You Should Be Listening To is a series where I talk up one of my favorite podcasts and explain why you should be listening, too. Each post gives an explanation of the show using the same five questions, including how best to listen and comparisons to other pieces of media. You can find all of my You Should Be Listening To posts here.
All About Wolf 359
What is Wolf 359?
Wolf 359 is an independent, serialized space opera audio drama. The show released its final episode on 12/25/2017, meaning the entire story can now be listened to in full. The show centers on Communications Officer Doug Eiffel, a pop-culture loving smartass abroad the U.S.S. Hephaestus, a massive space station.
Okay, but what is it really?
Wolf 359 is a gorgeous, character-centered audio drama that has themes of mental health, abuse, sentience, the “greater good” vs. the individual, capitalism, isolation, found families, and identity. It has all the trappings of a great science fiction story and a deep focus on empathy and growth. It’s a story about redemption, and it’s a story about perseverance.
What makes it different from other podcasts?
The podcast has one of the most genuine depictions of mental health I’ve ever experienced in an episode that is also my single favorite piece of podcasting, ever (it’s “Episode 41: Memoria,” but do not listen to that episode out of context). The production is beautiful, and the cast delivers some of the best performances in the industry. It’s a mainstay of audio dramas for a reason: as it developed, it genuinely set the bar for the quality audio drama listeners should expect, right alongside The Bright Sessions.
When does it start to “get good?”
Wolf 359 starts of a bit silly and a bit fluffy, but it’s well worth the time needed to allow development. It should be noted that the protagonist, Doug Eiffel, can initially be very grating. He’s immature, obnoxious, and constantly spouting off pop culture references. By the end of the show, he’s one of the most well-developed, multifaceted characters in the medium. Wolf 359 writer Sarah Sachat’s opinion on when the show “gets good” is episode 10:
I started appreciating Wolf 359 well before that, though–I was sold at about “Episode 5: Cigarette Candy.” This may seem like a lot of audio to digest before the show “gets good,” but even Wolf 359‘s earlier, less stellar (pun only a little intended) episodes are still some of the better audio drama productions out there. They just pale in comparison to how the show develops.
Why should I be listening?
Because Wolf 359 just finished, you have a complete story, start to finish, at your disposal. This podcast is perfect for people who love sweeping stories, intense character development, laughing out loud, and sobbing. It’s intense, suspenseful, and riveting. Hearing the characters grow feels so triumphant–or, in other cases, heartbreaking. Wolf 359 genuinely feels like the Breaking Bad of the audio drama industry. It shepherded in the current sort of golden era of audio drama. It’s also a perfect introductory audio drama: it’s accessible in content and beautifully produced.
Listen to Wolf 359 if you like:
- Contemplative, character-based science fiction like the Ender’s Game series or Duncan Jones’s Moon
- The witty, snappy, reference-laden dialogue of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga or Runaways
- Stories that start out fluffy and silly and then gradually become devastating, like Steven Universe, Homestuck, or The Adventure Zone
- Discussions of individual lives and the “greater good” a la Watchmen or Avatar: The Last Airbender, or even arguably Harry Potter
- Depictions of sentient AI, like in Westworld; I, Robot; The Iron Giant; Ex Machina; Fallout 4; etc. etc. etc. (But to be honest, Wolf 359‘s Hera is my favorite version of this trope to date.)
You can find more information on Wolf 359 on their website. The website also has bonus character information and recordings of the podcast’s 2015 live show.