Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C.Clarke, adapted by Mike Walker

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BBC Radio 4, 1-8 March 2009
This adaptation of Arthur C.Clarke's novel, broadcast as part of BBC Radio's science fiction season, contained strong echoes of Ridley Scott's seminal film Alien. The crew of the spaceship Endeavour engaged in a quest to colonize outer space, and come across a mysterious entity (no one quite knows what it is) called Rama. After much deliberation with their paymasters on Mercury, the crew disembark to investigate what Rama is; one of their number is placed in mortal danger, but eventually manages to escape. However the rest of the crew wonder whether he has been infected with some kind of a mystery virus. Their fears prove unfounded, as at length we discover that Rama poses no threat whatsoever, being nothing more than a machine programmed by an (unnamed) central computer.
Rendezvous with Rama uses the fantastic subject-matter to comment on contemporary society. The spaceship Endeavour is deliberately named, suggesting the colonialist project, just as Captain Cook did two centuries earlier in Australia. Led by the intrepid Captain Norton (Richard Dillane), the crew apparently form a well-oiled unit, with each member coming from a different culture in an attempt to show how people can work together regardless of cultural or ethnic difference. However this proves nothing more than an illusion: the crew are subject to the whims of their paymasters on Mercury, who would far rather destroy Rama than investigate its scientific possibilities. Knowledge equals power: the Endeavour's crew must not be allowed to find out too much, in case they mount a challenge to the status quo. Clarke's novel makes some telling points about individualism and how most oligarchies try to suppress it, while claiming at the same time to be committed to pluralism and democracy.
Mike Walker's radio adaptation veered towards the verbose, with the characters becoming mouthpieces for Clarke's views on the future of the world, and thereby holding up the development of the plot. Rendezvous with Rama did not have any of Alien's violence, but like the Scott film it showed how the space-explorers were subject to the whims of an impersonal bureaucracy which took little or notice of the captain's recommendations. At length Norton gave up the unequal struggle; having informed everyone (the listeners included) about Rama, he resigned his position as leader of the expedition. Individual self-determination proved more important to him than colonial power. The director of this adaptation was Marc Beeby.