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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Entire Spacefleet

"James Edward Whitaker.  Born Twelfth September Eighteen Ninety Three..."

David Jacobs has just died and so goes the voice of a thousand characters.  Though latterly known as a presenter, Jacobs did a fair amount of acting and so voiced some of my favourite characters in the classic radio series Journey Into Space.  I discovered these plays when I was ten and about to move house.  Much of the furniture had gone, the television we had left was very small and so we listened in radio plays on tape.  For years we'd had Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and other BBC classics, and then we bought The Red Planet - the second and best Journey Into Space serial.
The primary cast was just four actors.  They did most the talking.  Mostly to each other.  When you're in a spaceship this works well.  But the story starts on a moon base where the lead explains the plot - sorry, is interviewed - by a group of reporters from different parts of the globe (this being an international space mission to Mars).

The pack of reporters, with differing accents, were all David Jacobs.

Then the space fleet takes off for Mars.  There's the flagship Discovery (housing the four leads) and then eight freighters.  Periodically the flagship calls up the rest of the fleet and they count off down the line.
"Number 1."  "Number 2."  "Number 3".  Etc.

The entire space fleet were all David Jacobs.

He made them work by putting the odd tonal shift and different accent (Number Eight was, I think, Scottish) into the mix.
Then Freighter Number Two calls up.  There are engine troubles and the crew, Frank Rogers and James Whitaker, need assistance.

Frank Rogers and James Whitaker are both David Jacobs.

Frank, energised and young (occasionally hysterical) and Whitaker, flat and monotone.  I loved Whitaker.  He's the best character that Charles Chilton (the writer of the series) came up with.  He's a dangerous, efficient, monotone zombie.  He was the reason I fell in love with the serial, which I listen to more frequently than is probably healthy.  And that is in no small part to David Jacobs, who brought the character (ironically, considering how flat he was) to life.
Greatly missed, but the recordings live on.

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