“No, see Dredd I’m supposed to be in there, with the hostages, not out here with you and the armed terrorists.”
The idea is one that, in my three years of 2000ad readership, I have seen a dozen times. A zoom train (hi tech, hi speed but with the same delays we all suffer) is hi-jacked by terrorists and (surprise) Ol’ Stony face happens to be on the express in question. It’s a fun premise, but I thought it had been done one too many times to actually give it any shred of originality. I was very wrong. Writer James Swallow has created a brilliant adventure, filled with incident, duplicity and one or two plot twists.
The main premise is that Dredd is transporting safe cracker Bax Philo (played by Jeremy James, a man who has been in nearly all the Dredd cd’s but has barely had a meaty role, gladly that is rectified here) back to Mega City One from Brit Cit (see Judge Dredd: Get Karter for more). It all goes pear shaped when the activists RAIL hijack the silver sixty express train Dredd and Philo are on, and from here on in its sixty minutes until, it’s Under Siege II firmly in the style of Dredd, except Toby Longworth who plays the lawman is better than Stephen Segal.
Saying that however, listening to this cd in one long go actually benefited me not breaking the story up. This is to all intents and purposes a Dredd episode of 24. The train ride takes sixty minutes. When the Dredd is told at one point it will be 20 minutes until the train smashes into Mega City One, we have at least twenty minutes to go. This is immaculately timed, and the play really sucks you in, more so than any other audio I have had from BF before. The feeling of real time adds to the urgency, creating a palpable sense of excitement and danger.
Longworth gives his best performance as Dredd yet. He depicts the lawman as resourceful and confident, yet always ready to take the next risk in order to save civilian lives. The ensemble cast is also quite brilliant. Donovan Cary gives great performances as the Mr T alike jive talking gangster Lomax and the Robo Driver a relatively small character yes, but Cary’s performance had me laughing all the way to the next letterbox. Meanwhile Andrew Fettes is the aptly named Trio (“Why are you called Trio anyway?” gets a HILARIOUS response.)
The main villain is Whyte, played well by Kate Brown. The character is excellent, double-crossing every other character along the way, but her motivation for revenge against the Big Meg is a little thin. Surely Swallow could have given her a better reason to blow up the city than this? However all is forgiven on the excellent quality of the rest of his work. Its also nice to see some linkage back to previous audio Get Karter, with the brief mention of Amy Steel and appearance of Judge Dalton.
And so, another month has come with a new Dredd, and I really think, contrary to what I thought the play would be like before listening, this is a standout action/comedy/drama/ hitting all the right notes at the right times.
ANY GOOD?: Dreddline is simply the best 2000ad audio released thus far. The plot is excellently put across, and all components for a really good Dredd story are here, interesting characters, action scenes and overall excitement level making this a winner. Also, the real time feel is brilliant, lets hope to see more audio progs like this!.
NEXT TIME: Strontium Dog: Fire From Heaven.