The Message: Season 1 - All Episodes
November 30, 2015 7:08 AM - Subscribe

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

I've added this as a 'whole season' post, as there's only eight episodes, all pretty short. But it's a great piece of 'War of the Worlds', our-reporter-on-the-scene type fiction. I'm on episode 7 and it's getting steadily creepier.
posted by Happy Dave (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed this pretty much. Good voice acting, fair pacing, and they do a good job of ending episodes on natural high points. Fans of Limetown, The Black Tapes, and Tanis should enjoy it, and the Message does a better job of quickly sketching a lot of characters in limited air time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on November 30, 2015

Ooh, thanks for posting this. I'd advocated for full-season podcast posts based entirely on this podcast, but I never went back to see whether they'd allowed for them.

I loved the ending despite the slight plothole in Nicky's storyline -- they couldn't give her a tighter cover story? Just made someone up and planted the appropriate records at some school where none of the cryptographers knew anyone?

I appreciated the format -- 12-15 minutes, eight episodes, bambambam we're done -- more than the hour-long extended versions of your Limetowns and Black Tapeses (and I've given up entirely on Tanis). I hope this becomes the standard for narrative serial fiction podcastery.

So all in all, five stars out of five.
posted by Etrigan at 7:50 AM on November 30, 2015

Listening to the finale, I enjoyed it, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to "Wait... but" it which made the whole thing feel kind of rushed like the realized they were out of episodes and had to wrap up everything right then.

Like, I couldn't understand the Messengers' motivation. It seemed to come down to "We're doing this for reasons, dummy! Exit stage right!" There was no new technology taught, they just used Dr. Kalpana's existing tech. They said it was a test, but that now humanity would be tested every day to not turn a tool into a weapon, which was weird as they sort of failed their own test by killing a bunch of people. "Good job inventing the sword in order to defend against me killing you with my sword. Now be sure not to sword people like I did! L8r!"

The acting was pretty good, though. There were not any obvious reading from a script folks that pop up on TANIS or Limetown and the info dumps were pretty organic. I agree that the brief nature of the series helped it - get in, get out - but it was frustrating to wait a week for 10 minutes of content, especially with the cliffhangers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like, I couldn't understand the Messengers' motivation. It seemed to come down to "We're doing this for reasons, dummy! Exit stage right!" There was no new technology taught, they just used Dr. Kalpana's existing tech.

But the initial message far predated Dr. Kalpana's (presumably) independent discoveries. From the perspective of the Messengers, they were showing humanity what was possible: when a species evolves broadcast sound, it also acquires the ability to use it as a weapon of mass destruction. In 1945, the Message would have killed far fewer people while potentially leading to the intended advances and answering the question "Will Earthlings use this for good or for evil?"
posted by Etrigan at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2015

I dunno. There had been multiple groups over the years listening to the Message each with its own covert observer - they had to know that humanity just wasn't very interested in it, so they pressed the issue by engineering a wider release. We had already passed the test of not turning broadcast sound into a weapon, simply because we didn't care. We came up with the cure before we knew we needed to treat the disease, but they unleashed the disease anyways in order to do... what? Reveal their existence? Sending the Message did that. Test humanity? Humanity passed. Encourage new tech? The tech was developed on its own. Revel in the power of radio plays and their ability to get inside your head and change the way you think? Okay, sure, but that's nearing a Grant Morrison level of meta-ness where the aliens are actually the shows producers and our imaginations all live in cities made of sound.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:16 AM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

In general I was pretty psyched for this because it's written by the author of the Honeycomb trilogy, which I desperately wish I could see because it's a trilogy of sci-fi plays!

Overall I liked it and enjoyed the twist, but I do second the "huh?!" on the Messengers' motivation. It was confusing and I wish I had a transcript to read the last episode and see if it makes more sense in text as opposed to my easily-forgetting ears.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2015

I agree that this has the best voice acting of any of the narrative fiction podcasts I have heard yet. I also enjoyed the premise.

But I don't think 90 seconds went by without some plot hole or failure in logic that got my hackles up. Insular group of scientists hires intern without properly vetting her, asking their peers about her? Nope. Military tells off-site research group message is definitely alien, but, no big, go ahead and announce that shiz on a podcast? Nope. Let's document the most important communication in earth's history using the intern right there? Nope. Oops, we accidentally misfiled the causes of death for 29 people? Nope. Young woman's podcast shows definitive proof of alien life, gets only 10,000 downloads, no followup from major media outlet? Nope. Message may be killing people, go ahead and put it on iTunes? Nope. We're all dying, earth may be dying, but before we get into that, let's talk to this fucking intern about resume discrepancies? Nope. Private research group unleashes possible world-ending virus, government wishes them luck, sends food and supplies instead of disappearing them into a hole, having military take over? Nope. NASA literally never interacts once? Nope. SETI neither? Nope.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:28 AM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

That sounds like I hated it, but I didn't. But it did often feel less like a finished script and more like a rushed, abbreviated first draft that badly needed a second pass and some expansion.

And who knows? I have like eight minutes left to listen after work. Maybe it will all make sense then.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 AM on December 1, 2015

That final twist was a bit perfunctory and unconvincing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

How did the GE-branded podcast The Message hit No. 1 on iTunes?

Why is the GE "branding" an issue? What podcast these days doesn't have ads? It's not like this one is filed under G in my podstream because it's called "GE Presents The Message".
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on December 2, 2015

I think it's great. Let the corporations sponsor what amounts to old-school radio dramas.

I'd rather have that than more shitty wannabe viral YouTube vids.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was also fairly unimpressed with the Messengers' motivation, I was hoping for something genuinely alien and all the more frightening for it. Still, I enjoyed this podcast, and really appreciated the production values/voice acting. I thought it made the best of its form, in terms of making sound itself so central to its plot.
posted by yasaman at 5:18 PM on December 3, 2015

I enjoyed it, but I might have had way lowered expectations for it. That is, I really liked the layers of deciphering that were involved with each. It's not a message it's a medium, etc.
I didn't look for the plot holes and when they popped up I kind of just let them coast by because it was 10-15 minutes at a time and that's pretty low demand.

I'd totally listen to something else this group put out.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:19 AM on January 4, 2016

Also, the branding of Podcasts Dirtyoldtown links to is interesting as hell and well worth the read
posted by From Bklyn at 7:26 AM on January 4, 2016

For anyone who took this off your podcast subscriptions when it ended, there's a new one (that sounds a little like a sequel?) called LifeAfter. Looks like they rebranded the old feed and uploaded a teaser.
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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