The BBC is launching an experimental podcast and radio play starring Pearl Mackie in an all-female cast.
Former Doctor Who star Mackie will lend her voice to an environmental thriller, which will be layered with factual talks and an evocative soundscape.
BBC producers have described Radio 4’s new Forest 404 podcast, centred on the extinction of the world’s forests, as “genuinely experimental”.
It will run alongside a further experiment, aimed at testing the positive impact of listening to natural sounds.
Mackie stars alongside Tanya Moodie and Pippa Haywood in the multi-layered series, and a range of speakers from anthropologists to musicians will deliver the factual content.
As well as a soundtrack created by Bonobo, each episode will also feature a different recording of sounds reportedly lost to the fictional, post-apocalyptic world of the thriller.
Talks will span subjects such as “Would you vote for an AI government?” and “What is death in the digital age”.
Rhian Roberts, digital commissioner for Radio 4, said: “Podcasting gives us the chance to play with sound and form away from the classic radio schedule, it allows the whole shape and format of Forest 404 to be genuinely experimental.
“Podcasts also have that ability to pull us into a very close relationship with a story, we wanted the layered approach to draw listeners even more deeply into this twisted futuristic world.
“It weaves the best of Radio 4 together, a roller coaster of a story that’s unnervingly timely, with talks that bring footnotes to life, providing the insight and facts behind the drama.
“These go along with the third element of bespoke soundscapes – so you can try out what effect the mixes have on your own brain.”
The drama takes place in the 24th century, after an apocalyptic event called The Cataclysm. Archivist Pan, played by Mackie, discovers a lost natural world through sound.
Alongside the 27-part series, an experiment will assess the therapeutic effects of listening to natural sounds.
Alex Smalley, lead researcher on Forest 404, The Experiment, said: “A large body of evidence shows that spending time in natural environments can have positive effects on people’s wellbeing. We want as many people as possible to take part in this study, helping us uncover what works and why.”
BBC Radio 4’s Forest 404 will be available as a podcast boxset on BBC Sounds from April 4.