Since we left our erstwhile Edwardian gentleman adventurer in Volume 1: A Vintage Year For Scoundrels, the death of his associate Georgina Jones has hit him quite severely. Turning his back on his crimefighting, he has become something of a recluse. Not even the entreaties of faithful manservant and friend Simms can stir him. No, Adam is now firmly retired: of that he is resolute. Or, you might say, adamant.
It takes a great amount of confidence to change the format of a series before it has been fully established. On TV, Adam Adamant Lives! gave its audience an ever-changing array of villains every week, with occasional appearances during the second season of Adam’s nemesis, The Face. In Big Finish’s audio reboot, the stories are much more closely intertwined, and with Volume 2: Face Off, the three tales – ‘A Slight Case Of Reincarnation’, ‘Face It!’, and ‘The Important Questions’ – are not only inextricably linked to each other, but they each showcase one of the leads.
In the first episode, ‘A Slight Case Of Reincarnation’, Simms (Guy Adams) is trying – and, sadly, failing – to rouse Adam (Blake Ritson) from the slough of despond, having taken it wholly upon himself to shoulder the blame for the apparent murder of Georgina (Milly Thomas). With no-one else there to pick up the slack, Simms is filling in for Adam, and trying his best to solve the mystery of a group of bank robbers who are all dressing like Dick Turpin – these dandy highwaymen bring a touch of Adam Ant to Adam Adamant.
With his needing to take the lead, Simms turns to one of his former colleagues, Lina (Martha Cope), to provide him with backup through her sharp-shooting skills. In the meantime, Adam makes an extremely rare foray outside his apartment and comes across a woman who looks exactly like Georgina. Despite her protestations to the contrary, Adam believes it to be Georgina, but he struggles to convince Simms. Taking it upon himself to prove this theory right, Adam gets drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
‘Face It!’ finds Adam being lured into a trap whilst trying to locate Georgina, and he ends up at the mercy of Dr. Andrew Milligan (Nicholas Asbury), who tells Adam he is not who he believes himself to be. It leads to an epic battle of wills and a question of identity, with Adam’s sanity being pushed to the very brink. Will he lose his very sense of self, and was he ever the man he claims to be? Could Adam have been poor old Pat Hamilton all along? And which one of them will ultimately be walking out of there when all this is over?
Volume 2 is rounded off with ‘The Important Questions’, in which all of the threads from the two previous instalments begin being tied up. We learn whether Adam is still actually Adam after his gruelling ordeal; we find out whether or not the mystery woman Adam has been pursuing is actually the late Georgina after all; we have more information about the out-of-place highwaymen who have been robbing banks all across London; and we get the most important answer of all – whether our trio of gallant heroes will be reunited to fight the good fight another day.
Series writer Guy Adams has managed to craft three tautly-plotted tales, with the standout being ‘Face It!’. For anyone familiar with The Prisoner episode ‘Once Upon A Time’, this story is very much in that same vein – a claustrophobic and intense psychological two-hander, with two outstanding performances by Ritson and Asbury, along with some truly excellent sound design from Benji Clifford. The script picks up on earlier suggestions that Adam might not actually be the real deal, and it has great fun toying with the listener, in the process upending their own – as well as Adam’s – sense of certainty.
Adams has managed to craft something which does respect what has gone before, but also uses it as a jumping-off point to give us a new twist on Adam Adamant Lives!, bringing in a lot more depth of character, as well as questioning just who the lead actually is, with some insight into his psychological struggle throughout. Ritson, Adams and Thomas appear to have settled into their roles second time round, and all have great fun bringing their characters to life. Adams’ scripts are a delight, with all manner of florid and evocative language in the mix, giving a wonderful richness and texture.
This second Big Finish outing for Adam Adamant Lives! is a palpable hit, and there definitely deserves to be many more releases to come if this high standard can be maintained for the future. Face it: Big Finish and Guy Adams are on to a real winner, and long may it continue.
Adam Adamant Lives! Volume 2: Face Off is out now from Big Finish.