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The Signal review

Production company – Realm

Rating – 4 brains

This week’s review is The Signal. Set at the beginning of the 1960s, it is an odd cold war drama that veers off into many strange places. Read on, and see if it’s worth your time. You may also notice the slightly different format of this opening paragraph. This is something of an experiment due to the strange way that some browsers display the search results for this blog. But anyway, enough of that, on with the review!

I can’t conceive of a darker time in history than the cold war. Yes, both world wars were horrific, and suffered great loss of life. The threat of global annihilation though was surely a knife edge that affected everyone, one way or another. Being born at the end of the 1970s, I vaguely remember Protect And Survive, and books like When The Wind Blows were ingrained in my psyche at far too young an age.

So what’s it about?

Set in the cold war, The Signal initially follows two mysterious people, seemingly with two separate agendas as they try to trace the source of a mysterious short range radio signal. The signal at first seems like a numbers station, but there are significant (and deadly) differences. On top of this rather well done, if generic storyline, we follow a young brother and sister on the run from a sinister group of people, and a paranoid radio host who believes that aliens are already on earth, and living amongst us.

Over the course of 10 episodes, you are drawn into a story of government cover-ups, secret codes and unorthodox medical trials. And of course, propaganda, paranoia and cold blooded murder. This is a grand story arc, with many twists and turns (as you would expect).

There are so many mysteries offered up here. What are the motivations of the enigmatic Swann and the stern Rosemary? Who Is really pulling the strings behind global events? I can’t think of a show that portrays the average protagonist as so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Throughout the series, this adds a brilliant feeling of hoplessness that must have been how most people felt at this time.

Is it any good?

The voice acting for the most part is very good. You can really visualise the characters just from their voices, which goes to show how well written and acted they are. While there is plenty of reason (and danger) of the characters becoming clichéd, they tread the line with great care and you never think of them as being overplayed. If I’m being picky, then calling a military general “Sobek” is a touch heavy handed. It’s only a minor niggle for a nerd like me though.

The sound design however, is where this show really comes into its own. The series is interspersed with radio shows and adverts that are just authentic enough. Think of the aesthetic of the Fallout games and you’ll be on the right track.

I suspect that there is an even greater depth to the narrative than it would seem at first. As I write this review, there are things that I’m remembering, things that might fit together. Or I may be misremembering. I’ll certainly go back and relisten again, when I get a chance. That’s an honour awarded to few podcasts out there.

Final thoughts

This show was a brilliantly gripping cold war drama. The more sci-fi elements were well done, and at just 10 episodes, it didn’t spread itself too thinly. That’s something that a lot of shows could do with considering. I can understand why companies want to release shows that cover multiple seasons, but sometimes you just need to get in and out.

The ultimate reveal may seem a bit trite, but the build up is certainly worth the journey. “Cinematic” is probably the best way to describe this. Ultimately, this is another great show from Realm, and one you should check out immediately.

You can get The Signal here:


For more great reviews, I recommend GreatPods

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