The Cambridge Geek

The Third Consecutive Event in Talbot Leigh

It would appear Peter Strickland has spent a bit too long with Alexa or Siri, given this radio drama about a couple holidaying in a "smart speaker"-adapted apartment. Interestingly, while I was looking for those links, discovered that the Siri page has the cheery motto "Siri does more than ever. Even before you ask." Which does rather suggest that it's always listening.

Always. Listening.

As you might expect, it's not all fun and games for Jen and Tim, who are already a bit stressed being new parents. Still, surely there's no way that Jo, the AI behind this responsive dwelling, could ever go evil and try to murder them, right?

(For previous examples of why this is a definitely an excellent idea, try HAL or SARAH.)

This is honestly horribly creepy. There's about four different sources of nastiness here, all of which are brutal. We've got new parenthood, which involves lots of screaming, not all from the baby. There's the domestic disagreements between Jen and Tim, which are unpleasant. And let's not mention the awkwardness of double-booking.

And that's before we get to the weirdness of whatever Jo is up to. Quite an important question is whether her poor performance is due to incompetence or malevolence. (This is actually relevant in real life. Even if you're wary of the voice coming out of your speaker, could you tell if it had been hacked or badly programmed? How easy does "fake news" get, when you simply listen to a single voice telling you the news?)

Trust me, this show is stuffed full of real life fears.

That does occasionally make it trip up over itself. There're a lot of things going on, and it feels like it could have been expanded by a fair bit to allow some of them more space. I think this also contributed to a couple of moments of contrived stupidity, particularly those that relied on the couple to not just...leave. There's not really a good reason for them to not just walk out of the door and keep going, and I did smack face first into that realisation pretty hard.

Overall though, it was a gripping listen. And sometimes an impressively uncomfortable one, which owes a lot to the strong acting. Nicely done.

Score 5

Tagged: Radio Drama Cast Fiction Science/Technology