by Bob Tinsley
In case you haven’t run across me before, I’m a big fan of Audio Drama (think radio shows with better – mostly – production values). Considering that most Audio Dramas are put together with production budgets of nothing (less even, usually, than web series), the quality of writing and acting can be surprising. That doesn’t mean all Audio Dramas are put together on a shoestring. Some of them, like “Bronzeville” with Laurence Fishburne, have real budgets, SAG contracts and Big Names attached.
Whatever budget, Audio Dramas are fun. Here are some of my favorites from 2017 in alphabetical order:
“A Scottish Podcast.” (https://scottishpodcast.com) A tongue-in-cheek horror series detailing the activities of a couple of ne’er-do-well musicians who decide to do a paranormal investigation podcast.
From the website: “You’ll walk through the long-forgotten catacombs under Edinburgh. Sail out to the lonely and abandoned island of St.Caillic. Visit dingy pubs, run-down industrial estates, and obscure non-league football grounds.” They are at the end of their 18-episode first season and hard at work on the second season.
“arsPARADOXICA.” (https://arsparadoxica.com) A time travel story with people getting stranded in unpleasant places and the machinations of a secret government agency across time — in both directions.
From the website: “When an experiment in a time much like our own goes horribly awry, Dr. Sally Grissom finds herself stranded in the past and entrenched in the activities of a clandestine branch of the US government. Grissom and her team quickly learn that there’s no safety net when toying with the fundamental logic of the universe.” They are into their third season with 27 regular episodes and another 15 extras.
“Jarnsaxa Rising.” (https://jarnsaxarising.wordpress.com) “Just above the 60th parallel in the Baltic Ocean, a team of researchers arrives at an abandoned wind farm, to investigate some unexplained energy surges.”
The team is sent to this remote and frigid location by a multinational corporation with an agenda far beyond a simple service call. Norse gods and eeevil corporations. Oh, my! The first season of 10 episodes is complete, and I understand work is beginning on the second season.
“Steal the Stars.” (https://tor-labs.com/steal-the-stars/) From the website: “Steal the Stars is the story of Dakota Prentiss and Matt Salem, two government employees guarding the biggest secret in the world: a crashed UFO.” But there is much more than just that: a heist of incredible complexity, a story of forbidden love, loyalty and betrayal, and a completely unexpected (at least by me) twist at the end.
Complete in 14 episodes. As might be deduced from the URL, this Audio Drama was sponsored by Tor Books from a pitch by the series creator, Mac Rogers. There is also a novelization of the series published by, you guessed it, Tor Books.
“TANIS.” (http://tanispodcast.com/) A docudrama currently in hiatus at the end of the third season (of 12 episodes each along with numerous extras). From Wikipedia: “Nic Silver, a former radio host, discovers references to something called Tanis in two disparate sources. He begins hosting the podcast in an effort to determine what and where Tanis may be . . . . His search . . . leads him to confront a variety of mysterious groups and organizations . . . .” Conspiracy theory abounds!
In 2017 TANIS was acquired by Universal Cable Productions and Dark Horse Entertainment for development into a TV series . Writers will be the podcast creator, Terry Miles, and TV writer Lee Shipman. The producers will be Sam Raimi and Debbie Liebling.
“The Black Tapes.” (http://theblacktapespodcast.com/) Another well-done docudrama from the same folks that produce “TANIS.”
From Wikipedia: “The story begins as a biography of paranormal investigator Dr. Richard Strand (voiced by Christian Sloan), an ‘evangelical skeptic’ on a mission to debunk all claims of the supernatural. Reagan becomes interested in his collection of unsolved cases, which she begins calling his ‘Black Tapes,’ and the podcast evolves into an exploration of these cases, paranormal culture, and the mysterious life of Dr. Strand.” The series was concluded this year after three seasons, a total of 30 episodes and numerous extras.
“The Bright Sessions.” (http://www.thebrightsessions.com/) Think the cast from the TV show, “Heroes”, in therapy. What we have here is the story of a therapist whose clientele is made up exclusively of people with paranormal abilities, everything from telepathy to teleportation in space and time. I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to know that superheroes are as dysfunctional as the rest of us. And if you think these folks are wandering around untethered, rest assured that there is a shadowy government agency out there keeping a close eye on things.
The creator and writer of this show, Lauren Shippen, was chosen by Forbes Magazine for this year’s “30 Under 30 – Media” list. Universal Cable Productions and Dark Horse Entertainment (remember them?) are developing the show for TV. So far, in four seasons, 47 regular episodes and numerous extras.
“The White Vault.” (http://whitevault.libsyn.com/) If you liked “The Thing,” the original, of course, you should love this one. A repair team is sent to an unmanned mining outpost in the Svalbard Archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle.
Trapped by a severe storm that also cuts off their communications, they find something under the ice that shouldn’t be there. Something unfriendly. Seven episodes so far.
“Wolf 359.” (http://www.wolf359.fm/) I reviewed this one more fully, and you’ll be seeing that here at TVWriter™ soon. You could call this one “Good Morning, Vietnam” meets “Alien” — and “Aliens.”
From the website: “Wolf 359 is a radio drama in the tradition of Golden Age of Radio shows like Escape! and Suspense. Take one part space adventure, add one part character drama, mix in one part absurdist sitcom, and you get Wolf 359.” Episode 61, the series finale, just dropped.There are also a number of mini-episodes and extras.
And these are just scratching the surface. The number of Audio Dramas available has exploded over the last couple of years. Whatever your taste in storytelling you can find something to binge on with little effort.