We live in the Middle. Ghosts live in the Below. Think of the Below as here, just…sadder. More mournful.
The two worlds barely touch but when they do, something needs to be done. It usually ends up being done by Taylor (David Devereux). Taylor can travel between the two worlds with relative ease and has a worrying amount of experience dealing with ghosts. Aided by Gil, a ghost (David Pellow) and very surprised fellow traveller Heather (Charlotte Ryder), he takes on every kind of haunting. Which is a shame as all he really wants to do is watch Star Trek…
The genius of Middle:Below lies in three elements. The first is the cast. Devereux’s Taylor is a charming, mildly distant expert who really doesn’t want to be, and makes an instantly sympathetic reluctant hero. David Pellow’s Gil is an absolutely literal sidekick and expertly played both for laughs and pathos. Charlotte Ryder’s Heather is a resourceful, fast learner who is much better at this than she knows and Megan Bucky Buchanan as Sans the cat is equal parts enigmatic comic relief and deadpan straight…feline.
The second is the audio design. The show is fiercely atmospheric and rarely more so than in the series finale. There, established running jokes are corrupted by the ghost of the week and the simple act of speaking becomes an act of negotiation fraught with danger.
The third is the script’s consistent inventiveness and exuberant use of ideas you would never expect a show this size to land. ‘The Child’ is one of the best haunted school stories I’ve ever heard, ‘Lisa’ is a chilling look at Taylor’s past and the price he’s paid to get where he is and ‘Lucid’ is an absolute season highlight. It’s a familiar trope, and you’ll figure it out quickly but it’s executed with such verve and joy that it feels fresh and new. Each episode also fills you in on the Below’s curious relationship with sound as well as the pasts of those who travel there. It’s a show that starts in the middle (in every sense) and while it doesn’t quite swim to the edge it absolutely gives you what you need to enjoy the journey as well as set up season 2. Punchy, inventive, wickedly clever and one of the shining lights of the UK audio drama scene.