Review of Steal the Stars by Mac Rogers. Reviewed by Elora Gatts.
Please note: This review contains light spoilers for Episodes 12-14, which, as of this review, have not yet aired. Catch up here!
Steal the Stars, a 14-episode sci-fi podcast from Tor Labs and Gideon Media, is a stunning return to the bygone era of radio dramas—though it might be the closest to a prestige TV show the format has ever come. Sleek production values, taut scripting, and next-level performances send this series ricocheting into a new universe of possibilities.
Much of what makes Steal the Stars so appealing is its keen subtlety. Spools of character development, foreshadowing, and worldbuilding carefully unwind through dialogue that, in any other format, might feel like exposition; here, it’s as natural as can be. We see the world through the eyes of Dakota “Dak” Prentiss—an experienced ex-soldier tough and smart, yet heartbreakingly vulnerable—and crucial insights can be gleaned from what she says (and fails to say). Is Dak an unreliable narrator? Not exactly—but there is so much she doesn’t allow herself to see.
Through her eyes, Matt Salem (Dak’s colleague and eventual lover) is an enigma. He is described as a “beautiful boy,” with a wounded expression that “makes you want to protect him”—the type of sensitive, attractive lover Dak has always wanted but never believed could want her. However, while we get a sense he’s a good guy, Matt remains distant from listeners throughout the podcast; we never know what he’s thinking, or if he’s who we think he is . . . or, in Dak’s case, who she wants him to be.
While their fervent need to stay together drives the plot—after all, they burn all their bridges and formulate a heist—what of the speculative elements? The scriptwriter, Mac Rogers, is in a class of his own when it comes to formulating effective science fiction. Some writers throw in a spaceship here, an alien there, and call it good; Rogers sets the speculative to work in service of a greater cause: theme. After all, the best science fiction isn’t focused on cool tech, phenomena, or even extraterrestrials.
It’s always, always, always about people.
And make no mistake, Steal the Stars is an incredibly human tale. Its characters long for purpose, to feel grounded in something bigger than themselves. Whether it’s the quirky scientist Lloyd, whose chatty exuberance hides a deep well of sorrow, or the unwaveringly loyal Patty, whose friendship with Dak is doomed to wither on the vine, that desperate need to connect is a constant undercurrent beneath the surface of the story.
If you’re looking for an engaging story that will leave you thinking about its implications for weeks, Steal the Stars is for you. It’s science fiction at its best and most thoughtful, a paradigm-shifter that, I hope, signals a glorious new era of prestige podcast serials.