Sarcastic Voyage - Radio Adventures - The Radio Adventures of DottieSpinning off from the 1930s-style Radio Adventures of Matt & AAlgar, this series follows the solo adventures of Dottie as she attempts to rescue her friends from the clutches of an evil mad scientist
There were two main things I wanted to revisit when we started Sarcastic Voyage Theatre — one was Mary Madison, who is one of my favorite things we've ever created. The other was Dottie, who is also one of my favorite things we've ever created. The idea for this character started out so simply: I wanted a kid sidekick who didn't suck. But the more I used her, the more she completely overshadowed the heroes she originally served. We played around with this a bit in the 60s-style Agent Dottie, but I wanted to return to this original 30s setting and follow Dottie on an arc that broke her free from AAl and Matt and ended with her being an independent agent. I'm extremely happy with how all of that turned out, and most of that is because Sabrina continues to do an amazing job as Dottie.
I also wanted to finally use up some of the last George Lowe tracks I'd recorded back in 2013. These were very specific to Radio Adventures and I hadn't managed to find a home for them anywhere to this point. That's why the Robotsmith — whose voice is the template for Dottie's own robot — is in this story.
I didn't really have a specific story arc in mind beyond what I mentioned above — "Dottie emerges from the shadows of her mentors and gets promoted to full agent.” Mostly I wanted to send her on a quest that bounced her from Golden Age protagonist to Golden Age protagonist so I could do some parody and pastiche work involving the assorted characters and situations I ran into in my research. Some of this stuff has been in the back of my head since the original run of Radio Adventures in 2013, but a lot of it is new.
I was a bit disappointed in how the whole Sarcastic Voyage Theatre experiment turned out, as I have mentioned elsewhere. But the fact that I was able to create almost two full hours of original Dottie material with a better script, production values and quality of performers than we've ever had before, really softened the blow.
The score for Dottie is, as it was in the 2013 run, provided by Shostakovich, whose bombastic symphonies just scream 30s pulp to me.
This opening newsreel was, I thought, a pretty clever way to drop you into the story if you'd never heard of these characters before. It's also fun to depart from the established style sometimes.
It was also nice to definitively codify what M.U.C.U.S. is actually for, since I'd been using them in so many stories to this point.
I spent a lot of time researching weird Victorian slang for The Colonel, whom I felt was in danger of becoming a gruff voice and little else. Now he's a gruff voice and some weird Victorian slang! (There's also a bit of Danger Mouse's flustered Colonel K in there now.)
I almost made Dottie an orphan before noticing that we'd mentioned her parents in a previous episode of the old series. And while I'm not too worried about tight continuity in these things, there's no reason I can't keep things consistent if it doesn't hurt anything.
I don't know why “me taking a punch” makes me laugh every time it happens. Or maybe I do and it's best not to think about it too much.
Writing around pre-existing dialogue from 5 years ago that wasn't really written as part of a linear script (mostly I panicked and said “here, TV's George Lowe, who is charging me a not inconsiderable amount of money for this short recording session. Here are some lines I can probably work into a script some day!”) was not easy. I think I did an okay job of it for the most part, but one or two lines feel a little forced.
How many of my characters enter a room with people calling out their names and then them saying “the same!”? Dozens, by this point.
Aquatropolis was the first dungeon Matt and I hung in, in the first ever episode of Radio Adventures!
I never really intended for the robot to only have three phrases that could be understood as an entire language by Dottie (a la R2D2 or HeLPeR from Venture Bros) but that's where we ended up so I just kind of ran with it.
Professor Feral was a barely-exaggerated version of Doc Savage (get it?), who seriously had like 8 sidekicks and insisted on doing everything himself because he was perfect at everything. There also literally was a loyalty oath involved. I know he was supposed to be some great hero but he just felt like a cult leader to me. So that's what I ever-so-slightly nudged him into being.
So many 30s adventure stories featured one or more characters with “ham” in their names. I have no idea why.
Also, none of Doc Savage's many sidekicks were... consistent. Like, at all. One of them was an archaeologist whose catch phrase was “I'll be super-amalgamated!” I think they were trying to keep things interesting by avoiding obvious stereotypes? But because there were so many characters with so little to do, it was nigh impossible to tell them apart and that didn't help. So again, I just tweaked things the tiniest bit to make it funny.
The Bee is pretty much the Green Hornet, with a bit of Batman, The Shadow and several lesser street-level heroes “inspired by” these more well-known ones. You know the archetype: rich jerk does what he wants. Brian brought a fun voice to the character as well.
The Bee also appeared in a sketch we did years ago on Sarcastic Voyage, called Consolidated Heights. It was a fun idea that I thought was worth fleshing out a bit.
Every single pulp hero claimed to be inspired by Robin Hood. Even though very few of them bore even a passing resemblance to him. Also, Brian is extremely well-versed in all things Sherwood, so I especially wanted to bring that up in a role he'd be playing.
Captain Maro isn't based on any one specific pulp character — he largely represented my continuing desire to reference Terry and the Pirates. Except... the thing about Terry and the Pirates is that it doesn't just have a little bit of “oh, you wacky 30s” casual racism. It's pretty much entirely casual racism, and it's extremely hard to enjoy, excellent artwork notwithstanding. So I extracted the essence of what I wanted in my stories — grand adventures on the high seas — and extrapolated Captain Maro. He's not what I would call an original creation either, but he's not ripped off from any one source like some of the others, is all I'm saying.
Making him suffer from depression was mine, though, and it's something I was very pleased with. As with the radio plays and sketches, I wanted to deal with more serious issues with Sarcastic Voyage Theatre, and mental health and the stigma thereof has always been one of my big issues. I also very much wanted to show Dottie being kind and understanding to a person who's clearly going through some stuff.
Dottie's reactions to grown-ups in love will never fail to make me laugh.
The Lady Regino-Drako was created as my other big nod to Terry and the Pirates — specifically, the awesome-looking (but probably problematic) Dragon Lady. I took out any vestiges of racial caricature and basically just gave Amanda an excuse to play a very shouty character. Unsurprisingly, she was happy with this development.
As good as Dottie is at her job, I wanted to give her occasional moments of... if not all-out failure, at least doubt. I wanted her to start struggling with her identity as a hero as she, for instance, tries to do clever wordplay. The terrible jokes a hero makes as they save the day are a pretty essential part of their identity and since she's only 11, Dottie doesn't completely have all of that down yet. Which leads to fun lines like “seahorses!”
The Mango Bango is called the Mango Bango pretty much as a callback to the Fulla Bulla from Blue People.
“The morbs” was indeed old-time Victorian slang for depression.
The Lady Regino-Drako's reaction to Captain Maro's depression was one of my proudest moments. “As your betrothed, do you not realize your burdens become our burdens?"
Episode six (which starts at 46:55) was a full-length story that I wanted to serve as a standalone arc. Like, it starts where the last one left off and it sets up the next one with a cliffhanger, but in terms of plot it's very much structured like Dottie: The Movie. I really wanted to challenge what I thought was her best skill: her self-confidence, and put her through that standard hero's journey where you suffer a big loss, then rally, then deliver a swift kick to that loss's metaphorical pants. I'm very pleased with the results.
The Wraith was another character who briefly appeared in Consolidated Heights. He's mostly The Phantom, with snippets of other “great white hunter” type heroes mixed in. I really enjoyed the 90s Phantom movie with Billy Zane, and I wanted our analog to be as delightfully, swashbucklingly cheerful as he was. Jason very much hit the target there, I think.
That's Kara O'Connor as the Dinosaur Puncher — a role originated by Nathan LaJeunesse in the original run of Radio Adventures. Nate's voice doesn't sound much like that anymore, but I really liked the character and was not at all surprised to discover that Kara could embody the essence of her without just doing an impression of what Nate did before. I tried to flesh her out a bit more this time, by basically turning her into Wonder Woman.
I was also pretty happy with The Wraith and the Dinosaur Puncher falling for each other. It always amazes me when two performers who aren't in the same room — and in this case, have never even met each other before — manage to pull off chemistry like this.
The Admiral and Speckling will absolutely be making further appearances in upcoming Dottie stories. In fact, the only thing I was a bit disappointed about with this story is how little I explained why Dottie hates Speckling so much. Dottie hardly hates anyone, so I should have spent a little extra time on that.
Brian tells me that, of all the roles I've had him perform for us over the years, he's never had as much fun as he had playing The Admiral.
I never particularly intended for Dottie's “horses!” catchphrase to have a specific meaning — it was one of Maggie's only major contributions to Radio Adventures (which has always mostly been my baby), and it was just meant to be some silly nonsense that a preteen girl would say. I never really want to explain it, but I did enjoy the payoff of her being excited to see actual horses, and that being her moment of emotional epiphany.
The Viragos (which I think is another name for Amazons?) en masse attack was voiced by Kara, Amanda and our friend Irene, who just happened to be visiting when we recorded this. As is usually the case, it was a lot of fun directing people to yell indistinctly for just slightly longer than they were comfortable doing so.
Herc Branson was based on... either Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. And Stag Chapman was based on the other one. They're basically just here to show how completely indistinguishable these characters are from one another. And also to fall in love, I guess. Because Dottie hates that.
For some reason, Maggie thinks birds and bird people making CAW! noises is the funniest thing in the world, so I was happy to write a character tailor-made for her.
A lot of this “flying fortresses would be highly inefficient” stuff was, I think, funnier in my head. We got some okay material out of it but I think we stayed on it just a little too long. In my defense, I believe I had something a bit more actiony in mind for this chapter but one or more of the voice actors ended up not being available. I do my best to work around that and honestly some of my best stuff has come from imposing some limitation or another on the material... but this was not one of those times.
This last part is also feature-length (whatever that even means), because I usually get pretty carried away with my epic endings. This was no exception. I think I did a pretty decent job of tying up all the loose ends, though!
Honestly, I was getting pretty tired of Dottie's robot sidekick, whose entire purpose was to have someone Dottie could explain the plot to. Which is why I started doing this “Dottie narrates to herself” business here. I don't know that I'll ever use it again (I have better ideas in mind), but it's a fun thing to introduce when I need it, I guess. And Sabrina makes it sound adorable.
Matt and AAl, you're useless.
“Biff Tiffany Junior” will probably make another appearance in a future Dottie installment.
T-Dro was great as the lady robot, whom I imagine looks like that lady robot from Metropolis.
Bob also did a great job as the voice of Robot 2.1. There's some fun deleted material of us trying to find this voice, which at one point was “Star Trek's Data, as played by William Shatner.” It's probably best that we ended up going in a different direction with it.
Of course the robot fell in love. Everyone falls in love around Dottie all the time.
I had been steering toward the “AAl and Matt are the real sidekicks” punchline for quite awhile and I think it actually landed here.
Ending with this audiovisual presentation was meant to mirror the newsreel from the beginning, and also to bring home point by point just what a great hero Dottie really has become. It was also an excuse to do a bit of a victory lap and bring back my favorite characters from the preceding chapters.
I realize this promotion bit is essentially the same way I ended The Radio Adventures of Matt and AAlgar season 2, but it still makes me tear up a little. Just like that one did. Even though I wrote and directed both of them myself. Shut up. I love this character, okay?
Also, Brian does an excellent job of dialing the Colonel in from his usual shouty, over-the-top delivery in this more sentimental bit. Good job, that man.
Mark Boszko - Hamstring, Rando, Robot 2.1
Terry Drosdak - Robot 3
George Lowe - Hamhock, Virgennifer, The Robotsmith, Robot
Brian Lynch - The Colonel, Hamburger Sandwich, Tiny Stephen, The Bee, Pirate Dan, The Admiral
Kara O'Connor - Rilla, Hambone, Dinosaur Puncher
Maggie Rowbotham - Matt, Von Stroheim, Bird Guard
Amanda Smith - Announcer, Hammy, Lady Regino Drako, Speckling
Sabrina Snyder - Dottie
Jason Wallace - Newsreel Announcer, Professor Feral, Captain Maro, The Wraith, King Avem, Stag Chapman
Ron “AAlgar” Watt - AAlgar, Banjo Dave, Herc Branson
Written & directed by Ron “AAlgar” Watt
© 2018 AAlgar Productions