Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
Everybody likes to walk through a door marked private right? Well, this week guys I have an EXCLUSIVE podcast review from, IMO the Lennon & McCarthy of fiction thriller podcasts, Brett Neichen & John Scott Dryden.
Brett & John, cheers for thinking of me, and for giving me another unbelievable opportunity to work with you talented chaps again.
Released via BBC Sounds with Goldhawk Productions under the hood, Restart officially airs on the 5th Oct — and I for one am absolutely blown away to deliver its first indie critic review of this eight-part thriller fiction.
The landscape for Restart is based on two teenagers, from separate continents, who bond & game online together. The lead character Brit Eddie (Armin Karima), journeys to the US after becoming concerned about his childhood pal Junior (Zachary Nachbar-Seckel), who has suddenly vanished under dramatic circumstances.
What transpires is Junior has unwillingly been enrolled in a gaming digital detox camp called DRS (Digital Restart Summer Camp), kinda like The Priory or Betty Ford for PlayStation lovers. Apparently back in the day – 1982 to be precise – the Atari 2600 game E.T, had secret coding written by its developer hidden within the game. Fast forward to today, and it appears our teenagers have stumbled upon something more sinister than unlocking a new playable boss character.
Queue ace subtextual plotlines filled with urban myths and questionable military involvement all superglued together by retro gaming nostalgia. For nerds out there — myself included — that golden age of iconic video games includes references to Atari 2600, Street Fighter 2, Pong, and even 90s Tamagotchi’s – yep you heard me right!
Vibe-wise – like all Neichen & Dryden creations Restart comes loaded with popular-culture references & Easter eggs galore to keep the old brain matter ticking over nicely. That being said, there is a darker, more unique trippy edge to Restart that blurs both virtual worlds with the reality that I cannot wait for other listeners to experience.
With retro video gaming currently at an all-time high, it is no wonder that Brett & John have tapped into another on-trend theme for their latest outing. After all the duo behind The CITHER, and last year’s hit Steelheads know a thing or two about creating an insanely addictive podcast. Speaking more broadly, the sharp thing about Restart is how it could potentially engage with a much wider gaming community – a worldwide community in 2022 of 3.2 billion gamers no less.
The pacing starts fairly even with some timeline movement back & forth for story development with the tempo picking up rapidly towards the final few episodes. Personally, it took me until episode two before I became synced with Restart’s storyline as some of the elements took me a while to wrap my head around.
In terms of character development – Eddie is joined on his quest by additional nerdy characters who comfortably populate the series without overshadowing the main protagonist. Armin Karima, as the kind-hearted Eddie, puts in a notable shift as the introverted gamer who has never left London Town.
Niche note – was it just me or did Armin’s vocals sound incredibly similar to another British chap (Petrice Jones), who starred in the Netflix series Locke & Key?
So to the million-dollar question, should you jump on the Restart bandwagon?
If you like futuristic podcast thrillers with individual styling, then quite simply yes. There’s lots to analyse, an abundance of intriguing conspiracy theories, twists, and even educational elements woven within the fabric of this show to keep the listener engaged.
For fence-sitting folk, you don’t need to be a gamer to fully value Restart’s plotline. High-five to listeners of a particular vintage — including me — as there are tons of cultural gaming references to give you a welcomed jolt of nostalgia.
I couldn’t close this review without quickly mentioning yours truly getting name-checked within the first few minutes of episode one. Kevin is a proposed baby name mentioned by Eddie’s expecting parents, which they claim is very English sounding! Absolute genius Brett – after two years of reviewing podcasts I’ve finally become my very own Easter egg!
Let’s take a moment to pause, and decant this week’s sci-fi audio drama scores.
Overall score 4.9/5 – audio 4.9/5
Restart can be found at BBC Sounds, or via the BBC Sounds App.
If you enjoyed this review, and like Brett & John would like your fiction podcast considered for review by Tea in the Sahara please get in touch – email@example.com or via my socials. Cheers, Kev.
Eddie – Armin Karima
Boss – Akie Kotabe
Junior – Zachary Nachbar-Seckel
Karishma – Lilette Dubey
Francis – Jon Gabrus
Skye – Gianna Keihl
Hilly – Jennifer Armour
CJ – Savannah Steyn
Mr Priest – Nathan Osgood
Flo – Michaella Moore
Lilya – Nathalie Armin
Salman – Dana Haqjoo
Mr Jacobs – Eric Meyers
Atari Boss – Philip Desmeules
Nurse – Rebecca La Chance
Lars & Creature – Kerry Shale
Kids at camp: Matteo Caporusso, Vaughn Arthur Endraca, Sebastian Stewart, Libbi Fox
Other parts: Joshua C Jackson, Victor Perez, Eric Sirakian, Matilde Gaido
Created & Written by Brett Neichin & John Scott Dryden
Original music by Benbrick with additional programming by Lostwithyou
Editing & Sound Design – John Scott Dryden, Adam Woodhams & Andreina Gomez
Recording: Sonica Studios, London & Marc Grau Studios, LA.
Sound Engineering – Paul Clark & Tony Diaz & Peter Mack
Script Editing – Farokh Soltani & Mike Walker
Trails – Jack Soper
Assistant Producer – Eleanor Mein
Runner – Jacob Tombling
Producer & Casting – Emma Hearn
Director & Executive Producer – John Scott Dryden
A Goldhawk production for BBC Sounds
Goldhawk Productions is one of the world’s leading producers of audio fiction. Visit us at www.goldhawkproductions.com