Friday, 22 July 2011

The Worst Thing in the World written by Dave Stone and directed by Ed Salt

What’s it about: The Drome was set up with the best - or at least the most blatantly venal - of intentions. A self-contained planetoid-community, wired with microcams, designed to pump out product to the GalNet media-stream twenty-six hours a Galactic Standard Day. But now the Medium is rotting minds and turning them to murder. The machine is turning out brain-dead zombies, setting them to stumble through the twists and turns of some inhuman and unguessable plan - and Professor Bernice Summerfield, and her ex-husband Jason, are caught in the middle of it! Now Benny finds herself in a desperate fight for her life. A fight so desperate that she will be forced to do something she has never done before, a horror that she never imagined she could bring herself to commit. The worst thing in the world

Archeological Adventuress: Does she prefer things that are up her street or down her alley? Bernice has responsibilities now and cannot just go blundering off to investigate every murder that she happens to hear about. Benny was expecting the Drome to be something bigger and more impressive than it is. She hates meaningless soulless television that makes no sense and so she opts for a costume drama because nothing happens in those that you haven’t seen a thousand times before. This could be the only story where Benny could get away with the line ‘Time to be off investigating various plots and what-nots!’ as a parody of her own adventures!

Jason (bloody) Kane: Xenomorphic bondage slaves Part Thirty Seven is Jason’s latest holovid porn work of genius!

Standout Performance: All the performers acquit themselves wonderfully in the TV show parodies and it gives Lisa Bowerman and Stephen Fewell a chance to have great fun playing some very un-Benny’n’Jason roles.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If all else fails we simply let the camera crews wander around and put out the footage as a fly on the wall docu-soap!’
‘You know I never knew that worms actually couldn’t cower.’
‘How could you even think that the worst and most product hungry cable channel would pick up something like that?’ – obviously Benny hasn’t spent much time channel hopping during her visits to the 20th Century!

Great Ideas: The opening gives us a snatch of the daytime soap Squatsaboullon Street and it seems that there is ‘drama’ out there that can manage more outrageous plot twists than Eastenders: ‘I’m having a baby! And it isn’t mine!’ Ex pop artist Mandy Tee talks about her new daughter Pixie Astroflash (somehow the Beckham’s naming their latest child Harper-Seven like some 2001 A Space Odyssey robot makes this celebrity piss take even funnier!) and her latest single is ‘Pumping out your baby of love!’ The Drome is a self contained ecosphere dedicated to holovid entertainment products in a concentrated form. Its an entire self contained community populated with performers and technicians under contract living in homes that can double up as sets – what an creatively appalling concept! The amount of slots to fill is phenomenal and there are so many opportunities to roll over the existing archive material (are you listening BBC?). We hear about shows as exciting as Frock and Fanny (a period drama) and Whose Stool Is This? A transputer system runs everything and the Drome in effect is just something for this awesome system to do – it could be the basis for the first true God grade artificial intelligence. Things are breaking down and the actors are taking their parts too far, in a Life on Mars parody the Gene Hunt character kicks the shit out of Jason and in the Pride and Prejudice style period piece the Darcy and Elisabeth Bennett characters literally rip each others clothes off and have full on penetrative sex! People in monsters costumes are actually becoming monsters and fake cables are becoming live! A cookery/gardening show reveals how you can make good use of dismembering somebody and using the various parts a ingredients and compost! The Infinity Division is still running but the production values haven’t improved over time as they’re going for the camp value and wobbly scenery sort of nostalgia! When a parody of a Bernice Summerfield adventure becomes a fly on the wall docudrama (‘Jason’s been stabbed!’) things are getting very clever indeed. Can you imagine anything more terrifying than the Feminist Lesbian Alliance Against Derogatory Stereotyping (or FLAADS for short)? A singularity hit the planet Earth in the 21st Century and radically altered the way the reality was perceived. The self enclosed nature of the Drome has replicated that process, reproduced those same condition in microcosm and something has taken control of that process. The actors and technicians are being fed subliminal messages and controlling them like puppets. Marvin is a sentient entity that has been getting creative and using his influence to control people, he is literally the first God grade artifical intelligence and he is living up to his function to provide entertainment even at the cost of human life. The story has to have an ending otherwise Marvin wont be satisfied and so Benny figures the best way to force a climax is…with a closing number! So just when you think the story is going devolve into a normal Bernice Summerfield adventure complete with slavering zombies she bursts into song! What would a parody of any Big Finish adventure be without a cameo from Gary Russell at the end! If you are exposed to too much television you never think that there is a wider world outside.

Audio Landscape: A shuttle landing, a chain saw, polite applause and rapturous applause!

Musical Cues: This story is less about the sound effects and more about the music which does far more to indicate the sort of genres we are switching to. David Darlington gets to have great fun creating a large number of theme tunes for the outrageous shows being shown on the Drome. His daytime soap theme is lift muzak in the extreme whereas the detective drama Wembley is pure 70s sleaze. Cod instrumental music opens the latest period drama and there is a xylophone and glockenspiel in evidence to open a patronising kids comedy. A clichéd alien b movie score introduces the retro sci-fi and an appalling jingle indicates the latest quiz show. Bombastic (almost militaristic) music kick starts a cultural affairs show (‘Does the portrayal of simplified characters on the holovid screen contribute to a rise in culture of dehumanisation?’).

Standout Scene and The Worst Thing In The World: It's the song that gets the most praise here too: a piece of horrific chirpiness that shatters your faith in humanity the first time you hear it and yet gets stuck in your head for WEEKS. Shockingly, after a couple of listens you start to enjoy it. Annoyingly, you start to sing it around work. People ask you why you keep singing a song about butterflies and cake. You lose friends. You spend your life in misery and despair. Thanks Dave. No I'm kidding... it's great. A truly shocking piece of entertainment. And God Bless Lisa Bowerman who sings it with such skilful enthusiasm.

‘Well I really have to say, as I wembed my weary way, through the world I find the going really hard…’
‘And that's the truth!’
‘All the people that I meet, filled with lies hate and deceit are forever trying to cheat with a marked card…’
‘Say it ain't so!’
‘But whenever I'm low and despair were to go, there's just one thing sure to pull me through…’
‘What's that then?’
‘With a little bit of luck and not a little perseverance there is something that anyone can dooo-ooooo’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘(And cake!)’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘(Yes Sir!)’
‘Faced with diseased rats and people puking in their hats... it's really not the kind of place to be! (No! No!)’
‘My advice, if you want to keep things nice and fill the world with jollity and glee!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘And if we're obliterous and just well kind of fluffy just think of the fun that we could make?’
‘And we're never gonna kill some poor sod with a big hammer 'cause you know just what we'll do’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy, happy place!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy, happy, happy place!’
‘Yes we're putting our faaaa-aaaace, in a happy, happy, happy place!’
‘Yes we're putting our face, in a happy, happy, happy, happy plaaaaaaaacccccceeeeee!’

If you dare listen to the track, it can be found here:

Result: ‘I think we could all do with a fun adventure that doesn’t really relate to anything else!’ A welcome change of pace from the first two adventures and a scathing commentary on the sheer tediousness of the television media as it stands that just happens to be hysterically funny in the bargain. The concept behind the Drome is frighteningly prescient (can anybody say Welsh Drama Village?) as well just plain frightening, the actors are clearly having a riot and the parodies of various shows (and Stone’s commentaries on them) had me laughing my head off! It’s the best kind of comedy because its smart and it all leads up to Bernice grabbing a microphone and singing an unforgettable number that subdues some zombies and turns them all into backing dancers! The basic moral of the story is that people should be people and not plot functions within a fictional reality I cannot imagine a better moral than that! If this season continues with the sort of quality it has displayed so far it will be the strongest year for Bernice Summerfield yet. Go on, put yourself in a happy place filled with butterflies and cake: 9/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:

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