The week in audio: Doctor Who: Redacted; Access All; Will Be Wild

Doctor Who: Redacted BBC Sounds
Access All BBC Sounds
Will Be Wild Pineapple Street Studios for Wondery and Amazon Music

I’m far from a hands-aloft Whovian and had vaguely assumed that the new podcast Doctor Who: Redacted was one of those spin-off-from-the-telly-show affairs, where enthusiasts discuss the latest episode of a successful TV series. But no! Redacted, now on its fourth episode, is a fun, engaging drama series that features the current Doctor – we hear her leave a distressed message right at the start – plus other familiar Who characters. Crucially, however, it doesn’t plonk them centre stage.

Instead, our lead characters are Cleo, Abby and Shawna, uni-dropout pals and hosts of a investigative mystery podcast called “The Blue Box Files”, which explores the many sightings of a strange old police box during unusual events in history. The action concentrates mostly on Cleo, a young trans woman, played by the funny, charismatic Charlie Craggs: “Oh, come on, I don’t know nothing! I’m just here for the sass!” she announces when asked to interview a journalist. But Cleo quickly becomes the person with most insight into what is happening, which is, thus far, the disappearance of anything and anyone to do with Doctor Who. Nobody seems to remember ever seeing the Doctor, and people associated with her (or him, in the old days) keep disappearing. A news report says that a lad called Ryan Sinclair and his grandpa have gone missing (previous Doctor travelling chums); soon after, everyone forgets them completely.

Written by YA novelist Juno Dawson and directed by audio fiction queen Ella Watts, the action in Redacted lickety-splits along, driven by lively performances and excellent sound design. Plus, it’s such fun! Like all the best Doctor Who TV episodes, there’s a psychological element, some jokey lines and, crucially, out-there Who-esque action. By episode two, Cleo and her brother Jordan find themselves witnessing what appears to be a live hologram of Who character Rani Chandra being attacked by an “all humans must die” monster. A few minutes later they turn round to see that an entire hotel has vanished. This is excellently entertaining stuff (I prefer Redacted to the current Doctor Who TV series), ideal for family journeys. And there aren’t many shows you can say that about.

Another upbeat new show is a rejig of the BBC’s podcast about disability, Ouch!. Now called Access All, it’s hosted by Nikki Fox, with reporter Emma Tracey. Fox uses a wheelchair, Tracey is blind and their journalism has humour and insight into the difficulties and triumphs of their interviewees. The opening episode was great: informative and moving. It featured a sweet enough interview with Bake Off semi-finalist Briony May Williams and a more interesting chat with Dale, a gym instructor who’s decided to specifically cater for people with disabilities. He described teaching tennis to schoolchildren and realising that a girl in a wheelchair, who was always given the referee’s job, could play just as well as the other kids: “She wasn’t disabled by her disability; she wasn’t able to take part because she never had any support.”

Also, vitally, we heard from two people who explained how rising energy costs are wrecking their ability to look after their disabled children. One father, Dan, got understandably upset. His daughter, Emily, needs various bits of heavy equipment, including a ventilator, to be plugged in and running for hours a day. Because of the jump in electricity prices, he has had to switch off Emily’s hoist and is carrying her between bed, shower and wheelchair. I thought of Dan when I heard Nick Robinson interview the Tory minister George Eustice on Today on Wednesday. Cutting down on household expenses isn’t just about deciding to opt into Tesco’s Value range – as though people aren’t buying that already – it’s about making decisions like this. Hoist or ventilator? Heating or eating? Dan blows the hairdryer on Emily’s feet every night before he puts her socks on, because he can’t afford to heat the house.

If you’d like to ramp up your incredulous rage even more, then try Will Be Wild, another great investigation by Pineapple Street Studios for Wondery and Amazon Music (the combo that brought us the excellent 9/12). The podcast uses the 6 January 2021 invasion of the US Capitol building as its kick-off, analysing not simply why such an utterly shocking event happened, but how it was allowed to. The information it uncovers is indeed wild. An interviewee informs us that he and others warned the Department of Homeland Security that such an event was likely to occur… and nothing happened. When another DHS worker wrote a report describing the threat of domestic terrorism from rightwing extremists, he was forced from his job. Will Be Wild leads you to understand that 6 January wasn’t an end, but a staging post. Grimly gripping.

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