Friday, 28 February 2014

The Reverent's Carnival written by Martin Day and directed by Gary Russell

What's it about: Bernice Summerfield has never been to Moros Prime before - and it’s unlikely she’ll be rushing back. Moros is a world of diplomacy and warfare, ruled over by a variety of creeps, dandies and outright weirdoes, where cybernetic implants are the latest fashion accessory and the native humans are ethically harvested for their organs. Peter Summerfield, however, has a job to do: heading the security team at the country estate of Willem van der Heever, the effective ruler of Moros Prime. Because Van der Heever is throwing a masquerade ball – which means fancy dress, fluorescent peacocks and an almost certain attempt on his life. Van der Heever is not without his enemies… But as Bernice and Peter uncover more about his past, whose side will they end up taking?

Archaeological Adventuress: Van de Heever has been reading up on Bernice's old papers before she turned up. He believes in being thorough and knowing the people that visit his world. When she wants to go snooping she talks herself into it. Literally. The coverage that Bernice will give on the events here will be nuanced but positive and that is the only reason she is kept alive.

Dog Boy: He is many things but normal barely begins to describe him. His newfound respect and friendship with his mother is a massive plus. As much as the dissent between them provided a moment or two of decent drama, it isn't something I would have wanted to have played out long term. Plus the chemistry between Bowerman and Grant is so strong that keeping them apart was a crime. It is lovely to hear him making digs at her, laughing with her rather than working against her. Peter's presence is something of a mystery. He's been requested to make sure that security is tight for Van de Heever's party but he already has a security team in place. Why specifically request an outside to do a job that you are already paying people to do? He is allegedly the best at his job in the quadrant, which is quite high praise to live up to. Peter's half Killoran lungs give him an advantage over the others when it comes to the gas attack.

Great Ideas: There is a real old school vibe to this adventure insofar as it is only Bernice and Peter who are involved, it takes me back to seasons nine and ten. Van der Heever has invited the great and the good of Moros to his carnival and Peter is organising the security for the event. What could possibly go wrong? If Van der Heever is a dictator at least he is a civilised one and even the one he is fighting is a benign one. Drone bombers, clone fighters that don't feel pain...the sacrifice is minimal. But what about the other side? After reading the blurb I was wondering if we were going to head into Cyberman territory, cybernetic implants becoming the latest craze to strike Moros Prime. But it is just a touch of local colour. There is something to be said about the threat of terrorism keeping a society on its toes. An estate that functions like a small town, completely self contained. If the war gets any worse the estate could be treated as a fortress and Van de Heever could continue to run things from his own little bolt hole. He used to be married but she disappeared in mysterious circumstances - a hovercraft accident. There were discrepancies in the post-mortem. Evidence has been discovered that show that his ex-wife might have been about to expose Van de Heever in some way. Half the fun of a masquerade ball is not knowing who you might be talking to and not knowing what kind of indiscreet gossip you might overhear. His ex-wife was a Kai called Nexo, one of the indigenous people of Moros Prime that Van de Heever is now systematically trying to wipe out. In her suicide message she reveals a plan to execute her husband on the night of his carnival. Nexo tried to convince him that they were more than mere donors and that they had a heritage of their own that was worth preserving. As soon as there was an attack on his life he became paranoid and Nexo realised it was hopeless trying to work towards a time when the Kai would be placed on the same legal footing as humans. Van de Heever planned to gas his guests at the carnival all along, rid himself of his enemies at the party and pin the blame for the whole thing on Kai terrorists. Attaching Peter and Benny's names of Van de Heever's attacker will keep every alien government of his back for decades. He will claim they were in league with Nexo. Nexo did manage to stab her ex-husband with her assassins blade but it was whilst he was inside her head. His shell of a body is dead but Van de Heever lives on inside his ex-wife's body.

Audio Landscape: Fastening seatbelts, door opening, birds screaming and tweeting, a shuttle coming in to land, heart monitor, trickling water, ticking clock, screams, bedlam, gas hissing, choking.

Isn't it Odd: There seems to be a discrepancy between the Moros Prime is described in the synopsis and the Moros Prime which is realised by the director. Reading the blurb I was preparing myself for a colourful, bizarre, creepy setting, one built up of eccentrics, fad gadgets and threats of terror attacks. The one which I found myself in felt quite bureaucratic and officious, polite party chatter and deathly silent rooms full of official conversations. I never really got a sense of the larger population, of the world at large. Why doesn't Peter remember their adventure on Mortis Dock? Have a missed something? Or is this the Epoch re-writing his history/memory from behind the scenes?

Standout Scene: Did Peter die on Moros Prime during the gas attack? Why can't Bernice remember he own son anymore? Why are people suddenly being deleted from her life?

Result: 'The King is dead...long live the King.' An interesting enough story but hampered by some economic direction that never really gave Moros Prime a sense of place. Martin Day has written a clever little piece that only requires a few characters to fill in the details of an entire world, characters who go on to shirk off their masks like those at the masquerade ball and reveal their true identities and motives. It's fantastic to have a good old fashioned Benny and Peter story but the emphasis has really changed so they both have resourceful role to play in the story, working together to pick apart the mystery of Van de Heever's past. I hope that Peter makes it into the phase of Bernice's life because the chemistry between Lisa Bowerman and Thomas Grant is very believable. We have come a long way with Peter and now he has grown up and serves as a strong participant in these adventures it would be a shame to lose him. To be frank none of the other spin off ranges have been around long enough to boast this kind of development of character. The Revenant's Carnival really comes alive in its final fifteen minutes but it is a shame that until then the soundscape is so scarce and the whole piece is so reliant on the dialogue to build the world up around us. I'm not saying that is a poor approach because audio drama relies on description to create pictures but it usually works in tandem with the soundscape to create a vivid picture of where we are. Dialogue heavy scenes can be a little wearying on their own. This is not a poor story by any means; the plot is surprising and there is another bombshell ending that is starting to build a frightening picture of the future of Bernice Summerfield. A lonely future. The execution of the first half aside, this is an intelligent little tale: 7/10

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