For Throwback Thursday, we rarely take a look at the medium science fiction was popular in its early years, and that’s radio plays. Sure, we’ve done ‘Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe‘, or ‘War of the Worlds‘, and we’ve extolled the virtues of how radio plays should come back into style again; we may even direct people to listen to radio play versions of our favorite Bradbury stories, such as ‘The Fox in the Forest‘, but they are pretty conspicuously absent from Throwback Thursday.
As such, today we’ll be talking about another ZBS drama, ‘The Fourth Tower of Inverness’.
If we’re going to be completely fair about the radio play, however, it’s not entirely certain that it is sci-fi, as it seems to be a metaphor for enlightenment. But I figure if some people can consider the ancient Indian epic, Ramayana, science fiction, and books like ‘Ten Billion Nights and 100 Billion Days‘ exist on the science fiction shelf of the books store, this fantastic series can, at least, be in the honorable mention of things that are mostly like science fiction.
The story follows Jack Flanders, an itinerant hitchhiker who has been invited to his aunt’s home in Inverness. When he gets there, he meets a whole host of strange people, like the cigar smoking Little Freida, a Venusian that is half a million years old yet looks like a pig-tailed little girl without pupils who loves to smoke Cuban cigars, or Madanno Vampyra, an energy vampire. Of course, my favorite is Chief Wanpum, who teaches people how to fly.
When Jack arrives, he asks about the four towers of Inverness, which he sees as comes up the driveway after hearing an old Jukebox playing. He discovers that there are only ever three towers of Inverness and that some had sought out the Fourth Tower only to never return again (like the former owner of the estate). Of course, that seems like a great idea to Jack, and he spends the majority of the series trying to determine where the sound of the old jukebox is coming from, all the while getting timely lessons about the different stages of enlightenment from the cast of unlikely characters.
If this sounds too pretentious for you, fear not. The jokes, even thirty years later, are solidly funny. The characters are well fleshed out. It asks questions like a philosophy 101 class, but it’s very entertaining. All in all, it’s just a unique radio drama that plays in the realm of time and space adeptly, while introducing very alien characters to comment on the realities of modern life. If it isn’t science fiction, it at least certainly uses a lot of its tropes to great effect.
Long story short, I would highly suggest you pick this up, or any ZBS radio play, when you can.
THE FOURTH TOWER OF INVERNESS – 1
THE FOURTH TOWER OF INVERNESS – (SPECIAL FEATURE) EPISODE ONE OF EIGHT Join Jack Flanders as he searches for the elusive and mystical Fourth Tower of Inverness and the strange characters he encounters on his quest. ZBS Media