The Cambridge Geek

The Quanderhorn Xperimentations

I first found out about this series last year, when I dropped in on a panel with Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall at London Comic-Con about it. It's a show they've been working on for a while, simultaneously writing the book of the series while putting together the radio episodes.

It starts with Brian Nylon (Ryan Sampson), the audience surrogate, waking up with no memory and under the gentle care and attention of Gemini Jannussen (Cassie Layton), the woman with the half-clockwork brain. Nylon is immediately thrown into the first catastrophe of the episode, having to help take down a 50-foot (broccoli) woman, before she can destroy Big Ben, moments before the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, 1952.

After this cold open, we start getting a bit more of the background of this world, and discover that it's permanently stuck in 1952, and has been long enough that it should really be 2018. It would appear the year keeps repeating. Hints abound that Big Ben may have something to do with this.

Following his introduction to the team (more on them later), Nylon finds himself dragged into saving the world from a giant sinkhole the team previously caused. This involves a certain amount of technobabble, travelling at Mach 18, and some all important teamwork, not helped by their utter failure to communicate.

The obvious parallel to draw this with is Nebulous, which featured Mark Gatiss as a similarly vague and unhelpful professor, but a smaller team of sidekicks. That was a much more episodic affair though, whereas this appears to be taking the H2G2 approach of a fuller story spread across six episodes. Luckily, thus far it appears to be rather better than the recent Hitchhiker's revival.

The team is run by Professor Quanderhorn, played by James Fleet in vicar mode, with some well-loved actors in the background filling out the rest of the cast. John Sessions sneaks in to do both an impressively scene-stealing Churchill and a sarcastic butler, and Kevin Eldon does a fun Martian by way of Terry Thomas, with a slitht obsession with rumpy-pumpy and this human thing we call kissing.

There's a few annoyances in it. There's something of an overabundance of catchphrase and running jokes, such as the idiocy of Troy, Quanderhorn's insect-human hybrid son (Freddie Fox), and Jannussen's frequent "I can't explain right now". The solution to problems sometimes feel a little bit too flimsy, with the joke of "here's one I made earlier" something of an overplayed trope.

It's nice to have a bit of long-form sci-fi comedy back on the radio though, since all we've had in a while is Time Spanner and we're still waiting for a series of that. It's one I'll stick with.

Score 4

Tagged: Radio Comedy Cast Sitcom Science fiction