The Eagle of the Ninth is a reading of a children’s adventure book written in 1954, set directly after the building of Hadrian’s Wall. It is a war story with grim themes and mildly gross discussion of wounds and battle injuries from the get-go. In fact, the entire first third essentially focuses on one man’s particular wound. Although it is a good effort, it’s hard to see how such a visually lacking book was able to be successful and why on earth someone would choose to create a mini radio series about it. It is a story that begs for a moving picture, but would probably remain quite dull even with a graphic.
It is easy to say that this is a bit of an awkward listen. It’s not a particularly fascinating first episode and the dialogue is far from entertaining, which makes the actors over the top acting quite cringe and painfully obvious that you are listening to a group of actors in a room and not actually a story you are getting to eavesdrop on. As mentioned earlier, about one third of the story focuses on a difficult to listen to conversation about a young man’s battle wound, then focuses on a tragically performed discussion between a woman with a fake Scottish accent and a gentleman who sounds like a caricature of an awkward teenage boy. The author so obviously tries to show you the characters’ true selves, that is only made unbearably cringe by the bad acting in this program. I could go on to detail the plot of the entire half hour episode, but on the whole, it is not worth mentioning more of the same: dull writing, dull story, and exaggerated acting (even for radio).
Unfortunately, the debut episode of The Eagle of the Ninth is an obvious failure. As I have emphasised, the story is already a boring one and is coupled with an unbearable portrayal from its actors. There are four episodes in this BBC mini-series, but unfortunately, I do not think anything can be salvaged after this absolutely tragic first episode.