If you’re not a regular podcast listener, you might have missed the booming resurgence of audio dramas over the past few years. Once the purview of terrestrial radio—and all but dead in the United States—iTunes has given the narration-driven medium a brand-new outlet. Welcome to Night Vale, The Magnus Archives, Limetown, and Archive 81 are just a few of my personal favorites, now bringing science fiction, fantasy, and horror to our ears through the power of podcasts.
In some respects, Steal the Stars may not seem very unusual. The podcast works in the same sci-fi and fantasy genres that dominate the modernized medium: one part X-Files and one part office romance, set against a secretive government compound. Which isn’t surprising, given that Steal the Stars was created by Tor Labs—an offshoot of sci fi/fantasy-focused publisher Tor Books—in conjunction with production company Gideon Media.
But beneath the surface of its two-sentence iTunes summary, Steal the Stars has something unique going for it. The show brings back a style of radio drama that’s still uncommon, even among the wave of popular new series.
The cast makes the difference
The current audio-drama resurgence is mostly made of shows that are extremely focused in scope. The wildly popular Night Vale, for example, presents itself as a public newscast for the comically eerie, titular town. It rarely needs more than one voice actor (its fictional newscaster) to present its biweekly tales.
Tor Labs’ show, by contrast, is more akin to audio shows of yesteryear (or those in countries like the United Kingdom, where the medium never died). I’m reminded of The War of the Worlds or The Lone Ranger. Steal the Stars sports a 24-actor cast who interact scene-by-scene.
That number is more than just a bullet point, too. Despite centering squarely on the UFO-guarding protagonist and security chief Dakota Prentiss, the series makes use of its full cast in the first scene…