Sam reviews: Minister of Chance Episode 4 – The Tiger

Mar.22, 2013, filed under Reviews

avatarAs a MoC supporter, I’ve had my talons on a copy of episode 4 for a while now (by which I mean a couple of weeks) but other projects have kept me from listening.

Sorry, Dan. Hope this makes up for it.

It has been a while since we last visited Tanto, and those of you who have already been swept up by the series might want to go back and listen again to previous episodes. Those of you who haven’t — this isn’t the best place to start. They’re all free, so there’s no excuse for not downloading all of them and catching up. I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but comments on the story will make more sense if you have some idea of the context. You can also check out my reviews of previous episodes using the MoC tag.

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Episode 3 left us in the middle of diverging story arcs and with a number of questions. Episode 4 set about weaving those story arcs back together and answering some of those questions.

It started with a scene of high action, in which a major character (spoilers!) hijacked a vehicle that shall forever in my head be called War Rocket Ajax. We were then given a nice portrayal of Professor Cantha in her new role as Science Advocate for the Resistance — no Ben Goldacre, the Professor; Jenny Agutter did a good job of showing the hesitancy and discomfort of a science hermit pressurised into the role of rationalist preacher. There were shades of Monty Python — when Cantha spoke of a man finding an apple tree, a heckler called, “And he made cider!”

She’s not the Messiah…

We finally discovered the Horseman’s goal, and a little more about him. Maybe a little more is enough, given that the role he performs is somewhere between Judge Dredd and the Predator, measured into a blender with a dose of Time Lord and pulsed until smooth. From his conversations with Kitty, stilted as they were, we are left with the question of whether every Time Lord considers himself and his fellows to be walking weapons of mass destruction, and, again, what was it that brought them here — not to Tanto, specifically, but this particular set of worlds.

There was also the big reveal, of course, although I’ve been bound not to give away any major plot details, so you’ll have to listen to find out that one for yourself.

The immersive quality of the production hasn’t diminished, although I found the mix levels a bit off in places in this particular episode. It was especially noticeable during the first scene with the Minister and the Horseman — the sound effects and music combined to make speech a little hard to hear and you might find it useful to fiddle with the sound settings on whatever device you’re using to give priority to vocals. I also wonder if a brief guide page would be useful, and perhaps one of the Minister Moguls with more time on his or her hands than I have might oblige with a page listing the major characters and locations. Jura and Durian, for instance, look very different on paper, but don’t sound that different. Personal preference, perhaps, but a crib page would help with things like that and also assist with the inevitable fade from memory that happens in the gaps between episodes — not a problem if you listen to them back to back, of course.

The characterisation, as always, is superb. There were some great one-liners and exchanges, particularly where Kitty is involved:

“Give us some food.”
“It don’t grow on trees, you know.”
“Yes it does!”

Then there was the Witch Prime’s (Sylvester McCoy) comment to Durian (Paul McGann):

“Charm only carries you forward. It won’t let you stand still.”

Given Professor Cantha’s apparent faith in the idea of linear cause and effect, the notion that the soon-to-be Witch Prime Emeritus was referring to the quark rather than the personal attribute amused me.

Dan Freeman should be proud of what he’s accomplished with this series. The writing balances satisfying complexity with an awareness of the limitations of the medium. He’s not afraid to expect the listener to pay attention and use his or her grey matter, and it’s a relief to be trusted to work it out for myself. At the same time, he has given us enough information, whether in dialogue or soundscape, to be able to work it out for ourselves, thus avoiding frustration. Hindsight is, after all 20:20. He also devotes effort to character interaction, something of which we don’t get to see (or hear) enough these days. MoC is an oasis in a desert of writing aimed at short attention spans requiring high drama and plot-driven storytelling. Freeman shows it is possible to have excitement and pace without foregoing sophistication.

Episode 5 is in production at the moment and I have high expectations. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

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