I struggle to listen to audio but yesterday, whilst I was doing repetitive tasks that don’t need to be focussed on, I decided to find a standalone podcast series and try it out. The Deca Tapes stood out:
“Ten people are locked into the same space together. Each of them received a set of instructions on how to live their life.”
Eight episodes for the whole series
I’ve been recommended podcasts, such as The Magnus Archives or Welcome to Night Vale, in the past but don’t want to commit to something huge, just in case.
Stunning graphics and music
I listened to the teaser episode and from there, looked up the website. The graphics are gorgeous, and the music is beautifully haunting.
Tapes have been found that are made by a group of ten people, locked into the same space somewhere. All members have received instructions on what role they are to play within the group. One of them is called ‘The Cleaner’ for example and another one ‘The Cook’.
Each tape is made by another member. He or she talks about their life in the confined space. So with each tape we get to live the events through a new set of eyes.
Throughout the monologues there are snippets of news broadcasts, phone calls, police statements and so on, giving the listener more and more context on what is going on. And more background on how each member ended up on the recordings.The Story, from The Deca Tapes Press Kit
This is a really compelling and immersive podcast, with eight episodes ranging from the shortest (22 minutes) to the longest (44 minutes). It’s a “locked box” murder mystery where tapes, belonging to the Deca Group, have been leaked and everyone is horrified at what they’re hearing. But, we were never meant to hear the tapes.
Ten people share the same eight rooms together and each have a title, rather than a name: “The Doctor” or “The Teacher”. Each person gets instructions for their role and the front page of these has menacing overtones: “These are your instructions. Read them carefully. You are not to share them with anyone. Under any circumstances.”
But more than that, these people have their previous identity erased. They cannot remember anything about who they were and have no clue why they are in the shared space or how they got there. They do their tasks and you can see some personality traits coming through but that’s it, until events start to unfold, and people and places become unravelled.
Each episode is headed by one of the characters and it’s through this lens that the mystery starts to unravel. It’s a beautiful “unreliable narrator” story and all the better for being watched through the different perspectives. Each character is supposed to record what they’ve done each day, nothing more and that’s the basis of the podcast. In each episode, there is additional content which provides more information about the character and gives clues as to their new title and why they are there. Other than these flash back snippets, the story is told with a linear narrative, but that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward.
It is seriously creepy in places. The music is used to great effect and the scripts are cleverly written and well executed. At times, the intensity of what’s going on is only broken by the listener having an ‘aha’ moment as pieces appear to come together. That said, the story doesn’t take obvious directions, and this adds to the layers of what’s going on.
I found a real empathy for some of the characters and not others – part of this was due to a lack of character building as each episode only allowed for so much and part of it because we could see who we were meant to like or dislike. Finding out their previous lives and motivations only added to this. Each character very much has their own voice and because we understand some of them better than others, we can start to guess at who’s doing what and why, or how they’re going to react. That, to me, shows the power of the script.
It’s well-written, well-paced and very intentionally an eight-episode contained story even if it does throw out more questions than it answers. If I’d listened to it when it was first published in 2019, I’d have been champing at the bit to get the next episode. As it was, I binged the whole series. And yes, I want more. Thankfully, there is a teaser for a related storyline.
About The Deca Tapes
The Deca Tapes is an eight-part mystery podcast. As the mystery unfolds, there are elements of science fiction, psychological thriller, character-drama and multiple radical perspective shifts. The story is backed by an original soundtrack. This first season is a complete story, with a closed ending in the final episode. The show contains explicit language, violence, intense suspense and sexual references.