‘Sting In The Tale’ (SOL) (Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Just An Ordinary Guy

This review is based on the first time I’ve heard this episode in the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series!

Yeah, that’s right. As I write this review, I’ve just listened to ‘Sting In The Tale’ for the first time. I didn’t hear this episode and the rest of the series when I first had ‘Soldiers of Love’ on CDs in 2014. This was due to me drifting from listening to the rest of the ‘SOL’ series after I’d lost my interest in it.

Because Sarah Sutton wasn’t in the rest of ‘Soldiers of Love’, I felt I couldn’t continue to listen to the rest of the series at that point. I’m a huge Sarah Sutton fan and the fact that she wasn’t in the rest of the series had me in low spirits. But as I revisit the ‘SOL’ series, I feel able to continue where I left off.

‘Sting In The Tale’ is the eleventh episode of the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard this episode. But after revisiting the ‘SOL’ series in the first 10 episodes and gaining more identification with the characters, I was keen on what would happen in this instalment.

Incidentally, this ‘SOL’ episode was the first made in 2003. The previous two episodes, ‘Breaking Loose’ and ‘Earth Quake’ were made in 2002. As I listen to the rest of the series, I get an impression that Mark J. Thompson is building up to a conclusion for this 14-part adventure he has stretched out.

I wondered how things would get resolved and what new twists and turns would come for some of the characters in the series, as they’ve all been going on respective journeys of their own. I did wonder if there was more to deal with involving Colonel Franklyn affecting other characters in ‘SOL’.

By the way, in terms of the comedy aspects of the series, I don’t think I’ve been able to feel the humour that’s been trying to get at me as a listener. Now don’t get me wrong. There are some amusing moments I’ve enjoyed with the characters that developed over the course of 11 episodes.

But the comedy in this series is not laugh-out-loud comedy as you might expect. I know that sounds like I’m contradicting what I said to Sarah Sutton on her panel at the ‘Science of the Time Lords’ event in Leicester, January 2016. But honestly, I didn’t get many laughs from listening to this series.

This might have something to do with the smutty humour that’s attributed to this CD series and it’s not what I consider humour. Perhaps if I were to re-listen to the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series more, I might appreciate the jokes. But simply saying, I’d laughed a lot with ‘TravelWise’ compared to ‘SOL’.

The episode, ‘Sting In The Tale’, follows up on what happened in the previous episode with Gamak getting knocked out by Snyder. After Turnidus, Mrs. Blubber and the real Mydas put Gamak somewhere safe whilst he’s unconscious; they with Snyder go and sort out the Pallbearers on Earth.

Meanwhile, Cilla, Hywel and Frag are still aboard The Nick of Time spaceship whilst Yztabub finds Cindy at her flat on Earth. They soon join Turnidus and the others on Earth, before it gets revealed there’s this lurking menace about to take control of Earth. This menace happens to be…Chickenskin!

This episode also deals with the secret health problem that Synder has from his past on Fandilox, 20 years ago. It also deals with the bitterness and rivalry between Gamak and Synder from those 20 years. It has something to do with Colonel Franklyn and it becomes shocking as the story progresses.

There’s a cast list on the back of the CD for ‘Sting In The Tale’ as well as a cast list inside the sleeve notes for the episode. This is something similar to what was on the back of the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. This time though, the actors and characters are clearly identified in this chart of squares.

There’s also the additional information to let the listener know how many episodes our characters have been in during the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series so far. This is handy for anyone who comes into the series rather late at this stage. But wouldn’t it be better to include it from the start of the series? 😀

Nicholas Courtney returns as Turnidus in the episode. The character description for Turnidus on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD is the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Turnidus has appeared in Episodes 1 to 5 and 7 to 11 so far. Clearly Nick Courtney was a popular actor with Mark J. Thompson.

I enjoyed it when Turnidus got easily distracted by fashion on Earth. Sometimes this did make him sound silly when things more urgent were happened. But Turnidus also comes across as being very resourceful, as he makes contributions on plans to try and stop the evil Pallbearers and Chickenskin.

I like how Turnidus becomes very defensive for Gamak when Snyder accuses him. Turnidus gets trapped in a cell with his friends before they manage to escape. I also enjoyed Turnidus’ interaction with the real Mydas in the episode, which differs compared to his relationship with the fake Mydas.

Anna Karen returns as Cilla Hammond in the episode. The character description for Cilla on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD is the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Anna Karen has played Cilla from Episodes 3 to 11 so far (barring the first episode where Cilla was male and played by Norman Lovett).

From the start of the episode, Cilla is still aboard The Nick of Time spaceship. Cilla tries to give female advice to Frag on how to handle relationships and men. But it gets on Cilla’s nerves when Frag is worrying away. Like Turnidus, Cilla also gets very defensive for Gamak as Synder accuses him.

Soon Cilla and Gamak team up with each other. I like it when Gamak shares with Cilla about what happened with him and Colonel Franklyn and that he’s got a son. Cilla and Gamak find a way to defeat Chickenskin, but disguising themselves up. Cilla also has a way of ridding Chickenskin forever.

Gareth Thomas returns as Hywel Hammond in this episode. There’s still no sign of Aaran in this episode. The character description for Hywel on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD is the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Hywel has been in Episodes 2, 4, 5 and 7 to 11 of the ‘SOL’ CD series so far.

Hywel is with Cilla and Frag when they’re aboard The Nick of Time spaceship at the beginning of the episode. They soon transmat down to the planet Earth and join Turnidus and the others, before they’re soon caught by Chickenskin and put in a prison cell. Hywel does get agitated as this happens.

If you’ve been following Hywel as a character, you will have noticed that he has the tendency to make a lot of gay sex jokes in the series. Whether you find it annoying or amusing, it’s up to you. Sometimes it works both ways. Hywel also helps out to calm people down outside in an Earth street.

Mark Preston returns as his two main characters in the series – Yztabub and Frag. The character descriptions for Yztabub and Frag on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD are the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Yztabub has been in all ‘SOL’ episodes where Frag has been in Episodes 2 to 11.

Yztabub manages to find Cindy when she’s at her flat and comforts her when she’s feeling depressed. Yztabub learns that Cindy has hours left to live and attempts to reassure her. They both make their way to meet up with their friends on Earth, before they’re soon captured by Chickenskin.

Frag continues to be the ‘unlucky in love’ type of character who can’t keep her men alive when she makes love to them. I don’t think there’s much to say about Frag in this ‘SOL’ episode, though I wonder if she’ll get to learn her lessons of love-making in the previous ‘SOL’ episodes. Possibly not!

Mark J. Thompson returns as his three characters– Gamak, real Mydas and Cindy. The character descriptions for these on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD are the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Gamak has been in all ‘SOL’ episodes, the real Mydas has been in Episodes 5 to 7 and 10 to 11 and Cindy has been in Episodes 6 to 11 (although Sammie Winmill had played her in Episodes 1 to 2).

Galileo Gamak is absent for most of the early part of the episode, since he gets locked away in a cupboard in the real Mydas’ dressing room. He meets up with Cilla who frees him and they both work together to defeat Chickenskin. His quarrels with Synder get to fruition as they talk things out.

The real Mydas Mydason makes his appearance known to everyone. Everyone is in awe that Mydas is now an old man and that he was locked away by an evil double played by Michael Keating. I didn’t think Michael Keating’s Mydas was bad, but after hearing he locked the real one up, it is pretty cruel.

Cindy Rellar is distressed when Yztabub finds her, as she just wanted to be in her flat knowing that she hasn’t got long left to live. Yztabub suggests finding a cure for Cindy. She’s unsure whether that’s possible, but feels encouraged as he joins Yztabub to reunite and help her friends out of great peril.

Peter Ager returns as Chickenskin, who has appeared in Episode 3, 5, 9 and 11 in the ‘SOL’ series. According to the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD, Chickenskin is described as a ’15 stone genetically modified Chicken’, an ‘evil tyrant and Arran’s sidekick’. Will this episode see the last of Chickenskin?!

Nick Kirby returns as Helmut Synder. The character description for Synder on the back of the ‘Sting In The Tale’ CD is the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD, with the addition that he ‘hates Gamak’. Synder appeared in Episodes 4 to 6 and 10-11 in ‘SOL’. His quarrels with Gamak reveal shocking revelations.

In this episode, it turns out that Snyder can transform into a wasp (hence the episode’s title). This is due to Synder’s medical condition all those 20 years ago on Fandilox. It also gets revealed Synder had an affair with Colonel Franklyn and there’s confusion about who the father of Franklyn’s baby is.

Alison Taffs returns as Mrs. Blubber. The character description for Mrs. Blubber on the back of the ‘Sting In the Tale’ CD is the same as on the ‘Earth Quake’ CD. Mrs. Blubber appeared in Episodes 4 to 7 and 10 to 11 in ‘SOL’. She becomes very instrumental in helping out with restoring order on Earth.

The cast also includes Philip Horncastle and Nick Kirby as the voice of the Pallbearers. I’m not sure if that’s the last we’ll hear of the Pallbearers in the series. There’s also a crowd of protesters including David Bickerstaff, Gareth Thomas (for one moment I thought this would be Arran) and Angie Budd.

For this CD, there is only one song featured. This happens to be ‘Just An Ordinary Guy’, sung by Alison Taffs with music and lyrics by Mark J. Thompson and an arrangement by Lawrence Oakley. Again, this is a nice melody to listen to, but it’s played nearly towards the end of the episode on CD.

At the end of the episode, The Nick of Time ship receives an S.O.S. and it’s coming from Xoolian Major. Decisions are made on who’s going to go and answer the distress call and who’s going to stay behind on Earth. Turnidus, Cilla, Yztabub, Frag, Gamak, Cindy and Synder agree to accompany Hywel.

Mrs. Blubber and the real Mydas decide to stay behind and restore order on the Earth. I’m glad the episode ends on a heroic note as our main characters go off in The Nick of Time spaceship to Xoolian Major. What will they find on the planet? Who is it that has sent this mysterious S.O.S. distress signal?

‘Sting In The Tale’ is a pretty enjoyable episode in the ‘Soldiers of Love’ series. I like how our characters sort things out on Earth with defeating the Pallbearers and Chickenskin. I also get a sense that things are starting to wind down with our heroes setting off to defeat Arran and his evil scheme.

I’m looking forward to what’s coming in the next instalment of the ‘SOL’ series. I wonder if our heroes will find Madame Deephole, Violet Goodgrip, Major Grondlepuss and Crispin Caelys on Xoolian Major. And I also wonder if more revelations will get revealed between Gamak and Synder.

‘Sting In The Tale’ (SOL) rating – 7/10

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