Warren Ellis’s graphic novel, Ministry of Space, explores the possible result of an alternative timeline in which, at the end of the Second World War, the British secured the German rocket scientists and research that were, in reality, scooped up by America and the USSR. The story focuses around Air Commodore John Dashwood RAF who, being a veteran of the Battle of Britain, approaches Churchill with a plan to ensure that the British Empire is in the best possible defensive position for any future war by securing the rocket technology being worked on by the Germans and detaching the UK from the Cold War which was inevitably in the making. This would see Britain concentrating on her own development, and specifically on the new frontier of space, and allowing Europe to repair itself after the war.
Dashwood is passionate about his project and convinces Churchill that his is the only way to secure the future of the Empire. The story is set in 2001 and returns in flashback to the events leading up to the focus of the plot, a meeting onboard a British space station between the now aged Sir John Dashwood and the current hierarchy of the Ministry of Space.
Through the flashbacks we see the development of technology at a greatly increased rate than was the case in reality. The amazing artwork by Chris Weston produces a believable evolution of WW2 British design into the modern jet era and then beyond into the space age. The story is brilliantly juxtaposed against our timeline, with Dashwood achieving the first manned space flight in the 1950s and Britain landing a man on the moon in the 1960’s claiming “this territory in the name of Her Majesty” in a very clever commentary on the colonial British mindset.
The story has a very dark undertone that reveals itself superbly as the plot unfolds and throughout, despite the great achievements of the Ministry, the reader is made to think of the social consequence to the continuation of the colonial British Empire beyond the second half of the 20th century.
The plot is compelling and leaves the reader wanting more. As a “what if” story, Ministry of Space has the reader truly considering the ramifications of subtle changes to history and the morality of decisions that are made with the best of intent but without due consideration to consequences. Ellis is a superb writer and Ministry of Space ranks amongst his best work.