?o, no he has not got the plague! That? Pizza faced Dave-he is just an Ugly, he is JUST an Ugly.?

What with the release of DREDD VS DEATH on all the major platforms recently, Ol?Stony face is enjoying some extra exposure- and that can? be a bad time to release a new audio drama on top of a new game. Its also nice to see some continuity from one Dredd project to another. Toby Longworth, the voice of the lawman through nine audio adventures lends his honed vocals to the game, as do other BF stars (most notably Jeremy James, the man of a thousand snivelling side-kicks). Sadly, 99 Code Red is without JJ- but Longworth? Dredd is present and correct. So far the 2000ad audio series seems to have been embraced by the writers and actors at Big Finish towers, due to the fact this is as radically different from DOCTOR WHO as anything can get. But this month, it seems everything has fallen a bit flat.

Written by the usually excellent Jonathan Clements, this release sees Dredd (following on from a fire fight in a packed amphitheatre, an outbreak of plague (via a terrorist attack) and the wounding of a rookie Judge) forced to take over the overcrowded and poorly equipped Mega City General. This allows the writer to take the mick out of everything from ER to CASUALTY, whilst ensuring that Dredd? brand of sick humour comes to the fore. Its comedy as black as night, but for once it seems a tad?ell uninspired. Since this series began over a year ago, the stories have been varied and fun. However, 99 Code Red set some alarm bells off in my head. I felt like I had heard this all before, just dressed up differently. We?e already had terrorists in DREDDLINE, ensemble comedy in TRAPPED ON TITAN and I LOVE JUDGE DREDD and tv host Enigma Smith has been done to death. At one point in this play i thought she might finally get bumped off- however, she lives to see another audio. Its all a shame that this release is a let down, because nearly all the previous ten dramas have been winners.

The cast is good, but the characterisation is either annoying or way off what it should be. Judge? Hill and Renko whoop at the ladies and snuffle up doughnuts. Now, knowing what I do about Dredd? world, these men would have been trained to be the best of the best- not the morons they are here. This perhaps wouldn? be too much of a problem if we weren? asked to care about them- but when one of them gets gunned down I really didn? give a drokk. Every other character is generally annoying when their meant to be funny. Even Dredd seems a bit tired (Longworth sounds bored at points). Its all so much of a jumble as well that, whilst not hard to follow, its simply hard to want to.

As good as Dredd has been, it shows how sluggish this has all gotten when STRONTIUM DOG: FIRE FROM HEAVEN was a fast paced, funny piece of work. It would seem author Clements forte is with Johnny Alpha, and perhaps he should be given a greater chance to show off his skill with the bounty hunter. Maybe some new blood would lift the series up- some ROGUE TROOPER or MISSIONARY MAN audio? to spice things up. But with 2004 promising six new Dredd adventures, it will be a while before things change. For arguments sake, ill put this mess down to a one offond hope WAR PLANET is better. . .


NEXT PROG: The return of the evil Efil Drago San in Dave Stone? JUDGE DREDD: WAR PLANET, the sequel to THE KILLING ZONE. . . . . ]]>

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