Wolf 359 — Audio Drama At Its Best

by Bob Tinsley

Audio Dramas (aka Radio Dramas, though that comparison is WAY out of date) are starting to make big noises in the entertainment world. It’s a great proving ground for people who want to be in the entertainment industry as well as established stars, Laurence Fishburne and David Schwimmer for just two examples.

You might also keep in mind that people like Gene Roddenberry wrote for radio before he became a Big Deal. And several properties that began as interweb Audio Dramas are currently in development for TV and movie deals.

Audio Dramas are a lot of fun to listen to. The big advantage is that you can listen and enjoy while doing other things, like driving, cooking, working on the car, etc. They are also available in just about any length you like, from 5 minutes to over an hour, and in just about any genre you can think of.

So, where do you find these fun bit of mind candy? Download just about any podcatcher like, Podcast Addict, Podcatcher, iTunes, or even Google Play Music and start searching for Audio Drama.

To give you a head start, you might want to check out Wolf 359, especially if you like science fiction. It’s “Alien” meets “Good Morning, Vietnam!” It’s currently in its fourth season with 60 main episodes and another 23 mini-episodes. I’m only up to Episode 52. Gotta catch up!

The action takes place on a research station in orbit around the red dwarf, Wolf 359. You have a mad scientist who performs secret experiments on a crew member (without his knowledge) and creates a dangerous plant creature that prowls the station and hides in places the crew doesn’t know exist. Their mission is sponsored by an evil Earth corporation with an agenda the crew knows nothing about.

When the crew gets a little mutinous they get a visit from a ruthless team of “trouble shooters.” The captain of the previous crew of the Hephaestus, all of whom mysteriously disappeared, suddenly shows up in her own spacecraft. And then the aliens come!

From the website (http://www.wolf359.fm) :

Life’s not easy for Doug Eiffel, the communications officer for the U.S.S. Hephaestus Research Station, currently on Day 448 of its orbit around red dwarf star Wolf 359. He’s stuck on a scientific survey mission of indeterminate length, 7.8 light years from Earth. His only company on board the station are stern mission chief Minkowski, insane science officer Hilbert, and Hephaestus Station’s sentient, often malfunctioning operating system HERA.

He doesn’t have much to do for his job other than monitoring static and intercepting the occasional decades-old radio broadcast from Earth, so he spends most of his time creating extensive audio logs about the ordinary, day-to-day happenings within the station. But the Hephaestus is an odd place, and life in extremely isolated, zero gravity conditions has a way of doing funny things to people’s minds. Even the simplest of tasks can turn into a gargantuan struggle, and the most ordinary-seeming things have a way of turning into anything but that.

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.

The production values are top-notch, as is the acting. It’s very easy to get drawn into the world of the Hephaestus. Luckily there are enough episodes already available to binge for a very long time. And a new episode is released every two weeks like clockwork.

Enjoy! I sure am.

Bob Tinsley is TVWriter™’s Audio Drama Expert-in-Residence. He’s also a fine sculptor and writer, currently living a life much envied by our Beloved Leader, LB.