The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward Review
Production company – BBC
This podcast series has a lot to answer for. It was the first podcast I listened to, and if you’ve read my first review, this was the one that fooled me with all the meta storylines. It really did have me searching for things that didn’t exist (which is fine by me really). Although I’m using the title for the first series, this podcast by the venerable BBC actually comprises three different stories by the “Old Man Of Providence”, H.P. Lovecraft. I suspect a fourth will be in the pipeline after the way series three ended.
What’s it about?
The first series as mentioned, is a reimagining of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. It’s been updated to the present day, slightly rewritten and expanded. It follows podcaster Matthew Heaward and his associate Kennedy Fisher as they investigate the disappearance of Mr. Charles Dexter Ward from a psychiatric hospital. This is a treat if you’ve never read the original story because HPL’s writing can be… (No, not racist, I mean it can be but) “purple”. It’s rather florid and verbose (rather like me), and difficult for younger people to understand (also like me). Even if you have read the story before then this is possibly the best adaptation out there.
In updating the setting the writers have been able to significantly expand on the universe. A universe that now incorporates Charles Manson, Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley as parts of the Mythos. It also takes place in both America and the UK. As the series progresses they manage to build on that lovely paranoid feeling you get watching films like Rosemary’s Baby or The Wicker Man. You are under no illusions as the story progresses that there are operators in the shadows conspiring against Matthew and Kennedy.
Is it any good?
The weaving of fiction and historical fact together is really well done and never feels contrived. I mean let’s be honest, so many historical occult societies and conspiracies are often strange enough to be works of fiction. The first series deals a lot with the power of belief. The point is not whether something really happened or not, or is real or not, but if you believe in something enough then you can effect changes in reality. Thinking about that as I write, it makes me wonder if this could be some kind of hypersigil like The Invisibles by Grant Morrison was. Maybe that’s just me being a nut.
Rather than three standalone stories, all the three series link together, much like a campaign in an RPG. As I said, series one retells the Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. Series two was based on The Whisperer In Darkness, and the third series was The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Throughout the series you’ll hear references to other Lovecraft characters and locations. These little easter eggs are great fun to spot, one I’d originally missed was that the podcasts production company is called Red Hook.
The characters are very well written and superbly acted, but then this is a BBC production and they have the advantages that most smaller drama podcasts don’t (production funds mainly). Beside that though, you’ll soon have favourite characters and you’ll be following each twist and turn with baited breath.
I have read on certain Facebook groups that a lot of people didn’t like this podcast. Upon reading the reasons for this, it seems that they completely missed the point that it was not only updated, but was a podcast about a podcast. I was amazed at this, and it is certainly no reason not to like it. TV is full of shows that do this kind meta story and get lauded for it. I guess this show did it a bit too well and fooled a lot of people.
I think you’ll like it though, you’ll plough through the episodes in no time and you’ll be waiting for series 4 like an excited child at Christmas (just like I am).
You can listen to it here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts.