‘PLANET OF DEATH’ (SOL)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Summer in the City
This ‘Soldiers of Love’ episode features the return of Sarah Sutton as Colonel Franklyn! YAY!!!
After the listening to the pretty average efforts of ‘Ominous Passage’, I hoped ‘Planet of Death’ would rekindle my engagement with the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series. Thankfully it did as Sarah Sutton made her return to the series and other characters helped in moving the series forward in a dynamic direction.
In this episode, shocking twists get revealed about some of the characters and what the overall story was about. I was finding myself feeling shocked by some of the amazing truths of certain characters like Arran, Colonel Franklyn and Mydas Mydason and getting horrified by what Maureen did in this.
I was trying to figure out how the formula worked for this series and why it stretched so far into its fourteen episode structure. Certain aspects of the series were distracting to slow the story down including some of the smutty humour that was being made. But this episode did keep me engaged.
This is the fifth episode of the series and like before in previous instalments, it does seem like it’s moving at a leisurely pace with setting up characters and how their journeys progress here. By the time this episode came to an end, things were set up to make you want to listen to the next episode.
Reflecting on the series, I would’ve preferred a regular cast of characters to maintain the consistency and familiarity rather than having certain ones pop in and out now and again. I feel about this with Sarah Sutton as Colonel Franklyn, since she sometimes doesn’t have a major role in certain episodes.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘Soldiers of Love: Planet of Death’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Stars of Time Film and Comic Con 2016 @ The Tropicana’, Weston-super-Mare, August 2016. I showed the CD covers of ‘Planet of Death’ and ‘Haunted Lives’ to Sarah when I saw her in Weston-super-Mare.
Sarah again asked me how many episodes she did in the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series and I told her she did seven. I appreciate that Sarah doesn’t recall making these episodes, as it would have been so nice to hear behind-the-scenes extras by Mark J. Thompson on how he conceived this audio series.
Another point I’d like to make out is that Sarah Sutton has done more Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ compared to her contribution to the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series. She understandably remembers the Big Finish audios more than ‘Soldiers of Love’ considering that they’ve done pretty well for her.
I asked Sarah if there were any more actors/face she recognised from the CD covers of ‘Planet of Death’ and ‘Haunted Lives’ when I showed them to her. She was fascinated by seeing actors like Gareth Thomas, Anna Karen, Jan Chappell and Jacqueline Pearce whilst we looked at the CD covers.
In this episode, it follows up with what happened in the cliff-hanger. Gamak, Hywel and Jake are about to be attacked by a Dalek-like robot, but it turns out not to be a robot at all. It’s actually Steven Degattis as Gladrag Sausage. Honestly, where does Mark J. Thompson get these names from?
Gladrag seems to be an associate and a friend of Hywel. Gamak, Hywel and Jake explain their situation and Gladrag offers to help them whilst they’re on Xoolian Major. But as events progress, Jake gets kidnapped during the night before Gamak is also captured by Gladrag Sausage (little sob). 😀
Elsewhere, Turnidus, Yztabub, Cilla and Mydas have to enter into a race run by a 15-stone chicken called Chickenskin (No seriously. That’s what he’s called). And I have to tell you here, the set up for the race feels like the atmosphere and context from ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’.
The reason why I point this out is because Gary Hailes’ character as Shek-Izan becomes difficult when our heroes try to pay money for repairs parts they need in their shop. The Mom and Panakol characters are also reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker and his Mom from ‘The Phantom Menace’ film.
Meanwhile, on the spaceship with Maureen, she undergoes a dramatic transformation and becomes a monster when she’s with Teddy. Frag and Jadra also face execution whilst on board that same spaceship. Things become intriguing when the mysterious robotic pallbearers start attacking people.
Nicholas Courtney returns as Turnidus in this episode. Like in the previous episode, I don’t think there’s any major character development for Turnidus. But he does get to take part in the race, using a pogo stick. I couldn’t help smile when Nick Courtney went “Wee!!!” as Turnidus in the race.
I suppose the reason why I feel there isn’t a major character development for Turnidus is because Nicholas Courtney doesn’t have a meatier appearance as he did in previous instalments. It got tense when Turnidus was abandoned as well as slow in the race, before his feet became stuck in the sand.
Michael Keating returns as Mydas Mydason. This is sadly Michael Keating’s last appearance in the ‘Soldiers of Love’. It’s especially sad for me as I feel he didn’t get a good pay-off to his exit, considering what happens at the end of this episode. What happened to Mydas in the next episode?
Mydas also gets to take part in the race as he uses a penny farthing. I initially thought that was a coin when I heard Mydas say that, but it turns out to be a bicycle. There’s also a moment in the episode when it turns out Mydas isn’t who he seems. Mydas is actually an imposter. What could that mean?!
I really don’t know what’s become of Cindy Rellar at this point in this series, despite her being mentioned now and again when characters are concerned for her. And considering Michael Keating doesn’t come back for the rest of the series, I’m wondering why Mydas and Cindy were kidnapped.
Mark Preston returns as Yztabub in this episode. I liked that scene where Yztabub is out on his own as a drinks machine and Panakol comes to see him and cheer him up. The dialogue sounds well-meaning, but I think it would help if the voices for Yztabub and Panakol didn’t sound so silly at times.
Anna Karen returns as Cilla Hammond in this ‘Soldiers of Love’ episode. I don’t think there’s any room for development with Cilla’s character at this point, since she keeps on being snarky and rude. That might have something to do with Anna Karen’s performance in this, but then I could be wrong.
Cilla witnesses what goes on with the race and refuses to answer a question Turnidus asks concerning the Chickenskin character in a rude fashion. It gets tense when Cilla, Mydas and Yztabub get captured towards the episode’s climax and they face Arran, who is of course Cilla’s evil brother.
Gareth Thomas returns in this ‘Soldiers of Love’ episode as both Hywel and Arran. I find it funny when Gareth Thomas is playing Hywel, as his Welsh accent sounds strong and is sometimes amusing to listen to. This is a complete contrast to when Gareth plays Arran who makes this villainous return.
It seems that Arran is a man of disguise as well as an evil genius, since he disguises himself as Gladrag Sausage to capture Gamak as well as Chickenskin to fool Mydas, Cilla and Yztabub. It seems that Arran’s evil plans are coming to fruition in this episode, especially when he has the Pallbearers.
When I saw Sarah Sutton in Weston-super-Mare, August 2016, she asked me again if Gareth Thomas had died that year and I said ‘yes’. I suppose Sarah was still in shock that Gareth Thomas passed away as she must have remembered him well. Sarah and me did chat a while about Gareth Thomas.
Peter Dean returns as Padrioli Jada in this episode as well as Alison Taffs as Maureen, Mark J. Thompson as Teddy and Mark Preston as Frag. Now to be fair, Peter Dean does have a stronger appearance in this episode. I wish all his appearances in ‘Soldiers of Love’ had a great impact on me.
It’s interesting when there’s this sort-of semi-romance between Jadra and Frag in the episode. There’s even a song sung by them called ‘Blood Out Of A Stone’ to highlight how they feel about each other. But it goes downhill when Jadra gets shot and killed – the last we hear of Peter Dean. 😦
Jan Chappell returns as Sharliken as well as Panakol’s Mom in this ‘Soldiers of Love’ episode. Sarah Sutton asked me who Jan Chappell was and I told her she was in ‘Blake’s 7’. I’m not surprised if Sarah doesn’t remember her, since Colonel Franklyn barely had any scenes with Jan Chappell’s characters.
It turns out that Sharliken is pretty ruthless and evil, especially when she forces Jadra to pilot the spaceship before she shoots him dead. Sharliken also takes delight when she sees Maureen transforming into one of her own species. It seems that Sharliken happens to have this human agent.
Gary Hailes returns as Shek-Izan. I didn’t find Shek-Izan an inspiring character, since he didn’t serve much to the plot apart from being a nuisance when Mydas and Yztabub struggle to pay for repair parts to The Nick of Time ship. Shek-Izan is clearly the trader character from ‘The Phantom Menace’.
But later on in the episode, Shek-Izan returns as he’s terrified and warns Mydas, Cilla and Yztabub about the approach of the Pallbearer robots. I’m sure he attempted to stand his ground and even protected our heroes when the Pallbearers came. But aside of that, Shek-Izan was a bland character.
But for me, Sarah Sutton is the one who stands out for me in this ‘Soldiers of Love’ episode as Colonel Franklyn. I know it seems like Sarah didn’t have a major part in the episode and that always frustrates me as I want to hear more of her as Colonel Franklyn becoming more involved in the plot.
In this episode though, Colonel Franklyn seems to be a changed person compared to when we last saw her in ‘Metamorphs’. Franklyn seems more efficient than ever and pretty ruthless. She wipes the records of a transmat computer and treats Niall Stuchfield as Crispin Caelys unfairly in his duties.
Franklyn does give Caelys a permanent role at reception for the Space Patrol as well as triple pay, despite strictly telling him to not reveal confident information except through her. Things get interesting when it transpires Colonel Franklyn happens to be Caelys’ real mother. Whoa and wow!!!
I did think the Maureen subplot where she became an alien creature like Sharliken was pretty disturbing. It was even more disturbing and horrifying when Maureen actually ate Teddy up for nourishment. I know that Teddy was annoying at this point, but did Maureen have to be murderous?
The guest cast also includes Mark J Thompson as Galileo Gamak, the Radio Announcer and Panakol; Peter Ager as Jake and Chickenskin and Nick Kirby as Snyder. Alison Taffs also plays Violet and Mrs. Blubber. There’s also Andy Conway as the Probus and I’m not sure what his motivations are in this.
Last time, I said I found Synder sounding like Herr Flick from ”Allo, ‘Allo’. This time however, I found Synder an interesting character as he wasn’t the subordinate character of Arran he seemed to be. He and Mrs. Blubber go down into a stinking corridor where they find this shrine of Mydas Mydason.
As well as ‘Blood Out of a Stone’ performed by Peter Dean and Mark Preston, there’s also the song ‘Summer in the City’ performed by Mark J. Thompson and Alison Taffs. Both songs have music and lyrics by Mark J. Thompson and the arrangements were by Mark Nickol and Lee Potter respectively.
As I indicated, the episode ends with Mydas, Cilla and Yztabub about to be shot by Arran and the Pallbearer Robots. What will happen in the next episode? I don’t know how Mydas, Cilla and Yztabub will get out of this one and whether the questions they asked will be answered by the villainous Arran.
I do feel that ‘Planet of Death’ is getting back on track with what’s going on in the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series. I wonder what will happen next and how more answers to questions will be answered. Not all the actors who played the characters will be in the next episode, but it will be interesting to find out.
I’m so looking forward to hearing Sarah Sutton as Colonel Franklyn in the next episode and how she’ll react when Caelys reveals to her that she’s his mother. How will she react? Will she be pleased or shocked? I’m so anxiously excited about this plot point in the series and wonder where it’ll lead next.
‘Planet of Death’ (SOL) rating – 8/10
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