Sci-Fi Radio Theater, 12 February - 8 April 2012
The setting: Boston, sometime in the future. The ambience: A world where
robots are part of daily life. The assignment: Private eye Otto Vainikainen (Charles Davis) is hired by enigmatic
woman Barbara Diya (Noelle Micarelli) to investigate the murder of her brother Homer. Aided and abetted by his beautiful French
assistant Patricia Lecroix (also Micarelli), Vainikainen dives into an underworld of intrigue, as they investigate
what happened to Homer, a professor of robotics.
In a murder-mystery like this, the last thing I should do is to reveal the plot.
All I can say that it twists and turns, leaving listeners in a state of suspended animation as to what will
happen next. Writer/ director/ leading actor Davis has obviously spent a lot of time studying serials, on radio,
television and the cinema, and how they work, with some time left for character-develiopment but with the emphasis placed
on plot-development and the obligatory cliff-hanging ending. Despite its futuristic setting, The Ba Gua Etuis Box
is a throwback to a time when Saturday morning serials dominated cinema screens, and youngsters went without fail
every week to find out what would happen next to their heroes. For those of a younger generation, such as myself, the
serial evokes a time on television when we could not wait to see "the next exciting episode" unfold on our screens.
The serial could best be described as postmodern in approach, deftly combining futuristic
elements with echoes dating back to the ancient Egyptian period. By such means dramatist Davis makes us aware of how 'history'
is actually a living continuum: the past inevtiably influences the present and vice versa. The eight parts of the serial show
the characters gradually coming to terms with this knowledge, and thereby learning to respect the past.
However this is no high-minded serial with a moral intention. It is actually great
fun, with its depiction of the often spiky relationship between Otto and Patricia: their personal struggles set aside
their professional difficulties, especially when caught in a tight situation. The fact that such situations crop regularly
throughout the eight parts only goes to show two things: first, that they are incredibly unfortunate in discovering trouble
around every corner; or second, that they are so dedicated to solving the crime that they are prepared to go to any lengths.
I think that both explanations are true: this is what makes the series such fun to listen to.
Every episode can be downloaded as a podcast from the SciFiRadioTheater.com
website, as well as on ITunes. I recommend that everyone who likes the serial format should have a listen - either
taking the series episode by episode (rather like our parents and grandparents might have done when they were kids attending
Saturday morning performances at the local movie-house), or if you're a complete addict, listen to all of them in one
go (you'll need most of an afternoon and an evening to do this).