015 Speculative Fiction – Old
Evidently this quarter teemed with excellent speculative fiction. My socks were knocked off by Waly K Daly’s The Children of Witchwood from 2005, directed by Jenny Stevens. Eat your heart out, Stephenie Meyer: this is how supernatural young adult fiction is done. The haunting theme music will stay with me for years. Each of the five-part episodes was told from the POV of a different character, and while I occasionally felt the amount of backstory re-told at the beginning of each episode bordered on the excessive, I soon got used to it. In the country town of Witchwood, since time immemorial the Mummerset clan of Cranfords have stuck to themselves and not mixed with the “incomers”—due, not to being a family of “humane” vampires, but that they are the descendants of six children who were burned at the stake in 1650 (the seventh survived) due to their witchcraft. However, to say more would be to spoil it. It starred Michael Cochrane, Wendy Baxter, Emily Chennery, Scott Grey, Jilly Bond, Laurence Sanders, Jez Thomas, Becky Ryder, Robert Lister, Lorraine Cody, and Daniel Setteree.
Wow, Vostok by Bill Murphy was also superb. Originally from 2006, this play by Bill Murphy starred Stuart Milligan and Ingvar Sigurdsson. I absolutely loved it. I was slightly bothered at first by the overly-cinematic music and an early info-dump, but the music actually became crucial in aiding the mood and the suspense. Icelandic billionaire Niels has funded an expedition below the Antarctic ice cap into an explored freshwater lake, with American Dave as pilot and Russian Sofia as microbiologist. What he didn’t tell the other two was that a Soviet mission in 1987 found another freshwater lake—and then was lost without a trace. Naturally it’s a monster story, but refreshingly open-ended. The team barely get out alive and vow not to speak about what they saw until they can get proof. As far as I can tell, there was never a sequel, which is a shame.
I love hearing BBC Radio dramas from the 1980s and earlier; it’s quite a rare treat compared to more recent fare. I felt privileged to hear James Follet’s The Devil to Pay (originally from 1979), starring Derek Seaton. It was a sly and delightfully metafictional way to spend fifteen minutes. To say anything more about it would give away the twist.
I was similarly lucky to be able to hear an all-time classic of the audio drama genre, Vampirella by Angela Carter, directed in 1976 by Glyn Dearman. The late Anna Massey, who played the titular character, allowed Carter’s poetry to speak. A beautiful play for radio, Vampirella plays with vampire motifs and gives us delightful, sinister, and disgusting characters, and is set at a certain point in history which is having a centenary. Getting to hear the play—I had read the script some time ago—bookended wonderfully the experience I had last year of hearing David Tennant read “The Lady in the House of Love,” the short story Carter adapted herself from her own radio play! Amazing stuff.