Audio Drama Review: Passport to Oblivion

The Sunday Times once called the character of Dr. Jason Love created by novelist James Leasor, “Heir Apparent to the golden throne of Bond.” It should come as no surprise then that George Lazenby, who once stepped into the auspicious shoes of James Bond himself 50 years ago, excels at playing this character.  In Passport to Oblivion, a new audio drama based on Leasor’s first Jason Love novel, George Lazenby is back in the spy game along with a stellar supporting cast! The plan is to eventually adapt all of Leasor’s Jason Love novels, and I could not be more delighted. Not only is this first entry a nice way to spend a couple of hours listening to George Lazenby once again play a gentleman spy, it’s also a treat to hear the supporting cast. Terrance Stamp plays the head of MI6 while Glynis Barber plays Simone, the kind of woman of intrigue you would expect to encounter in a spy genre story.

George Lazenby with costars Terence Stamp, Glynis Barber, and Terry Malloy

Mr. Lazenby shares as much DNA with the character of Dr. Love as he does with Bond. In this new audio drama, Dr. Love is an Australian country doctor who has established his residence in Bishop’s Combe living his life as a widower whose most prized possession is his 1937 Cord roadster. Unlike Bond, Dr. Love is a civilian with hardly any intelligence experience although he did serve in the war. When a professor goes missing in Tehran, it’s decided that a civilian would be better equipped to find out what may have transpired since MI6’s intelligence operatives have been newly exposed after the defection of George Blake. Leasor used the real life defection of Blake as a reference point within Passport to Oblivion in order to underscore the impact the news had at the time both in the British Intelligence community as well as in the UK at large.  Blake would eventually escape his imprisonment for espionage at Wormwood Scrubs, but at the time Passport to Oblivion was originally published, he was still imprisoned and his case had made headline news. This new iteration of Leasor’s story also touches on topics and scenarios that remain relevant to our news cycle today. The Russian interest in manipulating certain Middle East territories and controlling narratives through use of propaganda will ring a familiar bell to anyone following current events. At some points it’s easy to forget that this story is set in the 1960s.

George Blake, Soviet defector

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because therein lies most of the fun. The main difference between James Bond and Dr. Jason Love is obviously that Bond is an experienced double-0 agent while Dr. Love is a civilian amateur.  In that sense, the character of Love has a little more in common with the protagonists of Hitchcock’s spy films except that Love volunteers for his mission while Hitchcock’s protagonists tended to find themselves entangled in their espionage plots by forces beyond their control. Obviously Dr. Love encounters more danger than he had initially bargained for, but he goes into the situation willingly with more of a sense of adventure about it.

From On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond in bed with Ruby

George Lazenby does embody this character quite perfectly though. I couldn’t help but smile when George’s Dr. Love encounters the beautiful Simone. Whereas Bond would have actively seduced Simone within seconds, Dr. Jason Love allows Simone to seduce him. It’s an encounter that is well played. I couldn’t help but imagine George’s Bond up at Piz Gloria with an Angel of Death lying in bed next to him. I never get tired of George’s charm while he’s in the company of a lady.  He’s the living embodiment of a lady’s man through and through, and that’s a characteristic I look forward to hearing even more of in future Love installments.

George Lazenby in a recent ad campaign for The Melbourne Gin Company

It’s easy to tell George Lazenby must have had fun recording this audio drama and part of the fun of listening to it is that irresistible joy you feel knowing that George is having that bit of fun along with you.  If you happen to be a fan of Mr. Lazenby (as I clearly am), you will want to seek out this audio drama and enjoy what appears to be the first of many new chapters in the adventures of Dr. Jason Love. I eagerly await the next entry in what promises to be an entertaining series of classic spy stories.  

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Review by Jack Lugo

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