Space 1889
Red Devils

Starring: Ivor Danvers, Simon Williams and Anthony Daniels
Noise Monster Productions
RRP: 10.99
Available 25 January 2005

The ether ship
Perbindesh is approaching Mars. Her passengers are an assembly of the great and the good: Skerrun, a Martian prince, returning from a sojourn on Earth; Sir Henry Routledge, the new governor of the British colony; Professor Golightly, a renowned authority on the red planet. But not all aboard will live to see Mars...

Adapted from Frank Chadwick's role-playing game of the same name, Space 1889 is a new series of audio adventures set in an alternate reality in which Thomas Edison discovered a means to travel through space - or the "ether", as it is known. The British Empire has expanded, and Queen Victoria's infantrymen patrol the streets of Syrtis Major, the once-proud Martian city-state now under British rule. Mars, depicted here as the home of an ancient but declining culture, takes the place of India in our own 19th century. This is a fascinating concept, one that might have been imagined by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells.

The credits contain many names that will be familiar to followers of Big Finish's audio productions, including director John Ainsworth, sound designer/musician Steve Foxon, and performers Ian Brooker, Jo Castleton, Toby Longworth and Katarina Olsson, so naturally the result is very professional sounding. The special guest star of this instalment is C3PO himself, Anthony Daniels of Star Wars fame, who plays the captain of the Perbindesh.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the subject matter, there are a lot of "English toff" sounding characters, which makes it hard to tell them apart at times. Fortunately, these are interspersed by two females of very different temperaments - Georgina Golightly (Jo Castleton) and Charlotte Wong (Katarina Olsson) - and the noble Martian Skerrun (Tam Williams).

This being the audio medium, we miss out on the visual appeal boasted by Verne-style productions of the large and small screen, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or the TARDIS set in the Doctor Who TV movie. By way of compensation, an attractive and informative eight-page booklet accompanies the CD, though I hasten to add that you don't need to read this in order to follow the story.

Space 1889 promises to be a very interesting series indeed.

Richard McGinlay