The Lost World

R.U.R. Links

The Lost World





Starring: Francis De Wolff, Gerald Harper, Carleton Hobbs

Adapted for radio by Peggy Wells and Barry Campbell

Produced by Betty Davies

BBC Audiobooks - 3 x CD Set



Starring: Simon Ward, Tessa Peake-Jones, Harry Towb

Adapted for the English stage by Nigel Playfair

Directed by Glyn Dearman

BBC Audiobooks - 2 x CD Set


Reviewed by Ceri Laing


The August 2008 wave of the Classic Radio Sci-Fi range from BBC Audiobooks features releases of Frankenstein, R.U.R. and The Lost World. This review does not cover Frankenstein.

There have been many BBC Radio adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic 1912 novel The Lost World (about an expedition to explore a remote South American plateau still populated by prehistoric creatures). Presumably this particular version has been picked for release because of the quality and credentials its lead actors.

This three-part adaptation was originally broadcast in 1975 on BBC Radio 4. It features the corpulent Francis De Wolff (Doctor Who, Lord Peter Wimsey, The Tomorrow People) as Professor Challenger, Gerald Harper (Adam Adamant Lives!, Hadleigh) as the dashing Lord John Roxton, and Carleton Hobbs (a fantastic character actor best known as BBC Radio’s Sherlock Holmes during the 1960s) as the initially-sceptical Professor Summerlee. The opening scene of the first episode is extremely stilted and poorly played and is enough to put anyone off listening any further, but stick with it and as soon as these three brilliant actors enter the whole piece is lifted. All three are perfectly cast. Each scene in which they appear bristles and the scenes which feature all three of them together (which thankfully are many) are a complete joy to listen to.

Karel Čapek’s three-act play R.U.R. or Rossum’s Universal Robots was originally staged in Prague in 1920. Once it had been translated from Czech into English, it was performed in New York, before being adapted by Nigel Playfair for the English stage in 1923. The play became a massively influential work throughout the 20th Century, not least for bringing the word 'robot' to the English language (from the Czech 'robota', meaning work or labour).

BBC Television’s condensed 1938 version of the play is a significant landmark in British Telefantasy, as the world's first ever televised science fiction play, so for fans of the genre this is a key work. Three years later, the first BBC radio version was aired. In 1948 a more complete BBC TV adaptation, featuring Patrick Troughton as one of the robots, was aired (all long-lost, sadly).

This release features BBC Radio 3’s version from 1989, which utilised Nigel Playfair’s adaptation as the basis for the broadcast. Amongst the case are the renowned actor Simon Ward as Domain, Tessa Peake-Jones (best known from her role in Only Fools and Horses) as Helena and stalwart Irish character actor Harry Towb (whose career has encompassed appearances in Hancock’s Half Hour, The Army Game and Doctor Who). The director of the play for Radio 3 was Glyn Dearman, one time actor (he appeared in previous Classic Radio Sci-Fi release The Slide) and director of James Follett’s superb Earthsearch series: no doubt one of reasons for him being picked for the play. This version does betray its staged origins, but this can be forgiven because of the work’s significance and also as it has a great cast with lots of recognisable voices. Simon Ward’s performance as Domain, particularly, stands out.


The three episodes of The Lost World are presented over three discs: part one (entitled The Monsters of Enmore Park) runs to 53mins 01secs; part two (The Edge of Terror) runs to 49mins 25secs; and part three (Our Eyes Have Seen Great Wonders - the penultimate chapter title from the novel) runs to 51mins 17secs.

The complete play of R.U.R. is spread over two discs: the first containing 58mins 37secs and the second containing 46mins 25secs.

The material in both releases sound clear and fine, without any issues.


Last year I reviewed the second wave of the Classic Radio Sci-Fi range from BBC Audiobooks and there have been a couple of waves released since the one that The Lost World and R.U.R. form a part of. It’s extremely pleasing that the range has continued to flourish and numerous radio dramas have been released.

As with the previous releases Andrew Pixley provides extensive notes and Radio Times billings and images are reproduced, and continue to be very welcome. These should not merely be treated as “extras” to the releases - the work put in by Pixley is evident in the detail of the notes and they add so much to the end product. Also of note are the brilliant cover illustrations, which help to effectively encapsulate the drama. Both The Lost World and R.U.R. are worthwhile contributions to this high quality range from BBC Audiobooks.

If you have enjoyed other titles in the Classic Radio Sci-Fi range that I would recommend picking up either of these two titles. The cast list for The Lost World should make it an essential purchase, let alone the fact it is an adaptation of one of the twentieth century's great novels!

R.U.R. is an intelligent, thought-provoking piece, and its legacy on modern science fiction makes it an important play that one should want to experience.

If you haven’t bought any of the range before and you like quality drama then these are two excellent examples to try out the range.

If BBC Audiobooks continue to release titles like these then long may this range continue!

Reviews of other BBC Classic Radio Sci-Fi audiobooks:

The Chrysalids, Survival and The Midwich Cuckoos

The War of the Worlds


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