Where Epoch seemed to mark a turn in Benny’s fortunes (for reasons explained here), unfortunately Road Trip seems to indicate that we’re going to take two steps forward and one back. The set up that the travellers find themselves in at the culmination of the third story is definitely not what they – or the listeners – expect, and promises some intriguing adventures in the next set.
However, the journey to get there isn’t quite as much fun as it could be, and it’s a bit annoying that a number of things seem to have slipped by. It doesn’t help that the first two stories feature incredibly similar situations at their heart – so much so that it’s surprising that there’s no comment to that effect by Benny or Ruth towards the end of the second.
They also have a weird continuity slip: can Bernice sing or not? In the first story, she’s full of a plan involving an Abba medley (and yes, of course that was a joke, but not necessarily the first plan that someone who can’t sing would think of), then she panics at the thought of having to sing in the talent contest… and then in the next tale, she’s giving Ruth singing lessons.
Chris Cooper’s Brand Management has a number of clever ideas at work (and there’s a neat audio joke for fans of the old Benny music hiding in there), but there’s some very clunky exposition early on when we meet the Dominicci siblings, and other scenes that could have done with a little more polish. That’s shown up if you go straight into Simon Barnard & Paul Morris’s Bad Habits: the pair write the Scarifyers audios, and there’s more than a hint of that series’ rapidfire repartee and humour, particularly with regard to the church hierarchy!
The best of the three is David Llewellyn’s Paradise Frost, with an almost unrecognisable Arthur Darvill (Rory from the TV series) and a slightly-too-recognisable India Fisher guest starring. The conspiratorial scenes in this story build the tension and wrongfoot the listener in exactly the way that their counterparts in Brand Management don’t.
Don’t switch off when you hear the end theme though – there’s quite a bit more to come, including the aforementioned intriguing set up for the next box set.
Verdict: Although still an improvement on some of the more convoluted tales from recent years, this isn’t as strong as perhaps it should be. 6/10