Judge Dredd
War Crimes

Starring: Toby Longworth, Caroline Burns Cooke and Ian Brooker
Big Finish
RRP £9.99
ISBN 1 84435 053 3
Available 03 May 2004

To save his city during the Apocalypse War Judge Dredd nuked the enemy state of East-Meg One out of existence, ending the lives of five hundred million people. Twenty-two years later Dredd is subjected to a brutal interrogation to discover the truth about what happened. Can even the future's toughest lawman survive this sadistic inquisition?...

Set during April 2126, War Crimes sees Dredd's actions during the Apocalypse War being questioned - to the point where even the chief lawman himself begins to wonder whether they were totally justified.

The whole production (apart from the Apocalypse War flashback at the start) is confined to an interrogation cell. This is nothing like the Dredd stories previously released, with the result being more reminiscent of a Radio 4 play - it even has the makings of what could be a fantastic stage production.

Because the whole production ultimately rests on the shoulders of the two main actors playing Dredd and Isaacs, Big Finish really are fortunate to have Toby Longworth and Caroline Burns Cooke in this audio drama. Even a slight hint of ropey acting and the whole thing would have failed miserably. Thankfully there isn't, so it doesn't. John Ainsworth's direction is also spot on. When you strip down the narrative for War Crimes it's a very simple story, yet somehow Ainsworth manages to milk every minute for what it's worth - without ever stretching the material. This is a master at work.

Longworth proves what a versatile voice artist he is by doubling up on roles - not only does he play Dredd, but he also play Nikolai, a Mega-City citizen who survived the nuclear bombardment of his city. These segments, which are inserted into the main narrative as an audio diary of events that unfolded after the bombs rained down, are extremely chilling. This is just one of the devices used by the production to conjure up awful images in the mind of the listener - another example is Dredd being subjected to some horrific torture. The music also helps to add to the atmosphere.

The plot twists and turns numerous times before the conclusion. The most powerful Dredd production to be released so far by Big Finish. A total joy from beginning to end.

Darren Rea

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