If you enjoyed Series 8’s In the Forest of the Night or if, just as likely, you didn’t ̶ or if you just enjoy anything arboreal ̶ you might be interested in Pearl Mackie’s new project for BBC Radio 4.
Since leaving Doctor Who, in which she played Bill Potts opposite Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, Pearl has appeared at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre in a run of the eponymous playwright’s The Birthday Party and co-starred with Sue Johnson in the Radio 4 comedy, Prepper. Now, in Forest 404, Pearl stars alongside Green Wing’s Pippa Haywood and Tanya Moodie (Ella Thompson in Sherlock and Hunter in the original Neverwhere) in a new SF podcast.
In a future where data storage is rationed, Pearl plays Pan, a radical content curator who has the task of deleting unwanted video and audio data to free up space (imagine that, classic fans). One day, Pan discovers sound recordings of a rainforest, something unheard in this future world, their having been destroyed in the 21st Century. The soundscape of this vanished Arcadia touches Pan deeply and she undertakes a personal mission to discover how this alien world was squandered.
As well as the nine episodes of the series, each is accompanied by two other programmes. The first is a factual talk on the issues covered in the drama, given variously by scientists, musicians, and anthropologists. In episode one, for instance, Exeter University’s Alex Smalley discusses the benefit to mental health of being surrounded by nature. The second additional programme is an immersive 3D soundscape rendered in binaural stereo (designers Graham Wild and Becky Ripley stress that listeners should use headphones to enjoy the full effect). In total, that makes for a series of nine episodes but with 27 discrete components.
Forest 404 is also accompanied by a spin-off project, headed up by Alex Smalley, called Forest 404: The Experiment. This aims to explore the therapeutic effects of sound by examining how the British public respond to nature-based audio. If you’d like to participate in this, you can complete a survey by clicking here.
Forest 404 is available in its entirety via BBC Sounds.