Death Comes to Time
The Minster of Chance

Written by Colin Meek (aka Dan Freedman)
Format Online broadcast/CD
Running Time 3 hours 43 mins
Released 2013

Starring Julian Wadham and Lauren Crace
Also featuring Jenny Agutter, Paul Darrow, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.

Synopsis: Ambassador Durian of the technologically advanced nation of Sezuan is sent to talk peace with the King of the medieval backwater nation of Tanto. However, the King rebuffs Durian's overtures of friendship, and things take a turn for the very, very sinister. At a nearby inn, barmaid Kitty's routine of fighting, abusing customers, and avoiding personal hygiene is disrupted by the arrival of a cloaked stranger. Her routine is further disrupted when she follows him into the forest, through a ghostly doorway, over the frost bridge between worlds, and into an adventure encompassing invasions, machiavellian political scheming and conversations with frog gods at the entrance to the Underworld.


Death Comes To Time (Again) by Stephen Maslin 7/10/20

When you die, God sits you on His knee, and tells you what life was really all about - the reasons for all the suffering, the injustice, the tattoos. You are also allowed to ask any questions you wish. You might, for example, ask when the UNIT stories actually took place, or why Warriors of the Deep was broadcast in preference to a blank screen. You could even enquire as to where Death Comes to Time fits into Doctor Who's grand scheme of things. O magnum mysterium...


Ah, DC2T, the (mostly) superb radio re-imagining of the McCoy era that appeared in 2001, and which was, to quote Robert Smith? (native of this parish), "glorious, poetic and beautiful". Quite so, but it was also infuriating. One wants to include such an imaginative piece in the canon of 'real' Who, but it does not seem possible. For one thing, the Seventh Doctor is clearly dead at the end of it, and there could have been no off-screen regeneration, as we know that happens elsewhen in San Vancouver. So how can this be? Without presuming to look into the mind of The Almighty, an explanation might start as follows:

If you look at Benny's wedding photo on the cover of Paul Cornell's Happy Endings, you'll see that there are two Seventh Doctors: one on the left, dressed as he was on TV (question mark sweater, and so forth), and a swankier one on the right, in a white suit and red tie. One of these was shot by ne'er-do-wells at the beginning of the 1996 TV movie and thus regenerated, while the other sailed on into the New Adventures book range. It seems logical to assume that DC2T is the end point of the latter of these two time streams...

And so on. Perhaps the ability to "canonise" DC2T is a test that only God can pass, but He knows it has to done: for audio should always sound "good" and DC2T sounds great.

Sound is important, and not only for audio. The main reason that God doesn't watch 21st century TV Doctor Who is that it does not sound "good": it sounds like 50 minutes of Murray Gold every week, and that is "bad". It doesn't sound like The Wheel in Space, it doesn't sound like Terror of the Zygons or The Seeds of Doom, and it certainly doesn't sound like DC2T, whose delicious sound design and brilliantly chosen music cues remain unmatched by any other Doctor Who on audio (or by that much Doctor Who on TV for that matter). In spite of its fifth and final episode being rather poor, its wholesale rewrite of Time Lord mythology and its rather primitive accompanying "webcast" images, DC2T remains a triumph; a wonderfully oddball one-off.


Except it wasn't a one off. A dozen or so years later, seemingly out of nowhere, up pops wayward Time Lord The Minister again, in his own sequel, having regenerated from the slightly hysterical Stephen Fry of DC2T into the more urbane Julian Wadham.


The ten minute prelude is, to be honest, somewhat laboured, and barely necessary. (There are photos on imdb suggesting that it was wholly or partly filmed, but the website no longer exists, and I can find no trace of any video. I don't think that's any great loss.)


Once the prelude is out of the way, we are treated to something very true to DC2T's original style, with the same weighty music, another great script and lots and lots of proper actors. This was, apparently, fan-funded, and very generous those fans must have been to have afforded such an array of talent. Julian Wadham is superb as the eponymous Minister. (See also his remarkable resurrection of John Steed in Big Finish's 'Avengers' series. Why isn't this gentleman better known?) The companion role is beautifully judged too. Lauren Crace's Kitty is what Lucie Miller of the New Eighth Doctor Adventures should have been: abrasive, yes, but with an actual justification for being so, and with much more depth to her portrayal. Paul McGann (as a baddie) is excellent. Jenny Agutter is excellent. Paul Darrow is excellent. Even Sylvester McCoy is pretty good (and, let's face it, as an audio performer, he sometimes isn't). Admittedly, there are a couple of rather forced attempts at grown-up drama, which slightly detract from the grandeur of the whole, and, from time to time, the sound design nearly swamps the dialogue. (There are, for example, points at which the volume of bird song rivals that of The Deadly Assassin, part 3.) Yet for the first four episodes, this is radio/audio drama of a very high order, until...


Then the wheels come off. Again. As if to outdo DC2T for its own poor last episode, the last instalment of TMoC is simply atrocious. The script does not seem to be by the same hand as the first four episodes: ludicrous explanatory dialogue spirals out of control, aiming at something sooo deep, but coming out as verbose caffeinated gibberish. The cast are not acting at all, but just saying words any old how, and it becomes harder and harder to understand which character is talking, or what on Earth is going on. The previously immaculate sound design falls to bits as you listen, with abrupt fade-outs in the middle of scenes and stretches of unexplained sounds during which nothing seems to be happening, and it is all topped off with an horrific acoustic guitar song at the very end (which is not only at odds with the music style throughout the rest of the story, but is absolute shit into the bargain).


What the hell happened? Did the production team run out of time or money? Had the writer not thought through how to bring things to a conclusion and simply given up? Could it be that the scripts date back to the original plans for an extended DC2T, and that the final episode is a last minute copyright-busting replacement for the once-planned miraculous reappearance of the Doctor? Or did everyone involved just get bored?

God knows.