SOLDIERS OF LOVE - 5 - Planet of Death

review by Judith.

Planet of Death is number 5 in the Soldiers of Love series.

It starts on a high point with the introduction of the character of Gladrag Sausage (who reminds me irresistably of David Walsh). Gladrag and Hywel (Gareth's character) are hilarious and as camp as can be.

The jokes are getting even smuttier if that is possible and some of them hit such esoteric levels of smut that even I wouldn't have got them a few years ago. The present of Gamak (Mark Thompson) as the perennial straight man (in both senses of the word) is useful as his bemusement at some of the conversations flying around him adds an extra level of entertainment if you get the references and someone to sympathise with if you don't.

A favourite scene with all my family was the big race - a parody of the pod race in Star Wars - our heroes need a large sum of money to get their space ship fixed. The only way to get it is by entering the race. What do Mydas (Michael Keating), Turnidus (Nicholas Courtney) and Panakool get to enter the race with? Well <grin> I won't spoil the joke, but trust me, it's funny (and clean!).

Other parts of the plot are also developing. We already know the convoluted connections between some of the characters - eg. the villain, played again with relish and melodrama by Gareth, is the nephew of Hywel (also played by Gareth Thomas). Another relationship is revealed - one that made me laugh out loud. We also find the skeleton in the closet of Mydas Mydasson.

Mrs Blubber, a TV presenter who is defiantly overweight and cheerfully downs half a dozen chocolate oranges with a clean conscience has developed from a character I had no interest in, to one I really like. She's played by Alison Taffs who plays three different characters with ease.

Mark Thompson manages five and they all sound completely different (apart from the announcer who is such a small part that he doesn't really count).

I never find the multiple parts a problem in this series, apart from one point in this CD where a bad edit cut straight from a scene with Violet to one with Mrs Blubber and there the use of the same actress was briefly confusing. In fact, several scene changes could have been better cued.

Jan Chappell is still with us as Sharliken, the giant alien frog, and is just as nasty and evil as before. She gets to kill a character. In fact several people do. This CD isn't called Planet of Death for nothing.

We actually started keeping a body count. One character dies in a way that truely defines audio drama. You could *never* kill a character this way on TV. It wouldn't get past the censors. I'm not sure you could do it in an 18 certificate movie even. Possibly with the use of special effects, but would you really want to see it? On audio? Well my eldest son gave the biggest laugh of the whole CD, though I don't think my younger son was quite so happy. It was pretty gruesome. (I made sure I was there when Henry heard it for the first time. I didn't want him to hear that scene alone and I wanted to be able to switch off fast if it upset him. In fact it was a far less gruesome death that made the greatest impact on him.)

Funnily enough, this is the first CD in the series that Henry (age 12) hasn't loved to bits. The reason was the death count. There were just too many deaths for him. Having said that, most of the deaths were of characters that we were happy to see die and one we practically cheered as he met his demise. The problem was that we lost a character we liked. Only a minor character - only introduced in this CD - but we liked him. When we listened to it the second time, Henry stopped at track 10. He said all the funny bits were before that and all the deaths came afterwards.

The CD ends with a real cliffhanger. It's a bit like the end of B7 in fact. Who will survive to the next CD? Personally, of the four characters caught in the final shootout, there are two whom I wouldn't really miss, but me Henry and Kelvin are all agreed as to which two we want to survive.

So what's it all like overall? Well, the B-movie atmosphere is as strong as ever, the puns come in strings, and Gareth is a scream. I don't like this one as much as number 4, but then number 4 was my absolute favourite to date.

If you're offended by jokes about big cocks and back passages, then don't buy it. If you're offended by homosexuality, definitely don't buy it.

If you like bad puns, smutty jokes and a plot that is actually surprisingly complex under all the spoofs, then you'll probably enjoy it.

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