Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Operation Victor

Listen to the trailer for OPERATION VICTOR
I'm a big fan of BIG FINISH. The company is producing fun, smart and faithful continuations of cult properties such as Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel and, of course, DARK SHADOWS. Among the companies many coups have been to lure actor Jonathan Frid out of retirement to play Barnabas Collins one final time in THE NIGHT WHISPERS, which was no small feat.

As amazing as that particular story was, my favorites have been the adventures of Quentin Collins which chronicle his "lost years"" between 1897 and his return to Collinsport in the late 1960s.

The most recent story, OPERATION VICTOR, takes us a few steps closer to '60s Collinwood as we learn about some of Quentin's activities during World War II. It's the pulpiest adventure of the lot, and would have been right at home in an issue of WEIRD TALES. There are going to be minor spoilers ahead, so proceed with caution, but I've got no intention of creating a beat-by-beat summary of the story.

Quentin is aggressively convinced to take take part in a secret mission to stop a Nazi mad scientist named Dr. Moloch. He's really not given a lot of choice in the matter, but he mostly goes along with the plan out of boredom (it helps that he's got no love for the Nazis.) Accompanied by a plucky young British operative, he parachutes into Germany and tracks Dr. Moloch to his castle lair, where things get ... ugly. More than a few vampires and werewolves show their faces before the story's end.

Not only does OPERATION VICTOR embrace the sadistic pulp esthetic of the 1930s, it goes balls-to-the-wall crazy with the dialogue. Writer Jonathan Morris captures the melodramatic silliness of the television show, which was a risky prospect. Fortunately, the actors are up to the task. While I'm sure giggle fits interrupted the performances once or twice during recording, they story is taken deadly seriously.

But, something has been bothering me about David Selby's voice since hearing THE SKINWALKERS last year. My first instinct was to blame age, but seriously ... the guy's not exactly ready for a retirement home. During the last year he's been involved in several stage plays, movies and voice work for Big Finish and Warner Bros (in the new BATMAN: THE DARK NIGHT RETURNS movie.) He does more in a week than I usually do in an entire month, and his performance in OPERATION VICTOR is energetic.

And then it hit me: Selby isn't as protective of his West Virginia accent as he used to be. In his DARK SHADOWS days, he was initially worried about getting canned when he was finally allowed to speak on the show. Every once in a while his accent would slip, coloring the occasional line of dialogue, but that didn't happen too often. He's a lot more relaxed on the BIG FINISH stories, and concerns about southern accents probably seem trivial when your delivering dialogue about zombie werewolves and Nazi "Prometheus Machines."

Something else interesting about OPERATION VICTOR is that it ties together the other BIG FINISH Quentin Collins stories. Without giving too much away, the U.S. government has been watching the goings on at Collinsport since 1897 and are aware of what Quentin is capable of. There are also not-so-subtle nods to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, as well as the recent CAPTAIN AMERICA movie. It's not going to win any literary awards, but it's a fun way to spend an hour. So stop reading this and go get it!

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