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ScottC’s Podcast Review: Audio Drama

Wolf 359 podcast Archive 81 podcast The Bright Sessions podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot of podcasts. Looking at my podcatcher, I have over sixty on there. I can also say, going total hipster, that I was into podcasts way before Serial. I listen to podcasts, I’ve been on podcasts, I am organizing a podcast (albeit slowly). I thought I’d share some of the podcasts I listen to and share some of the ones that may have passed you by with the current glut out there.

When you first read the synopsis for Wolf 359, it sounds like a standard comedy setup. You have communications officer Eiffel–the lazy but lovable screw up; Commander Minkowski–the CO with a stick up her ass; Dr. Hilbert–the mad scientist (comes with sinister Russian accent); and HERA–the space station AI who “runs” things. They’ve been stuck together on the often malfunctioning USS Hephaestus Research Station trying to study the star Wolf 359. Usually in this setup, hilarity ensues. And there is hilarity aplenty, but things start to change and become more complex. The characters go from being stereotypical fodder for jokes to real people with hidden depths and lots of cracks. The situations go from hoarding the last tube of toothpaste to deadly experiments, strange musical transmissions, and the amoral machinations of the corporation in charge, Goddard Futuristics. New characters arrive to add tension and even more conundrums for the crew to try to deal with. While the crew is busy keeping the station online, figuring out who to trust and how much, you have the the cosmic puzzle that is Wolf 359 itself. Click here for their Facebook page, here to subscribe to them on iTunes or other non-Apple feed, and here for their Patreon page.

Archive 81 is a bit more unusual and non-traditional in narrative. Mark’s friend Dan, an archivist, has been missing for several weeks. The only evidence Mark has of Dan’s time before his disappearance is hours of audio. It seems that Dan took an assignment from the mysterious Housing Historical Committee of New York State. His boss, Mr. Davenport, wants Dan to record everything he does for “legal reasons.” Dan’s job is to catalog the audio tapes of Melody Pendras as she interviews the occupants of the Visser building. He discovers, as Melody does, that the Visser has some odd residents as well as some strange goings on. The isolation of the job and the archive-building focuses Dan into the story of Melody and the Visser…but how much is the story effecting him and how much of the effect is intentional? With the somewhat non-linear storytelling, this is a podcast you can’t casually listen to. But the conundrums being presented are layered and you want keep going to discover what’s going on. The acting of Daniel Powell also makes this podcast as he portrays a man who is losing his grip on reality or worse, being forced into a new one. Click here for their Facebook page, here to subscribe to them on iTunes or other non-Apple feed, and here for their Patreon page.

The Bright Sessions use both the “found footage” technique for Archive 81 but is more linear like Wolf 359. Dr. Joan Bright has unusual patients that visit her therapy practice. You could call them atypical. Actually that’s their designation: Atypicals. People who manifest, for lack of a better word, superpowers. Now, the atypicals Dr. Bright treats are usually on the lower part of the superpower spectrum, but they still need help with dealing with their new abilities. There’s Caleb, a high school football player who has to deal with the hormone-charged emotional environment as an empath. Chloe, who is telepathic but seems to think she hears the voice of angels. And Samantha, who’s dealing with massive amounts of anxiety and guilt over seemingly teleporting back to the past at random intervals. The characters and their problems come off as believable and I really like how Dr. Bright isn’t the perfect healer–her coolness and her utter lack of pop culture knowledge (and even texting) makes her more human. You also get hints that they’re more things going on with Dr. Bright as the tapes may be meant for more that just her ears only. Click here for their Facebook page, here to subscribe to them on iTunes or other non-Apple feed, and here for their Patreon page.