I'm not blind drunk, I'm just blind.
As I said I wasn't made aware of the BBC's dramatization of Lord of the Rings until 2001, twenty years after its initial release. And even then I wasn't aware of the anniversary edition which added the opening and closing narrations by Frodo. But as I said it was a much better version than the NPR Playhouse version. Granted I do still somewhat enjoy that one, but after hearing this one I must conclude that it' is far superior. And of course it's far better than the films, as good as those admittedly were.
One thing I like about this version is that it stays more or less true to the characters as described in the book, which the films didn't always do.. A notable example is Treebeard. In the NPR playhouse version he was voiced by Tom Luce with a rather annoying echo effect added. Needless to say it made hm sound rather campy. In the films he was hostile towards the Hobbits at first and made them aware of Gandalf's survival long before they learned of it in the book. Here, actor Steven Thorn gives him a commanding yet somewat mischievous quality that I always did perceive in the character. And the Ents have a cool marching song which I'm sure was in the novel but here is excellently presented.
In short I don't think I stopped listening to this any longer than was absolutely necessary, such as for meal and bathroom breaks. But then back to it I went. And now that Audible has them I can carry them with me on my IPod anytime, which should come in useful particularly for long trips in the car. And tense or scary parts of the story really come off as tense or scary here, which is definitely a good thing! Excellent music and SFX combined with an excellent cast bring this tale fabulously to life. It's definitely worth the credits or the money.
Return of the King picks up right where Two Towers left off. After accidentally revealing himself to Sauron via the Palantir of Orthanc, Pippin is taken to the city of Minas Tirith by Gandalf, who suspects that Sauron's next move may be to target that city. Meri is put in the care of King Theoden of Rohan. Aragorn, Gimley and Legolas go in search of the mysterious Paths of the Dead, a haunted road which provides the only chance Aragorn has of reaching Minas Tirith before the city is lost. And Sam Gamgee embarks on a desperate mission to rescue Frodo who, left comatose by Shelob's venomous sting, was subsequently discovered by a band of Orc soldiers, though fortunately not before Sam, mistaking Frodo for dead and resolving to see the quest through to its end on his own if possible, took the Ring from his friend. But even if he succeeds, only time will tell whether they'll have the strength to see the quest through to its ultimate end, much less whether that end will come on Mount Doom with the destruction of the Ring.
As with the first two installments, the BBC did an excellent job on this one. Ian Holm does an excellent job of conveying the terrible changes the ordeal has wrought in Frodo, and definitely leagues better than Elijah Wood's rather wussy performance in the films. Peter Woodthorpe is the perfect combination of scary and pathetic in his portrayal of Gollum. So all in all this is an excellent production surpassed only by the Rob Inglis narrated unabridged productions, which Audible has finally made available. So if you haven't given this production a listen you might just be in for a good time.
I was glad to hear of the BBC's adaptations of the Dirk Gently novels. After listening to and being thoroughly impressed with their handling of holistic Detective Agency I took a listen to the sequel, Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. Again I found myself laughing so hard I was surprised when I didn't pee my pants. They made some changes to the story to bring it into the modern age, and while I generally hate it when people make such changes, it worked surprisingly well here. It helped that they picked an excellent cast for these whacky characters.
It all started while Kate Schechter was waiting to catch a plane to Norway. Already running late as it was, she's delayed even more by a big, angry Nordic man who also wants to catch the flight but is prevented from doing so by is lack of a credt card, bank account, passport or any kind of identification. Any chance of either of them making the flight is irrevocably lost when the check-in desk suddenly shoots up through the ceiling engulfed in a ball of orange flame.
Meanwhile, holistic investigator Dirk Gently is forced by poverty to make ends meet by putting his frustratingly accurate powers of clairvoyance to use as a cross dressing fortune teller. Things get hectic when Dirk is retained by a rich record company executive who claims to be pursued by a gobblin waiving a contract signed in blood and a giant, hairy green-eyed monster with a sythe. Though initially skeptical of this excentric's story, Dirk begins to take it seriously when he arrives several hours late for an appointment with his client only to find him brutally decapitated with his head sitting squarely in the center of his record player's turntable, which happens to be playing a copy of a record he helped get released. As Dirk digs deeper he discovers shocking truthes behind his client's murder, truthes that may even have a bearing on the bizarre incident at the airport as well as the disappearance of the girl working at the exploded check-in desk and a fighter pilot who went missing during a mission over the North Sea.
All in all this is an excellent adaptation well worth adding to your library, particularly if you like British humor. And despite his absence from the actual novel I actually liked how they brought Richard MacDuf back for this presentation since it gives a bit more of a sense of continuity. I also got to wondering if the Kate from the original novel of Holistic Detective Agency is the same Kate who features prominently in this presentation, now carrying a different name. If you havent given this a listen yet I wholeheartedly recommend it. You might just be in for a good time.
OK - those are strong words, and there really has been a lot of great writing in the last 50 years (I did say "possibly"). But the combination of imaginative genius, over-the-top humor and just enough philosophical thought makes H2G2 a true standout. The radio plays predated the published books, and were my first exposure to Douglas Adams in the early 1980s - they remain the best way to experience The Hitchhiker's Guide.
There are only a few audio books that I return to and listen a second time. H2G2 is an audio book that I am moved to listen to at least every two years. Basically, I'd be lost without the Guide... If I could give it six stars, I would.
P.S. Years after I fell in love with the books, I learned that Adams had been a script writer and editor for the BBC's Doctor Who, and that he was a friend of Richard Dawkins - he introduced Lalla Ward (who played Romana on Doctor Who) to Dawkins, they subsequently married. Lalla Ward co-narrates Dawkins' audio books, which I also recommend. That serves to illustrate "the interconnectedness of all all things" (which is something you'll come upon in another of Adams' books - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.