Tag Archives: BBC

Night Vale, Neverwhere and the Magic of Audio Theatre

Hello listeners. Except, of course, you are not listeners but readers, since I work within the written medium. The medium of sound, however, has recently swung into my focus and imagination.

Cards on the table, I’ve been plugging into Welcome to Night Vale, a podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor detailing, in the style of a perfectly believable community radio station, the hijinks of a completely unbelievable town. Night Vale is an idyllic little community in the middle of the arid desert, occasionally graced by mysterious glowing clouds that drop small animals on everyone, black angels that help little old ladies change light bulbs and strange hooded figures making use of the dog park which the townsfolk are advised not to enter. There is also a hovering cat suspended in space in the men’s bathroom of the radio station that the voice of Night Vale, Cecil, is rather fond of.

It’s been likened to The Twilight Zone for the ears, bizarre (and funny) stories strung together by the running narratives of the townspeople and the gentle, amiable news broadcast style delivered to us in Cecil’s mellow voice. There’s a mystical sense of magical realism and it’s utterly odd in the most engaging of ways. Roll with it, don’t ask too many questions, suspend your disbelief and do not talk to the angels, they do not exist and only tell lies.

With Night Vale’s explosive popularity, musings on the audio medium have begun to waltz in my mind. The radio drama seems like a genre based in another age, belonging to an era of gathering around the wireless with the family, and everyone has bob haircuts and Dad’s smoking a pipe. When radio was the most prominent technology, of course audio theatre was running wild, popularity booming from the 1920s to the late 1950s. Even when television was wowing everyone with the fact that it existed, the radio play genre was still going strong.

We need not look further than War of the Worlds to note the power of audio theatre, with the famous case of H.G. Wells’ alien invasion story quite literally capturing the imaginations of a nation. A lot of the radio play was presented, much like Night Vale, in news bulletin style to provide a sense of realism… which worked so well that people flew into a panic and (reportedly) believed that aliens were actually attacking the world. It was a rather cruel trick to pull in the pre-war tension, but it was clever nonetheless. I doubt anyone has stumbled across Night Vale and thought it was real (lord help them), but it raises the question: is the audio medium still so powerful? Continue reading

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The Disservice of Fan Service

Scene from Sherlock episode A Scandal in Belgravia: Irene Adler's nude back, and Sherlock Holmes looking very unimpressed

Sherlock Holmes is not impressed by this display of male gazery

Do you ever watch something and just think: “That was written just for the fans”?

Scenes that seem as though they were designed to be awesome more than anything else. Dialogue that seems made to be quoted. Moments of tension or comedy that are manufactured to titillate the audience. Sometimes fans of a show or book pick up on these things on their own and take them into their hearts, but sometimes it distinctly feels as though the creators put things in there just to appeal to their audience.

The most obvious of this is the root of the words “fan service”, defined as a random and mostly irrelevant action that plays directly to the audience’s (and chiefly the straight male audience’s) interests: a sudden gust of wind blows a skirt up! An event happens within the show that calls the female cast to dress in scanty or adorably provocative outfits! A sudden rainstorm thunders into existence just above the main characters’ location and everyone happens to be wearing white shirts!

Not to say that this exists solely for the male gaze; depending on the target audience, these instances will occur to males and females both. An important conversation just happens to take place while a toned male lead is working out! There is a bathhouse scene for little reason other than comedy and implicated nakedness! Characters wear second-skin spandex battle suits that may not be historically accurate!

Or, because writers do acknowledge that flashes of attractive people is not the only thing that humans get excited by, they could throw in some really cool mechas and fight scenes and explosions.

Gurren Lagann promo art

Or, if you’re Gurren Lagann, all of the above

Continue reading

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Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing

Yes Homo: A Study in Subtext

A comic detailing the issue

Anyone who has ventured far enough into the Intertubes in pursuit of more information on a favourite show or book, or perhaps companionship on the subject, will have stumbled into the glorious and bizarre world of shipping (that is, for those giving their computer screens blank stares right now, the mental pairing up of characters within the show in a romantic context). They will also have discovered a universal rule: everything is shippable.

Yes, children, everything in this series is shippable! Even I’m shippable, but that is called self-insert and is frowned on in many circles.

 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory jokes aside, you shall discover that it’s actually quite true. If any characters appear within the same screen space for more than a few seconds (and sometime if they don’t!) there will be someone somewhere who wants to see them end up together. And this includes (shock and horror!!!) those of the same gender. Continue reading

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Done to Undeath: Alex watches Being Human

Being Human

Vampires, werewolves, ghosts! You’ve seen it all a million and one times before. And Toby Whithouse knows this, and how to make it work.

Being Human offers virtually no explanation of the supernatural creatures it stars and deals with, because it knows that we’ve seen it all before. I was surprised, watching it, that the first episode introduces the characters and explains who is what in a very brief opening segment and then launches straight into the story. No explanation of how werewolves work, or vampire lore, or ghost physics, because it’s so ingrained in our popular culture that it’s assumed knowledge.

Now, what if we put them all together into one house in Bristol? It’s like a roommate dom-com but with one of the buds howling at the moon every month, one fighting his addiction to blood and one trying to figure out what her unfinished business is and making lots of tea that she can’t drink. Continue reading

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The Game is Afoot: A Sherlock Review

I found this really great fanfic… it’s like a modern AU of Sherlock Holmes? And it’s on TV. And it’s amazing.

Sherlock season 1 cover

As someone mystified by the Holmesian universe but never quite in possession of the mental energy it takes to chew through the stories, Sherlock seemed to be sent from Fiction Heaven itself (though the nature of its creators, Mark Gattiss and Steven Moffatt, also known for tormenting avid watchers of Doctor Who, would be argued by some fans to be less than angelic).

The richness of the original is there and the characters that so many people have known and loved over the century are as fascinating and delicious as they have always been, with the modern day setting only a light, satisfying tang over the top.

Continue reading

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