Variations on a Themis

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Who Is Aldrich Kemp? review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Well folks, it’s been a weird few weeks with all these big release day reviews hasn’t it? Now my release schedule seems to be back to the usual Sunday mornings again, you can enjoy your morning coffee (or tea), and wonder just what the hell I’ll be banging on about today.

Ploughing through the Limelight series of audio dramas by the BBC is something of a mixed bag. You have the excellent, and the not so. So how does Who Is Aldrich Kemp hold up? Well dear reader, you will find out the answer to that very question in the next 600 or so words.

So what’s it about?

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? is a rip-roaring, grab-bag (and possible other hyphenated hyperbole, oooh, alliteration) of shadowy organisations, criminal masterminds, and wise cracking secret agents. A fair dose of Double crosses, unlikely assassins, and plots for global domination get thrown in for good measure.

Clara Page works as an analyst for a government agency that would rather remain off the radar. When the body of a French secret agent gets hauled out of the water in Lake Tanganyika, connections are found to an even shadier group of scoundrels called the Themis Group. The leader of this organisation is a mysterious individual known as Aldrich Kemp.

With nothing more than a name and a (literally) blank piece of paper, Clara soon finds herself on a mad dash across Europe dodging assassins and digging up secret societies. Along the way she will find friends that are enemies, and enemies that are friends.

Is it any good?

I like this more than I thought I would. I bounced between irritation at some of the dialogue (and accents) to a great fondness for the characters and their oddball ways. It’s an interesting take on the espionage genre explored in other podcast dramas, including the previously reviewed Splinter Cell: Firewall. In fact, while that was all American gung-ho action and gadgets, this is far more British in feel. I mean, because it is British.

Aldrich Kemp as a character is more Doctor Who than Blofeld, his puppy like eagerness and sense of humour set him apart from the more traditional crime bosses in fiction. This comes as something of a surprise, as his reputation precedes him in this series, but it’s a nice touch that adds to the whole offbeat feel of the story.

Plucky protagonist Clara Page, has a penchant for fencing (the sport, not DIY) and fish and chips. As the main character, her worldview suffers the biggest change. I’ll say no more than that, but for an already strong (if not somewhat cliched) female character, she really does get the short end of the stick. How will she fair in this? Well, again, I’m not telling you.

Podcaster Kennedy Fisher also makes an appearance too, a name you’ll no doubt remember from The Lovecraft Investigations. It was really nice to see that the character is keeping herself busy, still on the trail of tracking her partner Matt down (even if it is only in podcastland). I think I’ll probably go back and listen to the final series of that, just to see how much leaks through into this show.

Regarding Kennedy Fisher, it blew my mind that the same actress voiced three characters in this series. I honestly thought she was American, so either she’s got her American accent absolutely dialed, or she’s got her British accent absolutely dialed.  There’s no slipping evident, or weird pronunciations as is so often the case with voice actors.

Final thoughts

The problem with shows like this (for a reviewer anyway), is that the story is so cunning and twisty that it’s very hard to talk about it without giving anything away. That is my way of apologising for my rather superficial review. I just don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Looking through the list of dramas in the Limelight series, I see there is a second series featuring Mr Kemp. Therefore, this has jumped very high up my “to listen to” list. I would have listened to it already were it not for the offer of advanced episodes of new series’ to review.

Julian Simpson is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. I was just scrolling through his Wikipedia page and I see there’s a whole load of audio dramas set in the “Pleasant Green” universe (including this and the Lovecraft Investigations). Looks like I’ve got a lot of listening to do, should I actually be able to track them down. They seem to all be unavailable everywhere. So dear readers, if you know where I can get them, please comment below and accept my gratitude in advance.

You can get Who Is Aldrich Kemp? here:



    1. Thanks for the link! After I published this review, Julian replied to me and apparently most of the Pleasant Green stuff is available on his website (there may be something missing, so I’ll check both out).

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