What would you do if the dead started to walk? Would you go to military bases and hope their training overrides human nature in the face of the apocalypse? Maybe you’d try a hospital for their medical supplies and pray none of the other patients turned? Perhaps you’d be better off letting the world burn and setting up on your own?
This is the first question dealt with in We’re Alive, a serial drama podcast that starts with the end of the world and keeps going. From riots spreading through a city to the fall of mankind, the first couple of episodes are shown through the eyes of three soldiers looking for shelter. They eventually hole up in an apartment building and meet other characters,setting up a small settlement. Early episodes deal with setting up replinishing food supplies, water and power amidst the ever-present threat of the zombie hoard. As more is learned about the zombies the main characters decide that everyone should keep a journal so that easily-missed information isn’t lost amongst differing perspectives. From then on each episode is told from a different perspective with the journal entries acting as a framing device. As time goes on the survivors meet other groups, some hostile, some friendly, and some driven insane by having to deal with what appears to be anything but the clichéd zombie apocalypse.
These are zombies that are claiming land intelligently, separating their dead from human dead, and have a base of operations. Some have mutated into other forms and have almost video game-style abilities (fast zombies that can keep up with speeding cars, huge tanks that smash through walls) while their apparent leader is able to pass as human sometimes and can even speak. The mystery of where the zombies come from is hinted at over time in such a way that each tiny reveal of information helps the listener piece together a slightly more complete picture, and each encounter adds to that. Even without the zombie mystery driving things, there is plenty of meat to the story with the focus shifting easily to the interpersonal relationships between survivors and the hunt for seemingly trivial things that are essential when civilisation has fallen.
Where We’re Alive really stands out is in the quality of acting. Other podcast dramas, no matter how well written, always seem to half-ass the acting. The best I’ve heard is way over the top as it tries to emulate old radio dramas. We’re Alive keeps things simple and realistic, with the actors concentrating on the story more than a certain style of acting. It’s a realism that suits the stories told and helps ground the high concept drama somewhat, keeping it from flying off into the realms of ridicule. The writers for their part aren’t afraid to kill off anyone, adding to the sense that no-one is truly safe, and new characters are regularly introduced to add to the drama. Due to the setting, even the most clichéd character may have secrets or motivations that aren’t immediately clear, sometimes taking their secrets to the grave and sometimes having them revealed even after death (thanks again to the journal format). Whether your interest in zombies comes from watching The Walking Dead, reading World War Z or playing Resident Evil, there’s plenty you’ll find familiar and alluring about We’re Alive and its strength will quickly turn you into one of its many fans (with only one bite). Even without an interest in zombies there’s plenty to love for anyone interested in a high quality audio-drama that respects its listeners.
So, what are you waiting for? Get over there and start listening before the hoard overruns you.
In The Know
- We’re Alive started in 2009 and is currently in its third season.
- Each season consists of twelve chapters, with each chapter consisting of three episodes. The first season finale consisted of four episodes while the second season finale was a single feature-length episode.
- Each episode is usually around 20MB and there are usually one or two weeks break between episodes and three weeks between chapters, with a much longer break between seasons.
- You can catch up on previous episodes or subscribe to the podcast at this link.
Let me know what you think about it, wont you?