Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Edict Zero

Edict Zero is the name of a new audio drama science fiction crime drama series by Jack Kincaid and focuses on a fictional governmental group FIS in a near future or parallel universe Earth. According to the About page, EZ has been "compared to Bladerunner, The X Files, Fringe, Hill Street Blues , Lexx, and a diversity of [other] shows."
Edict Zero is a Slipgate Nine production. Episodes tend to run at AD-PG13 ratings.

Website
The Edict Zero website is slickly designed with easy access and a simple white on black template. The graphic for the series at the top easily meshes with the over all theme and provides a focus point for the reader. The top menu includes Home, About, Contact, Glossary, and Series Extras.
The About section gives a nice short form about how their listeners describe the show, and how many episodes were released in Seasons 1 and 2 and the release schedule (nice!).
Happily they also include a section on "The Story" to give a bit of the background on the background of the "world" of Edict Zero, although none of the characters are mentioned. This is strange since the characters are absolutely the focus of the series.
The Contact section briefly outlines that all music should be contacted at the source and provides the Slipgate Email address for those who are interested.
The Glossary is a fantastic opportunity to fill in more of the blanks in the universe that the listeners may not have caught, or haven't been explicitly detailed in the series. While mostly containing the four Edicts, the glossary could be improved by including the character names and a little background for the listeners as there are a lot of moving scenes in the story.
The Series Extras section is of special benefit. The Prologue read by Jack Kincaid provides a needed backdrop to where Edict Zero takes place. Having the soundtrack attached also is a great bonus and I've found myself playing the tracks for fun at various points of my day.
The website is easy to access and full of little gems. It's missing a few elements that would provide some more clarification into the story, and I'd like to see the glossary grow more than the few entries now that we've gotten into Season 2, but still a joy to revisit!
Rating: 4.5/5

Audio Drama Style- Modern
Edict Zero provides music from Nine Inch Nails and other orchestral ambient music throughout each episode. The scenes are tight and there is minimal narration only at the beginning. Along with developed sound effects, these are all hallmarks of the modern audio drama style. Episodes tend to vary in length but usually are slightly longer than an hour in length. The intensity of the performances create a compelling listen from the get-go and the production levels are tight and and professionally offered.

Acting- Amateur
While technically, the acting is from the amateur class of non-payed performers, producer and writer Jack Kincaid gets stellar performances from his cast. Voices are expertly selected to stand out and contrast in a scene. Stand out performances are Phil Rossi and Kincaid himself who provide excellent depth and fingerprint like clarity to their voices; Tanja Milojevic, who is fast becoming my favorite female actor in the modern era (she has a voice that could melt butter in Alaska), and Russell Gold who has become synonymous with, tight, well-controlled and expert craft.
It would be hard pressed to find better actors in any current series running for free in the modern audio theater set. These folks are a delight in which to listen.
Rating: 5/5

Production- Detailed
Jack Kincaid knows how to produce.
There's little more to be detailed beyond the fact that Edict Zero has the perfect blend of sound effects, panning, and sound that is rare in an freely distributed production. Kincaid has obviously spent a lot of time getting solid recordings, powerhouse performances, and mixed them with just the right amount of music to provide tone, mood, and a deeply compelling world.
The best compliment for any producer is saying that the sound goes nearly unnoticeable, in that it flows easily around the scene and the listener is lost in the depth of the soundscape created. Kincaid does this in spades. And yes, that rhymed.
Rating: 5/5

Writing
The writing of Edict Zero is it's Achilles heel. It's overwritten to a point of sometimes losing the audience entirely. Characters bicker pointlessly when there's a plot waiting in the wings to be fed. I listened to an episode where two characters were involved in a testosterone excretion battle for who would pay for a cheque. While funny for the first five seconds, I was with the women in the scene thinking this was pointless and distracting.
Many of the scenes end up this way. There are whole scenes where great background exposition is discovered about the new Earth (Edict Zero), but it doesn't drive the plot forward or do anything to reveal more depth to the characters. There are arguments that go no place and last precious minutes, gut ripping decisions that really last far longer than they ever need. For example, in one episode a character bemoans the fact that he has chosen his job before his relationship with his wife. This is good dramatic fare, and yet the wife is entirely supportive of his choices and encourages him to get back to the plot. The character continues navel gazing for such a long time that he comes across as weak and needy instead of introspective and thoughtful. The wife has created a solution for his angst, and the plot should move on, or the wife should agree that he is being neglectful and an actual fight can ensue.
An hour long audio drama needs to be kept at a strong pace, or it will lose listeners. Edict Zero would do much better if Kincaid took out his editors pen and cut the scripts to half the size. Certainly this would cut out much of the back and forth of characters but it would provide for a clearer path into the story which gets lost from time to time.
Rating: 2/5

Over All
Despite the near perfect acting and production, the writing of Edict Zero is a wound to the side of the production that sadly made me put the show down more than once. I want to love Edict Zero. It has all the great elements of what could become a modern science fiction classic series. It's got a deep mythology and really compelling characters I want to know more about, but more importantly a plot that I wish Kincaid would focus better. I feel as a listener that the series is too stretched out. There are points in the story where some "clever" information is dropped in and the characters spends unnecessary exposition explaining how smart the author was for sharing it with the listener. I beg folks to drop educating ham-fistedly in their audio dramas and instead clear away the debris of a story to keep it moving. Most scenes that have characters walk or travel by elevator from one site to another can be cut as superfluous. Bring Edict Zero stories down to a manageable half hour and make those 30 minutes compelling listening. I'm not suggesting that all characterization be removed, I'm asking characterization to relevant to the plot and meaningful to the story.
Until those badly needed edits occur, Edict Zero will be the show I sample, put down, sample, put down, and sample again. All because I want so much more from it.
Rating: 2/5

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