Aliens in the Mind

Starring: Vincent Price and Peter Cushing
BBC Audio
RRP: 15.99
ISBN 1 846 07103 8
Available 03 July 2006

On a remote Scottish island, Doctors Curtis Lark and John Cornelius are convinced that the violent death of their friend Dr. Hugh Dexter was no accident. Dexter's research notes reveal that he was investigating an island sickness affecting many of the inhabitants, turning them into zombies blindly obeying orders from an unknown source. The key to the mystery seems to be an apparently telepathic, but simple-minded local girl, Flora. Lark and Cornelius want to take her to London to find out more - but is she the only telepath to have left the island? And who is controlling them?...

Film horror legends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price play John Cornelius and Curtis Lark in this six-part series, which also features Richard Hurndall (Blake's 7 and Doctor Who). Written by Rene Basilico and based on a story by '70s Doctor Who script editor Robert Holmes, it is presented on CD for the first time since it was originally broadcast in 1977.

It came as no surprise to learn, thanks to the interesting sleeve notes, that this story was a failed Doctor Who script, originally entitled Aliens in the Blood. It's odd because before I knew this fact was drawn to how much like a Who tale this was - with Cushing as The Doctor and Price as his companion. Sadly there just isn't enough content her to be stretched over three hours. When you strip the story down, it's incredibly dull and clichéd. In fact, if it weren't for Cushing and Price, the whole thing would probably be unlistenable. Thankfully the two main actors bring a spark to the tale and make the characters instantly likeable.

In fact, the on-air relationship between Lark and Cornelius seemed totally real. This wasn't two actors pretending to be friends, this was Cushing and Price having a damn good laugh together. In part four there is a great line, which I hope was ad-libbed, but I suspect was scripted. Cushing and Price have been talking to an MP and afterwards Price congratulates Cushing on his ability to convey his message. Cushing replied: "Personally I felt we were hamming like mad." To which Price laughs and says: "Don't we always?" And there are several other little jokes that make the rather bland script come off the page in the hands of Cushing and Price.

There are clichés galore here, but by far the worst is the Scottish connection. You can always tell when a character you meet is one of the mutants - nine times out of ten they have a very bad Scottish accent.

As I said earlier, if you strip the story back to its main elements there's very little of substance there. In fact once you have the bare bones you start to notice how stupid and pointless the whole tale is. Why, for example, would anyone want to control so many people this way? It is possibly the stupidest way of gaining worldwide power. By the time everything was in place for the orchestrater of the plot to seize total power they'd be too old to do anything worthwhile.

Without Cushing and Price this would have scored a lot lower than the final mark I've given it. Historically it's worth listening to, but I doubt you'll listen to it twice.

Nick Smithson

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