The latest series of BBC’s Intrigue, a ten-part story called Tunnel 29 is an instant classic. It’s the story of a tunnel dug under the Berlin wall to rescue people from East Germany to the West in 1961.
For background, the podcast is called Intrigue and every series features a new story. S1, called Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel featured a true story of death, sex and elite politics in China. S2 was called Ratline and featured a story about love & death in Nazi Germany. It seems like they do one series a year – S1 was uploaded in 2017, S2 in 2018 and S3 in 2019.
S3, Tunnel 29 is hosted by Helena Merriman, a senior broadcast journalist who’s been with the BBC for 15 years. It tells the true story of Joachim Rudolph, who, as a 22-year-old engineering student in the early 1960s, made it to West Berlin, and then dug a tunnel back into East Germany, beneath the Berlin Wall, to help others escape. The story has got all the ups and downs of a classic thriller with episodes often ending on cliffhangers.
The show is heavily produced with immersive sound design, background music, and field interviews. Some figures, who weren’t fluent in English (like Joachim himself) are played by actors who are very convincing in their roles. But the best part is Helena herself. She is a natural storyteller and you can tell she enjoys sharing the story with the listener.
Part documentary, part retelling, Tunnel 29 is extremely engrossing and we binge-listened the whole thing in one day. Merriman is turning the story into a book to be published in 2021 and TV rights have been sold to Sister Pictures, makers of the award-winning Chernobyl on HBO.
But the podcast will always hold a place of its own. BBC Radio productions have been evolving over decades and this new approach is an exciting chapter in audio storytelling history. The series has 5M downloads and counting. Listen