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The complete Earthsearch

I was on the road a lot last week, so only now blogging recent reading/listening; stand by for a few more posts this morning.

I remember catching occasional episodes of the 1981-82 BBC sf radio series Earthsearch, in which the crew of a generation starship have been wiped out by the ship's megalomaniac computers, apart from four children who are brought up under the computers' control and then must gradually emancipate themselves. In the second series, two children of the next generation are added to the mix and they too must shake off the computers' influence as they all seek the lost planet Earth.

At the time, as a cynical teenager, I didn't actually rate the show that highly. But listening to it thirty years on, I could see its strong points. James Follett, the show's writer, did not have the genius of Douglas Adams but did have more discipline, and the two ten-episode series actually work fairly well as a continuous arc in which each episode must feature this week's new planet, or abandoned starship, or killer robot, or all three. It doesn't really challenge cliches or conventions, but it does take the British tradition of sf and bring it to a new medium. Nicholas Courtney pops up as the last president of Earth before it was removed from our solar system, recorded for posterity.

Much more recently, in 2006 Big Finish produced an audio version of Follett's novel Mindwarp, which is a sort-of prequel to the radio series and features a lot of the same tropes, though in this case the central characters must escape from the underground city which is the only world they have ever known. I thought this was in general better than the original (and also considerably shorter), sadly let down by the lacklustre performance of Leon Parris as the male lead. His rather phoned-in performance is a jarring contrast to the ever-luscious tones of India Fisher as the female lead and Colin Baker and (again) Nicholas Courtney in supporting roles, and it's a shame that an actor who can actually do audio wasn't selected for the part.

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