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.
- 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.
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
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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