On August 22nd, 2017, Procyon’s new audio drama Station to Station debuted with its first episode, “Ep. 1 – Standard Operating Procedure.” Procyon’s description of Station to Station, taken from the show’s website, reads as such:
When Dr Miranda Quan embarks on a 10-week research cruise in the North Pacific, she expects two months of no-nonsense experiments, bad Titanic jokes and marathoning Grey’s Anatomy. Instead, her lab partner has vanished, leaving knee-deep in a mystery she has to solve with nothing but a notebook full of half-finished thoughts and a cassette tape with his last words. With a storm moving in and something sinister lurking below decks, Miranda must untangle the conspiracy surrounding her or be consumed.
While I would usually wait until an episode has reached about five episodes to do a First Impressions review, this premier was so stunning it would be an oversight not to discuss. I still plan on writing a full First Impressions review to see whether or not the show has lived up to this exciting debut.
The episode features emotive (but not broad) acting, believable writing, and absolutely stunning production. Taking notes from shows like The Magnus Archives and Within the Wires, there’s a particular tinny, lo-fi quality that evokes the feeling of recording on a hand-held tape recorder without actually losing and crispness. The show also seems to borrow inspiration from the gorgeous stylings of ars PARADOXICA and maybe even Greater Boston, jumping between different narrative styles and chronology. The narration switches between Quan actually recording herself and, seemingly, Quan’s inner dialogue, discussing the emotional truth she wouldn’t convey on an actual tape she’s creating for work.
The choice is a brilliant justification for forcing the recording into the narrative. Instead of shoehorning in the fact that Quan is recording, the trope is subverted, and the show questions which records are diagetic and which aren’t. The question of diagesis is usually something most audio dramas ignore, save for the occasional reverb-heavy thought process of a character. What sets Station to Station apart here, though, is that the production for these moments is to go even more lo-fi. Is Quan later splicing in these moments? The episode explains that these tapes aren’t the ones she was supposed to give her employer, after all. Or is this just how the show conveys Quan’s thoughts? What is there for the purpose of the listener, and what actually exists within the narrative?
Similarly, the expository audio editing for the show so far is exemplary. The production has a keen knack for making things sound loud without actually being loud. There’s a consistent low bass drone that establishes the feeling of being on a ship, but it also adds this looming sense of unease. The show also takes moments to make the audio sound unclear, unclean, or distorted, which is both practical and atmospheric; it feels more genuine than perfect, crisp audio (especially when Quan is recording herself playing a different recording), and further establishes the sense of dread that builds throughout the episode.
So far, Station to Station is one of the most promising new podcasts I have heard in months. If the show continues with this level of quality, Procyon could re-establish itself as one of the foremost emerging networks in audio drama.
You can listen to Station to Station on any podcast streaming service or on the show’s Tumblr page.