After two and a half years, The Human Frontier has launched on its maiden mission from Big Finish Productions! Will it succeed?

It’s hard to believe that two and a half years ago, Big Finish revealed one of their most audacious plans yet. A slew of original dramas and productions, varying from drama to horror. From historical to sci-fi, all unique and independent. Up until earlier this year, very few details existed for The Human Frontier. It was enigmatic and mysterious. But as the release date grew ever closer, and series’ creator Nicholas Briggs confirmed it was in the can, more and more details began to emerge. As the hype behind this “final” Original kept growing, one question remained. After a two and a half year build up, will the end result be worth the wait?

The Human Frontier (c) Big Finish

The Thirty Month Mission

Deep in the vastness of space, a secret exists. A secret only a small group of people are aware of. A secret that could change the face of human knowledge, experience and understanding forever. This secret is The Human Frontier. A project created to send the best and brightest on a millennium long journey to a newly discovered habitable planet. The project’s brainchild, Hans Dendrick, has considered every eventuality, every possible issue, and every possible solution. His hand picked crew, along with their intuitive AI will be able to handle any obstacle on their way to Planet ND492…

The only thing they didn’t prepare for was finding humans already there. But, as Exographer Ana Swift and Commander Daisy Bailey are about to discover, this is only the beginning of what troubles lie in store…

The Human Frontier (c) Big Finish

The Human Frontier

Over the last few decades, many have been made aware of a subsection of the sci-fi genre known as ‘science-fantasy’. The term is mainly used to help differentiate the more fantastical from the more grounded science and technology based stories. Nicholas Briggs’ mini-series is most definitely planted firmly in the ‘realistic’ science-fiction camp. This setting helps the drama that unfolds engaging and intriguing. But it is the characters’ struggles that are the main focus of the plot and it is rather good.

Briggs has taken everything he has learned from Doctor Who, Star Trek, his time at Big Finish and everything else, and crafted a very human drama that takes tropes we are already aware of and gives them his own little unique take on them. For the most part they succeed spectacularly, keeping the listener engaged with the plight of the humans and their journey amongst the stars.

The Human Frontier – Nicholas Briggs (c) Big Finish

By Nicholas Briggs

However, the style of storytelling is very, VERY, non-linear in an otherwise well-constructed narrative. Although the main plot does flow at a standard pace, other scenes do pop in and out at random moments that, while they do help with characterisation, can be a slight hindrance. Briggs has crafted this non-linear format in a way that does try to be understandable but it requires the listener to be totally focused on the story. This is a series that demands your full concentration. It is not a story where you can perform some other action in the background. Without that focus there is every chance you will lose your train of thought on the plot and have to begin again.

(Reviewer’s note – I did. I missed the entire third episode on my first listen, and the finale was a mess because of that. But that was my own fault.)

The Human Frontier – Mark Elstob, Genevieve Gaunt, Pepter Lunkuse, Nicholas Briggs, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Clive Wood (c) Big Finish

The Crew Of The Human Frontier

Briggs’ script is also helped tremendously by a small but incredibly talented cast; Genevieve Gaunt as Commander Daisy Bailey, Lucy Briggs-Owen as Nilly and Mark Elstob as Second In Command Robert Harrigan. Alongside we have returning River Song ‘companion’ and co-star of the upcoming Stranded set Clive Wood as President Brett Triton, and cover star Pepter Lunkuse as Exographer Anna Swift. Lunkuse excels in her lead role and presents an air of authenticity to her performance (or as authentic as you can with sci-fi concepts). Her interactions will all of the main cast are always engaging, and one can only hope she gets more grand starring roles like this in the future.

Nicholas Briggs contributes a few extra roles in the production. Alongside writing and directing, he stars as Hans Dendrick, the catalyst for the Human Frontier’s major journey into space. Briggs has also handled composing the music, taking cues and styles he’s crafted for Counter-Measures and Charlotte Pollard and using those to create his own style of music that is unmistakable but unlike anything he has composed before. Final commendation must be given to Iain Meadows for the superlative sound design, especially when given the challenge of making something of such grand scale as this sound so realistic and unique.

The Human Frontier – Genevieve Gaunt during recording (c) Big Finish

The Journey’s End?

The Human Frontier succeeds in what it sets out to do; tell an engaging story utilising certain sci-fi tropes in a new and interesting way. The cast are fantastic, the script is great, the music and sound design are stellar. It is a well crafted adventure and a fitting finale to the inaugural run of Big Finish Originals.

The only other issue there would therefore be that this set seems to close with more questions than answers. Happily, a second volume of the range has been greenlit and is on the way. After such a strong opening performance will the second album prove more difficult? Or will it boldly strive to reach even greater heights? Only time will tell…

The Human Frontier is available to purchase now on Download, exclusively from the Big Finish website.

The Human Frontier (c) Big Finish

Synopsis

Two sets of Earth colonists, both setting out for the planet ND492.

One crew takes the long route, sleeping for 1000 years, in secret, on a ship called The Human Frontier.

The other crew set off hundreds of years later, at hyper speed.

When the sleepers wake as they approach the planet, the hyper-speed crew have been living there for 300 years already – and they have no clue the ‘sleepers’ are about to arrive.

Part One: Possibility of Life

Two awakenings. One is unexpected, the other is a dire emergency. One brings love. Both bring danger. This is the voyage of The Human Frontier.

Part Two: Nowhere Near Neptune

There’s a world called Triton. Its people have a long history of struggle and suffering. And they’ve never heard of The Human Frontier.

Part Three: Machine Minds

Anna Swift discovers the secret future history of Earth. And Triton discovers the secret past of The Human Frontier.

Part Four: Control

Is it the Tritons, Nilly, Planet Five… ? Who is in control? And what does the future hold for The Human Frontier?

Cast

  • Pepter Lunkuse (Exographer Anna Swift)
  • Genevieve Gaunt (Commander Daisy Bailey)
  • Lucy Briggs-Owen (Nilly)
  • Clive Wood (Brett Triton)
  • Nicholas Briggs (Hans Dendrick)
  • Mark Elstob (Robert Harrigan / Malden Grey / Oliver)

Crew

  • Senior Producer: David Richardson
  • Cover Artist: Mark Plastow
  • Director: Nicholas Briggs
  • Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
  • Music: Nicholas Briggs
  • Producer: Emma Haigh
  • Script Editor: Scott Handcock
  • Sound Design: Iain Meadows
  • Written by Nicholas Briggs

The Human Frontier is now available to own as a digital download exclusively from the Big Finish website, priced at just £16.99. The Big Finish App, available for free on Apple and Android devices, makes listening even easier.

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Jack Ryan
Jack (real name John, calls himself Jack as a pun on Tom Clancy’s character) is a reviewer from Wexford, Ireland. An avid fan of sci-fi from five years old, with an unhealthy addiction to Doctor Who for the past thirteen years. His speciality for review is Big Finish audios, which he has had an even greater addiction to for the last six years. Other claims to fame include a Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing, a co-organiser for the WexWorlds Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Gaming Festival, regular tweetalongs and riffings of Who every Thursday evening, and once nearly sent Matthew Waterhouse to hospital with a concussion.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for a great review. I love all things Big Finish and Nick Briggs is a legend, his Holmes is superb. However this left me pretty cold for one reason – the characterization. There are always some compromises in a small cast, so I can live with things like a Chief of staff performing neurosurgery, and accept some of the strange roles the characters undertake – that’s the nature of audio drama. However Commander Bailey’s character jarred from the outset. She was so unbelievable as a leader from the outset I couldn’t get into the story. Described as “compassionate and brilliant” she is neither. She’s reckless, selfish, incompetent and narcissistic – she makes Kirk look like a measured, cautious prude.

    Some spoilers….

    It’s beyond belief that the best leader in a group of highly qualified engineers would do any of what she does – from seducing a junior crew member the night before launch, making first planetfall with just herself and her love interest, her emotional abuse of that love interest after the Commander is rescued from the consequences of her own mistakes. No matter how well acted the role is, the Commander who is introduced as a lead early on is so unconvincing that it made it very hard to get into the rest of the story which does raise interesting issues. It’s a good story, but the lack of a character’s actions matching their role was glaring. To me this was a great idea, but that was a big flaw. Don’t get me wrong great cast, good story – but that strong a duff note.

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