Thrilling drama in space and behind Iron Curtain

The Russia House.
The Russia House.

CLASSIC drama in the shape of a spy novel and a science fiction series has been published by the BBC as part of its audiobooks section.

A full-cast dramatisation of John Le Carre’s The Russia House is headed by former Dr Who Tom Baker, while the first two series of Journey Into Space includes a mainstay of the radio, David Jacobs.

Jounrey into Space

Jounrey into Space

Le Carre’s The Russia House was first broadcast in 1994 and is as full of suspense and drama as you would expect from the master of the spy novel.

It’s set in the third year of perestroika with Russia and NATO at peace, thanks to the knowledge that no one has an overwhelming military superiority.

London publisher Barley Blair (Baker) is sent a manuscript from someone exposing the Russian nuclear threat as a pretence, a claim that could upset the whole arms race balance.

Blair, a hard-drinking and jazz-loving individual, is recruited by the Russia House (British secret service), supported by the CIA, to go Russia and find out where the manuscript came from and if it is actually true.

Journey into Space - The Red Planet.

Journey into Space - The Red Planet.

As with all of Le Carre’s novels that have been turned into plays for the BBC, The Red House captures the imagination and is an excellent version of the story.

The meaty role of Blair is perfect for Tom Baker who has a chance to show his impressive acting skills.

No pretend accents in this production – we have American and Russian actors giving the action a far more believeable feel.

It’s hard now to appreciate what an amazing impact the radio series Journey into Space had when they were first broadcast in the mid to late 1950s.

This was, of course, pre-Moon landings and the space race was still yet to become a reality.

However, a BBC producer, Charles Chilton, had written a successful western series for the radio and followed this up with an adventure but set in space.

The four main characters were a good mix, with the intellectual Doc Matthews, sparky tempered Mitch Mitchell, clownish Lemmy Barnet and hero Jet Morgan.

Jet was played by Guy Kingsley Poynter while Lemmy had two incarnations – with Alfie Bass and David Kossoff. David Jacobs were quickly introduced to add his voice and announce the show.

In today’s fast-paced action movies, Journey into Space may seem slightly sluggish but each episode ends on a cliff-hanger and the plots stand up well.

In was, in fact, a lucky break that any of the series still exist.

Back in the 50 recordings were erased and it was feared they were lost forever.

But a group of mis-filed discs were found and there was joy all round that these pioneering stories were rediscovered.

Fans of Journey into Space include the scientist Stephen Hawking as well as countless people who tuned in every week to hear the haunting voice announce each episode.

The BBC have released the first two series ‘Operation Luna’ and ‘The Red Planet’ through www.audiogo.co.uk.

So if you are a keen sci-fi fan then these will be of great interest. For those of you who just like a good thrilling story acted out then give Jounrey into Space a go – you won’t be disappointed.

Steve Payne