Prometheus Radio Theatre Preps Latest Podcast
Prometheus Radio Theatre has been performing live since October, 2000 at Baltimore Science Fiction Conventions. Its largest project is an the award-winning episodic series called The Arbiter Chronicles, created eight years ago by Steven H. Wilson (who also wrote the tie-In novel, Taken Liberty.) The stories center on a group of young midshipmen (and women) who take their name from their first posting in the space navy – the patrol ship CNV Arbiter.
The first Arbiter Chronicles episodes were released on CD in 2003. Since 2005, they’ve produced over 100 episodes of their podcast, including 15 serialized episodes of the Arbiters, six of SuperHuman Times, a couple of ghost stories, and a reading of the Arbiters novel, Taken Liberty. Along the way, they’ve won the Mark Time Silver Medal for excellence in science fiction audio drama, and the Parsec Award for best Audio Drama (Long Form.)
The story is set hundreds of years in the future, after the human race has all but abandoned an Earth which has been devastated by war, poverty and disease. It is an embarrassment to its descendant worlds, and its people are considered the cast-offs of humanity. As the series starts Captain Jan Atal of Rigel V is one of the Confederate Navy’s most-decorated officers, but is despised by his superiors due to his opinions and success. He is sent on a punitive assignment to command the CNV Arbiter and takes with him four misfit proteges:
- Terry Metcalfe and Kevin Carson, two of the few Terrans ever to graduate the Academy
- Cernaq, a telepath from a world of extremist intellectuals
- Atal’s daughter Kaya, whose phenomenal IQ is matched only by the chip on her shoulder
An elderly Wiccan doctor, and a Boatswain who’s an escaped slave join them as they protect Confederate borders from denizens of the violent Qraitian Empire. The situations they deal with highlight the human condition in a darker future than you might expect. Four of the past 15 episodes are available on CD through Amazon.com.
The sixteenth installment of Arbiter Chronicles: "Contents Under Pressure" is a double length (two-hour) adventure and will air in six parts, beginning September 26, with a new chapter released every 14 days. A promo just went live for the next chapter. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast, or listen online from the Prometheus Radio Theatre podcast site. During the off-weeks, commentary of the cast and crew will air on the experience of putting it all together. Author, and Director (not to mention Sound Engineer, Foley, and a half-dozen more responsibilities) Steve Wilson had this to say about this episode:
SW: In many ways, it’s the capstone to the series as our listeners have known it. It would be fair to think of it as ‘Arbiters: The Motion Picture,’ and not just because it’s a two-hour show. It includes some important ‘growing-up’ moments in the lives of the series’ young heroes, and throws them into more trouble than they’ve ever had to deal with. It’s our biggest show yet – biggest script, biggest story. It’s the most complex show we’ve ever done, in terms of numbers of scenes and characters, and is edited together a lot more like a movie would be. The sound design presented some real challenges, and required painting some very complex landscapes – er, space-scapes – with sound.
CMix: What was the biggest challenge on this production?
SW: That the actors didn’t know what’s going to happen in this one. In the past, they’ve received a complete script well in advance of recording. This time, I gave them cue-booklets, with maybe a whole scene of one to five pages, or maybe a stray line of dialogue out of context. They never saw any scene that their character wasn’t part of.
CMix: That’s how animation dialog is usually recorded, but why change your format?
SW: It was an experiment, to see how it affected their performance to not know what was going on around them – just as the characters themselves would not. It drove some of them crazy to not have that crutch, while some of them thought it was great fun. But, from a director’s perspective, it worked. They all turned out phenomenal performances. And there was no battle to keep down the ad libs, because they were too busy trying to figure out what the hell was going on! We started as a comedy troupe, so ad libs are kinda de rigeur with us. Recording sessions can last WAY too long.
CMix: What else is different about this episode?
SW: The music, for one. Scott Farquhar [Link: www.scottfarquhar.com], the composer for this series, is writing a complete score for "Contents Under Pressure." In the past, he’s pretty much written a cue here and a cue there, and we re-used a lot of them as stock. This time, I gave him a completed chunk of show and said, "Score this!" In a few cases, I put existing movie music behind a scene, to let him know what I had in mind. And Scott’s upgraded his musical technology. He can now render his work in a format far closer to an orchestral performance than the ‘old MIDI format’ would allow.
Also, it’s far more action-oriented than our previous shows. We blow stuff up. People die. We push the envelope of the idea that a future military won’t be a military at all, but a happy, peaceful bunch of scholars who happen to have ray guns. And that takes a toll on our characters who bought into that idea.