Georgebinning's Blog

The Minister of Chance

Posted in Fortean Times, music and art by georgebinning on March 23, 2011
MinisterofChance

Price: £1.49
Director: Dan Freeman
Country: UK
Distributor: Radio Static
Available from: ministerofchance.com

 

 

You won’t find the latest Dr. Who spin of in the TV listings; the Minister of Chance is, in the words of its creators, “a radiophonic serial”. In other words, it’s a continuing audio drama in the form of a downloadable podcast.

The series opens in another time, in another world, in a local pub where, in typical Who fashion, the regulars speak in northern accents. When a man appears from a door, larger on the inside than the outside, Dr Who fans, myself included, start to writhe with excitement. No, it’s not the Doctor, but an equally cocky Time Lord called the Minister of Chance. The situation very quickly escalates from a search for a missing scientist to matters of international diplomacy, and unanswered questions start to pile up by the dozen.

Cut to Ambassador Durian (played by none other than eight Doctor, Paul McGann) of the invading Sezuan forces, blackmailing the king with his oily charm and military superiority, and without, as it transpires, authorisation. And this is where the medium of high-tech audio-drama surpasses the cranky old television — because instead of the by now almost obligatory CGI battle-scene, we are treated to one of the most eloquent, non-violent invasions ever devised. Whilst TV audiences are easily placated with explosions, chases and gadgets, good storytelling is key to holding a radio audience, and it’s central to the appeal of Minister of Chance.

The world created for the Minister of Chance is a highly engaging one. The invading Sezuan are a race of magicians in a world where science is outlawed for the good of the people. However the Sezuan do secretly employ captured enemy scientists in the hope of developing the fabled ‘ballistic missile’; the greater good justifies this act of heresy, and the missile will supposedly only be used as a deterrent. It’s a world in which rationality and superstition are inverted, in which “raving scientists” with their “æthereal musings” are pitted against the practical uses of magic spells.

The voice acting — from a cast including not just McGann but Sylvester McCoy (the seventh Doctor), Paul Darrow and Jenny Agutter — is top notch, the sound design is highly effective and the script completely faithful to the blunt, witty style of Dr Who. An if the eponymous Minister (Julian Wadham) sounds familiar, that’s because he first appeared (voiced by Stephen Fry) in the 2001 webcast Death Comes to Time, the director of which, Dan Freeman, has written, produced and directed this follow up.

It’s rare that I find myself so completely wrapped up in a series as this, but now I really want to know what happens next. However an ominous message on the Minister of Chance website reminds us that unless enough copies are sold, the Radio Static team cannot afford to finish the series. You can download the Prologue for free, and Episode One (‘The Broken World’) for £1.49 from www.ministerofchance.com.

A thoroughly enjoyable addition to the Who-niverse: 8/10

Published in the Fortean Times.

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One Response

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  1. Clare Eden - Exec Producer said, on June 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Hi George, would you like a review copy of Episode Two now it’s out? We had to delay its release because of an exciting development with iTunes – we couldn’t originally sell via iTunes in their system but having been impressed with the way we launched the Prologue & Ep1, they approached us to say they wanted to look for a way to get us on their sales catalogue. So we’re now up as the first audio drama to be sold there.. Let me know if you’d like me to wing a copy over to you?

    cheers, Clare Eden
    Executive Producer
    http://www.ministerofchance.com
    Written, Directed and Produced by Dan Freeman
    Twitter: MinisterChance or Facebook: Minister of Chance


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