The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

Starring: David Tennant, Siri O'Neal and Robert Jezek
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 17.99
ISBN 1 84435 126 2
Available 31 March 2005

Luther Arkwright is unique. The only man who can travel between parallel worlds and fight against the Disruptors - creatures who wish to create havoc across the multiverse. Luther tries to thwart the Disruptors ultimate plan of domination in an alternative England where many things are familiar - but nothing is the same...

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright takes place in an alternate reality, one in which England did not see the Restoration of the Monarchy after the English Civil War and has been under the rule of the Puritan Parliamentarians for hundreds of years. With the help of Rose, Luther must bring down the government of the corrupted Nathaniel Cromwell - but there are others who see their chance. England is ripe for the taking by the European superpowers that are preparing to invade.

Many in England dream of past glories and an Empire ruled by the long exiled Kings and Queens of England. A second Civil war is brewing - its aim to bring Prince Charles to the throne and Luther must help to ensure that the right side wins - not just for the sake of the world, but for all worlds.

While the exploits of Luther Arkwright may be riveting stuff when it comes to graphic novels, the whole thing seems a little flat when transferred to audio. After being spoiled by Big Finish's engaging 2000 AD series of audio productions, I was very disappointed with the end result of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.

There is some very questionable acting in this production. And while David Tennant may well have been great in Casanova, he delivers flat line after flat line in a very nasal voice which really starts to grate after a while. Let's hope that his next role opposite a very different Rose (in Doctor Who) will be better than what he offers here.

Robert Jezek's American Karl just doesn't cut it - sounding like he's just picked the script up that morning and not bothering to read it through before going in front of the microphone. And how did Alfred Hoffman's Wittgenstein get through the editing process? He has the following line: "No! No!... You can't do... do this! No... no... no! But... but... but!" and manages to turn it into a very bad pantomime performance.

Because there are several poor performances, the question has to be asked whether the direction is the problem? The only standout performances are Sir O'Neal as Rose and Paul Darrow as Cromwell (mind you, Darrow could have just read out his shopping list and it would have sounded impressive).

But, wait! I haven't finished moaning yet. The music is truly the most annoying I have ever heard in any audio production. I couldn't understand whether the composer knew what he was writing for (because he certainly doesn't take any cues from his subject matter) or whether this was just some stock material that had been laying in a vault of rejected music from another production.

The end result is a bit of a sloppy mess - and one that had me nodding off on more than one occasion. It's sad that Big Finish can pull off a fantastic audio production when it comes to some franchises (the 2000 AD series for example) but have failed to offer anything of interest with Luther Arkwright.

Nick Smithson

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