Thursday, January 21, 2016

Podcast Review: The Message

I've been into podcasts for a while now, especially after the phenomenon of Serial. When I first heard that, I was immediately addicted and very happy to find all of the episodes available except one. After the first season ended, I searched around and found Invisibilia, Reply All, Fresh Air, This American Life, and several others. I had not become so hooked in a while. I was happy to hear that Serial had returned but waiting each week and then subsequently two weeks for each episode left me with a need for a narrative.

I actually heard of The Message from an advertisement on the Marc Maron podcast from around Xmas time and decided I would check it out. I found it to a be a short punch of a fun alien narrative that came me wondering and desiring to hear the next episode. I was glad that I caught it at the end so I didn't have to wait each week. Binge listening, or watching, just seems to be a great way to consume these narratives.

The Message sets itself up as a true story with a meta world of CypherCast run by the character Nicky Tomalin. Nicky is a big fan of deciphering codes and some how finagles the opportunity to work with a group of cryptologists to uncover the meaning of a secret alien broadcast that is nearly eighty years old. The message was hidden by the NSA, and SETI confirmed that it was from another planet. I managed to make it through the first two episodes still kind of believing that this might be true, but quickly the narrative becomes a little too perfect for an off-the-cuff podcast.

The voice actors did a decent job, some dialogue felt stilted and the emotion felt false as the consequences increased and the stakes were raised. A subtler approach might have helped continue the illusion but it was still fun. 

Some of the science I had never heard before and I always like hearing about the search for extraterrestrial life. They made have done disservice since any factual announcements may come of as another hoax or fictional account but War of the Worlds did that a long time ago. With the upcoming premiere of a new short season of X-Files, the desire to believe is infecting popular culture once again. I always enjoy a new surge in science fiction and The Message helps push that along. It doesn't take much time as the eight episodes are only 15 minutes long but it has a compelling story and great ending twist. 

This is a fun new medium for fictional, and nonfictional, entertainment and I hope the success of this and other podcasts encourages more storytelling in this form. Check it out on ITunes or wherever else podcasts are available, but be careful!

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