The Kaldor City series has been of the highest standard throughout, in the acting and the production as much as in the scripting. "Checkmate" is a multifaceted story which draws together all the threads in the earlier narratives with balletic precision, culminating in a totally unexpected climax which draws upon the chess metaphors introduced to the series in "Taren Capel."
The emotional impact of this story is particularly strong. Yes, the humour is still there (there is some fine black comedy from Iago, as ever, and one scene involving Uvanov, Justina and a voice on the communicator which I find particularly funny), but the more dramatic, serious scenes are very powerful. I was moved to tears in two places, and the horror element is beautifully put across too — just enough has been done in the way of special effects to suggest something really terrifying, and the rest is left to the listener's imagination, as it should be. You will not forget this CD in a hurry, I promise you that.
It has become almost routine to praise the acting and the production, but the praise is well deserved. David Baillie, reprising his original role as Taren Capel in Robots of Death, is insidiously creepy; it isn't a large part, but it is played to perfection. The regular cast are all as strong as ever. Paul Darrow's Iago is just as convincing in a weakened state as he is when he's frightening the producer of Kaldor City News almost to death; Russell Hunter‘s Uvanov is magnificent, sustaining a long political speech at one point without ever being in danger of boring the listener; and Patricia Merrick effortlessly brings new depths out of the put-upon Justina. David Collings features heavily in this story, making up for his more restrained presence in earlier CDs. Oh, and don't forget Rull and Cotton, both of whom are given simultaneous bite and pathos by Trevor Cooper and Brian Croucher respectively. You won't know whether to feel desperately sorry for both of them or to hate their guts.
Alistair Lock‘s production, as always, brings the whole thing stunningly to life, and once again achieves an overall effect which is even better than the sum of its parts. It's magnificent, and I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone. Of course, it does help if you listen to the other four first... but then, if you haven't already bought the other four, what planet have you been on?
DG 14 October 2003
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