"It may be from another dimension, but it doesn't like the taste of hot steel!"
Professor Edward P. Dunning, Harry "Thumper" Crow and Inspector Lionheart
A series of straight to CD plays by Bafflegab Productions
(formerly Cosmic Hobo), created by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris. They are set in the mid-1930s
and chronicle the exploits of academic and ghost story author Professor Edward P. Dunning, and old-school policeman Inspector Lionheart as they investigate "the out of the ordinary, the unexplained. The downright weird." The plays are a heady mix of supernatural horror and comedy, recalling a sort of cosy world of 1930s adventure.
There have been nine CD releases so far, and three short episodes for free download from the Bafflegab website. They star Doctor Who
regulars Terry "Davros" Molloy as Dunning and the late Nicholas Courtney
, AKA The Brigadier
as Lionheart. In the sixth release, following Courtney's sad death, a new character, Harry "Thumper" Crow was introduced, played by David Warner
. Other characters have included an exceptionally camp Aleister Crowley
, a Great Old One, and rubbish explorer Sir Basil Champion, whilst guest stars such as Leslie Phillips, Nigel Havers and BRIAN BLESSED
have popped up.
The nine so far released are:
- The Nazad Conspiracy - 2006
- The Devil of Denge Marsh - 2007
- For King and Country - 2008
- The Curse of the Black Comet - 2009
- The Secret Weapon of Doom - 2010
- The Magic Circle - 2011
- The Horror of Loch Ness - 2012
- The Thirteen Hallows - 2012
- The King of Winter - 2014
The three "specials" are:
- The Curse of the Cult of Thoth - Hallowe'en Special
- The Yule Lads - Christmas Special
- Mr. Crowley's Christmas - Christmas Special
Terry Molloy himself has described it as "Tintin
and Dick Barton meets The X-Files
". A comic adaptation of The Nazad Conspiracy
has also been produced.
Can I tempt you to some tropes?
- Abhorrent Admirer: Mrs. Willow for Professor Dunning.
- Alma Mater Song: Sir Basil Champion delights in singing the song for his Private School, Bumsworth's. It's to the tune of "Jerusalem", and it's hilarious.
- Dunning and his old friend Professor Penfold sing "The Mallard Song", a favourite from their University days, in For King and Country.
- As You Know: In The King of Winter, the radio commentator describing a theatrical production featuring Prince George, Duke of Kent mentions that it is being attended by King George VI. The commentator takes great pains to point out that the two men are brothers, despite both being called George, and that it is the Duke's real name, but only the King's regnal name, as he was christened Albert. Any radio audience of the 1930s would probably be aware of this, but in 2014 it would seem a little odd, hence the explanation.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Happens offstage with the coronation of George VI. The Archbishop walks off to it and all that is heard is a door opening and "Zadok the Priest" at full volume.
- Badass Grandpa: Lionheart is not a grandfather, but is able to punch out several people considerably younger than himself. He is also a crack shot with a pistol and pretty handy with a gatling gun too.
- Harry Crow is a magnificently sweary old bruiser.
- Badass Longcoat: Lionheart is always drawn wearing his flowing overcoat.
- Berserk Button: Do not call Lionheart an "old man". He will punch you in the face. Very hard.
- Trying to kill Lionheart is a bad idea, too. The first time someone tried it, Dunning came after them with a pistol. The second, he came after them with an alien spaceship. That he failed both times doesn't negate the fact that those are the only occasions on which he's wielded a weapon with intent to use it.
- Brawn Hilda: Alexander Caulfield-Browne's (unseen) mother, who is described as having teeth the colour of mahogany and very large hands. She rejoices in the name of Eideltrout.
- Canon Welding: Dunning's fellow author A. K. "Bunny" Cheesewright is mentioned in a Doctor Who short story written by the creators of The Scarifyers.
- Catchphrase: Whenever he gets into bother, Dunning exclaims "Oh crumbs!"
- Cool Old Guy: Cool Gentleman of Mature Years, Inspector Lionheart, who is either 74 or 76 (he can't remember). He should have retired, but didn't.
- Deep South (of England): Denge Marsh fits this description, with its collection of inbred villagers and their mistrust of outsiders.
- Dem Bones: The skeletons of long-dead Roundheads are reanimated to lead an attack on the coronation in For King and Country. Later on, an army of Cavaliers is similarly reanimated to defend it from them.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In The Devil of Denge Marsh, Lionheart attacks Shub-Niggurath with a gatling gun. From an airplane. Then drops some powdered acid on it and melts it to death.
- Duel to the Death: Dunning ends up called out on a duel by General Warlock in The Nazad Conspiracy. Lionheart acts as his second.
- Lionheart and Matthew Hopkins, in the rafters of Westminster Abbey in For King and Country.
- Eagleland: D. D. Denham and Kitty in The Curse of the Black Comet. Denham is a mixture of flavour 1 and 2. He has obscene amounts of money that he spends buying works of art depicting Icarus. He then defaces them by having his own face painted onto the body of Icarus. But he's ultimately on the side of good. Kitty is more flavour 2. She's bubbly, hyperactive and very stupid, spouting incomprehensible American slang of the time period. She's so over the top, that Dunning doesn't realise she's American until it's pointed out to him. Until then, he'd just assumed that she was mentally ill.
- Eldritch Abomination: Shub-Niggurath in The Devil of Denge Marsh.
- Embarrassing First Name: Lionheart has one, although it is never revealed. Dunning sees it written down and wonders what the Inspector's parents can have been thinking.
- Sir Basil Champion in The Curse of the Black Comet is an intentionally rubbish version of Arthur Conan Doyle's creation Professor Challenger.
- Primula Manningtree in The Secret Weapon of Doom is clearly based on Doctor Who's arch-enemy in Real Life, Mrs. Mary Whitehouse.
- Professor Dunning himself seems to be inspired by ghost story author M. R. James. Albeit it less talented than James. He's even named after the main character in James' story Casting the Runes.
- Dunning creates his own for Lionheart in one of his stories in the form of a character called "Braveheart".
- While Dunning's friends "The Fantatsists", a group of fantasy authors who meet one a month, seem to be inspired by "The Inklings", a literary group in Oxford in the 1930s who included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien among their number. One member, who writes an interminably long series of High Fantasy novels, having created an entire world and language for them, is based on Tolkien. When he is killed in The Secret Weapon of Doom, his son takes on the task of finishing his work, very much in the manner of Christopher Tolkien.
- In The Horror of Loch Ness, Aleister Crowley Expy Oliver Haddo from W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Magician appears. Crowley is familiar with him and does not like him.
- Eye Scream: The ghost of Matthew Hopkins encounters a couple in a cinema and puts out their eyes for "looking on the profane".
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: The first play begins on Boxing Day 1936.
- Grammar Nazi: Aleister Crowley.
Aleister Crowley: I've come to save Mr. Lionheart.
Aleister Crowley: It's pardon! Now take that, you ruffian!
Crowley then punches the henchman out.
- Government Agency of Fiction: Dunning and Lionheart work for MI-13. No, not that one.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Crops up frequently.
- Henpecked Husband: Harry Crow is one of these.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lionheart and Dunning.
- Hilarious Outtakes: There was a Behind-the-Scenes documentary for The Curse of the Black Comet (currently offline) on the download page of the website featuring outtakes of BRIAN BLESSED trying to sing the Bumsworth's School Song. It also has him describing his apparent sexual attraction for Nicholas Courtney in rather graphic terms. The warning on the website actually read "Warning: Contains language that might offend. Particularly from Mr Blessed."
- Historical-Domain Character: Aleister Crowley, BBC continuity announcer Leslie Mitchell, Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, Archbishop Cosmo Lang, Oliver Cromwell, Rasputin and many others pop up as characters.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: In For King and Country, Lionheart tries this when he is swordfighting with the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who has possessed the body of his rival, Inspector Natterjack. It doesn't work, as Natterjack briefly surfaces to inform Lionheart that he "doesn't like you either".
- I'm a Humanitarian: In a flashback to one of Sir Basil Champion's expeditions, the party play cards to decide who's going to go outside and shoot themselves so the others can cook and eat him. Sir Basil is surprisingly keen on eating the deceased, insisting on a slice of rump because he "always had a nice juicy arse!"
- By the end of The Curse of the Black Comet, Sir Basil, Dunning, Lionheart and D. D. Denham are marooned in a dinghy in the middle of the ocean. Within a few hours, Sir Basil, feeling hungry, wants to start eating someone.
- I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference: Sort of. There's no time-travel involved, but the Grand Master of the Freemasons in The King of Winter turns out to be Lord Flash, First Lord of the Admiralty. He seems to have been named as such so that Harry Crow can disparagingly call him Grand Master Flash for the rest of his scenes.
- Insistent Terminology / It's Pronounced Tro-PAY: In The Curse of the Black Comet, Dunning constantly corrects D. D. Denham's American proncunciation of "Nazi". Every time Denham says "Nazzee", Dunning insistently replies "Nart-see".
- Meanwhile, Sir Basil mispronounces it as "Nasty". But since he also mispronounces "Submarine" as "Sub-Maureen", and since he's utterly insane, noone bothers to correct him.
- Knight Fever: Dunning is awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for saving the coronation in For King and Country. Lionheart is offered a knighthood, but he declines it, because of his Embarrassing First Name. Apparently it would be even more embarassing if it were preceded by "Sir".
- In The King of Winter, having once again saved the life of King George VI, Dunning wonders what honour he will be awarded this time. Harry Crow suggests "Best Newcomer".
- In For King and Country, Harry Price titles himself Sir Harry Price, despite his not actually having been knighted.
- Dunning and Lionheart masquerade as Viscount Dunning and Lord Lionheart in The Nazad Conspiracy.
- Sir Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr and the other Knights of the Round Table in The Thirteen Hallows.
- Large Ham: BRIAN BLESSED in The Curse of the Black Comet
- Leslie Phillips in The Secret Weapon of Doom
- David Benson as Aleister Crowley.
- And as D. D. Denham in The Curse of the Black Comet.
- And when he's playing the Invisible Man on a cinema screen being watched by other characters in For King and Country.
- Manchild: Professor Dunning.
Professor Dunning: (angry with Crow) I am a grown adult, you know. (giggles) Ooh look! A cow crossing a road!.
- Meaningful Name: General Warlock is part of a black magic cult trying to resurrect Rasputin.
- Minor Insult Meltdown: In The Nazad Conspiracy, General Warlock asks Dunning if he likes Spanish women. Dunning replies that he believes a woman's mind to be more attractive than physical beauty. The General is insulted that Dunning apparently thinks he is frivolous for preferring loveliness, and that he must be married to a "moron". He works himself up into a fury, culminating in:
General Warlock: You stand there, bold as brass, and declare my wife to be a chimpanzee!
- Lady Walsingham's resigned reaction when the General demands satisfaction and challenges Dunning to a duel makes it clear that this kind of thing happens quite often.
- Naked People Are Funny: Aleister Crowley is an occasional nudist. When he is first re-introduced in The Horror of Loch Ness he is capering around a restaurant naked in the mistaken belief that he has made himself invisible. He keeps moving things around so that people think the objects are floating. Everyone can see him, however. They don't want to disappoint him though, so they pretend that they can't.
- New Technology Is Evil: Quite literally how it is seen by the ghost of Matthew Hopkins in For King and Country. He believes television sets to be "spirit boxes", thus magical and the work of Satan. So he kills the people who use them.
Inspector Lionheart: So, we're looking for someone who thinks that twentieth century know-how is the work of the Devil. Well that doesn't narrow it down much. I've often felt that way myself...
- Old-Fashioned Copper: Lionheart. He's been mixing with villains for so long, that he knows how to beat them all at cards. He's also pretty handy with his fists.
- Old Soldier: Harry Crow was in the Sudan prior to becoming a policeman.
- General Warlock in The Nazad Conspiracy.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Professor Dunning tries to bluff his way into Westminster Abbey during George VI's coronation by claiming to be a milkman. He's dressed normally, but holding a bottle of milk. He succeeds.
- Phony Psychic: Madam Damnation in For King and Country. She tries to convince Inspector Natterjack that she's been posessed by The Duke of Wellington by putting on a funny voice and saying that she's the Duke of Wellington.
- Harry Price is also pretty much a fraud. At least to begin with.
- Running Gag: Whenever anyone buys a newspaper, the seller always says "Gawd bless yer, guv".
- People misreading "MI-13" as "mib".
- Shout-Out: Unsurprisingly, there are a lot to Doctor Who, and Courtney's character The Brigadier. These include Lionheart shouting "Sergeant! Chap with the fangs there, Five Rounds Rapid!"
- Spot of Tea: As Dunning says in The Nazad Conspiracy, "Murder, Black magic, I don't know. Still, nothing that can't be solved with a nice cup of tea!" Later on, when Lionheart is kidnapped, the first thing he is asked by his interrogators is whether he will take milk or lemon with his tea.
- Stylistic Suck: Edward Dunning is not a very good author.
Dunning: The noise seemed to last an eternity. But at last it faded, only to be replaced by a terrible sucking sound. Like a blancmange swirling down a plughole
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted when Harry Crow replaces Inspector Lionheart in The Magic Circle. While Lionheart was a gruff and grumpy copper who liked playing cards and refused to retire, Crow is retired, somewhat henpecked and trying out a variety of new hobbies. While Lionheart didn't hesitate to punch someone in the face, Crow prefers to shout at them. And swear. And occasionally thump people.
- That's No Moon!: "That's no dish. That's Shub-Niggurath, the Great Old One!"
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: The title of track one of The King of Winter is given in the liner notes as "They Call Him Mr. Tibbs". The chapter does indeed centre around a character called Harry Tibbs, but he's never actually referred to as "Mr. Tibbs". Word of God is that it's a reference to the Trope Namer.
- Those Wacky Nazis:
- Joachim von Ribbentrop appears in The Thirteen Hallows. Playing crazy golf.
- Nazis also turn out to be the top villains in The Curse of the Black Comet.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Sir Basil Champion is revealed to be one of these. It comes in surprisingly useful when our heroes are looking for a way to fling an explosive over a large distance and need a sling or catapult of some kind.
Sir Basil: How about a ladies' brassiere?
Lionheart: A ladies' brassiere? Where the hell are we going to get a ladies' brassiere?
Sir Basil: I'm wearing one!
- Wicked Witch: The Totleigh-in-the-Wold Women's Institute.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Mr. Crowley's Christmas features the titular diabolist getting the Ebeneezer Scrooge treatment. It doesn't work out quite the same.
Aleister Crowley: I am the Wickedest Man in the World, and I do not make myself merry at Christmas!