Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Big Audio Wednesday - Theater Five

According to the notes on its Internet Archive page, Theater Five was an attempt by ABC in the 60's to revive radio drama. CBS would make another attempt in the late 70's with CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

Theater Five episodes open with a snippet of dialogue from the show, setting up a moment of tension, followed by the jazzy theme song. The theme song sounds like something from a TV show of the time, bombastic horns over bongos with an announcer giving the episode title as in a Quinn Martin show. "Tonight's episode: Incident at Apogee."

"Incident at Apogee," broadcast in 1964, isn't actually science fiction. It's a domestic drama that takes place during man's first walk in space (which occurred in real life on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission). So it's more "ripped from the headlines" than speculative. But the actual sci-fi episodes of Theater Five were pretty awful, cliched stuff, so this episode stands out in that respect.

It was written by William N. Robson, an old veteran who in previous decades had worked on Escape, one of the best dramas on radio. In the early 60's, Robson had been making documentaries for Voice of America.

The early episodes of the series (of which this is one) feature fairly strong stories. Later episodes were weaker (not surprising when you consider how many scripts the show burned through at 5 days a week), and the series was dropped in less than a year after 260 episodes.

So take a deep breath, click the widget and enjoy "Incident at Apogee." There's no air in space, you know.

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