As a veteran of long-distance car trips ever since I can remember, audio dramas have been a significant part of my life. We’d measure the six-hour drive to my grandparents’ house in Odyssey episodes (twelve episodes long), though I also gathered the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre adaptations of Narnia.
In the past few years, I’ve realized how amazing the format can be. I still own over a dozen Odyssey albums, as well as several Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, a few digital Big FInish albums, and a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neverwhere.
When I was in elementary and middle-school, there was a radio station that aired three or so hours of radio dramas on Saturday mornings. So I’d creep out of bed and listen to Children’s Bible Hour, Down Gilead Lane, Ranger Bill: Warrior of the Woodland, Fables of Faith, A Visit with Mrs. G, and some other ones I can’t remember. My favorite was Down Gilead Lane, a family drama much like Adventures in Odyssey, but on a lower budget.
Once I started going to public school, I had less desire to get up early on Saturdays, but I kept listening to Odyssey and keeping up with Radio Theatre. Besides Narnia, I have or have heard At the Back of the North Wind, A Christmas Carol, The Screwtape Letters, Les Miserables, Dietrich Bonhoffer: The Cost of Freedom, and The Hiding Place. I remain particularly impressed with Screwtape, as they took the epistolary format and adapted it into conversations, with Andy Serkis as Screwtape. And it still feels exactly like the Lewis I know and admire.
But my current audio fixation is the Big Finish line of Doctor Who adventures. Or, more accurately, the lines, as the company lists eighteen ranges under the Doctor Who tab itself, not counting various spinoffs focusing on characters (Sarah Jane Smith, Jago and Lightfoot), locations (Gallifrey) or villains (Cybermen, Davros). Without the limits of a visual effects budget, settings are scattered across time and space. They also boast a higher diversity of companions than the main series, ranging from an Edwardian adventuress to a senior citizen professor.
Even BBC Radio adaptations and original dramas offer high quality, with actors like Benedict Cumberbatch lending his voice to the Cabin Pressure series and the Neverwhere adaptation as the Angel Islington. The later is even available on iPlayer and accessible worldwide through the end of the year.
While the genre may seem old-fashioned, audio dramas are amazing,and still a great way to spend a long drive.