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'The Minister Of Chance' a new Doctor Who spin-off


Doctor Who spin-off looking to iTunes subscribers for a long life...

The Minister Of Chance

Amendment: Thanks to commenter 'Alex' for digging even deeper into the Minister Of Chance official website to confirm that 'Death Comes To Time' producer/director Dan Freeman is the writer of the new Minister Of Chance project - effectively removing any doubt that MoC is part of the 'Whoniverse', and also removing the question mark from this feature's title!

The Fortean-style 'Radio Static' newspaperThe arrival on my doorstep today of a Fortean Times-style newspaper called 'Radio Static' (coincidentally also the name of a PR company!) shed the final bit of light on a what appears to be a new Doctor Who-related spin-off called The Minister Of Chance, which even features two of the former Doctors - though they do not appear to be playing the Time Lord himself on this occasion, if you believe the cast-listing.

Who are the ex-Time-Lords in question? Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor) and Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor). So is The Minister Of Chance visual or audio in nature? Well, both and neither. Is it included in the TV licence fee paid for by UK viewers? Only partially - future seasons will only be funded if the first season makes enough money in iTunes downloads. Is there a Time Lord in it at all? The evidence strongly suggests that there is - and that it's an old friend of ours, the aforesaid 'Minister Of Chance' formerly played by Stephen Fry in the 2001 BBC audio adventure Death Comes To Time, played in the new project by Julian Wadham, whose movie CV includes The Madness of King George and both the 2004 Exorcist prequels. BBC TV viewers may also have spotted Wadham in Lewis and Midsomer Murders, among many other shows.

Well, let's backtrack to the weird paper I received today (dated two months into the future, by the way!), with its strange and bizarre tales of crop circles, evidence of faeries, reports of NASA regaining contact with the ill-fated Beagle 2 Mars explorer that crashed to the Martian surface in 2003...and numerous references to the two ex-'Doctors'.

The first reference is cryptic, referring to a 'carpenter' called 'Sylvester McGann'. By the time we reach the centre-page story, things are a bit plainer, as one of the upcoming stories from Minister Of Chance is previewed, apparently, when the Beagle 2 Mars Observer proves that it's not as dead as everybody thought...

...project leaders are excited. Sylvester McGann and Paul McCoy were the supervisors, and have been recalled to NASA. McGann explains "We got a signal, a very strong signal, a few days ago. It's absolutely way out of our normal purview, this is just the weirdest, damnedest thing." McGann continues "it's not actually transmitting anything, this is the weird thing. In fact it's not transmitting now, it's just that we're getting the signal now - it's just coming from another position.

The Beagle 2 reappears in 'The Minister Of Chance'

The feature goes on to explain that Beagle 2 never actually stopped transmitting, but seems to have been moved to another and very distant part of space back in 2003, when it disappeared. It's all looking very like a cross between Quatermass, The X-Files and Sapphire And Steel, isn't it?

The 'Radio Static' newspaper has references to a mysterious compass with strange powers that was unearthed at Doon Hill, a review of a 'BBC13' programme broadcast on the 17th March 2011 about the possibility of 'space travel in the past' (it continues on the non-existent p.377, and in fact the newspaper's page-numbering scheme skips up to ten pages at a time), another review, this time of a C4 programme about the appearance of trans-dimensional doors throughout history, a cryptic table of horoscopes, an article about a missing journalist called Jenny Grace (who was made to vanish when she plugged in a mysterious USB key sent to her in the post), lots more talk about 'keys' that Nostradamus prophesied, the discovery of an 'Elf' skeleton in Norway, the appearance of strange crop circles in a 'C' shape... and the discovery of a 100-foot tall human skeleton on an Indonesian island.

The paper seems to centre into our two central protagonists most in the 'Letters to the editor' section. One such letter seems to describe the Minister Of Chance eschewing the TARDIS as a means of transport in favour of the 'doors' that are frequently referenced in the paper:

"...I awoke the other night to see a door appearing in my bedroom wall, where no door was before. To my horror, the door started to creak open. A dapper-looking gent poked his head around the door, mumbled something about his compass being misaligned, apologised for getting mud on my carpet and closed the door, which promptly vanished..."

Another letter references central character Kitty, who seems to be getting attacked by what sounds like a yeti. None of the phone numbers printed in the paper seem to work (and don't seem at first glance to be resolvable into IP addresses), but one can also have fun spotting the paper's not-always-subtle references to the cast, who are...

Evidence of Faeries for 'The Minister Of Chance'...?Julian Wadham - The Minister of Chance
Jenny Agutter - Professor Cantha
Gethin Anthony - Sutu
Lauren Crace - Kitty
Paul Darrow - Lord Rathen
Stuart Fox - Porcher
Peter Guinness - The Horseman
Lloyd Hutchinson - Menin
Mark Lewis - The King
Sylvester McCoy - The Witch Prime
Paul McGann - Durian
Jay Taylor - Ilias

As we can see, our two ex-Time Lords don't seem to be anything to do with a NASA-style tale, if the character names are anything to judge by, and in fact McGann's role is previewed as a 'galactic ambassador' (see below). SF fans may well know that Paul Darrow played the semi-wicked anti-hero Avon in the BBC's Blake's 7 in the 70s and 80s, and seems to have taken an ad out for his non-existent science bookstore below the crossword. Jenny Agutter's most iconic SF role as Jessica 6 in Logan's Run (1976) is also referenced in the crossword at the back of the newspaper, above an ad for her 'curios shop' (with a special interest in time-pieces).

Well, a little investigation turned up a lot more on The Minister Of Chance: An official website, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed (with no posts at the time of writing).

The conceptual précis for the project that is given at the site reads: "Once Upon a Time there was a girl called Kitty who worked at an Inn. One night a stranger walked in, and through a door, and over a bridge made of frost and into another World, and Kitty followed him." Not all the 'Read more' and 'preview' links are working yet on the official website, but here's the outline of the first three episodes as provided there:

Prologue - The Pointed Hand
In which Ambassador Durian embarks upon a courageous peace mission to the primitive people of Tanto.

Episode 1 - The Broken World
In which Kitty tries stealth-shouting, is hit by a fireball and befriends the wrong creature.

Episode 2 - The Forest Shakes
In which Kitty finds herself in the dark, but not alone, and strange creatures troop the forest.

Rendition of the original 'Minister Of Chance' voice actor played by Stephen FryBased on these episode descriptions, it sounds like Doctor Who in reverse - where a Time Lord becomes a young girl's assistant.

The character of The Minister Of Chance is described at Tardis wikia as "a Time Lord who was a member of Fraction [a galaxy-roving group of Time Lords]. He was one of the surviving members when General Tannis killed most of the other members. The Minister was shown to be one of five Time Lords to survive the Second War in Heaven and the destruction of Gallifrey". Writer Colin Meek created the character for BBC audio, though no writing credits are evident yet on the official Minister Of Chance website.

The Minister Of Chance (2001)That's about as much as I can tell you about the Minister himself, since I have not listened to Death Comes To Time (which is a seventh Doctor webcast/CD adventure featuring Sylvester McCoy and also Sophie Aldred as 'Ace'). But if you want to see the actors involved in the new production, check out the Facebook page or the gallery below.

Of note is that Minister Of Chance is to be supported by its fans in the long run. The 'About' section of the official website does little to clear up what exactly the visual component of the show might be, but makes quite clear that if you want to see it continue, you'll need to support it by buying the episodes on iTunes (or whatever other subsequent legitimate delivery methods might eventually become available)...

The Minister of Chance is a new form of entertainment - a radiophonic drama - made using a combination of film and radio techniques and delivered by podcast. It is the first, but we hope not last, of its kind. By painstakingly constructing soundscapes we create worlds that you can drift into wherever you are.

Production is funded entirely by you. By buying the episodes and merchandise you are actively allowing us to complete the series.

The series will run in seasons of six episodes. The first two episodes and a prologue have been made and the remaining episodes and seasons will be created when we have enough sales to allow us to make them.

How you can help: the episodes, buy the merchandise, tell your friends, or if you are rich and very very nice then please donate to production.

Facebook site | Official Site | Twitter Feed |

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See also:

Teaser trailer for Doctor Who spin-off The Minister Of Chance

The literary TARDIS: The Target Doctor Who novelisations

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#1 A nice surprise Alex 2011-01-23 21:48
I'm surprised we haven't seen this reported elsewhere. I did a little digging and the writer of this new series, Dan Freeman is the same fellow who directed and produced Death Comes to Time (the credits are on the website, but hidden - click next to "Production Team"). I just hope McGann and McCoy's involvement won't affect their work for Big Finish!
#2 Second paragraph Daniel 2011-01-24 18:15
Paul McGann's the Eighth Doctor, isn't he?

[RESPONSE: Thanks for this correction - Ed]

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