The Cambridge Geek

Steal the Stars

A product of the TOR Labs, this podcast is a combination of heist thriller, science fiction and bodice ripper. Maybe not in that order.

Dakota Prentiss is the head of security at Quill Marine, a secretive corporate entity, which operates a research facility staffed by ex-militiary security types and a collection of boffins. The facility was created in the wake of a Roswell-type incident, eleven years prior to the start of the series, with the building housing it constructed around a crashed spaceship.

The spaceship contained Moss, an alien, named for the odd moss growing on it, and a mysterious harp-like device that sucks the energy from electrical systems (and people!) around it to power up the ship's engine every 100 hours or so. Quill have spent the last decade trying to make the spaceship work, figure out whether or not Moss is still alive (they're warm) and find a way of weaponising the life sucking properties of the harp.

They've not got very far.

Into this charged environment comes a new guard, Matt Salem, another ex-military type, for whom Dakota immediately falls, and falls hard. Tempted on by the fact that "he's just so pretty", she jumps him in a moment of high tension, and they find themselves in a torrid relationship.

Unfortunately, any sort of fraternisation is verboten, and those caught at it find themselves locked up for a few years before being re-deployed in whatever part of the world is most likely to kill them.

Seems an extreme HR policy, but that's the near future military-corporate dystopia for you.

Since they've decided they can't live without each other, and they can't just quit, there's only one logical possibility. Steal the alien, sell it to the highest bidder and live the rest of their lives somewhere hot and non-extraditiony.

This is the story of that.

"How thrilling!" you may be thinking, "a heist film with a science-fiction twist. That'll be full of high stakes and tension." And you'd be right. There is plenty of that, such that this does much more than nudge over the genre line into sci-fi thriller. The complexities of breaching a high security institution and making off with the crown jewels are nicely laid out, with plans and counter-plans, and a bit more believability than usual because it's such a powerful insider trying to achieve it.

It's just a shame I found that insider so unlikeable. She's a self-assured woman, maintaining a tight grip on a difficult job, and is defined well by confidence and competency. Except for that one massive blindspot that hits her like a truck where tall skinny boys are concerned. She activates yandere mode and spends her time either fawning over him, trying to prove how much she loves him by doing crazy things or suspecting he's not really into her and is just using her.

It's that aspect that drives this too close to the overwrought romance novel for my liking. I'm sure there are plenty who will love it, but her overly repetitive speeches/cries at him about various aspects of the plan annoyed me more than they made me care.

It's her story, told half through full cast, half through monologue, and those full cast moments are generally the most enjoyable. The range of background characters are impressive. Lloyd, the mad scientist always brings glee, and I'm unnecessarily fond of Grant, a grumpy underling, mostly because he reminds me of Odo. Dakota's second in command doesn't really get enough time, but her overall boss, who runs the company, hams it up in every scene, ranting and raving about how he's so much better than anyone else. He's fun.

The end result, as I've said previously, feels more like a dramatic romance than a sci-fi epic, and a lot of the plot feels like the sci-fi elements are unnecessary. Very well produced though - no amateur hour here - and it's got a nice thumpy theme.

Score 3

Tagged: Audio fiction Drama Cast Dramatised Thriller Serial