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Audio Drama Review


The Scarifyers
The Curse of the Black Comet


Starring: Nicholas Courtney, Terry Molloy and Brian Blessed
Cosmic Hobo
RRP: £11.99
Available 01 September 2009

Sir Basil Champion is the world's worst explorer. In a career that has seen him lost in the Kalahari, captured by pygmies, and held captive for two-and-a-half years in a pit of rabid guinea fowl, it seems his luck can get no worse - until he is eaten by a rhinoceros. Some weeks after his unlikely demise, MI-13 is called upon to investigate a mysterious outbreak of the Black Death - at a Chelsea solicitor's during the reading of Sir Basil's will... Has Sir Basil's legendary bad luck reached out from beyond the grave, or is there a more sinister explanation? And what is the connection with his ill-fated Egyptian expedition fourteen years earlier? Lionheart and Dunning must journey from London to the highlands of Scotland and the lost tombs of Egypt, to uncover the truth behind Champion's death... and the Curse of the Black Comet...

Few things are able to titillate this reviewer’s jaded pallet, in the endless quest to separate the wheat from the chaff, in the monthly releases. So, it was with great delight that I tore the cover off of this month’s disc to discover another CD in The Scarifyers series of audio plays.

If you haven’t bought any of these yet, you’re missing a real treat. With its tongue jammed firmly in cheek, the stories hearken back to a bygone age when men where men and the world remained pregnant with adventure. Each story follows the gallant exploits of Lionheart (Nicholas Courtney) and Dunning (Terry Molloy) as they battle against all manner of beastly baddies to make the world a better place.

The Scarifyers: The Curse of the Black Comet (2009 - 110 min) is the latest in the series, whose previous entries were The Nazad Conspiracy, The Devil of Denge Marsh and For King and Country.

This latest adventure benefits from guest artist Brian Blessed, playing Sir Basil Champion, an inept explorer who is as mad as a bag of frogs, which allows Blessed to go completely over the top to great comic effect. His inclusion enhances the story but does not overwhelm it as Courtney’s stiff upper lipped intelligence agent and Malloy’s bumbling professor are sufficiently developed and professionally played to stand against even Blessed’s behemoth of bombast.

In the latest tale Sir Basil Champion, has met an unusual and unlikely end. When there is an outbreak of the Black Death at the reading of his will MI-13 are called in to investigate. Lionheart and Dunning travel to the highlands of Scotland and the arid wastes of Egypt to unravel the secret behind a previous archaeological dig.

The main cast are ably supported by David Benson (as D.D. Denham, Caulfield-Browne and Percival Pickering), Lizzie Roper (as Kitty Smith, Beryl Champion and Matron), Alex Lowe (as Headley Waghorn, Herbert Crane and Samuel Ravenscroft) and lastly David Bickerstaff (as Hammish Harris, Mr Sparrow and Captain Kloot). Although the vocal actors are generally superb, Bickerstaff wins the award for the world’s worst Scottish accent, however this is a comedy and even this dodgy accent just adds to the overall hilarity. [Mr Bickerstaff would like it known that he is a Scotsman born and breed, so what on Earth are you waffling on about Packer? Keep off the Glenmorangie during working hours - Ed].

Having listened to the previous stories I have learnt not to listen to The Scarifyers in the car, as I end up laughing way too much to be safe on the road. Simon Barnard and Paul Morris have done an impressive job on the script, handing in a perfect pastiche, without the overall narrative falling into a level of absurdity which would jolt the listener and break the flow of the breakneck action.

For lovers of thirties radio serials and for the young at heart this audio CD is almost the perfect present, so treat yourself and get a copy. At this price it’s a steal.


Charles Packer

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