After another half century coma, Adam Adamant has returned back to life once more. Adam Adamant Lives! But are the Edwardian Adventurer’s escapades engaging enough for the new millennium?
In 1966, Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert began looking for a new project. With hits already under their belts in the form of The Avengers and Doctor Who, the idea of a series based on the escapades of adventuring detective Sexton Blake was toyed with. However, when the rights to the stories suddenly were snatched from Newman’s grasp, he quickly drew up a replacement with an intriguing idea from his most vocal critic, a certain Mrs Whitehouse…
And thus, out of time Edwardian swashbuckler, Adam Adamant was created.
Nearly 55 years later, those who remember the series do so with fondness. Whilst often dismissed as the BBC doing their own version of The Avengers, it proved different enough to stand on its own two feet. Unfortunately, like The Avengers and Doctor Who, it also has suffered at the hands of a lack of clairvoyance. Half of the series remains lost from the archive. Only one episode has been found since a DVD release, and even then, on audio only. But, alongside Space:1999 and the soon to be released Timeslip, the series has now found a new home with Big Finish Productions. Writer Guy Adams and director Nicholas Briggs attempt to breathe new life into the concept with another Prisoner style re-imagining. So how do they fare?
What Year Is This? (adapted from A Vintage Year For Scoundrels)
Georgina Jones is in quite a bit of trouble. She’s hit writer’s block with her book, unable to declare her love to the public and the local protection racket is knocking on the door. As if that wasn’t enough, a rambling madman in Victorian dress collapses on her in the streets of Soho. But when the man states to be long-missing adventurer Adam Adamant, Miss Jones takes an interest in hoping to find out if he speaks the truth and how he came to be here. But of course, where Adam Adamant is concerned, villains begin to appear out of the woodwork, in all manner of ways…
As always with a re-imagining, a pilot episode has to kick things off in some shape or form. For the most part, they’ve either been followed near to the tee, as with Departure and Arrival, or expanded upon like with Breakaway. However with this one a new approach has been taken. Guy Adams has taken the general gist, explaining Adamant’s new fish out of water predicament, but restructured the surrounding plot in a new way that keeps it recognisable but noticeably different and updated from what was possible in the 1960’s.
Certain aspects, such as an explanation of how Adam came to be in 1960’s Soho, are left omitted. This adds a bit of mystery. Will these new audio adventures go in a different direction to the TV series? Regardless of a departure from the original plot, original foe Margo Caine is kept and performed brilliantly by Issy Van Randwyck with the same devious, near inhuman, lack of empathy for anyone who won’t further her riches. Alongside Van Randwyck, Anabelle Dowler, Amaka Okafor and Robert Whitelock all shine in their roles.
Death Has A Thousand Faces (adapted from the episode of the same name)
A local author of menacing mystery has happened upon a murder that even the most imaginative couldn’t conjure up; a victim covered head to toe in hardened liquid sugar. Intrigued by the bizarre murder, Adamant and Jones’ investigation brings them to the infamous Golden Mile in Blackpool, just as the illuminations are about to sparkle. Upon their trek, they come across the dramatic but determined William E Simms, and a haunting secret set to rain destruction across the Mile’s patrons….
As this episode is the one that introduces the third of our regular cast, its absence would have been an irredeemable crime. Especially given how Adams brilliantly adapts it here. The level of authenticity to the original ranks higher than the pilot, keeping to the same plot points. But as it should, it has been updated and adapted to be distinct enough from the original. The plan, procedure, reasoning and even the catalyst for the investigation have all been changed but still feel authentic to the world of the series. Alongside the regulars, the guest cast are a hoot to listen to, with Daisy Ashford and Glen McCready balancing the fine line of serious and hammy, as the series is best know for.
Georgina Jones Dies! (original scri-wait WHAT?!?!? YOU’RE KILLING OFF THE MAIN ACTRESS ALREADY?!?! ARE YOU INSANE?!?!)
Georgina Jones is dead. Thrown from the top floor penthouse of Adam Adamant, seemingly by the man himself. With his name sullied by the unspeakable horrendous crime, Adam seeks to clear his name and discover the true perpetrators of the ghastly killing. But Inspector Clemens seems convinced of Adamant’s guilt, and is set to capture him by any means necessary…
Yup, that title is not messing around. Scripting the apparent death of one of the series regulars might seem like pure madness, but it allows for a more serious script from Guy Adams to develop the workings and psyches of the regulars. This is especially true of Adamant, unveiling what drives him to be a good man and what could turn him to darker actions. This gives the cast a chance to showcase the true extent of their acting range. This includes the supporting cast of Leighton Pugh, as the gruff and antagonistic Inspector Clemens, and Sheila Reid as the elderly witness to Adamant’s actions. Both excel in their appearances and work excellently with the lead when interacting.
The standout of all three episodes, of course, has to be the three leads. Guy Adams slips into the role of Willam E Simms with the greatest of ease, and does so with a tone and performance that tells you that he is enjoying his time as the puppeteer actor. Indeed, he even slips into a Jago-esque manner with his performance every now and again, which suits both the actor and character. Then we have Milly Thomas as Georgina Jones, who not only excels as the novelist turned adventurer, but also updates the character for the modern day. She is more independent and feisty, having a mutual respect for Adamant, whilst not completely fawning over him as the early TV episodes showed. Thomas is a Georgina Jones who is kind and helpful, but will not take s*** from anyone.
Finally, the man of the hour; Blake Ritson as Adam Adamant. Much like Gerald Blake in the original series, Ritson takes on the character by giving us one hell of a show. He balances the good-natured and heroic adventurer with the stiff-upper lipped posh background hammy bravado. Additionally, he takes the character in his own direction, as opposed to merely impersonating Blake. Intriguingly, Ritson also portrays Adamant’s arch-nemesis, The Face. But to go alongside the new mystery of Adam’s displacement in time, The Face of this set is an internalised villain, existing as a mental personification of Adamant’s self doubts and insecurities. This is not only the best and most logical way of incorporating the nefarious villain, it also helps to add to Adamant’s character.
Accompanying the stellar scripts and amazing acting, all of which is directed with era-appropriate authenticity by audio supremo Nicholas Briggs, we have the work of his podcast co-host Benji Clifford to thank for the music and sound design. The overall package is a pure delight to listen to. From the authentic sounds of Blackpool, to the horrors of that final episode, and the psychedelic internal mental struggles of the lead, Clifford’s sound design is all on point. It is clear to any listener the joy Clifford has had with composing the set’s soundtrack, going from high tense chase music, to swinging sixties style pop. Of course the set wouldn’t be complete without that fantastic rendition of the original theme tune, composed by Hal Shaper and David Lee, and sung perfectly by the amazing Louise M Kimber. A joy for the ears.
This set has proven that despite the amount of re-imagining projects the company has taken on, Big Finish has not lost their spark for breathing new life into an old IP. Even with two more on the way in the form of Timeslip and one further unannounced range, this has shown itself to be a fantastic piece of escapism and pure Avengers-esque spy-fi delight. With that final reveal, it leaves you wishing it was already August so that you could listen to more…
Adam Adamant Lives: Volume 1: A Vintage Year For Scoundrels is available now from the Big Finish website on Collector’s Edition CD and Download. It will be available from other stockists from March 2020.
1966. A tatty, broken man shuffling down the street…
Bizarre fantasies of another life as an Edwardian adventurer fill his head. A life as… Adam Adamant!
And to his rescue comes history enthusiast and would-be novelist Georgina Jones.
1.1 What is This Place?
As Adam recovers in hospital, sinister underworld forces are at work. Perhaps Georgina Jones and her friends could do with the unexpected help of an anachronistic hero.
1.2 Death Has a Thousand Faces
When a sugar-coated corpse is discovered, Adam Adamant can’t resist looking into such a bizarre death. Journeying to Blackpool with Georgina Jones, he uncovers a suitably diabolical plot while discovering the hidden talents of Punch and Judy man William E Simms.
1.3 Georgina Jones Dies!
Adam Adamant, Georgina Jones and William E Simms make a fine crime-fighting trio. It seems as though their adventures will never end. Until Inspector Clemens arrives on the scene with some truly devastating news…
- Blake Ritson (Adam Adamant)
- Milly Thomas (Georgina Jones)
- Guy Adams (William E Simms)
- Daisy Ashford (Wilhelmina Stoker)
- Annabelle Dowler (Sandy)
- Glen McCready (Roddie Stoker)
- Amaka Okafor (Ren)
- Leighton Pugh (Clemens)
- Sheila Reid (Edna Pollack)
- Issy Van Randwyck (Margo Caine)
- Robert Whitelock (Corky)
- Cover Artist: Tom Newsom
- Director: Nicholas Briggs
- Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
- Music: Benji Clifford
- Producer: Emma Haigh
- Script Editor: Nicholas Briggs
- Sound Design: Benji Clifford
- Written by Guy Adams
- Theme Music by Hal Shaper and David Lee
- Senior Producer: David Richardson
- Theme sung by Louise M Kimber