For this week’s post, I wanted to look at a few podcasts which are set in alternate realities, in either the past, or alternate versions of our present.
Time travel is what creates the alternate realities in ars PARADOXICA, as physicist Dr Sally Grissom from 20[REDACTED] accidentally invents it. After an experiment goes wrong, she arrives in 1943, on the deck of the USS Eldridge – the site of urban legend The Philadelphia Experiment. Unable to return home, Sally is stranded in the past and is made to work for a secret government organisation, which is working towards ending the war – and Sally’s presence now means they can theoretically stop wars before they even happen. Time gets more wibbly wobbly and less linear as the series progresses, and the effects of the use of time travel become abundantly clear.
Sci-fi podcast COPPERHEART is set in an alternate 2015, 18 years after a nuclear ‘mishap’ sent survivors underground. In the US, humanity lives on in a series of Reconstruction Bunkers, waiting for the day when it will be safe to return to the surface. This first season (which is due to conclude in December 2021), is split between two of these bunkers – GL51 in Area 51, and EL27 in Illinois. As the story develops, we begin to understand that this post-apocalyptic nightmare is just one of countless realities that exist within this universe. These different realities (or ‘ripples’) begin to encroach on the lives of the citizens of GL51, after a mysterious visitor arrives.
Meteor City is Detroit. In this alternate history sci-fi, Detroit was hit by a meteor shower in 2008, killing hundreds, and leading to thousands fleeing the city. Ten years later, we meet vlogger Bianca Diaz, one of the many who was displaced. She’s returning home for the first time since the meteor hit, looking to give folks there a platform to share their stories, and she meets some familiar faces. During the last ten years, New Detroit has been established, which Bianca also spends a lot of time in, and she begins to discover conspiracies involving this new city.
Out of Place
The recently-completed second season of Out of Place is very different to the first, so to avoid bigger spoilers, I’m going to discuss the show’s first season. In this Science fiction/alternate history podcast, we meet Andrew Moss, an Archivist at the Carruthers Institute. The Institute houses anthropological objects, and it’s Andrew’s job to catalogue them. His job gets very interesting when he starts to receive packages from a Mr Havisham, containing objects that shouldn’t exist. The object in episode two is a pamphlet, a guide to tourist attractions, a seemingly very everyday object until Andrew looks at a map – the town in question has another name, but it’s what we know as Pompeii. The booklet comes from a world where Mount Vesuvius never erupted, and Pompeii was never destroyed. Andrew is sure the objects he receives aren’t fakes, even though the ramifications of them being real are terrifying.
Modern fantasy/horror podcast The Bridge is set in an alternate 2016. The Transcontinental Bridge was built to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but by the time we meet the folks of Watchtower 10 – one of the many watchtowers which were built along the bridge – there’s no traffic, and there hasn’t been for some time. Back when the bridge opened, there were many extravagant attractions and hotels, and even a water park, but these have all been abandoned and left to decay. The bridge harbours many secrets, some of which we learn about through Etta’s stories, but the characters are not always forthcoming about the bridge’s past and their role in it.
Victoriocity is a detective comedy set in Victorian Britain, but this is a very different Victorian era than the one we read about in history books. I’ve seen Victoriocity being categorised as a steampunk, and while it definitely has that kind of vibe, the source of energy in this story isn’t steam – it’s electricity. Even Greater London is a huge, sprawling metropolis, and it’s an incomprehensible sight to journalist Clara Entwhistle, as she travels on a train towards its centre. The Tower generates electricity for the whole of Even Greater London, and it’s this electricity that powers the train, which has no need for an engine. There’s also Queen Victoria…who is a cyborg.
Wolf 359 is set in an alternate present, which is much more technologically advanced than ours. In this universe, space exploration started much earlier, leading to this particular deep space mission in 2014. The USS Hephaestus is located seven and a half light years from Earth, orbiting the dwarf star Wolf 359; and it’s Communications Officer Doug Eiffel’s job to scan radio frequencies, looking for signs of alien life. The development of artificial intelligence is also a very important part of the show, most notably with the presence of the Hephaestus’ very human-like AI, Hera – and we’re also introduced to a few others further down the line.