AW San Francisco Dateline Review

DRAMATIC RADIO, once thought dead and buried, has staged a remarkable resurrection in recent years. Obviously, the rush is on to compete for audiences in search of an alternative to the many stagnating features of TV. Blasting its way into the competition is "Alien Worlds," an audio space adventure series produced now on CD originally broadcast worldwide on FM radio.

The concept behind "Alien Worlds" is that an organization called the International Space Authority ''watches over an eternity of uncharted galaxies and the countless planets orbiting within their starlit borders." In command of ISA is Commissioner White whose base is Starlab, a nickname for the Arthur C. Clarke Astronomical Observatory, a floating space headquarters and research center. Under his command are research director Dr. Maura Cassidy, her comedy relief assistant Tim and two space happy rocket jockies, Captains Jon Graydon and Buddy Griff.

"Alien Worlds" incorporates the best elements of "Star Wars," "Star Trek - The Next Generation" and other recently successful science-fiction production and writing. The series emerges as a creative with-it, uptempo space adventure which takes full advantage of its medium. "Alien Worlds" excels in its use of multi-track sound, synthesizer tricks and symphonic music. Voices are filtered in unique ways so that the extraterrestrial beings always have a unique sound. The theme, "Alien World Suite," was orchestrated by James Kirk with the 57-piece London Symphony Orchestra. It is all very classy and inspired for a program that seemingly came from a distant corner of the universe.

While Maura Cassidy and the other main characters are cast from familiar heroic molds, the storylines often sparkle. "The Keeper of Eight" featured an angelic, ethereal spirit trying to maintain peace between ISA and a race of aggressive alien beings plotting to steal the hydrogen from our atmosphere. Another episode, "Night Riders of Kalimar," is about the discovery of an energy source called Glowstone and an attack by sightless creatures called Tromen. In "The ISA Conspiracy," a race of intelligent beings threaten earth when Earthlings unwittingly steal a crystal gargoyle found on the moon that turns out to be a religious artifact of the alien race.

The booming, authoritative voice of narrator Roger Dressler adds a touch of distinction, as do occasional gems of satire. "The Resurrectionists of Lethe" focused on a special planet reserved as a burial site for the honored dead of Earth. One of the newly-arrived corpses was Richard M. Nixon with a last will and testament on tape -only there is an 18 minute blank spot on the tape. The dialogue is sprinkled with in-jokes that will be appreciated by hardware science fiction fans.

The creator, producer and director of "Alien Worlds" is Lee Hansen, a native of Tekoa, Washington. Hansen often found himself snowed in on the family farm during the winter and spent much of his childhood listening to the radio. Although he first worked as a ventriloquist, he quickly made the transition to his first love, radio, and worked as a disc jockey in Oregon, Nevada and Los Angeles. "Science fiction seems to lend itself," says Hansen, "to the scope of what we wanted to do. With what we now know about space travel, what we think about space migration, it offers the chance to toy with some provocative images and pictures in the mind." "This is not Buck Rogers. Our creatures aren't just bug-eyed monsters. We're trying for a stereo theater effect. We're using what I call rock 'n roll production techniques. The difference between this and early radio drama is that in the old days scenes could go on forever. Here, no scene lasts more than a minute-and-a-half. There are no long-winded speeches. I think people have become desensitized to listening, so here we will try to give them something to trip through for a half-hour. It's a great travel companion for your car CD player," Hansen explains. Chuck Olson is the voice of Buddy Griff. In his juvenile days Olson played on such radio shows as "Red Ryder" and "The Lone Ranger." Other voices include Linda Gary, Cory Burton, Bruce Phillip Miller and Dressler, who doubles as narrator and Commissioner White.

"Alien Worlds" is currently presenting the entire package of space adventures on CD for the first time, including "The Kilohertz War," in which a militant force on Mars attacks Earth; "Deathsong," about two opposing alien music forms and "The Seeds of Time," wherein biosynthesized DNA factors threaten the Starlab crew.

Alien Worlds Dramatic Audio Adventure

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