Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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In the early 22nd century, the Apollyon virus (AVS) has wiped out 75% of the world’s population. The remaining population is split between safe zones, where people are safe thanks to a daily medicine, and the ‘outer limits’. Still infections often lead to death and Theo Ramsay and her colleague and friend Gabriel Larson are close to creating a vaccine. Yet they have to ask themselves: what are they prepared to do to get the research a step further?

This review relates to the first season.

I quite liked this audio drama. The sound design was good, although not very elaborate or varied. The acting was fine, although I felt a little uncomfortable when the characters laughed. The dialogue between the two main characters Theo and Gabriel was a joy to listen to. They really felt like longtime friends.

I do have mixed feelings about the writing. The dialogue was good and the story paid a lot of attention to the details of a scientific process. It is refreshing to see the difficulty of research and the slowness of discovery represented instead of one dramatised eureka-moment. However, you can also go to far… I do not need to hear all questions at the end of a research presentation or the complete explanation of how you make sure a group of subjects is statistically representative.

My main issue with this audio drama however is the streamlining of the story. Especially in the beginning, it let me wonder what exactly this story was about. Was this a hero’s journey about scientific discovery, a (family) drama in the middle of a pandemic or a mystery about a secret plot? I think mostly the latter, but I am not sure.

I am not sure if this ‘meandering’ is a strong or a weak point, but I tend to lean to the latter. On the one hand, this approach will resonate more with more ambiance-oriented listeners rather than plot-oriented ones (me). Furthermore, it broadens the world in which the story takes place. On the other hand, if it had wanted to do that, it could have shown more of the social and political implications of the new world order the pandemic had brought – in true sci-fi fashion (see this discussion). Instead, the story could have played out like this in, say, 2020 as well as in 2120.

As a result, I felt a little impatient with the plot. In episode 4 we finally see a glimpse of the ‘true’ conflict, in order to have to wait for episode 6 for a bit more, and have every necessary info dumped on us in ‘flashback episode’ 9 to get up to speed for the finale.

The lack of a broader societal scope and the choice to focus on the development of a vaccine instead made this audio drama have less of an impact on me. I don’t know if this story was already in production when our own pandemic hit, but some things felt a little outdated. Like, you don’t have to explain the importance of a vaccine in a pandemic anymore. And we know a bit of how a virus spreads and destroys families, even when only a few percent of the population dies. Which made me think, the great secret that was revealed at the end, why were they so secretive about it? Could they not just have been honest with the world and no one would have bat an eye? Or even helped?

However, I do not want to sound too negative. In the end, all of this is nitpicking in a story that was good. It just could – in my eyes – have been great. I am curious to see what season 2 will bring. I certainly hope we will explore the world of the ‘outer limits’ further. Maybe all of the meandering will in hindsight have been ‘built-up’ for a complex web of moral dilemma’s that totally pays off!

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