BBC Radio 4, June 4, iPlayer link here
Humanity’s loss of mastery of the seas is just the beginning of the problems that the invaders cause…
Although the beats of John Wyndham’s story have been maintained for this two hour adaptation – and if you read the Wikipedia summary of the original novel, you’ll only spot a couple of details that are markedly different – Val McDermid has very much grabbed the original by the scruff of the neck and related it to our world today. I’m not just thinking of Nicola Sturgeon’s canny cameo at the end but the entire tale with its use of what we know (rather than Wyndham guessed) about climate change, and just how devastating the rise in the ocean level will be.
She doesn’t neglect the humanity at the centre of the piece, principally journalists Mike and Phyllis, who are either at the sharp end of events, or in a position to relay them sensibly. Their own private tragedy is apparently miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but it’s vitally important to them, and McDermid gives it an important weight. Losing a child is a filter through which many people have to look, and it gives them a different perspective in terms of what matters.
Alan Williams’ score is as commanding in this second half as the first, and I was delighted to hear that the play ends with an extended musical coda – it’s worth listening to more than once, as you can pick up from there hints as to what does transpire next.
It’s been a fascinating experiment, and one that I hope will be repeated with other plays in future. It certainly sets this adaptation of The Kraken Wakes apart from previous radio versions – and I’d love to hear this team tackle The Midwich Cuckoos, as I suspect we’d get a version to rival the 1960 movie Village of the Damned, one of my all time favourite adaptations.
Verdict: A stunningly well told tale. 10/10