I’m a massive podcast fan – I’ve been listening since the iPod era – but I tend to stick to the interview style of podcasts (except for Strange Tales and the BBC Play of the Week audio drama). And despite all the acclaim and popularity, I haven’t ventured into the serialised investigative podcast genre.
But what I have been gobbling up this week is a mixture of the two – The Case of Charles Dexter Ward from BBC Radio 4.
This appeared in my podcast feed as an audio drama of an HP Lovecraft story.
Say no more, I’m in.
I press play.
Then I got confused.
The format is a retelling of the Lovecraft story but as a mockumentary and for the first few minutes, I was lost.
Did the BBC upload the wrong file?
The Lovecraft story is told in the format of a fake investigative journalism true-crime podcast, piecing together narration, conversations, snippets of interviews and other live recordings as the two investigators unravel the story.
Once I worked out what was going on, I was hooked. I’ve been listening while commuting to work and some days, I took a few extra laps around the block to finish an episode before walking into the office.
Now the story itself is gripping and engrossing; locked room mysteries, odd family histories, Lovecraftian weird occult stuff…all the good things… but this is also interesting from a storytelling perspective. This is a new way to take an old story and retell in a “modern” mixed media style. And my initial confusion was not quite an Orson Welles ‘War of Worlds’ or ‘Ghostwatch’ experience but it did unsettle me and then fascinate me.
I’m always dubious about remakes and reboots. With so many new stories in the world, why do producers remake the same things over and over again? But if you’re going to remake something at least make it interesting. Do some different. Like this podcast.
So if The Case of Charles Dexter Ward sounds like your kind of thing, all 10 episodes are available now.