Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope

CW: mentions of zombies, COVID-19

When I described what Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope was to a podcasting friend last summer, he remarked that the format sounded like a soap. I honestly hadn’t thought about it in that way before that conversation, but he had a really good point! The setting and storylines of Mercury are definitely not those of your average soap, but the show does reflect the format. Mercury is produced by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, and episodes are released daily, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and have been since their launch in October 2017. I’ve been listening to the show since June 2018.

Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope is a zombie show with a difference – the focus isn’t on the zombies themselves. The emphasis, as the title of the show suggests, is on hope. The broadcasts focus on having a positive outlook, and on keeping people’s hopes up. There is none of the gore of the zombies in visual media, even though they still pose a constant threat in everyone’s life.

Mercury is broadcast from what was a college’s radio station before the zombie uprising – WEHG 870AM. With no more electricity, the team has to rely on making their own methanol to run generators, which means that the amount of time they have to broadcast every day is limited. Each episode generally runs for around 5-7 minutes, though there are some exceptions to this, when longer episodes have been needed.

The Mercury team consists of three people – Max O’Brien, Agnes Drew and Dr Rosalind Clark. Max was the station manager, Agnes an intern at the station, and Dr Clark is a marine biologist, and they all found themselves at the station when the lockdown happened. Episodes are a combination of solo broadcasts, two of the three present in the studio, or all three broadcasting together. Apart from a short break, the team has been living in the radio station the whole time.

That short break was in November of last year, when the team had to leave the station to escape a massive zombie horde. During that week, a ‘B’ team stepped in to do the daily broadcast, completely unknown to the Mercury crew. That zombie horde (which was given the name Medusa) was a huge storyline, and continues to have an effect on the lives of the characters we hear from every day. The countdown to the horde’s arrival lasted about a month, from the day the team was made aware that it was heading in their direction. The horde devastated everything in the area, neighbouring communities were lost, and communication networks were broken. Naturally, after such a devastating event, the three are still feeling the effects many months later.

A recent storyline (July 2020) has been the discovery of a journal left behind by a man, who was a bus driver before the zombies rose up. Entries from Sherman’s journal have been read on the air, along with the discussion around how ethical it is to read a deceased man’s personal diary. The journal provided some interesting insight to the Mercury team, and Sherman’s experiences of the beginning of the apocalypse were very different to theirs, due to him being in a different area at the time. And given that this has been a recent storyline, there are many comparisons between the lockdown we have been experiencing in our own reality over the last few months.

Speaking of our lockdown, the team behind the show are now recording episodes remotely, instead of in their usual studio. The first remotely recorded episode was released on April 25th, and the in-universe explanation for the difference in quality was due to Max accidentally spilling water on the microphone! Max, being a huge sound nerd and very protective of his audio equipment, was naturally mortified.

On the show’s 1000th broadcast on July 2nd a very exciting announcement was made – Dr Clark, who had been spending her time researching how zombies were created, had made a breakthrough in her research. She had discovered that it was a parasite that caused humans to turn into zombies. She still has work left to do, but she spent some of the following episodes explaining her discoveries on the air.

Regular features on the show include dream journals kept by Agnes and (more reluctantly) Max and Dr Clark letters sent by listeners, and (before Dr Clark’s breakthrough) Max’s wild theories about what caused the zombies. These letters have, sadly, become more rare since Medusa passed through, but the occasional one does reach the team, and it provides an interesting insight to life outside the radio station’s immediate area. Another interesting feature is Max’s ham radio, he hasn’t figured out how to broadcast on it yet, but every so often he catches someone else broadcasting, and records it to then play on the air. Most recently, he heard someone broadcasting from Alaska!

Episodes are only available for 24 hours – to create the illusion of a traditional analogue radio station. The full back catalogue is available on the show’s Patreon, but if you do happen to miss an episode, getting back into the show isn’t a problem. In-universe, the Mercury team doesn’t expect listeners to be able to catch their broadcast every day, due to the instability of post-apocalyptic life; and this is built in to the writing of the show, with references and summaries of past episodes when necessary to keep listeners caught up on what they might’ve missed.

Mercury has become part of my daily routine, and I find it very comforting to have a new episode to listen to every day. I know that at 11am UK time every day (unless it’s the time of year when the clocks go forward and backward, and I get very confused for about 3 weeks!) there will be a new episode. I love the more ‘real-time’ feel of daily broadcasts, and being able to follow events as they unfold day by day.

So, in the spirit of the show, there’s really only one way to end this article – in the same way that the team sign off at the end of every single episode.

Take care of each other.

One thought on “Mercury: A Broadcast of Hope

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s