Note: This review contains spoilers for ‘DUST: Flight 008’. Only continue reading if you have finished all nine episodes!
The year is 2020 and you’re on a non-stop flight from Tokyo to San Francisco. All is well until you disembark and learn that you and your fellow passengers have ended up 20 years in the future. What would you do?
DUST, Gunpowder & Sky’s sci-fi brand, explores this conundrum in the second season of its anthology podcast, entitled DUST: Flight 008. Throughout the course of nine episodes, Flight 008 tells nine different, riveting stories by some of the biggest writers in science fiction: Daniel H. Wilson, James L. Cambias, Aidan J.S. Menuge, Charles Yu, Justina Robson, Nancy Kress, Sheila Finch, William Shunn, and Chen Qiufan. The stories are brought to life by the talents of a variety of voice actors, including the likes of Dan Stevens (Legion), Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil), Danny Trejo (Machete), Calista Flockheart (Supergirl), Reid Scott (Veep), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), and more.
Each episode is built upon the same foundation — at 4:58 a.m. on June 28, 2020, Flight 008 was cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet, approximately 1,500 nautical miles off the west coast of the United States, when a small bump (which would have otherwise been noted as a barely perceptible bout of turbulence) passed the plane through a temporary wrinkle in a local region of space time, sending the flight into the future to the year 2040.
However, as this is an anthology series, once the intro fades out every episode follows the distinct story of one of nine passengers on the flight, as told by one of the aforementioned authors in their own unique storytelling voice. We follow the different journeys of each person as they seemingly return from the dead on a flight that was declared lost 20 years ago and must confront what is left of the lives that each of them left behind.
What makes this podcast so fascinating is that the authors were not given a standard template for the future that their passenger arrives in, besides the year, so they were able to set their own rules for what the world would look like. Whereas one episode had the airport staff ready and waiting to assist the confused passengers and flight crew and helped them adjust to their shocking new reality, in another the passengers were met with the chilling hostility of security and a SWAT team.
Each author was also given the freedom to introduce their own technological advancements that their chosen passenger was met with on their journey, like smart eyeglasses, vending machines that give out full meals, cars without wheels, Google information kiosks outfitted with AIs, language translators, artificial bees, and the list goes on. Listeners take in this brand new world from the perspective of the passenger, which is all the more relevant because they hail from the year 2020, so we’re able to fully appreciate and understand the awe. And while experiencing all of this, you’re given the ability to feel truly immersed in the story with the added bonus of environmental sound effects background noise, and music.
While some episodes tell happy and hopeful stories, others are heartbreaking, and some are full of anger and resentment. We’re introduced to characters of all ages in all walks of life, such as a woman who returns to find her partner with early-onset Alzheimer’s is now living in a world with a cure, a young man who was on his way across the world to be with his girlfriend finds himself at a loss as to where to go, an inventor whose livelihood is now useless is forced to find a way to carry on, and a mother who misses the first twenty years of her daughter’s life finds that her husband has remarried and must figure out where to go from there.
My personal favorite episode was “Iterations: Seat 13F,” led by the soothing voice of Dan Stevens, whose lengthy background in narrating audiobooks made him the perfect actor for the role of Malcolm. The unfortunate tale of the passenger in seat 13F follows a man who returns home to find that his wife, Kayla, has not remarried (and he is selfishly but unsurprisingly happy about this), but she’s also not … emotionally available, per se. Essentially, she’s spent the last 20 years with what could be considered an AI version of her husband, and the relationship grew as new iterations of the AI’s app introduced more complex functionality. The episode ends on a numbing note, as Malcolm laments that Kayla has left him for this “thing,” his parents are gone, and he no longer has friends to turn to, and then he’s given a gift — his own copy of the app, outfitted with a younger version of his wife from 20 years in the past. He’s torn as the episode fades out while he decides whether it’s best to go on and live his new life, or to desperately cling on to the last remaining piece of the life he once new.
(As a bonus, Stevens’ back and forth banter with himself throughout the episode is amusingly reminiscent of his role as David Haller in Legion.)
Overall, Flight 008 was a fun, gripping, and fascinating journey from start to finish. I look forward to DUST‘s upcoming third season, Chrysalis, which is set to arrive this summer.