The second in a series of H.G. Wells stories sees Big Finish adapting ‘The First Men in the Moon’. One of Wells’ lesser-known titles, this 1901 story had a profound influence on space-faring science fiction of the twentieth century.
An opportunistic businessman named Bedford and his idiosyncratic friend Professor Cavor discover a material that can nullify gravity. They use it to construct a spacecraft and set off for the stars. Cavor seeks the advancement of science, Bedford seeks the advancement of his debt repayments. Arriving on the moon, the pair quickly discover that Earth’s satellite isn’t as dead and lifeless as previously believed.
The Voyages of Neil and Renly
This release brings together two actors who, despite their many differences, work incredibly well as a double act. Nigel Planer (The Young Ones) plays Professor Cavor opposite Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones) as Bedford. Unsurprisingly, Planer brings his comedy experience to bear in the befuddled Professor. But he also impressively handles the more dramatic scenes. You really feel Cavor’s frustration with Bedford gradually intensify and the restraint on the Professor’s part to avoid confrontation.
Anthony takes on narration duties as well as his role as Bedford. He’s telling the story to his would-be suitress played by Chloe Pirrie (An Inspector Calls) in a framing device original to this adaptation. As with ‘The Invisible Man’, writer Jonathan Barnes has added this context to the narration which serves the story well. Though I sometimes felt the scenes between Bedford and Maria cut in and drained the tension during moments of action.
Lisa Bowerman’s direction and Peter Doggart’s sound design complement each other superbly. The score goes a long way, particularly in the early space scenes, to convey the grandeur of what they’re seeing into audio. Bowerman counterpoints this with the argument between Bedford and Cavor’s over commercialising the discovery. It’s a perfect character moment, emphasising Bedford’s single-mindedness while he scoffs at Cavor’s attitude.
Needless to say, this is a story that (even for its time) takes some striking liberties with the science. For some sci-fi fans, this can be a real bugbear. But if you’re willing to be charmed by the silliness and caught up in the story, this shouldn’t bother you. Those familiar with Big Finish’s output know that, like Wells, their focus is always character and story. So there’s nothing strange about a Big Finish story wholeheartedly embracing the wacky but imaginative ideas of the author. The result is an excellent adventure story with some insightful ideas, superb direction and an enjoyable double-act.
‘The First Men in the Moon’ has confirmed that the Wells canon is in safe hands.
BLOGTOR RATING 10/10
Mr Bedford has an extraordinary tale to tell. A tale of discovery and adventure, of bravery and sacrifice, and of strange creatures beyond our world.
His story begins with a chance meeting in the English countryside. Professor Cornelius Cavor is a scientist, a visionary, and a dreamer – but in Mr Bedford, he finds the practical partner who can help him realise his ambition.
The two are thrown together on an impossible journey, and together, Cavor and Bedford are destined to become… The First Men in the Moon.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: HG Wells, dramatised by Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Nigel Planer (Professor Cavor), Gethin Anthony (Bedford), Chloe Pirrie (Maria Bell), Alan Cox (Shapps/Bartoli/Selinites), David Horovitch (The Grand Lunar). Other parts played by members of the cast.