Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 7/4/17 2:59 am
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In How to Win Planets and Influence People, June 2017's Short Trips release, the Darkon Corporation's Vice President, the Monk (Rufus Hound), is giving his annual lecture on how to take over the universe. With a break for biscuits and coffee, and another for lunch, this all-day event will go over the do's and don't's of planetary invasion, individuals to look out for, and some reminisces of past events that the Monk himself has been involved in! All that and more awaits at this year's annual Darkon Corporation Lecture. How to Win Planets and Influence People is one of the funniest Short Trips to grace the range, in my opinion. Rufus Hound delights as the Monk here, a role he seems to have been born to play. He's funny, his intonation is absolutely perfect, and he's able to blend anger and calm calculation into the same sentence with no trouble whatsoever. James Goss' script was the best part of this story. The formatting is full-cast, just with one character only (though there is some clapping here and there throughout the story), which elevates the story into a different territory. At the same time, Goss delivers a riotously funny script throughout, with great one-liners (delivered extremely well by Hound), ranging from the state of American politics to Lenin on an inflatable giraffe (yes, seriously). All this taken together, especially with the just delightfully funny ending, makes this one of the best releases from the Short Trips range.
Rufus Hound plays the Meddling Monk, a renegade Time Lord with a penchant for using his TARDIS to steal priceless artifacts in history, now the Vice President of the Darkon Corporation, a villainous organization aimed at propagating evil throughout the universe. Hound, as I said above, was just born to play the Monk. He's just absolutely brilliant here in this story. He mixes charm with a commanding presence throughout the story that really elevates an already excellent story. I particularly liked his reminisces of past encounters with the Fourth Doctor and his companions, like his internal monologue when meeting Sarah Jane Smith, or how he seemed very proud of his plan for world domination by controlling the weather during the Russian Revolution, only to find that the Doctor has turned his evil plan into a beach day for the Russian revolutionaries. It's a funny performance, but the highlight is his final scene, Spoiler. It's a coup de grace for one of the best performances to come out of the Short Trips range in a long while.
James Goss' writing for this story was easily the highlight of this story. Goss has always been able to deliver hilarious scripts with little trouble, and here is no exception. He's able to take an already funny concept, and turn it into a brilliantly funny story overall, with his excellent writing. The concept for the story is fairly simple: villain gives a lecture to other villains about how to villain properly. It's a simple concept, and Goss really takes it and runs with it, making for an almost meta-commentary on your standard villainous plans. There are lines about making sure to never add an auto-destruct button to your plans, no matter what the salesman tells you, there's one about making sure to immediately react if security picks up what looks like an escaped children's entertainer on camera, and how you should never take the time to explain your evil plans to your enemy. All of it comes together for just a really interesting story. The ending, which I discussed in the spoiler tags, is somewhat inevitable, but it's still one of the better endings to a Short Trips story in a long while.
But what really elevates this story from 'good' to 'excellent' is Goss' comedic writing. It was just absolutely one of the funniest scripts to come out this year so far. I talked about it a bit in the paragraphs above, but there were so many one-liners and snappy lines thrown out by Hound in this script that I honestly can't remember a time when I wasn't laughing. Lines saying that the rest of the world would probably throw a party if America was destroyed, or how installing an auto-destruct button will inevitably lead to the villain screaming, "Damn you Doctor!" as they run back to their escape pod land so well in this story. The script is filled with those kind of lines, and it just goes to show that Goss has a way with taking a story and adding a personal comedic flair to it, that really elevates the story.
Overall, How to Win Planets and Influence People is probably the best release from the Short Trips range this year so far, and one of the best from the range overall. It was one of my most anticipated releases this year, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Rufus Hound was on top form as the Monk, as he has been in previous stories like The Black Hole and The Side of the Angels, but here, he's given a chance to shine as it's just him in this story. No having to narrate the story, no having to do impressions of the Doctor and his companions for the entire story, just him talking to a room, giving advice to a group of villains, and telling them of his past triumphs and failures. Goss' script also didn't disappoint, with an interesting concept turned into arguably one of the funniest stories from the range. It was a delightful story to hear, and it's probably one of my favorite releases this year.