Lost Terminal

(CW: The content of Lost Terminal and this post deal with themes around climate change, mental health issues, and isolation. The show itself, but not this post, contains brief allusions to suicide.)

Lost Terminal is a sci-fi podcast from NAMTAO, which was launched in July 2020. Episodes are recordings made by Seth, an AI, and the show is set an indeterminate amount of years in the future.

Seth is part of the Station 6, which is orbiting above Earth. He’s on the satellite, yet he also is the satellite, or at least, a part of it. One of the human crew members made him, so he could keep the satellite working, but now there are no humans on Station 6. It’s just him and his three little maintenance robots, Matt, Matts, and Maddie. He’s been up there for a very long time, neither the audience or Seth knows exactly how long, but such a long amount of time creates a problem for Seth, as his systems are starting to break down. They weren’t meant to operate for this long, and this issue creates a plot arc that will develop over the course of the show’s first season.

In every episode Seth broadcasts a message down to Earth, but nobody ever responds to him. Or, no human responds to him, I should say. Through him we learn about two other AIs who are on Earth, named Antarctica and Peter, with whom he communicates. As Antarctica’s name suggests, she is on Antarctica; and Peter’s name also gives us a suggestion as to where he’s located, which is somewhere under St Petersburg. There’s also a mysterious voice that comes from somewhere around the Alps that he can’t understand. But apart from that, there’s silence.

Our understanding of this futuristic Earth comes through Seth. He reports what he sees below him, and Earth shouldn’t look as it does – it doesn’t match the data he has in his records. He doesn’t have any up-to-date meteorological information from other satellites anymore, and can only guess what the weather and climate is now like. He can see that Earth looks different, and more details come out as the first season progresses, but Seth can’t make sense of what happened. 

One aspect of this show I love is how it deals with mental health. This becomes a much more important theme in season two, but in season one Seth often has little mental health reminders. He uses language he’s familiar with, different components that are a part of him, by asking whoever’s listening if they’ve checked their ‘generator’ recently, when he realises his generator has degraded and isn’t charging his batteries as much as it used to. Later on in season one, when talking about Antarctica, Seth talks about how nobody is meant to be on their own for a long time, not humans, nor AIs. Antarctica has been on her own for a very long time, but he shrugs off the amount of time he’s spent alone, saying that he had been created ‘recently’. This ‘recently’ may have been much more recent than Antarctica, but by this point in the show, the audience knows that it’s not a short amount of time at all.

I’m fascinated by the theme of isolation in audio drama, it’s a medium that allows the characters, or character in this case, to be introspective and share their thoughts with someone who may or may not be listening. Here we have Seth, talking into the void, not knowing if there are any humans on Earth listening to him or not – which in itself causes confusion and worry for him. He hasn’t had much interaction with humans during his life, and because of that, much of his broadcasts have a childlike quality; he wants to learn more about the world, about everything. There’s a certain naivety to his outlook, and we can see how he avoids talking about more difficult subjects. 

I won’t spoil the arc of season one, but there are many challenges Seth has to overcome, with the help of his three maintenance robots. The satellite is reaching the end of its life, which is increasingly causing different problems for him. 

This current second season of Lost Terminal is due to end on December 7th, and both seasons consist of ten episodes each. Transcripts are available for free on the show’s Patreon.

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