The Peoria Plague…

The Peoria Plague after the break…

The Peoria Plague…

It is said that when Orson Welles was first approached to perform an audio adaptation of H.G. Wells novel “War of the Worlds” he replied that people would not be interested in listening to it. At the time, adaptations of novels hewed as close to the original material as they could, modified only for the format of audio presentation & time constraints. After all, who would want to listen to an audio adaptation of “Dracula” if it was set in the American West & Dracula himself turned out to be a Native American?

Orson Welles guessed correctly that an American audience in the 1930s did not want to listen to a story in the 1800s about the British being invaded by Martians. Most people would have difficulty relating to a different country persecuted during an earlier time. Besides… England, at one time, had not only invaded America twice in it’s young history but had supported the Confederacy during the American Civil War not seventy years prior. How many Americans would sympathize with an aggressor nation receiving their just desserts?

The idea was simple enough – Modify the story to fit an American audience. Set the story in modern times & on American soil. Then, cloak the story in first person by using a fake broadcast.

The rest, as they say, was history.

The 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” resonates to this day, partially because of the delivery & partially because of the message. A society witnessing it’s own destruction firsthand, much like a rubber-necking motorist driving past an automobile accident being tended to by emergency personnel. We’re horrified at the event but comforted in knowing that we could always turn the dial or drive away in relative comfort knowing that such terror could never affect us.

“The Peoria Plague” is a 1970s audio drama in much the same way that the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast was. A news broadcast starts out innocently enough until disturbing events forces the newscast to focus their efforts on a… Well, plague. To reveal any more would be spoiling the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio drama & regret that it is only available in it’s current “copy of a copy of a copy” condition which makes it sound as though it was cheaply recorded over the air using the most incompetent equipment available.

My only storyline quibble with the drama is that an audio tape that the newscast recovers is never sufficiently utilized. It is played once & then ignored, it’s purpose having been fulfilled during the few moments that the tape runs clearly. In my opinion, the tape could have been used to much greater dramatic effect had the storyline succeeded in successfully “unscrambling” the tape at the end & thus revealing that the information on the tape could have prevented the entire plague or otherwise foresaw it.

Whenever people attempt to recreate the shock of “The War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, they so often fail to realize that part of the shock involved a healthy dose of imitating reality. Most often, those people simply take the existing “War of the Worlds” script & merely modify it to fit into their locale but not updating HOW such an event would be covered by today’s standards.

“The Peoria Plague” gets it so much more right then it goes wrong. Although it has little in common with “The War of the Worlds” other then how the drama is formatted, the drama stands next to that hallowed broadcast in effectiveness. Good job.

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