Returning to the saga after a lengthy break, the Wireless Theatre Company has returned to The Springheel Saga in force. With an explosive opening and several major twists early on, the stage is being set for a grand finale and the end of Jonah Smith’s personal war with the supernatural killer.
Set several years after the cataclysmic end to series two, Smith is a broken man. Retired and driven by little more than drink, he seems to have all but given up his old conflict with the murderous creature known as Jack. However, his old life is not yet done with him just yet. Striking again, Jack attacks a military barracks head on, seeking some unknown object and several factions come to Smith for answers.
As the beginning of the end for saga, The Peril of the Empires starts out strong. Along with quickly establishing the major players of this arc, it offers Chris Finney a new direction to take Smith in and truly show off his acting talents after his character hits rock bottom. While many of his scenes serve to fill in the audience on some vital details, they’re nevertheless extremely atmospheric and presents the world in a brilliantly grim light.
The story also quickly gives one of the best depictions of Springheel Jack’s seemingly unstoppable nature. While brief and presenting only a fleeting look at his attack, the sheer speed in which he storms the barracks and breezes through its defenders is excellently detailed, building a clear image through performances and sound effects.
In a Q&A session, Valentine said that he wanted to make this part their “Victorian-age James Bond movie”, a desire reflected as much in the action as the intrigue present in the tale. It’s less a detective story and more out and out political thriller this time, and Smith is woefully out of his depth. While offering some great new additional villains and storytelling opportunities, it also allows things to be set on a much grander scale than before, with code names and foreign figures a-plenty.
If there is a criticism to be brought up however, this new entry can seem a little too much as if the story is trying to start over. It has a new beginning, almost an entirely new cast, and while the weight of old cases is felt on Smith himself some story elements feel as if they’re being brushed into the background. It doesn’t follow on from them so much as use them for background flavour here and there.
Overall, there’s never been a time to start on this saga. If you’re after an outstanding 1800s supernatural murder mystery, look no further than The Peril of the Empires.
THE PERIL OF THE EMPIRES (THE SPRINGHEEL SAGA SERIES 3) / AUTHOR: GARETH PARKER, ROBERT VALENTINE / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER FINNEY, JONATHAN HANSLER, PAUL ANTHONY, MAGGIE ROBSON, SILAS HAWKINS, BEN WHITEHEAD, TOM SLATTER, MATTHEW WOODCOCK, TONY PARKIN, LOUIS TAMONE, JENNY RUNACRE, DAVID BENSON, MATTHEW KELLY / PUBLISHER: THE WIRELESS THEATRE COMPANY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW