Just One Damned Thing After Another is the first in the popular Chronicles of St Mary’s series, written by Jodi Taylor and adapted by Marty Ross. This full cast adaptation stars comedian Gemma Wheelan (Game of Thrones), Ben Miles (Coupling, The Crown), Jonathan Bailey (Broadchurch) and Zara Ramm (Grandpa in my Pocket). It’s a full cast drama, over seven hours long and follows the first adventures of Madeleine Maxwell, known as Max (Zara Ramm) as she joins St Marys, the time travelling offshoot of Thirsk University. Zara also narrated the audiobooks of all the series so far.
If you’re already a fan of the series, this is a no-brainer. It sticks closely to the original text, but streamlines, while tightening the action up to give Madeleine even more focus. The world of St. Mary’s is a strange one; Max is a recruit, along with Davey Sussman (Bailey) and others, not all of whom survive. They are supported by a range of technical staff and the faculty has its own security team, led by the Chief. Various outings in time (including 11th century London and the Cretaceous) see Max get to make friends and enemies alike, uncover conspiracies, endure victories and setbacks, all the while circling around the plotting of Clive Ronan (Miles) and his followers. There’s plenty of action, some love interest and some very dark moments. It ends with everyone older, wiser and realising there are plenty more battles to be fought, just as any first novel in a series should do.
Where the novel is written in the first person, this adaptation gives more the characters the focus, and gives Max more of the drama. While a few scenes are cut, others are added (and informed by current events). In many places this rebalances the story and make is more interesting, though does also remove some of the story’s mystery.
Max is a somewhat enigmatic character, and while St. Mary’s has a clear purpose, it is a curious setting. It’s nice to get out of the obvious trope of locating a time travel history department in Oxbridge, the development of St Mary’s seems unlikely, as does the extreme set of individuals it attracts. There are a lot of internal tensions and some very unpleasant characters in situ. As a series, St Mary’s has many fans but also some detractors. For the most this adaptation focusses on the good, but can’t quite smooth out the narrative enough to avoid it jarring in some places.
As a production (and the cast is much larger than the four names listed) it is a great piece of audio drama, very well paced for the main and with a great soundscape – do listen to the Cretaceous period on good speakers – it’s worth it.
Fans of Jodi Taylor’s series will need no encouragement to listen to this, for others the relatively low costs makes this an attractive gamble. It’s not perfect but it is entertaining.
JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER / AUTHOR: JODI TAYLOR / ADAPTED BY: MARTY ROSS / PUBLISHER: AUDIBLE / STARRING: GEMMA WHEELAN, ZARA RAMM, BEN MILES, JONATHAN BAILEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW