on 9 January 2014
Hand on heart, this is quite simply my favourite Benny story, which is not to say that it will be everyone's. If your taste is for funny, intelligent science fiction, peppered with eclectic cultural references and peopled with marvellous and unlikely characters, then stop reading this and get a copy. If your taste is for explosions, CGI and unremarkable death as substitutes for drama and narrative, then stick to television.
Benny badly needs a job. A real job. Tries for a job at a book depository. Doesn't get it, which is a pity, as the characters there are so engaging one wouldn't mind her staying a few episodes. She does however get trouble, naturally enough. Someone or something is destroying the Depository's collection...
Yet we're not thrust headlong into a lot of running around or obvious peril. TDoW has much more to it than that. For example, within a few seconds of helping out in the kitchen, Benny's boy Peter suddenly, finally has a personality. What passes for character in Sci-Fi is all too often as Peter Summerfield's had been previously: "his mother's human but his father's Killoran!" and that was pretty well it. Half-dog = can get angry = character. A few half-hearted attempts to overplay his status as the child of a single parent but that was it. What comes as a welcome surprise here (not least for actor Thomas Grant) is that Peter is real (as with Matthew Sweet's brilliant Big Finish debut, The Year of the Pig, food is the key), even likeable.
It turns out that the Depository's collection is being eaten: the title and the bizarre opening exchange should tell you by whom. How they got there (and are able to quote what they have eaten, including some of Benny's diary) is the real mystery. With a cast of half a dozen or so, the real culprit is perhaps not such a shock but every line of dialogue sparkles and The Diet of Worms provides far more entertainment on the way than most other recent Big Finish productions.
Toby Longworth (who is also the director) puts in yet another great comic turn (see also Timeless Passages and The Vanity Box) as an eponymous worm, literally and figuratively devouring random corners of Western culture. But his is merely the most noticeable comic voice: the cast as a whole are excellent, clearly relishing such a scintillating script.
One can imagine many a sci-fi fan being more than a little irritated by such apparent frivolity as The Diet of Worms but nothing is gratuitous and what is lost in chills is more than repaid in brains.