After the summer season finale of the Tory Trilogy, and the ludicrously far-fetched denouement of the previous narrative ball-carrier, we are into the new September season release. History may term it a prequel, an origin story of the Apocalypse playing out in real time before a general audience.
At 12.00 in the chamber of the House of Commons, an invited audience assembled to view Storm Rider, the pilot of this much-trailed debut of the season’s showcase series.
It’s hard to know if the show is going to rate highly enough to recoup the multi-billion pound production costs – It is thought to be the most expensive drama ever attempted. The sheer spectacle may be enough to engage audiences but will the narrative twists and special effects make up for the lack of continuity, the well-worn dialogue, the furious complexity of the relationships?
We have the elfin leader (played by winner of several supporting awards, one Liz Truss) chosen by The Choosing Ones, an ancestral elite of wizened, one-eyed cavern-dwellers who cackle in the dark. She has been chosen to summon up the ancestral spirit of her tribe – Mah’gharet – and unleash it against the gathering enemies of plague, inflation, war, tyranny, poverty, and idiots gluing themselves to petrol tankers.
But has she the heart, the vision, the dialogue and writers to defeat the warring factions of her tribe and take on the Dark Lord who mustn’t be named (a miscast Keir Starmer)?
This Keir Starmer character still hasn’t been written out as some predicted but has been carried over from the previous season. His narrative arc still needs work but is there enough in the budget to recruit a sufficiently powerful script doctor? Will he drag the entire cast down to his level or himself be sent to the Further Shores along with the two previous goblin leaders?
When he roused himself and swung the ancestral weapon of his people, the swing missed. He asked who was going to pay the £170 billion blood price that the planet-devouring demons were to suck from the bodies of babies and public sector workers?
The answer? ‘Growth.’
Both tribes claimed victory.
This magical protection deployed many times in the pilot may wear thin for fantasy fans. It’s the common mistake: too much of the budget has gone into special effects and not enough into plotting and character development.
Viewer reaction to the pilot called it ‘slow’, ‘a bit boring’, ‘the surprise was she did quite well’. The fact that she kept her head came in for criticism from North London viewers. Because of trolling by bots, the showrunners have suspended comments.
As the series develops and her spirit-summoning skills are honed – will she be able to call forth the Mah’gharet who defeated the brutish Worker People and laid waste their lands – or will she get the other Mah’gharet, who taxed her people ‘merely for being alive’ and was felled by her traitorous council and cast into the Upper Darkness to be feasted on by ululating, flesh-eating Peers of the Realm?
Will she fail to summon the spirit at all and shape-shift, in a stunning narrative twist, into the Keir Starmer character?
The showrunners have projected five series. But cynics doubt it will generate the viewing figures even for a second. Will the advertisers continue their support? It will depend on the action, the narrative pace, the interplay of the ever-popular sex and violence and most of all – on the leader exercising her magical abilities to make things happen. The writers have kept the secret closely guarded: does she actually have the magic?
In the pilot’s final scene, the storm clouds around the House still hung heavy, but astute viewers noticed a stray shaft of sunlight creating something of a halo around the Storm Rider’s head. The significance of the series tagline became apparent: Anything Can Happen.