This is part of a series on Christian media, so if you want to go through the whole thing start here. Otherwise you can just enjoy this one for what it it.
Radio dramas are typically considered a thing of the past; a distant age when you listened to everything because you didn’t have a television to watch or internet to surf. I can’t say I have been able to find anything quite like it, but the one Christian art that stands above the rest is the Modern Radio Drama. You may remember the days of listening to The Green Hornet, The Shadow, or even Your Story Hour, but that era is gone, and a good Radio Drama is hard to find. Somehow, Adventures in Odyssey is still going strong.
So what makes Adventures in Odyssey so good? Its production is high quality, the voice acting is excellent, and the narratives intriguing. But any series can have those. Odyssey built a world; a community. Other Christian media, take note.
Each Character in Odyssey has depth. They can be quirky, but never unrealistic in their approach to reality. I never wondered why on earth someone would do something, because I knew their character, and it made sense that that person would act like that. It took a single round of dialogue to establish the personality of each character, and you spent the rest of the show learning new things about them. This made them feel just as alive and real as the family I grew up with.
These characters weren’t expected to stay where they were either. They were tested, stretched, and questioned by other characters as to who they were, and why the acted in certain ways, and held certain beliefs. The Gospel message and call to conversion isn’t the instantaneous event that Christians hold it to be, which is subtly depicted in the character of Eugene Meltsner, a scientific skeptic towards Religion. His ultimate conversion to Christianity doesn’t take place until at least 6 years later, and along the way he is never the enemy to be fought, but the friend, Eugene, whom everyone knows and loves, despite the fact that he doesn’t believe the same thing.
Odyssey is a technically a family show, so I understand why there are some topics that cannot be overtly discussed, but the writers still did a great job dealing with every problem under the sun. Death, Hell, Drugs, Sex, Insecurity, Financial instability, doubting God: just to name a few. In the more recent episodes, married couple, Eugene and his wife get into a heated argument over whether or not to adopt a troubled youth as their own child, specifically in light of the heartbreaking discovery that they are unable to have children of their own. That’s something that an adult can understand the complexity of, while the child can feel the raw emotion and wonder how this will effect the characters in the story.
And Adventures in Odyssey does like happy endings. Don’t get me wrong. Many an episode is light-hearted with a particular moral lesson at the end, but not all the others have the same fulfilling conclusion. There were many a dark and bleak episode that ended with people moving away, or parents getting divorced. It never shied away from the fact that the Christian community is not excluded from tragedy or even from being the cause of tragedy in some cases.
The Father figure to everyone, Mr. Whitaker, was usually the rock; the person who was always right, and explained to everyone else what happened when things went wrong. Despite this, there were times that he was also wrong, and shown to struggle and disagree with close friends. Christians squabbling amongst themselves was not uncommon, and neither was the outsider being in the right. Odyssey built a world that reflects our own, and I loved it.
Odyssey is a town that continues to grow. People get married, divorced, die, are born, are raised, grow up, move away, arrive, and change. It’s life in another world, one that we can observe from the other side. So while it is a niche category, Christian media has created something great when it comes to Adventures in Odyssey.
P.S.- One other audio drama I would suggest, is the Left Behind: Kids audio drama. Forget the theological inaccuracies and treat it like any other Fiction. The quality of production is excellent, and the characters are interesting. It does pick odd moments to have some happy coincidence here and there, but overall I enjoyed following the lives of these characters over the next seven years of their lives.