First broadcast between February 1966 and March 1966, the BBC’s seven-part radio production entitled ‘The Slide’ was written by Doctor Who script writer Victor Pemberton. The full-cast radio presentation was broadcast over a total of seven episodes for the BBC Light Programme. In August of 2007, the BBC released the entire radio production on a 3 CD set as part of their ‘Classic Radio Sci-fi’ series.

Like with Robert Holmes’ ‘Aliens In The Mind’ (2006) which had also been remastered and released as part of the BBC’s ‘Classic Radio Sci-fi’ series, ‘The Slide’ similarly has a number of connections with ‘Doctor Who’.  Indeed, Victor Pemberton, who wrote the story for ‘The Slide’, had at one stage been a ‘Doctor Who’ script editor.  Following his brief spell at editing, Pemberton went on to rewrite ‘The Slide’ for it to be used in a ‘Doctor Who’ storyline, only using seaweed instead of mud for the (now lost) series named ‘Fury From The Deep’ (1968).

A number of years after the original broadcasting of ‘The Slide’, the BBC had a massive and incredibly ill-advised purge of their many archived recordings.   The original master tapes of ‘The Slide’ were one of the many recordings to be permanently destroyed.  However, many years later, Pemberton himself stumbled across copies of the dramatisation which he had personally recorded off the radio from the original broadcast.  After kindly donating copies of this recording back to the BBC, they were able to digitally remaster the recording and finally release it for the first time in its entirety.

DLS Synopsis:
In the midst of a stifling March heatwave, an earthquake hits the recently-developed town of Redlow located in the middle of Kent, leaving the community deeply concerned about what this sudden sign of instability in the land means.  Worryingly, a further quake hits the area, causing a large crack to appear along Hollymill Lane.  From out of the 3ft wide fissure, a strange green-tinted mud comes spewing out.  The mud gushes out of the crack throughout the night, only to become a solid mass upon daybreak.

South American seismologist, Professor Josef Gomez, is flown in to help with the investigation into this strange geological phenomena.  Having previously encountered similar quakes as well as having also discovered two enormous cracks along the seabed in the English Channel, Gomez is thought to be the ideal person to assist the local scientific authorities.

Upon examining the mud, it’s discovered that it is highly acidic and able to move across the land of its own accord.  Furthermore, the scientists come to the undoubtable conclusion that the mud is somehow a living organism; capable of thought and free will.

Meanwhile, the local community has noticed a sudden and unexplainable rise in the amount of wildlife dying in the surrounding area of Redlow New Town.  The woodland and fields surrounding the recently built town are now like a graveyard for dead animals.

However, most worrying of all is the influence the mud seems to be having on the residents of Redlow.  Within hours of the fissure splitting Hollymill Lane in half, those around the crack have begun to show signs of a dramatic change in their personalities.  A wave of madness which appears to lead on to suicide is sweeping across the town.  And now, with Redlow in a declared state of emergency, Professor Gomez, together with the local scientific community, need to work together in order to combat the advancing mud before it engulfs the entire town and sends Redlow’s inhabitants into a state of suicidal madness…


DLS Review:
Having been penned, recorded and broadcast back in the 1960’s, you would undoubtedly expect the ‘The Slide’ to feel a tad dated now.  And indeed, its age is evident from the outset.  However, this is not detrimental to the presentation in any way at all.  In fact it simply adds to the overall enjoyment of the dramatization – lending it a nostalgic vibe that quintessentially feels very much of its time.

Interestingly, Pemberton maintains an almost palpable atmosphere of impending doom which barely ever lightens up throughout the entire duration of the presentation.  There’s a constant feeling of oppression and a lurking threat that is (quite purposefully) hard to clearly define for much of the story.  And this definitely works in the presentations favour.

Taking us through the rising epidemic of this mutant mud are a handful of quite exaggerated but nevertheless reasonably forgettable characters.  That’s not to say that the cast don’t do a good job with their performances.  Rather it is simply a case of Pemberton not really put enough attention into the formulation of his key characters.

Roger Delgado (who played The Master in ‘Doctor Who’) takes on the role as Professor Gomez.  Here, having a protagonist role, as opposed to his usual casting as an antagonist, Delgado delivers a solid performance, with hints of character-specific charm creeping through.  However, even with such an undoubtedly talented actor providing the voice for this principal character, Pemberton’s serious lack of any substantial characterisation ultimately leaves the character feeling irreparably flat.

The story itself is quite an entertainably over-the-top B-Movie-esque romp, with one of those far-fetched sci-fi ideas behind it that just spins out its own faux science at every opportunity.  It’s one where you get to bask in the warm glow of imaginative wackiness, and the writer’s near-irrepressible desire to simply entertain his audience at the cost of almost any element of believability.

There’s plenty going on in the story.  And it doesn’t wait around too long for things to start happening.  However, although there’s a good pace to much of the story, it does lack in dramatic intensity which, over the course of the entire production, makes certain sections of the story begin to lag.

That said, you can’t help but enjoy the way that the last couple of episodes are so wonderfully over-the-top, which takes the far-fetched sci-fi frolics to an unashamedly preposterous new level.  But it’s all darn good fun – and to be honest, the wackiness of this mutant mud with its hypnotising abilities pretty much rescues the story, which by the time the listener had reached the sixth and seventh episodes, would otherwise have begun to sag quite considerably.

The radio production runs for a total of 3 hours and 30 minutes, comprising of 7 episodes split over a total of 38 tracks on 3 CDs.

© DLS Reviews

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