of spinoff of this. Writer/director Simon Barnard's is active in fandom, Courtney is well known for playing the long running Who character The Brigadier and Molloy was the third incarnation of Davros. Courtney is a great piece of casting bringing a gravitas and dry humour to proceedings. Owen Oldroyd also gives a notable performance as Lionheart's superior, Chief Inspector Fang, getting all the best lines and managing to steal every scene he is in. The rest of the supporting cast however are a bit of mixed bag, a collection of muddy Russian accents, stilted delivery and excessively broad characterisation.

Other areas are equally variable. The dialogue veers between rather good and unforgivably slack. It is a thin story with Dunning and Lionheart going from A to B to C, receiving useful infodumps at each port of call, until eventually they have arrived at their destination with precious little actual investigation. It is all very linear with none of the twists and turns we would hope for. Given this the 87 minute running time is decidedly generous. There is no reason why this couldn't have been kept down to an hour whilst retaining the same story. There is certainly no reason why this couldn't have been brought in under 72 minutes and hence not needed to be split across two CDs. To be honest, these cuts could be made from the excess flab in Dunning's lines alone.

The Nazad Conspiracy is the first production from Cosmic Hobo and the play ends with Lionheart announcing the formation of the Scarifyers, a new unit reporting directly to Parliament, with the promise of adventures to come. The characters and concept definitely have potential but the writing will have to sharpen up if this is to become a long running franchise.

Copyright © 2006 Martin Lewis

Martin Lewis reviews for The Telegraph And Argus, The Alien Online and Matrix, the newsletter of the British Science Fiction Association. He lives in North London.

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