The BBC's Lovecraft Investigations: "The Whisperer in Darkness"

Toby Frost

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Released in 2019, this is less an adaptation of Lovecraft's story as a serial that uses the original as a springboard for a much bigger adventure. It's actually the sequel to an earlier adaptation of "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", which I've not listened to yet as I liked that story less. Normally I'm wary of such things, but I think this makes a pretty good job of enlarging the original while remaining true to its spirit.

The BBC version is about two reporters making a podcast, which involves investigating various events near an air force base. The story is relocated to rural England, which works fine, and brings in UFOs, cultists, the elder gods, a numbers station and even Dr John Dee as well as the original creatures. Some aspects work better than others: a subplot involving a mysterious agent feels unnecessary and slightly cheesy. The climax of the original story - the meeting with Alekely - is slightly weaker than it ought to be, and the gramophone recording from the original isn't used as much as I'd expected. Overall, though, I thought it was pretty good. I expect Lovecraft purists would be appalled.

 
I listened to the first series of this, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". Basically, it was very good indeed, better than "The Whisperer in Darkness". The conversion to a radio series/mock podcast format worked very well. The ending was a little weak compared to the rest of the story - which is odd, as the ending of the original story is pretty strong and I'd have thought would transfer quite easily. But it's well worth hearing, and the section where the reporter investigates the tunnels under Ward's home is very atmospheric. Recommended.
 
And now I'm listening to Series 3, which is based on "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". It's very dense, and tries to bring in a huge amount of myths and stories from all kinds of sources. It think it tries a bit too hard, but by and large it's good stuff. I'm interested to see what it does with the Deep Ones.

The writers clearly love having mysterious government agents show up and say mysterious things in a knowing fashion, which gets tedious quickly. It's odd how unconvincing it becomes as soon as this happens. The actual Lovecraftian elements are dealt with very well: for instance, "Shadow" moves a lot of explanatory dialogue from the raving old man of the original story (who would have sounded pretty hammy if played as Lovecraft wrote him) to an employee of the local hotel, who sounds like a slightly airheaded surf dude, and feels much more credible as a result. It could just do with a few less spies.
 
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