Hello again good readers! I’ve been a bit quiet of late, but that should come as no surprise, as Doctor Who is back! I’ve been prepping and watching and thinking about it rather a lot, but I’m taking a moment here to get back to my patron-inspired posts! This time courtesy of fellow Doctor Who fan and all-around wonderful human being Annette Bjorling!
Annette was one of my first patrons, and she asked if I’d be willing to do something a little bit different for her selection. Instead of watching an episode of television, she wanted me to listen to part of an audio series called The Minister of Chance. I’d been hearing about this series for quite some time, so I was more than happy to oblige!
The reason I’d heard so much about it is it’s got several Doctor Who actors involved, and its events just may take place in the same universe as the good Doctor’s. It’s not an official spinoff as far as I know, so my impression is that’s the intent, but it has to remain non-explicit. Still, that can be fun!
Before I get into it too far, I want to mention how nifty this project is from a production standpoint. It was entirely crowd-funded, and they had no budget for publicity. The people involved in creating this cared so passionately they put in an amazing amount of work, and it shows. You can tell when a project was made with love. This was. And people responded. Word-of-mouth can go a long way in the internet age, and that’s really worked to MoC’s advantage. I’ve seen so much squee about this thing on Twitter, I’m surprised it took me so long to check it out!
Well, I’m not entirely surprised. If you listen to Verity! you know I’m just taking my first baby-steps into the word of audio drama.* So my laziness about checking into official DW audio led quite smoothly into my laziness about checking into an unofficial sibling. Thus, I should thank Annette for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to give this a shot.
So far I’ve listened to the Prologue: The Pointed Hand, Episode 1: The Broken World, and Episode 2: The Forest Shakes. Let me start by saying it sounds beautiful. Just. Beautiful. You might think an independently-produced (and funded) endeavor like this could sound a bit shoddy, and in this case you’d be wrong with a capital Wrong. It’s enveloping from the very start. The music is beautiful. The sound effects are clear and effective. And both are mixed well with the vocals (something televised Doctor Who often struggles with). Big round of applause to the folks who put this together technically. It was a joy to pop in my earbuds and sink into this world.
I’m not going to do a big plot synopsis. You can find that elsewhere, and perhaps you’d rather go in cold like I did. Instead I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free and just say how much I enjoyed it. Because I did. I have a few quibbles, but I’ll get to those in a minute. First I want to squee about the actors.
Of course we have Paul McGann, who’s well-known for his audio dramas, and with good reason. His velvet voice is well-suited to his character Durian. And Sylvester McCoy does an excellent hissing, furious military commander! The real kicker for me though came when I was listening to the (incredibly inventive) opening credits. When I heard “Paul Darrow” say his name I near-swooned. And then I continued to swoon whenever Lord Rathen made an appearance. The rest of the cast is lovely as well. Sometimes I have trouble telling audio characters apart. I didn’t run into that here.
The writing is top notch as well. Generally speaking, the plot is intriguing. When time allows, I will have to re-immerse myself in this world and find out where the heck it’s going! On a more specific level, there are some real corkers of clever lines, like “”His intelligence may be good, even if his intelligence is poor” (spoken of a dimwitted informant). I can’t overemphasize the importance of good lines like that when listening to audio drama. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me involved as a listener. Knowing there’s going to be something like that around the next corner keeps me rapt.
Speaking of paying close attention, I do have to admit there were a few parts that got hard to follow. This might be because I’m not in practice when it comes to listening to drama, but there were several times (especially around the end of the first episode) I started to get a little lost.
My other minor quibble is that the Minister isn’t very likable. I don’t think he’s supposed to be. He’s the Doctorish character here, and he’s clearly supposed to be a bit cold and standoffish. That’s all well and good, and maybe he’ll soften over the course of the series, but for now, it’s a type of character I’m less-than-fond of following. Honestly, none of the characters really rang my bell except Professor Cantha (played brilliantly by Jenny Agutter). If you’re the type who likes a Doctor who’s a bit of a dick to his companions (I am not**), you’ll probably really dig this!
That said, his self-imposed companion, Kitty (Lauren Crace), handles this just fine. She gives as good as she gets, which keeps it from feeling really icky or unbalanced. I feel like she’s as clever as he is, just in different ways. That’s always a good thing. Of course, as I said, she still doesn’t really do it for me as a character at this point. I find her brashness a wee bit off-putting. Then again, I felt that way about Donna at first on Doctor Who, and she became one of my most favorite companions ever, so it could just be a matter of time before I warm to her.
I realize this isn’t a very full picture of what the series entails, and that’s because I simply don’t yet know! I do know enough to highly recommend you check it out if you have any interest in audio drama.*** Listening to The Minister of Chance is a delight!
About the Patron:
Annette Bjorling is a harpist for (m)any occasions–in the Chicago area and abroad. She provides Klezmer, Pop, Jazz, Classics, and more! She’s also a Doctor Who fangirl and an enthusiastic Chancer (supporter of the Minister of Chance).
*Ok, so that’s not entirely accurate. I discovered the Deathlands series from Graphic Audio many years ago while on a 15-hour-in-one-day solo road trip. It’s a post-apocalyptic series that’s clearly aimed at truckers, but I fell in love with it. After spending so many hours with them over the years, I still think of those characters as friends. Of course, it’s been years since I’ve listened to one of those either.
**Apparently I make an exception for Peter Capaldi.
***Oh, and did I mention, it’s FREE? They gladly accept donations, but you can listen gratis!