The best things in life are free
I imagine I was pretty late in discovering podcasts: regular, largely non-professional downloadable audio episodes in a themed series.
Thanks to the generosity of of friends, I've been listening to audio books and dramas for many years but was suspicious the first time I was offered a podcast episode. Why would I want to listen to the opinions of some fan with a microphone, who did he think he was packaging his own views up into an episode and apparently expect the same attention as a professional product?
In this case that fan with a microphone was Jim Moon of the Hypnogoria (formerly Hypnobobs) podcast, and I was extremely fortunate to have had the chance to begin with one of the very best available. His in-depth analysis and sheer love of the two Doctor Phibes films hooked me straight away and I've listened to a huge part of his output since. Moon has a perfect voice for radio, a bottomless knowledge of genre fiction of every kind and, best of all, seems to always strive to take as positive a view as possible of the material he's looking at.
One thing Hypnogoria has done for me is re-ignite my love of all things Hammer, and that was how I stumbled upon another first-class podcast, pretty much by mistake. Searching under the name of that studio, I came across Hammered Horror, a show consisting of the two British hosts discussing a more obscure and perhaps unloved genre film - usually in a pub, (hence the 'hammered'). This podcast is a delight, ranging from comprehensive analysis to gleefully immature (and always hilarious) commentary which conjures many happy memories for me watching similar (and sometimes the same) films with friends.
In terms of another life-long interest of mine, I enjoy the Verity podcast, a revolving round-table discussion about Doctor Who by a group of women (who'd ever have imagined?) from Canada, the US, Australia and Scotland. Verity unsurprisingly has a feminist approach to its analysis which I generally enjoy, and works best when agent provocateur Liz Barr from Kirkcudbrightshire is onboard. Verity is smart, positive and creative, but the multiple contributor format can result in an uneven airing of views at times, despite Deborah Stanish's excellent moderating.
Hearing that one of the Verity contributors also hosted a Babylon 5 podcast, I went looking for it. I failed to find hers but did stumble across the Babylon Podcast, one of the earlier ventures into this internet medium and surely the definitive cast about the legendary mid-nineties programme. This is due to one of the co-hosts having been a regular character on the series itself, and able to get all of the Babylon 5 cast and crew members as guests in lengthy, entertaining and very candid interviews. On top of this co-host Summer Brookes has one of the loveliest voices online.
For more mainstream science fiction cinema, the Science Fiction Film Podcast has been a delight. It is irreverent, and borderline tourettes-syndrome in its language at times, but co-host Dean has an astonishing talent for mimickry. Effortlessly able to impersonate the entire cast of The Wrath of Khan, for example, his gift immeasureably enhances enjoyment of this cast which mixes well-researched commentary with exuberant enthusiasm for the subject.
Not every punt on a new podcast has paid off, unfortunately. One particular cast which is an adjunct to a magazine I loved in my younger years proved to be a huge disappointment. Venal, vulgar and sanctimonious, it was a waste of data useage which I will not be repeating.
I'm happy to be able to end on a happy note though. In terms of Hammer films I have finally achieved Nirvana with 1951 Downplace. Perhaps surprisingly, it is hosted by three Americans, but their depth of knowledge and love for this most British of institutions is peerless. This podcast has covered a Hammer production each month since, and doesn't just confine itself to their horror films, but the studio's entire output. This cast is painstakingly edited, themes of any other film touched upon swimming up in the background, along with the running gag of the Captain Kronos theme sting blaring every time that production is mentioned in passing. A hilarious discussion proprosing a title sequence for the 'Hammer A-Team' of Professors Van Helsing and Quatermass, Captain Kronos and Father Sandor with the entire A-Team theme playing in the background had me gasping for breath with laughter when I listened to it while out for a run.
Say what you like about genre film and TV fans, their boundless creativity does at least allow them to share enthusiasm in lovingly crafted, skilfully produced and entertaining ways, which the rest of us can enjoy, for free!