Category Archives: In my headphones

Murder on Penelope Drive | 2010 | Curtis Mutter

Blah. I guess the writer’s heart was in the right place and it committed no crimes against the medium but it was just blah.

I therefore give it a D- and am not keeping a copy.

Can you unravel the mystery of Beth Karren’s death before Detective Miles Calvin?  With hidden clues and a twisted plot, only those with the sharpest of ears will succeed in solving the Murder on Penelope Drive!

Orbit One Zero | 1961 | BBC

It was pretty darned good sci fi. Dated, sure, but way above most of the stuff I’ve heard from this era. Transmissions from space reminded me of Contact, found buried items of alien origin reminded me of 2001 A Space Odyssey, so yeah, good imaginative science fiction. And it committed no crimes as far as production, cast, writing, etc.. And I love the 6 half-hour episode length so they could tell the story nice and slow. Though, a little too slow in spots. But it’s a good length to put my headphones in and get some real housework done.

I won’t keep it but I give it a C+.

A King’s Speech | 2009 | BBC

Meh. It’s hard to listen to it and not compare it to the film, which I love.
This play deals with the hours leading up to the big speech, so, a much smaller story than the film.
Btw, apparently this radio play was made while the movie was being made and came out first. I couldn’t find what the source material was.

I give it a biased C because it did everything just fine but I couldn’t hear it without hearing Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. And I’m not keeping it.

A King’s Speech
By Mark Burgess.

The action of A King’s Speech takes place on Coronation Day, 12th May 1937, and deals with King George VI’s preparations for his evening BBC Radio broadcast to the Nation – a terrifying prospect for perhaps the most notable Briton to have suffered from a stammer.

Evening Shadows

I spent a couple days listening to this entire anthology series. The style and quality were so different between the 26 episodes, I took notes to be sure I didn’t broad brush.

In the best episodes, I really saw this (erm, heard this) as an audio Tales from the Darkside sort of show. Surreal, dreamlike, filled with cult appeal. The not-so-best episodes were the story monologue character performances with music and ambient sound effects, which weren’t actually bad but, I enjoyed the full cast episodes more. That’s probably personal taste. I think it’s safe to assume that this show was produced on practically no budget (it aired on a college radio station) and that probably explains why half or so of the episodes weren’t full cast affairs.

But nearly all of it was certainly worth listening to – there were a (very) few duds. Sure, the stories were kinda “easy mode” most of the time but still intelligent and well written – playful, often with rhyme, cadence, and tempo. This is a great show for people who love creative writing. And a great use of the audio theater medium with surprisingly good sound design – again, considering the budget.

I enjoyed it thoroughly but once was enough – I’m only keeping three… Appetite, Epic Times, and Necropolis. And, when Halloween comes around, I’ll maybe revisit the whole series again. I don’t need them all handy on demand in my personal collection but most of them would surely hold up to another listen, especially in a darker season.

So, I give this series a C+ in that it has more good than bad so surely doesn’t deserve a D but the quality isn’t consistent enough to merit a full B. And out of 26, I’m keeping the 3 listed above because I know I’ll want to hear those more than a few times more.

Evening Shadows
The sun cut by your presence at its setting, the black ghost that expands before you.

Earthsearch – Mindwarp

This is a prequel to the Earthsearch series (which I loved) but made some 25 years after the originals. And I didn’t much care for it. I really wanted to like it – there’s some solid science fiction here. But, the production itself got in my way. It reminded me of when the modern sequel 3rd, 4th, and 5th series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came out. The style is so different it is hard to consider it part of the series. It was “Dirk-Maggs-ified“, if I may coin a term – to me, that means an overuse of music, distractingly modern sound effects (for a 21st century followup to a 70s classic), and clearly very little respect for what came before so there is no stylistic continuity. 

And that’s exactly how I felt about Mindwarp, which is a Big Finish production. I don’t have much experience with Big Finish productions but I’m in no hurry to hear more from them. What’s the opposite of a golden age? Well, that’s what we’re going through in audio theater now, I think. I doubt Dirk Maggs is to blame – I don’t know enough about the history involved, but this style does seem to be the common modern BBC style. Trying to make “audio movies” – adapting the movie aesthetic to an audio medium, rather than focusing in the inherent strengths of the medium itself. Like mainstream American movies in the 60s – trying to put stage productions on film, rather than develop true cinematic storytelling techniques as was happening in other places in the world.

But, don’t get me started on that.

The only caveat I’ll add is that I went in expecting a continuation (albeit a prequel) of the Earthsearch world and found myself in a totally different kind of production. Maybe the minds behind it felt they were entitled to such a huge departure since this was a prequel. But it was hard to judge it on its own merits. The story was OK, the acting was a bit better than OK – the music was the real problem. It was just so PRESENT. Always in my face, telling me how to feel about the scene. It felt like a TV sitcom laugh track queuing me when to think something was funny. And the way it swelled during halting, dramatic dialogue moments kept making me think the characters were going to burst into song.

Anyway, I give it an admittedly biased D in that it did much more wrong than right. I will not be keeping a copy – I think I’ve gotten all the juice I will ever get from it, no matter how many times I return to give it another squeeze.

And That’s the Truth

Yes, Edith Ann. Yes, Lily Tomlin. Yes, 1971.

This was possibly my first exposure to any kind of audio theater, aside from the story records/tapes I had as a kid. I don’t know how old I was (surely no older than ten) when I was repeatedly playing my mom’s 8-track of this but so much of it has stayed in my mind over 30 years later. I had to revisit it. I remember that, as a child, I started paying more attention to the Edith Ann segments on The Electric Company (uh, or was it Sesame Street?) and wasn’t entertained by them yet I loved this. And I still know nothing of those bits other than they were made for kids.
This album is not made for kids.
But, she nails what it is to be a kid, think like a kid, talk like a kid. I didn’t realize it so profoundly at the time, of course – she was a peer, more or less. Now, I hear many jokes I don’t recall, presumably because I didn’t know it was funny to be that way. Sure, it’s basically a live stand up comedy string of one liners but the writing is great. I’m not much for comedy but I don’t know that there’s much in the way of uproariously funny moments anyway. This is Edith Ann, a kinda darkly imaginative child learning to be philosophical. It’s just well written, funny enough, and even a little poignant at times. This is all about the great character and performance. With added subtle sound effects that work really well. It’s the sound of audience laughter that annoys. But, meh, it counts as audio theater – albeit live audio theater which is something I usually turn my nose up at.

I give it a B on its own merits, rather than compare it to most of what I prefer to listen to. And, I’ll probably keep a copy. I want to try to get Wesley to listen to it, too.

I found it downloadable with a write-up on it here…


Epic, beautiful, brilliant – this is audio theater.

I listened to the twenty episodes – the original ten and the sequel series. The BBC of yesteryear can apparently do no wrong. The production was minimal, well acted, well written, nearly perfect sound design (uh, why no footsteps when people walk?), flawless pacing, huge scope of story yet personal and intimate. And the almost total lack of score keeps it from fitting too tightly into a specific genre or even production time period. This show did not feel dated to me at all, though it was produced in 1980-1982.

And this is a personal favorite space opera subgenre of mine… Long ago, a starship was launched from Earth far in our future to find other habitable planets. What remains on the ship as our story opens are merely four descendants of the massive crew of a ship some ten miles long who were raised by computers and androids and know only life on the ship and each other. Oh, yeah… Four humans and the two sentient computers that run many of the ship systems. What happened? Why only four people left? Will they ever find a planet? Maybe going back to Earth would be better? And the computers – Guardian Angel 1 and Guardian Angel 2 have answers to all those questions. Very frustrating answers. So, one man asks why any of them should listen to the Angels’ answers anymore.
And that’s just the first couple episodes.

This is that far-reaching, mind mangling (and more than a little pessimistic) British science fiction and I could hardly put it down. The development of the characters and story were perfect – we start with a situation, setting, and four people and watch the whole thing change and the characters with it. And the production is great BBC – not trying to be a movie with no visuals (uh, part three, made 25 years later tries that) but much more than an audio book with sound effects and actors – a perfect use of the medium.

I give this a solid A+ and am definitely keeping it and see myself listening to it again really soon and for years to come. When I hit episode 6, I stopped five minutes in and went back and started again from episode 1 because the nuance and pacing clearly deserved to be taken seriously.

I have no download link for this one, so, get in touch with me (see left sidebar) if you want it.

BioShock: A Radio Drama

This is a tough one to review.

First I guess I should say this is way above most fan audio theater productions I’ve heard. Not perfect – some real flaws in the editing and engineering but even those aren’t constant. So, yeah, quite good. And the acting is good. Sound effects are good. Love the nice long running time – a solid two and a half hours in two parts! Overall, this is really good. And much MUCH better than that other one.

It’s also tough because it didn’t have my undivided attention. I listened to part one in three attempts over two days – the life of a stay at home dad – so I surely wasn’t in sync with the intended pacing. And then I listened to part two while building coils and it took several tries (wow, Nichrome wire is tricky stuff!) so I was distracted.

But, I’m also biased. I was all geek boy about this one, just tickled to hear more about the Bioshock mythos, familiar Bioshock music and sound effects, etc. – this is very Bioshock-y. So, I’m not the guy to ask for an objective point of view. But, the geek boy really enjoyed it.
I need to listen to the whole thing again. And I look forward to that.

That being said, I’m giving it a tentative C+ and am keeping it so I can give it the chance it surely deserves.

Come below the waves and discover the story behind one of the greatest game franchises of our generation.

Richardson Revival Radio Presents:
BioShock: A Radio Drama – Pt. 1 The Rise of Rapture

Written and adapted by Spencer Richardson 

from the game franchise BioShock
and the novel BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley

Written, produced, directed, and edited by 
Spencer Richardson

Stage managed by
Shay Munson McGee
Kathrine Pruyn

The Lost Elevator

I actually liked a comedy.
This 20ish minute play was coming across like an audio Pixar Short in my head. Fun little story, seamless sound design, snappy dialogue that doesn’t waste a word, very good use of the medium all around.
The only complaint I have is it had a couple too many characters. I give it a B- and am adding it to my keepers folder.


Claustrophobics beware! This week we play Northern Lights Radio Theater’s production of “The Lost Elevator,” – set in 1930′s New York, an express elevator suddenly becomes inexplicably stuck between floors in the high rise Robinson Building. Inside the car, an assortment of people are left stranded and each reacts to the situation differently. Written by Percival Wilde and produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. We also welcome our latest contributor, David Rheinstrom, with his review of “The Hadron Gospel Hour.” Download Radio Drama Revival Episode 404 The post Episode 404 – Stuck in the “Lost Elevator” appeared first on Radio Drama Revival.

Minnie Billings Come Home – Ice Box Radio Theater

I have never really liked live audio theater. I find it less immersive. Largely because it’s not polished. I prefer something that’s been edited to perfection. And I don’t like hearing an audience. But there’s so little out there that I think is truly great, I’m trying to be open to it. And I’ve liked what I’ve heard from IBRT enough that when this one hit my podcatcher, I gave it a try.

It wasn’t bad. Good acting, good story – or, good enough anyway. And it’s a simple story – human drama. I give this one a bit higher marks because I’ve kind of lived something similar. Minimal production, so not much to go wrong as long as the story and acting is there and it was.

I haven’t brought myself to use a rating system yet, but, everything I listen to is either something I save because I want to hear it again whenever I like or I say once was enough. And once was enough with this one but I have nothing bad to say about it.


Recorded before a live audience, this drama of love and loss stars Linda Faith and Aela Mackintosh.