By an interesting coincidence, BBC Radio 4 chose to repeat Brian Sibley’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s original story, Zero Hour (as part of The Illustrated Man play) the week after The Whispers completed its original US transmission. It’s very instructive to go back to the source material and see just how far the production team went from it – and how it’s sometimes surprisingly close, just when you think there’s no way the two can correlate.
The Whispers stands or falls on the performance of its child stars, and full marks have to be given both to them and the directors on the show who get some excellent performances from them. There are a few moments that don’t work (notably in episodes 11 and 12 when there are a number of children together), but on the whole Henry and Minx, particularly, are the pivots around which the story turns. It’s actually very hard to see how a second season can be as effective, since it’s the way in which Drill can threaten these children – of all ages – that is the source of his power, and with that removed (for reasons I won’t spoil for those who’ve yet to see it), much of the edge of the series goes.
The story related in this first season could probably have been told in ten rather than thirteen episodes: there are definitely times when it feels as if the show’s treading water, and the doling out of key pieces of information could perhaps have been achieved better. Certainly it would have helped to introduce a key character from the final episodes earlier – the show thrived on the paranoia of not knowing who to trust, and it would have given it a little bit more edge in the middle episodes. However, unlike a number of the summer series – hello, The Messengers, in particular – this retains your interest and its flirting with political comment (again, particularly in the last three episodes) gave it a tad more weight than some of its contemporaries.
The chances of a second season seem remote, particularly as the cast options lapsed in June and at least one key cast member has made it clear she was not happy over the change in filming location from LA to Vancouver, so might well not be helpful over any planned return. It means the series ends with various questions unanswered: we know what it was Drill was after, but still not really why…
Verdict: Some chilling moments – particularly if you’re a parent – but too often The Whispers squandered its potential to be a really strong show. 7/10