Podcasts! Chances are that you’ve heard of them before. There’s one out there for everyone no matter what you like—from Dungeons and Dragons to interior design to Science Fridays. It’s still really hard to find one that you click with, though; the podcast you keep coming back to month after month, the one that you fall in love with.
That’s why this article is about Wolf 359. It could be described as a ridiculous, fun, weird, hot mess of space, explosions, plant monsters, unexplained stellar phenomena, dubious Russian accents, and secrets. So many secrets. But that doesn’t cover everything, because as with any good media, you come for the fun setting and stick around because whoops, now you’re emotionally invested in the characters and if you don’t know what happens you are going to set something on fire.
It’s one big, endless bottle episode, where the crew are trapped together with no means of escape. The bottle is the space station Hephaestus, orbiting the red dwarf star Wolf-359, nearly eight light-years from Earth. The crew is one lazy goofball, Doug Eiffel, one controlling commanding officer, Renée Minkowski, one scientist of arguable morality, Alexander Hilbert, and one AI with a chip on her shoulder, Hera. They face dilemmas like running out of toothpaste, lighting a cigarette in an atmosphere that is mostly oxygen without setting the whole station ablaze (Eiffel, no!), and memorizing all one thousand and one of Pryce and Carter’s Deep Space Survival Procedure and Protocol Manual tips. It’s a regular space sitcom—until, of course, someone else arrives on the station, and the plot happens.
In terms of the more technical aspects; there are plenty of complex characters, complex female characters, a complete lack of romantic subplots which I am always here for, explorations of morality and humanity, and drama and comedy and both at the same time. But that’s not everything; it’s how it all comes together into a perfect, mesmerizing storm.
While listing similar media isn’t really a good way to get a handle of the story, if you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Good Omens, or Deep Space Nine, then this might be your kind of thing. I could say more, but that would be a whole lot of spoilers. Able to ask questions from “what does it mean to be human?” to “how are we stopping Minkowski from accidentally destroying the station in her vendetta against a sentient plant monster?” without anything seeming out of place, Wolf 359 takes you by surprise and always leaves you hitting play on the next episode. The podcast ended in December of 2017, leaving a void in my updates and a desire to go right back to the start when everything was okay and listen to the whole thing again.
The crew of the Hephaestus have broken my heart, made me laugh, made me absolutely, incandescently furious, and taught me that in times of trouble, you always have one thing you can count on. Hydrochloric acid. I would never, ever, not in a million years want to live on the Hephaestus. But will I visit that rickety pile of space debris again and again? Of course.