What's The Frequency, Kenneth? [Podcast Review: The Message]

In this sci-fi podcast, linguist and podcaster Nicki Tomalin blags her way into joining a team of cryptographers as working on a recording that just might be the first ever received communication from an extraterrestrial source.

The Message is short and action-packed, with just eight episodes all under 15 minutes. The plot goes nuclear fast, with new developments, twists and levels of threat in each episode. I initially thought too much was given away in the second episode but I was wrong - there was plenty more material to come.

There's never a point where The Message could be confused with reality - it's too intense and melodramatic, but as a radio play it works well, with some decent writing - the cryptographers on the team have well thought out characters and backstories, the team dynamics are also interesting including the odd relationship between the two team leaders, and the voice acting is consistently good. The Macguffin at the heart of this story is only partly believable but if you can't suspend your disbelief a little then you have no business listening to a sci-fi podcast.

The story will appeal to fans of books or films about first contact and alien messages, whether optimistic as in Arrival or Contact, or horror-tinged - Fluency, Alien etc. The Serial-style podcast format works well with the story, and also paves the way for several of the twists, often playing tricks with the format.

You can listen to The Message here.

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