Guest Review: James Swallow – Judge Dredd: Dreddline

The following is a guest review by Abhinav Jain of Angels of Retribution as part of his Advent Calender. I also interviewed Abhinav for a Blogger Query yesterday, do check that out as well. Thanks for this great review, Abhinav!

I got into Judge Dredd earlier this year through Big Finish’s audio dramas range featuring the post-apocalyptic-futurist lawman. I went through a whole bunch of them at the time, but never quite found the time to review them at that point. With my Advent Reviews series, I thought I’d change that, and picked up Jim’s Dreddline to kick things off, and listened to it twice to refresh my memory and remind myself why I loved these audios so much.

The best thing about these audios is the fantastic voice-acting. Toby Longworth, who is the best voice-actor doing audio dramas for Black Library’s out-sourced range, is behind Judge Dredd himself, and he delivers a scorcher of a performance. Dredd’s guttural, heavy tones are something that Toby excels at. Whenever Toby/Dredd talks in contemptuous and dismissive tones, you can really feel the weight of them. From everything I’ve experienced of Dredd, whether the movies or the audio dramas, Toby has definitely excelled at being Dredd.

Jeremy James as the notorious safecracker and wisecrack Bax Philo, Kate Brown as the antagonist Whyte and Nicholas Briggs as Whyte’s bodyguard Buzz and Hannah Smith as Judge Dalton also deliver some great performances. They’re all great voice-actors and they perform their roles with gusto, really getting into their characters and being those characters, just as Toby does with Dredd.

The script turns from being about disgruntled train commuters who are taking their first steps on the path to railway terrorism to something much bigger as Whyte’s motivations slowly unfold. The big reveal for me was quite a surprising one. I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen and that was wonderful. It’s just like Jim to throw in a curveball like that, one of the reasons that I like his work so much! All the characters get their time in the story and it’s really refreshing to see that. No character is ignored, whether they happen to be Whyte’s various henchmen, or the lead characters. The experience is truly varied and fun, which is awesome.

There are some slight nods to other SF properties, such as when Whyte talks about a Kate Mulgrew scam that Philo ran sometime back (Kate Mulgrew is Captain Katherine Janeway of the U.S.S Voyager/Star Trek) or when Philo is looking for a flux capacitor in his tools (Back To The Future). It makes for a delightful experience to listen to such geek references.

Overall, this was a fantastic audio that, for someone of my limited experience with the franchise, was very typical Judge Dredd while still being different in terms of setting and content. It’s not everyday that the bad guys catch Dredd without both his Lawmaster and Lawgiver! The pacing is great, and the reveals are all timed nicely too. Highly recommended!