I listen to a lot of audio drama podcasts. And I mean a LOT. But one show that has really stuck with me, weeks and months after finishing it, is The Deca Tapes.
Without giving too much away, The Deca Tapes tells the story of ten people locked away from the rest of the world. Each person is given a specific role which also serves as their title, such as The Cook or The Teacher. Over the course of the series, the mystery of who these people really are, and why they are trapped together, is revealed.
The show’s creator, Lex Noteboom, takes the ‘found footage’ genre of audio storytelling, which has appeared in many different podcasts over the years, and puts his own unique stamp on it. Each episode has a well-defined formula, comprising news broadcasts, phone calls, police statements and the ‘Deca Tapes’ themselves. These disparate pieces of audio are woven together with top-notch performances and an atmospheric score.
The eponymous ‘Deca Tapes’ are audio logs recorded by each of the main characters, shaped by their own unique perspectives on events. Each character is definitely an unreliable narrator. This encourages the listener to question what they are being told and form their own theories about what is going on by comparing different characters’ versions of events. This is one of the techniques which works brilliantly in both audio fiction and novels, because they allow us to go deep into a character’s point of view.
One of my favourite parts of each episode is the section which goes into detail about a specific character’s past. Flashbacks and descriptions of past events like this are often misused in stories, providing only bland exposition or failing to add to the main plot, but The Deca Tapes avoids these pitfalls easily. The events described in these sections always have relevance for the main plot, and enrich the listener’s understanding of the characters, often fostering a sense of empathy for them too.
Thematically, The Deca Tapes is incredibly rich. Capitalism plays a major role in the show, providing a sinister undercurrent to events. I can’t say a huge amount about this aspect of the show without giving away spoilers, but I will say that The Deca Tapes’ vision of a capitalist society is deeply chilling and thought-provoking. Of course, many different audio fiction podcasts have also offered strong critiques of capitalism, but The Deca Tapes provides its own uniquely disturbing take on the subject.
Similarly, the theme of storytelling and imagination is hugely significant, and one of the main reasons that the show has stayed with me for so long. However, discussing this in detail would also mean a lot of spoilers. So, I will leave you to discover this part of the show for yourself!
If you love a good mystery, you really can’t go wrong with The Deca Tapes. It’s a meticulously crafted thriller with complex characters, thrilling conspiracies and an ending so satisfying that you’ll want to listen to the show all over again.