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Greetings my dearest Strange Fam! Today we are very excited to not be listening to another episode of Buck Rogers! And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we have also decided to take a look at some of the sci-fi/weird/horror offerings that have been put out by the BBC over the years. Because, as a friend stated, how long to keep making fun of Americans who were just trying to do their job? I agree with this so much fam. Full disclosure, I do enjoy a bit of BBC radio drama. One of my favourite things to do, is to listen to shows like "At Bertram’s Hotel", for the sheer pleasure of listening to Bess Sedgewick saying, "a nice little dollop of heroin", and that danger is her drug ... THAT MAKES ME DED SO MUCH FAM!

Anyway, today I’m listening to a play written by Wally K Daly called Before the Screaming Begins. This was first broadcast in 1978 and the synopsis says this is about aliens gatecrashing a wedding or something. I have listened to a number of Wally K Daly plays in the past, but I can’t remember them at all. Anyway here we go, Before the Screaming Begins!

Picture via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/01-before-the-screaming-begins_202110


A man and woman are in bed together, but they are just talking so it’s ok you guys.

You know, a lot of the BBC recordings from that time sound like everyone has glue in their mouths, and they are speaking from inside a large, dense cotton ball.

Oh these two are in a car, sorry.

THE ALIENS ARE HERE.

The man, whose name is Tom, has now disappeared.

A voice just said that the lady was not required, but Tom the man was taken because he’s a man REVERSE SEXISM IS REAL FAM.

The aliens are talking to each other and they sound like very sleepy english dudes.

Tom has been released by the aliens, he has no memory of anything and he seems fine. WELCOME BACK, TOM.

This annoying dude, who is not explaining anything properly, is Smith the government official.

This is exactly what we need when the aliens come: someone who doesn’t convey any important information, but does ask everyone what they think of his photo ID.

Anyway Tom was missing for 10 days and other countries have reported alien abductees also.

Noice touch. I like that.

Tom and his family have been shifted to a bunker, which has artificial sunlight and other such swish items, because the government is scared that other countries might try to steal Tom. Also, he might be a sleeper agent.

Why are you locking him up with his wife and kid if he might be a sleeper agent?

Hey, it was the seventies, man. Life was different.

Tom has all sorts of magic powers now, but it’s driving him bananas.

Smith is coming to surprise-kill Tom, because the government thinks that would be best for everyone involved, except maybe Tom.

Tom knows Smith is coming though, so I guess it won’t be much of a surprise.

The prime minister has learned that Smith has not returned from his surprise-kill mission, so now the plan is to surround the bunker, and kill anyone who tries to come out.

Guys, this is not a good plan.

Tom has killed the police guy that was with them.

Tom has resurrected the police guy that was with them.

Tom is going bananas and also losing his marbles.

Apparently all the alien abductees from all the countries are being drawn to their nation capitals.

I’m guessing they are not assembling to perform Swedish Exercises.

These aren’t the nice kind of aliens, are they?

The abductees have discovered that they can communicate with each other without the aliens knowing, and there has been a general consensus that none of them wants to blow up any nation capitals, goddammit!

Good for you, alien abductees!

Tom really doesn’t want to go to London, but he is going to London like anything right now.

Tom has reached his destination and is chatting with Mrs. Prime Minister, who seems to be very chill with Tom and the whole magic-powers-aliens thing.

She’s really cute you guys.

Upstairs, the prime minister is meeting with all the party members because they are worried about how to save themselves. As in, just themselves and no one else.  Because they are selfish fucks.

ENTER TOM.

Not only does he know that these are all bad people, he also knows all the bad things the bad people have done.

Like, one of them had a 17 year old mistress. Ew, what the fuck dude?

Something happened.

A spaceship was just outside the window and now it is gone. Tom is also gone. Maybe they ran away together.

Tom is back at the bunker because of magic.

So fam, here’s the thing. The aliens are looking to give all humans these magic powers, because it will drive everyone bananas. And while we are going bananas, the aliens plan to come in and steal our donuts and other resources.

We do have a choice, tho. We can say poop off and wage war with these aliens while we all go bananas. Or we can say, "hey that sounds great!" And hand over all the donuts and ourselves to the aliens. And we have 20 weeks to make a decision.

So my previous hypothesis was correct. These are not nice aliens.

Tom says the alien abductees actually learned how to control their powers. So if everyone in the whole wide world learns to harness their magic powers, we should be fine.

This apparently is good news.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to learn to control your magic powers, because no one is the boss of you, everything will just be too much for you and you will begin screaming.

Ergo, the title! Isn’t that neat?


One of my many prejudices is that the BBC makes better audio dramas than the Americans and Canadians collectively. Despite not having big budgets, they often make compelling, well-rounded sci-fi (the adaptation of John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids is really nice, guys). And while the storylines may not be particularly pathbreaking, the way they tell the stories is solid IMHO. "Before the Screaming Begins" doesn’t have a lot of blingy science going on, but I still thought it was a nice, time-pass show. I understand this is actually the first part of Daly’s Scream trilogy so we will probably listen to the rest of this next time. Or we may not, life is uncertain. Bai dears.



Kuzhali Manickavel's collections Things We Found During the Autopsy, Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings, and chapbooks The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys and Eating Sugar, Telling Lies are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review, and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/. She's now at https://www.kuzhalimanickavel.com.
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26 Sep 2022

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