Edict Zero Episode 3

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists…

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The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part three of my deep dive into Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my previous episode reviews right here (pt1) and here (pt2), before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead

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Episode 3, Dead Canaries

The plot kicks into motion in this episode, with Briggs being rescued from his brief captivity in the sewers; Wakeman being suspiciously helpful about it, and a concrete confirmation that there is indeed a group conspiring (either directly or indirectly) against our protagonists.

Now this was a good episode, in that it definitely advanced the plot and gave us new information, but it also succeeded in highlighting what I’ve discovered is my main underlying issue with this series so far: The episodes are far too long, especially given how little actually happens in each one. It’s been three episodes so far and we’ve elapsed significantly less than 48 hours in this series of events.

That’s more than three hours worth of solid, jam packed story time, covering only two days. Now, you might be thinking that a lot has happened in that time but let’s recap. A bomb went off, agents were assigned to investigate it and evidence was reviewed. Suspects and witnesses were interviewed, more evidence was collected and presented, and our protagonists were assigned to the case. Then one of our protagonists was incapacitated and promptly rescued.

That’s it.

That is the entirety of the plot that has been covered in these three plus hours.

Now I don’t want to be giving out praise to TV procedurals, but that’s the kind of story they can (and do on a weekly basis) cover in a measly 35 minutes, with time left over to gossip about office scandals and hookups.

‘But Lex,’ I hear you saying through the magic of modern day spyware, ‘there’s been so much more covered! Important stuff, like character development, motivation, interpersonal relationships, all that vital good stuff that makes compelling human drama!’ And to that I say, everything I know about our characters I learned in about five minutes of “screen” time. Total.

I know Kircher is idealistic, moral, and honest. She genuinely cares about her job, her coworkers, and helping people. She’s also criminally underserved by her employer and unfortunate gender politics.

I know Garret is a widower, very unexpressive of his emotions (though the show would like me to believe he lacks them completely), and makes a very real and genuine effort to understand people and their motivations, but lacks the personal experience necessary to do so on anything more than a purely academic level.

I know Briggs was once in a relationship with Kircher, likely throws himself into his work to avoid confronting his personal and emotional issues directly, and tends to work alone and resents being anything less than self sufficient.

So much of the character and world building on display here is so gingerly holding my hand and carefully walking me through everything that it’s all but hammering me over the head. The show, and of course the writer, director etc, don’t trust me to follow along with it all.

They say show don’t tell, and Edict Zero has that down. They absolutely show me how everything fits together and works, and they show me how everyone relates through their interactions and genuinely good performances. But it also tells me all of that too.

The scene where the random drunk finds the briefcase floating in an alley (gravity bomb) was excessive. I don’t need to know that he’s late on rent and laid off from work, I don’t need to know that his wife is cooking and he’s ungrateful because he wants to go out drinking…

Side note: If your wife is generous and cares enough to cook for you don’t berate her, that’s just shitty.

…I just need to know that he’s drunk, it’s new years eve still, and he found a floating briefcase that he intends to pawn. It’s simple, it’s maybe a minute, and it’s far more engaging.

I should say though that there was one very satisfying moment, where Garrett’s brother-in-law confronts him and Kircher actually calls him out on it! It was a very typical moment between two characters where one says something confrontational and entirely unprofessional that just wouldn’t fly in a real workplace, that usually goes uncommented on by other characters. But in this instance Agent Kircher takes notice, and actively dresses down the man and defends her colleague.

It didn’t go as far as I personally might have liked, but it’s giving me hope that the writer will actually treat her character with a more deft hand than I previously thought.

Look don’t get me wrong: I like this show. It impressed the hell out of me the very first time I turned it on, and from a technical standpoint it’s goddamn genius. Each new episode I turn on I’m engaged with the plot and I genuinely want to know what happens, not to mention the director getting very good performances out of the actors (and of course the actors giving those very good performances).

But wanting to know what’s next isn’t always enough for me, I know that most recently from Wolf 359. The show started pretty strong with a fun irreverent vibe but now I’m half way through and I’ve been on the verge of giving up for a while now.

Now you should know that I’m obsessive when it comes to story: I have to finish them or it eats away at me. But in this day and age if something isn’t keeping me invested with good execution I have the option to just look up the plot online. I want new exciting shows to immerse myself in and get obsessed with, but you’ve got to be more engaging than simply reading the wikipedia page for your show or I’m not going to finish.

I like this show. I want to enjoy this show. I desperately hope it’s not losing its lustre for me so quickly.

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Theories and Predictions:

Socrates is actually an agent of Edict One (can’t remember if I suggested this previously) but somehow had multiple peoples consciousnesses transplanted into his brain. He’s clearly got more than one, and it would explain the word salad verbal diarrhea thing he’s got going on.

Side Note: Also I forgot to mention the reveal of his invisibility ring, another artifact briefly mentioned previously, and shown to have failed him in his moment of need. Clearly these Paradox Artifacts are then fallible, so they run of tech as opposed to a kind of magic.

A bit of a fringe theory, but what if Edict Zero is actually a computer simulation. We know that the trip from earth took a huge amount of time, and that most were in cryosleep. What if the reality they’re experiencing is actually generated for them while they sleep? I still firmly believe(/possibly proven) that edict one is actively conducting experiments on the gen-pop, so this isn’t that far removed from what we know.

What do you think of my theories? What do you think of my criticisms: are they genuine but harsh, or the bitter ravings of an amateurish failure? Let me know in the comments below, let me know your own theories, or better yet let me know if you are listening along with me in this deep dive. Just please no spoilers for upcoming episodes, as I will absolutely be reading your comments.

And of course, go download episode 4 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.


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The 12:37 Review

The 12:37

By Lex Scott

I’m going to be upfront with you right here: The 12:37 is not the best show. It hasn’t got the absolute best acting or directing. The dialogue suffers greatly (and given it’s an audio drama, it’s almost entirely dialogue) and the actors struggle mightily to reach the levels of emotion that many of the scenes require.

The 12:37 is an interesting show. It’s also not aimed anywhere near me. And you know what? All those things I just listed: they can be improved. In fact from the first episode to the second they do improve. Drastically.

The notes I made for this review start out pretty harsh: “Nora and Wheeler never manage to get on the same level of performance. Each feels distinctly like they were recorded separately, and the director never bothered to direct their performances to match. They effectively aren’t in the same scene”.

But I had to immediately revise those notes upon starting the second episode. The actors and director do a much better job matching performances, and all the scenes from that point actually feel consistent. It’s that fact that makes me comfortable being as critical as I am in this review; I know for a fact that any technical issues (writing, acting, directing) can and will be improved upon as the series continues and the cast and crew get more experienced.

Our charming lead is Nora, a young (I assume) scientist (likely a chemist) who finds herself in a rush accidentally boarding the wrong train. A time travelling train. She’s told that “shouldn’t be possible”, but we’re privy to certain conversations that indicate that it probably wasn’t an accident. She’s a fine character, though troublingly unphased by her predicament (I have a feeling that might be one of those performance issues I mentioned so that’s all I’ll say about that), and a decent voice to be our touchstone.

The next character we meet is Wheeler, and he serves as our gateway into the world of the time travelling train. He always feels slightly off, but not I think in the way he’s supposed to. He always responds to most of Nora’s lines with this little laugh that never quite manages to be the appropriate reaction to her words. Again, a writing/performance issue that I’m certain will be improved upon with time and experience.

The cast slowly expands out from these two at an excellent pace, introducing characters at exactly the right point in the narrative, but I’ll leave those for you to discover.

This show isn’t the best, but it is absolutely worth your time. One of the best things about podcasting to me is the incredibly low barrier for entry: You don’t need a Blue Yeti, you don’t need to be a professional. Most importantly you don’t need anyone else’s permission to tell your story. I will never dump on someone for being inexperienced, and I will always support someone putting in the work to get something made and putting it out into the world:

You made a thing! Congratulations! That is so much more than about 99% of everyone who ever talks about “well this is how I’d do it if I made it.”

So go and give this show a listen, there are three episodes out so far and they only continue to get better with each one.

Miscellaneous observations:

  • Massive chunks of dead air throughout the episodes is a pretty big issue, to the point where I actually thought the episodes had ended. I think they’re meant to be scene transitions, but they don’t play like it.
  • Explaining what kind of bullet you shot someone with doesn’t make you sound tough, it just sounds dumb.
  • I really really didn’t need a scene where she gets a dictaphone, or really any in universe reason for her to be narrating her life. We managed fine for the majority of two episodes, it’s just unnecessary. (I have thoughts on the prevalence of “found footage” in modern audio drama, but that article is still a long way from ready…)
  • The sound design is wonderfully subtle and understated.
  • The 1237pod.com site damn near crashed my browser, and I have no idea why.

Theory:

I’ve come to enjoy closing out an article with a wild theory about what’s going on so here’s one for The 12:37

(SPOILERS!!)

The staff of the train are on a mission to seed and distribute pharmaceuticals throughout the past in order to disrupt medical patent history, and make medicine better, more available, and more affordable in their future, and that’s why Beyond Pharmaceuticals is after them.


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SCP ARCHIVES

SCP-078 is a darkened stairwell located on an undisclosed college campus that contains two very disturbing anomalies. The fact that the stairwell itself appears to be endless is disconcerting enough, but the anomalies contained within are enough to scare even the bravest of souls.

SCP ARCHIVES

by Dōhai

Secure. Contain. Protect.

Episode 1. Released Tuesday 19th March 2019.

SCP-078 is a darkened stairwell located on an undisclosed college campus that contains two very disturbing anomalies. The fact that the stairwell itself appears to be endless is disconcerting enough, but the anomalies contained within are enough to scare even the bravest of souls.

Episode 1 of SCP Archives brings this scary tale brings to life and it’s just one of the thousands (and I do mean thousands) of files found on scp-wiki.net that form the basis of the show.

Given the material, it probably comes as no shock to you that the people bringing this cornucopia of strange and obscure phenomena are the fine people at Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network, who have teamed up with Jon Grillz (Small Town Horror, Creepy) and Pacific S. Obadiah (Lake Clarity, Aftershocks, Enoch Saga).

Having listened without headpones (where the hell are they?) I just had to wake Pacific, (who says he “wasn’t asleep” but the drool on his keyboard says different) and ask him a few questions. Don’t worry, I gave him some time to get a coffee.

Who’s initial idea was it to bring these documents to life, and on what basis have you chosen files to use?

Jon’s actually! He reached out sometime around last summer and mentioned his idea, and I was on board, but at the time I was working on two other shows, so I kinda put the idea on the back burner, until I saw some stray comment on r/Audiodrama (A reddit board for audio dramas) asking about an SCP podcast. I messaged Jon, and we got to work.

Right now, we’re just going down the list of most popular stories of all time on http://www.scp-wiki.com. Only rule is the story must have at least one addendum (like an interview, field notes, tests, etc). Popular stories without addendums are going on our Patreon for now!

How many stories have you chosen to cover for a first season, or are you planning to continue indefinitely? If so, how many stories have you got in the can/ in various stages of production?

Technically our first season is 29 episodes – Which brings us to October 1. Though we don’t really have any plans of stopping when we hit that. Those episodes have all been recorded, and the first 10 are in various stages of post production. I think once we hit 20 episodes, I’ll start working on new episodes past October 1. I have some pretty fun plans for October!

How much artistic licence are you planning to use in regards these files? I notice the stairwell story stays pretty tight to the wiki file, but I can see the potential to take it further in the form of the “Data Expunged” Document 087-IV which could give it a whole new lease of life.

That’s one of the really cool things about working on a story that’s in the creative commons, we’re free to adapt and remix however we want! For this first “season” we want to stay pretty true to the wiki, a lot of our artistic license comes in the sound design and music. Though, Jon and I have definitely talked about doing some original content, whether that be an all new SCP, or expansion on previous lore, that’s still under wraps- For now. We have a few little experiments you’ll see within our first season, and if they work out well, even more in the future!

Do any of the team plan on writing their own SCP stories, either for the show or the SCP wiki? More importantly (my lips are sealed if they need to be) will there be an underlying story that will slowly reveal itself?

None of us have ever written SCPs, but I’ve been reading the wiki since I was pretty young! While there won’t be a very overt overarching story in the first season, it’s important to know that our “Narrator” is a character in this world, and he has his own reasons for doing what he does, his own approaches to things, and while a lot of these entries will be things that have been secured, he exists in the present and is still working.

Well if that’s not a little cryptic nugget that will stir a little excitement then I don’t know what is. A huge thanks to Pacific, who’s now run off to one of his finals so the only thing left to do is wish him and the rest of the crew the best of luck with this new show (and his exams)!

You can check out the show on your usual applications, or at any of the show links above. Enjoy!


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The History of Radio Drama 2

At the end of the 19th century, Marconi had been granted a patent for his wireless telecommunication system. Progress on his system was quite slow to start, with only a little amateur and commercial broadcasting taking it up. But with America joining World War One however, these stations were ordered to shut down or were taken over by the government. In fact for the duration of the Great War it was illegal for any US citizen to own a radio transmitter.

In my last post, I discussed the original audio drama system, and huge hit, the Théâtrophone. Bringing live shows and opera into the homes of people, for a small additional fee, via the telephone system… (sound familiar?)

At the end of the 19th century, Marconi had been granted a patent for his wireless telecommunication system. Progress on his system was quite slow to start, with only a little amateur and commercial broadcasting taking it up. But with America joining World War One however, these stations were ordered to shut down or were taken over by the government. In fact for the duration of the Great War it was illegal for any US citizen to own a radio transmitter.

Large government investment accelerated its development and production for military communications in the field to great effect.

Immediately after the war and the lifting of restrictions, the US saw a rise in amateur broadcasting and listening, mainly in peer to peer circles talking about the advances in radio transmission such as the all new thermionic vacuum tube, the invention of which in 1904 revolutionised radio, television, telecommunications, and computing.

Within two years, radio sets, or ‘Radio Telephones’ as they were known then, were commonplace, and commercial radio broadcasting quickly became the preferred choice for news and entertainment. This left the Théâtrophone floundering on the riverbank of entertainment, and obsolete within a decade.

recording a radio play​​

Commonly given the title of first ever English speaking audio drama, was a program called ‘A Rural Line in Education’. This small sketch was aired in 1921, on Newsradio 1020 KDKA from Pittsburgh.

The sketch featured the sound effects of a phone ringing, and a brief conversation between two farmers occasionally interrupted by a switchboard operator.

According to radio historian Bill Jaker, the station didn’t want them to use the telephone sound effects, because they thought it would ‘defraud the audience into thinking they were listening to a phone call, and not a radio program’.

Soon after KYW, another Westinghouse Electric Corporation station, this time in Chicago, broadcast a season of opera. The Chicago Tribune boasted ‘50,000 listen to opera, transmitted over 1,500 miles’.

Ed Wynn ‘The Perfect Fool’​​

In February of 1922, the company playing the musical comedy ‘Tangerine’ on Broadway, headed out to the Westinghouse’s Newark radio station, WJZ, and test broadcast to ‘1 million listeners across America’.

A week later WJZ broadcast Ed Wynn’s Broadway show ‘The Perfect Fool’ in its entirety, across America. Radio stations all over stopped broadcasting their own shows to help boost the signal if the weather was bad.

Radio entertainment had sparked the people’s imagination, and soon radio stations were broadcasting operas, musicals, and plays right across the globe, as we will discover in the next post.

This brand new medium was not without its naysayers however. Talk of ‘destroying theatre’, and vaudeville managers creating contracts that forbade actors from taking part in radio programs, gives us a glimpse into how the wireless telephone was shaking the foundations of the arts.


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Edict Zero Episode 2

By Lex ScottWelcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

The Deep Dive Into…

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Welcome to part two of my deep dive into the masterclass in audio drama that is Edict Zero. If you’re new here make sure you check out my episode 1 review right here, before joining me for the rest of my journey.

And of course, spoilers ahead!

Episode 2, 2415 Part 2

3 seconds. In all my studies and my own experience in content creation, 3 seconds is all the time you’ve got to hook your audience in the online space. This of course is not true of all content: watching a movie you’ve usually got a few minutes to grab your audience’s attention, and just a few fewer for television. But online content: web series, social media videos… podcasts? You’ve got precious little time to really get to the point before your audience decides to move on to a more immediate gratification.

This is what was going through my mind in the opening moments of Episode 2. Now granted, as I’ve said before this show is quite a few years older at this point and it’s possible a lot of this information hadn’t really been gathered at that point. But still the scene setting in this show is excruciating from a modern viewpoint. They spend so much time setting the scene that I honestly believe if you decided to recut this show you would potentially lose about ten minutes of run time (probably an exaggeration but I really needed to get that off my chest).

I think the most maddening aspect of the scene setting is that most of it isn’t just establishing location through background noise like traffic etc to go along with any “new location” voice announcement. Most of it is actually world building and lede burying, BUT it all ends up being superfluous because they give us the same exact info in actual dialogue during the scenes being set up! It makes me feel like the show believes it really needs to hold my hand and lead me through it’s oh so labyrinthine and difficult plot, which makes me think either it doesn’t respect me enough to be able to follow along, or thinks it’s much much smarter and more elaborate than it is.

It all comes across really as clumsy exposition, compounded further by more clumsy foreshadowing and exposition. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of hiding info dumps in radio broadcasts that our characters are listening to in scene, that slowly fade out as the scene in actual starts to play out, is genius. But the problem is simply that too much time is taken with it all being repeated anyway, when each episode is already bordering on an indulgent run time.

Much like I’ve spent so much time on this one gripe I have with an admittedly high quality and objectively good show.

Side note I’m always genuinely torn when reviewing something; between being a creator and knowing what an achievement it is to just make something (especially independently) and thus shouting down excess criticism, and picking everything apart down to its tiniest components and being very critical indeed. I am really riding the line with this series, but it might be because I’m both reviewing it for work and also dissecting it to better understand what I want in my work.

 

Anyway, episode two is definitely a part two. Everything going on is just wrapping up previously established plot points aimed at putting everyone where they need to be before the action really gets going. We get some great world building in Kircher’s interactions with her AI butler Jasper (sassy or bitchy? Let me know in the comments) and her cars built in AI slash some kind of phone/ PDA system? It’s a fun taste of the futuristic tech that’s just helpful enough to not castrate our investigators in this mystery, and just broken enough to be entertaining.

 

Side note I don’t know what it is specifically but a lot of this whole show just feels really nineties to me. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue or the music or what but so much of it reminds of nineties storytelling and aesthetics.

 

Our trio of main characters (Kircher, Briggs, and Garrett) are thrust together in a mini task force operating independently within the main task force (ed: task-ception!) in a manner that makes Kircher suspicious of it’s ease, and the others exasperated at having to work with each other. Once they’ve each debriefed the others they set out to do some boots-on-the-ground investigating.

Briggs follows up on the homeless angle, given Garrett is “terrible” at interacting with anyone but the hard done by in particular would not put up with him, Kircher follows up on an asylum lead to learn hard info about Cooke and Socrates, and Garrett lets us all learn more about the Paradox Artifacts and in the process introduces us to one of the most teeth gritting characters that are unfortunately seemingly emblematic of this series.

I don’t know Jack Kincaid, and I’m not readily familiar with any of his other work, but he seems to have leaned far too heavily on a kind of excessive pomposity for a lot of his characters. I suspect this has a lot to do with his voice acting: a quick and dirty trick for voice acting is to put on an exaggerated accent as a kind of shortcut to character creation, and his characters all seem to share a similar upper class pastiche that lends itself to verbosity and pompousness. I don’t know if this is still true, or even if it will hold true in the near future of this series, but for now that’s what i’ve seen.

Oh and Mister Cooke returns (totally called in my last review) and reveals that Captain Socrates’ beloved pan was actually gifted to him by Cooke. So I guess I’ve got one more reason to dislike that arrogant eyeless churl.

 

Conclusions/ Predictions

All in all, though I do have one or two specific complaints that come primarily from my own instincts as a writer and thus are entirely subjective to my personal style of doing things, I am enjoying this show. I’m looking forward to finding out how they rescue Briggs, which from the preview will be the main focus of episode two, and I’m genuinely interested in these Paradox Artifacts. Now I lean more towards the fantastical than the realistic, so that could be why, but I really think the show will benefit from leaning more into the outlandish aspects that have been hinted at so far.

 

Side note if I don’t get a scene on a boat with those weird sea monsters they mentioned I’m going to be very upset.

 

A solid episode overall, very functional in what it needs to do. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I think not enough people are willing to make functional. All too often people eschew necessity for spectacle and neglect to put in the work, so I respect this episode all the more for it.

I’m working on a theory for the Paradox Artifacts, though admittedly I’ve still got very little info to go on. So far we know they exist. No matter what, that briefcase bomb does exist, and it has a voice activated trigger. We can surmise that some kind of personal teleporter also exists, thus it is likely if two exist there are others that exist as well.

We also have been told that Edict One, the people who developed on the spaceships in the (as yet unspecified length of) time that passed on the trip from earth, keep themselves separate from society and also somewhat prohibit laboratories (and thus probably scientific advancement to some degree?). We can surmise that they have developed technologically as well as socially. We’ve also been told that two other ships “disappeared” on the journey.

So my theory is that Edict One didn’t wake everyone up immediately, instead seeding the planet with these artifacts first so as to facilitate part of the experiment they are so clearly running on human society. Not invasive tests or anything, but sociological observations on how they’re developing as a people. They also probably terraformed the planet at least a little bit. Either way they’ve definitely got their own sixth continent they’ve set themselves up on.

What do you think of my theory? Leave a comment and tell me know your own theories, or better yet let me know if you are listening along with me in this deep dive. Just please no spoilers for upcoming episodes, as I will absolutely be reading your comments.

 

And of course, go download episode 3 right here, and join me next time as I continue my deep dive into Edict Zero – FIS.

What’s the Frequency?

If weird psychedelic noir is your thing, or you haven’t experienced it before, then put down the bug powder, shoot your wife in the head, and take a hit of the motherload!

Words?

words Words

Words words words words words, words, words, words words. Words words words words words, words words words, words words words words.

Words, words words words words, words? WORDSSSSS!! sdrowsdrowsdrowsdrowsdrow¿

Words. words

Words words owrds words, words srowd drows swrod, sword!

*Insert cigarette commercial*

What’s The Frequency? is like yeast extract, you’ll either love it or hate it. It is dark, it is frightening, and it makes you feel very uncomfortable… very often! It prods a boney finger in your chest asking over and over again, ‘What’s The Frequency?’ What IS the Frequency? WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY?

As I say, you’ll either love it or hate it. For a point of reference, let’s compare it to Twin Peaks. If you are one of the latter then this show is most probably not for you. In fact I would just forget what you’ve seen here and be on your merry way. For those of you that conform to the ‘like’ category, I would ask “how much do you like it?” because to be fair the analogy I’m using here is a little off, because What’s The Frequency? is more akin to Lynch’s first work, ‘Eraserhead’. Twin Peaks was a jolly jaunt through a strange town whilst high on marijuana, where ‘Eraserhead’ is more akin to being trapped in the infinite loop of a nightmarish heroin overdose.

From the start, this show goes straight for the jugular. No setting up of pretense here.

What starts as a struggle between the mob, the police, and a private investigator over a ledger providing proof of police bribery, soon escalates into something darker, more esoteric. A struggle for a power that doesn’t belong in the hands of mere mortals, yet here they are, fighting over said power. As far as the plot goes, that’s all you’re going to get from me. I wouldn’t want to spoil your tumble down this kaleidoscopic rabbit hole, so let’s move on to the style.

Imagine listening to a 1940’s private eye radio drama complete with commercials, as it was back in the day. If you’ve explored these ancient recordings to any degree then you will instantly recognise the format, although the adverts here are wonderfully sarcastic. Now imagine a reel-to-reel recording sent, accidentally of course, to the home of William S. Burroughs, who took a machete to it, mailed it to his future ghost-self, who then reassembled it with a nail gun, and attempted to play it on an mp3 player. The result, a terrifying version of words that pays homage to the radio shows of the era, and the Beat Generation. With a tongue pushed firmly into its cheek, and syringes still dangling from it’s pockmarked arms, it not only serves as a reflection of the era, but gives it a 21st century kick in the…

Most of the time it’s a perfect balance between the delivery of the story and the craziness that punctuates it, but there are a few occasions when the train just can’t seem to get back on the rails to conclude an episode, leaving me to drift off into disappointment. It’s like the darkness has taken over. The handy jolt that brings you back out of the hole to reveal the conclusion in the stalled plot has been forever lost, and you’re left spiraling the plughole until the end of the episode. I must say I’m glad that I waited until the first season was released before listening, because with a month between episodes, I feel I would have given up on it, and to give up on this story would be unforgivable.

WTF? has picked up a slew of awards from the audio drama community, and rightly so. I have been waiting for someone to push the boundaries beyond the expected norms for a while now. Not to necessarily slap the listeners in the face as it were, (although they do), but rather to question the humdrum horror/ sci-fi/ comedy/ sitcom carousel of the indie drama world. I’m not saying the indie drama scene is lacking excitement, there are plenty of amazing shows to be found in these genres, but it feels to me that rather than creating something new and exciting, many new artists out there are just using the tried and tested templates and riding the coattails, rather than striding out on their own path; and if you want to get noticed in this fast growing medium, this is something you are going to need to do.

The acting here is great on all sides, although the casting of Karim Kronfli as Walter Mix seems a little odd to me. A 1940’s PI in LA this voice is not, I would say he’s more suited to a Sherlock Holmes or a Dick Barton than a Sam Spade or Philip Marlow. It’s not enough to take me out of the story, and the dynamic between Troubles and Whit is brilliant as you would expect from these veterans, but it’s just a little niggle, a little itch behind the ear that gets the occasional subconscious scratch.

Kudos to Oliva, Danner, and the rest of the team for this refreshing piece of art. I’m looking forward to more.

If weird psychedelic noir is your thing, or you haven’t experienced it before, then put down the bug powder, shoot your wife in the head, and take a hit of the motherload!

New Scripted Podcast “Blackout” coming soon from Rami Malek

Audio drama is definitely becoming more and more mainstream (“I hear radio as entertainment is making a comeback” as a certain fictional Eiffel once put it), and proof of that can most easily be seen in the steady increase in professional mainstream actors appearing in or producing their own shows.

By Lex Scott

Audio drama is definitely becoming more and more mainstream (“I hear radio as entertainment is making a comeback” as a certain fictional Eiffel once put it), and proof of that can most easily be seen in the steady increase in professional mainstream actors appearing in or producing their own shows.

Now, I’m new to the scene as many of you will know, so the first major one I was aware of was Richard Armitage’s wolverine in The Long Night. More recently there was The Angel of Vine and it’s ludicrously stacked cast. Both of these were originally released on stitcher premium, and then released episodically to general audiences, so that may be related.

Rami Malek – IMDb

The next we will apparently have is called “Blackout”, and is produced by Rami Malek, Endeavor Audio, and QCODE, and starring Malek himself. “Blackout” is created by Scott Conroy, and is a suspense story about a small town radio DJ who must fight to protect his family and community from a coordinated attack that destroys the power grid and upends modern civilization. It is set to be an eight episode show.

Scott Conroy, creator and producer, is a writer whose feature script Analytica was named to the 2018 Blacklist (a yearly list of the “best” as yet unproduced screenplays) so there is reason to be excited about a new project from him.

Endeavor Audio launched in September of last year to work with partners like Dick Wolf and Mass Appeal to finance, develop, produce, and distribute podcasts, and recently released the second season of Limetown. QCODE is a new podcast banner of Fred Berger, David Henning, Rob Herting, and Brian Kavanaugh Jones.

I’m always on board for some professional grade acting. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of charm in the more raw performances of less experienced performers, but professional acting often means professional directing, which usually translates to a more engaging performance (depending on the content and style of course, always). But this premise is not doing a great job of selling me on the show.

Will we have another amazing Angel of Vine on our hands, or another pretty good but ultimately lacking Wolverine The Long Night? We’ll have to wait and see, as it won’t be coming out for quite a while.

The Angel of Vine

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama: The Angel of Vine.

The Angel of Vine

By Matthew William

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama from production company Vox Populi: The Angel of Vine.

And the cast, ladies and gentleman, is incredible.

Joe Manganiello from True Blood is joined by the likes of Misha Collins (Supernatural), Mike Colter (Luke Cage himself!), Alfred Molina (too many credits to list, of which Doc Ock from Spiderman 2 is the most well known?), Khary Payton (Ezekiel from the Walking Dead), Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One, and countless other voice roles), and Constance Zimmer (UnReal).

This is in addition to some truly veteran voice actors – Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang in the English dub of Fullmetal Alchemist), Matthew Mercer (involved in the English dubs of various anime, as well as cartoons, films, and video games), and Nolan North (Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series) to name just a few.

This is easily the most stacked cast for narrative podcast we’ve seen (heard?) since 2017’s Homecoming, which starred, among others, Catherine Keener, boring Han Solo Oscar Isaac, and Ross from Friends David Schwimmer.

And if the cast alone wasn’t enough to convince you to download, here’s the synopsis:

The Angel of Vine is a noir tale told in true crime style. The “podcaster,” a journalist named Oscar Simons (Oliver Vaquer), is fascinated by cold cases. One of the most infamous is “The Angel of Vine,” a gruesome murder in 1950s Hollywood. Young aspiring actress Marlene Marie Evans was found in a parking lot, her body mutilated and posed, with evidence either nonexistent or destroyed when she was discovered by a stampede of curious onlookers.

The police gave up with no leads, and the case would never be closed… or would it? Ex-cop and private detective Hank Briggs (Joe Manganiello) may have solved the case, but he never told a soul. It’s up to Oscar to search through Hank’s mountain of tapes and clues from more than 60 years ago to uncover the killer.

All in all, a strong hook and a stacked cast. What more could you ask for?

The show straddles the line between a true crime show and an Audio Drama perfectly, and the gritty story line is enough to keep the most demanding listener begging for more.

Shows like this are beginning to prove to the world that Audio Drama is truly coming back with a vengeance. The first season is complete and can be listened to here.

Time Bombs

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. And what’s more, it was created in a week!

Can You Make a Podcast in a Week?

by Alex C. Telander

If you’re a big fan of audio dramas, chances are you’ve come across the fantastic show Wolf 359. If not, it’s a engrossing science fiction podcast about a distant space station orbiting the star Wolf 359, and the various antics the incredibly talented cast get up to. The show ran for three years, was nominated for a Webby Award, has an untold number of fans and listeners, and is still a big favorite for many. Then a year went by and some of the writers and cast members decided they really missed working together, and started a new project together with a seemingly impossible – or perhaps just insane – premise:

To create, write, record, produce and release a podcast in just one week.

Welcome to the wacky and very unpredictable world of bomb disposal with the three-part show, Time Bombs. Enter one Simon Teller (voiced by Peter Coleman), a trained professional in the fine art of “explosive ordnance disposal.” It’s New Year’s Eve and the rest of the crew would rather be anywhere else, except for Teller who’s looking to disarm a certain number of devices before midnight and beat a “coveted departmental record.” Along for tonight’s oh-so-memorable ride is Tatiana Sobrero (voiced by Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs), a reporter doing a profile on this dangerous life. Will Mark Midland (voiced by Noah Masur) graduate from trainee before the new year rings in? Will Sobrero get the exposé she’s looking for? And will Teller set a new anti-explosive record before midnight chimes in?

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. Since the cast have worked together before, they have no problem forming a cohesive crew. The fact that the whole project was completed within one week simply boggles the mind. The good news is, Time Bombs is the first of hopefully many shows under the new flagship network, Fear of Public Shame. Shachat, Urbina and Valenti have also started a weekly show called No Bad Ideas, as they challenge each other to turn a bad idea into a decent story within thirty minutes, and then spend the rest of the show talking about their creative endeavors.

Time Bombs is a great place to start in giving these talented people a listen and from there you can start consuming their growing collective of great podcast.

The Deep Dive Into…

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke.

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Ever since I started getting into scripted podcasts, I’ve wished I could find proper full episode reviews and breakdowns. I could never find them, but that might because I never looked in the right place. So, when Podern Times started up and I was asked what I wanted to work on, that was of course the first thing I said. I was recommended a show to check out and review and it was off to the races.

The show was terrible. I thought “I don’t think I can stomach listening to two more seasons of this show”

It turns out it was a joke! I was supposed to hate that show (ed: SORRY! ) and there was something far more substantial, and of significantly higher quality waiting just up next in my podcast queue. The second recommendation: Edict Zero – FIS.

Here was a show that, at eight years old, is still held up as a benchmark of quality for audio dramas, and is regarded by many in the community to be one of the best the medium has to offer. And that’s not just in sci-fi: every new show, regardless of genre, is measured against the astounding quality of writing and production design on display here. And yet no one has really broken it down or analysed it before.

It was everything I’d been hoping for, and almost everything it’s reputation promised: big long meaty episodes roughly an hour each. Excellent technical quality and absolute masterful sound design. I knew, if I could get into the story there would be plenty to sustain a series of articles of analysis, conjecture, and gushing over this veritable audible feast.

So, please join me as I take a long journey, episode by episode, deep into the future of New Earth and the Federal Investigative Services, as presented by Jack Kincaid and Slipgate Nine Entertainment.

And of course, spoilers ahead.

Prequel/ Episode 1, 2415 Part 1

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke. An interesting if overly hostile character, our time with him in this episode is sadly very brief.

He unfortunately is emblematic of one of the main issues I had with this episode though: an overly wordy talker, unnecessarily hostile to everyone he meets. It’s a trope I’ve seen time and again in every medium imaginable and I always find it tiresome, because it’s just not believable.

People just don’t get to be that openly hostile to others and still interact with them. He’s rude to the butler who ushers him through the building, he’s rude to security doing his job, the only person he’s not rude to is the girl he rescues.

Side note: I’m assuming both Cooke and Melissa Parker survived, otherwise the entire opening is pointless.

Maybe Cooke’s whole demeanor is meant to make him one of these “characters you’re supposed to hate” but I’ve never bought into that trope. Either engender sympathy for your hero’s plight to make us hate the villain as an obstacle, or make us fear the villain for his actions. Making a vaguely hostile and oddly verbose character just takes me out of the moment and reminds me it’s unrealistic.

Near the end of the episode we learn that Cooke was involved in procuring mystic items for this now deceased mob boss. I’m inclined to believe this suitcase bomb was one of these Paradox Artifacts, and can probably be used more than once. My guess is some sort of black hole or gravity distortion bomb. And the fact that Cooke and Melissa probably survived indicates he probably has more than one in his possession, likely one for some sort of teleportation. It’s debatable whether he also actually does possess the Hex Gate Disc he was supposed to trade for Melissa Parker’s life.

Edict Zero is on the whole an extremely impressive piece of literature. On a technical level it is nothing short of astounding, with sound effects, music, and background noise all expertly layered together to form a truly impressive soundscape that really does build a picture in your mind of where you are. Every scene transition is smooth and flawless without being unnecessarily telegraphed. There is the occasional robotic voice telling us of our new location when it’s necessary or pertinent, but it always feels like it too is part of the world.

It actually feels like an automated train announcement, telling us what stop we’ve just arrived at. This even gives us an extra layer of subconscious detail by subtly telling our brains that time has passed while we travelled here.

Another scene transition that blew my mind in its simplicity was a simple change in audio quality. There are a few instances where a character is on the phone with someone, and we hear their voice as though through a phone. Now in video you can quickly switch back and forth, showing the different locations, but here we slowly transition from hearing one character through the phone’s distortion to the other. And we end the interaction now following the second character, in the new location.

It’s an incredibly subtle change, and I doubt most listeners would pick up on it consciously, but  no one would fail to realise that we’ve suddenly changed perspective.

It’s simple, almost consciously imperceptible, and impressively effective.

There were unfortunately a few times where they spent too much time setting the scene, and the whole thing felt a bit too audibly busy, with sound effects and background noises building and bustling. But, as this is the first episode and almost a decade old at this point, I’m expecting this to be improved as the series progresses.

Our second major character is another trope I’m generally a bit tired of, but in this instance I’m more bothered by the people around him than the actual character.

That is one agent Nick Garrett, an example of the Sherlock type character. He’s studied it all, is well versed in the various sciences, but lacks the intuitive understanding of actual people that most develop in their early years. He lacks the “correct” emotional response to most situations, and comes at everything with a critical, analytical mind.

As this character trope goes he’s not bad, but it’s the others around him that make it aggravating to me as an audience.

He lacks any hostility or superiority in his tone to be truly rude, but everyone he meets acts as though he’s the foulest most offensive thing they’ve ever had the displeasure of enduring. Though admittedly this seems limited to FIS agents, in particular those who seem to really lean on their authority and positions. The son of the murdered mob boss seemed to be pretty reasonable in talking to him. This leads to us immediately distrusting most of the other (non-pov) agents. In particular one Agent Whiteman of the organised crime division.

Side note: in regards to Whiteman, they spent so much time showing us how incorruptible he is that if he doesn’t end up being a traitor I well be genuinely shocked.

A counterpoint to the Agent Garrett character is presented in the form of Agent Kircher, and the way she’s treated by the narrative/ other characters is troubling.

In the briefing scene there are two people interrupting Agent Whiteman: Garrett, and Kircher. While Garrett is removed from the room and verbally dressed down, he’s otherwise allowed to continue his own personal investigation. Meanwhile, Kircher is tolerated in the room but later simply removed from the case entirely.

She’s not given the same opportunity to pursue her (entirely relevant) leads, or even confronted about her somehow “disrespectful” behaviour. She’s simply removed without ever being given the same opportunity to defend her position. This is unfortunate but probably unconscious gender politics on display, and the complete difference in the way their actions were responded to warrants further thought and discussion. I don’t believe this was a deliberate or even conscious choice by the writers, but in 2018 it really sticks out.

We close out the episode with a final scene introducing us to our major lead in the case: the homeless, probably mentally ill “Captain” Socrates, an associate of Mister Cooke.

This scene with Socrates is honestly one of if not the single weakest in the entire episode. I know people say in acting you make a choice and it’s better than not making a choice, and Jack Kincaid – the creator of this show, and actor of this role – certainly made a choice.

The trouble is I think that choice was bad.

It’s a tired and, once again overly verbose, caricature of a mental patient from the 1950’s. Speaking in a pastiche of upper class gentleman explorer vernacular, he seemingly speaks in an interminable mashup of movie quotes and pop culture references that lose all meaning when jammed in next to each other. I get that this is probably the aim, presenting an unhinged character with a scattered brain and neurons firing every which way all at once, but it is so world breaking it completely takes me out of the moment every time I hear it.

I cringe, every time, and not in the way the writer probably intended.

Conclusions/ Predictions

Overall I like this show. It is a master class in audio presentation and mixing, truly the most complex and technical show I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear and I genuinely feel like I learned a lot about the craft just by listening to it. The world building is top notch and genuinely engaging, and I really am looking forward to hearing the next episode and knowing what happens to our characters.

One of my favourite things about finding a new (to me) show with a big back catalogue spanning years is getting to see a kind of time lapse of their skills, as the creators grow and develop as people and artists. Getting to go back to the beginning of a journey and looking for all the kernels of promise present right from the start; crossing your fingers and watching them tease out their problematic or tired tropes into well defined thoughts is always engrossing.

I am genuinely looking forward to continuing with this series and seeing where it leads. And, hopefully seeing them outgrow some of these things that bothered me.

Go download Episode 2 right now, and join me next time as I continue my Deep Dive into Edict Zero – FIS.