AUDIO COMEDY
Nebulous
Series 1

Starring: Mark Gatiss
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN: 978 1 84607 152 2
Available 05 February 2007


The year is 2099 and Professor Nebulous is director of eco-troubleshooting organisation K.E.N.T. (the Key Environmental Nonjudgemental Taskforce). But it's so under-funded it subsidises its work by running a launderette - and the twin-tub's malfunctioned. In a post-apocalyptic England, cattle-clasm has wiped out most of the livestock, there are new months such as Octember and Janril, and climate change has formed a drizzly new season called Hamble. Nebulous is determined to get Earth back on the right track, but he must pit his wits against sentient dust, killer cacti, naked aliens and the evil Dr Klench, who's bent on world domination. Can K.E.N.T. save the day before the spin cycle finishes? K.E.N.T. can do...

Though its environmental, post-apocalyptic subject matter has much in common with shows such as Doomwatch, Quatermass and The Survivors, this Radio 4 comedy sci-fi series perhaps holds the greatest appeal to fans of Doctor Who - especially fans of the UNIT era, when the Time Lord was stranded on Earth and regularly had to contend with narrow-minded, unhelpful government ministers not dissimilar to Sir Ronald Rolands (Graham Crowden, A Very Peculiar Practice, Waiting for God). His catchphrase is: "I'd like to do what I can, but I'm afraid I can't."

Another regular character is Professor Nebulous's embittered invalid chum Harry (Paul Putner, This Morning With Richard Not Judy, Little Britain): "Unlike you, Professor, I no longer have the luxury of [insert body part of the week here]". His motorised chair and abrasive electronic voice make him more than a little reminiscent of Dalek creator Davros.

Nebulous himself is played by Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Funland) at his sardonic best. His arch enemy is Dr Klench (David Warner, Star Trek, Big Finish's Sapphire & Steel) who puts in two appearances in this six-part series, in the second instance breaking out of Strangmoor Prism (a combination of story elements from the Who serials The Mind of Evil and The Sea Devils). Both actors have portrayed alternate versions of the good Doctor himself. Gatiss played him in "The Web of Caves", a sketch shown as part of BBC 2's Doctor Who Night in 1999 (and eventually released on DVD as a special feature in the Beginning box set). Warner starred in the Big Finish audio production Doctor Who Unbound: Sympathy for the Devil, in which Gatiss played his arch enemy, the Master. Graham Crowden was also offered the role - back in 1974, when Jon Pertwee announced his departure - but he turned it down. I'm drifting...

Other Who elements include a talking cactus (Meglos), vegetarians being regarded with suspicion (The Green Death), sonic screws, and beautiful aliens who hide an ugly secret (The Claws of Axos). The electronic incidental music provided by Nicholas Briggs (another Big Finish stalwart) is also distinctly Pertwee-era. Briggs also directs and plays several small voice roles.

Nebulous is written by Graham Duff (Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible, Ideal), who also portrays self-professed ladies' man Rory as well as a number of smaller roles. The Dr. Terrible connection is immediately evident in the show's wonderful episode titles, including Madness is a Strange Colour and The Man Who Polished the Sun. Each instalment, or "holofile" as it is called, also has a three-digit serial number. In an apparent homage to the stardates used in the original series of Star Trek, these numbers appear to follow no order whatsoever.

The humour extends to the CD's sleeve notes, also written by Duff. These take the form of an appeal for help in tracking down the many "missing" episodes of Nebulous. In case you hadn't yet spotted the similarities to Doctor Who, the titles of these "lost classics" include Terror of the Horrornauts and Genesis of the Faceless Ambassadors of Fury.

Contrary to the sleeve listing, the half-hour episodes are not subdivided into tracks, which isn't terribly convenient. However, that's my only real criticism of this highly enjoyable product.

If, unlike me, you don't have the luxury of this triple CD, I suggest you obtain it as soon as possible - if not sooner.

Richard McGinlay

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