The last two Big Finish Judge Dredd stories I listened to, War Crimes and Jihad, impressed me with their more serious tone. So how will release number 15 For King and Country by Cavan Scott, directed by John Ainsworth, fare?
Not very well is the answer. Humour has always been a big feature of 2000AD strips and Judge Dredd used to be a much wackier comic than it has become in recent years. Getting the balance of dark humour and satire right is quite tricky, and some times it can spill over into a story which is just played for cheap gags. The plot of For King and Country has the current royal family of Brit-Cit wiped out by a bombing and the heir to the throne discovered to be the son of a fading Mega-City One pop star. Dredd gets the job of guarding them until the new king is crowned, so it's a return to this side of the Atlantic and things soon get out of hand.
There's some weird layering going on here. This is a British audio company producing a story about American characters who come over here to experience a parody of British culture as typically seen through overseas eyes. So the royal family are all idiots, the street level characters all sound like diamond geezers from EastEnders or a Carry On film, and the British Judges are upper class fools. I can cope when the Americans portray us this way, but when we do it ourselves, and do it badly, it starts to grate.
Predictably there is more to the plot than meets the eye, and for the second story in a row Chief Judge Hershey has set Dredd up for something without telling him why. But as you can tell I wasn't much bothered, I was just annoyed by British actors doing stupid cockney accents.
Only 2 out of 5 links in Dredd's badge chain for this story, and I think I'm being generous. There are some great Judge Dredd stories in the Big Finish range including Death Trap and Get Karter, as well as the two I mentioned above, but this isn't one of them. Next up will be number 16: Pre-Emptive Revenge which sees the return of Simon Pegg as Johnny Alpha and sounds much more promising.