Pod Planet: Season 2 | Episode 16

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Pod Planet Presents: The Gift of the Magi

Pod Planet is an anthology series where every story is “between 83 and 100% true.” This particular episode is an audiobook narration of the famous O’Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi.”

People have discussed this story for the twist at the end. For a twenty-first century audience, this might conjure up a revelation in the person’s mind of the Sixth Sense or any of Shamalan’s earlier films. If you don’t know anything about the story aside from it has a twist, come into this with your expectations low. This is not a Hollywood or modern day book thriller type of twist. Instead of having a big world-changing event occur, the short format lends itself well to the internal moment of the twist. In essence, it’s a character twist, not a plot twist.

Focusing in on the audible components, the narrator gives a performance which rivals any professional voice over artist out there. Given the time the original story was written, his voice is well suited for this kind of twentieth century story. That being said, the monochromatic tone of the narrator’s voice makes it hard to understand the story. To use an old writing adage from George Orwell: “Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.” The story itself is already literary fiction. It doesn’t need another barrier for the person trying to understand the story. Aside from that, it works perfectly for this type of story.

4.5/5 Stars

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Press Release: Pen Pals – A New Series from the Creators of Love Me

From the hearts and minds of Mira Burt-Wintonick and Cristal Duhaime (“Love Me” and “Wiretap”) comes a new audio series: “Pen Pals.”

This new scripted audio series takes unlikely character pairings such as Frederick Nietzsche & Charlie Chaplin and runs with them. The first episode drops on March 15, 2017 and involves the characters of Romeo and Juliet with a twist. What happened after they died?

The show’s cast includes Paul Rust (Love), Noël Wells (Master of None), June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie), Mary Holland, Seth Morris and more. The 5-part series will be available on Stitcher Premium. Listeners will be able to sign up for a free month using promo code PENPALS.

You can listen to the trailer at stitcherpremium.com/penpals.

Review of Companions: A Sci-Fi Romance

Artwork for Companions

It’s not quite a romance in space, but writer Bob Koester know how to elicit the same emotions as a Harlequin novel. Interpret that however you want, but personally the milieu of Companions convoluted the romance arc, leaving it watered down and by no means easy to follow.

The story’s setting is hands-down hard science fiction, while the primary drive comes from the two love interests. The main problem with the characters is how they interact and that has nothing to do with the actor’s performances. Koester complicates their method of communication by adding a layer of confusion to an already loaded script, filled with a lot of exposition that doesn’t add much substance. They talk through a virtual simulation and the dialogue during those scenes will make you re-listen at least once, because you don’t know who’s talking: the online avatar or the person controlling it?

One thing which stood out was the non-linear structure of the story that’s combined rather elegantly with a classic victorian-esque frame narrative, though obviously set in the future. In addition to the frame, the story also skips around the lives of the protagonist, dodging the “boring” bits through obvious author sleight of hand.

Whether it’s a romance masquerading as hard science fiction or hard SF pretending to be a romance, Companions is worth a listen or two. Just don’t expect to understand everything even a second time through.

4/5 Stars

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Interview with Companions’ Writer/Director

In a recent interview with Audio Drama Reviews sister site “Audio Drama Digest,” creator Bob Koester sat down with us to explain the behind the scenes of the story. You can find that here.

Voices in the Wind Presents: Snow White – An Audio Drama

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Adapted from the classic Grimm fairy tale, this audio drama of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" follows the source material well, yet adds some new elements and characters that fans of the Disney film will find interesting and compelling. A sort of secret history of what really happened.

Rather than start in media res with the evil queen and Snow White as established characters, the story begins with Snow's mother and an owl conversing about the future. The princess hasn't even been born yet. After introducing the geo-political tension between two rival kingdoms, you realize this isn't your childhood Disney feature presentation.

The biggest difference between the children's story and the animated film is the ending. For those who aren't aware, the evil Queen tries three times to kill Snow White herself (four if you count the huntsman). The apple is a last resort, but it's unclear as to whether the poison was the cause of Snow White almost dying.

The dwarves are limited to four. This change from the animated film and possibly the original fairy tale is almost required for an audio drama. The problem people thought the first Avenger's film was going to have was too many characters to juggle and not being able to do them justice. David Farquhar and Voices in the Wind solve this problem by simplifying it. Rather than having at least seven people play the dwarves, he uses four who each act different from each other, yet combine traits from the other three dwarves found in the Disney film. Comparisons aside, this truly has feel of a fairy tale.

Farquhar is a force to be reckoned with and I look forward to his next project. You can find this on Audible, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and more. For less than ten dollars, it's perfect for kids and adults and for those awesome parents who want to introduce their children to audio drama at an early age.

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Michael L. Bergonzi   

Going Forward…

Starting today, Audio Drama Reviews will no longer be releasing on a bi-weekly schedule. Instead, we’ve decided to go for a more audible solution and focus on our podcast and YouTube channel.

Since recording and producing take time, we feel any schedule would put us in a deep depression. In addition to the podcast, we’ve also reinstated the Patreon to help fund site expenses.

Check out the new rewards like “Archived Audio Reviews” and the “Audio Producer.” Details in the link above.

We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season

We're Alive: The Complete Third Season Cover

Review #200

After spending over two seasons with these characters, We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season manages to throw some more curve balls and still end on a satisfying, ominous and hopeful note.

Much of the first half of the third season focuses on resolving the loose ends of seasons one and two. The biggest and most obvious one being who betrayed the group to the Mallers. No spoilers, but the whole idea of writing in journals explained in the first season finally gets a nice arc. Before the narration of the epistolary sections felt like crutches. Yes the reason behind it made sense, but it felt jarring more often than not. If narration in audio drama is a turn off for you, then you’ll be pleased to know the sections where a character describes a scene are limited and the quality of writing has improved. Not that it was bad before.

The middle is all set up for the final battle between man and the zombie horde. Where as in previous seasons, the zombies acted more like set dressing, here they are fleshed out and are a more immediate threat. You may recall me tweeting on twitter about certain moments as I was listening. Again, no spoilers, but let’s just say I ran the gambit of feeling happy, sad, angry, surprised, etc. Basically every core emotion within a single episode, most of it in the back half.

The climactic finale We’re Alive: The Complete Third season is so tense you desperately want to cling to some sort of normalcy within this apocalypse, but with both sets of characters knee-deep in zombie blood, you feel there’s no hope for anyone. Throughout it, you’re on the edge and waiting for something to change—even if it’s bad—oblivious to the seeds of hope that have already been placed.

We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season is a good stopping place for the casual fan, but for the vast majority of people who have followed these characters—not finishing the fourth and final season may seem a fate worse than un-death.

5/5 Stars

Interview: Bob Koester, Director of Companions

Interview took place on 01/04/2017. MB=Michael Bergonzi. BK: Bob Koester.

You can check out the review of his audio drama: Companions over at AudioDramaReviews.com shortly after the 200th review celebration on the 29th of January. Check back here to get the link. Also be sure to follow us one Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget, we have a Patreon.

MB: So, what sparked this story?

BK: The story began with the ending, sort of. I imagined a specific post-apocalyptic scenario basically like the one that Companions ends with, and then decided I wanted to get there by starting from before the apocalyptic event happened.

MB: Interesting. What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

BK: Probably capturing what makes the leads, Harry and Cailyn, fall in love. That’s a pretty big mystery in general, and as I say the original idea was more of a Big Picture Science Fiction thing. I kind of borrowed a trick from Shakespeare by having them already kind of like each other before the story begins, so they just need some incidents to become mutually aware of it.

MB: Yeah, one thing I noticed while listening was that the virus affecting everyone back on Earth sort of took a backseat to the romance. Speaking of that, was the idea of the simulation from the story’s inception or did you think of that later?

BK: Yeah, the love story definitely took over during the course of writing it. As to the simulation, I knew there’d be some sort of long-distance communication from the beginning, with some people far off and isolated in a classic sci-fi way. The simulations came in about halfway through, when I was looking for something that would require the characters to really invest in each other if they wanted to relate.

MB: So you were pretty set on the isolation aspect of the characters and didn’t want Harry and Kay to meet each other in real life. Why make this an audio drama?

BK: Well, it started first as a movie idea (I have a hobby of making short films), then I decided the setting made that too difficult, so I thought of making it a short novel. That’s when I came up with the character of CO, to be the narrator of the novel. But then I decided that the simulation sessions made it all very theatrical. They’re putting on a show for each other, and kind of living their relationship in scenes. It was actually put on as a one-day minimalist stage show. But then I decided as an audio drama I’d have great ability to use background noises and the like to indicate places and events to the audience.

MB: Interesting. I never would’ve pictured a simulation as theatrical. Were the actors in the same room when they recorded or was this all done remotely?

BK: All in one room. For a while it seemed like that wouldn’t be possible, but I’m glad it worked out that way.

MB: Cool. The structure of the narrative is less than traditional. What made you want to tell a story in such a non-linear and unconventional way when so many of the ideas in the story are difficult to grasp? The simulated Harry and Kay vs their real life counterparts and the technical jargon being the two main examples.

BK: Well let’s see. Telling it all as a story from a future point was a way of making that post-apocalyptic future kind of permeate it. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time there, narratively, because the romance became so central, so I wanted a kind of developing sense that the events we were seeing had let to something else later. Even though the audience spends a lot of time not knowing exactly what that future was or exactly what the significance of these future characters could be.

As far as the audience picking up on the simulations vs. real-life people, that is a lot to ask and it was kind of a leap of faith in the audience. I think in a stage play there’d be ways to telegraph some of it, or I could have done the same by having the simulations have some sort of voice effect to differentiate them from the real people, but I decided the potential sense of accomplishment the audience would get from figuring it out themselves could be worth the risk.

In the YouTube version of the story, which has accompanying abstract computer graphics, I put in a hint about who is real and who’s a simulation in each scene, but less than half of people I ask pick up on it, and even they all had figured it out before they noticed the clue.

MB: Well, let me just get on record as being one of those confused listeners. You said this was originally a movie idea. Did you have trouble adapting for a medium without visuals?

BK: Um, I didn’t THINK I had trouble, I guess you’d be a better judge of the result. I did definitely have to make some changes. I drastically altered a scene because the early version had relied on visual cues and just using the way a play stage works. But in my head at least it seemed pretty natural once it changed. If challenging.

I’m sure I lean on a bunch of science fiction stuff that makes sense to me and doesn’t occur to me to explain. And pretty much every version had more and more explanation cut out because it can be kind of dead air if it’s not necessary.

Also some more basic stuff, like Harry telling Cailyn that she “sounds worried” rather than “looks worried”. Which is almost counter-intuitive but I liked the idea that the audience could judge for itself whether he was reading her rightly, rather than having to imagine what expression she had that was worrying him.

MB: I get that. I’m the same way with my own writing, never sure of how little information I’m actually giving the reader until someone actually experiences it. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Are there any social media channels readers/listeners can find you at?

BK: You’re very welcome! I’m @hamletseries on twitter. Companions is on Facebook at facebook.com/playcompanions, and I have a blog at hamletseries.wordpress.com that is currently dominated by Companions-related stuff, including ways to listen to or download it.

Endurance: The Complete Epic Series (1-6)

Endurance Cover Art
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Produced by Word of Mouth Productions, Endurance is a space opera on the surface, but not at its core. Using the tools of other science fiction before it, the creators of Endurance go wide, rather than deep into their story. The result is a cast of characters who might as well be complete strangers and an episodic structure promising one thing, but giving something else (for good or ill).


The first episode has its social stigma in the portrayal of Choi, a tech-savy asian business tycoon with a stereotypical accent. It's not as bad as stuff from the forties and fifties, but you'd be hard pressed not to roll your eyes at the voice.


By the time episode five rolls around, you have a general idea of where the overall arc of the story is headed. Executed almost like the first Avengers film in which each character is introduced in a creative and interesting way, the first half of the series acts as both a mystery and "page turner."


Each episode is standalone, focusing on a single character and having a full arc. Some pack more of an action vibe, while others are quiet moments. Episode five is perhaps the most emotional scene, dealing with issues like assisted suicide in a believable and almost heartbreaking way. The first episode is a Die Hard-type adventure with very little internal conflict. Episode six is a perfect blend of the two and offers a nice midseason finale for the series.


Endurance manages to be its own thing and still pack a punch episode to episode. Some are hit or miss, but the scope of the project is something to be marveled.


Expect the remaining six episodes shortly after the 200th review of We're Alive Season Three goes live on January 29, 2017. Plus a little something extra.

Michael L Bergonzi    Website   

Press Release: UK International Radio Drama Festival 2017

Submissions are now open for the 3rd UK International Radio Drama Festival (UKIRDF) that takes place in the historic seaside town of Herne Bay between February 20th-25th, the submission deadline is 31st December 2016.

Through a local FM broadcast the festival airs a variety of radio dramas from across the world, in their native languages, over the course of the festival. Once the dramas have been aired FM audiences will be able to listen to the shows again via our website.

As well as featuring in the festival we are also honoured to be able to have two awards, £2,000 for feature drama and £750 for short drama and there is also a Public Award of £750 voted for from our listeners both online and on air.

What makes the UKIRDF so unique is that we are the biggest international radio drama festival in the UK. The 2016 festival had over 60 submissions from all over the world which enabled the creative team to programme 30 feature programmes and 10 shorts over the festival period.

We aim to truly champion the power of that radio drama continues to play in the lives of audiences and to further this the UKIRDF theme is From Stage To Air, more information on this can be found in the Festival Regulations.

UKIRDF remains a free festival to submit to and we welcome radio dramas from national broadcasters, professional bodies and independent producers.

You can check out their website here. Or, if you’re interested in submitting, download and fill out the form.

Press Release: Tales of a Time Lord

December 2016

Tales Of A Timelord: A brand new science fiction audio drama for the extended Whoniverse.

“Slick and fun, in the best traditions of radio sci-fi.” – Roger Dubar (satiria.net / Huffington Post UK)

Taking listeners on a journey through a brand new companion’s eyes, Tales Of A Timelord tells the story of the Doctor somewhere near his 20th regeneration.

Tales Of A Timelord is produced by TOATL Audio, an independent UK creative group working towards universal fame.

“The dialogue is light and fun, the world well-realised and full of detail, the char…acters distinct it’s good and accomplished work and full of potential.”
– Simon Guerrier (Big Finish Productions, Co-Author of ‘Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who’)

“Probably one of the best pieces of fan fiction I’ve ever heard.” – Theta Sigma’s Doctor Who Podcast

Tales Of A Timelord is now available to download on iTunes, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and can be viewed on YouTube.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/tales-of-a-timelord/id1145559612

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/talesofatimelord
Bandcamp: https://talesofatimelord.bandcamp.com/releases
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU6eq_VGUxDRoApHU_uD8lg

More information available at https://talesofatimelord.wordpress.com/

ABOUT

Tales Of A Timelord ( https://talesofatimelord.wordpress.com/ ) is a brand new science fiction audio drama for the extended Whoniverse. The audio drama takes its listeners on a journey through a brand new companion’s eyes with the Doctor somewhere near his 20th regeneration.

Written by R. R. Molyneux
Soundscaped, Directed and Produced by Invokal Music by Merlin

Starring: Invokal as The Doc / Hattie Snooks as Maria The Tour Guide / Lucy Jones as The Entity/ Alex Lynch as Reinhart the Medic. Guest starring: Justin K. Hayward as Captain Stewart.