I was quite surprised when someone told me that the next episode of The Minister of Chance was going to be the last one. Surely not — it seemed like this was a long buildup to a quick resolution if that was the case. Unfortunately, it was. In a Bark on the River Hex wraps everything up, but it does it quickly and confusingly.
Having achieved ultimate power, Paul Darrow’s Lord Rathen is already getting bored — but he makes the cardinal sin of playing a bored character by actually being boring. Darrow doesn’t sound like he’s interested in what’s going on in a way that really undermines the scenes he’s in; I was quite disappointed with his achievement of absolute power.
Meanwhile, though, the Minister tells the rebellion that he can’t open up a doorway between points on the same world… but then he does anyway, one of many things that if there was an explanation for, I missed it. He and Kitty take a sidetrip on the River Hex, and the Minister talks to someone of importance in the hierarchy of the Totally Not The Time Lords, Honest about… something. And also voyages into his memories, I think, which turn out to be a mishmash of sound effects. Then they return to the real world, lose their memories for a couple scenes, but get them back. Eventually there’s a hard-to-follow fight scene that seems to hinge on rules of Totally-Not-The-Time-Lords-Honest magic that we haven’t been told before (or if we were, it was so long ago, I’ve forgotten it — these five episodes have been stretched out over two years, after all).
Dan Freeman’s Death Comes to Time had a brilliant climax that had emotional meaning as much (or maybe more than) plot logic, but this is really only a climax in terms of plot. There are hints about the Minister and Kitty, but no real pay-off, and the confrontation between the Minister and Lord Rathen is good, but I feel like it could have sparked a little bit more. There are hints of what I loved about Death Comes to Time — the beautiful, great, epic backdrop — but what’s here is ultimately a little too obscure and confusing to satisfy.
As I’ve said, I loved Death Comes to Time, but The Minister of Chance turned out not to be a compelling sequel, but a pale remake. It’s fine, and enjoyable at times, but it ultimately it almost precisely rehearses the plot of the previous story, which leaves you wondering what the point of it all was supposed to be. I do want to know what I’ll think if I relisten to the whole thing in rapid succession, though. I know they’ve been coming out as fast as Radio Static can make them, but stretching five episodes out over this long has been difficult, too. Nothing about this story is bad, and it’s free, so there’s not a lot of room to complain, but I really feel like I should have just relistened to Death Comes to Time.
In a Bark on the River Hex (by Dan Freeman) was released by Radio Static in May 2013.