Gregg Taylor – the underappreciated genius of Decoder Ring Theatre

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 #062

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #062 – Scott and Jesse talk to author Kelli Stanley about her novel City Of Dragons!

Talked about on today’s show:
Paul Bishop (of the Bish’s Beat blog), TinEye.com reverse image search, the San Francisco Public Library, eBay, Evernote, scrivner, Zotero (a firefox add-on), ABEbooks.com, comics, Treasure Island (California), Chesterfield cigarettes, hardboiled vs. noir, Roman noir, Raymond Chandler, Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley, Mystery Readers Journal, “the protagonist is fucked on page one”, James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Oedipus is noir, Blood On The Moon, noir western, Robert Wise, Deadly Pleasures Magazine, reviewed to death, cozy fiction, why the A-Team is a terrible scourge (it’s anti-noir), torture-porn, Paul Verhoeven, Reefer Madness, apologists for Robert E. Howard, Ashoka (emperor of India), Plutarch, 1940s, Hays office, Baby Face (1933), the history of fuck, HBO’s The Pacific, the wikipedia entry for “Fuck”, 17th century, enlightenment/restoration era sex toys, “the only words that are truly vile are the ones that are used to hurt and ridicule others”, femme fatale, editing, Minotaur books, the City Of Dragons paperbook, point of view as a camera, William Gibson, Tantor Media, the audiobook version of City Of Dragons, historical female private detectives, the perverse incentive of the California divorce laws, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch, 1939 World’s Fair, High-Octane Stories From The Hottest Thriller Authors edited by Lee Child, WWII, a fan of the Spanish Civil War, Irish fascists vs. the IRA, Father Charles Coughlin and the Christian Front movement, communism, cynicism, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Sacramento Street in San Francisco, Sino-Japanese War, the Rape of Nanking, Quiet, Please, marketing a book is up to the author, Decoder Ring Theatre’s Black Jack Justice, KelliStanley.com.

38 appropriate uses of the English language’s most iconic curse:

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #055

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #055 – Jesse and Scott talk to Jack J. Ward of The Sonic Society podcast about audio drama.

Talked about on today’s show:
Electric Vicuna, The Library Of Jack And Shannon, Sonic Gold, Shannon Hilchie, audio drama is the hardest kind of podcasting, Phil Morris: Celestial Lawyer, Robert E. Howard, Conan, The Muse Of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft, The Deadline, The Twilight Zone, Darker Musings, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wavefront, Rod Serling, recording methods, BrokenSea Audio Productions, Decoder Ring Theatre, community theater, modern audio drama, amateur audio drama, Sonic Gold, paid subscription podcasts, Colonial Radio Theatre, Radio Repertory Company Of America, Jim French Productions, AM/FM Theatre, Powder River, Captain Blood, King Solomon’s Mines, adapting public domain stories to audio drama, CPI vs. BrokenSea, adapting modern novels, Voyage by Stephen Baxter, BBC, licensing Zorro, Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason, imagine Ringworld as an audio drama, LibriVox, The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley, Rick Jackson, The Time Traveler Show podcast, Science Fiction Oral History Association, Spaceship Radio podcast, Dimension-X, X-Minus One, OTR Swag Cast, The Radio Memories Network, Sci Fi Friday podcast, Wander Radio interview with Jack Ward, J.C. Hutchins, Commentary: Amateur Audio Drama & What’s Wrong With It, generational differences, Sage RSS for Firefox, Sonic Society in the Summer, Gate, The First Nighter Program, Bill Hollweg, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby, Audio Drama Review blog, James Snowe, Jerry Stearns, Sound Affects, KFAI, the Audio Drama Talk forums, carpeting the audio drama world, Jerry Robbins, Groucho Marx, audio drama or audio theater, subtract the narrator, Dirk Maggs, Superman: Doomsday and Beyond |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Adventures Of Superman |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Hunter, Kung-Fu Action Theatre, Star Trek and Star Wars audiobooks, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski, serial storytelling, Full Cast Audio, Graphic Audio, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson |READ OUR REVIEW|, Searcher & Stallion, audiobooks with sound effects SUCK, podiobooks.com, Tom Swiftians, J.K. Rowling, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark, the Elmore Leonard school of writing, audio drama vs. audiobooks, Matt Watts, The Gemini Apes by Drik Maggs, Batman: Nightfall, Christopher Lee, An American Werewolf In London |READ OUR REVIEW|, BBC radio drama, The Lord Of The Rings, The Bradbury 13, A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury, Brigham Young University, A Gun For Dinosaur, CBC radio drama, Nightfall, Vanishing Point, Booster McCrane, P.M. by Paul Ledoux, Alan Maitland (aka Fireside Al, Frontporch Al, Graveside Al), The Shepherd by Frederick Forsyth, Paul Gross, H2O, Due South, strong>Psi Factor Chronicles Of The Paranormal, Matt Frewer, Intelligence, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Men With Brooms, The Trojan Horse, Johnny Chase Secret Agent Of Space, Jeffrey Adams, The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al, Cato the Elder.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #039

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #039 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Fred Greenhalgh of Final Rune Productions (and the Radio Drama Revival podcast) to talk about the twin arts of radio drama and audio drama.

Talked about on today’s show:
Modern radio drama, The Sonic Society podcast, Roger Gregg, William Dufris, H.P. Lovecraft, Halloween, horror, The Grist Mill, Dark Passenger by Fred Greenhalgh, Willamette Radio Workshop, zombies, The Drabblecast podcast, Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, WMPG, Maine, equipment for recording, Zoom Q3, Zoom H2, software for editing audio, Audacity, Adobe Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro), Pro Tools, The Most Dangerous Game, Three Skeleton Key, Infidel by Roger Gregg, “field recording” audio drama, Marantz PMD660, the growth of amateur audio drama, AudioDramaTalk.com, Mad Horse Theatre Company, Waiting For A Window by Fred Greenhalgh, 2008 Ogle Awards, Wireless Theatre Company, The Grimm Of Stoddesden Hall, folklore, mythology, Medusa On The Beach, New Orleans, fantasy, Day Of The Dead by Fred Greenhalgh, the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Robert Jordan, Final Fantasy, German audio drama (“Hörspiel”), the freakonomics of audio drama (dubbing drives interest in audio drama), the Torchwood radio dramas, Lux Radio Theatre, Academy Award Theatre, will radio drama revive?, what’s wrong with terrestrial radio?, what’s wrong with satellite radio?, Sirius Channel #163, radio drama in decline?, CBC mothballing radio drama, Colonial Radio Theatre, turning radio drama into cartoons, The Anne Manx series, Anne Manx animated (on YouTube), Radio Repertory Company of America, Decoder Ring Theatre’s The Red Panda Adventures, machinima, Creepshow, Wormwood, is the month of October for radio drama?, or is it just Halloween?, The War Of The Worlds, Simon Jones, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (radio drama), The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Adventures Of Sexton Blake, Dirk Maggs, stream of consciousness, post modern audio drama, Yuri Rasovsky‘s The Cabinet Of Dr. Calagari, Tom Lopez (aka Meatball Fulton), The Cabinet Of Dr. Fritz, Cellphone Theatre, ZBS.org, Audible.com’s new stereo format, Bradbury 13, 90 Second Cellphone Chillin’ Theatre, Blackstone Audio’s The Maltese Falcon, narration in audio drama, Rogue Male, storytelling and medium, First Blood, RadioArchive.cc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 4

SFFaudio Review

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FourThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 4
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: September 2008 – May 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Adventure / Marriage / Toronto / Magic / South America / Dinosaurs /

“I’m not implying mystic threats, foreign powers and shadowy organizations aren’t important. But sometimes they do disconnect us from the street.”

After four years and 48 episodes Gregg Taylor’s writing is still amazingly fresh. It’s super-quotable too. As I listen I find myself writing down, here and there on scraps of paper, lines of dialogue. That’s terrific writing folks. Is it kind of sick that I even enjoy the commercials?

“I like all of those words.”

Speaking of words, in the opening lines of the new season Kit Baxter is no longer just the red panda’s “driver” now she’s his “fiance”! Another change is the introduction of a new sponsor (fast and easy weight loss dot com). Still around are the charming birthday wishes and other greetings from family members around the world who spend their dollars on keeping the Red Panda show going.

I’ve got a detailed episode by episode review below (minus any serious spoilers)…

Episode 1 – “The Third Wave
The season 3 finale of The Red Panda Adventures set up a Nazi scientist called Professor Von Schlitz to be the major villian for Season 4. So it wasn’t too shocking to have him take the first scene of episode one The Third Wave, of Season 4. As the show begins Schlitz and his new pilot are headed toward a secret lair in the jungles of South America. All is proceeding normally. Then SLAM! A twist I didn’t see coming. This opening shocked me! First there was the introduction of a new superhero, a man named “Captain Tom Sunlight” (played by Christopher Mott) – apparently an ally of The Red Panda’s. Second, I realized just how much Von Schlitz is a pastiche of two Raiders Of The Lost Ark villains (Belloq and Toht). An auspicious beginning. With this episode The Red Panda has now done something previously “unthinkable.” The rest of the episode deals with a frightening 1930s phenomena – with the title of the band of villains taken from a 1967 high school history class experiment.

Episode 2 – “The Mask of Death
This episode feels like the Red Panda Version of The Taking Of Pelham 123 but with zombies! A train station full of passengers is held for ransom. The arch-villain involved is another tenured teacher, Professor Zombie! playing junior panda member Harry is rather obviously female (and not male) – this is a problem I can’t see around. Finding child actors of talent are difficult, adults playing children ditto.

Episode 3 – “Murder In The Castle
The scenic Casa Loma is the setting for this season’s locked room mystery. A locked castle mystery actually as an unexpected murder that interrupts Kit’s romantic evening with her groom-to-be. This episode feels like a Nero Wolfe plot (minus the many confusing characters). Does old RP have a rooftop orchid garden?

Episode 4 – “The Gathering Storm
A full-scale dimensional breach imperils 1930s Toronto and only Red Panda and his trusty side-kick are up to the task of patching it back up. This episode clearly demonstrates the way magic is handled in the Red Panda universe. Scientists, especially ones named Chronopolis, can wrap their heads around the mystical arts and mystical objects – sometimes they just can’t control them.

Episode 5 – “Trial By Terror
Barton Meyer, an orderly at the Queen Street Lunatic Sanitarium, meets an old resident who claims to have been “born here.” The Electric Eel (performed by Scott Moyle) is home at last! With his incredible powers, and made up entirely of energy, he’ll team up with a few imprisoned residents/patients at the mad house (The Genie and The Jackrabbit). But this dastardly team-up doesn’t want to kill the Red Panda, they want to put him on trial in order to determine his sanity. The results? An electrifying episode.

Episode 6 – “The Boy In Blue
Constable Andy Parker, voiced by Brian Vaughan, best known from previous episodes of RPA for his crush on Flying Squirrel (like pretty much everyone else who listens to the show) takes center stage in this tale of police corruption. Is Parker working for The Syndicate or is there a more innocent explanation for him palling around with dirty cops? Which reminds me, all this Parker/Syndicate has got to be a nice little shout out to Richard Stark. I tell you that Greg Taylor packs a whole lot of goodness into each episode. Another thing to take note of in this episode is the new “Pappy” moniker Kit Baxter is floating for her husband-to-be.

Episode 7 – “The Golden Idol
A new superhero is prowling the streets of Toronto. He’s got super-strength, can fly and seems more than capable of replacing the Red Panda – the only question is: Why? Christopher Mott playing the ever excitable Mad Monkey makes an appearance – meaning he steals the show – in this case almost literally. Fun stuff!

Episode 8 – “I Dream Of Genies” Modern technology allows banks to secure their vaults better than ever. 17 stories into the sky they’re safe aren’t they? But can they stop a heat ray wielding villain on a flying carpet? Probably not. There’s a very cool audio montage in this ep. That’s something I don’t ever remember ever hearing before! Actor Brian Vaughan returns, reprising his super-villain role as The Genie from Seasons 2 and 3 (and 4).

Episode 9 – “Jungle Of Terror
Paying back a favour to their superhero buddy, Captain Tom Sunlight, Red Panda and Flying Squirrel fly into a South American jungle. There they discover a strange gateway, an old enemy, and some very large and very hungry fauna. This episode feels inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. This is a cool away adventure. I hope RP and FS can do more of these next season.

Episode 10 – “The Crimson Death
Returning from South America with her fiance, the Flying Squirrel is all aflutter about her upcoming nuptials to her partner in crime-fighting. Luckily, there’s been a series of mysterious murders in Toronto while they’ve been away; solving them will be the perfect distraction from her wedding jitters. Her first stop: A visit to the Queen’s Street Lunatic Asylum. Whoever is responsible has some mean-ventriloquism chops, is invisible and wields fire. What an odd combination! This is the shortest (and probably weakest) episode of the fourth season – but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. There’s plenty of wonderful character development in between all that invisible, fire-throwing, voice-chucking menace.

Episode 11 – “Endgame
Tied up and hanging above a vat of acid Commander Varkin has the Red Panda and Flying Squirrel just where he wants them – now for the speechifyin’. Varkin (voiced by Gregory Z. Cooke) is a Blowfeld type villain – he fills us in on the season spanning conspiracy – and unleashes a lot more than hot air. But that isn’t the dynamic couple’s only problem, it seems that a vat of acid and a world domination speech aren’t enough for Varkin as a dangerous virus and secret partner will keep Squirrel and Panda busy. The perfect penultimate play? Possibly!

Episode 12 – “Operation Cold Feet
Kit Baxter’s even more antsy with her impending wedding just days away. But what’s up with all the false Red Panda sightings? They don’t seem to bother the real Red Panda. But when a fake Flying Squirrel makes a newspaper appearance Big Red nearly chokes on his toast! In this episode we finally learn the true identity of the Red Panda! For the previous 47 episodes Gregg Taylor has managed to side-step revealing our hero’s real name. Even characters who should have known the name of the man “who wears the mask of the Red Panda” have carefully not spoken it up to this point. He’s been called “Pappy” and “Puddin” by Kit Baxter, “my dear boy” by his fellow wealthy peers Toronto, really everything but “hey you.” It’s a name that’ll be remembered with the likes of Lamont Cranston and Bruce Wayne.

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

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

T+A podcast talks to Decoder Ring Theatre

SFFaudio Online Audio

Podcast - T+A - Technology And the ArtsTechnology And The Arts, is a podcast that explores the connections between technology and art. The latest podcast, #6, has the amazing Gregg Taylor from Decoder Ring Theatre as the featured guest. Decoder Ring Theatre successfully integrates the Old Time Radio drama with cutting edge podcast distribution.
You can download the episode direct |MP3| or subscribe using the podcast feed:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/techarts