Updated: March 01 2022 23:18
Can Governor Dominic Crayle hide the disturbing secrets of his brutal regime from the unannounced inspection by the government's Law Minister
WITH THE BACKING of a ranger patrol led by Vanessa Walker, Abby and Jenny arrive in the Yorkshire fiefdom of Dominic Crayle. Returning to the scene of her incarceration and enslavement is distressing for Abby, but she remains determined to expose Crayle's criminality and his wanton abuse of power. It becomes clear that Crayle has gone to great lengths to cover up his crimes. His henchmen have been ordered to hide or destroy evidence, and his subjects have been coached to refute all allegations. As Law Minister Jenny carries out an unannounced inspection of his estate, Crayle remains implacable and unruffled. Confident that no evidence will be uncovered, he remains hospitable and pretends to be nonplussed by the suggestion of wrongdoing. Vanessa and Abby return to the scene of the slave market, but find only burnt ruins and trashed properties. The pair narrowly escape being savaged by vicious dogs primed to attack them. When Jenny is tipped off to look more closely at Crayle's new distillery, she's joined by Vanessa and Abby on a night time raid on the riverside premises. What they discover beneath the floor of the building horrifies all three of them. But Crayle is outraged at their interference in his affairs, and orders his enforcers to ensure that news of their discovery does not reach the wider world. Can Abby, Jenny, Vanessa and the rangers escape from Crayle's clutches, or will they all perish along with the evidence of the Governor's appalling crimes?
AFTER FOUR EPISODES in which his crimes and misdemeanours have animated Abby Grant's latest sense of mission, Governor Dominic Crayle is unveiled in his full, appalling form as his affairs are put under scrutiny by Abby and Law Minister Jenny Richards in the explosive events of When First We Practice to Deceive.
Dominic Crayle is a perfect villain for the 'new dawn’' of this new England. Andrew Smith's clever script takes full advantage of just how far the world has moved on from the immediate aftermath years. A combination of entrepreneur, gangster and plantation owner, he's determined to make the very most of the opportunities that the revival of industry, commerce and government afford him for self-aggrandisement.
Crayle is more than a crude thug or enforcer. He’s focused on building up an empire in his enclave, and keeping his affairs free from interference by the central government. If in Bad Blood Emma Maxwell had at least a rudimentary interest in following an independent path that might better suit her neighbours, Crayle’s exclusive motivation is the expansion of his own power and status.
Crayle's exclusive motivation is the expansion of his own power and status
Gareth Armstrong puts in a bravura performance in the role of the duplicitous Governor. His rich vocal tones, together with his natural gravitas, allows Armstrong to switch between the charming and the chilling, depending on the degree of subterfuge Crayle requires. It's a really intelligent approach, equally powerful in moments of restraint and when Crayle unleashes his inner bully.
As the head Ranger Vanessa Walker, Yasmin Mwanza delivers a beautifully judged reading of the role. With a rich emotional range, and able to capture Vanessa’s resolute self-belief, Mwanza brings passion and panache to the part. Her character’s rise to her current position in The Rangers is evidence that, in at least some areas of this new England, aspects of meritocracy and equality have displaced nepotism and prejudice.
There's a degree of tension between Abby and Jenny as their investigation proceeds. Abby is impulsive, impatient and less concerned with the formal process that Law Minister Jenny feels obliged to follow. That's a credible narrative conceit that allows the pair to separate and follow up their enquiries in parallel. But it's also something that adds texture to the dynamic between the two of them that has been evolving since their reunion in Tethered.
As Jenny is accompanied by Crayle on a tour of his sizable walled estate, the sense of tension ratchets up very effectively. Abby and Vanessa in contrast are immediately pitched into a fight for survival as they attempt to locate evidence of Crayle’s slave trade. There are many shocking moments in the story of When First We Practice to Deceive, as the full extent of Crayle's cruelty and barbaric practice is revealed.
Abby is impulsive, impatient and less concerned with the formal process
The episode's final showdown strips away any pretence of Crayle and his enforcers being anything more than murderous thugs. It's a confrontation that has appalling results that put the reunited Jenny and Abby in life-and-death jeopardy once again. Vanessa makes a heroic and selfless sacrifice which enables Abby and Jenny to slip away, even as Crayle and his men are on their heels. Vanessa is such a striking and immediately likeable character that her departure has genuine impact.
Her bravery underpins a thrilling end to proceedings, providing a breathless cliffhanger that sets-up the premise for the concluding episode of the New Dawn series. It's clear that either Crayle or Abby and Jenny are destined to die in the coming confrontation. If the pair of them perish then the truth of Crayle's misrule is likely to be buried with him, leaving the authorities in Cambridge none the wiser.
PLAUSIBLE AND CHARMING and with nothing behind his eyes but avarice he's a great villain for the two most hard working altruists in UK post-apocalyptic fiction.
Alasdair Stuart, Sci-Fi Bulletin
DOMINIC CRAYLE IS a terrific creation, brought to life by Gareth Armstrong. His denials are eminently plausible and it’s all too easy to believe them.
Ian McArdell, IndieMacUser
LOOK HARD ENOUGH and you'll always find an ethical dilemma in Andrew Smith's work, and here, it's that question of the burden of truth.
Tony Fyler, Warped Factor
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