June 10, 2020


New release: Big Finish has tapped another outstanding show from the 1960s for a new range of audio dramas! Hot on the heels of their great work to produce stories set in the worlds of Doctor Who, The AvengersThe Prisoner, Callan, Captain Scarlet, and Dark Shadows, Big Finish recently got a chance to develop a new series of audio dramas based on the mid-1960s BBC classic, Adam Adamant Lives!. The original program, which ran between June '66 and March '67, was developed as a late replacement for what had been intended to be a show based on the Sexton Blake novels. Head of television drama at the BBC, Sydney Newman (Doctor Who, The Avengers) reunited with Who producer, Verity Lambert, and together with writers Donald Cotton (Doctor Who), Richard Harris (The Avengers, The Saint), and Tony Williamson (The Avengers, The Champions, Secret Agent, Department S,  Randall and Hopkirk Deceased), they fleshed out a new series about an adventurer from the cusp of Victorian and Edwardian times, who was frozen by his nemesis, The Face, only to reawaken in 1966 Swinging London to battle crime once again. Newman stated in interviews that the concept was also, in part, an answer to pressures on the entertainment industry from conservative activist, Mary Whitehouse. Focusing on a morally upstanding champion from simpler times and showing his reactions to modern society was a convenient way to package action entertainment with social commentary. I would hasten to add that such commentary folded well into the structure of the show and I never found it to be preachy. Like many creations from the 1960s, it merely reflected a culture steeped in tradition and innovation simultaneously. The series also demonstrated the period fascination with Art Nouveau, Victorian and Edwardian fashion, literature, and music, as evidenced in Adamant Lives!, The Avengers, Doctor Who, the V&A exhibit by Aubrey Beardsley (May-Sept '66), the resurgence of Lewis Carroll, and part of the imaginative fabric of The Beatles, The Temperance Seven, The Alberts, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and The Pink Floyd. The main cast featured Gerald Harper as Adamant, Juliet Harmer as his dollybird companion, and Jack May as Adamant's manservant. Cut from a similar cloth as ABC's The Avengers, Adam Adamant Lives! was a brilliant show that featured some wonderful pulp-like conventions: The hero entered his private lair through a secret panel in a parking garage, drove a Mini, and ran fiendish villains through with a sword cane with often ruthless flair. And because of the whole frozen-in-time conceit, scripts also included moments of dreamlike delirium and disorientation. Which brings us to Big Finish! Director and script editor Nick Briggs partnered with writer Guy Adams, who apparently worked with great enthusiasm to rework the series into their new audio range. Reading through an article in Big Finish's Vortex magazine, I discovered that Adams was interested in some of the more surreal aspects of the original and found ways to use the show to touch on the subject of mental health (see Vortex #130). Apparently, that choice gets darker than I would have expected, so be prepared. The new stories star Blake Ritson (RocknRolla) and Milly Thomas. As with Briggs' The Prisoner, the range will be a re-working of the original and will feature new stories, as well as some plots based on classic scripts. If you register on Big Finish, you can download a free sample from the first episode, as well as Vortex. I've really enjoyed listening to it so far! As with The Prisoner, they did a great job creating a dynamic audio experience that drops us right into the action. Big Finish is still catching up with back orders, but they are shipping! Volume One: A Vintage Year For Scoundrels was released in January of this year. A second volume of stories is scheduled for release in August 2020. Both are available as CD box sets and digital downloads. More info at Big Finish. Big Fnish is also running a sale on many titles through June 17, 2020; use Code: RETRO. Related posts: Spy Vibe ran extensive reviews by Alan Hayes (Hidden Tiger books) of The Prisoner by Big Finish: Prisoner Audio Review and The Prisoner Vol 2. The original Adam Adamant Lives! TV series can be difficult to find, especially in the States. There was a great UK set released in 2006 (5 discs of the episodes that remain- many were wiped by the BBC- and an in-depth book by my friend, Andrew Pixley). It can be pretty pricey, but I do encourage Spy Vibers (with all-region DVD players) to check it out. Enjoy!

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