“Humanity once looked up to the stars with hope. We were fools.”
The latest season of the podcast DUST, entitled CHRYSALIS, follows the destruction of the human race and a recently awoken AI. When the AI awakens, the Earth has already been decimated and is inhabitable. All he knows is that a mysterious alien race caused it. The AI, also referred to as Terran (Matt Wolf), holds Earth’s memories and vows to get justice for their deaths at any cost. But at what point does justice become vengeance?
This review contains spoilers for DUST: CHRYSALIS. Only continue reading if you have finished all 14 episodes!
Listeners are introduced to multiple characters from various species and factions. As the story unfolds, so does the truth about what happened to Earth. Pretty much each character faces a decision, whether moral or strategic. Leaning towards character growth, the two with the most are the AI and Daoket (Corey Hawkins). Daoket is a Sankisan and part of the Galactic Federal Council as an assistant ambassador. That is a role that he did not want, but we see him growing into a strong leader as each episode passes. He was “voluntold” or requested for that position by the Lead Ambassador of the Galactic Federal Council and Daoket’s boss and mentor Nakstani (Toni Collette). Nakstani is very cunning, witty, and good at reading between the lines in the political sense. She quickly became my favorite character. Other characters we meet include Avamir (Shea Whigham) from the Xunvirian Empire, Faissan (Jaboukie Young-White), the Zarkanine, Lexiwe (Dominic Rains), the Emperor of the Xunvirian Empire (Lance Reddick), Deraker (Chris Diamantopoulos) from the Anacax tribe, and Thomas (Haley Joel Osment).
Each episode changes perspective between the three sides of the story, the AI, the Xunvirians, and the Galactic Federal Council. As it progresses, the holes in the truth about what happened become clearer, as well as the fact that no side contains all of the answers. Prior to going on the attack, the AI builds himself a body that is the size of a city, 27 km long, and as the image shows, like a chrysalis that a caterpillar uses to transform into a butterfly slowly. Got to love all that symbolism. In the later episodes, when the Terran is creating more droids after the Galactic Federal Council’s successful attack, he gives the droids their own “mind.” With that, they pretty much have free will and can choose to obey the Terran’s commands. That is another thing about this audio drama, it gives listeners a lot to think about with moral quandaries, justice versus vengeance, moving forward, and free will. The ending of episode 14, with the time jump (which fits perfectly), was a good way of either ending this story or leaving it open to continue with a new storyline setup.
I found that this podcast drew me in with each episode. I would be doing something listening to it, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting still hanging on to every word. You cannot help it. The raw emotions in Corey Hawkins and Matt Wolf’s voices were incredible, and I couldn’t get enough of the wit from Toni Collette. The science fiction element and technology described in the story sounded fascinating, especially the iris communication links where you can share information and more.
The episodes just flew by! If you are a fan of science fiction, podcasts, and fantastic storytelling, I highly recommend listening. You do not have to worry if you have yet to listen to the first two seasons. Each season is standalone anthology (but give them a listen, too!) This season is based on a story written by S.H. Serrano that was adapted by Stephen Michael and Macklen Makhloghi, directed by Alex Kemp, executive produced by Corey Hawkins and Stephen Michael, associate produced by Sara Newton from Gunpowder & Sky, and produced by Toby Lawless from Wolf at The Door Studios.