The Cambridge Geek

Solutions to Problems

Agony aunts are great. They can tell you whether you should stick with that partner who you have concerns about, or whether you're being just a bit too passive aggressive to your boss. They can even suggest ways to spice up your love life.

But what if your problems are a little bit different? Perhaps your romantic paramour has got caught in a teleporter accident, and now there are two of them? (Don't say threesome.) Maybe the manager of your murder sphere is a bit too fond of killing people with his mind? Or one of your subordinates has generated a simulation of you to assist in teaching him quantum physics, and now he's getting freaky with it?

Then you need Janet and [screechy dolphin noises], the two best agony aunts available in the far future, after humanity has expanded into space and joined up with a whole bunch of alien races. [screechy dolphin noises] is one of those aliens, but for the sake of the human listeners, he tends to get called Meatloaf, or 'Loaf for short. Janet mostly gets called Janet.

The two of them do a pretty good impression of a Sunday morning "two people on a settee" show, with Loaf acting as the primary moderate voice, and Janet being a rather wonderful bundle of contradictions. Being an alien, Loaf is drawn as a relatively simple character, seemingly more knowledgeable about galaxy-wide locations, but also generally more cautious in his actions.

By contrast, Janet is more impetuous, doing the standard "naive human first encountering outer space" trope, but occasionally reveals some worryingly specific knowledge about some of the best ways to get into and out of trouble all over the universe. These are my favourite moments, when the mask of cheerful inanity slips, to reveal it's obviously papered on over the cracks of some deep trauma.

Also there is Frankie. She's the intern? Every show needs a dogsbody, right? And they get a repeat customer in Nassif, a time agent who pops up a few times, but never in a chronological order. This does the usual jokes about "I don't remember having been about to have done that", but it's still pleasing to hear. As well as this, there are a couple of plot elements that recur throughout the first ten episode series, which allow them to build a sneaky main plotline that comes together at the end of the season.

It's a good one to listen to attentively, as there are no small references here that you'll likely enjoy spotting. Star Trek is the main source for these, as it's been running long enough that Trek has covered most ideas in its long history, but there are a few other bits and pieces. There's fun stuff about hiveminds, AI that secretly control you, groundhog day loops and a bit of special relativity.

All of the guests are snappy (though there were a couple of special effects attached to some of them that were a bit painful to listen to), but the main draw is Janet and Loaf. Their chat show host style is damn good, feeling believable even when they deal with preposterous topics.

The series is continuuing apace, bringing out episodes every fortnight, and I think I'm going to have to keep up with it.

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Comedy Cast Fictional show Science Fiction Serial