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Free Radio Drama 
8th-Oct-2007 11:44 am
So my ongoing search for additional sources of audio drama hasn't turned up much contemporary work outside of Big Finish. (I was really amazed to discover that although you can stream radio dramas from BBC radio web pages for 7 days after broadcast, there's no way to purchase CD's or downloads after that. Cue standard rant #423: Dear BBC, why don't you want to take my money?*)

I did discover Jim French Productions, who are making contemporary radio dramas. Mostly mysteries. I might give them a whirl.

However, if you want old-time American radio drama from back in the days before television killed it mostly dead, there's quite a lot out there, and much of it is free. In particular, some entity known as "Humphrey Camardella Productions" is podcasting loads of old time radio. You can find them on iTunes.

This morning, I listened to the most recent episode of X Minus One, a radio show from the late 1950s that adapted science fiction stories from Astounding. The most recent episode just happened to be an adaptation of "The Cold Equations".

It wasn't bad. The sound design, acting, and simple recording quality weren't up to the standard I'm accustomed to from, say, Big Finish, but they weren't bad for their time. "The Cold Equations" doesn't really make for my favorite kind of drama (it's basically all about waiting for the inevitable to happen), and the amount of emphasis the script chose to put on the "we'd feel so much better about killing her if she weren't young and cute and female" is kind of squirmy. The script did make one interesting change from the short story. In the story, if I remember correctly, the girl stows away to go visit her brother. In the radio play, she stows away to go see her husband. From whom we later learn she is estranged. And then we even later learn that she had an affair with another man. This provides the pilot some excuse to reflect on his own failed relationship with a former lover.

I'm not sure how I feel about that change. It's actually sort of the point of "The Cold Equations" that the girl's death is totally meaningless and random, and having her die in an attempt to be reconciled with her estranged husband almost adds too much meaning to the whole thing. On the other hand, without that added element, the play would pretty much go like this:

GIRL: But I don't want to die!
PILOT: Sorry, physics is a bitch.
Repeat 20 times.

I'll keep listening for a few more episodes at least.

There is something weird about their feed, though - although the episode is only about 30 minutes long, it shows up in iTunes and on my iPod as just over 2 hours long. This plays hell with any attempts to fast forward or rewind accurately within the audio file. (It also freaked me out a bit - a 2 hour adaptation of the "The Cold Equations" really does not bear thinking about.)

They're also podcasting Flash Gordon, which I've got to check out at some point. And a whole bunch of Thriller/Suspense/Mystery stuff.

*I know that because I am an American citizen, and the BBC operates under a charter from the government of Great Britain, there are in fact strict legal limitations on the BBC's ability to give a damn about what I want. Still, I'd think they could sell me a CD of Robert Shearman's non-Doctor Who-related audio dramas without imperiling their charter.
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