Radio Project X: Beyond Lies The Wub [AUDIO DRAMA]

November 15, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Recorded live in Toronto, this is a very faithful adaptation of Beyond Lies The Wub. It uses most of the dialogue and vocabulary from Philip K. Dick’s first published short story.

Radio Project XBeyond Lies The Wub
Adapted from the story by Philip K. Dick; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Radio Project X
Podcast: July 10, 2012
The slovenly wub might well have said: Many men talk like philosophers and live like fools. First published in Planet Stories, July 1952.

[via The Sonic Society]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7

July 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season SevenThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /

The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.

The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.

What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!

Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.

In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.

How wonderful to find that!

And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).

As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.

The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.

One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.

That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.

Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.

Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.

This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 6

July 1, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Happy Canada Day everybody!

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FiveThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 6
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2010 – May 2011
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Vancouver / Amnesia / Telepathy / Airships / Time Travel / Magic / Aliens /

“Let the festival of unsolicited advice begin” -Kit Baxter (All The King’s Men)

Season six of The Red Panda Adventures begins with World War II fully underway. The first six episodes are set prior to December 7th, 1941 and the twelfth episode ends in the high summer of 1942. There’s not a bad episode in the bunch. In fact, this season features some of the finest episodes of the entire series. My personal favourites are: the buoyant adventure of “Girls’ Night Out“, the standalone goodness of “The Wild West“, and the deeply disturbing arc episode “There Will Be Rain Tonight.” September and season seven can’t come soon enough!

Episode 1 – “The Nose For News
A new adversary appears, a shadowy leader of a fifth column inside of Canada! He’s sowing the seeds of discontent and planning acts of sabotage. Can anyone stop Archangel?

Episode 2 – “The Home Team
Having joined the army, Lt. August Fenwick (aka The Red Panda) receives a visit from his new boss Colonel Archibald Fitzroy. But can a superhero really do more good following orders and digging trenches than by defending a city from supervillians?

Episode 3 – “The King Of Crime
There’s a new ruler of the underworld, a royal sort, who demands absolute fealty from his criminally inclined vassals. But is this supercrook merely what he appears to be?

Episode 4 – “Rocket Science
A runaway train packed with high explosive is hurtling toward Montreal, this sounds like a job for the Red Panda. Unfortunately he’s all tied up and Doc Rocket isn’t helping.

Episode 5 – “Girls’ Night Out
Kit Baxter, aka The Flying Squirrel, on a field trip to Vancouver runs afoul of a ring of Japanese spies (who aren’t). But Vancouver’s got its own vigilante superhero, The Grey Fox, who is already on the case. And she’s no fan of aerially inclined rodents meddling on her turf.

Episode 6 – “Barbarian At The Gates
There’s a creature coming and it can’t be stopped. It’s steamrolling its way across the forests of Northern Ontario and heading straight for Toronto! No weapon can stop it, no force can slow it. This sounds like a job for … oh, just guess.

Episode 7 – “Sword Of The Sun King
A 3,000 year old khopesh is the target of an occult Nazi snatch team. But what makes a magic sword a useful tool in this era of Stukas and Panzers?

Episode 8 – “Small Wonders
Molecule Max, a variably sized superhero, joins the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel in an adventure that may cost them all more than they’ll want to give.

Episode 9 – “Stop The Presses
It’s the story of a lifetime for any reporter, “The Death Of The Red Panda” and Kit is being forced to write it! An army of Nazi thugs have seized her newspaper, taken its staff hostage, and only an old adversary a sinister simian can help!

Episode 10 – “The Wild West
Somebody has been messing with history, and its up to the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel to clean up. They’ll need to saddle up, partner up, and load their six-shooters up (in case they need to throw down).

Episode 11 – “All The King’s Men
With the Red Panda’s network of agents away in the army it’s up to young Harry Kelly to infiltrate Archangel’s conspiracy. Meanwhile, Kit’s got secret and the only person she’s more afraid to tell than her husband is her mother!

Episode 12 – “There Will Be Rain Tonight
A second front in Europe is still years away but there are those who think a sinister network of black towers is key to Hitler’s defense of the French coast. Red Panda and Doc Rocket are on a secret mission to take them out. Back in Canada the Flying Squirrel is in full retreat as the Nazis have assassinated every Home Team agent in Canada!

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: SFSignal Mind Meld on the best of 2010

December 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Commentary, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Commentary

SFSignal.comJP Frantz, of the wonderful SFSignal blog, recently asked me to participate in their annual year end “Mind Meld.”

Here’s the topic:

Q: What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2010?

Here was my answer:

Audiobooks in 2010:
The year isn’t over yet, and I’m really enjoying the new Brilliance Audio (Audible Frontiers) reading of The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Of the audiobooks I’ve reviewed this year I’m pleased to report the first audiobook released in the Gabriel Hunt series, Hunt: Through The Cradle Of Fear |READ OUR REVIEW|, and it’s bonus short story “Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye” have really scratched the Fantasy Adventure itch that I occasionally get. Another pair of novels released by Blackstone Audio, written by the recently deceased John Steakley, were designated SFFaudio Essentials. As read by the powerful Tom Weiner Armor |READ OUR REVIEW| and Vampire$ |READ OUR REVIEW| make for a very interesting pair of novels – they have multiple character names in common and yet one is Science Fiction (in the tradition of Starship Troopers) and the other is Fantasy (with vampires). Similarly, Full Cast Audio’s unabridged reading of Robert A. Heinlein’s Red Planet is, in my mind, now the definitive telling of the novel. It features a full cast of actors performing the entirety of the novel’s text (minus attributions). This brings the story to life in a way no TV or movie adaptation ever could – it doesn’t change a single golden word. Finally, George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, available through Audible.com and Brilliance Audio, was perhaps the highlight of my audiobook year. Earth Abides had me reconsidering much of my outlook on life – that’s a powerful piece of SF.

Audio Drama in 2010:
In the audio drama department BrokenSea‘s expansive adaptation of Escape From New York |READ OUR REVIEW| blew my socks off! It’s a hardcore retelling of the movie of the same name with enhancements and inspiration from the novelization of the script. And, as always, the ever dependable Red Panda Adventures |READ OUR REVIEW|, now in it’s fifth season, is ramping up to a wonderful World War II arc – turning Toronto superheroes against the baddest baddies of them all – those evil Nazi scum. 2010 was a very good year for audiobooks and audio drama.

In the 2010 comics department:
I’ve been swept up in Eric Shanower’s epic quest to retell the entirety of the Trojan War in his Age Of Bronze series of graphic novels. I am also currently reading The Walking Dead and enjoying it very much. But I am not yet ready to admit that either The Walking Dead comics or on the TV show are even half as great as the zombie freaky awesomeness in the Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows series Crossed (which I read in the spring). Crossed is one scary good comic. I also thoroughly enjoyed Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou. It’s kind of about Bertrand Russell and kind of about the only part of philosophy that I am really bad at, natural deductive logic.

Movies and TV in 2010:
The only movies that I’ve seen, worthy of the designation Science Fiction, in 2010, were Moon and Inception. If you made me pick which was superior I’d take Moon over Inception and not just because I root for the underdog. In TV, Spartacus: Blood and Sand turned out to be well worth wading through – it’s 300-style green screen visual effects nearly drowned me, but I stuck with it, and the story and acting paid-off supremely.

You can read it |HERE| along with a bunch of other folk’s own lists.

And, I participated in the 2009 Mind Meld on the same topic too!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #085

December 6, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #085 – Jesse talks with Gregg Taylor (aka Martin Bracknell aka Red Panda) of Decoder Ring Theatre about The Red Panda Adventures and Black Jack Justice.

Talked about on today’s show:
Decoder Ring Theatre, Gregg is not as famous as Cher yet, something the same and something different, Girl’s Night Out, telling the mystery man’s story, World War II, Vancouver, secret identities, The Grey Fox (Vancouver’s own superhero), were there Japanese spy rings in Vancouver circa 1940?, Margo Lane, espionage, Nazi masterminds fomenting fifth-columns, Nazi Eyes On Canada |READ OUR REVIEW|, buying war bonds, Toronto, She’s secretly Japanese and secretly a superhero, Japanese-Canadian internment, Attack on Pearl Harbour, details from upcoming Red Panda Adventures episodes, the Dieppe raid, single-handedly defeating Hitler seems un-Canadian, augmented-dinosaurs, Professor von Schlitz, Captain America, Indiana Jones, how Gregg Taylor handicapped himself, “the man with an identity so secret even the audience doesn’t know it”, weaving a tangled web of lies, Superman was 4F, The Spirit, would static-shoes actually work?, Garth Ennis’ The Boys, what superhero you like tells us about you, the Martian Manhunter‘s kryptonite, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman‘s superpower is a strength of will, Kit Baxter’s superpower is moxie, Trixie Dixon, creating dynamic female leads, CBC TV, the gender bending episode of Black Jack Justice (Justice In Love And War), Steven J. Cannell‘s Scene Of The Crime, gender switching, Black Jack Justice Hush Money, Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne, the formation of Black Jack Justice in opposition to The Red Panda Adventures, writing detective fiction vs. writing superhero fiction, Richard Diamond: Private Detective, the self-narrating hard-boiled post-war detective, The Adventures Of Sam Spade, paying your actors in corn, Philip Marlowe, writing drama in the half-hour format, Red Panda and retroactive continuity, an alternative universe that isn’t much different just a lot sillier, Baboon McSmoothie, the prime minister’s talking dog, the Moonlighting moment, flashback episodes, the Red Panda novels, Thomas Perkins, beautiful cover art helps, that repeated line: “It’s an interesting point.”, Aaron Sorkin, J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, Gregg Taylor’s Decoder Ring Theatre, The Maltese Falcon, Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow, Orson Welles, a good TV show is like a play, The Green Hornet, “the MP3 revolution saved old time radio”, Gregg’s most frequently ignored piece of advice (write and record several shows before you release), might Decoder Ring one day adapt Cyrano or a Shakespeare play?, theater people are wonderful, Gregg would love to do cartoons (call him!), the Black Jack Justice comic, Gregg loves comics too!, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the continuity of stories makes them more real, the nearly static Black Jack universe, Robert B. Parker, Spenser, the Jesse Stone tragedy, if Gregg gets crushed by a cement mixer…, The Old Testament God vs. New Testament God.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 5

July 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FiveThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 5
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: 2009 – 2010
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / Adventure / Toronto / Magic / Dinosaurs / Telepathy / Amnesia / Airships / Time Travel / Caribbean / New York / Los Angeles / Espionage /

Of the many terrific episodes in this season’s dozen, I think Just Like Clockwork is my overall favourite. It’s an exemplary episode and it’s probably as close as Gregg Taylor will come to adapting a Philip K. Dick story. Events in any given Red Panda show can stand completely alone, but they’ll still often add to a developing story. Like in all the previous seasons villains rise, and fall, rise and then fall again. But sometimes the villains aren’t really villains, and sometimes the heroes are more frightening than we’d like them to be. By the final episode of Season 5 we know were heading towards some serious World War II stories. Here’s my description of each episode:

Episode 1 – “Nightshade” |MP3|
The newly married super-couple, August Fenwick (aka The Red Panda) and Kit Baxter Fenwick (aka The Flying Squirrel), are returning from their honeymoon in Europe. It was a working holiday, but they’re looking forward to a relaxing flight home aboard a Zeppelin. But there is a mysterious passenger aboard, and she has other plans.

Episode 2 – “Flight Of The Bumblebee” |MP3|
Doctor Darius, an earnest rooming-house tenant with a “felonious past,” is having trouble paying his rent. If he can only perfect his “royal jelly” formula … well, let’s just say that not all super-villains, it seems, are motivated by megalomania.

Episode 3 – “The Puzzle Master” |MP3|
A fiendish deathtrap, in the form of a labyrinth, faces any victim of The Puzzle Master. Can RP and FS, with the help of “Doc Rocket”, navigate the maze?

Episode 4 – “Just Like Clockwork” |MP3|
An amnesiac awakes in a dark alley. He meets a young woman, she wants to help, and he’s definitely in need of it. Meanwhile, the Red Panda is hunting for someone or something that poses a threat to someone or something somewhere in Toronto. It’s a mystery! It’s a love story! And it has all got to end either with a bang, a twist, or in tears!

Episode 5 – “Murder Wears A Mask” |MP3|
An old debt must be repaid with a trip to New York City. But unlike in Toronto, NYC has licensed superheroes, the mayor has given them badges and charged them with tracking down one of their own. But two crusaders from the Great White North don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Episode 6 – “Terror Walks The Night” |MP3|
A cold spell, and a series of suicides isn’t likely to be a dastardly plot. Not during the 1930s depression. But when those suicides coincide with a series of disappearances then a certain something must be up. Right? Add in a snake cult and this looks like a job for a certain married couple, in thermal tights!

Episode 7 – “The Secret City” |MP3|
A dozen unsolved “society” kidnappings are followed up by an “impossible” $80,000 jewel robbery – the police are baffled but Red Panda (and wife) are on the case. Perhaps one jocular simian and his Oliver Twist-like crew are responsible?

Episode 8 – “A Dish Best Served Cold” |MP3|
A stakeout, some “ritualistic nonsense” and a gravelly voiced villain leading a covert cabal of criminal creeps may spell the extermination of both Panda and Squirrel. Can anyone stop The Red Panda Revenge Squad?

Episode 9 – “Song Of The Siren” |MP3|
A Caribbean vacation for Mr. and Mrs. August Fenwick is cut short when a Havana based pleasure boat, reported in distress and then missing, proves irresistible to this power couple. Could a mysterious high pitched cry, and an inconspicuous island deep in the epicenter be signs of a secret testing base? But testing for what? And for whom?

Episode 10 – “Eyes Of The Idol” |MP3|
Late one night in Los Angeles two security guards pass the time by talking. One has a strange tale to tell. It seems there was once an uninhabited island off the coast of India. On that island was an ancient ruined city. In that city was a certain eldritch idol. And that idol had two jewels for eyes, now called the “Eyes of Doom.” Now one of the guards has one. Two means doom.

Episode 11 – “Sins Of The Father” |MP3|
Is it only coincidence when Fenwick Industries is plagued by accidents? After all, accidents happen. But sometimes accidents aren’t actually accidents at all! And a sniper assassin is no kind of accident. Its all very hush hush, but what exactly does the suspicious Colonel Fitzroy know about it?

Episode 12 – “The Great Fall” |MP3|
Set in late August 1939, with a recently signed non-aggression pact between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. One hero, and her husband, will fight one final holding action in a losing war, the Occult War. Their opponent is Professor Friedrich Von Schlitz and a division of SS scum.

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

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