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

Gregg Taylor – the underappreciated genius of Decoder Ring Theatre

April 27, 2011 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

Gregg Taylor, the creator and writer of Decoder Ring Theatre, is a creative genius, the quality and scope for which we have seen very few before. He is writer of genuine superbness, on the level of J. Michael Straczynski and Rod Serling. But unlike Straczynski, who wrote 92 of the 110 episodes of Babylon 5, and unlike Serling, who wrote 92 of 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone, Taylor has written 42 out of 42 episodes of Black Jack Justice and 70 out of 70 episodes of Red Panda Adventures. I don’t think there is any kind of precedent for this in the history of scripted drama, not on work of this quality or superfluity.

Battlestar Galactica, the recent TV series, ran 73 episodes. Writing credits for that show go to more that a dozen different writers. People think that Joss Whedon wrote Firefly. He did, but he didn’t do it alone. He wrote or co-wrote maybe only half the episodes of that short series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nobody is doing anything like what Gregg Taylor is doing with scripted series, and I’m not sure anybody ever has, not on radio or TV. Taylor has, unbelievably, released a full cast production episode of both of his full cast series every two weeks, fall through to the spring, every year since 2005. That’s a stunning, stunning achievement.

I could go on and on and on. But if you just go and listen to the shows yourself I’m sure you’ll get as caught-up in them as so many fans of these independently produced shows have. Maybe start with the fairly standalone-ish episode #70 of the Red Panda Adventures |MP3|. Here’s the episode description:

There are some situations that you just can’t prepare for. You can be the cleverest mystery man on the block, there will still be days that you just never saw coming. Those are the moments that cry out for a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty… well, you know…

The talented Thomas Perkins, who does the covers for the Red Panda novels*, created this awesome “lobby card” art for the episode:

Red Panda Adventures - The Wild West

[via Bish’s Beat]

Posted by Jesse Willis

*Yes, Gregg Taylor is writing novels set in the Red Panda world too. And no, they are not mere reworkings of the scripts – theses are true canon series novels that fit into the chronology like so many Star Trek novels written for hire never did, and like the Babylon 5 novels claimed they would.

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

Decoder Ring Theatre: Summer Showcase 2009

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, News 

SFFaudio News

Decoder Ring Theatre - Summer Showcase #3

Gregg Taylor, of Decoder Ring Theatre, writes in to tell us about his upcoming Summer Showcase #3 (this is the third year):

“We start our next edition of the DRT Summer Showcase in a week and a half with a two part thriller by New Pulp Media Baron Bill Cunningham called The Knightmare and then continue with a pair of Westerns (one old-timey, one much less so, both by Phil Bledsoe). Through the course of the summer we’ll also have a pair of science fiction stories, Thinking In Ternary by Tim Prasil who wrote “The Crasher and Magic Of The Movies for us a couple of seasons back, and Shienki by Matthew Stephens. We’ll also be running a couple of Decoder Ring Spotlight episodes, where I’ll be turning the bright lights of our lovely audience on a pair of audio production groups of which I am very fond, Icebox Radio and Texas Radio Theatre… and that’ll bring us through to the fall.”

Thanks Gregg! It sounds like we’re in for a terrific summer!

And, since the regular season has wrapped up, that means the Red Panda Adventures and Black Jack Justice are complete – time for me to get listening.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Red Panda novel audiobook preview

August 23, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio, Podcasts 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Tales Of The Red Panda

Gregg Taylor of Decoder Ring Theater has recorded the first three chapters of his first Red Panda novel Tales of The Red Panda: The Crime Cabal! This isn’t audio drama, this is AUDIOBOOK! The print release is already available for pre-order, but I’m going to be lobbying hard for a full unabridged release. If that whole acting gig on RP doesn’t work out Taylor can begin an audiobook narrating career based on this sample alone. Check out the three chapter sneak peak audio version |MP3|.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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