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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Kingdom of Lies


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 817 2 (CD), 978 1 78178 818 9 (download)
Release Date: 28 February 2018

On the planet Cicero Prime, the kingdom of Cardenas is divided, with the whole population forced to swear allegiance to either the effete Duke or the fiery, hard-edged Duchess, following the breakdown of the royal marriage. This is a situation that both parties have grown tired of. What use is half a kingdom when, thanks to a carefully engineered murder, you could have it all? Surely neither of them would be rash enough to summon the deadly off-world assassin known as the Scorpion to help with their problem? And surely this terrifying figure wouldn’t arrive wearing a long cream coat and striped trousers…?

The late Tom Baker to early Peter Davison period of Doctor Who was really ‘my era’ of the show, the time when I ceased being a frightened child hiding behind the sofa (actually, I used to peep through the crack in the living room door) and transformed into a more mature fan. Therefore, I particularly appreciate the return of Matthew Waterhouse to the role of Adric, because it allows the Big Finish production team to bring this period back to life on audio.

As it happens, it was also the formative era for this drama’s two writers, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky – and it shows in their characterisation of the regulars. The Doctor (Peter Davison) struggles to remain calm as the TARDIS malfunctions, much to the annoyance of the highly strung Tegan (Tegan Jovanka), who is still waiting to be taken to Heathrow in 1981. Before long, the crew are forced to split up into two parties, with Adric and Tegan on one side of the dividing line that bisects the kingdom of Cardenas, and the Doctor and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) on the other. Adric and Nyssa each strive to keep the peace with their older but less sedate partner, as well as keep themselves alive, by offering rational approaches to the situations in which they find themselves… with often mixed results.

When their parties are mistaken for assassins, both Adric and Nyssa surprise their respective companions by claiming to be just that. This proves particularly entertaining in the case of Nyssa, who is usually the very model of genteel respectability – Adric at least has form on the turncoat stakes, having unwisely sided with the bad guys on a number of previous occasions. Sarah Sutton does a good job of playing a character who is not an actor pretending to be something she is not, lending just the right amount of hamminess to a variation on a line from Delta and the Bannermen about not just killing for money.

There’s a vaguely Shakespearean feel to this tale of mistaken identities and spousal disagreements. In interviews at the end of the production, the writers also mention a more recent influence: the 1989 comedy film The War of the Roses, in which Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner play a combative couple sharing a divided house, each wanting rid of the other so that they can have the whole place to themselves.

However, there’s a far more obvious source of inspiration for this tale of marital strife among the ruling classes. Like a certain heir to the British throne, Sebastian, Duke of Cardenas (Jonathan Firth) has strong opinions on architecture, which prove tedious to many. His wife, Duchess Miranda (Charlotte Lucas), is having an affair with her manservant, who she calls her “rock”. She is dubbed “the people’s duchess”, and it is predicted that her death would prompt mass hysteria among the populace. References to there being “three people in this marriage” perhaps push the satire too far – I think the listener will have ‘got it’ long before this point.

Firth and Lucas are good as the self-centred Duke and Duchess. Tim Bentinck (The Archers) and Richenda Carey (Monarch of the Glen) are not much better behaved as the bride’s parents, Lord and Lady Crozion. In interviews, Bentinck claims that he got into his character by imagining that he sported a huge walrus moustache, while Carey pretended that hers had had Botox injections – and you can almost hear this in Lord Crozion’s aristocratic bluster and his lady’s icy detachment. Harriet Thorpe and Piotr Hatherer are also worthy of praise in the roles of the warring couple’s respective aides – for reasons that I won’t spoil for you here. You may wonder what on earth a star like Patsy Kensit is doing way down near the bottom of the cast list, but her character proves to be a pivotal one and she plays it with relish.

All in all, Kingdom of Lies is an amusing and refreshingly unusual adventure for the Fifth Doctor and co – and that’s the truth.


Richard McGinlay

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