Moonbase Theta, Out season 1 is a high watermark in modern podcast audio drama. DJ Sylvis’ scripts, and the central idea are an elegant piece of narrative Judo that makes a small cast and tight focus a storytelling asset. Better still it’s a show that tightens and tightens down until a reveal that flips everything on it’s head.
I loved it.
Season 2, so far, is better.
I had the honor of hearing the first three episodes earlier this week and they are exactly what you want a sequel to be; more but different, the same but larger. This is a world crammed full of stories and these three episodes introduce us to some of the best of them, as well as some new cast members.
First off, we meet Alexandre Bragado-Fischer, Roger’s other half, Played by Gabriel Taneko, Alexandre is required to do a fair chunk of the emotional heavy lifting. There’s a moment late in episode 3 involving a siren which is chilling, and tells you a lot about the world, precisely because of how unconcerned Alexandre is. Gabriel exels in this sort of role, and you get a sense of the relationship that is far more rounded, a little more fractious and just as kind as you’d dared hope. You buy these men as a couple, instantly and completely. You worry about them. You also, thanks to the subtle overbuilding, soon realize you have reason to.
Ashwini Ray is also introduced in these early episodes. Played with kick in the door joi de vivre by the excellent Tau Zaman (Whose Caravan is another essential listen), Ashiwni loves to hear zemselves talk and Zaman has tremendous fun chewing the glorious language loving monologues that are already Ashwini’s trademark. Completely secure in zeir own genius, and with good reason, Ashwini is a very welcome addition to the cast.
Ashwini is also, I suspect, one of the two imminent fan favorites this season will create. The other is Michell L’Anglois played by Cass McPhee. Michell is superficially a hard charging security badass but his first appearance here reveals both more of MTO‘s signature compassion and a surprisingly endearing gourmand streak. This is a very diverse range of characters and actors, and they’re all exactly what you would expect them to be; people, complex, nuanced, interesting people whose very presence in the show makes it more of what it should be not less of what some people are needlessly afraid of. Self aware, self deprecating and endearingly grumpy, Michell is a lot of fun.
Nessa Cheong, played by Elissa Park, is another welcome new perspective. One of the most impressive elements of this season is the way we get extra context for some of the events referenced in the first season. In Nessa’s case, that gives us a moment of pure, open armed joy as Nessa recounts just how much she loves the job she never expected to have, Nessa LOVES her work and it’s an innocent enthusiasm that neatly sharpens the edge of Roger’s cynicism. There’s also the makings of a deeply necessary and compassionately written sub plot concerning Nessa and Michel. The collision between aro and trans culture, and the different ways the pair of them are dealing with their complicated relationship gives the series an emotional foundation that grounds and enhances the entire ensemble.
Wilder doesn’t so much make an entrance as stop an entrance exploding. The cheery engineer is nothing like their colleagues; relaxed to the point of horizontality, on her last Big Red and fiercely proud of her job and her workplace. Pride that leads Wilder to being digusted at the substandard cryo tubes they’ve been sent…
Geniuses. A soldier. A man who used to be much more than just a comms tech and the slow sense of the world starting to end. MTO season 2 functions as both a great jumping on point and a great escalation. You’ll like these characters instantly, you’ll care about them even as they start to screw up. And they will. Buckle up, we’re back on the Moon and while the pick up ship isn’t coming there’s still a ton to do.
Moonbase Theta, Out Season 2 is releasing now.