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Alba Salix, Royal Physician Is A Very Unserious Podcast
Alba Salix, Royal Physician is such a departure from most podcasts I’ve come across in my career as a critic. It’s basically a cartoon but in an audio-only format. Each of the first three episodes is an isolated, silly situation with very little seeding for any future plots. It’s episodic, is what I’m saying—the point is to be a fun distraction and to make you laugh.
The closest comparison I can make is something I only know of through reputation and reading two books in its vast catalog: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. And perhaps that comparison alone is enough to make some people interested. Within only a few breezy episodes, Alba Salix, Royal Physician has fantasy-reworkings of modern items (the “Gnome Positioning System” being a favorite), several innuendos, lots of comedic violence, tons of biting sarcasm, and even some reworking of classic fairytales.
This Podcast Does Not Use Only One Kind Of Joke
But is it funny? Ah, now there’s the question. Well, more so than a lot of genre conventions/intentions, that’s extremely subjective to judge. But, for the sake of having a review at all, I can give this context for your appraisal: it’s only basing a few comedic moments around jokes with clear setups and one-hit punchlines. Most of the humor is general farce and shenanigans. I’ll even give an example. In episode two, one character is panicking because they have woefully overestimated their abilities and is trying to fight a dragon, while another character finds the dragon adorable, and a third is generally unhappy with the whole situation and doesn’t care much about the safety of the other two. And that, at least for me, is entertaining to listen to—but I wasn’t laughing. Amused, sure. Cackling, out of breath, nah.
But, and maybe I didn’t give this impression so far, I quite enjoyed Alba Salix, Royal Physician. And having a superb cast of characters is why—as well as them all being voiced expertly. Each episode ends with a snippet of the cast having fun, and that energy persists through the podcast proper. The titular Alba Salix (voiced perfectly by Barbara Clifford) is an incredible combination of sarcastic, competent, and grumpy, which makes her a delight to listen to every episode. The fairy Holly (voiced by Olivia Jon) works as a perfect foil for her, being cheerful and energetic and bubbly—and, most importantly, clumsy—but also so good at herbology that Alba is forced to deal with her. And rounding things out is the almost required-in-comedy karmic punching bag of Brother Magnus (voiced by Julian Sark): an overeager, egotistical teenager who threads that needle of being annoying to the characters but not quite annoying to the audience. And, as you may already be able to tell just from my descriptions, these three play off each other fantastically, with most plots basically consisting of putting two or all three of them in a situation and letting things get out of hand.
Alba Salix Has Holistically Good Character Writing
But are there negatives? Yes, and they’re almost all the default ones I expect from a project like this. At no point was I surprised that building up certain characters to be annoying was sometimes also going to be annoying. I wasn’t surprised that a few of the jokes were problematic or used unfortunate word choices. Even the magic system being extremely loose and likely to cause plot holes down the line wasn’t shocking. Though I don’t have experience with fantasy comedy all that much, I have my fair share of experience with comedy spliced into other genres.
Besides those issues, though, Alba Salix, Royal Physician is just a good time. It’s campy, silly, and fast-paced. Each character feels distinct and is voiced well, and the plots have been varied and unique so far. If you want a break from more dramatic works, more intense media, Alba Salix, Royal Physician is a pleasant little escapist piece. It’s—appropriately—a balm for a bad day.
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