Drama Showcase: Unintelligent Design

Synopsis: A research student goes to his tutor in despair, his whole world on the verge of collapse. His project is evolving badly. Should he have tried a more intelligent design? Is it too late for his tutor to save him. Meanwhile they await the results of the competition for the most prestigious science prize of all time …

“It’s not the end of the world … well, I suppose, literally, it is.”

This is the fourth in the new Drama Showcase range from Big Finish and concludes what one hopes will prove to be just the first of many series. Aimed at adult listeners, these plays have so far been very much in the ‘confessional’ mode, revolving around a single star performer (Katy Manning, Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs) who is also the author or co-author of the text.

Toby Hadoke, Daisy Ashford and Geoffrey Beevers (Big Finish / David Richardson)

In this latter regard things unchanged here, with Geoffrey Beevers starring and also providing the script, though this is structured much more as a dialogue as part of what he has described as a ‘comedy of ideas’. He plays a professors dealing with a tense young student who needs help with a little experiment … it turns out that the project involves the literal building of universes including some that seem quite familiar. This is a comic escapade that looks amusingly at such weighty notions as religious tolerance, the scientific method, reincarnation, evolutionary theory versus creationism, god complexes and complex gods, the pressure to deliver in modern academe, natural selection and the pervasive horrors of the game show mentality which can turn anything into a cutthroat competition … in short, a tale encompassing the whole of time and space, condensed into about 40 minutes!

“Evolution did strike me as a bit wasteful”

The Temple-Nobleton Prize is about to be awarded for the most important scientific development of the last four years as decided upon by experts and the public in a kind of Nobel Prize meets an X Factor / Big Brother-style showdown. The student wants to cheat a bit and get involved in the development of the universe he has created, which would be against the rules given that he has chosen not to go with an off-the-peg experiment but follow the evolutionary model instead, which requires him to be entirely hands-off. Only now he has got so involved in the fate of his creations that he wants to intervene and help guide them as any tinpot god would, much to the disgust of his increasingly sozzled professor.

“While you’re at it do get rid of those unsightly black holes, they’re an accident waiting to happen.”

Beevers is great as the grave academic prone to splenetic outbursts of irritation with his two hopelessly naive and egocentric students, who would be happy to fall in line with an Edenic fantasy and fulfill one of sci-fi’s great clichés. They are played with gusto by Toby Hadoke and Beevers’ own daughter, Daisy Ashford, who prove to be highly amusing comic foils as youngsters who utterly fail to really understand the evolutionary problems they are wrestling with, instead looking lazily for simple answers to impossibly complex questions. Just like most students really …

This is quite a brief play, the shortest of all those in this series, and it could easily have been much longer – but in many ways it is also the most ambitious and most fully realised, and is nicely capped by some nice little unbilled cameos in its (truly) final moments.

A very entertaining and stimulating conclusion to this series, to which the phrase ‘thought provoking’ can here be certainly be used in a variety of unusual ways. Extras include nice little interviews with all the main participants.

Highly recommended and let’s hope that this series will be able to to continue.

***** (4 stars out of 5)

This entry was posted in Big Finish, Drama Schowcase - series 1, Geoffrey Beevers, Nigel Fairs, Toby Hadoke. Bookmark the permalink.

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