Story 3 in the Kaldor City series, 'Hidden Persuaders,' manages to combine a blockbuster action-adventure with a sophisticated and complex script which deals with media manipulation, religious fanaticism and political duplicity. Frankly, I have never heard anything to match this before, including the two previous instalments of the series, which are, in my opinion, superb.
To get the full implications of the script, I found I had to listen to it three times. That is in no way meant as a criticism, purely a statement of fact. I'm not sure whether this is meant as an intelligence test; if you understand it all on the first listen, you are a genius. And it has to be said that there are not many productions which you can listen to three times in a row without becoming bored. One of the great strengths of this series is the way it all fits together and yet also it is not necessary to listen to all the episodes to follow the story.
It is certain to say, however, that it is with 'Hidden Persuaders' that the overarching story really kicks off. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but the story revolves around an attack on Oxygenator 4, a huge installation which appears to produce oxygen to make the atmosphere of this desert planet more breathable. The attack is conducted by The Church of Taren Capel, a group of religious fanatics who believe that the mad scientist we met in 'Doctor Who: The Robots of Death' is going to return from the grave and save them from the robot-dependent society in which they live. They are all, of course, as mad as hatters; however, the way this is put over is very subtle in that their fanaticism is limited to the occasional repeat of one key and rather disturbing phrase whenever they hear Taren Capel's name: 'Humanity be in him.' Aside from that, they seem like normal, everyday human beings, which of course they also are. I personally found it difficult to side with them, because their belief in Taren Capel is just so twisted. However, it is also difficult to side with the establishment, in that they are quite clearly a bunch of savage fascists.
This brings me on to one of the peculiarities of Kaldor City, which is that, although characters like Kaston Iago (Paul Darrow), Chairholder Uvanov (Russell Hunter) and Firstmaster Landerchild (Peter Miles), etc, constitute a rogue's gallery of evil, conniving, manipulative bastards, in spite of that, and in spite of the fact that you have no sympathy for what they are doing, the characters hold a certain magnetism. Uvanov, for example, in this story has come up with a very nasty scheme indeed. However, the humorous dialogue, and Russell Hunter's outstanding performance, draws you in such that you find yourself almost conspiring along with him. Being both a Blake's 7 and a Doctor Who fan, I would also like to comment on Brian Croucher's performance as Deputy Operations Supervisor Cotton. My favourite Travis was always Stephen Greif and I never really felt that Brian fitted the character of Travis in Season 2, but couldn't quite put my finger on why. Listening to Brian's brilliant performance in Kaldor City, I think I've come up with an answer. Travis, in both his incarnations, was a fairly humourless, one-note character, and although Stephen was able to do this fairly well, Brian's forte appears to lie more in the area of sinister comedy. Finally, I would like to say how much I enjoyed Alistair Lock's outstanding production; there is never any confusion between who is speaking, or what scene you are in. The action scenes are extremely dramatic, with a great deal of pace, and Alistair's theme for Kaldor City is something I keep listening to over and over again.
I know positive reviews can be boring, but tough. I like this story, and I think if you hear it, you will too.
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