Updated: Jan 26
Produced by: Anarchist86ed
· A.J. Carter
· Stephanie Carlson
· Mya Schuwerk
· Graham Rowat
· Ryan O’Sullivan
With the future of the Alien franchise looking uncertain, it was with both joy and trepidation that I stumbled upon this work-in-progress YouTube series.
“Something created by actual fans of the franchise? Fantastic! But what if it turns out to be a disappointment like Prometheus or Covenant?” I asked myself.
“Well, it is free”, I reasoned, “What do I have to lose?” Very little as it turns out, as Alien Solara is easily on par with the recent official Alien audio dramas.
Alien Solara Plot Synopsis - No Spoilers!
The main story is set sometime after both the official audio drama ‘Alien: Out of the Shadows’, and the movies Aliens and Alien 3. The crew of the star freighter Solara are on-route to the mining colony of Plutus for a routine supply drop. But what they discover when they get there is anything but routine.
Alien Solara - Strengths
Thus far, Alien Solara consists of four episodes, with more planned for the future. In addition, Anarchist86ed and co have produced three ‘shorts’, John, Mr Deckard and Dead Rock, which delve deeper into some of the main character’s backstories. These too are produced to a very high quality.
It is debatable if you should listen to these shorts before listening to the main story, or after.
On the one hand, they explain the characters and their motivations more clearly. On the other, it renders some of their actions less of a shock, whilst removing some of the intrigue surrounding them.
My advice, listen to the main story first, then the shorts (in the order listed above), then the story episodes again.
There are other sound reasons for listening to it a second time, which I will get to in a moment.
The production quality of the audio-drama is superb, with great voice acting, sound effects and effective use of music from the Alien, Aliens and Prometheus movies.
The Characterisation is also well developed. Most of the characters are distinctive, their actions are rational - or at least internally consistent - and their dialogue is for the most part believable.
The usual Alien franchise themes of corporate greed and the dangers of unrestricted scientific research are all key plot elements as you would expect.
Alien Solara goes one step further, by introducing the concept of personal greed-by-necessity. In a future where medical bills are prohibitively expensive, and welfare or an NHS appears to be absent, sometimes one must be greedy just to stay alive.
This provides a tangible reason for Captain Anderson’s willingness to take on such risky and ethically questionable jobs. This is in keeping with the dystopian 'profit-before-all-other-considerations' setting established in the films.
Both the shorts and the main story episodes contain a spattering of humour. This comes off as natural banter between colleagues, and does not feel forced or ‘shoehorned in’. The crew teasing the company exec about the rumours that Weyland-Yutani is going to be brought out by ‘The House of Mouse’ was hilarious. The jibe “Building better theme parks on planets we annexed, ha ha”, performed in a good approximation of a Mickey Mouse voice, was a standout point.
A cheeky reference to 20th Century Fox – the owners of the Alien franchise – being brought out by Disney perhaps? 😜
The story and the shorts both contain several Easter eggs and references to other great 1980’s franchises. I spotted Short Circuit, Die Hard, Blade Runner and Predator to name but a few, as well as earlier works in the Alien franchise. Again, these were handled well and did not feel forced or ‘fan-servicey’.
Alien Solara - Weaknesses
Alien Solara is not without its faults, however. The main problem is its limited cast. Due to only having around five voice actors to work with, several actors have had to take on two or more roles. On shows such as The Simpsons or Family Guy, who’s voice actors are amongst the most skilled, most experienced and probably the highest paid in the business, this is not a problem. Their skills allow them to use very different voices and patterns of speech for each character.
The voice actors of Solara, whilst skilled, are understandably not in the same league. Several characters sound very similar and speak in a similar pattern. This can make working out which character is speaking a little confusing, especially when both are in the same scene. The fast-paced latter half of the fourth story episode was especially confusing.
'Why did that character suddenly start doing that?' and 'Wasn’t he in a completely different location a moment ago?' were some of the thoughts I had at the time.
In the interests of fairness, I must confess I was listening to it whilst chopping firewood with a big heavy axe, so I was not paying the audio drama my full concentration at the time.
Therefore, I made sure to give Alien Solara my full undivided attention for my second ‘listen-through.’ I realised I had previously confused two almost identically sounding characters. It made far more sense the second time around, which is why I highly recommend listening to this twice or at least pay careful attention the first time around.
Edit: I have since learnt that the voice actor who voices the similar-sounding Mr. Deckard and Dr Paul Church also voiced the leader of the mercs. This character's voice was an authentic gravelly East London accent similar to Sean Pertwee, which suggests the said voice actor's range was sufficiently wide to have granted Deckard and Church more distinctive voices. If I were to offer constructive criticism, it would be to utilise the voice actor's skills to their fullest and encourage / allow them to do just that.
Alien Solara - My Conclusion
Its faults can be forgiven considering how tight the budget for the project must have been. The video’s legal disclaimers state that it is unofficial - thus the creators presumably did not receive funding from Fox / Disney etc., nor have they attempted to raise funding via other means. Considering the shoestring they had to work with, what they have created is exceptional.
Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending Alien Solara to Alien fans everywhere.
Story episodes thus far:
I’m crossing my fingers and hoping episode five will come out at some point.
Edit: It has :-) Part 5 (not yet reviewed)