Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Sebastian Baczkiewicz Afternoon Plays on Radio 4

This afternoon saw the beginning of Series 2 of Sebastian Baczkiewicz's Pilgrim plays on Radio 4. Four episodes will be aired at 2.15pm on Tuesdays, and can be heard again on BBC iPlayer.

Pilgrim is a semi-urban fantasy, which tells the story of William Palmer. A pilgrim on route to Canterbury in 1185, Palmer was cursed by the King of Faerie for claiming that the church could wipe out all belief in the fairy world. His punishment was to forever live between the mortal and fairy worlds. Series 2 begins with The Drowned Church, in which the spirit of a young man drowned in 1757 returns to collect mortal souls and drag them away with him. William Palmer - or Billy the Pilgrim - must face the young man, and confront decisions he has made in the past, in order to save those close to him and the community of Skaymer.

The Pilgrim character of interest here is that of Freya, William Palmer's ward. Freya is a werewolf, as well as being a young woman left in ignorance of Palmer's true identity. This makes for an interesting dynamic. At one point in The Drowned Church, Freya becomes angry as she realizes that there are things she doesn't know about her guardian. One of her bones of contention is that she feels her hard work in dealing with the wolf side of her identity is not being fully appreciated. It is clear that Freya is prone to change at the full moon, but that this can be reigned in through an act of self-control. Moreover, Freya feels (as do the others around her) that her wolf-side is somehow wrong, and that change into a wolf represents a failure in herself. Baczkiewicz's she-wolf comes across as a young woman struggling to deal with an aspect of her personality that is not fully within her control, and then berating herself when she doesn't quite manage it. From the first episode of this week's series, I felt that there was almost a suggestion that Freya's battle with werewolfism could be paralleled with a young person coming to terms with a mental health disorder.

I will be listening to the rest of Baczkiewicz's series this week, and will be following the character of Freya with interest. I find the idea of a radio presentation of a werewolf very interesting. In these days of over-used CGI and special effects, to convey a transformation through a purely audio medium is quite a bold step. I look forward to hearing how Baczkiewicz and Radio 4 team tackle this (if, in fact, they do).

Unfortunately, I get the impression that the character of Freya was more fully introduced in Series 1 of Pilgrim, which was aired in 2008. This series is no longer available on iPlayer - so if anyone has any suggestions as to how I could obtain a recording of the first series of plays, please let me know.

You can listen to Series 2 of Pilgrim on BBC iPlayer by clicking here.


  1. Depending on your degree of moral flexibility, the first four plays are available on a torrent...

  2. A choice of answers...

    a) What's a torrent?


    b) I found them not long after I posted.

    As you say, it all depends on my degree of moral flexibility. ;-)

  3. Pilgrim Series 1 is currently being aired on BBC Radio 7 at 11.15am and is available on iPlayer. Enjoy!

  4. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the show, and wanted to tell you that Series 3 just started airing this week - ep 1 is up on BBC iPlayer. Spellbinding like the previous episodes.