In the world of science-fiction, it’s rare that a countdown can be comforting. While the slowly descending count around which Moonbase Theta, Out is centered is far from benevolent, there’s a certain security to the plodding clock, as Communications Officer Roger Bragado-Fischer takes you through the seemingly mundane updates of life on Moonbase Theta.
For me, the brilliance of Moonbase Theta lies in its ability to walk the plane that connects pacing, character, and verisimilitude. Season One’s twenty-one episodes average between five and ten minutes long, finetuning the listener’s experience into a precise slice-of-life. But more than just its short form, MTO lets Roger broadcast their heart out into the universe with few explicit explanations, trusting its listeners to pick up on and put the clues together. From the moment we first hear Roger’s broadcasts in “Twenty-One,” they have been allowed to live, love, get frustrated, angry, upset—and we learn about them, the rest of the crew of Moonbase Theta, and the vaguely dystopian near future they exist in from what Roger doesn’t say nearly as much as from what they do. Listening feels like watching a puzzle being put into place: warm and satisfying to see, but with constant anticipation of the finished image.
While most episodes don’t end on cliffhangers, the countdown keeps the atmosphere tense enough that you won’t want to stop listening. And a full binge of season one is more than doable—in fact, there’s a supercut available on the MTO feed, and it comes in at 1 hour, 42 minutes—about the time it takes to watch your standard Hollywood movie. I won’t give away any spoilers, but trust me when I say the supercut makes the ending of season one hit that much harder.
It wouldn’t be fair for me to review this podcast without paying the relationship between Roger and their husband, Alexandre (and their children,) the praise it deserves. Writer D. J. Sylvis and actor Leeman Kessler have done a tremendous job of showcasing their love, whether through Roger’s poetry selections or the quaver in their voice when addressing their husband, and though we never hear Alexandre on-air, we don’t have to. This queer romance isn’t necessarily central to the “plot” of MTO, but it is central to Roger, and Sylvis and Kessler make sure it gets its due diligence.
This, along with the explicit and intentional lack of binary-gendered pronouns within the show, cements the show’s place among the vast catalog of queer science-fiction audio dramas, and, if you want to get more specific, among the still large number of queer science-fiction space audio dramas featuring immoral corporations in a world just removed from ours. As you can tell, the balance of these different elements is delicate, and Moonbase Theta, Out incorporates them into full-fledged five-minute symphonies. This is a show that managed, and probably will continue to manage, to hit home hard—even when being broadcasted from 238,900 miles away.