Adapted for BBC Radio 4 by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell
Here we are at the end of the journey my friends. Sauron’s mighty armies have been destroyed and there is a king in Gondor once again. The Dark Lord and his ilk are dispelled. Surely the task is done? Unfortunately for the Hobbits of The Shire the answer is no.
The Return of The King’s dramatisation is also peerless in its field. The Peter Jackson film adaptation is good. The Extended Editions especially. But it has one major omission. It doesn’t include The Scouring of The Shire. I won’t be too specific as to what occurs but from its name I’m sure I don’t need to be the one to tell you that it isn’t exactly pleasant…at least mostly.
The cast are on fine form one last time. Frodo as portrayed by Ian Holm once again comes in for praise only this time his personality has become somewhat warped. At last the burden has begun to lure the good kind gentle Hobbit. But his core is still pure…even though anyone could be tainted and scarred by such an evil.
Thank the Lady of Lothlorien that Frodo has a gardener with him! Samwise Gamgee has a pitch perfect portrayal courtesy of Bill Nighy. Sam manages to be stout-hearted and brave beyond the call of duty. After all he might not be able to carry The Ring but he can carry the Ring-bearer! Sam truly is the hero of the tale which seems appropriate since he is the most ordinary of them all. This is something captured wonderfully by Bill Nighy in his performance. He is also excellent at showing Sam’s incredible loyalty to Frodo and distrust of Gollum.
Speaking of Gollum or Smeagol, he is played by Peter Woodthorpe who manages to display both sides of the character. The two personalities are very well done even if I personally prefer Andy Serkis in the role. His sneaking and corrupted attitudes are shown very well as well as the famous tendency to speak like thisisisis especially with regards to fisheseses. (It actually feels weird to type like that. Maybe it is my inner pedant?)
You’ve heard me praise before the work of the series musician Stephen Oliver and the Radiophonic Workshop’s Elizabeth Parker but I made one notable blunder. I didn’t include the wonderful singing voices tied to the series. There are quite the collection of them across all three parts but sadly I could not find sources where many were named outright. The only names I could find definitively were Matthew Vine, Oz Clark and David James. Regardless I will praise all the singers as a group because all the songs across the series sound absolutely beautiful to my ears. I can’t guarantee they’ll be to everyone’s tastes musically but I certainly enjoyed them.
Once last time I will recommend hunting down either a physical CD of this version such as is possessed by The Orkney Library– Warning!: Physical versions are expensive – or obtaining a digital download from somewhere such as Audible. If I remember correctly the physical CD release of The Return of The King comes with a bonus disc which contains a large selection of the music heard throughout the series – although I believe not all. Some songs such as The Ballad of Gil-Galad as I refer to it or officially The Fall of Gil-Galadwhen listened to on the CD in question are sung by other performers than in the original dramatisation which may bother you. Personally it does somewhat hinder my enjoyment of the bonus CD but the bonus songs are notably not included in the digital version I own and have used for the reviews.
Now what could I review next? Perhaps it is time for a visit to the time of handsome cabs, endless fog, opium dens and gentlemen’s clubs? After all this is the home ground of The Great Detective.