The Cambridge Geek

Station Blue

Antarctica is one of the most hostile territories on Earth, not necessarily due to predators, but simply because the cold, the lack of local flora and fauna, and the distance from a rescue/supply base can make it very difficult to recover if things go wrong. But that isolation is perfect for Matthew Leads, who is seeking somewhere peaceful to reset his recently tumultous life and try and find some internal balance.

That's how he finds himself alone at Station Blue, which is remote even by Antarctic standards. He's a handyman, and has been recruited by the (probably evil) Flower Company in order to get it back into working order in the six weeks before a full scientific team turns up. That involves getting the generator running, the light bulbs replaced, and the surveillance system switched on to watch all of the hallways.

And also the spooky Door.

Yep, there's a capital D door, which Matthew spends a lot of time avoiding as it creeps him out. Honestly, who would have thought there was mileage in a spooky story set in a cold outpost? There are also hints of strange things in the sky, and maybe a hideous monster.

Compare it to The White Vault however, and there are some significant differences. The first episode of this runs with something of a cast, with Matthew having a few colleagues at McMurdo, a slightly more accessible base. (The first episode also does a really poor job of setting up the story, such that you need all of the second episode's exposition to understand what's going on.)

After that initial episode though, all the other voices are dropped, and it's all delivered as a monologue, either Matthew's voice as he talks to himself for company, or the ambiguous voice over that may or may not all be in his head. There's no decision here whether the horror is internal or external, and while uncertainty can be powerful, it more annoyed than terrified me.

I was expecting a horror story about things lurking about an Antarctic base, and it mostly turned out to be a fairly introspective look at the difficulties of mental illness and how that can damage/destroy family life. There's a lot of flashback here about the struggles he's gone through, and the fortunes of romance, but it feels very awkwardly wedded to the setting/present-day storyline.

Some of the storytelling is enjoyable. There's some interesting pieces about a childhood sweetheart/romantic partner, and it's a compelling insight into the problems with intrusive voices, manic natures and coping mechanisms, but that could have stood on its own. Instead it's fitted into this entirely separate narrative in a somewhat clumsy manner, with episodes bouncing between the two, rather than being neatly interwoven.

Unfortunately, I also found some of the implementation clumsy; firstly regarding volume levels (they wobble a lot) and then in terms of the sound design in general. Reading through the transcripts, there were a lot of things happening, especially later in the series, that I absolutely could not deduce from the sound effects. Narration can be considered a crutch to allow lazy sound design, but I think this show needed that crutch.

I don't think I'll be going back to the next series.

Listen to the first episode (actually a prelude):

Score 3

Tagged: Audio fiction Horror Cast Dramatised Horror Serial