Episode Reviewed: The Perfect Church (715, 716)
Writer: Paul McCusker, Marshal Younger
Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designer: GAP Digital
Music: John Campbell
Theme:
The importance of church
Scripture: Hebrews 10:25
Original Airdate: 10/06/12 - 10/13/12

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


 

Episode Summary

After Matthew sees the problems and conflicts at his own church, Whit sends him on an Imagination Station adventure to witness the very first church in the book of Acts.
 

 

The Review

Sometimes I wonder if there have been more modifications made to the Imaginations Station than actual Imagination Station adventures. In Elijah, Whit built a second door to the Imagination Station to accommodate two people. How many doors must have been built in St. Paul: The Man from Tarsus? And how is it that in The Triangled Web folks could keep diving into it like it was a diving board at your local swimming pool? In The American Revelation we learn that the machine had been modified to hold up to 10 people. And, ever since, I've had no idea how to picture this marvelous invention.

For the longest time, the image I had of the Imagination Station came from the video, "The Knight Travellers". Regardless of what you thought of those videos, they managed to inadvertently fill a few gaps in our imagination. That said, the latest Imagination Station could never resemble a telephone booth. It probably couldn't even resemble a hot water tank lying on its side, either. It's a room with doors. But where's Mabel? Where's the red button? And where's that iconic roller-coaster ride?

Remaining consistent with the changes made in
The Imagination Station, Revisited, the newest Imagination Station has had to keep up with the times, I'm afraid. A red button to start an adventure? That's so 80's arcade game! A roller-coaster ride to throw us into the game? Let's cut to the chase already! A computerized, occasionally British-sounding, Jenny Whittaker? I guess someone must have told Whit how creepy it was to have a computerized version of his dead wife...

However, maybe these decisions were made not just for stylistic reasons, but for the purpose of telling previously untold biblical stories. George and Jimmy Barclay did not need to walk through different doors in
Moses: The Passover because their story had a linear beginning, middle, and end. In The Perfect Church, we see how the use of the doors is just a creative way of telling this more fragmented book of the Bible; there's not really an obvious beginning, middle, and end when reading the first few chapters of Acts, after all. This new tool allows both the user and listener to jump through time and space and it presents us with people, places, and events that would be difficult to connect through traditional storytelling.

Creative liberties must be taken, too. Here, Paul
Paul McCusker ties all of the events together using a common theme and spends a great deal of time looking at the events through Seth's family. Other Imagination Station adventures, such as The Big Deal and St. Paul: The Man from Tarsus needed a little more creativity to tell their stories, too; they fluffed up details, added secondary characters, and created conversations that likely never occurred in order to make the story flow better.

That said, I wonder whether
The Perfect Church would have benefited from focusing more on the events surrounding famous individuals such as Peter and John instead of spending so much time on Seth's family. For an Imagination Station adventure, far too many events are told through second-hand accounts, such as Peter's first arrest and the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Strangely, even the Pentecost is also told through a secondhand account. Why couldn't we hear it? That is, after all, the purpose of the Imagination Station, isn't it? To bring to life biblical events that are difficult to imagine? Then again, how does one depict the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles through audio drama? What would that have sounded like? Interestingly, the Bible gives us a bit of a clue:
"And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a might rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each of them." (Acts 2: 2-3)
Though, in its defense, by focusing on Seth's family and less on the apostles, the writer doesn't have to put too many words into the mouths of real people (which is what I think they did a little too much to John the Baptist in The Big Deal). It's a tricky issue: how does one dramatize the "empty spaces" of the Bible and at what point does the dramatization start sounding too much like our own words?

Adaptation issues aside, the episode's greatest strength is in what it teaches. Having Eugene "pop in" and define certain words was helpful, and I wouldn't mind hearing this tool used again in future Imagination Station adventures. Why shouldn't kids learn the definitions of Portico of Solomon, Sadducee, and Hellenists? This is the kind of trivia thatthanks to Adventures in Odysseywill stick with them for years to come. Even Stephen's final speech was much longer than I expected it to be for a children's show, showing Adventures in Odyssey isn't necessarily pandering to this generation's short attention spans.

Matthew's frustrations have been my own. These days, many Christians are wanting to disassociate themselves from their church and practice a faith absent of fellowship. I myself, at one point in my life, was guilty of staying out of the church because of bickering I witnessed. However, if we aren't part of the problem then we are usually complaining about the problem. And that, in itself, is a problem.
The Perfect Church, to echo its conclusions, reminds us of the importance of being faithful―that our churches aren't perfect because we, as humans, aren't.

The Perfect Church is certainly one of the most poignant and resonating Adventures in Odyssey episodes I've heard in a while. Explaining the imperfections of today's church by going back and highlighting key moments in the Early Church is smart and certainly shines some light on those first few chapters of the book of Acts. Armed with truly great bookend scenes, terrific performances, and some well-crafted sound-design, the end result makes me forgive certain adaptation issues and the absence of a particular red button.

 


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