Do you like superheroes? Do you like teenagers… okay you might be one? How about teenage superheroes? Well, that’s just what you get when you listen to The Bright Sessions, a science fiction podcast created by Lauren Shippen. The show follows a group of teenage atypicals, or people with strange and usual abilities, and their mysterious psychiatrist who focuses on atypicals, Dr. Joan Bright. Atypical powers range from mind reading, to spontaneous, panic-induced time travel, and mind control. The Bright Sessions can be found on Spotify, YouTube, and Luminary.
The early episodes are structured as Dr. Bright’s recordings of her therapy sessions with her different patients, with her voice memos to herself about each case at the end of each recording. There is little to no sound effects, keeping the focus on the characters and their words. In the first few episodes the main characters are introduced, one-by-one, via Dr. Bright’s sessions with them. The first is Caleb; he is a high school football player who can feel other people’s emotions. Then there’s Chloe, a college artist who can hear people’s thoughts. Sam is a very shy and a time-traveler. Damien can coerce people into doing his bidding, normally bad things, that would send people to jail or at least prompt a conversation with the police. They are all connected of course by Dr. Bright, who may not be as altruistic as she seems in marketing her services to “strange and unusual” types who don’t know where to go for help.
Aside from the thrill of eavesdropping on someone else’s therapy session, the acting and the slowly unwinding conversations are compelling and reveal details about the characters and their relationships with each other. And the sinister government conspiracy they may all be unwilling a part of. The Bright Sessions cover a range of topics from love, mental health, and adolesence.
The episodes are short, around 15-30 minutes long, with the longest being an hour. The podcast sometimes jumps in time between episodes, as if it’s working through an archive of Dr. Bright’s recordings that isn’t quite complete or organized. The show is great for binge listening because seemingly throwaway details often become important later on giving you the eureka feeling when the detail is brought up again. They’re also mini-episodes within the main episodes; these are not essential to the storyline, but they give you more information about the characters while not progressing the plotline.
Since its release in October 27, 2015, the main series has ended and a spin-off series on Luminary has started, The AM Archives, with episodes slowly being released to Spotify. This podcast picks up right where The Bright Sessions ended. So, listen to The Bright Sessions first or fear the spoilers!
Lauren Shippen hasn’t stopped there, either; in 2017 she announced that a TV adaptation is in the works. Lauren has also written a book, The Infinite Noise, with the plan to release two more books each following various characters from the podcast. The Infinite Noise is about Caleb and his classmate, Adam, a love story that started with The Bright Sessions. This book takes a look at what happen away from Dr. Bright’s recorder.