Terrahawks is back for a third series of audio adventures from Big Finish. Since the television series began in 1983, the show was always in a state of change – daring to try new and whacky ideas to keep the audience on their toes. The show shifted from serious and chilling, to downright hilarious and bizarre – and often mixing the two tones into a terrifying yet tongue-in-cheek blend of something which made Terrahawks a very unique and entertaining piece of television, and a stand-out Gerry Anderson production.
Fast forward 30 years, and the Terrahawks formula has been given new life by Jamie Anderson, cast members old and new, some special guest voice artists, and a talented team behind the scenes dedicated to recapturing the old magic, while also creating something special and unique all over again.
When the announcement was made at Andercon 2014 that Terrahawks would be returning as an audio series, the very notion of it was as near perfect as you could get. Jeremy Hitchen, Robbie Stevens, and Denise Bryer were all set to return to their original roles, with Hitchen filling in superbly for the retired Windsor Davies as Sgt. Major Zero, and newcomer Beth Chalmers faithfully bringing back Captain Kate Kestrel and Cystar, characters originally voiced by the late Anne Ridler. The colourful characters of the original television series were driven by strong and distinctive performances from the voice artists, making the characters easily transferable into audio stories.
Now to be frank, if there’s one thing that the original Terrahawks series needed, it was more money behind it. The limited budget meant that the format was never quite able to reach its full potential on television – and so the audio adventures picked up where the series left off. Across the three audio series, the writers have developed the characters and built upon the Terrahawks format in ways the original series simply couldn’t have done. There’s a newfound maturity to the formula which presents the characters at their best, while also offering some of that quirky humour which makes Terrahawks unique.
Volume 3 picks up from the dramatic conclusion of Volume 2 which saw the Terrahawks team and Zelda’s forces pushed to the limits of destruction by the twisted Prince Zegar of Guk. Take a look and listen to the trailer:
*SPOILER WARNING – A few minor plot details are hinted at in the following comments on each episode*
Episode 1, No Second Chances, written by Jamie Anderson, sees the surviving Terrahawks slowly picking themselves up after the devastating battle. After the conclusion of Series 2 it was certainly going to be a challenge for both sides to get back on their feet, but through some clever twists in fate, Mary is able to take command and continue the fight against Zelda who is soon back in full force. It’s a thrill to have Terrahawks treated to mature, complex storytelling with some genuinely intriguing resolutions and shocking moments. The characters retain their amusing quirks while also facing some very real drama including the love and loss felt between Ninestein and Mary at the climax of the story.
The quality of the performances in this episode, and across the entire box set is stellar. The cast give it their all with both the drama and the comedy. The team are clearly having a ball recording these scripts while also working extremely hard to deliver performances consistent with the characters they brought to life over 30 years ago. The audio adventures have injected the characters with some raw emotion which was previously lacking from the television series, and is now played upon to full effect by the cast. They are all superb performers.
The Wrong Clone Number brings Terry Adlam’s signature comedy writing back to the series. A particular highlight of the episode pokes fun at the villainous Mysterons of Captain Scarlet. The Terrahawks audio stories have always made affectionate nods to other classic Gerry Anderson shows, and this series is no exception. Zelda is back with another truly bonkers plan which involves taking over Buckingham Palace to become the Queen of England… yes, really. It wouldn’t be Terrahawks without some absolute nuttiness thrown in – and Yungstar getting nibbled on by the Queen’s corgis is certainly rather nutty. The audio adventures have gained a satirical edge which is utilised very nicely in this episode.
Named after the classic Stingray episode, episode 3 – Set Sail For Mis-Adventure by David Hirsch, sees the Terrahawks called upon to escort Professor Otto Maddox on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. David Graham’s characters have entertained generations of fans, and in the role of Maddox, one is taken right back to the magic of his Supermarionation performances. The energy he gives to the part of Maddox is quite delightful and plays particularly well against Jeremy Hitchen’s Sixstein. This nautical episode also sees the return of Captain Goat, one of the more unusual villains of the television series, and the addition of a new vehicle to the Terrahawks fleet – Seahawk – specially designed by Chris Thompson.
Episode 4, You-Foe, opens with a loving dig at Gerry Anderson’s first live action series, UFO, and leads to the return of Zelda’s alter ego, Grandma Buggins, for some devious trickery – a wonderful contribution from Denise Bryer. This episode takes a slower pace as Zelda and her family carefully manipulate Threestein, the final clone, into doing their bidding. The episode, and indeed much of the series, makes for an interesting study of what makes the character of Tiger a strong leader despite being thoroughly unlikeable at times. For my money, it’s his unpredictability, cold logic, and willingness to be the bad guy at times which make him an engaging Anderson hero – but this series provides an exploration into what changing up the Ninestein character would change about the series’ format.
Living Legend brings David Graham back for another role as space explorer, Elias Crick – David’s great versatility as a voice artist still being put to great use. This episode also features a cameo from one of David Graham’s lesser-loved characters from Fireball XL5, but all is forgiven because one can’t but help but be grateful that Terrahawks is a weird enough show to be able to include such a character! Meanwhile, it’s time for a certain furry napoleon to depart, escaping the clutches of Zelda for good…
And so we come to episode 6, The Prisoner of Zelda, and this is one I’ve really been looking forward to. Terrahawks meets Patrick McGoohan’s cult classic, The Prisoner. Zelda’s most chilling monster of all is back while Threestein and Lois Price (a character introduced in volume 1 and brought to life splendidly by Beth Chalmers) are transported to The Community. The blend of Terrahawks bonkersness with classic elements of The Prisoner is just great fun. Chris Dale’s script also offers plenty of woooonderful and obscure references to other Anderson shows and beyond. The story soon takes on a more serious and emotional tone as the truth behind MOID’s tragic existence unravels before him…
Mark Woollard’s Star Crossed sees Threestein facing a shortcoming never encountered by his predecessor – a little thing called love. Of course, nothing is as it seems. There is no doubt that these characters have evolved a great deal from their television series counterparts with some outstanding depth. Jeremy Hitchen and Beth Chalmers are incredible in this episode and take Terrahawks to an emotional level I never would have thought possible.
Jamie Anderson brings the series to a close with Enemies, Negotiations and Deceit – a simple tale which sees both Tiger and Zelda choosing to negotiate a peace treaty – really truly actually. Every character is given the opportunity to shine. The episode opens with an overwhelming sense of optimism, with Mary and Tiger even set to overcome their will-they-won’t-they courtliness. But of course it wouldn’t be Terrahawks if there wasn’t a nasty twist, and there’s no chance you’ll guess this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, climaxing with an outstanding rendition of the Terrahawks theme like you’ve never heard it before.
The final moments of the series are the greatest testimony to the achievements of Big Finish’s Terrahawks audio adventures. They have taken the show in directions that no-one could have possibly imagined, trying all sorts of new and exciting format experiments to produce stories which not only break the mould of Terrahawks, but break the mould of what you can expect from a classic Gerry Anderson formula. If you like Terrahawks, you will love the Big Finish audios. If you were perhaps underwhelmed by Terrahawks upon first viewing, the audio stories do everything to make amends. But frankly, having just finished listening to this incredible box set, there’s nothing I yearn to do more than to start watching the original series from the very beginning.
Terrahawks: Stay On This Channel! This is a must have for any Gerry Anderson fan!
Available now from Big Finish.