“This is the audiolog of communications officer Doug Eiffel.”
Wolf 359 is a podcast that starts off as the audio logs of communications officer Douglas Eiffel trying to relieve the monotony of a deep space mission aboard the USS Hepheastus station orbiting the red giant star, Wolf 359. It develops later into a more radio drama series, moving away from Doug’s logs to a general overview of what happens on the station, with Doug still as the central character.
This recap is going to contain a significant amount of spoilers for seasons one and two of the Wolf 359 podcast. Ahead of season 3 starting on February 14th, I’m going to look back at the story so far and what threads are still open to be dealt with. Along with the many, many attempts to kill Doug.
Douglas Eiffel doesn’t have an awful lot to do in the long hours he spends in deep space aboard the Hepheastus station. He’s convinced the other two members of the crew are out to get him and frankly listening to the sound of silence from deep space for several hours a day isn’t high on his agenda. Wolf 359 podcast gives the listener an insight into the mind of a very bored nerd as he sits around in a huge spaceship manned by three people and an AI unit while orbiting the star Wolf 359.
Turns out things aren’t as boring as Doug thinks. He ends up spending a lot of time trying to avoid certain death from drowning, giant plant monsters, extremely venomous spiders and a mysterious entity known only as The Empty Man.
As the series progresses, Doug uncovers radio broadcasts that seem to be coming from Earth. Old radio shows and music from around the 1920s. It isn’t until Dr Hilbert – the strange Russian man whom no one is really sure what his job actually is – hears these broadcasts and realises that Earth is almost 8 lightyears away and these broadcasts are coming from closer to 45 lightyears away, that they realise that the signal can’t be coming from Earth. Upon discovering this, Dr Hilbert shows his true colours. He takes over Hera, the station’s AI and declares himself to be commander, ousting Commander Minkowski and locking her outside the station to die while using knockout gas left over from Eiffel’s ‘little revolución’ to render the communications officer unconscious. Doug’s plan to try to smoke his last cigarette foils Hilbert’s scheme and Doug valiantly sacrifices his final smoke in order to activate Hera’s emergency protocols, save Minkowski and get Hilbert locked in the brig (or as it’s more commonly known the broom closet), only for the doctor to kill Hera, much to their horror. Just another regular Christmas!
Reeling from the aftermath of Dr Hilbert’s betrayal and the loss of Hera, Doug and Minkowski struggle to keep the Hepheastus running. But things never run as smoothly as they’d hope and with the creepy recordings left hardwired into the mainframe by the previous crew’s captain, Isabelle Lovelace, Doug and Minkowski have to work out who they can trust while the station falls apart around their ears. In the end they’re forced to try trusting Hilbert enough to get Hera back online, though not without a few glitches in the matrix. They’re left stunned as the assumed dead Captain Lovelace makes a surprising return, mad and determined to get back to Earth to enact her revenge for the death of her crew. She’s wired a bomb into her shuttle so if anything happens to her or the shuttle the whole thing will blow, destroying the Hepheastus. Faced with that danger as well as a mysterious and very lethal virus Hilbert has been keeping dormant inside Doug, it’s a race against time to work out who is trustworthy and who should be thrown out of an airlock before they go mad and kill everyone on the station. And then the star itself gets involved, mimicking Doug’s voice from the logs he’s been accidentally broadcasting into deep space in order to communicate with them. With the station falling into the star and Lovelace critically injured, Doug goes into the shuttle they’ve been trying to fix up in order to use its engine to help move the Hepheastus out of the gravity pull of the star. And then for the briefest of moments, Lovelace’s heart stops. Hilbert resuscitates her but it’s too late. The bomb goes off with Eiffel still inside the shuttle, disabling a lot of the systems and sending the shuttle spinning off into deep space with little to no hope of rescue.
Not going to lie, I love this series. I think the characters are all brilliant and the acting superb. Even if it does try over and over again to break my poor little fangirl heart. And basically, if you can write a character that can try to kill everyone I love in a way that I still want to give them and hug and empathise with them, you’re definitely doing it right.
Doug Eiffel is a nerd. A loveable nerd that the universe (or at least, the writers) is conspiring against to kill or nearly kill in as many imaginative ways possible. He makes so many pop culture references as part of his every day vocabulary, no one else on the station is ever entirely sure what he’s talking about.
Commander Minkowski can go from straight laced commander in control to strange and fun at the drop of a hat. And it works for her. She wants to be the best commander she can be but it doesn’t always work out the way she wants. And she’s fiercely loyal and defensive about her crew, even if they do try to kill her.
Dr Hilbert is… insane. He’s a mad scientist and very good at his job. But deep down he does seem to care about the rest of the crew and regrets some of the things he’s had to do in the name of science.
Hera is fabulous. An Artificial Intelligence with an attitude problem who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
In the words of my friend “I expected Lovelace to be some kind of calming influence on the others. But she’s surprisingly unhinged.” Which I think just sums her up perfectly.
There are some questions regarding whether Doug is just incompetent or if he’s really good at his job and waaaaay too lazy to bother with it. Personally, I think the latter. When he does have to do things in regards to being a communications officer, he always manages to do what he has to and do it really, really well. He is also a trained marksman, which I find oddly terrifying. No one in their right mind would give Doug a gun.
I think the shift of format between the two shows works very well. From season 1 being entirely from Doug’s point of view and what he records in his logs to being a full radio play. There are still moments of Doug recording his log but as it becomes clear how untrustworthy Commander are, it makes sense that they won’t be saying everything on record like they used to be doing while Doug was recording. He saw himself almost as an amateur radio host and the others left him to it, going about their daily lives and pretty much ignoring the fact he was recording them. After the events of Christmas when Dr Hilbert enacts his coup, Doug and Minkowski become a lot more aware of what they’re saying anywhere Command might be able to hear them.
I have a series of questions for the future of Wolf 359, not just season three but in general there are a lot of things so far left unanswered.
Will Doug survive his solo journey into deep space?
Will Doug make it back to the Hepheastus?
What are Hilbert’s current motives? Is he going to turn on them again or has he realised that Command have their own secret agendas?
Will Captain Lovelace survive? Are Minkowski and Hilbert going to try to keep her alive now Doug has gone?
What is going on with the star?
Will they ever make it off the station alive?
What is behind Hilbert’s door? Will there ever be an emergency where he is alone enough to be able to open it?
On his tumblr, Zach Valenti who plays Doug and Hilbert has said on more than one occasion that Doug is never coming back and it’s just going to become The Hilbert Show. But he is also a self confessed massive troll. So somehow I don’t see that happening. At least I hope not, I am far too attached to the poor nerd.
Finally, there are a lot of times characters in this show have almost died. I’ve only listed a small portion in this blog so far. So I’m going to be keeping a count of potential near death experiences that occur. I may be currently missing a few. These aren’t necessarily things that did almost kill them, but things that put them in a situation where they were pretty certain dying was on the cards.
Doug – 14
Minkowski – 5
Hilbert – 2
Hera – 2
Lovelace – 3
This is my counter and I’m sticking with it! It does well to highlight just how much danger they put Doug in!