Written by: Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Sophie Winkleman, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Dave Lamb. Also featuring Chris Pavlo, Carrie Quinlan, Lizzy Watts, and Clare Willie.
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Released: 3 August 2009
Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save “Lower Earth” from the evil Lord Darkness.
Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.
A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.
Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.
Most importantly–the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.
Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.
Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder. He’s even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.
Vidar the Elf Lord isn’t the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he’s having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.
Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man–er, woman.
As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a “love” for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.
The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn’t think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it “faded” into the background.
According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.
But I still think it’s unnecessary.
Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.
Posted by Abner Senires