For the past year or so, I’ve been listening to the zombie podcast We’re Alive (WA). It follows a young veteran named Michael Cross and his companions after a zombie outbreak and has been a gripping listen.
In the vein of the Walking Dead, it explores the early post-apocalyptic society that is still developing. However, there are enough dissimilarities that I don’t feel like I’m listening to just another group of survivors. Without getting too much into it, the rules of the game are just much different.
Anyway, I started listening to The Leviathan Chronicles (LC) because I was almost caught up with WA but didn’t want to reach a point where I didn’t have a new episode available (silly, I know). The initial premise of LC didn’t attract me, but it looked to be professionally produced so I decided to give it a try.
It follows the life of Macallan Orsel, a “young genetic scientist in New York” as she’s described on their webpage who finds out she’s part of a rebel group within a secret benevolent Illuminati-esque community based in an underwater city (vis-à-vis Atlantis) called Leviathan. And thus the name of the podcast.
While I’m still a little more invested in the former, I am now hooked on both of these audio dramas. This type of storytelling is something that I’d like to give a whirl at some point, and to that extent, I want to articulate the differences in production that I see between the two as well as where my preferences lie.
When WA markets itself as a story of survival, it’s not kidding. There are a few plot arcs and an ongoing quest to understand the source of the “biters”, the driving force in the story are the characters. We care about what happens to them, and this drama that keeps us hooked is that we don’t know what’s going to happen to them next. In LC, the plot is driven more by the main quest (it’s kind of Dan Brown-esque, actually). It’s more cinematic whereas WA is more of TV series.
I don’t think I can really say that one is better than the other as the approach to plot marks an inherent difference in the type of audio drama they are.
LC is more like an audio book in that it is told by an omniscient third party. Details that otherwise wouldn’t matter or wouldn’t be known to characters is revealed by the narrator. WA, on the other hand, employs character diaries as a way to provide a focalized third person narrative. There is no need to provide outside narration as the story is told in a mix of flashbacks and active dialogue.
Winner? We’re Alive
There is where I think Leviathan suffers the most. While there’s nothing wrong with the delivery, the characters are wordy and expository. Their lines probably look better on paper than they do out loud. In scenes where characters need to make quick decisions, they seem to ramble on a lot longer than they should (almost bordering on the absurd). They just don’t talk like real people, and the editing and pacing (post-production issue) seems off sometimes.
Winner? We’re Alive
While the dialogue in LC leaves much to desired, both of these productions have distinct, believable characters (maybe minus the primary protagonists of both who don’t seem consistent at all). However, one definitely edges out the other in terms of the character growth that occurs over time. WA tends to rely on a few character types that gain experiences but don’t change all that much. This can probably be attributed to inherent differences in format.
Winner? Leviathan Chronicles
The atmosphere in an audio drama is determined by the music and sound effects used in the story. The two are generally comparable, but sometimes it feels like WA is working from a limited set of sounds. At the same time, LC doesn’t seem to consider distance or acoustics in post-production.
No clear winner here.
Obviously, I slightly prefer one over the other but as case studies, there are things that I am learning from both should I ever decide to tackle or help produce an audio drama. But honestly, in the end, it’s the story that matters, and none of these factors significantly affect my desire to listen to them. Both podcasts have employed fantastic groups of actors that are able to carry the story, and I would recommend listening to either of them.