Saturday 20 September 2014

Capaldi in Space

There are some great little programmes hiding out on BBC Radio 4-Extra. This week I listened to The Further Adventures of the First King of Mars, which actually came out in 2008. It was originally written by Nick Walker to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Sputnik 1's orbital mission. I'm not sure of the connection, seeing that Sputnik never went to Mars, but never mind. It was repeated over the week in five fifteen-minute installments. A canny move, seeing that is read by Peter Capaldi, and thus serves as something to keep all the Doctor Who geeks going between episodes.

We all hoped that the twelfth Doctor would be like Malcolm Tucker in space, and while there's a touch of that to the character, it's Capaldi's mission captain here who is really the holder of that mantle. OK, the swearing isn't there, but god, this is an angry, overbearing and utterly disturbed man on a mission to Mars. The first manned mission to the red planet, totally ruined by having this man in command, utterly unsuited to the role and totally out of his depth. Over five short episodes there is a crash-landing, a death and an astonishing discovery that leaves the mission in tatters and the nature of Mars changed forever, all recounted by Capaldi with increasing hysteria. All hinging on his accidental running down of a space centre chimpanzee. It's just wonderfully bizarre, and Capaldi's caustic telling makes it. This should be repeated every year; it's a brilliant piece of cynical, completely British science-fiction. 

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