Big Finish’s year of H.G. Wells adaptation continues with ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’.
Fate lands Edward Prendick on a secluded island in the hands of disgraced physiologist Dr Moreau. As Prendick learns more about his surroundings, he discovers a grotesque parody that scars his view of mankind forever. Will he escape the island of Dr Moreau with his humanity (or limbs) intact?
Not to Go on All-Fours
H.G. Wells published this, his third novel, in 1896 based on an essay he’d written the previous year. In ‘The Limits of Individual Plasticity’, Wells mused that chemical or physical modifications could change an animal beyond recognition without harming its ability to survive. ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’ explores the philosophical questions of this idea. Big Finish veteran Ken Bentley writes and directs this audio adaptation of Wells’ classic tale.
That is the Law
The script plays it pretty faithful to the source material, for better or worse. The original story is structured for building up tension and mystery before the true nature of the island is revealed. It also maintains a good mid-section as the characters respond to it. However, by the time the final act rolls around the story’s pace has slowed considerably. By sticking to the source material, Big Finish has inherited the structural problems of the original. Luckily, the sound design and narration do a great job at bolstering the more languid latter half. A casual reference to a thunderstorm in the original naturally becomes a loud and exciting sequence in audio.
Are We Not Men?
Bentley has assembled a very strong cast for this release, particularly John Heffernan as Prendick. Heffernan makes a perfect narrator, employing a gentle whisper which enhances moments of extreme tension. Then, on a dime, he shoots back up to panic for a chase scene or an attack. That said, it sometimes felt like the narration was underused, with some crucial scenes only using dialogue where narration might have worked. Ronald Pickup plays the eponymous Doctor Moreau as a quietly brilliant but thoroughly amoral scientist. In the past, actors have played Moreau as a mad scientist but Pickup takes a more subdued approach. The way the character talks about his work so casually makes him all the more unsettling.
He is a Five-Man, Like Me!
Perhaps the trickiest roles to play in this story are the animal hybrid characters. In this release, the majority are voiced by John Banks and Tim Bentinck. Both give each main animal a distinctive voice and some treatment in editing enhances it. The Ape-Man, one of the more prominently featured hybrids played by Bentick, gives the most sympathetic performance. The Ape-Man’s dialogue is limited and one sentence in particular gets repeated. Bentinck gives the Ape-Man an added depth in the way he does each line reading. With every repetition, you can hear the character’s increasingly beginning to question his beliefs. It culminates beautifully as the story progresses. It’s the “I Am Groot” of radio theatre.
‘The Island of Dr Moreau’ is another strong adaptation of Wells’ classic from the Big Finish team. The format covers up any shortfalls in the original story that carries over into the script. The performances are brilliantly handled and the score keeps the atmosphere sustained throughout. Though not Wells’ strongest story, the efforts of Big Finish’s team has turned out an enjoyable piece of sci-fi horror.
Blogtor Rating – 7/10
This title was released in July 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until August 31st 2017, and on general sale after this date.
Shipwrecked in the South Pacific, Edward Prendick finds unlikely salvation in the company of Montgomery – a disgraced medic bound for distant shores, in charge of an unusual cargo.
Their destination is a mysterious jungle isle where the night is split by terrible cries, and where inhuman creatures walk upright on two legs. When Prendick meets the man who lays down the law, he realises that his nightmare is only just beginning.
For this is… The Island of Doctor Moreau.
(Comes with a free Extended Extras download exclusive to Big Finish Listeners – just check out the Supplementary section of this title in your account)
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: HG Wells, dramatised by Ken Bentley
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Ronald Pickup (Doctor Moreau), John Heffernan (Edward Prendick), Enzo Cilenti(Montgomery), David Shaw-Parker (Captain/ Constans), John Banks (Mate-LV/ M’Ling/ Satyr-Man), Tim Bentinck (Helmar/ Captain John Davies/ Ape-Man), Daniel Goode (Seaman/ Mate-I, Dog-Man).
Other parts played by members of the cast.