Radio Drama:
By Rene Basilico, Julian Simpson,
Michael Chaplin and 'The Archers' crew
Harry Turnbull

Harry Turnbull's Reviews, April 2021

Aliens in the Mind

Six episodes Radio 4 Extra (Last episode May 1, 2021)

This has been something of a SciFi cult classic for many years but it has a number of fascinating aspects to it, aside from starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing as Curtis Lark and John Cornelius.

For instance, it was eventually written by Rene Basilico, a very mysterious author who lent his name to a number of well-known radio works including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. I say mysterious because I have attempted to track him down over the years and always drawn a blank. I sometimes wondered if it was a made-up pen name, perhaps covering inclduing of authors. One collaborator confided in me that Rene was very much alive and living in North London but was a very private man and didn’t wish to be contacted. It remains a mystery.

Aliens In the Mind was originally the idea of Robert Holmes who had written it as a Dr. Who adventure but it was turned down by Terrance Dicks.

Holmes later re-worked it and in 1975 touted the idea to Richard Imison, the BBC’s script editor for radio drama via his agent Jon Thurley. The initial reaction was that it would make a 90 minute drama rather than a series. Things cooled for a few months but then Holmes was asked to write a 30 minute pilot script by producer John Dyas. Dyas was prepared to commit to a full series of six 30 minute episodes but he felt there was a small amount of rewriting, The delivery date was July 1976.

The Head of Light Entertainment got wind of the fee to be paid and queried it. Head of copyright cited Bob’s huge TV experience as justification. It was agreed he got 50% upfront and the rest on transmission of the series. However, the delivery date passed with nothing further being written for Bob was preoccupied writing the Dr Who story, The Deadly Assassin.

Then he planned to go on holiday but take his typewriter to do the radio scripts. His wife was taken ill and he had to take leave not returning till August 1976, only to learn transmission dates had been brought forward: He wrote to Dyas, saying “I am still working out dates with Jon Thurley and will let him know early next week to let him know what, if anything, I can do. At the moment however it looks like I am going to have to pull out of Aliens. I feel very bad letting you down.”*

Dyas was furious. He now realised no scripts had been written. Thurley also represented another writer, Rene Basilico, and suggested him as a replacement. He had done some TV writing and would later adapt Tinker, Tailor for radio. He had also penned an episode of The Price of Fear, produced by Dyas. Basilico agreed to write to the storylines already proposed but wouldn’t rigidly stick to them. He said he would have the first episode done in a week. Dyas contacted Head of Copyright over the change and pulled no punches of his thoughts on Holmes Basilico decided to develop the story in another way and Holmes had to return some of the payment. It was rewritten as Aliens in the Mind by RB from an idea by Robert Holmes. He got six scripts done by November and a bit of a coup took place when Cushing and Price were signed up. First episode was transmitted on January 2 1977. Now regarded as something of a cult classic.

[*Robert Holmes, A life In Words by Richard Molesworth (Telos Publishing, 2013)]

Shadow Over Innsmouth (April 2021)

Podcasts BBC Sounds and Radio 4

Featuring Barnaby Kay and Jana Carpenter
Producer Karen Rose
Writer Julian Simpson

As sixth-formers we drank real ale, listened to Amun Duul ll and discussed the merits of Wittgenstein's tour de force, Tractatus Logico- philosophicus. Making sense of the latter was an exercise in brain-scrambling futility. There has been nothing to touch it since the convoluted plotlines of Line of Duty.

That is until I attempted to catch up with the series of podcasts based on investigations into H.P. Lovecraft folklore. I suppose dipping in and out doesn't help but even so these stories weave such a convoluted tapestry of abstruseness one can only marvel at the mind that concocted them.

It sounds like someone swallowed the Golden Bough for breakfast, brunched on the Ribiyat of Omar Khazan and nibbled on the Bhagdad Gita the rest of the day before knocking back the Necronomicon for supper. The story interweaves Lovecraft classics with the concept of the old ones, appearances by the likes of John Dee, Matthew Hopkins, Aleister Crowley, Hitler and Madame Blavatsky.

The basic concept of rulers who travelled here from the stars have been instrumental in key points of Earth history. Julian Simpson weaves them all into a devious aural contraption but even with backstory monologues it is fiendishly difficult to follow. In Innsmouth fish dwelling Gods potter about under the ocean and locals are all buried at sea.

I remember a previous version of the story some years ago featured an astoundingly haunting bell-tolling soundtrack.

Julian Simpson does come up with some oddities and even has a spoof website dedicated to him which, in truth, is not very complimentary. The story has been produced as a series of podcasts starting with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer In The Dark.

Good old Beeb publicity department promised us the the riddles would be solved but instead a bigger one than ever was posed at the end. Expect more.

South On The Great North Road

Radio 4, May 1, 2021
By Michael Chaplin
Featuring Jessica Johnson
Directed by Eoin O’Callaghan
Produced by Marilyn Imrie

If I was writing a story based on a Sting song I think I'd consider An Englishman in New York, Moon Over Bourbon Street or maybe Valpairiso.

A tune about the A1 wouldn't be anywhere near my thoughts. But that's what appears to have happened here.

The great north-eastener Sting - Gordon Summer as was -provides a balladic backdrop to this tale about a female trucker lumbering up and down the highway twixt Newcastle and London.

Our married friend from the north, Peggy, loves a bit of hanky-panky on her travels and is torn between her new beau and the call of home. Does the pull of stotty cake, singing hinnies and Blaydon Races usurp adulterous love?

Underneath The Archers
Snippets from Ambridge.

Sexy Rexy can’t find quarters for his porkers and so concludes he might have to take to his trotters and start up as an Uber driver to earn a crust. Funny that cos there was a readymade pigman’s job going at Berrow. Quite baffling. Scripting was snout to be proud of. But Lizzie saves his bacon, despite his vindictive social media campaign against her brother. .

Thanks, Harry, for these reviews .... ND


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