I'm a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy comedy, but ElvenQuest has always come across as "good, not great". However, this new, fourth series started with an episode which could change my opinion...
For those unfamiliar with the series, it's a set in a Tolkien-esque fantasy world called Lower Earth, where a group of "Questers" are trying to find the all-powerful Sword of Asnagar. Two of the Questers are Sam Porter (Stephen Mangan), a fantasy writer from our world, and his dog Amis, who's transformed into a human (Dave Lamb). Both were sent to Lower Earth by the other Questers.
In this opening episode, the Questers defeats some trolls in the kingdom of Premenstrua - ruled by unpredictable Queen Eleanor (Louise Delamere), who is celebrating her birthday and wants a present. The 'present' is the entire story of the Questers, which they must write up over the course of a single night on pain of death...
Probably the main reason this episode stood out was because of Sam, and how useless he is in comparison to the others. But by the same token, the characters are the main issue with the series.
Some of them are great - especially Lord Darkness (Alistair McGowan), whose cunning plans often get too cunning... and he's brought down by something simple like forgetting his keys. However, other characters aren't so well fleshed out. Penthiselea just seems like a typical fantasy, sci-fi heroine - somewhat violent and slightly sexual, but often just filling a gap because the writer thought they needed at least one woman in the story and they couldn't think of anything more imaginative.
If the writers manage to flesh out their creations more than this series could well be perfect. That's the only thing holding ElvenQuest back.Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 18th February 2013
Trolls, giants and damsels abound in this clattering sword 'n' sorcery spoof, starring Stephen Mangan as Sam, left behind when all the rest of the questors go off doing the heroic action stuff. In comes Eirwen (Sophie Winkleman), a lovely maiden, saying he's saved her. But who comes next? Lord Darkness (Alistair McGowan) trying to conquer Lower Earth, if only his servant Kreech (Kevin Eldon) can work out how. Aha! Kreech has discovered a prophecy which dictates that the Lord must impregnate a hideous creature to bring forth the UnChosen One. Look out, Kreech...Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 30th November 2011
Let's face it, fantasy isn't a hard genre to lampoon. But spoofs don't always click, as BBC2's Kröd Mändoon proved. Now in its third series, this chirpy sitcom works by virtue of the domestic trivia grafted on to the magical landscape. Stephen "He gets around a bit" Mangan returns as novelist Sam, who nobly volunteers to stay behind while the others set off to kill the man-munching Giant of Rankor (are writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto Star Wars fans?). Alistair McGowan tops the excellent cast as the scheming Lord Darkness. I loved his "sinister" incantations: "Volare, oh-oh... cantare..."Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 17th October 2011
ElvenQuest takes an area ripe for comic attention - fantasy novels and the convoluted names, places and quests that come with them.
The production is superb, as you'd expect from BBC radio comedy, but at times I felt the laughter of the studio audience was crucial to pep up jokes that seemed a little too obvious. I enjoyed the episode, but I'm not sure this idea can sustain a whole series of comedy that pokes fun at Lord of the Rings even if it is done in a sharply observed way.Steve Ackerman, Broadcast, 15th May 2009
Radio comedies and fantasy tales aren't normally my cup of tea, but I enjoyed ElvenQuest, Radio 4'S Lord of the Rings spoof. It is well written, well acted and there are plenty of good lines to make you smile, although it is a little OTT on the canned laughter.
What I enjoyed - and here is the magic of radio - was sitting there painting the pictures in my head while listening. In my mind's eye this looked great.Neil Fox, Broadcast, 15th May 2009
As promised here's the finished illustration for the Radio Times radio section to highlight the six part comedy serial 'ElvenQuest' by Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta. Its on Radio 4 on Wednesday night but like all good things from the BBC you can catch it again on the iPlayer (the link will only be active for about another five days) which is how I listened to the first episode and very good it is too.Graeme Neil Reid, 2nd May 2009
Stephen Mangan and Alistair McGowan, meanwhile, are away with the fairies. ElvenQuest (6.30pm, Radio 4), a six-part comedy from Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta, sees a fantasy novelist whisked off to a parallel universe where he must battle some evil lord or other for possession of the traditional enchanted pigsticker. "For whoso'er wields the sword shall rule all of Lower Earth", etc.Phil Daoust, The Guardian, 29th April 2009
Stephen Mangan, a wonderful television actor who can do radio very well too (it's a rarer gift than you'd think) plays Sam, a fantasy novelist who gets swirled off into the alternative universe of Lower Earth to do battle for ownership of a magic sword which controls (naturally, what's the use of a magic sword otherwise?) everyone down there. Alistair McGowan plays his fiendish opponent Lord Darkness. There's an Elf Lord too (Darren Boyd), a dwarf called Dean (Kevin Eldon) and a Warrior Princess (Sophie Winkleman). Dave Lamb plays Sam's dog, Amis.Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 29th April 2009
The BBC Comedy Blog chats to producer Anil Gupta about the programme.Anil Gupta, BBC Comedy, 28th April 2009
ElvenQuest is a new six-part, comedy, radio play starting on Radio 4 this Wednesday, at 6.30pm.
According to the Radio Times, it's the story of a fantasy novelist called Sam (Stephen 'Green Wing' Mangan), drawn into a parallel fantasy world by "a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess and a fiesty dwarf called Dean" because Sam's dog happens to be the "Chosen One" destined to save their realm, Lower Earth, from Lord Darkness (Alistair McGowan).HeroPress, 27th April 2009