Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas tidings

There are a few seasonal specials out there on the web. Firstly Radio Drama Revival has Waiting for Father Christmas, a drama about a woman reassessing her life from the wonderful Wireless Theatre Company and also a special Christmas episode of the Red Panda (in rhyming couplets!) from Decoder Ring Theatre. Buffy between the lines has also got several seasonal episodes with stories and a "Christmas EP"!
Update: Also the Sonic Society have a special "Jack and Shannon Christmas Card" with an extra special bonus for us Firefly fans!

If you're interested in old time radio shows there's also a list of episodes with Christmas themes to download for free at Old Radio Fun, with shows ranging from classic, to religious to super-hero and fantasy.

Of course the BBC has many special seasonal programs including

A ghost for Christmas
BBC7, 20th-21st Dec
Childrens ghost stories.

Adrian Mole at Christmas
BBC7, 24th-26th Dec
Adrian Mole's Christmas diary.

Jennings at School - Happy Christmas Jennings
BBC7, 24th Dec
The late Jennings author Anthony Buckeridge appears as Mr Wilkins in a seasonal dramatisation of life at Linbury Court School.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
BBC7 25th Dec
Seasonal Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain
BBC7 27th Dec
Charles Dickens' last Christmas story is a vivid account of a man tormented by his past.

MR James at Christmas
BBC Radio 4 24th-25th Dec
Derek Jacobi introduces five new chilling dramatisations of MR James' ghost stories. MR James (1862-1936) was arguably the finest writer of ghost stories that England ever produced, influencing the likes of HP Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell and Stephen King. Warning: apparently these are very scary!

Looks like there's lots of audio fun out there to share with/escape from the family!

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy birthday BBC7!

The BBC digital radio station dedicated to drama and comedy, BBC7, is turning 5 on Dec 15th. I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing them a happy birthday, and thank them for all the wonderful stories they provide for us!

The special birthday edition on Saturday is playing requests from the listeners and includes
Theo: This delightful drama about the various owners of a rare cinnamon plush bear has always been a firm favourite with BBC 7 listeners. Written by Moya O'Shea it stars Martin Jarvis, Ross Livingstone, David Collings, Jane Whittenshaw and Stephen Critchlow. Directed by Tracey Neale, it was first broadcast in 1995.
12midday and 1am.

Diary of a Madman: This is another much requested monologue. The insight into the mind of a man sliding into madness is powerfully portrayed by Kenneth Williams. Originally broadcast in 1991, it was dramatised by James Burke from Nikolai Gogol's novel.
5.20pm, 11.20pm and 6.20am

as well as many popular comedies. The following week also includes some Christmas ghost stories to get us into the holiday spirit. All BBC7 programs are available as 'Listen Again' from their website for a week after broadcast.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Well, I'm back from my vacation now so hopefully will be able to get back into posting regularly - apologies for the long absence.

In addition to this blog, I've also been asked to write some reviews for SFFaudio. For anyone who isn't familiar with this site, it is dedicated to science fiction and fantasy audiobooks and audio drama (hear their promo here) It's an amazing source of info with regular descriptions of new releases (commercial, internet radio and free podcast), general news and reviews, and I'm very proud to have been asked to write for them!

Estalvin's Legacy

Estalvin's Legacy is a new audio drama from Cossmass Productions. It's an epic sci-fi adventure set in Edinburgh (and the rest of the Cossmass!) with an elaborate plot (which requires some attention) and some interesting characters - I've really enjoyed the first few episodes and am looking forward to the next. It's great to see a production from the UK as well!

Ranging across the many parallel, and not so parallel, alternate realities of the Cossmass. Things aren't right in the greater reality know as the Cossmass. It encompasses thousands upon thousands of alternate realities. The stability of the Cossmass has been weakening. The collapse of an entire reality stream is no longer a mere theory.

The Kalsorin have an uneasy truce with the La'Shareti. Both have influence across several Reality Clusters. But the Kalsorin are keeping a secret from the La'Shareti that would bring a war that they could not win.

In a remote Cluster: Nicolas is older than he looks, and his memory is fading fast. Sarah and Peter have only known each other a short time when Liam appears. Liam has travelled the Cossmass for many years, always keeping out of sight of the Kalsorin. Until now.

Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Disaster and War across Alternate Realities.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Space Casey?

Space Casey is a new audio drama starting (I believe!) Nov 26th. (It's a bit advance notice, but I'm away on holiday for a couple of weeks with probably little internet(!), so there'll be little posting. Hopefully it'll be a good oopportunity to catch up on some listening though!) I don't know much about this project other than it's sci-fi and the website says

"Some heroines will steal your heart... This one will steal your wallet."

and that I immensely enjoyed the teasers (go and listen!). I'm hoping that the drama will be as good as the teasers!

Update: It seems I got the date wrong - it actually starts on Nov 28th.

Review: Fine Line Doctor Who

Fine Line is part of Westlake Films - a group of production companys producing fan made video and audio, including many based on Doctor Who. Fine Line have (according to the website) been producing Doctor Who audios since 1991, and have nine stories on the website. It's unclear whether these are still being made, but I hope so!

The thing which really appeals to me about these dramas is the writing - the plots are well thought out and original, and the 1-2 hour format allows time for some character development and plot twists. The writers don't try to place the series in a particular place in the 'Doctor Who time line', or try to write for a specific Doctor (which in my mind is pretty sensible), though there is continuity through the stories and a story arc over episodes 3-7. The acting is decent, though some actors are better than others. The one big problem with the earlier stories is that the sound quality is rather bad making them difficult to listen to, and there is some bad editing (missing or repeated bits). This does improve substantially through the series though, with the most recent episode (Madhouse) having very good sound quality and spooky sound effects to add to the haunted house atmosphere.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Thanksgiving audio feast!

In honour of Thanksgiving BBC7 is running a special Stars and Stripes season of American dramas for the next three weeks. This includes dramatisations and reading of many famous American works including Last of the Mohicans, Little Women, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Handmaids Tale, Children of the Corn (Stephen King) and various works by Edith Wharton, Raymond Chandler and Kurt Vonnegut.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys

This Saturday 17th Nov at 8pm (presumably GMT) the BBC World Service is broadcasting a brand new audio dramatisation of Neil Gaiman's book Anansi Boys. It should be available to listen to on the website for a week after broadcast (click on radio player). It has some famous British comedy actors (Lenny Henry, Matt Lucas) and is promising to be very good.

More info can be found at the Wikipedia entry and Neil Gaiman's great blog.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NATF 2008 script contest

The National Audio Theatre Festival's 2008 script contest deadline is fast approaching. If you're writing a script it needs to be posted by the 15th November. More info can be found here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

BBC7: Undone

I've just discovered this series being broadcast on BBC7. Undone is set in London and its parallel city 'Undone' where what we consider odd is normal, and where turns of phrase are real. It's very amusing with some unusual ideas and clever writing.

The first episode was broadcast last Sunday at 6pm and will be up for a week - it sounds like each episode is a separate story though, so it shouldn't matter if you tune in later. This first series is a repeat (though I haven't heard it before), with a brand new series following it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Late Halloween Horror!

Yes, I know it's late, but in my defence I've been very busy with job interviews (aagh - that's a horror all of its own!) Hopefully my life will setlle down soon and I'll be able to get back to writing more posts and listening to more audio drama (yay!).

Anyway there's lots of special Halloween offerings - the audio addict blog has a pretty comprehensive list. There's also a Buffy BTL Halloween special.

The BBC also has some classic horror in the form of Dracula and The Fall of the House of Usher (by Edgar Allan Poe)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wireless Theatre

I can highly recommend the Wireless Theatre Company. They've got some amazing plays and stories to download - this is top-notch writing, acting and production, with a modern style and stories to make you think. More please!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Discuss audio dramas

Are you wanting to discuss your favourite audio dramas with other listeners? I've been sent a link to Radioplay Contests which has a forum to discuss audio dramas. They also have a section for auditioning for minor roles and are starting a podcast. Darker Projects also has a forum.

If you're wanting more serious discussions about the future of audio drama there's a Modern Audio Drama forum and there are some interesting discussions at Final Rune.

If you know of other places leave a link in the comments.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Radio soap starts podcast

The BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers has just started being distributed as a podcast. This is the first BBC radio drama to be podcast, and hopefully won't be the last.

The Archers has been running since 1950 and features the lives of a small farming community in Britain. Unlike US soaps it is a bit more realistic and less sensationalist - it intersperses stories about normal village life (which can be a little banal!) with more exciting stories. For any newcomers to Ambridge, the website contains more information and background than you'd ever want to know!

Update: Another BBC radio soap Silver Street from the BBC Asian Network is also now being podcast. It's a "gritty daily radio soap set in a vibrant urban community".

Friday, October 12, 2007

Review: Firefly, Old Wounds

Aah, Firefly. Amazing show, tragic cancellation, grrr Fox!

Ok, now that's out of the way, let's discuss the audio drama Firefly: Old Wounds. This drama takes place between the TV series and the film Serenity, and involves all the main characters from the TV series plus two new main characters. It was produced by sonic cinema and has six episodes, each of which also has interviews with the actors and writers.

I've been intending to review this show for ages but wanted to re-listen to it first so have only now got around to it. Now I should admit that I'm a HUGE Firefly fan, but putting that aside I still think this is an amazing production. Having 11 main characters could be very difficult for the listener, but the writers and actors do a great job in capturing the different characters voices, idioms and speech patterns which helps a lot. (If you haven't seen the TV show though it might be difficult to follow the different characters - in which case you should go and watch it!) The sound production is also good (though some of Jayne's lines are rather muffled) and there's some interesting plot lines. Firefly is a show which should adapt well to audio since it is very character and dialogue driven, and the writers do a great job at capturing the atmosphere and dialogue of the original. My one quibble is that I'd have preferred one less additional character in order to have more time for the original characters. Oh, and I nearly forgot the wonderful original theme song! Definitely check this out if you haven't already done so.

And maybe one day there'll be another audio drama, or even TV series! I'm always hopeful...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Buffy returns!

Attention all Buffy fans - the first episode of the Buffy audio drama "Buffy between the lines" was podcast today. This story takes place after season 5 of the TV series and starts with Buffy's friends dealing with her death.

I've just listened to the first episode and, while there are few teething issues (there are some sound problems, and the timings are a bit off in places), it looks like it could be a good series. There's some good acting - particularly Spike, Anya and Xander - though I did find it very difficult to differentiate the female characters. Buffy fans should have a listen.

Monday, October 1, 2007

BBC radio

This week BBC Radio 7 are rebroadcasting the multi-award winning "Bleak House" adapted from Charles Dickens' novel. It's an amazing production - dark and atmospheric - and definitely the best of Dickens' stories in my opinion. Like all BBC productions it will be on their website for a week.

Also on R7 this week are the repeats of last years Big Finish "Doctor who" audios (hopefully preceding some new ones!), and Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency" is starting on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 3rd October. Oh, and I know it's not really drama, but there's a new series of the hilarious Old Harry's Game on R4! We're positively being spoilt!

NATF 2008 script contest

The National Audio Theatre has just posted their 2008 script contest. The deadline is Nov 15th - see the site for details. The National Audio Theatre also has various resources for writing and directing audio dramas including an annual workshop and online textbook "The Well-Tempered Audio Dramatist".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Review: Wormwood

Wormwood is a mystery/horror/supernatural serial (in the line of Twin Peaks) set in the small town of Wormwood. The premise is best summed up by their description:

"When a strange vision of murder sends him to a small town to investigate, Dr. Xander Crowe discovers that Wormwood is no ordinary town. Secrets lurk within every resident, from the innkeeper to the town librarian to the waitress at the diner. The seemingly idyllic surface of the town hides a mystery unlike anything he’s ever experienced. Navigating through this tiny, isolated town in the foothills of Northern California, Crowe finds himself drawn into a web of dark conspiracy, strange romance, and arcane mysticism. And now, as Crowe begins to unravel the mystery at the heart of Wormwood, he finds that his very presence there may not be a coincidence at all…"

I've had this series on my ipod for a while now but hadn't started listening until recently - partly because I was listening to other things, and partly because I prefer to listen to multiple episodes at once (otherwise I can lose the thread!) Anyway I listened to the first 9 episodes in under 24 hours - it really sucks you in.

The writing is good, with some great characters (especially Xander Crowe), and a good amount of comedy to lighten the rather dark sections (and some parts are very creepy!) I did have a little trouble following some sections, partly because there are a lot of characters (I recommend having a look at Wormwood characters), but also because there are many plot lines. The sound is also a little variable, but hopefully this will be sorted out in future. Anyway I'd definitely recommend this - they're putting out an episode each week and are planning on a 24 episode series, with three series planned. Very ambitious, but hopefully they can pull it off!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Any Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans out there? Well, BBC Radio 4 will be producing a brand new radio drama of another of Douglas Adams' books - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. It's got a great cast and is being produced by the same team who did the recent Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy dramas. The first episode starts at 6.30 BST (5.30 GMT) on Wednesday 3rd October 2007, but all episodes will be available to listen to on the website, for a week after airing. After that I'm sure it'll make it's way onto CD.

I'm sure it'll be amazing - enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Experimental audio from the UK

Britain has, for a number of years, been leading the way in professional audio drama, mainly through the support of the BBC which commissions many hours of radio drama and readings each week. However with podcasting opening up the field, things are developing in the UK (see this article in the Guardian newspaper). and the BBC are starting to think about more experimental forms of audio drama. Radio 4 is making a feature film to be shown in UK cinemas in 2008 before being broadcast in digital radio. The film involves audio and visuals, however it is the audio that is the dominant method of story telling.

One great blog I've come across is the audiodrama blog (nearly the same name as this blog!). It's run by a guy with BBC connections and dedicated to 'creative' audio (particularly short, experimental work). There's even a possibility of winning a BBC commission!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Review: Indiana Jones and the Well of Life

Indiana Jones and the Well of Life is a production of Pendant Audio and (surprisingly!) involves Indiana Jones' search for the well of life. The drama follows a similar structure to the films and lasts about 2 hours in total, which is a nice length for listening to the whole thing.

The production quality is excellent, with great acting and sound effects (and even a Sean Connery impersonator!). The writing is also very good - I have to say that I thought it was impossible to write good action sequences for audio before this, however, although there are some bits where I wasn't sure what was happening or who was involved, mostly it all worked well. The writer certainly knows how to write for audio! Good fun and definitely recommended!

Doctor Who audio dramas

Well, I was going to leave this post till later, but I've noticed that BBC R7 are starting rebroadcasting the McGann Big Finish audio dramas. They're starting with the episode 'Shada' (10-12 Sep), which was originally written by Douglas Adams for Tom Baker's doctor, but the filming was never finished. This is followed by 'Storm Warning' (13-14 Sep), the first episode with Charley. Big Finish do a lot of very good Dr Who (and other sci-fi) audio dramas, starring a lot of the original actors (including Dr's 5-8) which you can buy from their website, however they're not cheap. Last year BBC R7 broadcast a number of their audios, and are hopefully doing so again this year, so keep an eye on their website (the audios are available for 1 week after broadcast).

There are also many fan produced audios available for podcast. The Sonic Society had a number of Dr Who audios in their summer season - the Westlake Films Fineline production of Madhouse was particularly well done with a good story and sound effects. They have many other productions (Dr Who and other) on their website to download for free which I'll definitely be checking out, and even some video films which look interesting! Other sources for fan-produced Dr Who audios on the web are Darker Projects, Dream Realm Enterprises and Doctor Who Audio Dramas and BTR Productions

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Parsec Award Winners

Well, the winners have been announced from the 2007 Parsec Awards. In the audio drama categories the winners were Prometheus Radio Theatre - the Arbiter Chronicles (long form) and The Radio Adventures of Dr Floyd (short form). All the winners and entries can be seen at the Parsec Awards website.

Congratulations to all the great entries and especially to the winners!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Review: Arbiter Chronicles

The Arbiter Chronicles is the main output of Prometheus Radio Theatre. It's a sci-fi series similar to Star Trek: a navy spaceship patrols the galaxy encountering aliens and having adventures. The crew are a group of misfits from various planets and some are descendents of genetically altered humans (which adds some colour). There are currently 14 stories over approx. 50 podcasts, however they are not podcast in order (series 2 is before series 1 - the first episode starts on 11/24/06). The stories are pretty much self contained so this doesn't matter too much, though starting with the first story helps with working out who's who. This website gives more information on the story, episodes and characters.

The stories are generally interesting and well written with some good comic moments and plotting. The characters are a bit familiar from other sci-fi series, however this doesn't stop it from being enjoyable. I did have problems sometimes following who was who - this is partly due to cast members with similar voices, though more pointers from the writer would be useful and would help in identifying with individual characters. The acting is variable (some actors are better than others), as is the sound. Some of the stories were recorded in front of an audience and in some cases certain characters are difficult to hear. Overall I've enjoyed what I've heard, and will be listening to other stories in this series - check it out if you like sci-fi.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Other audio drama blogs etc...

Well, now that I've written a few posts, I should let you know about a couple of other existing blogs on audio drama.

Firstly there's the great audio addict blog which is well established and has lots of cool stuff (and lots of links). Although it supposedly deals with all things audio, the majority of the posts are about audio drama, with some great news and reviews.

The other main blog I visit is Radio drama revival. They also have an excellent podcast featuring dramas (series and individual stories) from various different companies (including some you'd otherwise have to pay money for!). The blog also contains news and reviews from the world of audio drama and links to new dramas.

There are also lots of other blogs out there on specific podcasts and mainly contain information on their own audio drama - interesting but not as useful as the blogs above. Also, there may well be some out there that I haven't heard of - if so let me know!

Review: The Failed Cities Monologues

Well, I'm very glad I decided to review the Parsec Awards finalists, since I probably wouldn't have listened to this podcast otherwise. This isn't the sort of story I'd normally go for, and I generally prefer drama to fiction readings, because they're more immediate and the story goes quicker! (yeh, I know - my attention span seems to be getting shorter as I get older!) Having said that, I have to say that I really enjoyed this production and will definitely be checking out other writing by this author.

The Failed Cities Monologues are "set in the dystopian future of an American metropolis divided, and told through the shifting perspectives of the characters who reside there. Eight lives. Two cities. One story." Each episode is told from the perspective of one of the characters and narrated by a different actor, with the parts fitting together to form a thriller about conspiracies and gang violence set in the future.

It is very well written with some interesting characters, although the format means that it takes a while to introduce all the characters and get into the story. The actors reading the parts are all very good (apart from Sally's appalling 'Cockney' accent) - the actors who play Sterne, Fera and Klimenko are particularly good. The use of music is good - each character has different background music which adds atmosphere, but isn't too intrusive (a pet hate of mine in audio dramas!) - as is the general sound quality.

The fomat is an ideal one for audio fiction - different characters acted by different people, but without the technical and practical difficulties of working with large crew. My one issue with this as a Parsec Award finalist is that I'm not sure it shouldn't be in the fiction story section rather than the audio drama section: my main argument is that it could easily be distributed as a book without any changes (although the actors and sound effects definitely add a lot). I do think it's a great production though and I highly recommend it!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Audio Drama Disorder: the disorder where you have to listen to that episode despite being at work, because you can still be focussed and productive while listening to your ipod - right?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Review: Second Shift

In the podcast audio drama Second Shift, three college students from Boston find themselves magically transported to another world. Season 1 deals with them learning about this new world, and the friends they meet while searching for a way home. The story is now onto season 2 (which is currently being podcast) but I won't tell you anything about it so as not to spoil season 1!

Although the premise of an alternate world with magic is certainly not original, the writers try to avoid cliches and concentrate on characterisation and realism. There are no 'dark lords' to defeat or dragons to slay, instead this is more about a group of young people trying to find their places in the world(s).

The acting is generally pretty good and the accents work well (it's impressive they manage to keep them consistent!). The sound quality is also decent, though there are a few rough edges in the first few episodes.

I've been listening to this show for a while and it's definitely one of my favourites - highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Parsec Awards

The Parsec Awards are awards for speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror) podcasts which are due to be awarded at the beginning of September during the Dragon*Con convention. There are two categories for audio drama (long and short), three categories for fiction and various other categories. The finalists in the audio drama sections are:

Best Audio Drama (Long Form)
Second Shift
The Failed Cities Monologues
Prometheus Radio Theatre - The Arbiter Chronicles

Best Audio Drama (Short Form)
The Radio Adventures Of Dr. Floyd
Pendant Productions - Indiana Jones and the Well of Life
Amazing Pulp Adventures Starring Mister Adventure
Firefly: Old Wounds
Pendant Productions - Batman: The Ace of Detectives

I was hoping to review all of these before the results, however I don't really have enough time now! I do hope to review all them at some point though.


Welcome to my first post! In this blog I'm planning to post news, discussion and reviews of audio dramas.

What is audio drama?
Audio drama (and for those search engines out there!) audio theatre, audio cinema, radio drama (when on the radio), pod drama/theatre/plays (when podcast) are dramatisations of stories using sound only. In the 'golden age' of radio, before TV, radio dramas were very popular, however nowadays there is much less drama on radio, particularly in the US. Some of these original 'old time radio' programs are available for free over the internet. Modern radio dramas are still being produced; the BBC in the UK has a number of new and repeated dramas available on Radio 4 and Radio 7 over the web. There are also companies who make audio dramas for sale on CD/tape.

Podcast drama
With the recent popularity in podcasting many groups are now producing their own dramas for free distribution over the web. Although many of these productions are not completely 'professional' quality, there are a lot of great stories and ideas out there, and both the quality and quantity of drama podcasts seem to be increasing each year. It's a great way for writers to get their stories heard, amateurs to have a go at acting and professionals to get experience - it always amazes me how much energy, time and soul everyone puts into these productions. So, a big thank you to everyone involved from this listener!