Duggan Hill, Season 1: Simple and Refreshing
I find that a lot of AD tends to push for the fantastical, which can come in many forms. Big laughs, big scares, big productions. That's not a bad thing, by any means. I am a huge fan of King Falls AM, The Magnus Archives, and The Cleansed; all of which I would consider big in their own ways. Each of these examples push the envelope on what it means to be an Audio Drama, and a podcast.
I want to tilt the spotlight away from BIG for a little bit. Yes, each of these shows deserve a listen and all the praise they get. Having said that, I want to shine a light on this show for the simplicity of it. Simple kickoff, simple format, and simply amazing. This is Duggan Hill.
There are two different seasons so far, but I'm going to focus on the first in this review. The premise for this show is , you guessed it, simple:
On a back country road outside the hamlet of Duggan Hill, Saskatchewan, a woman named Sasha Ismond goes missing without a trace.
She had been travelling from Vancouver for the past day, and was mere minutes away from her father's home.
The last person she spoke to was her former partner, Zoe, a journalism student at the University of British Columbia.
This is a collection of recovered audio recordings from the subsequent investigation into her disappearance, recorded during the summer of 2015.
I dig this. You can't go wrong with an old fashioned missing persons case. It sets the tone nicely for the show, and doesn't give away too much. A big problem with AD is that they give away the farm in the blurb. Duggan Hill has gripped me immediately, and I'm not even finished with the prologue!
Do you remember when you were a kid, and your parents took you to the pool? You climbed into the shallow end, swam around, and enjoyed yourself. Eventually, you found yourself at the top of a steep decline in the floor of the pool. You slid under the water, opened your eyes, and saw the edge of the shallow floor as it slid into the deep end of the pool. That's how I picture this show. You're eased into the story for the first two episodes, and from there you slide into something much bigger than you thought.
The intro music is haunting, yet strangely calming. That is the bulk of the music in this production, and that is no bad thing. I appreciate and applaud a show that does not need music to punctuate an emotional scene, or hammer a point home. I'm also relieved that the show doesn't go the route of "I added music to this found footage to accentuate the gravitas of the blah blah blah". Nope, this is just actors doing what they do best.
Speaking of actors, this show has quite the list! You can check them out on their website, https://dugganhill.com/. They do a much better job of showing off their past experience and current strengths than I could. I will say that I found the actors in this show to be top notch. I never heard an instance of script reading, meaning they all sounded genuine and worked off of each other to pull me into the story.
To the story itself. I said that this show was simple. That's...80% true. The story is where you start to slide into the deep end, and you enjoy every second of that slide. I sometimes forget that production value can't always make up for a lack of story, much like amazing graphics won't always make up for a lack of story in video games. Following Zoe as she works through the mystery of Sasha's disappearance is a truly rewarding journey; one that is a top to bottom masterpiece for my ears.
Whether you're a fan of the found footage angle, or love yourself a good mystery story, Duggan Hill is an AD that I would always recommend to someone who wants to get into podcasts and audio dramas. This is the perfect place to start someone off, and will really show how excellent quality entertainment can come from simplicity.
As I said, I have not listened to the second season, The Drowning Isle, but you can bet that I've got it queued up in my Up Next playlist, and getting ready for my evening walk.