March 8, 2013

The Foundation Trilogy (1973)

I'm not a particularly big fan of Isaac Asimov. I know his work primarily through his short fiction, where he seems to be from a generation of authors for whom the science and speculative aspects of science fiction and speculative fiction were much more interesting to them than characterisation or depth. Either that or tremendously awful jokes.

As a result I've never actually read his famous Foundation novels. To be honest I didn't even really know what they were about beyond the basic premise. What I have now enjoyed, however, is a 1973 BBC radio drama serial based on the Foundation books - and very enjoyable they were too.

This eight-part series adapts Asimov's three novels Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation. It was produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which guarantees the production is backed by a hilarious soundtrack of odds murbles and bleeps, in turns evocative, inexplicable and hilariously ridiculous.

The cast is a delight for fans of Doctor Who, as it features a string of performers who made guest appearances in that series: Geoffrey Beevers (The Keeper of Traken), Julian Glover (City of Death), Dinsdale Landen (The Curse of Fenric), Michael Kilgariff (Revenge of the Cybermen), David Gooderson (Destiny of the Daleks), Gabriel Woolf (Pyramids of Mars) and Peter Pratt (The Deadly Assassin) all contribute voices over the course of the series. The entire series is voiced in that typical 1970s BBCs fashion: all received pronounciation and a focus on clarity over emotion or depth of character. If you're not used to it from Doctor Who and Blake's 7 it may come off as slightly irritating. If you are, then it just feels like the audio recordings of a whole new series you somehow never managed to see back when you were a kid.

This serial really works: each episode jumps further and further into the future of 'the Foundation', a secretive colony set up during the collapse of a galactic empire to ensure that the time from the collapse of one order to the establishment of another is as brief as possible. As a result the cast changes from instalment to instalment. Generally speaking the first four half of the series is more engaging than the second; I'm not sure if that's down to the quality of the adaptation or a quirk of the original novels.

The series can be purchased episode-by-episode as mp3 recordings from Amazon UK, but I am almost certain that it is a pirated, unauthorised release. Better to take advantage of and download them for free - I don't think the money's not going to the writers, directors or performers either way. This is a series that really deserves to be remastered and released properly by the BBC. Their radio science fiction never gets the attention it deserves.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.