The Cambridge Geek


It's "Nostalgia Day" on the Cambridge Geek, as I've recently gone back to two things I've not thought about for a very long time. The first is Escape Pod, which I listened to from the start, but stopped paying attention to somewhere in the 300s. Likely to find myself archive bingeing. (I can particularly recommend Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk, one of the best stories on there.)

But the podcast that started this whole wander down memory lane was a series called Afterlives. This was made between 2008-2010 (I think), and followed the adventures of four dead people, as well as an angel, also sorta dead. Has a certain similarity to Mur Lafferty's Heaven series, for those who remember that, though it is a little less upbeat.

The series starts with the death of Matthew, a relatively normal chap from about our time (as it was then), who wakes and finds himself in The Box, being told by The Administrator that he's going to be spending the rest of eternity working. Luckily for him, he's died on the day of the great escape, and finds himself scooped up into a gang of misfits who go on the run, charging between afterlives (there's a lot), hoping to find somewhere to settle down.

His fellow escapees are Kyra, a moody goth from the future, genetically modified to be perfect, Sal, a two foot tall, green, nymphomaniacal princess, Tor, a cowardly, fingernail obsessed Viking, and Dave. He's an angel. At this point, this should start playing in your head. Along with that collection of trouble, he also has a voice in his head, who claims to be the only person actually on his side.

Acting as occasional antagonist is Barry, a demon from one of the more traditional fire and brimstone hells, as well as the Administrator/Supervisors who are trying to get them all back in the Box. To escape, they run through a range of different afterlives, including the graveyards, where people find true oblivion. And that's just in the first series. There's three.

It has something of a Farscape feel to it, with the conflicted escapees attempting to work together through a range of personality conflicts, but also reminds me of Doctor Who, with Dave as the (nearly) all knowing

It's interesting going back to it after this long, comparing how it stands up to the offerings of today. I was expecting it to be much weaker than the more recent podcasts, but it survives remarkably well. The sound effects and overall "feel" of the show is limited, in that you don't necessarily get much of an impression of some of the intended backgrounds, but the sound quality itself is absolutely fine. Also has an excellent thrashy theme, which I suspect had a presence on myspace, that being something of the right vintage.

Each of the main character's voices stands alone, with no possible confusion, but they suffer a bit when additional voices are needed, as the main cast double up. Somewhat different from today, when shows can have dozens of cast members. The writing keeps the plot dashing along at sufficient pace that you never overly worry about it however, and the central mystery of that first series is unwound well. And those characters are all fun in their own way. Certainly larger than life, which is quite impressive when they're dead. It has a nice brand of sarcastic comedy, with not much of that earnestness you sometimes find.

Since the digital world can be rather ephemeral, the series has more or less fallen off the internet. I had to go hunting to find any reference to it, and it took no small amount of googling to discover one of the creators, Alan McDonald, who pointed me towards 19 Nocturne Boulevard, which I'm impressed is still going. If you follow the link in the usual place, it's down the right hand side. The podcast website apparently disappeared a few years back (perhaps unsurprisingly).

I'd call it worth a listen, both because it's decent on its own, but also because it's a mostly forgotten gem, and I'd like to see more people discover this bit of history. That non-existence is why there's a dodgy bashed together image rather than whatever first existed. It's also a nice view of a time when podcasting was considered much more of a hobby and mostly self-funded, being free of advertisements for meal plans for the incompetent cookers among us, or far too many places to buy underwear. (Yes, I have strong opinions on podcast advertisements. Sorry about that.)

(As a side note, during my hunt for the podcast, I discovered that Alan McDonald is now working on Anna and the Apocalypse, a Christmas Zombie musical film, based on the original short film. One to keep an eye out for.)

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Drama Cast Dramatised Fantasy Serial