Although the last full episode aired over two years ago, Pooja Ramakrishnan thinks Wolf 359, a dramatic science-fiction podcast, is worth both your ears and more.
In the past year and a half, I have listened to dozens of podcasts - some mediocre, some phenomenal and some skip-worthy. Among these, I have cherry picked a handful and reviewed them for TU Delta. Yet, in this vast library of audio programmes, none has stood out to me more than Wolf 359.
Written by Gabriel Urbina (and occasionally by other guest writers), Wolf 359 is a dramatic science-fiction serial set in the near future. Imagine if the game Fallout Shelter was set in outer space and then turned into a sitcom - Wolf 359 is something along those lines. It begins with the voice of Communications Officer Doug Eiffel aboard the U.S.S. Hephaestus - a space station orbiting the red dwarf planet of Wolf 359 - recording an audio log of the day‘s events. His two colleagues, Commander Minkowski who is a stickler for doing things by the book, and the mildly lunatic scientist Officer Hilbert are often the catalysts for all Doug Eiffel's problems. The aim of these space agents is to make first contact with other life forms in outer space and we follow the crew’s hilarious and absurd conundrums on the spacecraft. Over time, radio broadcasts of classical music are picked up and we are led to believe these are old radio broadcasts from earth (alluding to a space-time warp) but perhaps there is more to it than it seems ...
The manned space station is also controlled by a sentient operating system - Hera - who is a brilliantly written character that allows the show to explore the human condition through a very different lens. There are several tangents throughout the show - the kidnapping of a toothpaste tube, a plant monster that loves the air vents, a mysterious box 953 and other strange occurrences that eventually push the main plot forward. As our team navigates problem after problem in every episode, listeners get a glimpse of the real mystery lurking in the shadows in what is unsaid. The foreshadowing and Easter eggs are deliberate, well-placed and accompanied by top class sound recording and background music.
The entire show spans about 61 episodes of varying lengths - perfect bite-sized audio entertainment. As we journey with them, we are unwittingly pulled into their orbit and begin rooting for this muddled but endearing bunch of humans. The medley of unorthodox friendships, incredible comic timing, excellent writing and fantastic voice acting puts this show way above the rest. Zach Valenti, who voices Doug Eiffel and Officer Hilbert, is more than just remarkable and does full justice to the two very different characters.
Although the last full episode aired over two years ago, Wolf 359 is still reaping awards for the sheer quality of its production. In 2018, it won the Best Ongoing, Long-form, Dramatic Production at Audio Verse. Although classified as a science fiction drama, this show has so much more to offer than labels can tell. The show ends on a moving and wonderful note - whether you binge listened or paced yourself, you ultimately are so invested in these characters that it is almost tragic to hear the storyline complete itself. If I'm honest, I even teared up a little. And that is just yet another testament to what a genius of an audio programme this is. Wolf 359 - a tiny, little podcast in the vast space we call the internet - is worth both your ears and more.
Pooja Ramakrishnan is studying MSc Environmental Engineering and has recently joined the Delta team as their book and podcast pundit. A science student during the day and a poet by night, she balances the two with her curiosity and fascination for the world we live in.