The Serial podcast is back. I’ve only listened to a couple episodes. It’s ok. Seems very This American Lifelike. At one point while I was listening I was surprised when there was a break and I didn’t hear Ira Glass. Serial’s first season was pretty good. The second was a let down. Moving to a one story an episode format seems like an interesting choice for a show called Serial. Maybe they will unveil an overarching story that ties all these people together with all their incidents directly or indirectly causing everyone else’s. A story of connectivity. That would be amazing but somewhat unlikely. What I really like about Serial is how it influences how I listen to other podcasts. When I listen to shows like Serial or This American Life my brain clings on to the truth of it. What I really cling to with Serial and This American Life is how well produced and clean it is. Podcasts are great because anyone can do them. There are so many podcasts that have wonderful content but the production is so poor they are unlistenable. Some can rise above that but most cannot. What I love is that many more are rising in quality.
One podcast that has really captured my attention is Girl in Space. Girl in Space is a wonderfully written Sci-fi story about a… girl… in.. So the story is told by the girl herself. She is living on a science spaceship alone. The story is told to (through?) her voice recorder that acts as her journal. She is all alone with the exception of a robot helper. The robot, Charlotte, is modeled after Star Wars type droids. She has a sassy attitude and although a helper robot, she isn’t always helpful. She also seems to have more information locked inside her than she lets on.
The first episode is the girl’s rambling monologues that jump from research to poetry to the deliciousness of cheese. As someone who often carries on long conversations with himself there is an authenticity, even if the dialog is a bit too sharp and witty, to her ramblings. Honestly, I was starting to lose interest when she is alerted to something approaching. In the first season of Serial, Sarah Koenig records her thoughts while sitting in a closet. I could be confusing this with a story she told on This American Life but it still holds true. The girl’s monologue reminded me of that moment from Serial and the fiction of the situation slipped away from me. So when she discovers what causes the alert I was instantly hooked. I downloaded every available episode. What followed was a world that slowly unfolds with different characters that aren’t the most original but draw upon characters that we are familiar with and builds on them. The relationships are rich, complex and develop in a way that are sometimes surprising. One thing that I like about the girl, later given the name X, is that she has an honesty and curiosity that often drives the plot forward in interesting ways. She asks awkward questions that we might be thinking but would never have the courage or gall to ask.
The voice acting and sound effects are phenomenal. The writing is clever. There were a couple moments where a character was doing or about to do something and I was thinking, “Ugh, that would never work,” only to have it not work. It is moments like that, that make other more fantastical story elements seem more genuine. Not only is the dialog and character development great but so is the action. There is an action sequence that is one of the best I’ve ever heard. Action can be hard to convey in just audio. It is a tightrope of having just the right amount of description, dialog and sound effects to make it work and Girl in Space does it all admirably.
The only downside to the podcast is its release schedule. The creator, Sarah Rhea Werner releases episodes when she can. It seems like once every couple months but luckily I stumbled upon it after Episode 10 had been released. I would love to hear more, more frequently, but if maintaining this level of storytelling and presentation takes time, I’m willing to wait.