Judge Dredd

Starring: Toby Longworth
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 84435 057 6
Available 21 January 2004

A corpse with no face lies on the line between Immigration and Mega-City One. A feud breaks out between wannabe drug dealers. A shape-shifting killer is on the loose in Alientown. And Dredd's partner is an irritating, green-skinned company flack with an inflated sense of his own importance. But when it comes to solving the crime and enforcing the Law, Judge Dredd is on his own...

Solo is a remarkable audio production. Not only is it well written by Jonathan Clements and brought to life thanks to John Ainsworth's direction, it also has only one principle actor - Toby Longworth. Listening to Solo, you'll find it almost impossible to believe that Longworth plays every character, but he does - and his vocal range is incredible

There are some similarities to be drawn between the earlier Dredd audio Pre-emptive Revenge. Both see Dredd having to join forces with another law enforcer from a different jurisdiction. In this production it is Blarg (who is obviously modelled on Tharg, the editor of "The galaxy's greatest comic" 2000 AD). A lot of the humour comes from the arguments between Mega-City One's chief lawman and custom control's self-important Betelgeusian. But this felt like a much more polished production than Pre-emptive Revenge, and is certainly more entertaining.

Solo also pays homage to a number of other sci-fi influences. Dredd meets up with an alien who is obviously based on the pink woolly creatures in The Clangers and he chats with a talking door that sounds like a cross between Eddie the onboard computer in the original The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy BBC play and Kryten from Red Dwarf.

The only voice I had issues with, and this is one I've never liked the sound of in previous Big Finish 2000 AD productions and the Dirk Maggs Judge Dredd radio plays, was Max Normal. It's just a personal niggle, but all actors seem to play him as a black gangster. He is dressed as the age-old stereotypical British city gent (bowler hat, pinstripe suit) but he's cool and speaks street slang. I've always imagined that a "Queen's English" accent was the way he would speak. In fact this, coupled with his street banter, I thought would make him seem even more eccentric.

But that is a very slight niggle on what is a first rate story. As a bonus, Big Finish throw in a 20 minute making of featurette that shows parts of the recording with Longworth and Ainsworth.

It doesn't get much better than this. Bloody fantastic! Sadly, it won't get any better than this either, as this release marks the end of Big Finish's Judge Dredd audio series.

Darren Rea

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