UFO: Destruct Positive! — audio drama review

Posted Filed under

With UFO:Destruct Positive!, Big Finish brings yet another much loved show to audio — does this live up to already high standards? We take a listen…

Released today, UFO:Destruct Positive! sees Big Finish bring back another classic Gerry Anderson show from the 1970s (from a lineup already including Space: 1999). Given the passage of time, it’s been entirely recast, and starts before the TV show timeline. This first set, comprises three stories, all written by Andy Lane. Those unfamiliar with the setup are well catered for as the set begins with something of an origin story for the series, and one US Air Force test pilot Ed Straker…

Can you handle the truth?

First up is Destruct Positive! Straker (Barnaby Kay) is testing a secret military craft, SD1 when he is shot down. At first believing it to be Russians, nobody listens to him as he is taken to a secure hospital and treated by Doctor Schroeder (Nick Briggs as a somewhat cliched German doctor) and debriefed by Lieutenant-Colonel Virginia Lake (Jeany Spark). Behind the scenes, General James Henderson (Harry Myers) is debating just how much of the truth to reveal to Straker, or should he be silenced for good? For a dark series, this is a stark introduction to a world under threat from an alien menaced.

Of course Straker ends up being given command of the Alien Defence Organisation (ADO) and moving to England, much to his wife’s annoyance (Mary Straker played by Charlotte Harris is destined to have her marriage fail, and the script hints at tensions.)

We get a credible explanation for a major US funded mission being headquartered in England and a strong sense of desperate times needing strong personalities. While Kay doesn’t mimic Ed Bishop (who played the part of Straker on TV), he does convey the right level of strength and shouldering of a bigger picture. Andy Lane adds some nice details — Straker seems entirely unaware of the feelings his previous aide Lieutenant Gay Ellis (Lynsey Murrell) has for him. Perhaps this will be revisited?

Testing times

Things We Lost in the Darkness is set in rural England as Straker with his team of Lake and TV show #2 Alec Freeman (Samuel Clemens) are involved in testing equipment and personnel. Meanwhile, Straker has developed a cover story for the work of ADO. He also wants a Supreme Headquarters, hence the final name SHADO. While the episode ticks some more boxed in terms of character and identity (even Straker leaving the US Air Force to run a film studio) it also tells a strong story of its own.

In a plot as much British X-Files as UFO, we get the much loved tropes of car electrical systems failing and alien abduction, as we learn just how well the alien are able to track the activities of human resistance. It’s a tightly crafted story centring on a great performance of Jasmin Hinds as Beth, caught up in the bigger us vs them picture.

Turning point?

Third up is Full Fathom Five, and as the title might suggest, Straker is onboard Skydiver for its shakedown cruise. Of course (one of many coincidences) UFO activity means the trip becomes very real as SHADO finally gets a change to take the fight back to the aliens, even if only with regards one UFO.

Of course there’s a far more human story at play as Straker is also assessing Captain Petra Carlin (Yasmin Mwanza) given her background — she was recruited after and alien attack took her brother from her. As Captain Carlin attacks a UFO headed for Washington, all does not go well and the story neatly switches to a suitably claustrophobic tale of survival on the sea bed and ends with some confusing insights into the motivations of the aliens. Add in a mutiny, and it’s another day in the office for Commander Straker as he stives to get SHADO ready for the battles ahead.


UFO: Destruct Positive!
UFO: Destruct Positive!

Gerry Anderson brought the much-loved UFO to ITV in 1970, and set it in 1980, with strong visual identity (and purple wigs). Lacking that dimension, Andy Lane’s stories (with strong cast and direction from Nick Briggs) portray a fantasy 1980 subtly informed by actual history, more importantly telling a backstory for the show without sacrificing any of its core values on the alter of bring it up to date. Add great sound work from Iain Meadows and a Jamie Robertson theme* it sounds like a success to us.

While it may be more popular among an older audience who remember the show, at heart it’s a compelling story and this set is a good addition to the oeuvre. We look forward to the second set in March 2023. Nothing has been revealed, but we imagine a trip to the moon may be in order — we’ve packed out purple wigs just in case!

Four Stars

UFO: Destruct Positive! is available now from Big Finish in both CD and download formats. There will be at least a second set of stories, and bundle options are available to purchase.

*Postscript regarding the theme tune (and entirely irrelevant!)

On first listen, we weren’t sure about the new version of the theme tune. To our over-critical ears it sounded a little brassy and lacked the punch of the original. We turned to the actual opening credits and gave them another listen. Lo and Behold, the two versions are in fact very, very similar. The original theme has the benefit of being played over the action packed introduction sequence, and our memories had deceived us about the ending. The visual is an Interceptor missile destroying a UFO. Memory had a loud explosion synched to the final brass stab of the tune. In fact the original and the new are close to identical, the satisfying explosion is only in our heads. Another pat on the back for the technical veracity of Big Finish Productions.