Richard Armitage, spell-binder, life ruiner

Yeah, that phrase used to annoy me, too. Well, it wasn’t my life he ruined this afternoon, but definitely my self-discipline. All of which to say is: I finally had a chance on Thursday to download The Martian Invasion of Earth.

Feels like I waited longer than I would have normally. My initial non-enthusiasm about this project faded once I understand what it was. But the last few audiobook projects have been — meh. I didn’t want to have that thrill of anticipation and get bummed out again.

Oh, and Sunday is crunch day in my current teaching gig. But in the end, I needed a break this afternoon and decided to unzip the file. First, I listened to the included behind the scenes piece, and thought, “Hmmm, sounds promising.” I graded a few more quizzes. Then I gave in to my curiosity and started the audiobook, figuring I’d hold out fifteen minutes at most before my worry about the impending deadline would kick in.

“Wow,” I thought after just a minute or so, “this is really good!”

Next thing I know I’m thinking, “Damn, I have to go to the bathroom.” I pause the playback and glance at it:

One hour five minutes in, without noticing time passing at all.

I think The Martian Invasion of Earth is a win.

I was predisposed to like this. My mom grew up listening to this type of thing (she was a teen before her family got a television), and she especially liked The Shadow and The Whistler. You could get these shows on cassette tape from the public library when I was a kid, and we used to listen to them sometimes in the dog days of the summer. Both my parents remembered Buster Brown, and we have this family joke where we call the remote control “the magic twanger,” which is a repeated tagline from that show. I still enjoy “old fashioned radio drama” with its dramatic sound effects and whipped up scores, and if it’s on Wisconsin Public Radio when I’m driving, I will definitely tune in. I read all the “greatest hits” H.G. Wells works when I was a preteen and have affectionate memories of them, even if I wouldn’t necessarily read them again today. And I remember a unit in junior high school on the infamous incident around the 1938 U.S. radio broadcast.

So the genre conventions of both the original source material and the presentation were likely to make me enjoy the piece, and the execution doesn’t disappoint in the least on that count. The BBC still produces and broadcasts radio dramas, there’s a UK audience for this sort of thing that has developed high expectations about its performances, and The Martian Invasion of Earth, though an independent production, fulfills every last one. Apart from that, though, there are lots of other reasons to love it.

  • The acting overall is deft and effective, especially that of Lucy Briggs-Owen as Amy, Herbert’s wife. The script author changed the plot to keep Amy and Herbert together for more of the narrative, and it was a good decision: the two have a strong energy together.
  • Richard Armitage is simply a better artist when he’s playing off and against other artists. I like the Heyer audiobooks where he’s done all the voices, but it remains noticeable that when he’s interacting with others his work goes up a notch. (He’s said things to this effect in interviews, as well.) There’s a sense of greater energy and excitement there.
  • People have recently been saying they want to hear him in his UK accent, and I have been responding honestly that it doesn’t matter to me, but I might have to change my tune on that. His speech is crisp and beautiful in this piece in a way that American English practically never is (because most of us simply don’t pronounce our consonants so beautifully).
  • On the topic of Englishness generally, this script completely hits all the buttons in terms of British culture’s ethical stereotypes — fair play, pragmatism, no one left behind, can do, never give in to despair, etc.
  • This character (“Herbert”) is the perfect role for Armitage, in that while there’s plenty of the Englishman of rectitude there for him to personify, there’s also a tinge of emotionality that fits in perfectly with Armitage’s vocal skills. His performance very accurately captures the mood and sensibilities of the English educated classes of the late nineteenth / early twentieth centuries.
  • The piece is tremendously timely (although not necessarily for the reasons that Armitage states: technology, credibility in the news). Wells’ works are often understood critically as incorporating the big brewing conflicts of the world on the brink of WWI, and that’s particularly noticeable in this script — the challenges of empire, xenophobia, mechanized weapons — and foreshadowing the colossal conflicts of the twentieth century.

Yeah. Loved it. Can’t wait to finish it. Will absolutely have more to say!


~ by Servetus on February 19, 2018.

18 Responses to “Richard Armitage, spell-binder, life ruiner”

  1. SO glad to read your review. I’m enjoying the ‘listen’ enormously too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just finished it. Wow! I’ve started my second listen now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice! My interest is piqued. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I listened Saturday evening, my husband slept through the first CD despite the loud noises but I didn’t complain as his father had died the evening before, he had been with him in hospital so he was exhausted and needed the nap LOL
    I loved it and can’t wait to hear it again. All the cast were brilliant but I thought the regulars had the edge, they appeared so effort less in their delivery.


    • I am sorry for your loss.

      I agree that the cast was very strong. To me that’s very much a hallmark of the British scene — many very well trained people doing a high standard of work. Wish we had more of that in the US.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fabulous! I’ve only read your first couple of paragraphs so far but I’m really excited you like it because I am really looking forward to this one! Audio books aren’t really my thing at all but The Martian Chronicles is a must listen to for me because from the teaser samples it sounds like a good old fashioned radio play and I am excited about this one. We traveled around a lot growing up (because of my Dad’s work) and sometimes it would be a small trailer in very remote locations and I remember at one point the only entertainment besides chasing gophers popping up from their holes was me and my sister with a little hand held radio tuning in every day at 3 o’clock for some serial radio play.


    • This definitely has that feel to it. I hope you enjoy it. The other thing I’d say — which I forgot to mention in the review — is that the sound quality of the mp3 is really excellent, much better than the Audible ones. (I don’t know why this should be, but it’s true.) The CDs should be here soon and I can’t wait to drive around in my car with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 🙂
    Who Put a Spell on You ?

    as for the canadiansingers “Life Ruiner”, excuse me I can’t choose a song , perhaps only for the words of the title: “.. Fake …An Olympic Sport …”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I listened to it on my mp4 player in one sitting and then burnt it onto CDs to enjoy it in all its glory on my Home Theatre- the perfect medium in my opinion, considering the cinematic quality of the production.

    Beautifully made. I truly hope this hasn’t been Richard’s last collaboration with Big Finish. As I said in another post, Audible and its customer service have a lot to learn from them.


    • I haven’t had issues w/ Audible customer service; for me the difference here is that Big Finish seems really dedicated to its productions as an art form, which Audible is pretty clearly not. Then again, Audible isn’t doing radio plays.


      • Maybe I should have worded it better. I’ve never had issues with Audible’s Customer Service- they’ve always answered promptly and satisfactorily. What I meant is that Big Finish offers its customers great quality products from both the creative and technical point of view, while also supplementing them with interesting extra goodies for the same price.

        A big plus: DRM-free files and no obnoxious cuts in the middle of a track when burning the CDs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The DRM-free is a big issue for me — another reason I went with the CD version even though it was more. I’m not planning to re-distribute it — I just want to know that I’m going to continue to be able to access it without having to buy it again in three years.


          • I prefer CDs to downloads but, having had an unreliable postal system, “light-fingered” customs officials and a laughable annual customs allowance for years on end, I find it it difficult to shake off my inbred distrust. Although things have been improving with the new goverment, I still find downloads safer and more affordable.

            What I welcome about the DRM-free file is that it’s possible to reburn a disc that has failed during the process of copying, something that isn’t possible with Audible purchases. In addition, the fact that Big Finish preserves the structure of the CD for the download means that the flow of the narration isn’t spoilt by the burning software (iTunes), something I’ve always complained about when it comes to Audible books.

            Liked by 2 people

  8. I like radio drama, in fact i listen to quite a bit of it when time. Maybe because TV didn’t register when i grew up as there wasn’t much on so radio was a much bigger part of life, always being on in the kitchen where we spent most of our time as it was the one always heated room in the house. And thankfully it is alive and well and many actors enjoy doing radio drama and writers write for it. Hilariously i almost was in one! ( but lucky for working actors out there in the end they managed to find somebody with an Equity contract and a German speaker 🙂 Did help with the text though and it was a more fun and exciting experience than i imagined it would be.
    Anyway back to this one, i too thought that although it was of its time it was a really well done piece. Also just the right length. Any longer and the chasing could have gotten too much. I thought the relationship with Amy was beautifully portrayed with few words in fact. And you are right in that they kept the sound effects appropriate and fitting with the time, without modernising too much. I was surprised at some of the ‘moral’ and hero like attitudes of the characters and it made me think what our approach would be today. I just saw the Darkest hour the other week so it was really interesting to experience the 2 things very close to each other. I thought it was too dated for me to listen again in spite of enjoying it, but i may do just for the beauty and old time perfume of the language itself. And his vocal acting is certainly more crisp than it has been in recent works.
    I know i may sound boring but i do so wish he’d get more chances to use the training and the RSC experience an all that, it is utterly enjoyable when he does and i am sorry if it is a bit stereotypical.. classically trained English actor and all that but there is something to be said for it 🙂
    I thoroughly enjoyed Clarissa and this is a much more digestible subject though not at all less scary. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that i would love him to do a lot more radio drama.

    I never really have the time for a lot but i enjoyed this so much i might go back for some of the Dr Who stuff BF produce as well 🙂


    • Wells is definitely representative of the “ethos of an Englishman” strain of writing (interesting because his own lifestory was rather less upright and moralistic than his works were). It bugs me less in 19th c. stuff. You couldn’t write this kind of thing today IMO. It even bothers me in situations where it could be more appropriate (Darkest Hour, Dunkirk).

      Radio drama is big in Germany, too, I’ve listened to lots of stuff on DeutschlandRadio Kultur (or whatever it’s called now).

      I found myself thinking sometime very similar regarding his training — comes out too with a cast who all really know what they are doing. I would never say “anyone can read an audiobook,” because I am aware that many couldn’t, but it doesn’t really use his skills to their best advantage.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Herbert? pruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust
    Good to hear you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] a radio drama with different actors, and it has a lot of sound effects / atmospheric insertions. I’m on record as enjoying this style of production and my reaction to this was no different — these are convincing, high quality atmospheric […]


  11. […] I can get a plot summary. The other Big Finish project he did, the War of the Worlds adaptation, was really strong. I suspect I am going to enjoy this more than I would another […]


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