A man has washed ashore on one of the Dutch Islands. His identity is a mystery. Because he doesn’t speak a word, he is admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. When a nurse brings him a pen and paper, hoping he’ll write down his name, he instead makes detailed drawings of our solar system’s planets and celestial bodies. This earns him the nickname Astronaut.
The local authorities are on a desperate search for answers as the mystery around his identity goes viral. A tip hotline is opened and more than 500 people call in with information. Why does the mystery man capture the imagination so much?
‘De zaak Astronaut’ stood out from other projects in the Dutch podcast landscape due to its innovative format—it is a mockcast, a fiction podcast that mimics non-fiction. This mockcast – the first of its kind – balances on the edge of fake and real, because the dialogues are entirely created through improvisation.
Because the podcast toys with the notion of what is and isn’t fiction, listeners were compelled to ask themselves, “Is this fake news? And how easy is it to fabricate such a thing?” The phrase “De zaak Astronaut, real story?” was the most Googled phrase in regard to this podcast in the months after its debut.
The podcast had a diverse cast of characters from various ages, racial origins, and religious backgrounds, and featured actors of Dutch, Belgian, Italian, Moroccan, Portuguese, and Surinamese heritage. In short, it told five stories about Dutch individuals from various walks of life.
This podcast is part of a multidisciplinary project that includes a novel and a pop album as well. The project’s use of multiple disciplines helped it stand out in the Dutch media environment and allowed listeners to immerse themselves more deeply into the narrative.
Upon release, the podcast quickly became the number one fiction podcast in Belgium and The Netherlands, and it remains so six months later. The podcast was featured in numerous prominent Dutch publications, including ‘Het Parool’ and ‘NRC,’ as well as on many Dutch-speaking radio stations, and reached the top ten on the Spotify and iTunes Podcast Charts.
The first episode was nominated for the NTR Podcast prize, an incentive prize awarded by a major Dutch public broadcaster, and won the Dutch Directors Guild-podcast prize. This year it is shortlisted for the prestigious Rose D’or Awards, one of the most important international entertainment awards.