BBC Radio 4, June 21 (and available for 7 days via iPlayer)
What has happened to the Earth mission to Mars?
Sometimes adaptations can slavishly follow the letter of the text which is being reworked; other times, they can be true to the spirit of the original, even if multiple changes are made to the specifics of the story along the way. B7 Productions’ reimagining of The Martian Chronicles – as the use of that noun might suggest – goes more for the latter approach.
Initially you may wonder quite how this fits with Bradbury’s highly American vision of a new frontier, but the overarching story – as Derek Jacobi’s Captain Wilder tries to explain his actions – draws you in, and the book’s themes are brought to the fore, its touchstones acknowledged. Kurti, Doyle and director Andrew Mark Sewell don’t hesitate to alter events, genders, characters (and especially nationalities) to suit their story needs, giving Hayley Atwell a strong role as Spender; Bradbury purists may moan, but this version has smoothed out the bittiness of the original.
If you don’t know Bradbury’s work, and are coming to it fresh, then The Martian Chronicles 2014 should impress. There’s been a lot of good quality sound work on the Dangerous Visions seasons, but Sewell and sound designer Alastair Lock really put the listener exactly where they need to be at the relevant moment of the story, in the way a good cameraman will create a depth of field. As well as Jacobi and Atwell, there’s a strong cast – one of the hallmarks of the whole season – and a music score which really completes the package.
Verdict: A new perspective on the material provides fresh insights in this fast-paced enjoyable hour. 8/10
The next new Dangerous Vision is A Message of Unknown Purpose at 00.30 on June 22nd on Radio 4.
Thanks to Andrew Mark Sewell for the photo of Derek Jacobi and Anna Madeley in studio; interviews with Sewell and writers Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle will be posted on Monday.