One word: “Mind blowing” is all that comes to mind when thinking about “Fugue State.” From both a production and story standpoint, this short 45 minute production from BBC Radio 4 is everything you expect from a modern audio drama, but plays with the structure of a traditional narrative.
The setup was brilliant. In fact, you don’t realize how brilliant it is until your 3/4 of the way through, because you’re enjoying the story as it unfolds. The way the creators used the medium of audio to their advantage by crafting a story around it, rather than the other way around, is brilliant. The story is deeply layered. It’s a different kind of depth than something like the dialogue in “Powder Burns.” Rather, it’s the techniques that have been used by audio dramatists for almost a century, molded together in a different and unique way.
With all this praise, one thing that bothered me was the ending. It was too abrupt. After hearing the credits, one’s reaction would probably be one of “it’s over?” For someone who’s been listening to audio dramas of all shapes and sizes, the moment of getting lost in a story for the mind is a rare phenomenon indeed and one I haven’t experienced since my introduction to audio drama podcasts. This was both a huge nostalgia trip and a cohesive story. Something that is a hard thing to do.
The film “Interstellar” is a good movie to compare this story with. Both have elements of wonder involving space and the ideas they posit are completely unimaginable by human standards. In “Interstellar” the people who made it possible to get from Saturn to another galaxy are referred to as the mysterious “them.” By the film’s climax, we still aren’t sure with 100 percent certainty who created the wormhole: aliens or humans. As the character Polly explains in the audio drama, the human mind can’t comprehend what happens when it has truly “blown.”
Therein lies an inherent problem with the “Fugue States” ending. The explanation for the mystery which drives us along for the majority of the tale is, for the most part, too abstract. This isn’t like love, where it can be somewhat quantifiable in the sense that we get sweaty palms or our nervous around those who have strong feelings for, but something beyond comprehension. On a microlevel, this is commonly referred to as non-humanoid characters. Whether they’re aliens or something else, fictional people who are so out there in both appearance and customs are too far removed from human culture that we can’t empathize with them. That being said, the metaphor of the ant was well done and gave a good enough explanation to make the concept not completely alien to us.
All in all, “Fugue State” is worthy of the praise it has gotten, from both the story and the “wow” factor it invokes if you just think about it.
You can listen to it here.